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Pre-wired solar set-up on trailers


dirtyboots

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This next week I'm heading for several RV dealers in 2 states to look at units. My main focus is travel trailers, both toy haulers and regular. A new feature of many of them is being pre-wired/set-up for solar. Their parts folks are more than happy to sell you the panels and fix you right up.

 

I'm not a do-it-yourselfer, so had planned on using one of the solar installers that I've read about on this forum...but if it could be part of the sales deal, I'm willing to listen. What I am wondering is

what are the questions I need to ask - things like wiring, type of panel, etc. - OR - would I be better off in the long run still heading to a professional/non-dealer shop to have solar installed?

 

Thanks!

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This next week I'm heading for several RV dealers in 2 states to look at units. My main focus is travel trailers, both toy haulers and regular. A new feature of many of them is being pre-wired/set-up for solar. Their parts folks are more than happy to sell you the panels and fix you right up.

 

I'm not a do-it-yourselfer, so had planned on using one of the solar installers that I've read about on this forum...but if it could be part of the sales deal, I'm willing to listen. What I am wondering is what are the questions I need to ask - things like wiring, type of panel, etc. - OR - would I be better off in the long run still heading to a professional/non-dealer shop to have solar installed?

 

Thanks!

If you don't know much about solar installations I think you'd be better off finding one of the reliable and trustworthy folks that others have found and talked about here than you would be letting the RV dealer do the installation.

 

With the solar installers you are more likely to get a system that will fit your needs rather than a "cookie cutter" system that the dealer might just "plug in" to your trailer.

 

WDR

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Jack Mayer can expand on this a lot more. The Solar pre-wire that manufacturers install is not worth the mony. The wire is seldom larger that #10 and really not adequate for the downlink.

 

If you could use the pre-wire to pull proper sized cable might make the cost reasonable, but almost assuredly the pre-wire will be stapled and routed where it cannot be a pull wire.

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Yeah, as Mark said, generally the wire is undersized. A possible exception is on a travel trailer with very short runs and using a high voltage system the typical #10 they use (sometimes #12) may be enough. But that is an exception. If you CAN, I'd use an experienced installer. RV dealers rarely do an acceptable job.

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Its been my experience, any "pre wired" or so and so "ready" sales gimmicks may be hyperbole and can be way overpriced. Sure it sounds good, but there's a chance it may be marginal at best SUBJECT TO WHAT YOU END UP INSTALLING. Also, its IMPOSSIBLE to know what wire gauge to use or what's actually required UNTIL YOU SIZE YOUR PANELS (how many and what voltage and total watts) AND DECIDE ON THEIR OPERATING VOLTAGE (such as series or parallel or series/parallel) . For example, if you end up with 100 or 200 watts (still subject to voltage of course) and the distances aren't great, sure 10 Gauge 30 amp rated wire may suffice just fine and not cause excess voltage drop nor any overheating issues. HOWEVER if you increase the total watts and/or operate at lower voltages, then in order to reduce voltage drop and be within the wires ampacity, YOU COULD END UP NEEDING 8 OR EVEN 6 or 4 GAUGE.

 

So see what wire size is used,,,,,,,,,,,,,determine the total solar watts and at what voltage you plan to operate,,,,,,,,,consider future expansion AND ONLY THEN CAN YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.

 

I'm just leary of pre wired or "ready" sales literature as its sized on the margins such that it sounds good yet may or may not fulfill your own requirements. A friend of mine bought an RV pre solar wired and even bought the dealers solar panels and package and he ended up paying like 4 times what I have in my system and only has like 1/4th my capacity and a cheap wimpy controller. When he told me how much the dealer wanted to add another 100 watts I about flipped out, it was under a thousand bucks as I recall !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

However, don't let anyone tell you 10 gage wire is insufficient for solar panels, since the wire gauge depends on total solar watts, operating voltage, distances. For smaller systems it can work just fine. Given your watts and operating voltages and distances, its an easy look up to see what size wire is actually required absent any old wives tales lol

 

Do your homework then its an easy educated call BUT MY EXPERIENCE AND GUESS SAYS LET A REPUTABLE SOLAR INSTALLER DO IT OR INSTALL YOURSELF AND YOU WILL BE MONEY AND SOLAR ENERGY AHEAD.

 

John T

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Thanks so much! Since I'm in the PNW I figured AM in Springfield, OR would be my destination. Keeping all your knowledge in mind will help me with my final decision on what to buy....and help not be influenced by the 'salesmen'. Have seen lots of possibilities on-line but want to kick the tires and find the perfect one for me.

 

Thanks again.

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AMsolar is the logical place for you to stop. They will try to figure out what kind of a system you need and how best to install it. I haven't used them but I have several friends who have and they recommend them all the time.

 

I try to have my system set up so that the battery bank is fully charged by noon on an average day. If it's raining or heavily cloudy I will run my generator but I usually try to do that when it's breakfast time or dinner time.

 

The idea is that if the battery bank is fully charged by noon, then any solar power after that is free power to use as I please. Charge the battery for the trolling motor on the fishing boat. Get the laptop, the tablet and cell phones topped up. Things like that.

 

My RV is plugged into 50Amp at my shop but I turned the charger off two months ago. The solar panels do everything (and I leave a couple LED lights on 24/7 just to make it more welcoming when I go in to check things).

 

A few years ago you would have seen 100-watts of 12vdc panels. In 1982 when I first tried them I had two 33-watt panels on a sailboat that I'd rotate towards the sun whenever I thought of it. They did pretty well. Now 400 watts is very common and 1,000 watts is not at all unusual. And there are people with even bigger systems (on larger rooftops than I have).

 

You definitely won't regret it.

 

WDR

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I also recommend AM Solar. Greg will fix you up with the right stuff.

 

I also like to be fully charged by around noon. That indicates a system with some extra capacity, but it comes in handy on those cloudy days, as WDR says. With the current price of panels that is not really "wasted" money to me. As long as you have the roof space. And, like WDR I run off my solar for battery charging as my routine operating mode. My charger is only set on if needed.

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I also recommend AM Solar. Greg will fix you up with the right stuff.

 

I also like to be fully charged by around noon. That indicates a system with some extra capacity, but it comes in handy on those cloudy days, as WDR says. With the current price of panels that is not really "wasted" money to me. As long as you have the roof space. And, like WDR I run off my solar for battery charging as my routine operating mode. My charger is only set on if needed.

 

The same here... on all counts. A couple of words on AM Solar.. they are about the best in the biz, IMHO, and it shows in that it can be difficult to get your rig scheduled in for an install. It could take a couple of months or more just to get an appointment, but once your in, they get right to work and don't dink around.

 

They aren't the cheapest around, but you'll get more bang for you buck with them in the long run.

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