Monday, July 7, 2014

Solar Upgrade

I've been thinking long and hard about various potential modifications to the Chinook, one of them being the need for more solar power.  I got some great ideas from several other owners via the Chinook Owners Forum, and excellent advice from AM Solar after outlining to them my objectives.

So after lots of deliberation here's what I ended up having done at AM Solar:
  • Removed the old analog antenna
  • Installed two GS135 panels, one either side of the AC using AM Solar's proprietary mounts, with the outer mounts positioned close to the edge of the upper roof line. This allows the panels to be tilted when required.  The panels were wired in parallel with MC4  connectors.
  • Replaced the old charge controller with a Blue Sky Solar Boost 3000i MPPT unit.  The unit was programmed to match my Trojan SCS225 batteries.
  • A battery temperature sensor was wired into the charge controller
  • An IPN auxiliary harness was installed to take advantage of an optional feature of the new charge controller and provide (up to) a 2 amp feed to the starter battery
The new system rocks!  It provides a huge gain over the original 50 watt setup.

AM Solar offered terrific hospitality and their installation guru Marvin Braun is an absolute ace.  He manages installations for AM Solar through the summer and spends the winter in Arizona.  Highly recommended, he can be contacted at PrecisionRV.com, marv@precisionRV.com, 206-276-2462.

Obviously output varies with a whole host of factors (amount of sun, panel angles, orientation of the RV, amount of shading, etc.) but the system sure can crank out some amps!  Here you can see in full sun with the rig appropriately positioned the system is actually cranking out 15.3 of the very juiciest of amps! :)

Here are a few photos showing the panel installation:


14 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great system! Let us know how it works out in the next few days!

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  2. Idle curiosity, how much?

    Thanks,

    Jim, K6JMG

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  3. Looks great. I'm thinking of upgrading my solar setup on my '97 Concourse. Did you need to replace any of the wiring or did you just hook it all up to the existing wires?

    Thanks,

    Bill

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    1. Bill

      Yes all new wiring. The stock wiring for the 50 watt Siemens panel would not be suitable for the >15 amps from the 270 watt upgrade.

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  4. Did this include wiring from the controller to the batteries? If so, how did they manage that?

    Thanks,

    Bil

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    1. Yes. From the controller across to driver side (inside over-cab storage area), straight down from there to below sofa, then aft to just above battery compartment, through hole into battery area. Very neat.

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  5. Did you use your existing wiring and just plug your new panels / charge controller into them? I have a chinook with a 5 watt panel (i think) and want to upgrade massively, i just dont know if I can use the same wiring or if I will need to replace all of that as well?

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    1. All new wiring. The stock wiring for the original 50 watt Siemens panel would not be suitable for the >15 amps capability of my 270 watt upgrade.

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  6. This is a very nice upgrade for the Chinook. I am considering the same solar package for my '05 Concourse and was wondering if you have had any issues with the panels overhanging the roof line. I have looked at the narrow Zamp Solar panels, but I can't get enough of them on the roof (only 160 watts). Also, do you notice any noise or vibration from the raised panels at highway speeds?

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    1. Hi Jim:

      I've had no issues with positioning of panels. Excellent installation by AM Solar - I'd recommend them. Have not encountered any additional noise or vibration at highway speeds. Also have not seen any noticeable change in mpg. When I was in Nashville recently I had a tree come down on the Chinook during a storm - crushed the driver side panel (and the rack, ladder & caused some other damage) - solar system still putting out a good charge. Will be replacing the damaged panel when I get back to CA under insurance.

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    2. Thanks. Sorry to hear about your storm damage. Hope they can get everything back good as new. Happy trails!

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    3. Here's a bit more about what happened during the storm in Nashville:

      http://chinookers.blogspot.com/2015/04/disaster-strikes-in-tennessee.html?m=1

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