Solar panel install on MOBI

 MOBI stands for Mobile Operational Base Itinerant.  It is my 2008 Winnebago View J motorhome.

I have traveled with a Renogy 100w portable solar panel for many miles now and it works great.  I removed the attached controller and relocated in my outside storage compartment.  From there, I made 3 30 foot long extension cables so I can place it up to 90 feet from the RV.  It works!

I’ve encountered times where it the portable panel just wasn’t enough.  This is especially true if I’m stationary for several cloudy days.

So, I am going to install two 100w panels on the roof.  This will make incognito parking lot camping much better.  Yes, I’m prone to parking MOBI in a parking lot and using my trail bike to travel locally for my photography and touring in general.

Here’s a list of what I’ve purchased (so far):

  • 2-Renogy 100 watt monocrystaline slim design solar panels
  • Renogy 30A inline ANL fuse holder with fuse
  • 2 pair 50′ 10awg solar panel extensions with MC4 connectors (red and black)
    • I will cut the connectors off one end to facilitate pulling the wores and connecting them to the controller
  • 2 sets of Renogy Z brackets
  • Renogy cable entry housing
  • Renogy Adventurer 30A 12V PWM solar controller
  • Permatex Dielectric grease
  • MC4 Y branch parallel adapter cable
  • Renogy 15A MC4 waterproof in-line fuse holder
    • I ordered separately a 20 amp fuse for a spare.  15 amps is cutting it close
  • 3M VHB tape
  • White NuFlex 311 sealant.
  • 2 sets of mounting pads to facilitate easy mounting and removal of panels if necessary

I may have to add to this list as I progress with the install.

Here are some notes of my progress:

  • The first task was to remove the Winegard In-motion satellite dish form the roof.  I never used it.  This was easy!
    • This photo is with the dome removed.
  • Next I wanted to see if it was possible to use the existing route from the satellite dish wires for the solar panels.
    • I removed the plastic transition panel that covered the drop in the roofline between the cab-over bunk area and the rest of the RV.  The power wire for the dish ran through here from the galley cabinet and then into the base of the ceiling light just below the dish.
    • I dropped the ceiling light and saw where the coaxial antenna wire was going through the roof so up I went and pulled the sealant out of the hole was able to pull and push the cable just a bit.
    • I removed the inside panel in the galley cabinet and was able to also move the coax from that end.

  • The next task was to see if I could pull the coax out through the galley cabinet with some cord tied to it.  I want to have the cord in place to tie to the 10 gauge wires I hope to pull through the existing route.  Yay! I pulled the coax out with two pieces of nylon cord attached to now I have two pieces of cord in there to use for pulling wires.
  • We’ve had a cold front come through and it is just too chilly to be puling wires, etc.
  • I have ordered two 100 watt Renogy slim design solar panels and all the associated necessary items (I hope) to do the install.  Most have arrived. The panels look to be very well made.
  • I’ll hold off for warmer weather and come back to it then.

I had to go out of town for a week and now I’m back at it.
This morning’s task was to try to pull two #10 wires through the space where the satellite antenna wire was run.  for me, this was a critical step as I did not want to make new holes in the roof or have wires visible inside or out other than at the base of the solar panels.

DONE!  By using a fish tape, I was able to pull two #10 wires back through the ceiling into the corner of the galley cabinet where all the TV associated wires are.   I put a weather head on the roof over the hole where the existing antenna wire was.  I used VHB tape and Nu-Flex 311 to seal it.  I will remove the satellite mounts next time I’m up there.

It snowed yesterday so I took the day off. Today’s task was to bury the #10 wires in the wall above the coach door and then down the wall behind the passenger seat. Then I flush mounted the solar controller is the wall behind the seat. Next I’ll run the wires from the controller to the batteries down through the floor and up into the battery box right there beneath the steps. So far so good.

Today’s task was to wire up the controller and put the wall behind the passenger seat back into place. There is expanding foam filling the gap between the chassis body and the coach body. Yay! There was enough space to run the wires down below the floor without drilling holes. I simply shoved a screwdriver down through the foam and then pushed the wires through. I mounted a 30 amp fuse on the forward wall of the battery box and ran the controller  positive wire through it to the battery. I ran the negative straight to the battery.

I stripped the appropriate amount of insulation from the wire ends and soldered terminals where needed. I tinned the wires with solder that are attached to the controller (held by screws) . I solder every connection! I also ran the temperature sensor from the controller to the battery compartment. I didn’t think I needed the voltage sensor since the wire length from the controller to the batteries is pretty short.

Then I carried the two solar panels out and placed them on the roof, connecting them one at a time to be sure each one was working.

Yeah, I know…. they aren’t very square. They are just there temporarily for testing. I’ll permanantly mount them shortly.

Anyway, every thing works and I spent some time buttoning things up. Not everything mind you. I’ve dismantled quite a bit of stuff. But, it’ll all go back together nice and neat in the next couple days.

While I’m awaiting the arrival of some machined aluminum blocks to permanently mount the panels on, I put the interior back together.  Everything looks factory as it was and the installation is working with the temporary location of the panels.  Next update will be when the final mounting of the solar panels is done.

Hmmmm . . . . .
I went up on the roof to remove the mounting brackets for the old satellite dish.  I brought with me a heat gun, a putty knife and a much better all purpose scraper. The heat gun was for the sealant applied around and between the brackets and roof. Perhaps I didn’t wait long enough for the heat to work. Or maybe I just wasn’t patient enough with gently applying pressure as I pushed the scraper beneath the bracket.  Whatever the issue, I managed to pull a 2 inch diameter piece of gelcoat up when I removed the first bracket. Who knows, maybe the gelcoat was weak there??? I doubt it.
I took my time on the remaining 3 brackets and they came off with no issues.  I think the secret is to apply head and then gently ease the scraper under the brackets.  I sealed the screw holes and the exposed fiberglass with 311 self leveling sealant.

Hopefully I’ll have the custom machined mounting pads in next week and I can wrap this installation up.

Yay. The mounting pads that Bob Kelly makes arrived yesterday and I attached the panels to the roof with 3M VHB tape  The system works as designed!  Today I’ll detach the panels from the pads and apply 311 self leveling sealant to the pads and put the panels back. I’ll route the cables so they are least exposed when I do.

Well, this wraps up my installation. No need to write any more about it. If you want to discuss it, co tact me and we’ll talk.