Monday, October 9, 2017

Vista Solar, Part 1

With a couple years experience using solar in his travel trailer, I didn't have to spend any time discussing the issues related to installing a larger, true sine wave inverter to power the microwave since I knew it wasn't considered essential. Instead, I concentrated on those items that would be used while boondocking.

I was pleased to see that the inverter idle draw was only 10 watts. None the less, the inverter is not likely to be powered except when using one of the TVs.

The big draw will be the large TV which won't be used that much. It's quite likely that 200 watts of panels will be more than enough for their typical use patterns. We selected the same Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline panel that we used on his trailer because of its compact size and high Vmp. One will be configured for portable placement and the other will be roof mounted with tilting capabilities.

I brainstormed a shopping list and shortly thereafter, stuff magically started showing up at my door. Like the other systems I've put together, this one will use 8 AWG cable to reduce the line losses.

I did some of the stuff at home where tools were easily available. Some aluminum angle was used to create legs for the portable panel.

The secret to the legs is the plastic washer and self locking nut. With the plastic washer between the leg and the frame, the self locking nut can be tightened down enough to put some friction on the hinge angle.

The installation is using two different 8 AWG wire styles. The feed wire from the portable panel is 'zip cord' from PowerWerx. The red/black paired cable uses finer wire for more flexibility, which makes it much easier to use with the portable panel. The roof-mounted panel/s will use MC4 Solar cable. It has fewer strands of thicker wire resulting in a stiffer wire, but it also has a UV resistant cover.

The extension cable for the portable panel was permanently connected to the panel leads with waterproof, heat sink butt connectors. They're waterproof and serve as a strain relief across the connection.

The other end of the portable panel cable got an Anderson SB50 Power Pole connector. These connectors have beefy contacts and result in a connector that cannot be inserted with reverse polarity. We used these on Jeff's trailer project a couple years ago and it has served well.

Unlike last time, this time I spec'd the extra Tee handle to make it a bit easier to connect and disconnect the pair of Anderson connectors.

The rood top panel gets fitted with AM Solar's mounting system. This system is fabricated from stainless steel, and allows the panel to tilt in two directions. It's a quick and easy installation on the panel.

Each corner gets a bracket that is retained by one bolt with self-locking nut.

The mounting foot connects to the adapter with a threaded knob. The foot will be attached to the fiberglass roof with 3M Very High Bond tape and then sealed around the edges with 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive.

The Victron controller* and all the system connections have a home in the forward curb-side bay, as close as I could get to the coach batteries.

*We considered the TriMetric TM2030 / SC2030 combination, but the Victron combo got the nod because of the cleaner looking monitor. The MPPT controller is a bit of overkill, but will work nicely with the high Vmp of the Renogy panels.


  1. Nice post John! It's nice to have experienced people able to share their knowledge. We've been getting by with the Renogy 100 Watt Solar Suitcase, but it is a pain to store it for when it might be needed.

    1. Portable vs fixed is always a tradeoff. I love the roof mounted panel on my Scamp, my son likes his portable and doesn't mind babysitting it. It all depends on your preferred style.

  2. I'm pretty sure that dad will be showing off his storage design for the portable panel in a future post. Not having "road tested" this yet, it is my favorite part of the installation so far.

    1. Yup, there will be at least one more post, likely two, regarding the solar installation.

  3. Much as you have seen, I have a combination of both. The portable suitcase stays with the RV when parked. These 130W panels keep the onboard well charged, while the 230W panels on the truck cap keep the batter bank going. I like the portability as well as dependability of both. I experimented with a true sine wave inverter with our last RV, but found there are things I CAN DO WITHOUT.