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Old 12-07-2015, 10:57 PM   #1
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Is this a good deal on a solar setup?

Planning on full-timing in a 38ft bus. Originally planned on getting 3 300watt solar panels, much like charles_m, but just found a lightly used "Go Power Extreme" kit: This one .... for $1,500 - seems like a great deal, and I'm planning on picking it up tomorrow, and just add some extra panels (maybe 2 or 3 more 160 watt panels) to get it up to what I need.

Does anyone have any experience with this kit? I know kits are typically looked down upon, but this one seems decent (from what little knowledge I have).
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Old 12-08-2015, 12:35 AM   #2
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PWM charge controllers are old school. I'd avoid them. The monitoring system is a joke if you're going to be dependent on this system for full time living. You need good measurements on your batteries and panels to run efficiently.

That kit doesn't have batteries, of which I would recommend 4 T105 or equivalent-capacity batteries--another $500 plus battery and inverter cables which could easily be another $200 if you want to be able to pull 3000 watts from your batteries at once. But if you do that, you'll need to double the size of your battery bank to prevent the loads from dropping you bank voltage below the inverter's auto shutoff threshold when you're really drawing heavy current. If you double your battery bank, you'll want more panels to charge it in a reasonable amount of time and maintain it properly, but wait you cant do that because your charge controller is already maxxed out...but I digress...that is a closed, tiny, un upgradeable system.

Safe to say, add another $1000 to the price of that kit for the remaining stuff and you're at about $4600. How will you rack the panels on the roof? That adds up, too.

I work with a local guy I found on craigslist and I can install a setup identical to the one on my bus including all cables and racking for about $5300. With 3 times the charging power and double the storage power for less than 15% more money. And I can upgrade it all easily and it will handle up to 10 300 watt panels before I have to add or upgrade my charge controller.

$1000 4 300 watt panels @$250 each
$1200 8 T105 batteries @ $150 each
$300 cables
$300 racking
$120 combiner box
$200 DC breaker box and load center
$650 Midnite Classic 150 MPPT Charge Controller
$1700 Magnum Magna Sine inverter/charger

$5300 total give or take a couple hundred depending on specifics. If you want reliable electricity all the time for daily needs and fearless living, this is the minimum I would go for and it is way more bang for the buck than those kits. They make money off the uneducated. I feel like the skoolie spirit is to learn and hack our way into better, cheaper, happier living. If you think of the money you save as getting paid to learn a new skill, its a helluva deal!
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Old 12-08-2015, 12:42 AM   #3
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Damn! didn't see you were getting it at $1500.... you'll still need batteries and you can't add more panels. Call it $2500 to get you up and running and you're at a price point that is much closer to what can be done if you DIY. I hereby retract my previous advice and say go for it, unless you plan on adding more panels in which case you'll still need to upgrade the charge controller--a good MPPT unit will run 500-700 bucks new.

Also remember that you have to use the same exact panels in all of your system to achieve maximum efficiency. No mix and matching, in case you didn't know. Otherwise you will be running only as powerfully as your weakest panel, as I understand it.
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Old 12-08-2015, 01:00 AM   #4
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that was super helpful. This wasn't the direction I was originally planning on going, but I feel that $1,500 for a system that's been used less than a year (and of course, I'll need my own batteries anyway) is almost too good of a deal to pass up... even though I think this system is really too small for what I want.

Do you have any experience with li-ion batteries? Like these

Obviously, higher cost. But seem to have a lot of advantages. See article here (if you haven't already - Living the Lithium Lifestyle – 3.5 Year Lithium RV Battery Update | Technomadia)
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Old 12-08-2015, 01:20 AM   #5
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...also, during the winter we'll have shore power available. So although I'd LOVE a system like yours, it just might not make sense to spend that much money on it. Arg. This is hard to decide on.
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Old 12-08-2015, 01:54 AM   #6
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Buy the small system, you can use it to learn what you need if or when you decide to upgrade you can probably sell it without much of a loss and you need batteries anyway. Lithium is the best if you got the cash.
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Old 12-08-2015, 05:41 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles_m View Post
PWM charge controllers are old school. I'd avoid them. The monitoring system is a joke if you're going to be dependent on this system for full time living. You need good measurements on your batteries and panels to run efficiently.

That kit doesn't have batteries, of which I would recommend 4 T105 or equivalent-capacity batteries--another $500 plus battery and inverter cables which could easily be another $200 if you want to be able to pull 3000 watts from your batteries at once. But if you do that, you'll need to double the size of your battery bank to prevent the loads from dropping you bank voltage below the inverter's auto shutoff threshold when you're really drawing heavy current. If you double your battery bank, you'll want more panels to charge it in a reasonable amount of time and maintain it properly, but wait you cant do that because your charge controller is already maxxed out...but I digress...that is a closed, tiny, un upgradeable system.

Safe to say, add another $1000 to the price of that kit for the remaining stuff and you're at about $4600. How will you rack the panels on the roof? That adds up, too.

I work with a local guy I found on craigslist and I can install a setup identical to the one on my bus including all cables and racking for about $5300. With 3 times the charging power and double the storage power for less than 15% more money. And I can upgrade it all easily and it will handle up to 10 300 watt panels before I have to add or upgrade my charge controller.

$1000 4 300 watt panels @$250 each
$1200 8 T105 batteries @ $150 each
$300 cables
$300 racking
$120 combiner box
$200 DC breaker box and load center
$650 Midnite Classic 150 MPPT Charge Controller
$1700 Magnum Magna Sine inverter/charger

$5300 total give or take a couple hundred depending on specifics. If you want reliable electricity all the time for daily needs and fearless living, this is the minimum I would go for and it is way more bang for the buck than those kits. They make money off the uneducated. I feel like the skoolie spirit is to learn and hack our way into better, cheaper, happier living. If you think of the money you save as getting paid to learn a new skill, its a helluva deal!
4 l-16's would be better, less cells to equalize
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Old 12-08-2015, 07:00 AM   #8
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Found this to be a good read.
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/
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Old 12-08-2015, 03:51 PM   #9
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A trojan L16 has about 50% more capacity than a T105, but costs over double, so it has a markedly higher price per kwh of storage. Not saying its a bad battery but it doesn't provide the same kind of bang for your buck storage. For the same money, I'd take 2 T105's over 1 L16. Just my .02
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Old 12-08-2015, 08:33 PM   #10
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Just my opinion.. Mine maybe alone.. Solar is not much good for any RV or bus. The costs for building a system is very expensive. A large battery bank is required. Large wire conductors needed. Mounting on RV/bus roof will not track sun. Any wind and dust will shield suns rays. Solar panels need to be cleaned very regular. My gen set supplies more energy in half to one hour operation. I tried to use and like solar. Too high a cost.... Frank...........30 years Ca electrical contractor........Be well.
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