My Solar

To see the full listing of all of solar product pictures, specs & customer reviews, check out the Solar/Electrical page of our WinnieViews Gear We Love Amazon store.

My Solar Setup:


200 watts of roof-mounted solar (2 Renogy "traditional" 100-watt panels).
100 watts of portable solar when needed (Renogy bendable 100-watt panel)

When my original 300 watts of rooftop bendable solar panels failed after 1 year, I now had to use "traditional" aluminum framed glass panels if I wanted anything to stay permanently on the roof.  Due to the substantial weight gain, I decided to just put 200 watts on the roof this time around (@35 lbs total weight vs. 12 lbs for the original system).




The roof panels are mounted with AMSolar 35mm Rocker Foot Mounts that come with 3M VHB tape attached to the base of each mount.  Once the tape bonded to the roof, I covered the base of each mount with a bit of self-leveling caulk to keep moisture away.


Since I'd now have 100 watts less on the roof, I decided to also buy the AMSolar 15.5" tilt bars to provide additional efficiency in wintertime boondocking situations.  As my panels did not come from AMSolar, I also had to drill a hole in each bottom corner of the panel for the mount bolt and nut to attach to.  Super simple to do!

The mount bars and large knobs are very well made and easy to put on and take off.  Because of way I placed the panels on the roof, I can also tilt them in either direction too!


With this 200-watt system, I'm generating 10 amps of power at "solar noon" when the panels are flat.  If that ever proves to not be sufficient, I still have an unused 100-watt Renogy bendable panel stowed in my cargo bay that I can deploy as a portable panel (likely placing it on top of the A/C unit or on the roof some place).  The bendable should work fine as a portable as long as outside temps are not above 80 degrees, and the rear of the panel has sufficient ventilation (I'll work on a simple PVC collapsible frame of some sorts to keep the back from touching the roof).

The final component up on the roof is the Imagine Instruments SCB-PW1-2 Rooftop Combiner Box with 2 sets of MC4 connectors pre-installed.  This box allows me to easily disconnect one or more panels or add more (with MC4 branch connectors).  The box came with 4 aluminum feet which attached 3M Dual Lock with VHB adhesive.  I then covered the bottom with silicone roof caulk.









































A single pair of 8-gauge marine wiring runs from the combiner box into a hole in the backside of my cabover "hump" beneath the gray cowling cover.  By placing the hole vertically (rather than horizontally), and protecting it further beneath the cowling, this prevents moisture or snow from sitting on top of the roof hole.



On the inside of the coach, are the remainder of the components:

Morningstar SunSaver MPPT 15 amp solar controller with a red Blue Sea 6006 Mini Cut-Off Switch (turns off the rooftop solar if ever needed for maintenance or an emergency).  These fit nicely into the back corner of the passenger door footwell (I'd still like to make some sort of dust cover for them though).



















































Morningstar RM-1 Solar/Battery Power Digital Display Panel (mounted on the wall between the door and the kitchen cabinet).




















Pico Maxi In-Line Fuse Holder with a Bussman 20 amp Maxi Fuse. (This safeguards the batteries from any catastrophic power surges if the solar controller should ever fail).





















Additional Items:

For pictures, please see the Solar/Electrical page of WinnieViews Gear We Love.
  • Anchor Marine 8-gauge marine grade wiring was used for the main run from the roof to the solar controller, and from the controller to the batteries.  I bought 25 feet of red and 25 feet of black and still had plenty left over (the excess wire length is zip-tied and stowed in the battery bay should I ever need a bit more for something).
  • (2) Unlimited Solar 8-gauge 6-foot MC4 extension cables connect the front panels to the rooftop combiner box.  Unlimited Solar makes excellent quality cables!
  • (2) Unlimited Solar 8-gauge 10-foot MC4 extension cables connect the rear panel to the rooftop combiner box. 
  • Nuflex 311 Polar White Silicone Caulk.  My Winnebago dealer used this to seal the small hole in the cabover cap they made beneath the passenger side gray roof wing to run the pair of 8-gauge wires down from the roof to the controller.  I also caulked the combiner box to the roof.  I had planned to caulk the edges of each solar panel as well, but the Dual Lock has held the panels so securely, that I've not found any need for caulking.
  • Marine Heat-Shrink 8AWG Butt Connectors. I used these to connect the wires coming from the roof to the wire leads I made for the Blue Sea cut-off switch and the solar controller, and also used them to connect the in-line fuse holder to the red wire going to the battery.
  • 8AWG Spade Connectors.  These were used to connect wiring to the solar controller.
  • Lug Connectors.  Only a pair of these are needed to connect the red and black wires from the solar controller to the batteries.
  • Zip-Ties.  I used these on the roof to secure up the solar cables (and then caulked the zip tie to the roof and cut the excess plastic from the tie).  Also used them in the battery bay to secure excess wiring.
  • 1/2" Split Loam.  I used this to neaten up the little bit of wiring running from behind the bottom of the padded wall to the solar controller, and also up on the roof for the wiring running from the combiner box to the gray "bat wing."
  • MC4 Unlock Tool.  I have a couple of these should I ever need to disconnect any rooftop cabling or panel.
  • Assorted Extras = I needed a pair of large ring connectors to connect wiring to the Blue Sea cut-off switch.  I also needed 4 long bolts and nuts to secure the box closed.  Why Blue Sea doesn't include this required hardware, I'm not sure.  But my local Ace Hardware had these supplies for only a few bucks.  I also bought some red and black 3M professional electrical tape to connect the spade connectors, lug connectors, and ring connectors to 8-gauge wire.

Total Investment = 

$1,382 for parts and supplies above, plus $100 for my RV dealer to drill the hole in the cabover cap and run the pair of 8-gauge wires from the roof to the passenger seat footwell.


 The Wire Run (from roof to controller):

Special thanks to fellow View-Navion owner Dorrin who provided me with these detailed photos below of her installation.  I had my dealer install my pair of 8-gauge wires along the same route and also had them drill the hole on the rear edge of the cabover beneath the curb-side gull wing (in the same location as Dorrin's).  My installation looks almost the same (but used a 1/2" strain relief nut rather than pex tubing at the roof hole).  

Seems like a really brilliant solution for folks who have the J-model Skinnie Winnie and don't have a convenient fridge vent to feed wires down to the controller and battery bay.  Thank you Dorrin!

Here are Dorrin's photos & notes:












19 comments:

  1. I saw your post on the Skinnie forum, and have been wondering about the flex panels. Thanks for posting such a great write up on your installation. One question; how did you route the cable down inside your J from your gull wing to the solar controller?

    Dan

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    1. Hi Dan:
      I've just updated this page with Dorrin's detailed photos of the wiring run and roof access hole. My dealer was originally hesitant at drilling a hole and running wires until I showed them these photos, and then it was like a light bulb went on! ha! They were able to do the wire run and roof hole within just an hour's labor. Best $100 bucks I ever spent!

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    2. Thanks so much for the extra details.

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  2. Great write up and a nice DIY install. I really like all the detail and links to the stuff you used. Thanks for sharing.
    J. Dawg

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  3. Lynne,
    I've been meaning to ask how your new solar set up is working. I'm thinking of going to the same flexible panels that you used. Just curious as to how it's working. Thanks.
    J. Dawg

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    1. So far, so good! I've not been in any extreme heat yet though, so not experiencing any cupping or excessive scratches yet. The 3M ClickLock has been rock-solid so far too. Nice to be able to remove the panels if I ever need warranty work!

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  4. Hi Lynne - I have the same 3 renogy flexible panels on my RV. I put them on mid last year, just like you did. I'm over in Europe (carried them over in a surfboard bag!) and went through some pretty hot (85+) days in Italy. This had the effect of changing the surface of the panels.. making them more cloudy / matte. No longer shiny. Has this happened to yours?

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    1. Yes. My RV was stored here in Chicago most of the summer while I was recovering from surgery, and in July it got into the 90's a number of days (and 80's the rest of the time). When I moved back to the RV, I noticed the panels no longer charging at the rate they used to. Within another couple of weeks, they weren't charging at all. Renogy Customer Service has been outstanding though. They said that many of these 1st-generation panels did not make it thru the summer heat & they are currently revising the design to deal with that better. Since they don't yet have the new panels available, they offered me either a full cash refund or their traditional (firm) panels. They also sent me empty boxes and a shipping label to send the old panels back.

      I decided to go with 2 firm panels & get the balance as a refund. I'll update the post above as soon as I get the new panels installed. I still have 1 unused bendable panel that I'll use as a portable supplement.

      If your panels are currently mounted to the roof, you might want to try unmounting them and using them as portables-- that will allow heat to dissipate from the rear of the panels and prolong their life. When the panels fail, Renogy will likely still want them back. But they are very good folks-- I'm sure they'll come up with a solution that is acceptable for you.

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    2. Hi Lynn -

      Sorry I did not write back to thank you. I just now saw your reply.

      The big wrinkle with my Renogy story is that I'm in Europe! Yeah, I schlepped 3 flexible panels over here in a surfboard bag. So, not easy for me to return them. :( Good to hear they offer a refund though. Next time I fly back I'll bring them back for a refund. Would it be appropriate to say the name of the Renogy customer service person you spoke with? I've called them and often end up talking with someone very young that seems they are on school break.

      Although my panels were working OK, I needed to install a long term solution. I had never permenantly installed the flex panels. Just taped them on before, but now I have bought 2 rigid panels. I'll use them along with 2 of the flexible panels.

      My camper has a roof rack and so right now I'm working out how to attach aluminum L brackets to create a bed for the two new panels. I'll be interested to read how you mount yours. The Technomadia people used the AM Solar mount kits. I think those are a tad overpriced, but ymmv.

      It's great that Renogy replaced the panels for you. I'm encouraged reading many good things about Renogy's customer service. I'm curious if you had mentioned that you run a blog.

      It is strange though that all panels would cease working at the same time. My gut feeling is that it could be more of an issue with your battery. If your battery is working well, then great. If not, you can write me & I will tell you in great detail about the battery I just switched on in my camper. I went with a LifePo4 battery along with a charge controller from Dacian aka Electrodacus. Lots of great reasons to use a lithium battery now.

      I'm mpease at the rather large company email that starts with a g.

      Very good to hear that you are doing better. I wish you many many more good RV travels.

      Cheers
      Matt

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  5. GAH! Funny how I came back to this post and you posted just this morning on it. Dang. I think I'll go with a hard panel for the roof and flexy as a portable! However, I'm curious as to what changes they are doing to the panels to make them more tolerant.

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    1. My understanding is that they'll be increasing the thickness of the rear plastic layer and make it a bit less flexible. They also (already) have updated their web page to now recommend a minimum of 1/2" between the panel and the roof, and they also reduced their warranty on new panels from 5 years down to just 3. Clearly, I think Renogy (and other bendable panel vendors) are realizing the technology still has a ways to go for these to work on rooftop installations.

      My new plan is to use 2 of the traditional 100 wt Renogy panels on the roof along with AM Solar rocker mounts. In the summertime, 200 watts flat-mounted will likely take care of keeping my 2 Lifeline AGMs charged, but in the winter, I'll use AM Solar tilt bars to boost their effectiveness along with adding my 100 watt bendable panel as a portable (will likely just Click-Lock velcro it to a PVC collapsible frame and place that on top of the roof A/C). With the refund I'll be getting from Renogy, this new solution will actually come out slightly cheaper than the last one (but adding about 25 more lbs).

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    2. It'll be nice to have that portable panel for the summer. You can park the RV in the shade & run a line over to that panel. In the summer that panel will generate plenty of current.

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  6. So you don't want to wait for the new improved version of the flexible. I might, but will likely order the new Solar package from WGO when I order my RV. Unfortunately, they'll just drill into the roof to use traditional mounts but maybe I can get them to use the tape (which still scares me).

    Anxious to see your portable Flexible setup.

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    1. The 3M VHB Tape is rock-solid. I was amazed that it kept my thin panels secured to the roof without one hint of budging (yet were still removable when I needed to switch gears to a traditional 2-panel system). I'm even more amazed now that the VHB tape holds my 2 big 15-lb 100 watt panels to the roof (on 4" high AM Solar mount brackets no less-- lots more wind resistance!). So, insist that WGO not drill holes to mount the solar brackets!

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  7. Hi Lynn, I'm interested in adding solar to my RV and really appreciate your detailed description of what you did. One question, what size inverter do you have? My rig does not have one and I will need to add it. I have a Coachmen Prism which is on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis and it's the approximately the same size as your View. Thanks for all of the great info! Kathryn

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    1. My View really didn't have a convenient place to install a "whole house" inverter, and after thinking about my solar and boondocking needs, since I have a generator, I decided I'd just continue to use the generator for any heavy-duty needs (i.e. microwave, hair dryer, etc) and just size my solar to recharge my batteries. So, I'm finding that 200-watts of solar on the roof is doing just fine for me thus far in that regard.

      But that said, I do have a couple portable inverters that I use when boondocking. My main one is a 400-watt pure-sine inverter made by Wagan. It connects directly to my batteries and I plug a power strip into it to power my LED monitor/TV, and charge camera batteries, etc. I've had it a couple years and it's done a great job-- no problems! http://amzn.to/1XHZN4Z

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  8. Hi Lynn, You didn't mention if you had an inverter. Do you and if so, what size? I've got a rig approximately your size and I'm considering solar panels. I don't have an inverter currently and I want to know if it would be worthwhile. Thanks! I enjoy all of your posts.

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    1. You know, I don't think I ever covered that topic very well in a blog post. How stupid of me! As you know, Views are small and don't have much room for full-sized inverters (i.e. 1,000 watts or more). I've never found the need for one anyway as our battery banks are relatively small (200 amp hours or less) and most of our Views come with generators anyway for the really heavy-duty power needs (like running the A/C, microwave, or a hair dryer).

      But, I use 3 things to power all my smaller items when boondocking:

      -this 400-watt pure sine inverter ( http://amzn.to/1qGJ5UE ) sits right next to my entry steps and has 2 cables that are attached directly to my coach batteries. I plug a power strip into the inverter and use it to power my 27" monitor/TV and computer when boondocking. It also recharges all my camera batteries, and my electric toothbrush.

      - This 3-port USB 12 volt charger ( http://amzn.to/1VHAL4p ) recharges and powers various USB electronics (my MiFi hotspot, phone, iPad, rechargeable LED lantern light, etc).

      - I also use this 12v charge adapter for my Macbook laptop ( http://amzn.to/248EKYV ) when boondocking. If I'm wanting to conserve power and/or not fool with setting up my big monitor and using the inverter, I'll just use my 15" laptop screen and plug this directly into
      the 12v outlet at the dinette. Works great!

      When boondocking, I try to suck up all the daytime solar power I can, so I'll recharge everything possible, do photo/video editing on the big monitor, run fans, etc. At night, I'll just use the USB and laptop chargers, and use the inverter sparingly to conserve battery juice. Hope that helps!

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  9. Sorry, Lynn. I just saw the post about the inverter. Thanks!

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