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Resources

SYSTEM

 

Batteries

What batteries are recommended for solar applications?

You can use either lead Acid AGM or Lithium for solar applications.

Which battery type is better, Lithium or AGM?

Though most of our customers use a lithium solution, we know that it just isn’t practical for everyone. If you are someone who only uses their RV occasionally for no longer than a weekend at a park, then a couple of AGM batteries will suffice for your use case. If you are someone who travels in their RV often on longer trips, and ever envision yourself straying away from a shore plug, then Lithium is well worth the cost.

When running more loads, or longer periods, lithium wins the day hands down. Not only is lithium a lighter solution than a heavy AGM battery, but it packs in more energy that you can use. You can pull more energy out of it at a faster rate, as well as charge it at a faster rate. Not all “Lithium” batteries are equal though. The term Lithium actually is a bit mis-leading. There are actually several different chemistry combinations that all fall into the lithium ion category. The two that we carry are LiFePo4 and NMC.

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Can I add more batteries later?

Yes, as long as they are the same type installed (Lead Acid, AGM or Lithium).

What is the charge rate for lithium battery?

The batteries we use allow a charge of 135 amps per 270-amp hour battery bank. For more than one battery, you can simply take the entire amp hours of the bank and cut it in half (e.g. a total of 540-amp hours can be charged at 270 amps).

How are lithium batteries different from traditional lead-acid batteries? 

Lead-acid is a tried-and-true technology that is economical, but requires regular maintenance and doesn't last as long. Lithium is a premium battery technology with a longer lifespan, higher efficiency, and lighter weight.

Charge Controller

What is a charge controller?

A solar charge controller is a solar-powered voltage and current regulator. They are used in off-grid and hybrid off-grid applications to regulate power input from PV arrays to deliver optimal power output to run electrical loads and charge batteries.

Do I need to shut off my solar controllers if I am plugged in to shore power?

The MPPT controllers offered all work in conjunction with any and all other charging sources. These controllers will only put out as much POWER as the battery bank needs, therefore, if there are multiple charging devices each will regulate itself based on battery voltage to prevent over-charging your batteries.

Why do you use multiple, smaller controllers instead of a single larger controller?

There are a couple of reasons we set our solar installs up with multiple smaller controllers in lieu of a single larger controller.

 

  1. Breaking up a large array into multiple circuits ensures that we can run smaller, cheaper, lighter wire from the panels down to the charge controller without hooking the panels up in series.

  2. Panels hooked up in series tend to be very inefficient in our experience, as a bit of shade cast on one of the panels will eliminate or drastically reduce the output of all panels on that circuit.  For this reason, we hook up all of our panels in parallel.

  3. We can actually install two 50 AMP MPPT solar controllers for less than a single 100 AMP solar controller, so not only does it have more efficient output, but it is more efficient on your wallet!

Generator

I have a generator, will I still be able to use it with your system?

Units that have an onboard generator have a transfer switch that “chooses” if the coach will run on shore power or generator power.  This is all done behind the scenes without any interaction from the user.  Whether we are setting your entire coach up to be off grid, or simply a few inverted circuits, your generator will work with your system just as seamlessly as before your upfit!

 
 

Inverter

Does my invertor need to be turned on if not in use?

The inverter can be used in two ways. Either off and turned on as needed or left on and will activate as it senses demand.

 

What does an inverter do?

There are two types of inverters. Stand alone inverters, and inverter chargers. A stand alone inverter converts DC power from the batteries to AC power for the outlets or other AC powered appliances. An inverter charger does the same but also converts outside AC power (shore power or from a generator) to DC power to charge the battery bank.

 

Install/System Quote

How do you estimate how much solar we will need?

There are two main methods to our solar estimation and both of them have an end result in an estimate issued in total array size rather than individual panels.  This is because we often do not know just what we can fit on a roof until we physically see the coach.  Quoting the total array size gives us the flexibility to use what ever size panels we need to (due to your particular roof lay out) in order to meet that output amount. 

 

With that said, “method 1” would be with a smaller system, typically when not running the air conditioners from an inverter and battery bank, we take the information we receive in our discussions about how you want to use your coach, and determine how much solar you would need to replenish your bank in a day.  This ensures that we minimize the amount of time you need to run a generator to charge your batteries.

“Method 2” is used when we are looking at installing full off-grid set up.  This method is a bit different because when we are looking at running large loads like an air conditioner, we simply can not put enough solar on an RV to ensure the battery bank stays charged.  In this type of set up, the solar serves 2 purposes.  1) It extends the run time between needing an outside source to top off the bank.  2) It decreases the time to charge the bank in a scenario where the charging is done during the day when the sun is out.  Our estimate for this type of system typically starts with quoting the amount of solar we are confident we can fit on your roof, and assessing the maximum amount that we can fit once your coach is on site.

With either method, when your coach arrives, we determine the maximum amount of solar that will fit on your roof using the two sizes of panels we most often install.  When we install the panels, even if you do not want to maximize the solar array at that time, we follow that pattern so if in the future, you decide you do want to maximize your solar array, there is still room to achieve that goal! Learn more about Our Process here.

 

Miscellaneous

Why do I see voltage, but no amps?

This is expected if the batteries are full and there are no large loads demanding power. As long as your controller shows appropriate voltage from the solar panel, and your battery voltage is not dropping, your system is working properly.

If you see appropriate voltage from the solar panel, and the solar controller reads a higher voltage than your battery monitor (or actual battery voltage) this indicates a broken connection between the controller and the battery bank. This could be a blow fuse, or a loose connection at the controller or the battery. Be sure to check both Power and Ground connections, along with the fuses.

My vehicle has a smart alternator what do I do?

A DC-DC charger is available for your vehicle based on your needs. Please contact your dealer or Future Solutions for recommendations for your vehicle.

 

Solar

What is solar?

The term "Solar power" or "Solar energy" is referring to the process of using photovoltaic cells to convert energy from the sun into electric power. This requires a minimum of a solar panel, solar controller, and of course cables and fusing.

What size panels do you install?

We carry a variety of sizes, but we tend to use the 175 watt and 300 watt panel the most in our upfits.  This is due to the two sizes having different footprints.  The 175 watt panel is the largest we carry in a 26” x 58” size.  The next step up is 77” x 38” and the largest output we have in that footprint is our 300 watt panel.  Because we only use MPPT solar controllers, we can use the larger panels with higher voltage to efficiently charge a 12 volt battery bank with no problems!  We tend to use a mixture of both sizes to maximize the amount of solar we can fit on a roof. 

Does solar work at night?

No, Solar does not produce electricity at night.

Do I need to do anything to my Camper before plugging in with Solar?

Solar charging is completely independent and relies on reading the battery voltage to know when and how much of a charge to put out. This means it will work WITH any other charging source that is present, so there is no need to make any adjustments or changes to your solar controller or settings when you plug in to shore power.

Why is my solar fuse large 250 amps?

The solar fuse is rated to protect the wire at what the wire/conductor is rated at.

What do I do if it is raining cloudy or no sun?

In this situation, it is best to use an outside power source (shore power or generator) to charge the batteries when they are low. Practicing energy management and conservation will help stretch out the battery charge as well.

Can I expand my solar capability?

All solar systems are upgradeable (providing you have open roof space). We recommend using a solar calculator to determine how much energy you need.

How do I know how much solar power I need? 

The general rule of thumb is that a 100-Watt solar panel can produce about 30 Amp-hours per day, so you can use this guideline to determine approximately how many panels you need. Another suggestion is to match your battery capacity in Amp-hours with your solar output in watts.

How much does solar cost? 

This depends primarily on your individual power needs. Do you want to keep your battery charged while your RV is in storage? Do you want to boondock with air-conditioning? Or, maybe something in between? There are a lot of variables that effect cost, if you need help determining what is best for you, fill out our inquiry form.

How do I add solar to my RV? 

Visit Future Solutions, your dealership or another custom solar power up-fitter.

What is needed for Solar?

This depends largely on what you are trying to accomplish. If the goal is to just maintain a charge on the batteries during storage, you will need a solar panel, charge controller, and of course a battery. If the goal is to run AC powered items without a generator or shore power, you will need a larger solar array, a larger solar controller, a larger battery bank, and an inverter.

 

COMPONENTS

BGA (Precision Circuits)

What to expect and when?

Operates as over discharge protection. When batteries fall to 11.65volts or lower for more than 2 minutes BGA will cut power to interior DC powered loads. To reconnect, BGA must see battery voltage above 13.2 volts.  

Link to documentation from PC website:

https://www.precisioncircuitsinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/00-10041-4XX-Battery-Guard-Auto-Rev4.pdf

 

Cerbo (Victron)

How to link Cerbo to my phone?

Follow the pictures and steps on pages 20 – 27 of the User Manual.

Link to documentation from Victron website:

https://www.victronenergy.com/upload/documents/Cerbo_GX/GX_Device_Manual-en.pdf

What do the items on my Touch 50 screen mean?

1. Top left box is Line 1 of incoming AC power (Grid)- this can be from a generator or shore power.

2. Top middle of screen is inverter. Shows state (Invert, bulk, absorb, float, off).

3. Top right of screen shows AC loads- when running off-grid, this shows how much power is being used. When on shore or generator, this shows only the power coming through the inverter (Line 1).

4. Bottom left of screen is battery monitor- this shows how much power (watts) is being put into or pulled out of the battery bank. It also shows the battery bank voltage and the amount of current. If the current is a negative number, that is energy being pulled from the battery bank. If it is a positive number (or no sign) it is energy being put into the battery bank.

5. Bottom middle of the screen shows DC loads. This is a calculation of how much power your lights, water pump, ceiling vent fans or any other DC loads are drawing.

6. Bottom right of screen shows overall solar input. This is all of your solar controllers combined. To se each controller individually, see “View Component Details”.

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EMS (Precision Circuits)

What to expect and when?

The EMS works in conjunction with the inverter, shore power, or generator power to monitor loads and prevent nuisance tripping. When on 50 amp service, the system will go to sleep. When on 30 amp service or smaller, the system will default to 30 amps, but can be manually set lower. When powering the coach through the inverter with no shore power or generator present, the system will limit loads to 25 amps. When on anything other than 50 amp service, the system will monitor the power used, and automatically shut off items in a predetermined order in an attempt to prevent tripping the main breaker or overloading the inverter.

Link to documentation from PC website:

https://www.precisioncircuitsinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/00-10020-000-PowerControlBrochure-Rev-B.pdf

 

SmartShunt (Victron)

What is a battery shunt? 

A shunt is a precision resistor that is used to monitor current flow to or from a battery bank.

What does it do?

The SmartShunt is a battery monitor. It measures battery voltage and current. Based on these measurements, the battery state of charge and time to go is calculated. It also keeps track of historical data, such as deepest discharge, average discharge and number of charge/discharge cycles.

How is it different from BMV-712?

The Smart Shunt uses the same base components as the BMV-712, the main difference is that the SmartShunt does not need a physical remote display.

How do I view information?

There are two ways to view information from the SmartShunt. It has built-in Bluetooth broadcasting,
so you can link a smart phone or tablet to it through the Victron Connect app. If a Victron GX device (such as the Cerbo used on the 1200i-L or 600i-L systems) is being used, the SmartShunt can be hooked directly to the GX device via a VE.Direct cable. Even when hooked up to a GX device, the SmartShunt can still be viewed in the Victron Connect app via Bluetooth connection to a smart phone or tablet.

What does the information mean?
State of Charge- Battery state of charge in (%) percentage is displayed first.

Output- Output shows: Voltage, Current, Power, Consumed, AH, and Time Remaining

Input- This is a feature that can be used on motorized units.

SmartShunt VictronConnect Settings-01.png
 

Solar Charge Controller (Jaboni Power Products)

How to reset it?

There is a reset button on the side of the solar controller. Press and hold for 3 seconds, then release. To reset the remote display, simultaneously press the up and down arrows with the power button.

 

Solar Panels

How much wattage should I see from these? (200W or 300W Panels Only)

Depending on battery SOC (State of Charge), you should expect to see approximately 180 watts
of power from a 200 watt panel and 270 watts of power from a 300 watt panel. This is due to panels being mounted flat, and power loss between cable runs and power conversion. There are a lot of variables that can effect the wattage you see. Different times of year, different physical locations, and instantaneous power demands (loads or battery SOC) are a few of these. A full battery bank with minimal loads turned on will not allow power to flow from the panels. In that case, you will see panel voltage but no or little amperage.

How do I clean them?

It is best to clean the panels with only a wet rag, then wipe them dry with a soft cloth.

Do I need to maintain my panels? 

Yes, it is necessary to keep your panels clean to absorb as much sunlight as available. It is important to follow all OEM guidelines with regards to the roof seal as well.

Which is better, monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels?

Monocrystalline solar panels can produce about 5% more power than polycrystalline solar panels of equal size.  Polycrystalline cells are square in shape with a blue color.  Monocrystalline cells are black and more octagonal (squares with beveled corners).  Both types of panels will work fine but we mainly sell the more efficient monocrystalline panels.