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Kit vs. Build Your Own Solar System For a Pop-up Camper

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  • #16
    Okay so I have put together this list;

    2x6V deep cycle batteries

    2x120-150W panels that can be hard mounted

    20A charge controller - made for 12V

    Inverter - DC to AC

    Am I missing anything? Any brands I should stay away from or look at?

    Thanks again

    Greg
    Last edited by NorthernFront; 04-21-2017, 09:21 AM.

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    • #17
      Charge controller will be for 12 volt, not 6 volt. Your two 6 volt batteries will be wired in series for an equivalent 12 volts. There is also wiring, connectors, and fusing. What will the inverter be for? You can stick with 12 volt everything with the appropriate adapters. Does your camper have its own lighting and heating system that will run off the 12V setup?
      I'm an RV camper, mine has 280 watts of solar

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      • #18
        Originally posted by ewarnerusa View Post
        Charge controller will be for 12 volt, not 6 volt. Your two 6 volt batteries will be wired in series for an equivalent 12 volts. There is also wiring, connectors, and fusing. What will the inverter be for? You can stick with 12 volt everything with the appropriate adapters. Does your camper have its own lighting and heating system that will run off the 12V setup?
        I thought I needed the inverter to change the power from DC to AC? Would the 20A controller do this? I thought the controller only stopped the batteries from over charging..

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        • #19
          Yes, an inverter changes DC to AC and the charge controller does not.. But you may not need AC power for anything if you get DC chargers for the phone and laptop. It will be cheaper than an inverter and more efficient as far as DC battery use. I'm sorry to keep nagging about this, but what gets power in the camper by plugging in the shore power cable that doesn't work when not plugged in? I'm not familiar with early 80's vintage pop up campers, but it seems unusual for there to be an electric system that didn't include a DC power system to run the camper when not plugged in.

          The charge controller provides the 3 stages of smart charging for your batteries: bulk, absorption, and float. I'd consult Google or other forum members for a thorough description of these terms, but bulk is basically unrestricted current from the panels is passed to the battery until it is around 80-90% charged, absorption comes next where the charge controller restricts the current to the battery in order to hold the battery voltage constant and finish the charging, then float is for when the battery is fully charged and works like the absorption stage but at a lower voltage. That 12 Volt Side of Life webpage I linked to earlier describes it. But in addition to properly charging your battery, the charge controller will prevent it from being overcharged by switching to float mode.
          I'm an RV camper, mine has 280 watts of solar

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          • #20
            Originally posted by NorthernFront View Post
            Okay so I have put together this list;

            2x6V deep cycle batteries

            2x120-150W panels that can be hard mounted

            20A charge controller - made for 6v

            Inverter - DC to AC

            Am I missing anything? Any brands I should stay away from or look at?

            Thanks again

            Greg
            Yes you have missed something. 12 volts. Where are you coming up with 6-volts?
            Last edited by Sunking; 04-20-2017, 05:10 PM.
            MSEE, PE

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            • #21
              Originally posted by ewarnerusa View Post
              Yes, an inverter changes DC to AC and the charge controller does not.. But you may not need AC power for anything if you get DC chargers for the phone and laptop. It will be cheaper than an inverter and more efficient as far as DC battery use. I'm sorry to keep nagging about this, but what gets power in the camper by plugging in the shore power cable that doesn't work when not plugged in? I'm not familiar with early 80's vintage pop up campers, but it seems unusual for there to be an electric system that didn't include a DC power system to run the camper when not plugged in.

              The charge controller provides the 3 stages of smart charging for your batteries: bulk, absorption, and float. I'd consult Google or other forum members for a thorough description of these terms, but bulk is basically unrestricted current from the panels is passed to the battery until it is around 80-90% charged, absorption comes next where the charge controller restricts the current to the battery in order to hold the battery voltage constant and finish the charging, then float is for when the battery is fully charged and works like the absorption stage but at a lower voltage. That 12 Volt Side of Life webpage I linked to earlier describes it. But in addition to properly charging your battery, the charge controller will prevent it from being overcharged by switching to float mode.
              Thanks for the continued help.

              The camper has a fridge, stove, and furnace that run on propane. It has an internal electrical box that runs the interior lights, fan for furnace, and 3 outlets. There is 2 cables on the outside. 1 that plugs in for shore power. The other is to plug into your hitch to give the external lights on camper power, and an option to power only the fridge (so food doesn't spoil and not to use gas while traveling).

              If i get DC chargers, what doing plug them into if I have no inverter?
              Last edited by NorthernFront; 04-20-2017, 07:35 PM.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Sunking View Post
                Yes you have missed something. 12 volts. Where are you coming up with 6-volts?
                Yes should be 12, i understand​ now 2x 6V =12V

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by NorthernFront View Post

                  Thanks for the continued help.

                  The camper has a fridge, stove, and furnace that run on propane. It has an internal electrical box that runs the interior lights, fan for furnace, and 3 outlets. There is 2 cables on the outside. 1 that plugs in for shore power. The other is to plug into your hitch to give the external lights on camper power, and an option to power only the fridge (so food doesn't spoil and not to use gas while traveling).

                  If i get DC chargers, what doing plug them into if I have no inverter?
                  Well what you've described still sounds to me like the traditional 12V DC system that uses an AC to DC converter to charge the battery by plugging in to shore power. Without a battery installed, the camper would work as you've described. But if you're certain that there are no orphaned battery cables present, then I guess I'm wrong. They are usually a red and black pair or black and white. Are there fuses present in the electrical box? Circuit breakers?
                  You would plug your 12V adapters into 12V outlets, basically the cigarette lighter outlets like you see in a car. Modern campers usually have at least one installed in the camper. Your older model may not. You could either install some or go with your inverter route and skip the DC adapters.
                  I'm an RV camper, mine has 280 watts of solar

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by ewarnerusa View Post

                    Well what you've described still sounds to me like the traditional 12V DC system that uses an AC to DC converter to charge the battery by plugging in to shore power. Without a battery installed, the camper would work as you've described. But if you're certain that there are no orphaned battery cables present, then I guess I'm wrong. They are usually a red and black pair or black and white. Are there fuses present in the electrical box? Circuit breakers?
                    You would plug your 12V adapters into 12V outlets, basically the cigarette lighter outlets like you see in a car. Modern campers usually have at least one installed in the camper. Your older model may not. You could either install some or go with your inverter route and skip the DC adapters.
                    Here is a link to the manual. It's the first one in the list. Page 17 has the electrical system.
                    http://www.antiguarv.com/sc2009/brochures/1990.html
                    From what i see it has no battery. Kinda a crazy old setup..
                    Last edited by NorthernFront; 04-21-2017, 09:20 AM.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by NorthernFront View Post

                      I looked again at Google's website for the pixel phone. The charger is 18w, but the 5" pixel only draws 15w.
                      Ah, it's a fast charger, it charges at 15W for 15 minutes, so 0.25 hour. 15W x 0.25 hour = 3.75Wh / 12V = .31Ah.
                      Solar Queen
                      altE Store

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by NorthernFront View Post

                        Here is a link to the manual. It's the first one in the list. Page 17 has the electrical system.
                        http://www.antiguarv.com/sc2009/brochures/1990.html
                        From what i see it has no battery. Kinda a crazy old setup..
                        Good find on the brochures. I was under the impression you were talking about a pop up trailer camper, not a slide in truck camper. But both of those style campers from your link do appear to use 12V camper appliances but rely on an on-board AC to DC converter for the 12V power supply. As you've been saying, the trailer needs to be plugged into shore power for the converter to operate. Looks like the 3-way fridge can be wired to draw 12V from the truck battery while traveling so it works from 12V alone. This is a big load for 12V which is why they say to only do it while driving so the truck's alternator can provide the current and the truck's battery doesn't get drawn down. It isn't uncommon to run the fridge run on propane while traveling, although you do hear from a minority who are opposed to that for safety reasons.

                        By adding a 12V solar charging system, you could do some rewiring so the camper's 12V stuff gets power from your new 2x6V in series = 12V battery rather than from the converter output. Then you don't have to worry about plugging your shore power cord into an inverter and you can go with the DC power adapters for your laptop and phone.

                        Or you can go with the inverter route you've been mentioning and just plug the shore power cord into it. This will be quite inefficient due to power losses in the DC to AC to DC conversion, but you probably don't have to do any rewiring of the camper's 12V system.

                        Either way is a retrofit for your older system. Modern systems are designed like that "12V side of life" link I provided, but your's is not quite the same. Plan carefully and good luck!
                        I'm an RV camper, mine has 280 watts of solar

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                        • #27
                          An AH-HA moment, not a pop-up camping trailer but a slide in. When you install your solar system you are going to have to hook the wires that go to the truck power to your solar batteries. This will be a fairly complicated job and you will have to find a vented place to install the batteries. I really suggest that you look for a professional installation or someone very savvy in solar installations in RV's to help you, your life depends on it .

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by AWS View Post
                            An AH-HA moment, not a pop-up camping trailer but a slide in. When you install your solar system you are going to have to hook the wires that go to the truck power to your solar batteries. This will be a fairly complicated job and you will have to find a vented place to install the batteries. I really suggest that you look for a professional installation or someone very savvy in solar installations in RV's to help you, your life depends on it .
                            Okay thanks. Ill reach out and see if anyone in my area can help me, without screwing me over, lol.
                            very much appreciated.
                            Greg

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                            • #29
                              Good point. Lead acid batteries off gas nasty stuff while charging. you could look into AGM batteries which do not. I think that's a common truck camper route.
                              I'm an RV camper, mine has 280 watts of solar

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by ewarnerusa View Post
                                Good point. Lead acid batteries off gas nasty stuff while charging. you could look into AGM batteries which do not. I think that's a common truck camper route.
                                Sadly, AGM batteries are capable (and have done so) of venting the same stuff as flooded batteries do, and so they need the install requirements. And maybe it's good to be able to smell when somethings rotten....
                                Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                                || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                                || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                                solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                                gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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