Go Solar: Adding 200w of DC Power to Your Trailer - RC Groups

Go Solar: Adding 200w of DC Power to Your Trailer

Put your generator into storage; a solar panel setup will keep the electricity flowing all day!

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Harness the Power of the Sun

Harnessing the power of the sun by adding solar panels to your trailer is an easy way to keep those deep cycle batteries topped off while using them for charging LiPo's or running an inverter. Two years ago I installed a pair of 100-watt Renogy monocrystalline panels on the roof of my 6x12 plane hauler. With the addition of a few deep-cycle storage batteries and a 1000w inverter, I've been enjoying true off-the-grid power to charge LiPo's, run fans, the stereo, lights, even a flat screen tv and the coffee maker; anything that pulls under the inverter's rated 1000w of power is fair game.

Choose the Right Panels and Charge Controller

There are two types of solar panels most commonly used on small applications such as a trailer: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Comparatively speaking, monocrystalline is the most efficient and costs more than a poly solar panel. Picture those cheaper solar panel kits you find a Harbor Freight... polycrystalline. Sure they work, but if you want to keep your deep cycles topped off all day and with enough reserves to make it through a night of partying on the flight line, you need a monocrystalline panel or two.

I hunted for weeks before finally pulling the trigger and ordering straight from Renogy through Ebay. I chose a pair of 100 watt panels, PWM 30A charge controller, and mounting hardware kit found here. Use the Make Offer button and see if you can get a better price out the door; Renogy accepted my initial offer of $290... I'd consider that a deal! The 100 watt panels put out about 12 amps of 12v energy per hour on a sunny day. Given the daily load put on the deep cycle batteries from charging LiPos and other low watt-usage electronics, this is more than enough to keep them topped off all day long.

There are also two main types of solar charge controllers available: PWM (pulse width modulation) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). The MPPT is quite a bit more expensive and more efficient than the industry-standard PWM type. But with small arrays consisting of a few panels and deep cycle batteries, the difference will only be felt in your wallet. My kit included a PWM (pulse width modulation) type controller rated at 30 amps.

Additional Items Needed

In addition to the panels and charge controller, you'll need some deep cycle batteries to store your harnessed energy. One or two el-cheapo group-24 marine deep cycles will get the job done, but they don't have the capacity to get you through the night (assuming you're trailer camping at events). An excellent choice for a small solar setup is a pair of 6v golf cart batteries set in series for 12v. The Trojan T-105 sets the standard for performance and affordability in this department; I'm running a pair of T-105's, which have a respectable 220 amp-hour rating. This means that the T-105 could theoretically pull 11 amps for 20 hours until it's fully drained. That's quite a bit of reserve power for running a small trailer.

If you only plan on running 12v accessories, then the next item won't be needed. But if you want your mobile man cave to provide blended fruity drinks to your friends, you'll need a power inverter. I chose an Xantrex XPower 1000w inverter as middle ground between price and output power. The XPower 1000 has a GFCI outlet and can be mounted out of sight and turned on with it's remote mounted switch, if desired. Finally, you'll need some 4 gauge welding cable to run between the batteries and inverter.

The Installed Setup

I mounted the panels on the roof at the rear of the trailer, taking advantage of the steel cross braces in the roof to attach the brackets; use self-tapping machine screws here. Don't even think about mounting the panels through the aluminum sheeting only, because you'll be on the evening news for killing the driver behind you with a flying solar panel as soon as you pull out of your neighborhood.

Links to Items Used

Renogy 200 watt solar starter kit

Xantrex XPower 1000 Inverter

Trojan T-105 6v Batteries (2 needed)

4 gauge welding cable

Blue Sea Fuse Block (between battery and inverter)

Conclusion

My setup is by no means a definitive list; you can go as big or small as you want. In fact, you don't need a trailer to utilize solar power. I have a few 50 watt panels for keeping my truck battery topped off when I don't use the trailer at the field. Solar power is a great way to put back the power you drained from a battery during charging or running electronics while out in the field. As an added bonus, it makes you look cool when you don't run the generator (ok, that's my opinion and I'm sticking with it!).

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Oct 25, 2016 at 11:09 AM..
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Oct 25, 2016, 11:13 AM
Xpress..'s Avatar
Thanks for posting this here Matt, I am going to use this guide to add solar to my adventure van.
Oct 25, 2016, 11:23 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xpress..
Thanks for posting this here Matt, I am going to use this guide to add solar to my adventure van.
Yea, you peaked my interest when you told me what you were building. Cant wait to see the finished result.
Oct 25, 2016, 01:03 PM
MSgt, USAF Ret.
Jim Frahm's Avatar
Thanks for the feedback on the different panels. I've been wanting to do this to my trailer but I was unsure of what to buy.

Best,
Jim
Oct 25, 2016, 01:05 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Frahm
Thanks for the feedback on the different panels. I've been wanting to do this to my trailer but I was unsure of what to buy.

Best,
Jim
I really think getting the panels from Renogy on ebay is the best bet because they always have a "make offer" button. I usually low-ball and they seem to always accept. They are quality panels.
Oct 25, 2016, 01:12 PM
MSgt, USAF Ret.
Jim Frahm's Avatar
From the looks of it the Kit comes with everything to mount the panels and wire them up to the controller? You have to buy the 4 guage wire to run from the controller to batteries?

Thanks again,
Jim
Oct 25, 2016, 01:21 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Correct! Except the 4 gauge wire is only needed if you're running an inverter. That wire would go from the battery to the inverter. A much smaller wire can be used from the solar charger to the battery, as it's only about 5 amps max.
Oct 25, 2016, 05:46 PM
Xpress..'s Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Gunn
Yea, you peaked my interest when you told me what you were building. Cant wait to see the finished result.
I'm fairly certain that I'm just going to go with 1 solar panel up top, I feel that it should be sufficient for about 95% of the time and when it's not then I can just use my generator if I really need some juice. I am still debating on what I want to use for batteries.

Did you use the sheet metal screws to secure the mounts onto the roof of your trailer? And how did you seal them up?
Last edited by Xpress..; Oct 25, 2016 at 05:59 PM.
Oct 25, 2016, 06:58 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Sheet metal screws and white roofing caulk from home depot.
Oct 25, 2016, 07:38 PM
Registered User
If the panels will be partially shaded, look into panels with multiple integrated bypass diodes - which will allow the unshaded groups of cells to still produce power.

Some info on this: http://www.solar-facts.com/panels/panel-diodes.php

I chose Kyocera panels with my (camping) trailer for this reason. They cost a little more though.
Oct 26, 2016, 12:20 AM
Doberman fan
apriliamille's Avatar
thanks for this. i had wanted to make a small solar kit to keep my batteries topped off at home instead of burning power through the wall outlet and my wallet. this does not seem to expensive to be more "green" with my hobby
Oct 26, 2016, 01:13 AM
Goes to eleven!
JK13's Avatar
I am also customizing a new trailer and have four very efficient 300W (1200W total) mono panels feeding four 400AH 6V batteries for 24V.
MPPT charge controller-
Zantrex 3000W continuous inverter
Will report progress along the way-

Fun stuff!



Joe
Oct 26, 2016, 09:37 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JK13
I am also customizing a new trailer and have four very efficient 300W (1200W total) mono panels feeding four 400AH 6V batteries for 24V.
MPPT charge controller-
Zantrex 3000W continuous inverter
Will report progress along the way-

Fun stuff!



Joe
Now THAT sounds like an awesome setup! Post some pics!!
Oct 26, 2016, 07:02 PM
Goes to eleven!
JK13's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Gunn
Now THAT sounds like an awesome setup! Post some pics!!
Matt,
Yes I will - I am about 1/2 way through the customization of the trailer.
Started out with a new trailer ordered from Featherlight (all aluminum) 6-1/2 X 14 foot dual axle with additional 34"V-nose.
Added all insulation with all new 1/2 plywood walls and 1/4 ceiling panels.
A total of over 100 LED lights for overall lighting and also night lighting red and blue - even exterior ground night lights, floods etc.
Over 600 feet of wire!
Coleman-Mach 15K BTU low profile heat pump on roof for heat and AC
Custom Blue Sea electrical panel with OLED metering - 12V, 24V and 120VAC breaker sections
Workbench with two tool box drawer units
Aluminum storage cabinets
Aluminum (for fire safety) charging station with three 24V 50A banana plug feeds and one 12V 40A plug feed - additional charging panels 24V and 12V Also plugs near aft opening for sharing at the field
Two 120VAC circuits
Small refer/freezer and convection microwave
Custom 7 gal fresh water tank with pressure pump and small sink

Whew!

More to come and I will get some Pics going in awhile.



Joe
Oct 26, 2016, 07:14 PM
Xpress..'s Avatar
600 feet of wire!!


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