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4th RV Solar Install Complete!

It’s taken almost a year to finish, but today we added the final touches to our RV rooftop 1095W solar system.

System Design Schematic

There have been many interactions of this design.

System Remote Control

Control and monitoring our Victron-based system is worth highlighting. For example, we can use the Victron Touch 50 Monitor which is mounted inside our RV or our iPhones or iPads to check on our RV array and to make changes, such as turning our inverter on or off.

Victron Touch 50 Display in our RV (love the animation)

iPhone Remote Monitoring

iPhone Remote Control

NOTE: Remote monitoring only works if our Victron Touch 50 Display is connected to a WiFi network. However, the Touch 50 display can also be accessed via BlueTooth for short-range communication.

Final System Installation

This part of the process involved mounting and connecting our three REC 365W solar panels.

Solar Panel Specs

These panels were huge – 41 x 69 inches! However, all things considered, they were fairly light at 44 pounds each.

Solar Panels had to shipped via freight – the scariest part of this project

Solar Panel Install

Eight Z-brackets were used per panel (and plenty of Dicor later)

The single solar panel that was installed across the RV’s roof presented an unexpected issue . . .

Since our RV’s roof is crowned (higher in the middle, lower on each side), the brackets on the panel’s short sides could not be directly attached to the roof. Doing so would have caused the solar panel to bend in the middle and probably would have broken the glass. Bad mojo. So shims had to be used under some of the mounting brackets to level the panel.

Plastic Shims used

Solar Panel Wiring

Room for one more panel

The solar panels were installed using series wiring. For the most part, we were able to route the wiring under the panels. After drilling a hole in the RV roof, the positive and negative wires entered the RV via a closet.

Roof mount purchased from Current Connected
Wires from roof into closet ceiling . . .

. . . and through closet floor

The solar panel wires went under our fridge, on the back of our entry steps, and into our electronics bay . . .

Very crowded in here – will have to add a cooling fan

We purchased the optional display for our SmartSolar Charge Controller so we could see at a glance how the solar system was working (or not).

Victron SmartSolar Charge Controller with optional display

Previous Solar Posts

Our 3rd RV Solar Installation (January 2022)

Solar, Batwing, and the Vent (February 2022)

Solar Project Update – 2/3 Done! (June 2022)

Fixing Our RV Damage – The Ladder

This July we had some pretty substantial damage to the rear cap of our RV:

For the full story see https://rvseniormoments.com/2022/08/05/how-should-we-fix-our-rvs-rear-cap/

We had some ideas back in July of how to proceed, but fixing the ladder was the first step. So here’s what we did . . .

Remove the Ladder from Our RV

The Patient on the Table

Remove the Damaged Steps

Four Steps Removed

This was the most difficult step. Each step was held in place by two pins that defied removal.

We had to resort to cutting out each pin which also damaged the ladder itself.

After removing a step, sometimes the holding pins (circled) had to be cut out. Ugly.

Strengthening the Ladder with Pipes

A 4′ aluminum pipe was used inside each ladder rail (arrows = breaks in the ladder rail)

The ladder was compressed to hold it together

Adding the New Steps

The new steps were a different (and much better) design than the old steps. The new steps used side screws, not pins, to fasten them to the ladder rails.

Stromberg-Carlson 8540-NTB

Fully Assembled Ladder

Before and After

Rain!

The same day the temperature dropped, it rained. The first rain in months.

It wasn’t much rain, but what a relief. Jan, Flirt, and I watched from our porch.

There’s even thunder at the end of this clip

We really miss Wisconsin thunderstorms.

Triple-Digit Temps End

After umpteen number of days, it looks like our 100+ heat wave is at an end . . .

Last Tuesday’s Temperature

Saturday’s Temp

Victron MultiPlus II Generator Fix

Or, “How I rewired my transfer switch without killing myself.”

The Trouble with Features

After installing our Victron MultiPlus II Inverter/Charger, we were very happy with its performance and features. Simply, it slices, it dices.

However, one of the MultiPlus’s features had a downside – we lost half of our generator’s power. So while riding down the road in the summer heat, we now have one air conditioner instead of two. What’s the deal?

Dog Bones

Most RVers probably own a 30A-to-50A “dog bone” that allows connecting a 50A RV to a 30A power supply.

The Dog bone Adapter

Since 30A power only has a single “hot” line, a dog bone simply connects the single 30A hot line to both 50A power lines (L1 and L2).

With a dog bone everything’s hunky dory, but your RV can only use up to 30A, not 50A.

Enter the Victron MultiPlus.

More Technically Speaking

In order to distribute power to the RV, the Victron handles 50A power (“split phase”) and 30A power (“single phase”) differently.

When the MultiPlus detects 50A split phase AC power, it just passes incoming power on L1 and L2 through to the AC Out (top drawing below).

On the other hand, when the Multiplus senses 30A single phase power, it disconnects the incoming L2 AC power, but connects L1 and L2 AC power internally (see circled areas below). The MultiPlus does this so it can distribute power to the AC Out.

However, if your generator outputs single phase power (like ours), then you’ve just lost half your generator’s power.

How the Victron MultiPlus II handles incoming AC Power

Notice the voltage measurements for split phase and single phase systems:

Split Phase:
L1 to Neutral = 120 VAC
L2 to Neutral = 120 VAC
L1 to L2 = 240 VAC

Single Phase:
L1 to Neutral = 120 VAC
L2 to Neutral = 120 VAC
L1 to L2 = 0 VAC

Single Phase RV Generators

Before explaining our generator “fix”, here’s how a single phase generator outputs power:

The takeaway from the above graphic is that the Black (L1) and Red (L2) AC outputs both have the same voltage and the same phase (single phase). In addition, the voltage between L1 and L2 = 0.

Fooling the MultiPlus

To make use of all our RV generator’s power, we rewired our generator-to-transfer switch connection to create a “dog bone”.

To do this, we connected the generator’s L1 and L2 together and also connected the generator’s two neutral wires.

Test Wiring

Final Wiring

It worked! We can now fire up both our air conditioners without fear of tripping breakers.

Credits

This upgrade would not have been possible if not for the help from several excellent online sources. The single best source was from the Changing Lanes YouTube channel, in particular this video:

Changing Lanes video