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Discussion Starter #1
Sharing this with the community.

Supply List:
  • 2x Square Milk Crates (Free-$5ea)
  • SigmasTek SP12-100 12v 100aH Deep Cycle SLA ($200 Shipped)
  • Genasun GV-10 MPPT Solar Controller ($110)
  • KingSolar 50W Semi Flexible Solar Panel ($99)
  • Xantrex 450W Inverter 851-0451 ($35 Used)
  • 4.2A Dual Port USB Charger ($15)
  • 12V Battery Gauge ($12)
  • BluSea 12 Slot Fuse Box w/Neg Bus ($30)
  • 4x Anderson Powerpole Sockets (20A fuses)
  • 4x Anderson Autogrips ($15)
  • Lawn Mower Power Cables ($5 clearance)
  • Right Angle Brackets w/Hardware ($5)
  • DC Watts Up ($20)
  • 100ft 12AWG ZIP Cable ($30)
  • Crimp on Terminals

Rough Cost: ~$500, could be done cheaper with non flexible panels (heavier), lesser battery and solar charger.. but I wanted room to grow.

Tools needed:
  • Pop Rivet Gun for Securing Battery inside
  • Cable Crimper for PowerPoles and Fuse Box
  • Circular/Table Saw for cutting lid
  • Jig Saw for square holes
  • Drill and assortment of bits

The battery fits perfectly into the milk crate, its secured in place with some metal plumbers tape I have riveted together on the bottom side. Pipe insulation provides some padding for the handles, but transporting it any distance its put on a foldable dolly.. its designed for a quazi-permanent install, it only comes out of the trailer when I need it for other hauling needs, or if I am forced to setup camp farther away from the trailer than my cabling will permit.

Anderson powerpoles are secured with anderson autogrips trimmed to size and superglue bonded in place.

It lives in the back of my adventure trailer, up against the tail gate so its fully accessible when the gate is down.. the milk crate is strapped into place to prevent it from moving and the bottom 5th of another milk crate provides a lid and storage container for cables..

on the front tongue of the trailer is a ARB Fridge/Freezer that this thing keeps alive for 4-5 days without any sun, and with ~5h of direct sunlight a day its able to sustain its self and my additional loads.

next up its going to run my GMRS repeater in an ammo can, already have the antenna mounted to the adventure trailer.. just need to finish it up.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, here is a shot of it inside the trailer.. Ive had this in the field for a while, originally I had a old car battery in it but it finally gave out after so much abuse, so I gave it a bigger one more suited for the task at hand.

the 4-5 day runtime was based off old DieHard Platinum which IIRC was 70aH, so my safe consumption levels jumped from 35aH to 50aH.. I bet I could get a full week now.

Right now the panel ensures I am charged up when I reach camp, even if its in the deep forest.. but I am going to be adding a Canoe to the rig next season so it wont be very useful on the road anymore, the plan is to upgrade the 4 wire trailer plug to a 7 wire and let the alternator float it on the road.. then put a big spotlight on the back of it for reverse lights.

I left room inside for a AC onboard charger, but I have not needed it but once when I left it parked in my sisters garage for a few weeks.. but the fridge ran off AC power so meh.

this also runs my air pumps, led lighting, tent heater, dewalt battery charger, laptop/phone/tablet/handheld radio chargers, box fan, and a few more odds and ends.. I have accessories to anderson powerpole of all sorts, 12v accessory plug both ways, 5v USB adapters, distribution blocks and ~80' of 12AWG in various segments (4'/8'/16'/32') plus I can pull much of the wiring out of the trailer and add to it if I really need it.. The solar wiring is different from normal powerpoles so they wont plug into eachother, but I can repin any of the cables in the field to be either an 18v solar wire or a 12v power wire.

All of it can be removed from the trailer and relocated some place more suitable and rewired in many different configurations in the field.. typically I keep the tent close to the trailer but some place it will get good sun if possible, then wire up the tent where the fridge is plugged in and move the fridge to the shade for best efficiency... but if bears are a problem, then the trailer, fridge and cooking area is far away from the tent and I stake a long run down all the way across camp to keep anyone from tripping over it in the dark.. when done right if someone does trip and pull on a plug it safely disconnects instead of breaking connectors.
 

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Out of my own curiosity... why not 2 6 volt 200+ah golf cart batteries? Locally, I can get 225AH 6 volt batteries for ~$70 each.

Just a thought. Nice build for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
because I dont need anywhere near 200aH, and they wont fit into a milk crate.. nor do I really have room for the extra weight and solar panels.. I am kinda pushing it using a 50w (~3A) panel to maintain a 100aH battery, with that much capacity I'd need alot more solar to maintain it.

I cannot get 225aH 6v batteries for anywhere close to $70/ea, more like $200 each.. and truthfully I'd rather operate a 24v solar generator if I am going to run multiple batteries.

When I get the diesel motor installed into my 75 Westy, I will be putting several hundred watts of solar panels up top and a couple of golf kart batteries in the back.. and those wont be even remotely portable, I might have to remove the engine to get the batteries in and out.
 

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For future reference (bigger build)... Rural king stores sell exide 6v golf cart batteries for ~$70-80 each depending on time of year.

Also found these...
https://www.batteriesplus.com/search?q=6+volt+deep+cycle

I've done some research on it and they seem to last just the same as the higher dollar units. I'm sure shipping costs on those big batts isn't cheap either so if you've got one of these stores local, may check them out.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I already oversized my system by a good 40% or more just so it would see a more pampered and less stressful life, this is not a day to day solar generator, just recreational.. so I am shooting for longevity and hoping this battery lasts 5-6 years minimum.

thanks for the info, will look into that for the bus build... the battery I selected for this system is more designed for the loads I am working with, its got a max current rating of 30A so it'd be entirely unsuitable for using for a starter or powering golf cart motors.. The golf cart batteries should not have any issue starting the 1.9L Diesel motor, and it'll have a big alternator onboard to provide plenty of charge current when the sun dont shine.. so that system is going to be capable of using high current battery bank correctly.

The previous car battery I had in it did not like the abuse I gave it, they are the worst for solar generators.. designed for short bursts of high current and it did not last long being cycled down to 50% and back slowly many times.. the fridge has a low voltage disconnect built in, so i never took it less than 12.0v yet it only lasted me a couple years.

Shipping is a killer, the battery list for only $150 but another $50 was tacked on to UPS it to me.. I had few options to replace the car battery and keep my milk crate format.. if you notice my trailer is full of milk crates, so it fits this vehicles standard cargo shape.. Makes it easy to haul on a dolly when everything nests together, especially when 'offroading'.

Compared to off the shelf recreational generators that run ~$500 (GoalZero), this system landed me many times the capacity, and included an actual solar panel for the equivalent price, its heavier though.. I dont want to carry this more than 10y without breaking out the dolly or getting someone else to take half the weight.. make it any heavier and it wont be very portable.

Its behind the trailers axle to provide counter weight for the fridge and keep my tongue weight within spec (under 200#), then a 5g water jug sits next to the battery for adjustable ballast.. I considered putting an array of 22aH batteries (3in thick) under the floor boards on either side of the axle, then I could build a big bank without changing the balance.. but I would loose all portability in exchange for an extra milk crate of storage capacity.. now I want to see if I can get a water tank out of a popup camper under there.

I want to add a 100W more of solar to this eventually, with the canoe going up top next season I'd like a couple of small trolling batteries I can recharge fairly fast out in the bush.. this is why the solar charger has powerpole pigtails on it, so I can rewire it up to another battery in the field.. tried to make it very flexible, never know what crazy idea i'll come up with.
 

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Nice setup. I built one a while back on the cheap using a inexpensive two wheel dolly and a tool box. I doubt I have just over $100.00 in mine originally but have upgraded my panel to 100 watts, still yet to be installed. I think the larger panel was $150.00? This was a learning experience (experiment) for me more than anything. Have made all of the usual mistakes and now know what to do to upgrade and improve. Thanks for your post. It's encouraging.
 

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Nice job! I'd love to source a used Xantrex inverter for your price. I've had trouble finding good deals on inverters in my area. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
the specific model of Inverter I have is 851-0451, new you can find them $80-$100.. I got mine off big auction site for a steal when I was looking for a small inverter w/GFCI.

initially this build did not cost me very much, did it in stages.. I had the car battery, milk crates, 20A 3-bank xantrex battery charger, fuse panel, and anderson connectors and connector mounts already on hand and one day I figured out how to put them together.. then added the solar charger and panel and I was in business.

the big xantrex charger is meant for the bus when on AC mains (bank for bus batteries, bank for starter battery, and bank for trailer battery), but right now its in the garage maintaing its old batteries.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Battery <-> Fuse Box <-> Plugs and Devices..
+/red to red, -/black to black, electronically its extremely simple.. hook the battery to the fuse box main terminals, then everything is distributed from there..

use appropriate size fuses, for the battery gauge and usb charger it has a 3A fuse, for the powerpole ports its got 20A fuses, for the inverter its actually using two slots each with a 30A fuse for 60A total.. the Solar Charger has a 15A fuse and I have a 30A fused wire tucked inside for hooking up my external battery charger.

pull all the fuses when you hookup the main terminals and there wont be any current; and thus no spark when you make contact.

the art is in the wire tucking, thats not something I can really teach or demonstrate.. its the only thing experience may be nessicary for.. but if you are happy that it just works and dont care if its got a rats nest of wires inside, its not a requirement.

Things to consider adding, that I have not for one reason or another:
Onboard AC Charger, 4-5A should do.. this way you can bring it into your garage over the winters and plug it in and keep it happy.

Low Voltage Disconnect, a simple device that you put between the fuse box and battery that will disconnect power when it hits a certain level... keeps you from over discharging the battery

Master Shutoff Switch, so you can store it without worrying about it discharging.. if you dont have an external charger to maintain it durring off season.. or you could pull all the fuses when you 'winterize' it.
 

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That system is good for occassional use, but if you were to use it more frequently, then you would need almost 4 times more panel.

100 AH x 0.1(10% charge rate) x 14.5 V(you never charge a 12 volt battery at 12 volts) / 0.77(77% is closer to what a panel really puts out) = 188 watts of solar.

I get my information and calculations from http://forum.solar-electric.com/categories
 
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