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Old 01-03-2022, 05:35 PM   #1
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New Solar Setup

I am interested in getting in touch with someone that might have a good knowledge in setting up a solar system for our skoolie. I am going full electric, and have an electric stove/range, a mini split, electric washer/dryer combo unit.. etc..

I know it's quite the load that I'll be drawing.

I'm hoping on using the Victron stuff, however I need some guidance.

Currently have a SquareD electrical box and I'm also going to have a 50amp shore power inlet.

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Old 01-03-2022, 06:26 PM   #2
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I recommend you check out some of the recent threads here on solar panel setup. All electric is pretty much not possible.
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Old 01-03-2022, 06:35 PM   #3
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Are you saying not possible simply due to the amount of power draw? or the needed space for batteries?

I plan on using one of my under bay storages for batteries. and possibly using my entire roof for panels, hoping that I can use 350+ watt panels.
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Old 01-03-2022, 07:43 PM   #4
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Are you saying not possible simply due to the amount of power draw? or the needed space for batteries?

I plan on using one of my under bay storages for batteries. and possibly using my entire roof for panels, hoping that I can use 350+ watt panels.
What I'm suggesting is check out some of the very recent posts (I just did one today) that indicate you cannot put enough solar panels on the roof of a bus to cover desert summer cooling requirements.

Basically, until solar panels become about 50% more energy dense you cannot cover all summer AC conditions just using solar panels.

Also, a number of folks here have posted fairly elegant observations about how skoolie life (if there is a skoolie life anyone aspires to) is kind of aligned with 'simplify, reduce, minimize' because the whole point is to be able to get out and enjoy a simpler life closer to nature. It's cheaper as well; or should be. It's not everyone's view, but many are attempting to avoid replicating all the modern conveniences because skoolie life provides an opportunity to change up how we live life.

I don't know where that might fit in to your approach, but it's worth mentioning.

I think you'll find that there are some 'givens' with skoolie conversions. It's not that you can't do certain things; it's just that the nature of a mobile living unit kind of channels us into certain design solutions, due to cost, due to simplicity, due to just wanting to get through it.

For example: why not a propane stove? They're cheap. They're easy to use and universally available. Electric may be cheap to buy but absolutely NOT cheap to power.

Same for water heaters. Lots of discussion on this forum about electric water heating-generally, don't do it. Not that you can't, but because of what it costs to power in terms of energy generation, storage and distribution.

And when you say 'full electric', you may not realize that as your power needs rise linearly, your cost of equipment and installation rise exponentially. That money could be used in better ways, many of us have concluded.

You don't need to convince me or anyone if you've already decided to go full electric, but the words of wisdom on this forum argue pretty persuasively against it as a general principle.
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Old 01-03-2022, 08:49 PM   #5
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We have opted to not use propane simply to not have the additional carry for the tanks and such, and not to rely on finding propane, etc.. more or less being renewable where we can be. We are moving from about a 3000sq ft home, into our 40ft flat nose bluebird, so the simpler lifestyle is definitely understood

We are definitely looking forward to living a simpler lifestyle, while we travel the country.

I am needing assistance making sure I get the proper solar inverter/charger/ anything leading up to the squareD electrical box.

I am confused whether I need one or 2 inverter/chargers to run both legs of the power box, the wattages needed for them..etc.. I think my absolute max power draw at one time (max fridge pump included) is roughly 8000 watts.. Fully knowing that it would be rare to hit that sweet spot where absolutely everything is running at peak.
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Old 01-03-2022, 09:35 PM   #6
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Unless you plan on using a huge (15kW? 20kW?) diesel generator nearly all the time, being 100% electric simply won't work. There's good reason that it's almost universal for RVs to use LPG for heating, whether space heating or water heating. Please take a deep breath and reconsider what you want, and more importantly exactly how you'll achieve your goals. A maximum load of 8kW is A LOT, even if you were always connected to shore power!

Why use a low-quality breaker panel for houses? Paneltronics makes far nicer panels specifically for boats, RVs and emergency vehicles, and in the big scheme of things they're not expensive. Don't cheap out on breaker panels!

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Old 01-03-2022, 10:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musik View Post
I am needing assistance making sure I get the proper solar inverter/charger/ anything leading up to the squareD electrical box.

I am confused whether I need one or 2 inverter/chargers to run both legs of the power box, the wattages needed for them..etc.. I think my absolute max power draw at one time (max fridge pump included) is roughly 8000 watts.. Fully knowing that it would be rare to hit that sweet spot where absolutely everything is running at peak.
I don't mean to be rude - quite the opposite, I hope to help - but I gotta be honest... you're out of your element here. Not only do you not have the experience to realize your plan of running all these high-draw electric appliances off a bus solar system is simply not realistic, it's obvious from your comments you are not qualified to even begin designing & installing a basic system yourself. And your system - if it was to be attempted - would be about as far from 'basic' as you could get. Electricity aint no joke. Please seek out a professional. I can't tell you how to choose one, but I will say that if they don't balk at the notion of running 8000W worth of AC appliances from a solar-charging school bus, they're probably not qualified. If you can afford the system you're envisioning, it would be foolish not to spend money on a pro.
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Old 01-04-2022, 01:43 PM   #8
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Don't be discouraged, be humbled.

Yep, what they've said is correct. The idea that you are going to get a quick list of parts capable of powering 8000w out of a skoolie solar setup is a pipe dream. Could it be done, With enough money, anything is possible. We've seen some pretty fantastical setups including multi part slide out solar arrays to capture 2+ times the solar of a normal bus footprint. If you have that kind of money to spend on solar, then pay someone to do design it for you. So, start by putting down the pipe, and digging into some knowledge. Start https://windandsolar.com/solar-energy-resources/ with the basics, and once you have a firmer grasp on what you really need/want, come back and ask more specific questions.
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Old 01-05-2022, 08:05 PM   #9
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As others have said, having some propane appliances on board makes sense.
If you’re committed to electric, do yourself a favor and do a couple things:

1. Give up on any notion of 100% solar. Resign yourself to the fact that you’ll need a small genset to accomplish your goal.

2. Don’t size your system for “worst case”, save some money and manage your electric usage. Make sure you’re only using 3/6 appliances at a time or whatever you decide is practical. A nice display (GX Touch 50) will make it easy to keep tabs on your instantaneous usage.

I’ve found that the “assist” feature of the Victron inverters is tremendously valuable, and you might as well. In my case, I have roughly 30a available from my genset, and another 30a from my inverter. The assist function will allow you to use 60a at once by drawing on the batteries as well. This is a great way to keep the equipment cheaper/smaller but still handle large instantaneous loads like a microwave or coffee maker. You might just be able to get away with a cheapo predator 3500w genset, a Quattro 48/5000/70, 200-400ah of batteries, and whatever solar you can fit that will supply acceptable charge current to the batteries.

Like others, I recommend seeking some help. This info is mostly to help you visualize and think through how a system might work and possibly for budgetary reasons. It’s not the “big picture” that is difficult- it’s the minutiae like breaker and conductor selection, fusing, disconnects, etc that really requires experience to select correctly.
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Old 01-09-2022, 03:24 PM   #10
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I’ve met people with all electric and it’s doable. Especially with lithium batteries and multiple charging methods. But 8000 watts is huge! I would buy the appliances after I built the biggest energy system I could afford. I changed the element in my electric water heater to a smaller element. Not sure if you can change them in a electric oven? I don’t have a built-in oven and dont miss it. But I do have a countertop oven that works with my energy system. There are smaller laundry dryers that use less power.
Some good points are made. If you plan to drive thousands of miles then having a ton of panels on the roof might be cumbersome. If the bus is parked most of the time I’d consider placing as many panels as possible.
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Old 01-09-2022, 04:45 PM   #11
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Musik, when I PMed you I hadn't noticed what your bus was. You're not going to get far off paved roads with a 40' bus. Won't you be much more likely to spend the majority of your time in an RV park plugged in? If that's the case solar isn't all that much of a necessity and I assume you can power your electric appliances if you're plugged in to shore power.

My brain doesn't even work that way. I can't imagine spending time in an RV park with screaming dogs and barking children so max. solar is automatic for me.

Also one MUST prioritize. For me the 2 critical electric appliances are a burr coffee grinder and my 4 cup Mr. Coffee. After that I will negotiate.
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Old 01-09-2022, 06:27 PM   #12
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Has everyone become so A/C dependent to invest Thousands in a super solar system To accommodate Energy guzzling A/C units that they have forgotten or have no knowledge of a swamp coolers That provide the same comfort At a fraction of the electricity? And they work as a humidifier in dry climates it's a little more day to day maintenance of adding water but much more economical than a 50 amp A/C just saying people. If you have lots of money you could make something work using propane for a cooling coil like the refrigerators that come in campers
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Old 01-09-2022, 06:52 PM   #13
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Has everyone become so A/C dependent to invest Thousands in a super solar system To accommodate Energy guzzling A/C units that they have forgotten or have no knowledge of a swamp coolers That provide the same comfort At a fraction of the electricity? And they work as a humidifier in dry climates it's a little more day to day maintenance of adding water but much more economical than a 50 amp A/C just saying people. If you have lots of money you could make something work using propane for a cooling coil like the refrigerators that come in campers
Swamp coolers are great in the desert southwest . . . not so much in the rest of the country. When I was on the Navajo Res. that's what we had, not that we needed them for long during the school year. I'm thinking that would be the case if I end up wintering on my bus in AZ. How much will I need either A/C OR a swamp cooler? A question for which I don't currently have an answer so I'm planning a solar system that can be expanded should I end up being on the road during hot months.

Anyway I want to go out into the deep desert and look for those giant ants and maybe go fishing for some graboids. All that cool stuff we've seen so much about in the movies. Hey, maybe I can get a hot alien chick to abduct me!
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Old 01-10-2022, 02:37 AM   #14
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I had one in my house in Denver and they also use them in south Louisiana where I'm at now soon to be in Oklahoma Ozarks with my 40 foot schoolie . I don't think most people think about long term and the fact that you may not have sunlight for weeks sometimes because of weather when going all electric . The more you use the batteries and all the electronics the less reliable they become and could leave you using the engine for heat and light burning valuable fuel you might need getting back to civilization. Remember that saying that the old timers say? Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Propane is easy and safe to store and can be used for refrigerators water heaters , cooking And heat is you don't have wood for the stove. Replacing those batteries can hurt . And something like that all ways happens when your short on cash or your some place where you can't get them quickly. So I recommend thinking twice about not having a Second source energy other then the engine in the bus.
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Old 01-10-2022, 08:13 AM   #15
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Music, don't dispair..not sure why this seem so difficult for people.. just max out the roof spacef with high efficiency solar, get 10 to 20kwh of lithium and a 2 leg 240v inverter in the 8 to 10 kw range, or better two slightly smaller ones for redundacy. Now you maxed out and see how far you can go.

We lived 6 month on the road with 900 watt of solar ,inductive cooking, 12 volt fridges and two 8d batteries. We traveled every two or three days and got charge from the engine also.
You adapt your living to the sun, cook on a campfire if you are out of charge . you have to and is fun.
With 3500 to 4000 watt of solar and lithium you will get quit far.
If you think you can live on 350 sqft and being urged by police and Walmart employees to move along then surely you can turn the AC of ones in a while.

This stuff is an adventure, as it should be.

Good luck,
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Old 01-10-2022, 09:48 AM   #16
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Your solar desires are to be commended and you have taken the first step by providing the load of 8000 watts. This is how you size for residential electrical systems by designing for the maximum load. Whole house (or bus) Generators are an extension of this. In the case of a house we decide do we want all loads to have backup or just critical loads. The reason being size of the generator due to cost. On grid generation whether natural gas, propane or diesel is incredibly expensive when compared to the electric grid, think 10 times the cost per kilowatt hour, mostly due to the upfront cost, but also the keep warm features that draw power all the time.

When off grid, the generator has to be able provide all the loads, all the time, or you have to be aware for instance, turn off the water heater when you want to use the curling iron, manual load management as it were. This works when all inhabitants are on board and everyone accepts that there might be no TV tonight because I want a hot shower.

So now we pivot to wanting to use the sun as an energy source. That beautiful source, depending on where you live and camp, shines effectively for 5-8 hours a day and not every day. So we build battery banks and large arrays. This requires us to calculate the load and hours the load will run every day to determine watt-hours/day. Every load whether 120, 240, 12 or 24 volts needs to have a watt-hour per day calculation. Add these up and now we can begin to determine first how big a battery bank is required.

Now batteries are rated in Amp hours, just multiply by the voltage to get watt hours. So my 380 amp hour, 24 volt batteries theoretically provide 9,120 watts for 1 hour. For example purposes 380 watts every hour for 24 hours. Batteries are not linear so there’s more to it but it good enough for an example. And you would never want to discharge your batteries all the way as this drastically shortens their life. But this is only one day and we need to size for 3-5 days of no or limited sunshine.

Now we need to build a solar array big enough to recharge those battles every day while providing the daytime running loads. This can be partially on the bus roof, but that is nowhere big enough for an 8000 watt load. So a portable field setup, or awnings on both sides, lots of ways to imagine more solar. Depends on how mobile you plan to be.

Hope this gives you some ideas.
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Old 01-10-2022, 10:35 AM   #17
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But this is only one day and we need to size for 3-5 days of no or limited sunshine.

Thanks for the great post above. It's all valuabe info and obviously you know your stuff.
This was the only bit, however, I can't necessarily agree with.
Sizing for 3-5 days of no sun makes perfect sense for an off-grid cabin. For a bus/rv... I don't feel it's a practical approach in the vast majority of cases.
Of course, it all depends on your needs. If you use your bus as you would a small cabin (sationary & remote for extended periods of time), then it might be necessary.
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Old 01-10-2022, 10:59 AM   #18
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Full electric is doable... its a goal of mine, and yeah we run AC off solar. The hardest loads are continuous ones, running AC 24/7 (high efficiency mini split) will slowly deplete us to zero over a period of about 8 days - 3000W on the roof and a 40kWh battery. More or less due to inconsistent weather (if it were sunny / clear sky all the time, no problem), panels are our bottleneck. If I'm willing to turn off the AC at nights, no problem, essentially indefinite runtimes at that point.

For things like laundry you will want big batteries and even then you'll have to plan/schedule loads for when they are nearly full and you have full sun. Resistance-based heat/dryers are almost out of the question- more efficient units will be required.

It is not a matter of cost effectiveness, but capabilities. Don't want to plug in, don't want to run a genny. I value those kinds of abilities, they come in handy during storms or power outages- last year there were many, we were unaffected. But don't kid yourself into thinking you'll save money, the investment wont last the payoff period.
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Old 01-10-2022, 12:18 PM   #19
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1 or more days of no sunshine simply means the need for a Gen set or frugality naturally. We survived for 15 years with 150 watts of solar a couple 65 group truck batteries, only 5 lamps and dedicated 12 volts deep freezer that can last 3 days without any power if it’s full and frozen. Also a kerosene fridge/freezer (70 years old amazingly). Now we upped the anti to 1000 watts rated in full sunshine, Rolls AGM and a brand new SunDanzer 17 cubic foot 12/24 upright fridge/freezer and still run 5e chest freezer year round. A lot more lights and plenty of power for the little stuff like cel phones, computer, cell booster. WTer pump too, everything is 12/24. We use a massive solar pool heater setup that is not moveable but it works great in the summer only! Next step is to deploy a 24 volt, 600 watt 6 gallon hot water tank and see how much excess power we have daily before letting loose. Propane still for the stove and a backup for hot water in the shoulder seasons.

All of these systems have found their way into my bus which is immovable currently. A learning experience for sure and definitely part of the fun of living off grid.
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Old 01-10-2022, 01:34 PM   #20
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I guess it's stating the obvious to say that how you intend to use your bus can have a huge impact on how well solar energy works for you.

I'm building my bus to get AWAY FROM THE NORTHEAST during winter. I have NO intention of going somewhere where there is a lot of overcast and cold, quite the opposite. I'll either be in Florida or in the far southwest where the sun is contractually obligated to shine over 300 days a year. (Ehrenberg, AZ - 308 days of sunshine a year). Come summer I'll be back home in New Jersey and not living in the bus so it doesn't matter how many weeks the sun disappears at a time.

Should the day arrive that I sell my house and go full time in the bus I should have a better understanding of my power use patterns in my bus and be able to make adjustments. I've done some calculations but I'm not confident that I've done it correctly so I'll make sure I build in a cushion of capacity and alternative energy sources until I have the practical experience to prove my use patterns. For my upcoming solar system job one is putting as many panels on my roof as I can fit and that looks to be 6 panels at 40x80" each, that's the limiting factor for me unless I get creative at mounting panels.
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