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Old 04-29-2017, 08:42 AM   #1
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Solar panel upgrade?

I newly own an 04 winne journey 36g and it has a small solar panel on the roof roughly 12x18 size. I don't know the exact output or how it's wired but does anyone know how much larger of panel I could get and splice in place without having issues? Thanks
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:20 AM   #2
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Your 12" X 18" probably has an output of 5 - 10 watts, maximum. You should check the wires linking it to your batteries, that's one of the limiting factors to just adding more panels on the roof. In addition, most small panels like yours have no controller in the system, they just connect to the batteries as a charger.

To increase your solar capacity, you'd have to run much larger wiring from the roof to the batteries and include a properly sized solar controller. Often this wiring is run down the refrigerator roof vent, as long as the fridge isn't in a slide.
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:45 AM   #3
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Winnebago always uses at least 14 ga wire for 12 volt power and return runs. This gauge wire can handle up to 15 amps DC. Your small solar panel likely just dumps right into a fused 12 volt branch circuit without a controller as it never charges the batteries just offsets the drain from parasitic loads like the propane gas detector and refrigerator control board.

Off shore power, with everything that can be turned off (lights, fans, etc.) off and the radio switch set to chassis I would measure DC amps being drawn from the parasitic loads (the refrigerator control board, thermostat, and propane gas detector). Multiply this Amps x 12 and that is your parasitic load watts. It will likely be around 20 watts.

IMO you could go up to 40 or 50 watts just reusing the same OEM wiring arrangement and not have concerns about overcharging batteries. Above that wattage I suggest a complete solar design that includes a charge controller to protect against battery over-charging.
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Old 04-29-2017, 06:20 PM   #4
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Checking the parasitic load would be a good thing check and I will check that tomorrow. I'll have to check on the wire size but if your right it's probably safe to say I could add another panel of at least the same size without any issues
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Old 04-29-2017, 06:56 PM   #5
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Checking the parasitic load would be a good thing check and I will check that tomorrow. I'll have to check on the wire size but if your right it's probably safe to say I could add another panel of at least the same size without any issues
You will have to make sure that the panel you add has an integrated blocking diode, generally they do but do make sure that the smaller panel you buy does.
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:44 PM   #6
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Ok. I've never heard of that but I will research it
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:13 PM   #7
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Ok. I've never heard of that but I will research it
Without a diode in the circuit, in darkness the power from the batteries will flow back into the solar cells and produce infrared energy, taking away some of the battery charge. The blocking diode is installed to prevent that night time energy loss.
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:37 PM   #8
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That sounds like it should be standard in every solar panel
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Old 04-29-2017, 10:26 PM   #9
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That sounds like it should be standard in every solar panel
They are almost 100% standard, a solar controller has diodes built in for larger arrays of panels, so the larger panels don't require diodes.
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