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Thread: My 22MLE solar install of a modest system

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    My 22MLE solar install of a modest system

    Hi All,

    I picked up my new 22MLE last Friday and just did my solar install and some changes to the electrical system. I thought those of you who are considering solar but are trying to keep the costs low might be interested in the setup. I am not a full time RV person and travel several trips a year up to 5 weeks at a time. If I were full time I would likely do it differently as my needs would be different. But then I would be in a bigger rig too.

    Background: In April 2019 I bought a Coachmen Apex 245BHS and set it up to be off grid. When I was educating myself on energy usage I made some changes in the way I do things to allow myself a smaller system. I LOVE my morning coffee and learned how much energy coffee makers use. So I found a great insulated carafe and boil water on the stove and pour into a drip system directly into the well insulated carafe. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I travel in the fall and spring mostly so I have no need for AC most of the time. If it is super hot (95+) I just stay where I have power and skip the boondocking. I installed a 10 speed MaxAir Fan and once the sun goes down it is usually a enough. So that leaves charging a laptop, watching a movie on the TV, and some 12v uses. I could probably have done fine on a 500 watt inverter but gave myself some room to run a slow cooker, even a laser printer and bought a 1200w inverter. I ended up with 300 watts of solar panels and 3 100ah AGM batteries in the Apex. The Apex system worked great and never ran out of power. I boondocked for 3 straight weeks with no issues. I no longer carry a generator.

    So in my 22MLE I did a similar system with a few changes. Here is what I ended up with (remember this is a bit of a budget system).

    IMPORTANT. On TPO roofs you don't use regular Dicor sealant, use Alpha 1021, you can get it at camping world or your RV dealer much cheaper than Amazon.

    Solar system (electrical changes below) Under $450 for just the solar.
    Solar Panels: (2) 175 watt HQST panels, 350 watts total $300 (One 200 watt panel would likely have been enough but for those cloudy days or shady areas I over built it)
    Controller: Renogy Adventurer LI 30amp PWM with Bluetooth module $84 on sale (You could even go cheaper and use the Renogy Wanderer and bluetooth for about $69)
    Misc Solar items: Cable, Y splitter, brackets, Alpha 1021 sealant, cable tie downs, 30 amp circuit breaker About $55 for all
    Note: I could have used MPPT but for a small system like this the PWM works fine. In real world tests the PWM is getting 95% of the MPPT, please watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF_cVEYxj3E

    INSTALLATION: The install was super easy. The wires were in the front storage just behind the water hookup/battery disconnect. I pulled the wires out and used an multimeter to see which was the battery side and which was the Solar Panel (PV) side. I ended drilling an 1 inch hole and pulling the wires into the storage under the bed. The solar controller is flush mounted in the bed platform so I can view the status if I wanted to (the blue tooth and smart phone app work too). I hooked the battery side up to the controller first then the PV side. On the positive side of the PV I first ran the wire into a circuit breaker/switch so I can turn power off from the panels. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    I have found it is easier to get the wires securely in the circuit breaker and controller by using a ferrule https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    On the roof about 18" from the front and 1 foot from the side is a Jamboni plastic box. The back half on the box pops off and there are male and female MC4 plugs pointing to the rear. I placed the panels about a foot behind the box, one on each side. I then lifted one side of the panel at a time and applied some 1021 under each bracket, screwed it down with #10 BY 1" Stainless self taping screws, 2 in each of the 4 brackets on each panel. I then covered the brackets, screws and wire ties downs with 1021. I ran the wires parallel since I am running a PWM controller. The Y attached to the Jamboni box MC4 and then each panel attached to the Y. I needed about 3' extension cables on the further panel. I made mine a little long and just made a loop on the roof and secured it in 2 places. That was all. Probably 1-2 hours on the controller and panel install.

    Electrical system changes:
    I use a surge protector when I plug into any shore power. I hard wire mine in so it can't get stolen and so I never have to remember to use it, it is always there. I use a Progressive Industries HW30C $235 https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    I bought a 1200 watt inverter with remote switch. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Ok, big shout out to GD here. ALL THE OUTLETS on the 22MLE are on one breaker!! On my Apex they were scattered throughout the breakers very haphazardly. So while I was in hooking up the EMS I added a Xantrex PROwatt transfer switch to just one breaker, the one with the outlets. $60 https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    The Xantrex is plugged into the Inverter. When you want 110v (not plugged in to shore power) you turn the inverter on and power goes from the inverter to just that one breaker. The cool thing your fridge is still running on gas cause there is no electricity running to it. You can't accidentally run the microwave and overload the inverter, etc. Plug into shore power and the ATS automatically switches to the outlet breaker to shore power. You don't have to do anything. I struggled with the battery choice a little and ended up with 1 100ah Battle Horn Lipo battery $874 (Escapee RV club discount). In the Apex I had 3 AGM batteries weighing 210 lbs. The BH weighs 31 lbs and has the same effective amount of power and will last longer. It is a better long term solution but more money up front. And part of my motivation was space under the dinette. The water pump is under there. Yes I plan isolate the 2 somewhat by putting up a ABS wall between the water and electricity.

    INSTALLION: I removed the lead acid battery from the tongue and installed the Battle Horn under the rear dinette seat. The inverter is also there. First I disconnected the shore power and the 12v battery. I removed the 2 drawers above the electrical panel and pulled the panel out of the wall. Under the dinette I ran 12v lines from the inverter to a post and the battery to the same post (one + and one - post) I ran #2 AWG between the post and battery and inverter to post. On the positive side I have a 200amp circuit breaker/switch installed between the post and battery. From the post to the 12v system I ran #8 wire, the negative to the ground bar and the positive I tied into the Red # 8 wire feeding the 12v panel using a split bolt. For the 110v side I cut the panel feed wire about a foot back from the panel and wired the EMS in line. I did the same thing for the outlet breaker and tied in the Xantrex ATS. The cord from the Xantrex goes through the wall and plugs into the inverter. This was harder than the solar install given the cramped space.

    The great thing is when I am out camping miles away from a power connection I hit the switch to turn on the inverter and viola 110v volts on all the outlets. Watch a movie, charge the laptop, turn on the blu-ray, and the surround sound. It sounds like a lot but it isn't much energy draw. I can always add a little more battery capacity later if needed.
    Last edited by SailorDan; 10-08-2020 at 12:41 PM.
    Dan
    Ponderosa Park, CO
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2018 Nissan Titan Crew

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    Site Sponsor Ynot4me2's Avatar
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    Wow, really impressive and nice write up. Pics would be real nice. Also nice that GD added the solar hookup on the roof. 2020 doesn't have that.

    Sent from my SM-T580 using Tapatalk
    Steph & Lise
    2019 F150 Lariat 2.7 EB
    2020 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2011 Fourwinns H200

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ynot4me2 View Post
    Wow, really impressive and nice write up. Pics would be real nice. Also nice that GD added the solar hookup on the roof. 2020 doesn't have that.

    Sent from my SM-T580 using Tapatalk

    I have some pics but having trouble getting them uploaded. I will let you know when I figure it out. Any tips?
    Dan
    Ponderosa Park, CO
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2018 Nissan Titan Crew

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    Perfect writeup. Eventually I plan on doing a very similar setup. This will come in handy as a guide. Thanks again!
    The Tarrs
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2015 Ford F150 4x4 Ecoboost, w/ max tow/payload
    New Jersey

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    Pictures of the solar/electrical install

    Hey everyone, I have pictures available at a google picture share. Each picture has an explanation which you can reach be hitting the small "i" in the upper right corner.

    Here are the pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/TJm3qeuFeuraTd119

    Someday I will sort out how to upload pictures!!
    Dan
    Ponderosa Park, CO
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2018 Nissan Titan Crew

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    Thanks for all the info! I just got a 22mle and am installing a solar system right now. I was wondering if you have a trick for finding the rafters for the screws. I tried a stud finder but it behaves erratic on the roof a beeps at very irregular intervals and times. Is there another trick or a different type of stud finder that is needed? Any tips would be helpful.

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    Site Sponsor Ynot4me2's Avatar
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    Damn, this is real good. How much would you say it all cost? And looks like there's enough space there for another battery. Add that dinette bench is right over the axles or close too.

    Sent from my SM-T580 using Tapatalk
    Steph & Lise
    2019 F150 Lariat 2.7 EB
    2020 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2011 Fourwinns H200

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ynot4me2 View Post
    Damn, this is real good. How much would you say it all cost? And looks like there's enough space there for another battery. Add that dinette bench is right over the axles or close too.

    Sent from my SM-T580 using Tapatalk
    In so many ways the 22MLE is setup to make this all work so well. Your right all the weight is over the axle, but there really isn't much weight and after you take the flooded deep cell off the tongue it is even less. I plan to build a box up there to carry firewood and/or maybe a portable grill.

    There is room for another battery, maybe 2 more if you use the other side of the water pump. I thought I would try one battery and see how it goes. Keep in mind if you had 2 flooded lead acid batteries that AGM batteries charge twice as fast. Then if you upgrade from AGM to Lithium they charge even faster. You can discharge a Lithium farther so a single 100ah Lithium will provide as much power as 2 or 3 100ah AGM Batteries. I have a friend that would run her flooded battery down after a couple of days and used a portable panel. Once we got her with 340 watts on the roof and 2 AGM batteries she never ran out of power even after 3 days of rain. So you could drop 2 AGMs in and save some money in the short term. The dinette is also right by the power panel too.

    The other day we had lots of smoke in the air and the sun angle is low this time of year. I was still getting 180 Watts at 21 volts from the 2 panels. I think with more solar than I need and the Lithium I would be hard pressed to run out of power the way I use it.

    I was at:
    $478 for the solar including brackets, MC4 cables / Y Cable, and sealant
    $589 for the Electrical gear (1200w Inverter, Xantrex ATS, Progressive Surge Suppressor, #2 AWG Welding Cable, Posts and circuit breaker)
    $879 for the Lithium Battery and handle (Battle Horn with the Escapees RV Club Discount - you could buy 2 AGM batteries instead for about $420)
    Dan
    Ponderosa Park, CO
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2018 Nissan Titan Crew

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    Quote Originally Posted by kkimbler View Post
    Thanks for all the info! I just got a 22mle and am installing a solar system right now. I was wondering if you have a trick for finding the rafters for the screws. I tried a stud finder but it behaves erratic on the roof a beeps at very irregular intervals and times. Is there another trick or a different type of stud finder that is needed? Any tips would be helpful.
    I actually could see where they were roughly but I didn't even worry about it and just went through the plywood. Between the 1021 I put under the bracket and the #10 screw in the brackets and into the plywood it felt really solid. There are people that install solar panels using VHB tape and no screws, I couldn't. You could also use some plastic toggle anchors if you want to sleep better at night. They would probably hold in a hurricane.
    TOGGLER-Toggle-Hollow-Door-Polypropylene-Fastener/
    This is for 100 but it just $5 more than ten of them.
    Dan
    Ponderosa Park, CO
    2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE
    2018 Nissan Titan Crew

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    Thanks a ton. I've been over paranoid I think. I'll just go through the plywood too. That will give me a lot more flexibility for where to place the panels. Thanks again, I'll sleep better tonight.

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