Solar power install on popup tent trailer

Discussion in 'Power Systems' started by 90WT, May 10, 2018.

  1. 90WT

    90WT

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    Hey all,
    Thought I'd share my project of adding solar power to my old '93 Coleman popup tent trailer. Mrs. 90wt and I seriously contemplated buying a new camper trailer this year as our Coleman is aging and doesn't have many of the standard features newer trailers come with. After a lot of discussion (usually with bourbon) and running the numbers, we decided to perform some upgrades to the little trailer instead of buying new. Of particular interest, was adding a long-term power option that allowed us the freedom of running some electronics and powering an ARB fridge without a gas generator along.

    After much google-ing on IH8MUD and other sites, I feel like I've found a good solution for what we need. All in all it wasn't as much money as I thought I'd have to spend. And it has been a super fun project to geek out on.

    The major parts:
    Renogy Foldable solar suitcase - 100w folding panel without charge controller.
    Victron 75/15 MPPT SmartSolar charge controller
    75aH deep cycle battery already on my trailer.
    Zamp 300w pure sin inverter

    The minor parts:
    Renogy wire: 20 ft package from solar panel to charge controller
    Renogy wire: 8 ft package from charge controller to battery
    10 gauge wire
    Lots of wire connectors and shrink tubing
    wire strippers
    electrical tape, red and black
    two 12 volt sockets (cig lighter type)

    More to come.

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  2. 90WT

    90WT

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    Most of the solar setup is pretty straightforward. You need a pv panel, battery, charge controller, etc. Then just wire them all up. No big deal, right? But I had a few questions that were a bit tricky. Like where do I need fuses? What type of fuses? What gauge wire do I use? Why do some RV solar setups use 2/0 gauge wire and 150 amp fuses? Seems scary big.

    So here are some links I found handy.

    Figuring out power consumption and how much power you need to capture and distribute:


    All about solar chargers: (Lots of other good videos from Australian direct on their youtube channel).


    Solar charger thread on IH8MUD: Thanks to JCruse for the inspiration.
    Awesome new MPPT controller with bluetooth control for $99

    How to fuse your solar setup, fuse sizes and locations:
    How to Fuse your Solar System

    For my little system. I only needed a 10 amp fuse from the pv panel to the charge controller. A 15 amp fuse from the charge controller to the battery. And a 30 amp fuse from the battery to the inverter. And since 10 guage wire is good for 30 amps, all my wiring is done with 10 gauge wire and in-line fuse holders. All easy to cut and connect together. Sounded simple enough. As much as like to buy new tools in the excuse of saving money by doing my own work, I had no desire to cut and crimp 2/0 wire runs.

    Here are some pics of the pv panel and charge controller mounted up. I connected it for the first time today in full sun. Super happy to have it up and running. Maybe I'm a super dork, but the charge controller display with bluetooth to my phone is so wicked cool. Love to see real time results from the system. From what I've read on other IH8MUD threads, I should have more than enough power to run an ARB fridge and charge the iphone, ipad, ipod, iotherstuff.

    The pv panel wires are fed out through the existing hatch for the shore power extension cord. The 20 ft Renogy pv panel extension wires are more than long enough to get my panel out into the sun away from the trailer. The 8ft Renogy battery wires were all I needed to get down under my trailer and follow an existing wire bundle to the battery on the front of the trailer. Fuses are all in-line automotive type (black plastic fuse holder with red wires).

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  3. Semi Hex

    Semi Hex

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    DEC94A22-0280-4022-926C-AD1445D4D672.jpeg I have a Jumping Jack tent trailer with what started as a modest solar setup. Charge phone/iPad, run lights at night and such with no fridge. I really spent a lot of time wathching my energy usage. I upgraded to a teardrop and the system is more robust and I had only to buy parts one time.

    Fuses are for protecting the wiring and yes the wires can be big on larger system. They are close to where the wiring starts for example the positive wire from the battery to, for example, your lights. This protects the wire and the fixture.
     
    90WT likes this.
  4. lc69hunter

    lc69hunter SILVER Star

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    I have exactly the same year and model Pop-up. What did you take out to put in a fridge?
     
  5. 90WT

    90WT

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    I can see where having a larger solar system would be handy to avoid having to watch energy usage so closely. Since there was really no power options for dry camping on my trailer, I did wonder that if by adding power, I would suddenly become power hungry and quickly out grow such a small system.

    Good question. As you know the pop-up is quite small inside. I plan to haul the fridge in the back of my car, plugged into the 12v socket in the rear cargo area during transport. I'm wiring in two 12v waterproof sockets to the trailer to connect the fridge while camping. One plug will be on the tongue next to the battery box when the fridge can be outside. The other will be located just inside the door on the left hand side next to the fire extinguisher mount for when the fridge hangs out in the trailer. I don't think there's a good place for a permanent mount inside the trailer. Especially when Mrs 90wt requested a portable toilet be part of the trailer upgrades. It is slated to live in the storage compartment just inside the door on the right hand side. The unit we bought fits in that space, and we'll cut the top of the cabinet for a hinged door of sorts. ARB fridge may have fit in there. ?
     
  6. 90WT

    90WT

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    Installed the Zamp 300w Inverter in the compartment just inside the door on the left (same compartment as fire extinguisher). I made a small shelf for the unit to sit on to minimize the impact on my already dismal storage capacity. The small inverter that Zamp makes doesn't come with mounting screws in the case like the larger ones. I placed a call into Zamp and they recommended installing with adhesive backed velcro. Seems legit. I put velcro strips below and then added a velcro strap around the unit and the wood shelve for good measure.

    I also ran 10 gauge wires for the 12v socket to this same compartment. The idea is to have all my electrical sockets, 110v and 12v, on this "wall" with the fire extinguisher. Including a future switch panel to control 12v LED awning and outdoor lighting. I wanted to be able to access the power points and switches without having to actually enter the trailer. I can just open the door and plug in. I'm currently looking for a compact two plug outlet to surface mount next to the fire extinguisher to connect to the inverter.

    Inverter location from inside the trailer:

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    Photo from outside:

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  7. 90WT

    90WT

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    Well, for the last bit of install, I found a 12v power panel and single 110 outlet to get my new solar power out to my devices.
    My inverter is powered up in the cabinet right behind the fire extinguisher. I had also run an extra set of 10 gauge wires from the battery to the same cabinet for the new 12v power panel.

    Lots of good stuff to find on Amazon as far as 12v power panels and 110 outlets. I went with these.

    12V power panel, with dedicated on/off switch, 2 usb ports, 12v socket, and power meter.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0741CHQ49/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    110 outlet for desk top, basically a short extension cord from the inverter.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072Q3KWY4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    12v sockets took a 1-1/8 inch hole bit that can be picked up from any hardware store. ACE is the place, just sayin.

    Layout and hole drilling:
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    Here is the 12V panel installed with the 110 outlet next to it. I dig having the 12v meter to see how the battery charge is holding without checking the MPPT charge controller. Even though I still get a kick out of connecting via bluetooth. Strangely enough, the meter and charge controller don't register the same voltage most times i check them. They seem to be off a bit.

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    We always put the cooler in the same spot next to the door on top of the cabinet. Seemed natural for the ARB fridge to live here as well. Super convenient.

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    And for the test run, we hit up St. Anthony Sand Dunes for a weekend trip. Felt pretty kick ass to drive around the sand dunes while the Idaho sun was keeping my beer cold.

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    This has been a super fun project and definitely worth it. I was having second thoughts about buying an ARB fridge because they are expensive. But I bought it knowing that I would install solar panels to power it. I think the two go well together and after spending the weekend camping in the sun I have no regrets. This is going to open up more camping opportunities for me and the fam.
    Thanks again to all the MUDers in the Power Forum for the info and inspiration. Happy Camping. :steer:
     
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