RV Solar Part III – The Installation
So, we come at last to the final installment of our story, and appropriately so on the last day of the year. It’s the last hurrah, the chocolate treat, the final ray of sunshine on the panels…you get the drift. Having decided on our equipment and specs we needed to make the very critical choice of whether to do it ourselves or get help. We’re relatively handy, but not exactly overly-confident and the idea of drilling a hole in our RV roof was enough to send me into a mild panic. So, for our personal sanity we decided help was needed and as it so happens AM Solar knew a good installer (himself a full-timer) who was travelling through Florida while we were here.
And that’s how we met Marvin.
Now, I’m not one to beat about the bush so I’ll just come right out and say it -> Marvin was marvelous. Not only is he a very nice and down-to-earth guy, but he knows solar and the final workmanship was beautiful. So, I’m very happy he came along and am equally happy to recommend him to others (his contact info is HERE and he’s travelling West from FL through TX and onto Yuma, where he’ll land sometime in March 2011).
Marvin spent around a day and a half doing the installation itself and a few extra hours chatting and going over questions with us. Since we didn’t do the install ourselves, I won’t go into all the nitty gritty, but I’ll point out some key points that made the installation work:
- Careful Placement of the Panels:
The panels were placed on the roof so as to ensure there were *no* shadows from any of the existing structures up there (e.g. aircon, antennas). Also, they were placed so that they can be tilted with *no* shadows. Both these things are critical to make sure you get all the power you can out of those babies. Remember even a teeny amount of shadow can kill your power by huge amounts.
- Short, Efficient Wiring:
Marvin did a lovely job of running lines from panels to the combiner box at the back of our roof. From that point it was a direct shot through the roof, down along our our back closet and into the floor to our back left storage bin where he installed the solar controller. The short & direct wiring job was the very reason we were able to stay within our voltage drop goals. Remember that the longer the wire, the more your loss and minimizing loss is what it’s all about
- Controller Located Close to the Batteries:
Our solar controller is in the bin directly adjacent to our batteries which is as close as you can get without being in the same room. This very close placement was what allowed us to meet less than 1% voltage drop between the charger and the batteries….another critical loss point. Marvin routed all the wires through the bin wall and sealed the hole to make sure the battery compartment was kept isolated.
- Attention to Details: Marvin did a very nice job of routing wires carefully, sheathing everything, sealing holes, tying up loose ends and so forth. The final job was very clean and workmanship nicely done.
To finish off our install project, the day after Marvin was gone and for a few days after we diligently measured voltage loss across the system. So far, so good. Everything indicates that we’re meeting our goals of 2% voltage drop from our panels to our controller and 1% drop from controller to batteries.
Did we do everything perfectly? Probably not. Does our system rock? We certainly think so! We’ve been in partially shaded sites (for part of the day) so we haven’t pushed the system to it’s max yet or run the full amperage through the wires so there’s always room for more measurement and improvements. That’ll be a project for 2011 and we’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime I wish everyone a Happy New Year and a fulfilling and joyfull start to 2011. See ya’ all next year!