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Solar Install Rally,  Jan 19 – 25, 2015,  in Mayo, FL


Jim Gell

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In a previous thread I proposed the concept of a solar rally where RV'rs would help each other install solar systems. That concept evolved and we now have a rough plan in place. This thread will serve as the official information sharing area for the event. As plans progress, updates will be included here.


To start off, the dates and location have been established. January 19-25, 2015 in Mayo, FL. (North – Central Florida). That is immediately following the big RV show in Tampa. There will be more information coming before anyone needs to commit to this, but I wanted to at least get the dates and location out there so folks can plan for it. Note that this is not an Escapees event.


Here are a few details that are ready to share now:


I am very pleased that Jack Mayer has volunteered to help as a technical consultant and trainer. I am also very pleased that John Palmer, who does this for a living (over 4,000 installs to date) has offered to be available for hire to assist hands on with any aspects of the work that individuals prefer to have someone else do. He also will have parts and materials available on site for purchase. Originally, I had thought that “group buying” would save us money. I scrapped that idea, and would encourage folks to consider buying from John Palmer and taking delivery at the rally. BUT DON”T BUY ANYTHING YET!


Before anyone commits to this, you need to be well aware that:


1) You will need to learn some things about solar installations, evaluate your solar energy needs, and submit a detailed installation plan for review. Jack will work with you "pre-Rally" to help get your needs and designs identified and completed, but you will be ultimately responsible for your own plan.


2) Solar systems are relatively expensive. As your plan is developed, the cost of major components and the miscellaneous connectors, wires, etc can be estimated. At that point you will decide if the benefit is worth the cost.


3) We need 5 participants to make it worthwhile. 10 would be ideal. And 15 would be the most we could handle and would need to cut it off there. To assure the final number of attendees is fairly accurate, we will ask for a deposit of $100 after your plans are developed and reviewed, at the time you commit to attending. If you come build your system, the $100 will be refunded. If you don't, we will donate the money to the Escapee's Care program. Other than the refundable deposit, we do not anticipate any cost from the rally organizers. On site dry camping will be available for free at John Palmer's. We will be talking to the RV park next door about reserving spots for folks not willing/able to dry camp, but if you stay at the RV park, you will pay them. It will be a small group and we can discuss options for social activities such as pot-luck dinners etc. after we arrive.


4) During the Rally both Jack and John will provide hands on training and education.


Stay tuned, there is more to come as it develops, including information on how to start planning your solar system. Also, check back for two important deadlines. The first deadline will be the date that you will need to have your initial plans submitted for review. The second deadline that will come after that will be the deadline to commit to coming and send your deposit. Keep in mind that we need 5 participants (installs) to make it viable, and we will cancel if we don't get that many.


Jim

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Sounds like a great idea. It's unfortunate that the location is in FL. That takes out 90% of RVers from participating. I understand where and why, just wish a more central location had been considered.

Bill, your point is a good one. We originally considered tying it to the HDT Rally in Hutchinson, KS in October. You cannot get more central than that. However, the logistics of acquiring parts, shipping them, storing them, etc. became a pretty big burden. Having it at Johns not only gives people a chance to have some of the work done for them - if they feel they cannot or do not want to do it all themselves - but it solves the issue of misc. parts acquisition. Wire, lugs, etc. are things that are readily available at John's and do not have to be shipped in at the last minute.

 

That said, if enough people do not sign up then we can and will consider alternatives.

 

[Note: when I say "we" here I really mean Jim :) I'm just helping/advising - Jim is running this.... ]

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For us out West, How about posting the recommended componets of a 400+ Watt system. I need to install a system before this winter's trip as it includes a bunch of boondocking in Baja. Wish I could attend but too far East.

 

Thanks,

rocmoc n AZ/Mexico

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I'll put recommended system configurations on my website soon. I just redid the option packages for New Horizons so I will base it off of that. That will allow people that are interested to start putting their design together. Jim and I have been talking about using his coach as a design example. He just has to find the time to work on it....

 

I'll put three configuration out there: residential refrigerator support only; medium system; Grande system. You can read between the lines if you want something in between.

 

I'll put my recommendations for brands in the configurations. There are infinite combinations. If you choose something else because you think you want that component then let me know and I'll tell you what I think of it, if I have an opinion.

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Really love the idea, I'll be out of town working for a conference, but husband available. We would be seeking a small system, enough to charge batteries and fridge, given that we don't think we will keep this rig for more than 4-5 years and don't want to over invest...please keep us informed!

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The majority of my battery usage is at night and the batteries and inverter can only do so much when I want my lights on, my TV and satellite receiver running, the DW has to cook and all of our devices that were depleted during the day needs to be recharged (and my RR has to run all night). How does this all work or does it work at all. I can't get a single amp over night and I think you would need a HUGE solar array to get 1000 AH batteries recharged in a reasonable amount of time. I can see where it would reduce generator usage but I don't see where it could eliminate it (truly energy independent). That includes propane so don't throw the fridge on propane or how water magically got hot into the mix.

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I'll put recommended system configurations on my website soon. I just redid the option packages for New Horizons so I will base it off of that. That will allow people that are interested to start putting their design together. Jim and I have been talking about using his coach as a design example. He just has to find the time to work on it....

 

I'll put three configuration out there: residential refrigerator support only; medium system; Grande system. You can read between the lines if you want something in between.

 

I'll put my recommendations for brands in the configurations. There are infinite combinations. If you choose something else because you think you want that component then let me know and I'll tell you what I think of it, if I have an opinion.

Thank you,

romcoc n AZ/Mexico

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This sounds like a good opportunity. What format should the detailed installation plan follow, and how "detailed" is detailed? I've been reading allot about solar but I'm not an electrician, although I have "wired" stuff up before... I plan on doing some energy audits in the up coming months.

 

Jack, I just glanced at your website, wow, you have allot of great information.

 

Thanks

 

George

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Bill, if you are trying to replace 1000Ah deficit then you are not gong to do it with solar on any size RV I've seen here. If you are talking about replacing 500 Ah then "maybe". Depends on the roof space. My advice is typically to run the genset in the morning to start Bulk charge, and then let solar finish the charge. How long you run the genset is dependent on the deficit, your solar charge capabilities, and solar conditions during that day.

 

The only way to really know how much you use is to do an energy audit.

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At least that makes sense, Jack. I know that if I want to watch TV and cook and stay on the internet and, and, and....after dark.... but don't run the generator, the batteries will be dead in the morning (inverter shut down) as there just is not enough capacity. That means I still have to run the genny at night but I might be able to cut way down on the genny run in the morning.

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Bill, that is a lot of amp hours! We do all you do on a bit over 400 amp hours. I have 630 watts of solar and we have never gone below 60% soc. We watch sat. TV until 10 or 11 every night and are 100% soc by 10 or 11 in the am. The genny is needed for cloudy or hot days only.

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  • 2 weeks later...
While the Florida location is not centrally located, as Jack said in an earlier post, it is a very good location based on other criteria. It would be ideal if we have the likely mix of folks who want to do all their own work, and some who want/need professional assistance with portions of their installation. Beyond the logistical issues of initial procurement, another location could also leave little time to re-order materials needed last minute due to miscalculations or adjustments to our plans.


Some of you are waiting to hear details on how to get started on your plan. Before we go to a lot of effort to plan the details of this event and develop a format for submitting plans to Jack for review, etc, we would like some assurance that we have enough interest to make it worth the work. We will make a decision on August 15 if the rally in Florida is a go or no go.


Before you commit, let's talk about what you are committing to. I am a rookie in this arena and there are some lessons I have learned recently while repairing and upgrading the nearly 10 year old trailer we bought a few months ago that I think are relevant. First, I learned after taking my RV to shops with sterling reputations for their upgrade work, such as MorRyde and Big Foot, that the more one understands about the work and the more they involve themselves in the decisions pertaining to the details of the work, the better the final results.


And from doing some minor upgrades and repairs myself, I learned that it really helps to do as much research in advance as possible, have a well thought out plan for the work, and have all your tools and materials on hand before you start. I also am learning that due to differences in our RV's, the same project that was easy for someone else on their RV, may be more complicated on my RV.


Every install will be unique because our RV's differ, our solar needs vary, as does how much we want to spend. Jack and John will help, including reviewing the plans you submit, offering help in the form of suggestions and education, but you will need to be responsible for developing your plans and the final result. To attain a good result, you need to be willing to learn the fundamentals of solar so that you can engage in meaningful conversations regarding your individual solar plan and make decisions that will effect the quality of your solar install and how it satisfies your needs and budget.


Please express your commitment by August 15 if you are willing to put the needed effort into developing a plan for your project and then come to Florida in January for the install.


If you have any questions post here or e-mail me at jimgell517 at gmail dot com.


Jim

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Jim and Wilma, Great! It looks like we both have the RLQSO floor plans in our Travel Supremes. Your's is a year newer while mine is a bit longer. It may make it easier to exchange ideas and help each other with our solar plans.

 

Jim

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Ron,

 

There is a campground next door with hookups for those not wanting to boondock. I don't recall the name off hand. More information, including camping information will come after the 8/15 deadline. It looks like we are close to the 5 participant minimum, if we have not reached it. If anyone else want's to participate they should let me know by 8/15. Thanks.

 

Jim

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