WICKHAM CP, FL—The solar panels are only half the equation of a solar system, and getting the other half done can be quite intimidating. Thank God for Handy Bob, a guy who has done pretty much all of the research for you.
I based my travel trailer’s system on Bob’s recommendations and did the same for the van. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here as I don’t particularly want to be the Go-To-Guy for solar questions (and I’m practically clueless about them anyway).
So if you find the following useful in your own solar installation, drop a nice donation to Handy Bob (use Paypal to send donations to his email address found toward the top of this page).
List Of Equipment I Used:
- Batteries –
Two(edit: Three) Duracell Deep Cycle 105ah AGMs – AGMs are a lot more expensive than typical non-sealed batteries, but they are maintenance free (you don’t need to equalize them or maintain the water levels).
- A/C Fuse box – I’m using 30 amp fuses since my trailer’s panels never generated over 22 amps and I expect about the same with the van.
- TriStar TS-45 Charge Controller – Recommended by Handy Bob. I’ve got the same one on my travel trailer and it does an excellent job of keeping the batteries charged.
- TriMetric 2025 Battery Monitor – Without a battery monitor, you don’t know what’s going on with your system. This is particularly important when you first set up and are getting to know how your system handles various weather conditions. I cannibalized this from my trailer as that system is already perfectly balanced.
- 4 Gauge Welding Cable – This is used to connect all the above components and—being very flexible—is much easier to work with than the 4 gauge cable/wire you get from electric supply companies.
It took me about three days to get all the components organized and to wire the whole thing up, but that was mainly because of the chicken-egg syndrome and that every hour or so I’d need to make a run for some tiny part (usually some oddball electrical connector). But the good news with solar is—no, the wonderful news with solar is—once you get it installed, it’s pretty much a no-maintenance, completely free power source.
I still have to wire up the inverter (provides AC power) and the DC distribution box (makes it easier to wire in other DC items), but the big piece, getting energy from the sun, is a done deal. Whew.
Plugging the fuses in and watching the system power up was like watching a sleeping animal wake up. It was like watching the van come alive.