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Old 06-09-2021, 07:31 PM   #1
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Solar Panels 2020 Micro Mini 2108TB

Hi Guys, I have just taken delivery of a 2020 Micro Mini 2108TB, which I purchased privately. I would like to install a solar panel. Unfortunately, the Owner's Manual is as useless as tits on a bull when it comes to details. So, I contacted the dealer who sold the trailer when it was new and asked them: What do I need to buy to have solar power using the roof mounted connector. This because the trailer is supposedly "solar ready" I was intending to put panels on the roof. But the dealer replied, telling me to use a "solar panel kit suitcase style that is portable". So guys what to do? Are roof panels a bad idea and if not what other parts/units would be required?
Thanks for your help.
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Old 06-12-2021, 10:49 AM   #2
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Check out the amsolar.com website as they specialize in RV solar parts and installations. Solar ready usually means that there is a roof wire in place that runs down to the inverter for the house battery and nothing more. It is however a good thing to have as installing the wiring run otherwise is very labor intensive.

With solar on the roof the battteries will be fully charged when you head out for a trip and during your trip they will be charging the house battery as you drive down the road or when the trailer is parked and no worries about someone running off with the panels or charge controller and no need to take up storage space.

I bought my last two panels from newegg (Renogy) and Home Depot (Grape) and they were cheap at $115 for a 100W panel and $218 for a 190W panel. AMsolar and others sell the feet for mounting the panels and 10 gauge panel wire and junction boxes. Blue Sky and others make small system charge controllers that work well for RVs.

There are people that specialize in solar panel installations and they are a safer bet than a guy at an RV dealer. Even Winnebago with our new Navion did a medicre job in specifying the components and mounting the panels and doing the wiring for them.
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Old 06-12-2021, 03:27 PM   #3
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Thumbs up Need to buy

Hi Elkman and many thanks for your reply. So, if I understand correctly, I shall need to by 10 gage panel wire, junction boxes and the solar panels. So much for being solar ready! Regards, Senecio.
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Old 06-12-2021, 04:02 PM   #4
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When I added solar charging to my last RV in 2013 more than 50% of my time was taken up by routing the wiring from the roof to the charge controller and from the controller to the house batteries. At least you are not paying for second rate products installed by an overly cost or profit conscious manufacturer. From the youtube videos it appears to be much easier to do cable runs in most trailers but it is always a bit of an adventure.

With a travel trailer you should have lots of real estate for mounting the panels and the larger the panel the more Watts per dollar you get. My Navion came with two factory installed 100W panels and there was only enough room left for a third 100W panel and a 190W one and even then I needed to relocate one of the factory 100W panels that was mounted in the wrong place.

The RV solar installation experience helped when I design and specified equipment for a roof top solar installation at my house a couple years later. And don't bother with panel tilt mounts as even in Canada the gain will be slight and panels are designed to provide their rated output without the sun having to be directly overhead.
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Old 06-12-2021, 06:14 PM   #5
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Look on the roof and see if there are MC4 connectors behind the front roof vent. If yes, there is likely a removable panel in the front pass-through storage on the front wall (curb side). Behind this panel are the 10-gauge wires from the MC4 connectors on the roof and 10-gauge wires heading off to the battery. You install the panels on the roof and plug them into the MC4 connectors up there. You then install a solar controller in the pass-through and connect it to the wires from the roof and from the battery. It's pretty easy since they already ran the wiring. I went with two 100W panels and a MPPT controller. I added a 20 AMP in-line fuse to the positive line from the solar controller to the battery (on the battery end). I also added an in-line breaker to the positive lead from the solar panels (near the controller) so I can disconnect the panels from the controller.

If you don't have the MC4 on the roof, then you likely have a little port on the side of the trailer that is suitable only for a "suitcase" unit that includes both the panel and a controller (all in one).
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Old 06-12-2021, 06:55 PM   #6
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MC 4 Connector

OK Backtrack,
Many thanks, I know there is a connector on the roof, but I don't know if it is a MC4. I think I can manage the controller installation.
Regards, Senecio
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Old 06-18-2021, 01:33 PM   #7
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Highly recommend adding a solar wiring junction box on the roof where the connector exits the roof. This provides room to connect solar panel wires by screwing them into the bus and for adding a circuit breaker so you can disconnect the panels when doing downstream work on the charge controller. AmSolar sells them as do other solar supply companies. I did not use the AmSolar one as I wanted one that would allow for adding a Blue Sea 30amp circuit breaker inside the enclosure.

MC4 is a somewhat standard connector for solar panels but the problem is that the cables come in fixed lengths and added length reduces the voltage to the charge controller. Better to use butt connectors that are marine grade (waterproof) and make use of the 10 gauge panel wire that Amsolar sells.

The only tricky aspect is that RV's are a mix of residential and automotive wiring so the black wire is the positive inside the RV and needs to be connected to the red wire or positive from the panels.

Zamp makes it even confusing as they use SAE connectors but with the polarity reversed so caution should be exercised when using Zamp components or adding to the Zamp kit installed by Winnebago.
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Old 06-18-2021, 07:27 PM   #8
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Hi Elkman,
Many thanks for your reply, slowly but surely I am getting a little wiser about what need to be purchased and installed.
Regards, Senecio
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Old 06-18-2021, 07:39 PM   #9
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You can make your own MC4 cables pretty easily. My solar “kit” included a lot of excess wire so I used that and made two sets of cables to reach the two panels. If you’re going to have a complicated setup, the junction box approach is probably much cleaner and less prone to suffering a bad connection.
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Old 06-18-2021, 07:44 PM   #10
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Hi Backtrack15,
I am trying to keep the solar installation as simple as possible. It was bad enough trying to do the backup camera. I thought there would be wires under the mounting bracket. But the previous owner said "in your dreams". So with the solar, I am going to keep it simple.
Thanks,
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Old 06-18-2021, 07:52 PM   #11
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Oh wow. There should have been wires behind that mounting bracket. Sorry it was such a hassle.
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Old 06-20-2021, 04:29 PM   #12
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You may want to hinge your solar panels so the roof underneath is accessible for cleaning and roof maintenance. This was a lesson learned from the panel on our converted van! We now have 4 100w panels from Amazon that were under $80 each.
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Old 06-20-2021, 04:47 PM   #13
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Being "solar ready" there must be a solar charger already installed in the rig. If it is like my 2016DS it is a black box with display mounted next to the fridge. This handles the battery charging and needs to be set for the particular batteries.
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Old 06-20-2021, 05:42 PM   #14
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I didn't want to poke any more holes in my roof so I went with a 100w panel on the ground that works great. The downsides....Before a trip I move it inside. At a campground I move it to pick up sun. I never go to a campgound that I consider theft likely but even at my house theft is possible.
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Old 06-20-2021, 07:23 PM   #15
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I'm a little late to the party, but I'll recount what I did with my 2020 2932RL 5th wheel.

1- Spent a lot of time educating myself on solar power setup. Zillions of youtubers have videos on the topic. Lots of web pages too. For general Info I liked Will Prowse's DIY solar power channel, Jared Gillis's "All about RV's" channel, and the AltE store channel. Lots of other ones too.
2- looked around for a couple of unattached 10 gauge wires. Found a pair of white wires with a red stripe coiled on the ceiling of the pass through on the drivers side, near a sign saying something like solar prep.
3- contacted winnebago customer service and asked if they had schematics for towables. They emailed me pdf files for ac, dc, fresh water, sewage. The schematics are not highly detailed but do show what is connected to what and roughly where things are. The dc schematic indicated that the solar wires would come down from the roof roughly where I found wires. It's possible customer service could tell you where to look for wires.
4- used a multimeter to check across the two wires I found for voltage. Nothing. Stuffed a wire into one of the mc4 connectors on the roof, hung it off the side and checked continuity with the wires in the pass through. It connected. Then checked the other wire. Connected. Yup, those eare the correct wires.
5- along the way, I spent a lot of time designing my system-- panels, mounting brackets, cables, breakers, fuses, more cables, bus bars, mppt charge converter, switches, etc. I set our system up last fall with 400 watts of panels on the roof and 2x 100AH LiFePO4 batteries with the intent to expand this year with another battery, inverter, and maybe more solar panels if necessary for our needs. Our system ended up looking a lot like the schematics on the allaboutrvs web page.

Whether you do a single panel or a more elaborate system, invest the time educating yourself. One panel or many the basic principles are the same and you need the same parts. How many parts and how big they are varies as you increase capacity.
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Old 06-22-2021, 10:18 AM   #16
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Usually being "solar ready" is no more than the connector on top and a wire leading down.
Whatever you do don't fall for the roof "flexible panels" Usually low efficiency and they only last two or three years. Stay with a quality rigid panel and you will get a lot more for your money.
Also depending how far along you are: Renogy has great solar "packages" that will have about everything you need for a small to large solar system PLUS great customer support, they will answer all your questions before and during installation.
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:15 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ret.LEO View Post
Whatever you do don't fall for the roof "flexible panels" Usually low efficiency and they only last two or three years. Stay with a quality rigid panel and you will get a lot more for your money.
I was also skeptical at one time, but because I was trying to keep the overall weight down, I took a chance and bought this on sale for $129.00:

https://www.amazon.com/Newpowa-Extre...ct_top?ie=UTF8

I couldn't be happier. Lightweight (5 lbs.), efficient and I didn't have to punch holes in my roof. Have gotten up to 87W. Flexible panels have come a long way in the last few years. We'll see how they hold up, but they appear to be very high quality.
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:25 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ret.LEO View Post
Whatever you do don't fall for the roof "flexible panels" Usually low efficiency and they only last two or three years. Stay with a quality rigid panel and you will get a lot more for your money.
Agree about the older flex panels, but Been reading that the new ETFE flex panels with Perc cells are highly efficient (22-23%) and durable, although a bit more expensive. If this just ainít so, Iíd like to know before I buy one made the same as my folding portable panel. Iím physically challenged, and believe install of flex on the roof will be much easier: just lay it over a sheet of corrugated plastic and tape it down with 3M underside periphery, and velabond on top.. Am I way off here?
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Old 06-23-2021, 04:49 AM   #19
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Agree about the older flex panels, but Been reading that the new ETFE flex panels with Perc cells are highly efficient (22-23%) and durable, although a bit more expensive. If this just ainít so, Iíd like to know before I buy one made the same as my folding portable panel. Iím physically challenged, and believe install of flex on the roof will be much easier: just lay it over a sheet of corrugated plastic and tape it down with 3M underside periphery, and velabond on top.. Am I way off here?
Jim, your suggestion sounds like a pretty good method!

I apologize, as I neglected to mention that I don't have it permanently affixed to the roof. In the few times I've used it, I've either placed it in the bed of my pickup or utilized suction cups to hang it by the grommets. I keep the 12' MC4 cable coiled on the roof, held with industrial Velcro.

https://www.amazon.com/VELCRO-Brand-...dDbGljaz10cnVl

Along with my 100W foldable suitcase panel, I really like having the "flexibility" and can choose whether I want to leave it exposed to the elements (or not) and maybe get longer life, access to the roof for cleaning and if I park in the shade, I can place it where there's sun. I mainly use solar to charge non-essential accessories such as my small Bluetti battery, E-bike and my 12V cooler/fridge.

However, I've learned that solar is not an energy panacea and because MM's do not have rooftop real estate, they will never be capable of extended boondocking without firing up a generator. I was able to boondock once somewhat comfortably for 3-4 days using my single 135AH LiFePO4 without charging, but that's it.

It's been mentioned many times from folks much more knowledgeable than myself, the key to utilizing solar for extended boondocking is having enough real estate, battery storage, conservation (camping) and most critical, a generator.

To answer the OP's question, our MM's are unfortunately limited for rooftop solar. IMO and as the dealer recommended, for now go with the suitcase with limited expectations and enjoy your camping experience!
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Old 06-23-2021, 10:38 AM   #20
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Even with the Navion I was able to have three 100W panels at 42 x 20 inches in size and a 190W panel at 58 x 26 inches in size and have a total of 490W of output going to the charge controller. That is enough to power the fridge and the furnace motor and lights for the RV. If we wish to use the AC then we have gone where there is shore power and then made use of the microwave as well. No need for a generator with a 3-way fridge and propane cooktop and oven. With my last camper with a 3-way fridge I did not have a generator of any kind and we went for weeks at a time with no issues at all.

I needed narrow panels to fit between the AC and roof vents and the edge of the motorhome. I was able to put the 190W panel crossways at the rear of the roof area. I did several layouts to be able to get everything in place and I had to relocate one of the Zamp panels that some clown at Winnebago put in the wrong place.

The solar panels provide more options and less need for the generator as it is used only to power the oven or microwave. Nothing to worry about setting up or having stolen and it works 24x7 to keep the batteries charged and even is charging the batteries as we drive down the road. I would never use the roof for additional storage space and no need to take away from the basement storage with a portable setup.
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