RV Setup Plan - 6kWh Lithium and 1,600w of Solar

FrequentExplorer

New Member
Hello everyone,

I am new to this channel, came here looking for information to build my extended off the grid system. I've seen a lot of videos from Will, a lot of info which can be overwhelming, but I hope I can continue to learning from all of you.

So far I've came up with 2 options to build my system (pics attached)
Option 1 - DeltaPro + solar, the easiest not necessarily the cheapest.
Option 2 - BigBattery bank + Growatt, the most cost effective, but requires moderate knowledge.

I recently bought an old, 26 feet Gulfstream motorhome and will be going for option 2, replacing a dinosaur aircon and energy hungry appliances. Would like to kindly ask the community to review these options and provide feedback, this is my first attempt, so I'm sure I probably missed something or have things that are wrong.

As you can see my plans go into details of energy efficiency, extracting as much as possible in SEER and energy consumption, which can be expensive upfront, but I believe it will be cost effective long term, while providing comfort when staying off grid.

Thank you!
 

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HRTKD

Boondocker
Get up on the roof and figure out how much usable space you actually have. To optimize the roof space for PV, you often have to be a master of Tetris. Different sized PV panels may not work well together. Using panels that are all the same size, or the same output specs (volts/amps) makes for an easier configuration.

I had intended to place 800 watts of PV on my RV trailer, but the layout just didn't support the four 200 watt panels I had thought to use. I ended up using two 320 watt panels instead.
 

OffGridInTheCity

Solar Addict
If you go solar

1) I'd put as many panels as you can squeeze in. I have 4 x 300w panels on a 7 x 14 cargo trailer -> camper. Don't be shy about putting them right to the edge / even if a bit visible from the ground etc. The 1200w of panels (laying flat) have been delivering about 6kwh/day all thru the summer - enough to run the 9000BTU Mini-Split 24/7 with no shore power.
1631482896466.png

2) You don't mention the size of your RV. My cargo -> trailer conversion has MPP Solar 3048LV (3000w inverter, 48v battery) and if you have something larger - like 20ft or 30ft - I'd go with 5000w or 6000w inverter instead of the 3000w you're showing.

3) You show 6.5kwh battery. I've found that 3 * Solar Panel amount is a reasonable 'quick measure' - e.g. if you have 3000w of panels, then at least a 9kwh battery bank. But again, if you have a choice, leave room for expansion in the future.

I have an eu3000is generator built-in - provides about 2200watts of charging power.
1631483735778.png


*Its perfectly OK to start smaller and figure it all out and then expand. Once you have a system for a while - a whole bunch of things will make sense that's difficult to 'internalize' until you have hands-on.

Let us know what you decide.... and your progress in pics is always fun to see :)
 
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time2roll

Photon Sorcerer
Does the Gulfstream not have a generator? Or will you remove it to place these components?
Not sure why you have a price on a breaker panel as the RV should have this already.
Look at the Panasonic inverter series microwaves. These actually reduce power draw instead of cycling the Megatron.
Not sure how I would put 1600 watts solar on my 26' trailer but I suppose it is possible if the roof A/C is removed etc. (have 675w)
Have not read much good on BigBattery or is this something different?
 

FrequentExplorer

New Member
Get up on the roof and figure out how much usable space you actually have. To optimize the roof space for PV, you often have to be a master of Tetris. Different sized PV panels may not work well together. Using panels that are all the same size, or the same output specs (volts/amps) makes for an easier configuration.

I had intended to place 800 watts of PV on my RV trailer, but the layout just didn't support the four 200 watt panels I had thought to use. I ended up using two 320 watt panels instead.
Yes HRTKD, totally agree, getting 8 200w panels will not be easy, but it can be accomplished by removing the current AC unit, covering the fridge vent and going over 2 standard air vents, (custom raiser). This is where I have been spending most of time, trying to figure out this part. I will post pictures of my tetris skill...I will be content if I can get 1200w.
 

FrequentExplorer

New Member
If you go solar

1) I'd put as many panels as you can squeeze in. I have 4 x 300w panels on a 7 x 14 cargo trailer -> camper. Don't be shy about putting them right to the edge / even if a bit visible from the ground etc. The 1200w of panels (laying flat) have been delivering about 6kwh/day all thru the summer - enough to run the 9000BTU Mini-Split 24/7 with no shore power.
View attachment 64308

2) You don't mention the size of your RV. My cargo -> trailer conversion has MPP Solar 3048LV (3000w inverter, 48v battery) and if you have something larger - like 20ft or 30ft - I'd go with 5000w or 6000w inverter instead of the 3000w you're showing.

3) You show 6.5kwh battery. I've found that 3 * Solar Panel amount is a reasonable 'quick measure' - e.g. if you have 3000w of panels, then at least a 9kwh battery bank. But again, if you have a choice, leave room for expansion in the future.

I have an eu3000is generator built-in - provides about 2200watts of charging power.
View attachment 64309


*Its perfectly OK to start smaller and figure it all out and then expand. Once you have a system for a while - a whole bunch of things will make sense that's difficult to 'internalize' until you have hands-on.

Let us know what you decide.... and your progress in pics is always fun to see :)
Thank you for sharing your setup
If you go solar

1) I'd put as many panels as you can squeeze in. I have 4 x 300w panels on a 7 x 14 cargo trailer -> camper. Don't be shy about putting them right to the edge / even if a bit visible from the ground etc. The 1200w of panels (laying flat) have been delivering about 6kwh/day all thru the summer - enough to run the 9000BTU Mini-Split 24/7 with no shore power.
View attachment 64308

2) You don't mention the size of your RV. My cargo -> trailer conversion has MPP Solar 3048LV (3000w inverter, 48v battery) and if you have something larger - like 20ft or 30ft - I'd go with 5000w or 6000w inverter instead of the 3000w you're showing.

3) You show 6.5kwh battery. I've found that 3 * Solar Panel amount is a reasonable 'quick measure' - e.g. if you have 3000w of panels, then at least a 9kwh battery bank. But again, if you have a choice, leave room for expansion in the future.

I have an eu3000is generator built-in - provides about 2200watts of charging power.
View attachment 64309


*Its perfectly OK to start smaller and figure it all out and then expand. Once you have a system for a while - a whole bunch of things will make sense that's difficult to 'internalize' until you have hands-on.

Let us know what you decide.... and your progress in pics is always fun to see :)
Thank your for sharing your nice setup OffGridInTheCity.

1- I have a 26ft GS motorhome on a Chevy P30, that baby will have a black roof. From I have been reading, covering the roof helps to keep the temp down inside.

2- My usage logic is to go from solar-to-appliances, solar-to-battery during the day for charging, then battery-to-appliances at night of course. Taking into consideration that my battery bank will be only 6kwh, do you think a larger inverter is really necessary? Is your recommendation to take advantage of cloudy days or when parked under shades?

3-For item 3, I will be looking to maximize my roof space as much as possible. Also, I recently found a 3600W generator, which is dual fuel, electric and with a remote start fob (Westinghouse WGen3600DF) for $600. If my calculations are right, it should topoff my batteries in 2 hours of runtime.

A question, you mentioned your generator is built in? The picture shows inside the trailer, do you mean for transport? or do you actually run it from this location? which I will totally advice against...just curious.
 

FrequentExplorer

New Member
Does the Gulfstream not have a generator? Or will you remove it to place these components?
Not sure why you have a price on a breaker panel as the RV should have this already.
Look at the Panasonic inverter series microwaves. These actually reduce power draw instead of cycling the Megatron.
Not sure how I would put 1600 watts solar on my 26' trailer but I suppose it is possible if the roof A/C is removed etc. (have 675w)
Have not read much good on BigBattery or is this something different?

Thank you for the feedback time2roll.

Yes the RV has a Generac generator, its old and acting up, cost to rebuilt is higher than getting a new one. I know these generator are one of the best in the market, but I will not be relying solely on this for my energy needs. I found one for $640 (WGen3600DF with 4 years warranty) which should suffice the needs.

For the minisplit AC, I will be modifying one of the bays to accommodate the condenser. I could fab something from my bumper, it will also require removing fiberglass to secure the fab pieces, an aye sore.... and take away the functionality of my hitch.

I could not find an actual panel box in my RV, there is distribution panel in one of the bays (bus type) which is dangerous. I want to secure it and isolate all the wiring so I can use that bay to store fuel cans (Just kidding) to put an air compressor.

I will be looking into the Panasonic microwave.

And yes, I will be removing my roof AC and using some creativity to go over the vents to get those panel up there.

Don't know much about the batteries, what I've read is average information, fairly new to the market, standard components, unfortunately not enough info on reliability or quality, just like some products in this ever evolving industry, a leap of faith in hopes is not a regret.
 

OffGridInTheCity

Solar Addict
Thank you for sharing your setup

Thank your for sharing your nice setup OffGridInTheCity.
Thank you for such kind words.

A question, you mentioned your generator is built in? The picture shows inside the trailer, do you mean for transport? or do you actually run it from this location? which I will totally advice against...just curious.
The earlier picture didn't have the door / interior is sealed and insulated from tail-end 'garage'. Propane cabinet is sealed and vented to the outside. Propane monitor lower to floor on the right.
1631995735570.png



Running the generator
- Generator exhaust hooked to a quick-connect to external exhaust port. *This carbon dioxide monitor inside works.
- I can run it with the tailgate down... the wall gets to 190F after 30minutes. The wall didn't turn black or burst into flames BUT its bit too hot for me - so I need to add some heat shielding. Meanwhile....
- I can disconnect the exhaust and roll the generator out onto the tailgate a few feet. The propane line (coiled under the floor) is 15ft long :)

I wanted to be able to run the generator while driving, with the tailgate up - but I'm reluctant to put a 2 x 2ft (or something like that) huge vent/fan in the side of the trailer and without that - its just too much heat. Also, its not clear I need to do generator charge while driving - the panels do very well.

I might replace this with a smaller generator at some point and achieve running a generator while driving.

-----------------
Look forward to following your progress :)
 

FrequentExplorer

New Member
Thank you for such kind words.


The earlier picture didn't have the door / interior is sealed and insulated from tail-end 'garage'. Propane cabinet is sealed and vented to the outside. Propane monitor lower to floor on the right.
View attachment 65206



Running the generator
- Generator exhaust hooked to a quick-connect to external exhaust port. *This carbon dioxide monitor inside works.
- I can run it with the tailgate down... the wall gets to 190F after 30minutes. The wall didn't turn black or burst into flames BUT its bit too hot for me - so I need to add some heat shielding. Meanwhile....
- I can disconnect the exhaust and roll the generator out onto the tailgate a few feet. The propane line (coiled under the floor) is 15ft long :)

I wanted to be able to run the generator while driving, with the tailgate up - but I'm reluctant to put a 2 x 2ft (or something like that) huge vent/fan in the side of the trailer and without that - its just too much heat. Also, its not clear I need to do generator charge while driving - the panels do very well.

I might replace this with a smaller generator at some point and achieve running a generator while driving.

-----------------
Look forward to following your progress :)
Wow, the pic make sense now, thank you for sharing.

What about a DC to DC inverter to use your alternator to charge while driving? Is that possible in your case? with a quick connect to your truck maybe? Are you doing heavy draw of current that you need the generator while driving?

For me the focus is to be more on the solar side, I might add an extra battery and double my capacity down the road, so I don't have to rely as much on gas/propane generator. With regard to the battery, those suckers are heavy, the RV can handle the extra weight, (short frame), but I don't want to be out of DOT weight compliance, so I need to check into that. I recently ordered an airlift kit to balance the weight in the back.

I have a lot of things to do, the focus at the moment is the roof, clean, reseal, eternabond it and such. Once thats done, next is solar panels, followed by AC minisplit....I'll post some pics of the progress, the one is the current condition.
 

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OffGridInTheCity

Solar Addict
Wow, the pic make sense now, thank you for sharing.

What about a DC to DC inverter to use your alternator to charge while driving? Is that possible in your case? with a quick connect to your truck maybe?
Yea... The main problem is I have a 48v @ 260ah battery and would need a 12vdc -> 48vdc unit but the ones I found are really big $ :)

Are you doing heavy draw of current that you need the generator while driving?
You got it - the answer is no.

For me the focus is to be more on the solar side, I might add an extra battery and double my capacity down the road, so I don't have to rely as much on gas/propane generator.
Agreed.

With regard to the battery, those suckers are heavy, the RV can handle the extra weight, (short frame), but I don't want to be out of DOT weight compliance, so I need to check into that. I recently ordered an airlift kit to balance the weight in the back.
I have a 14s88p lithium-ion DIY battery @ 260ah (equivalent to 12v@1040ah) and is about 12,500wh. It weighs about 150lbs.
LifePo4 is heavier but even at similar capacity levels it shouldn't be more than 200lbs - e.g. it might not be as much as you're thinking.

I have a lot of things to do, the focus at the moment is the roof, clean, reseal, eternabond it and such. Once thats done, next is solar panels, followed by AC minisplit....I'll post some pics of the progress, the one is the current condition.
I worried *a lot* about mounting my 9000BTU mini-split - but I didn't need to. Its 5" off the body of the trailer and could have been 4". The fan is so quiet and even with the box on top the air-flow is fine - the unit fan / air-flow does not strain at all.
Used U-Botls on the frame with small pieces of universal strut for a weldless attachment - runs while driving with no problem!
Its not that heavy - 30lbs? or something like that. But I had to put propane in the back due to such a short tongue.
1632001724063.png1632001801308.png1632001857753.png
 

Stepandwolf

Solar Addict
Does the Gulfstream not have a generator? Or will you remove it to place these components?
Not sure why you have a price on a breaker panel as the RV should have this already.
Look at the Panasonic inverter series microwaves. These actually reduce power draw instead of cycling the Megatron.
Not sure how I would put 1600 watts solar on my 26' trailer but I suppose it is possible if the roof A/C is removed etc. (have 675w)
Have not read much good on BigBattery or is this something different?
I have room on my 22' trailer for 1200w and if I use the rack area, another 4-600w. That is working around an antenna, two maxairs, the AC, two sunlights, and the propane exhaust. If you have 4' more of trailer, and the same obstacles I do, then two more panels than me would be easy.
 

time2roll

Photon Sorcerer
These have been up almost ten years now.


Ssc6s5Ll.jpg
9Mmo7oh.jpg width=620
 

schmism

Solar Addict
some observations from the 2 plans.

1) a transfer switch should be use to combine the generator input and shore power input on the growatt so you never mistakenly fire up the generator with shore power also "attached" (technically this is also true for 120v input to the ecoflow)
2) if the growatt needs an 120v output pannel to supply the RV so does the Ecoflow.
3) you dont note anyway to charge the ecoflow from alternator
4) you dont note anyway to charge the ecoflow from shore power.
5) you shown a victron DC to DC converter to get power from the alternator into the growatt. however you have listed a 12/24v version. Min DC input for 48v growatt is 60v so you'd have to get a 12v-60v converter. 50a@12v = 600w/60v = 10 amps which isnt great however i guess it something.
6) you could parralel the growatts in the future should you decide you want to run more AC/apliances on it at once and all that takes is adding a second $900 inverter.
 

cruisered

New Member
We are full time, have a 36ft Class A with a fiberglass roof.
We have 2KW solar and 75KW LiFePO4 battery.

I could write a short book on things I've learned but here a few high points.

Your roof will need maintenance. Unless you have access to a lift and cranes you will need to be able to walk the roof and lift the panels to clean and do maintenance. Do not put holes in your roof use VHB tape or better yet 5200 to secure the panels. Make sure it is easy to lift and move the panels. Don't remove the connectors as some suggest.

Speaking of cleaning route your wiring in a single line down the middle of the roof as much as possible to make it easier to clean.

From my experience I'm dubious of your ability to run an A/C from solar. We have plenty of power to run our two laptops, LAN with Storage, microwave, residential fridge, and induction cooktop from solar much of the time. When things are good we have enough spare to run an electric close dryer for one load. There are plenty of times when we are at higher latitudes, or it is cloudy, or there are trees when we have to use the gas cooktop and avoid the microwave and even then we will run short of power. If I through and A/C into the mix I'm pretty sure we would run short very often.

Also consider that an A/C may have a typical duty cycle of 50%. But if you leave it off all day and then turn it one for sleeping the duty cycle will average out much longer than 50% because of the high temperature starting point, humidity, and heat built up in the contents of the RV.

The mini split is a great idea. Consider going with a zoned ceiling cassette setup so you can cool just the sleeping quarters. That might help you run on battery.

As for the components. Space in an RV is limited so the form factor of you batteries and other components needs to be considered. A custom built unit from cells will probably not only be more affordable but will save precious space and make maintenance easy.
 

time2roll

Photon Sorcerer
Seems the panels were put up in a convenient manner without regard to ever wanting to install more... No problem if you don't ever want more panels but clearly not space-optimized.
675w was crazy big back then. Panels were just hitting $1 per watt. Today it is medium at best. Minimize cost and shade issues was the objective.
This will have to work another 6-8 years.
 

FrequentExplorer

New Member
some observations from the 2 plans.

1) a transfer switch should be use to combine the generator input and shore power input on the growatt so you never mistakenly fire up the generator with shore power also "attached" (technically this is also true for 120v input to the ecoflow)
2) if the growatt needs an 120v output pannel to supply the RV so does the Ecoflow.
3) you dont note anyway to charge the ecoflow from alternator
4) you dont note anyway to charge the ecoflow from shore power.
5) you shown a victron DC to DC converter to get power from the alternator into the growatt. however you have listed a 12/24v version. Min DC input for 48v growatt is 60v so you'd have to get a 12v-60v converter. 50a@12v = 600w/60v = 10 amps which isnt great however i guess it something.
6) you could parralel the growatts in the future should you decide you want to run more AC/apliances on it at once and all that takes is adding a second $900 inverter.
We are full time, have a 36ft Class A with a fiberglass roof.
We have 2KW solar and 75KW LiFePO4 battery.

I could write a short book on things I've learned but here a few high points.

Your roof will need maintenance. Unless you have access to a lift and cranes you will need to be able to walk the roof and lift the panels to clean and do maintenance. Do not put holes in your roof use VHB tape or better yet 5200 to secure the panels. Make sure it is easy to lift and move the panels. Don't remove the connectors as some suggest.

Speaking of cleaning route your wiring in a single line down the middle of the roof as much as possible to make it easier to clean.

From my experience I'm dubious of your ability to run an A/C from solar. We have plenty of power to run our two laptops, LAN with Storage, microwave, residential fridge, and induction cooktop from solar much of the time. When things are good we have enough spare to run an electric close dryer for one load. There are plenty of times when we are at higher latitudes, or it is cloudy, or there are trees when we have to use the gas cooktop and avoid the microwave and even then we will run short of power. If I through and A/C into the mix I'm pretty sure we would run short very often.

Also consider that an A/C may have a typical duty cycle of 50%. But if you leave it off all day and then turn it one for sleeping the duty cycle will average out much longer than 50% because of the high temperature starting point, humidity, and heat built up in the contents of the RV.

The mini split is a great idea. Consider going with a zoned ceiling cassette setup so you can cool just the sleeping quarters. That might help you run on battery.

As for the components. Space in an RV is limited so the form factor of you batteries and other components needs to be considered. A custom built unit from cells will probably not only be more affordable but will save precious space and make maintenance easy.

Thank you Cruisered for sharing your information and advise. Screws on your roof is not ideal, but it can be done, but has to be done right (stainless steel, sealant on bottom and top of plates). My roof is rubber EPDM, I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable riding with glued panel on my that roof, specially when going through areas with strong winds. I am in the process of re-enforcing the roof, then it will be primed and coated with raptor bedliner (white). That stuff is UV resistant and durable, it acts as think sealant. To get the most of solar, and also to help with roof maintenance, I have been looking into electric tilting mechanisms such as this (youtube.com/watch?v=2d8q2YGH1FU).

While the intent is leverage solar to run the appliances, I am aware I will have limitations, not enough panel...one can get creative like this guys who double his array by stacking a retractable a roof, check out his video youtu.be/wQRnECDIQ8E very impressive.

Totally agree with the form factor space is premium considering my rig is only 26feet.
 

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