We want that Green Energy...
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Camping doesn’t always mean setting up in a campground with hook-ups, and of us, our preference is to go off-grid, at least occasionally. We also stay in a lot of National Parks (Blue Ridge Parkway) and State Parks which do not offer hook-ups. The longer you want to get away, the more challenging it becomes to keep the batteries charged. So for us, solar panels are not just a game-changer, they are a must.
We are doing our implementation in two phases, short term, and long term.
Short term (Phase One) is living with our existing batteries (2 x Flooded Lead 50Ah), with the Renogy MPPT Controller connected to the factory connection on the side of the camper. Solar will then connect to the MPPT.
Long term (Phase Two) is to install new Lithium batteries inside (2 x Lithium LIFEPO4 100Ah) and controller inside and manage everything from the Bluetooth connection and the phone app. This will require rerouting wiring as the batteries will move from the tongue to the back of the camper. We will also reroute the connection from the factory solar connection to the MPPT Controller.
As we are in the first phase, I will share that here, and then add the long term to this post as we complete that phase. I will also share links to all of the equipment we purchased.
Before we begin....
Before we get into phase one, let's talk about what we are setting up. Our Camper is a 2021 Braxton Creek, Free Solo Romo. This is the same as the Braxton Creek 15fk. We are working with twin 12v 50 Ah Flooded Lead-Acid wired in parallel to stay at 12v. There is a "Solar Ready" connection on the side of this model, what does “solar ready” actually mean? NOT MUCH.... It is a connector that is wired directly to the batteries. If you put a voltmeter on these connections you will find 12-13volts of DC. NEVER connect a solar panel directly to this connection. The voltage coming from the solar panel can easily fry the batteries and wiring in the camper.
PHASE ONE The interim has begun...
Knowing all of the work that I will be doing in phase two, I really wanted a minimal implementation for Phase one that would give us what we needed.
Let's Do This!!!
In simplest terms, what we are adding is a solar charge source (the green below). Everything else is already in place. We will be using two wiring kits, an MPPT Controller, and a 100 watt solar panel. Links to all of the parts are below.
First connection, part one. Camper to MPPT Controller.
The first thing I did was to connect a 10AWG SAE to Male & Female Adapter 10AWG Cable with SAE Connector to the side of the camper's SAE connector. This allows me to plug right into the existing connection on the side of the camper without having to open my battery boxes or do additional wiring. You need to check the voltage with a voltmeter here so you know which direction is hot and which is ground. IF you are reversed then there is an adapter included with the SAE connector to switch the red connector to the correct side. You do not want to get this connection wrong.
The second connection from the SAE adapter to the MPPT Controller was to take a pair of jumper cables and cut the clamps off the ends. I just wanted the wire and this was the easiest way to get the color coded wire gauge I need at the right length. On one end I installed the Solar connectors (one male one female) to match my power alignment coming from the camper and the SAE Connector. YOU NEED TO SOLDER THESE CONNECTIONS. I can't stress that enough. For the ends that I screwed into the MPPT Controller I soldered those as well. This all may seem like an extra step, but it saves you from constantly connecting and disconnecting the wires to the controller which over time can put wear and tear on the connections. It also gives you additional length to set the controller somewhere out of sight, and provides for a quick set up and tear down.
At this point, your controller should be showing you the battery voltage and percentage left in the bank. It also be showing you what the load is on the batteries.
Next step is to connect the cables going to the solar panel to the controller. This is another area where you want to make sure you have the red to the red and black to the black. This will be marked on the solar panel and cables. When performing this step leave the Solar panel disconnected. Once you are connected to the controller you can plug in the panel.
Is it in the sunlight? BOOM.. Power.
So here is a short video of the setup test. I will add an additional video after our next camping trip. There are additional pictures at the bottom.