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Zamp 320w Deluxe solar kit install


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I'm having solar installed on my TT next week. Work will be done by Truline RV in Spokane. Estimate is $3200. Includes Zamp 320w Deluxe hardwired kit, similar to this http://www.zampsolar.com/product/deluxe-300-watt-rv-solar-kit-zs-300-30a-dx/, Zamp 600w pure sine wave inverter, two T105 batteries with box. My 120v needs are low, hence the 600w inverter. I'm looking for advice, suggestions, observations on the chosen brand as well as reputation of the installer before I pull the trigger. Thanks in advance for all replies.

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Hi, I looked at Zamp because that was offered as an option with my fifth wheel which is an Arctic Fox. I think Zamp is probably just fine but I was willing to install my own system and I wanted to know exactly what components I was buying. It has been months since I looked at their site but when I did I could not find specifications for the even the voltage on the panels and really no details as to manufacturer of controller etc. I was especially concerned that they had designated 10 gauge wire running to the controller which, in my specific situation was undersized. If undersized you lose the benefit of the panels. Someone on here could tell you if they heard good or bad about Zamp but no one can tell you about the specifics of that kit without getting all the specifics and your proposed usage. So for beginners I would want to know the full specs on the panels, the controller, the inverter, the proposed gauge of wire and the brand of battery. Pricing and quality could vary drastically depending on brands and specs. If there is a possibility of wanting to expand this system you should figure this into the system now as planning ahead with components now could drastically reduce future expenses. The expertise exists on these boards to give you advice if you have that information. I will also make more one generalized statement. I know nothing about this dealer but, in my opinion, dealers do not yet understand solar and the expertise should be sought elsewhere. If I where in your situation I would plan a trip to Oregon and have Amsolar design and install the system. they are relatively close to you and considered one of the best in the country. Then you will have no doubts. Oh also since you are spending money on new batteries you should also, if you do not have one, include the installation a Bogart Trimetric battery monitor. Everyone should have a quality monitor to assure your system is operating properly and you batteries do not become over discharged.

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If you are not in a position to install your own system, finding a reputable installer that can design a system to fit your now and potentially future solar needs can save you a bundle over "dealer kits" like the Zamps. I've had direct dealings with AMSolar over in Oregon and have looked at a number of their installations on other folks rigs. Those people know what they're doing. They wouldn't be the cheapest, but I think you will still end up with a much more robust system with better quality components vs one of the dealer packages. There are couple of reputable installers in AZ as well, but I have not had direct dealings with them and couldn't personally vouch for them.

 

Hopefully Jack will chime in with a couple of other options that may be in your area.

 

For the system you described, IMHO, $3200 is a really hefty price tag. It never hurts to shop around.

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While I saved a TON compared to the cost you noted when I did it all myself, if you're not equipped and experienced to select the correct matched equipment (Panels, Solar Controller, Chargers, Wiring etc etc) and install it yourself, you just have to bite the bullet and hire a reputable installer. While the price you quoted seems high to me, I have no idea what the going rate is in your area so cant comment on that. As an old friend of mine oft said, a man soon forgets how much he had to pay for something if its what he wanted and it works well SO GO FOR IT, your money your choice sure one of ours.

 

Best wishes

 

John T

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Without the specs no one can give you an opinion on the specific equipment.

 

As a generalization the kits are almost always not a good deal. You rarely get the proper stuff, and you almost always overpay.

 

As a generalization based on years of experience with this stuff - an RV dealer is almost NEVER a good choice for an installer. I'm being generous in my works here by saying almost never. I'd be tempted to say NEVER a good choice, because I've NEVER seen a system installed by a dealer that was done optimally. NEVER. And I have seen hundreds. But I do not know that dealer or seen any of their work. They may be an exception.

 

I'd take my rig to AM Solar before letting ANY dealer touch it. Assuming you are relatively close to them.

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Thanks for the feedback. You've convinced me I need to do even more research. With the local installation on hold, I will contact AM Solar on Monday. While it's nearly 1000 miles round trip from here to their shop, I may be able to arrange to stop by there on my way south for the winter. I have read enough and watched enough YouTube videos to almost think I could do the install myself, except for drilling the hole in the roof. I'm not confident I could make it water tight. Are there any specials tricks to that procedure? The wire route will not come near the refer vent, so can't use that. Thanks, Jack, for all the detailed information you have posted regarding solar. I've read it a few times, and will re-read it shortly. .

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There is no real issue with the wire entry from the roof. It hangs up many people so don't feel alone. If you want to contact me off the forum I can tell you several ways to do the wire entry. If you are handy then you should be able to do the install. I cover many of the issues on my website. And I'm happy to offer advice.....The key is to do a COMPLETE design, with a complete bill of materials FIRST, before starting any work.

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With the local installation on hold, I will contact AM Solar on Monday. I have read enough and watched enough YouTube videos to almost think I could do the install myself, except for drilling the hole in the roof. .

 

If you're looking at AM Solar, that would be a good idea. Once your rig is in, the actual install doesn't take long, but getting an install date scheduled could be 2-3 months out from the last I heard.

 

If you ARE so inclinded to do your own system, it's extremely rewarding and can cut your costs to more than half. There are any number of resources on the internet and plenty of folks around here that would be more than willing to answer any questions you might have. You might also consider the possibility of doing the majority of the install yourself, but then turning to someone like AM Solar or other qualified company to install just the combiner box and roof access point.

 

Jack may be too PC to say it, but I'm not :P I have NEVER seen a dealer package or install that wasn't a bit of a frustrated mess. But then again, I could say the same thing about the greater majority of solar installation companies. Some of the most well thought out, efficient, and elegant systems I HAVE seen have been from those that have taken the time to do their homework and done their own.

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Jack, thanks for the offer of advice for my install. I will research the cost of all the parts, compare that to cost of install if I have AM Solar do it, and decide if I want to do some or all of the install myself. Yes, it would be a great sense of satisfaction to do it myself, as well as a cost savings. I'll have to get serious about reading ALL the info on your website. Thanks, again, for all the other responses as well. This is a great forum!

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Wanderer, for a 300 Watt Solar System, here is a beginning shopping list of components.

 

Three 100 Watt Solar Panels. I've seen them around $130 which equals lets use $400.

 

You could connect them in series and get by with a 30 Amp Solar Charge Controller. Id recommend a "Smart" Four Stage (Bulk, Absorption, Float, Equalize) MPPT Controller.

 

That 600 Watt Pure Sine Wave (PSW) type if Inverter is what Id recommend (versus a cheaper MSW) but a 1000 Watt isn't all that much more expensive.

 

You mentioned a couple Trojan T 105 Batteries, that's around $110 each.

 

What kind of Battery Charger or Converter/Charger do you have now to charge those Trojans when you're plugged into shore power???? If you don't have already, Id consider purchasing a "Smart" Four Stage (Bulk, Absorption, Float, Equalize) maybe 40 to 60 Amp Charger. An alternative to a separate Inverter and this Charger would be a combination Inverter/Charger but those aren't cheap.

 

Of course, that isn't gonna total anywhere near $3,000, but there's some copper wire and installation and labor charges if you hire it all done. For my wife and I in a small 29 Ft Motorhome were pretty well indefinitely self contained with 400 Watts of Solar, Four Batteries (460 Amp Hours), MPPT Smart Solar Charge Controller, Smart Four Stage Charger, 2000 Watt PSW Inverter, 4 KW Genset for backup, LED lighting.

 

Keep reading and shopping and doing your homework. Jack and Stanley and Yarome and Lou and others helped me here when I upgraded my Charge Controller and I'm a VERY Happy Camper thanks to them ......................

 

John T

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As you're getting started, the #1 most important thing is to determine your needs and expectations before delving into components and such. I might suggest spending some time under "determining your needs" until you feel confident before moving on to other areas. It can get your head spinning trying to take it all in at once. ;)

Yes, it can for sure spin your head like you are in an Exorcist movie. But taken a little at a time you should be able to determine your needs. And anyone handy can do their own design/implementation IF they take their time and do a complete design first.I cannot stress it enough - you have to do a COMPLETE design before diving in, or I guarantee you will have issues.

 

I'm happy to assist those who wish to DIY by answering questions and reviewing designs an Bill-of-materials.

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oldjohnt, thanks for the prompting... T105 batteries here are $139 and seems to be only one dealer in Spokane. I don't have room on my roof (7x17) for three panels, so was wanting to get two 160w ones. Even then, the 58.5"x26.5" panels are going to be very close to the roof and refer vents, and I'm a little concerned about shading, so having to think about the poly vs. mono-crystalline. Have done an energy audit and come up with 30 amps per day at low usage to 80 amps per day at high usage. I don't watch a lot of TV, no dishes or extra antennas, and am using LED lighting. It's just me, so I don't need a lot of power.

 

Was planning on a 30-amp, 4-stage solar charger. What's the difference between an MPPT and a PWM (pulse width modulated)? Definitely going with a pure sine wave inverter. 600w will power everything I have except the microwave, and I'd have to step up to a 1500w inverter to power that. I can live without a microwave when I'm boondocking. Don't plan to use AC, either. So, I was going to have the inverter connected to the battery and power appliances directly from it, and not tie into the trailer wiring. That will make is easier to wire and I can turn off the inverter when I'm not using it.

 

I have a 3-stage charger to use with my Honda eu2000i generator, and haven't had the opportunity to use them yet. As far as what came with the trailer to charge the battery on shore power, I have no idea. It's well hidden below a cabinet. So far, it's been working fine, though. I check the battery currently with a cigarette-lighter type digital voltage meter that gives me a general idea of how low the battery is. I've never let it drop lower than 12.3v before plugging into shore power or heading down the road to be charged as I drive. So far, I've boondocked for only 2 days at a time, but plan to spend most of next winter boondocking, hence the push to get the solar panel system installed. I'm really on a tight budget, so will consider doing some of the install myself, and I do believe in the benefit of buying quality components.

 

Jack, I will work on a complete design, so I know exactly where everything will go, and how long my wire runs are going to be. Everything will be at the very front of the trailer, so my wire runs will all be under ten feet.

 

Have considered adding another pair of T105's but concerned about increasing the hitch weight that much more, so will probably make do with only two. The only place the batteries will fit is on the hitch. I took my rig through the SmartWeigh program in March, and my truck is near its maximum GVWR.

 

It's just one big moving puzzle where each component affects all the other parts, definitely a head spinning exercise, and one that will keep me busy this summer. Please keep the questions and suggestions coming. I could use the moral support. Although my husband is handy in certain areas, he's not able to help me on this one.

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Wanderer, CONGRATULATIONS, I can tell from your response and questions THAT YOU ARE DEVELOPING A GOOD BASIC UNDERSTANDING and have done your homework.

 

Two of the 160 Watt Panels seem fine, I was only using my three 100 watt panels as a comparison. I have priced the Trojans at a few different places with the range around $110 to $130. When you mentioned 30 to 80 amps (80 is a biggggg load and something like an 10/1 Inverter may draw) per day, I didn't understand if you really meant AMP HOURS which is a measure of ENERGY you draw out of your batteries (they are energy storage devices you know) in a typical DAYS use or those were say max load currents for how ever many minutes etc., but regardless it sounds like your energy use is modest to the point a 320 Watt Solar system can get you by (subject to sun and angle and hours etc. etc.). If all you run is say a vent fan and occasional water pump and LED lights and maybe the forced air furnace (a fairly high load when running) a bit on cold nights plus charge a laptop and cell phone I would "GUESS" 320 solar watts and two Trojans will get you by fine.

 

As far as MPPT versus PWM Controllers, the article linked here can explain it better then I could.

 

http://www.ecodirect.com/Charge-Controller-Comparison-s/251.htm

 

For your 320 Watts, a 30 amp 4 stage controller PWM or MPPT should work fine. NOTE At one time I had only two 100 watt panels and had them in parallel. In that configuration my MPPT controller performed more like a PWM so I called the techs. They suggested if I connected them in series the MPPT function and capability would improve so I re connected my two panels in series and indeed my controllers performance improved.

 

As far as whatever your existing built in Charger is, of course I recommend a modern Smart 3/4 Stage, but I have no idea what you have now, maybe you already have that????????? Here's the deal, an older technology constant 13.4 to 13.6 or so voltage source noisy humming Converter/Charger will charge your batteries fine BUT IF ON EXTENDED TIME IT CAN CAUSE YOUR BATTERY WATER TO GET LOW so keep an eye on electrolyte levels. You mentioned being able to monitor their voltage, see if it starts out high like maybe 14.4 then later drops to 13.6 then later to 13.2 and if so, ITS A SMART 3/4 STAGE but if its like always at say 13.4 to 13.6 or so and never fluctuates its an older technology "dumb" charger in which case I would keep an eye on battery electrolyte levels. Your method to not let your battery voltage drop below 12.3 IS GOOD IN MY OPINION. A battery only has a limited finite X number of Life Cycles so if its never allowed to discharge and have to fully re charge you haven't used up/wasted a full cycle.

 

Since a 600 watt PSW Inverter meets all your needs that's fine, I just mentioned a 1000 as I'm always thinking about upgrading the system.

 

NOTE if Jack or Yarome or Stanley have an opinion that differs from mine GO WITH THEIRS INSTEAD OF MINE. I'm a long retired electrical engineer but have less solar experience then those gents, I was more into AC Power Distribution way back when, but still believe in good faith and based on experience the above is sound advice BUT I HAVE BEEN WRONG BEFORE !!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I'm guessing subject to sunlight and angle your 320 watts is sufficient for your modest energy requirements. If I had more money to spend Id likely buy a couple more Trojans but that is a lot of weight especially if you have to tongue mount it. Also if your existing charger was "dumb", a 40 amp Smart Charger to replace it isn't all that expensive and you have to couple that with potential increased battery life expectancy when computing the bottom line TOTAL Battery and Charger investment...

 

Best wishes

 

John T

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I don't have room on my roof (7x17) for three panels, so was wanting to get two 160w ones. Have done an energy audit and come up with 30 amps per day at low usage to 80 amps per day at high usage.

 

Was planning on a 30-amp, 4-stage solar charger.

 

 

When your looking at panels you have to be careful. It's not always about how much space you have, but rather how many "effective" watts can you place. Sometimes you will be ahead of the game to go with, say.... 3 - 80watt panels vs 2 - 160's. Overall wattage is lower, but effectively producing vs one panel or the other catching a shadow and only have 1 panel producing at a time. KWIM. If you could put a picture of your roof up, we might have some suggestions.

 

In your energy audit, did you happen to include your rigs parasitic draw and inverter overhead? That could run you as much as 25-30ah's a day all on their lonesome. Just as an example, I would start with the high usage figures first and then compromise downward as needed. So 80ah + 30ah x 1.25 (125% rule of thumb) for a high daily usage around 137ah's.

 

If I were sizing my battery bank against that usage, 2 - 105's will give me 110ah (220@50%). So that's right in the ballpark of my minimum battery requirements as long as I take some steps on a high usage day to go a little heavier into conservation mode (keep the inverter off when not in use, try not to open the reefer, kill the breakers on anything I'm not using.. like the radio). The greater majority of the time you're golden.

 

One thing to consider with your battery bank is the "trade off". 4 - 105's will put you into more of a comfort zone, reduce the SOC percentages (which will help prolong the life of your batteries), and allow for days of inclemental weather when solar production is minimal without having to run your genny. The downside of course is additional weight and cost. Only you can decide if it's worth it to you or not to double your bank. Most days you'll probably only be drawing 60ah's, so it's up to you to decide what you are comfortable having "on tap" on a day to day basis.

 

For your solar controller that will depend on how much you have up top.. how much solar you may intend to add in the future, and the size of your battery bank. It's generally a good idea to allow some room to grow rather than, possibly, having to upgrade in the future if your system size increases. With a 300watt, 220ah bank system, I would still probably recommend to go with at least a 45amp controller. As far as MPPT over PWM.. approaching it from a benefit to cost angle.. I don't think you would reap enough benefit with a 300w 12v system, but if you can afford to go MPPT, every little bit helps and MPPT's will typically give you addition features and programming capabilities to help fine tune your system. I guess it boils down to cost savings vs system efficency at a bit of a premium. If you were going with a 24v array, then I would definately go with the MPPT.

 

That should be enough to digest for today. :D

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Wanderer, you are getting a lot thrown at you fast and if it was me, I would be swimming. When U started dowm this road, I started by working my way through Jack;s website. http://www.jackdanmayer.com/%C2'> you have worked your way through that, people's recommendations start to make a lot more sense. I would not worry about poly vs. mono-crystalline cells with regard to a shading issue. I think you would get very quick solid recommendations if you post a picture of your roof as suggested by Yarome. Panels can be placed over some vents and they can be wired in different ways that will impact shading. If folks see what you are working with they can give you solid feedback on the best layout. If there is not room for more than 300 or so watts of panels and/or you feel sure you do not want to expand solar in the future then I think the analysis and recommendations will be very straightforward and you also may be able to save significant money. The other thing to remember is that you already own a very nice piece of equipment with the Honda generator. Some people want solar only to keep their batteries topped off but still rely heavily on the generator. Others are really into solar (like the people giving you advice on this board) and have the generator there as a last resort. If you tell us where you come down in that spectrum, people can advise you accordingly. At this point I think you are very wise to take a step back and reconsider your options. Dave

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Here is the best price in case you decide to go this rout after reviewing options....http://www.imarineusa.com/magnumenergymms1012100winverter12vwith50apfccharger.aspx.

 

Dave, the two you linked to are actually two different inverter/chargers. The first one is a 230Vac/50Hz MM-E model. The second from the imarineus link is the MMS PSW model which would work.

 

I don't know how much camping Wanderer does, but if it's just "casual", I don't know if she would need to go whole hog with a Mag. Let's wait and see where she lands on the battery bank, array, and what she wants to get out of her system before we confuse her too much with component comparisons. :D I know she mentioned that she already has a charger, but I don't what kind or capabilities, or if she intends to use her converter at all.

 

You made a good point earlier about deciding if solar is going to act as a supplemental energy source or a "mainstay".

 

~ Cheers

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Yarome, yes, I have included parasitic draws in my energy audit. I can post the spreadsheet if you're interested. I did mean amp hours per day, not amps per day. I figure my normal daily draw will be around 60 amp hours. As long as I have sunny days, 360w and two T105's should be enough to power me. If I have three rainy days in a row, I'll fire up the genny. My charger is a DieHard DH-20A I bought at WalMart for around $60-70. I haven't used it yet, nor have I purchased the batteries. I'm still using the battery that came with the TT.

 

Thanks, everyone, for your support! It has given me the impetus to get some thoughts down on paper. I've got two pdf files to upload if someone can tell me how. They are drawings of how I want system to look..

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Happy Wanderer. I do not know why you have the Diehard charger? It sounds like the converter/charger in your trailer is working when you plug into shore power. If it works on shore power it should also work with the Honda generator plugged in to the shore power. The only reason I was thinking of a new charger with a new inverter was that your onboard converter may not be the most up to date and this is a convenient time to replace. But you should not need a portable charger as that would be an incredible hassle and really is not its intended use, in my opinion. I need to defer to someone else on how to upload to these boards. dave

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