Solar & Energy Upgrades for Our Small Motorhome

From the RV batteries and battery monitor to solar panels and solar charge controller, our small Winnebago View Class C motorhome is now equipped for longer-term boondocking and off-the-grid camping! We no longer need to rely on or be plugged into electric pedestals to produce electricity. Check out our tiny motorhome’s maintenance-free solar and energy storage upgrades.

Before we proceed with showcasing our solar upgrades and energy management system modifications, we are throwing out this disclaimer. This is not a how-to tutorial nor is it an installation guide. Honestly, everyone has different installation techniques and products. As well, each RV model and their electrical components vastly differ.

Therefore, to avoid miscommunication, questions we can’t answer, critics (and critiques) and/or even liability, we are merely showing you what we added to our Winnebago View Class C motorhome. We highly recommend anyone wanting to upgrade their own RV energy management and solar system to their small motorhome or any RV or camper, to extensively research and/or hire a professional installer.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on to our energy management and solar upgrades to our Winnebago View motorhome also known as our Mini Moho.

Old Batteries

Our 2019 Winnebago View 24D motorhome came equipped with two factory-installed NAPA 12-volt lead-acid marine/RV batteries. They were woefully inadequate for boondocking and living off-the-grid for extended periods of time. Since we rarely plug into campgrounds or RV parks electric power pedestals, we need a much larger energy storage system.

So, upon taking delivery of our motorhome, we immediately removed the two heavy 12-volt lead-acid batteries located in the step well; replacing them with two of our  Battle Born Lithium LIFEPO4 Batteries just to get us down the road. Until Dan could devote more time to our full-installation, we kept the other two lithium batteries in a dry storage compartment in our motorhome. We, then, sold the 12-volts to Dan’s brother for super cheap.

 

Removing the NAPA lead acid batteries and replacing them with two of our Battle Born lithium batteries.

This transition came a bit easier this time around because Dan was fluent with our fifth wheel’s energy management system. Prior to trading in our fifth wheel, we uninstalled four of our six Battle Born lithium batteries and brought them with us to install in our small motorhome. Sadly, we had to leave two of our lithium batteries with the fifth wheel to complete the deal. But well, oh well. *shrug*

New Batteries

We’re no strangers to lithium batteries as we had six Battle Born batteries installed in our former fifth wheel.

Battle Born 100ah (amp hour) 12 volt lithium ion batteries are designed and assembled in Reno, NV. These LiFePO4 lithium iron phosphate deep-cycle batteries are great to use in an RV, Boat or Off-grid power system. And, these can be used in 12, 24, 36 and 48 volt systems. At only 29 pounds each, they pack the power of a 140 pound lead acid battery and lasts 10 times longer.

      • 12-volt Drop in Lead Acid Replacement
      • 100 amp continuous output
      • 200 amp surge output – 30 seconds 1/2 second surge output for higher loads
      • 3000-5000 cycles – Acceptable Charging voltages 14.4 to 14.6 volts
      • Maintenance-free
      • 10-year warranty
      • Free shipping in lower 48 states

Anyway, we finally got to a warm and non-distracting location where Dan had time to reconfigure our motorhome’s energy management system. After a few days, our coach was operating wonderfully on those amazing Battle Born blue and gray super powers!

Look at that smile on Dan’s face! We are back to boondocking for weeks without worry!

Battle Born lithium ion batteries are completely safe. That said, they will require our charger or alternator having the correct charging profile to keep them in tip top condition.

For more information on their packages, please check out the Battle Born Batteries website. If you have any questions, you can call them for a consultation. They also provide battery cables, converter chargers, inverters, solar chargers and associated equipment for an upgrade.

We do politely ask that you always mention our names, Dan and Lisa of ALWAYS ON LIBERTY, as we are affiliates and receive a small commission. This little bit helps pay for cat’s food and catnip for our two little fuzzy heathens.

Battery Monitor System

We paired the solar charger (we’ll talk about that later) with a Victron 712 battery monitor system. It records the charge status of our batteries.  Dan mounted ours next to our batteries in one of the lower motorhome storage compartments.

Both devices are bluetooth capable, highly programmable and super easy to use. Victron is the industry leader in solar and energy management and its bluetooth devices are revolutionary products. When in range of our RV, we can monitor our battery voltage, battery state of charge, and current, consumed AH (amp hours) on Dan’s phone.

So, “how do we recharge our batteries?”, you ask? Well, we use God’s gift of sunlight to supply the majority of the energy to refill our batteries.

Old Solar Panels

Our 2019 Winnebago View was came with with a pair of SunPower flexible solar panels from the factory.  They provided just enough energy to maintain our battery charge levels but would not really recharge them. In our opinion, the factory-installed system was adequate for an occasional overnight stop to keep the refrigerator cold. However, they were grossly lacking in absorption needed for long-term boondocking, off-the-grid adventures. Those original flexible solar panels were replaced because they just weren’t cutting it for our RV’s solar and energy management system.

New Solar Panels

Dan did extensive research on upgrading our solar panels. The roof space on our motorhome is limited so we decided to go with Renogy 100 watt rigid frame compact solar panels.

We installed six (6) of these compact rigid-framed solar panels. These Renogy solar panels are high in power and are perfect for any off-grid application. Shorter than the standard 100-watt solar panel but with the same power output, this panel is better for applications that require a smaller footprint, making it a favorite for RVs like ours that have less space on the roof. Each panel is equipped with a junction box and MC4 leads, connecting to a controller or expanding to more panels.

In fact, at a later time, we are considering making our own solar panel suitcase using similar solar panels because of their size.

After measuring carefully the location of each panel, Dan secured aluminum solar panel offset mounts to our motorhome’s fiberglass roof with VHB (Very High Bond) tape. They don’t require drilling into our roof. Then Dan followed up with sealant made for fiberglass roofs to seal around each offset mount.

SPECIAL NOTE: This adhesive method above is ONLY FOR FIBERGLASS OR ALUMINUM ROOFS! Do NOT use this adhesive method on rubber membrane roofs.

After mounting, we took great care to seal everything up with Hengs 311 sealant to ensure there would not be any leaks into the coach. It’s a specially formulated neutral cure sealant designed to seal joints when installing roof vents, air conditioning units, skylights, satellite antennas and anything else that we may install on our RV roof.

OH! And for a fun pic, Renogy panels are ‘Krissie Approved’! Okay, maybe not the panels. Maybe it’s just because it’s a box and she’s waiting patiently for us to empty it?

Solar Charge Controller

The brain child of our solar system is a Victron 150/35 MPPT Smart Solar Charger that replaced a ridiculously outdated and under-performing factory-installed solar charger.

Our new Smart Solar charger gathers energy from our solar panels and stores it in our batteries. Using the latest, fastest technology, SmartSolar maximises this energy-harvest, driving it intelligently to achieve full charge in the shortest possible time. SmartSolar maintains our batteries’ health, extending its life.

The Victron “SmartSolar” solar charger is programmable, easy to install and way more efficient for recharging our batteries. This upgrade  allows us to recharge our batteries quicker and more efficiently than ever before.

So, there’s our solar upgrades and energy management modifications we made to our Winnebago View. We are so excited about what we can do, where we can go and how long we can stay out there!

Don’t forget to see what’s happening on our YouTube Channel!

Check out our other blogs pertaining to solar and energy management…

 

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3 Replies to “Solar & Energy Upgrades for Our Small Motorhome”

  1. Very helpful and succinct description. i understand why you, and others, installed the Victron, but I wonder why you waited until after the conversion. I plan to install one this spring or summer to monitor power use before I upgrade my system, so that I get no more, or less, than necessary.

    1. Alan, it was part of our lithium battery install. Not sure what you’re asking. Please explain ‘conversion’? Thanks -Dan

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