Welcome to HandyBob Solar

If you are new to this,  I recommend starting with the “About our Boondocking Life” page to see how this all started. I am not a “blogger” who constantly posts. This blog is intended to educate, not to be used as a discussion forum.  Simply put; if you post questions here they will not be answered.  Last, if you feel that I have helped you to save your money, take a look at my page: The Money Question.  Please read my FAQ’s and look at my most recently dated pages before contacting me.  There is where I will post the latest things. Tapping the circle to the left will open the comments that have been left if you are interested.

The following are links to places I recommend that you look for more information.  Insert the usual warning here.  You must temper everything you find with common sense.  There is both good and bad everywhere you look and I cannot keep up with everything anybody else says.  My opinions follow.  Some may not agree, but I speak from experience, not what somebody else told me.  If a link doesn’t work try copying & pasting the link into your browser or just do a Google search.  These things are finicky.  I DO NOT APPROVE ANY ADVERTISING THAT GOOGLE ATTACHES TO THIS BLOG.  THEY WANT $30 PER YEAR TO BLOCK ADS.

http://cuernoverdesolar.wordpress.com  Kelly’s Blog..A friend / former customer who also does not own a generator.

http://kingsvista.wordpress.com  An interesting blog about off grid RV life by another friend / former customer.

http://www.jackdanmayer.com  Some good solar & RV info from the big rig side of the RV life.  Look here if you are made of money.  Some of the info here is not correct and we do not agree on everything.  It is up to you to think.

http://bogartengineering.com  Manufacturer of the Trimetric, the only battery monitor to buy.

http://www.magnumenergy.com  The best alternative energy inverter manufacturer and located here in the US.

http://www.midnitesolar.com  A high quality, innovative US manufacturer who is cornering the market for alternative energy distribution equipment.  However, I’m not very happy with their controllers after a lot of frustration.  They seem to have trouble making computer driven things work correctly.  Also, how many years should it take to write a manual to go with a product?  Make your own decision, but be aware that fans make noise.  I am entitled to my opinion, no matter what some idiot moderator on a solar forum thinks.  Read my pages on Forums and MidNite.

http://www.morningstarcorp.com  The manufacturer of the widest variety and the best inexpensive charge controllers on the planet.  A company that is dedicated to making things that actually work.  Very unusual today.  (No cooling fans needed!  Absolutely silent.)

https://www.crownbattery.com  I believe these to be the best after buying them for two off grid homes and installing in several RV’s  These people have the alternative energy market in their sights.  Look at the latest catalog.

http://www.trojanbattery.com  Probably the most respected, I used to think they were the best.  No longer.  Their web site still does have the best charging information.  Remember, batteries are batteries when it comes to charging needs.  I know that I say to listen to the battery manufacturer but some of those folks do not understand charging with limited amps & time, so some info you will get is wrong.   For flooded batteries listen to CROWN or Trojan, for AGM’s, Life Line or as of April 2016 CROWN.  They added a new production line and hired 25 new people to run it.  Made in the USA.  Probably the best AGM’s you can buy today.

http://backwoodssolar.com  These folks have a catalog available that has a LOT of good information in it.  Their web site also has a learning center with a lot of valuable information and battery diagrams.  Great service & friendly advice.  (I am adding this comment in 2015…  After having some very unsatisfactory dealings with other suppliers I need to say that buying for the lowest price is fine if you know what you are doing, but if you believe the advice you get at nearly every other dealer you are risking failure.  I won’t list their names here, but be very, very careful.)  Even here you need to balance what you are told with what the profit motive might be in selling you the latest MPPT controller that doesn’t work as promised.  (My MidNite page explains why I added this comment in April of 2015.)  Highest price does not guarantee highest quality.  Sometimes it is very surprising that exactly the opposite can be true.

https://therecklesschoice.com/category/systems/solar/  Finally, somebody who did a nice installation and good guide for a reasonable system using the Trimetric 2030 controller and meter pair.  This is worth a look.

IF YOU WANT TO ASK QUESTIONS, THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO DO SO.  You can email me after you have read the RV Battery Charging Puzzle, where my email address is included.

THIS IS THE SHOP OF ONE SOLAR GUY WHO CAN BE TRUSTED.  (This is an old picture.  Look at newer pages for newer info.) This little system powers construction tools, heat shrink gun, you name it. The batteries in that shed were 10 years old when the photo was taken and have since been retired.  They were charged daily at 14.8V with temperature regulation just like Trojan recommends.  The batteries in there now are six year old T105’s that were free. Most of you are probably looking for the “RV Battery Charging Puzzle”.  This is also good basic education for anyone who wants to go off grid in a cabin or small home.  My email address is shown there, but please don’t contact me with questions unless you have read the Puzzle.  You don’t have to read my rants under “The History”, but it explains how I ended up where I am today and gives some examples of recent solar system evaluations that demonstrate very well just how little has changed.  There are now a couple of RV Solar dealers doing working systems but  I will not recommend anybody yet.  Both of those companies will sell you nothing but MPPT, even when it does not make monetary sense on small RV systems.  MPPT does make sense on large systems only when you spend enough to get something like a Morningstar Tristar MPPT controller.   These dealers’ advertising make it very clear that they are not “low budget” installers. Many people think that when they see advertising that shows huge over built systems on the roofs of RV’s they are seeing proof that the company knows what they are doing. I believe that it proves just the opposite and that it is a bold statement about their real mission statement (to generate as much profit as they can).  You also need to think about the power line that goes into the building.  If they knew how to make solar power work, there would be a modestly sized solar array powering that building.  They buy solar panels cheaper than you can and the same tax break is available to them.  There is one guy in Quartzsite who put grid tied solar on his building, but that does not show that he knows how to charge batteries.  He does not.  The statement about having to add water every other day if you follow Trojan’s voltage recommendation came from that place.  His actions speak louder than words to me.  I met a new dealer in 2011 who lives off grid and yet he sells junk flush mount RV charge controllers at his booth.  Again proving that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Many of the dealers also still tend to fall down on the job on things that I find unforgivable, like the missing wiring protection on one system that I reported on, the constant overloading of controllers, the continuing refusal to install big enough wiring for MPPT to really have a chance at working and the denial of how important temperature compensation is.  I’ll post it here first if this ever changes.  You should note that Morningstar believes so much in the value of temperature compensation that it is included at no extra cost on all of their small RV controllers.   They also include the remote temperature probe in  the box when you buy their new Tristar MPPT controller. I constantly see people attributing statements to me that I never made. For instance, I have never said that nobody needs a generator and I never told people to sell their generator.  I did say that WE don’t need one. Our back-up charger is our noisy Ford 7.3L truck & booster cables. It has only been used four times in over six years and one of those times was because of a failed solar panel.  In 2014 we bought a used generator out of an RV, but it may take years to get it running.  I filled the cylinder with oil and put it in storage.

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35 comments

  1. Add a check mark to the over-the-top appreciation column.
    I found your site seeking an answer to: “How can I add solar to my newly acquired trailer?”.

    Regards, Ed

  2. Love ya bob.

    Thank you so much. You have saved me time (life) and money. Wish you the best in the whole wide world.

  3. Wow, this is great information. You are obvioiusly “formally educated” but more important able to convert formality into “common sense” reality! We are just beginning with a work van as we are moving from strictly tent camping into something that’s easier on the “older joints”. Car salesman said we needed to get his shop to install an inverter hooked to the van battery and a marine battery installed behind the driver’s seat. Something about this didn’t quite ring true to some of the comments the physics teacher made about how AC and DC current worked. I took a basic physics course with my grandson last year and decided to do a little reading about how this would work. Gotta re-think after reading your blog. Gonna start with making some notes and re-reading and thinking about what we are trying to accomplish. Thanks for writing this.

  4. I thank you for you advice. I have been looking at adding solar to are 5th wheel and have gone nuts with all the bullsh#t advice most wedsites try to sell. All I ask for was the truth about what I need. Your site has made easy for a tinker to get started. I am going piece by piece at a time. I started with a Trimetric 2025 meter next will be a charger do to the charger thats built in the fifth wheel camper never puts out enough to fully charge the 2 6volt golf cart batterys I have now. Again Thank You.

  5. I’ve read your other pages and am gobsmacked by your suggestion that you just need more volts to charge a battery. Amps are what is needed, so if the internal resistance of the battery is lower then a lower voltage will give the same amount of charge. This is one reason why AGMs charge MUCH faster than open wet cells. I’m afraid you and Mr Sterling have made the same mistakes. Wet cells are 85 % efficient – AGMs 98%. You need to check out the facts.

    Lots of good info otherwise – but it is LOST in too much verbage with long paragraphs that people will not read.

    I am a 7 year liveaboard on a boat in the Med with Lifeline AGM batteries.

    LOOK BELOW FOR MY RESPONSE TO THIS NONSENSE, BOB

  6. Bob, as a battery sales guy, let me say – You are awesome!
    You’re right when you say we have an “agenda”… and we want to sell batteries.
    Mostly, though, my agenda is to have satisfied customers. I know that sounds cheesy, but:
    I have a wife, 4 kids, and an upside-down Southern California mortgage… The LAST thing I want is a boondocker like you calling me to yell about the horrible batteries we sold him. : )

    I’m going to make sure – from now on – all of my customers wondering about how to get the best from their RV charging systems read your blog.
    I know reading it has confirmed a lot I knew, but it’s also taught me a ton!
    More than that, it is going to give me much more peace on the weekends knowing I’ve helped people get more from what they’ve got rather than try to sell them something they don’t need.

  7. My reply to Matt Boney:

    You did not read it. I do not use the blog for correspondence but this demands comment. You have been taken in by marketing hype. My statements concerning battery types came from personal testing, not marketing hype. Salesmen love to repeat such things, but a lie is still a lie even if repeated a thousand times. My 6 year old Trojans ARE working at better than 98% efficiency and my Trimetric proves this. AGM’s cannot do what is claimed. They are flooded batteries that are sealed up so they must be charged at a lower voltage. A battery charged at a lower voltage will charge slower, not faster. I am reminded of a guy who came to me for system repairs and who was waving a page that “proved” his Optima AGM batteries were the best thing made. In the corner of this page it said “Optima”. It was a glossy marketing sheet and nowhere on there did it have the truth about how little amp hours those things store. The same thing is true of the brochures from Blue Sky. You need to open your mind up and think for yourself.

  8. I just need to make one comment. I am formally educated in the school of hard knocks. I learned engineering by doing it on the job, working for the right employer. The old way of teaching by mentoring is disappearing and that is a shame. Send an email if you need help.

  9. Hey Bob! Excellent material, and I assure you – that you are right on the money! I come from an electrical engineering background with allot of practical application from running an electronics repair shop and battery shop. People- if you will read this material closely you will save lots of money and have a system that works well. I didn’t find this blog until late in my third redesign to get an well working system. Wire size and length makes a big difference (4 gauge from Lowes), Golf cart batteries are the way to go (got mine from Sams Club), Morningstar Tristar controllers (with remote voltage and temperature sense) are the way to go (TS-45 from EBay), the price of the MPPT controllers still doesn’t make sense as I could just add another solar panel for less dollars, and you need to be able to monitor the current into and out of your system (I use a Xantrex Link Pro from EBay), I have 3-100 Watt panels and 2-80watt panels mounted to the roof of my RV and produce more power than I can use- 26.4 amps is what I was measuring while in colorado several days ago. (I run lights, fans, satellite TV and receiver, netflix receiver, (my wife is disabled so she watches TV all day), constant internet, multiple smart devices and computers and I even charge my Prodeco electric bike. I just upgraded to a Morningstar Sure Sine inverter as my old inverter had some minor fluctuation issues. The info you read in his blog is mathematically, and practically right on and correct. I came to the exact same conclusions through several years of testing. You and argue it or just follow it and be one of us that has an incredibly great working system. The only thing I have to add is- that for you that don’t yet get to RV full time and are concerned about the sulfating of your batteries (because your RV sits around being unused for weeks at a time)- Pulse Tech makes some excellent devices which I have lots of actual test data on (from running a battery shop) which will actually keep your lead acid batteries from sulfating and running well for 5-8 and possibly 10 years. All lead acid batteries will sulfate anytime they are not fully charged for any length of time.

    Quesitons? Want another opinion? Give me a shout at C23flyboy@hotmail.com

    Scott Helmann
    Rapid City, South Dakota

  10. Hi, Bob. Just had to say thanks. Your information here is just great. I’m full-time RVing right now (though not by my own choice) and have been considering a small solar setup. If I can scrounge one together, I’ll certainly keep your advice in mind while trying to make it work. Thanks again.

  11. Thanks Joe,
    I say that I don’t use the blog for correspondence, but I want you and anybody else to know that I do respond to questions sent to my email address. I am hearing from many people who are trying to get by in today’s world. There are some cheap deals once in a while for solar panels on the internet, but be careful and don’t buy the wrong charge controller. And, do not waste your money on one of those cheap kits with teeny panels and no real charge controller or a “solar generator”. There are crooks out there preying on people who cannot afford to be taken advantage of.
    Bob

  12. I went with Your advice and couldn’t be happier. I had put up with mediocre results from My Panels and Controller for several Years.

    Then I purchased a Morningstar 45 Controller with a Temp sensor and a Trimetric RV Monitor. The Big change however was changing the Wiring from the 10 Gauge stuff with the Mid Point “Controller”to some really big #4 Wires and the Controller where it belongs close to the Batteries.

    Now I have a 100% Charge nearly every Day of the Year and We live on the Wet Coast of Canada!

    Oh by the way The Fantastic Vent is turned on 24/7 and keeps the air circulating inside the coach!

  13. I just want to say that this blog and the work by you, in response, and follow-up consultation has made our summer off grid experience fantastic. Thank you Handy Bob for your no nonsense honest word. It is refreshing in today’s world! If anyone ever needs a referral I hope you will send them my way!

  14. Hello M.Bob
    Thanks for teaching me about upgrading to real world RV solar from my expensively priced over the counter low performing set up(now I know).
    I had very succesfull first few boondocking trials campout last summer even though I finished the job a little late in the season.
    It is a wonderful feeling to now trust my energy set up and to reap the fruit of my newly learned knowledge and skill.
    All good words and thanks to you Bob….patience you’ve got.
    Pierre

  15. Thanks Bob,
    I carefully followed the blog info to the Tee and your generous PM replies from you to develop a system for my camper. Our last trip to the Baja, I didnt even have to turn my generator on once…..
    John in SLO

  16. I hope all who benefit from Bob’s advice will support him. He is very generous and is always giving out free information and support and if you can send any business his way or a donation, he deserves it! I am confident he will not ask for it. Just my two cents.

  17. I am now about as pissed off as I can be after reading Bob’s articles. I now know why we never have power when camping, the charge controller, wiring size, inverter and equipment location is all wrong. I now know I need 2 more 6volt batteries which will give me 4 batteries, I need a at least 1 more solar panel as I only have 1 130 watt sharp and I need to replace the GP 3000 inverter. I have ordered the tristar ts 45, and the trimetric 2025 rv. The only confusion I have and I do apologize to all as I am sure I have somehow missed this info is should I wire my anels in series or paralell? I assume in series to negate voltage lost and reduce wire size but really need clarification as all info I see says I need an mppt controller to do this but I assume this is because they use controllers that will not accept more than 20 vdc.

  18. Hey all!

    I’m a senior electronic tech with an engineering background and love challenges and mysteries. After running a large battery shop as an additional duty for the last year and a half (for the western half of the state) in the South Dakota Army National Guard, here are my reverified with out any bias real life battery test findings. We run lots of AGM and flooded lead acid batteries in a large variety of equipment. Findings: Top of the line AGM batteries tend to self discharge a little slower and also tend to have a lower internal resistance- this does allow them to initially deliver current faster and in greater quantities and these batteries with the lower internal resistance will INITIALLY take current and charge a little faster. However they tend to finish charging much slower than flooded lead acid so if you want to charge a battery from 50%-80% then AGM batteries might win the race but if you want to charge from 50%-100% the over all net time is about the same and in many instances it takes a little longer to get the AGM battery to a full 100% charge. The information the manufactures is giving you is not wrong if you are only talking about the first stage of charging (bulk charging), but if you want to get the maximum capacity out of your batteries you need to charge them to 100%. Its crazy how things get taken out of context in the name of marketing. Also: If your looking at cost- Flooded lead acid batteries are more economical choice (in RV situations I suggest 6v golf cart batteries as a top pick). If your needing batteries that can sustain battle damage and still function, or batteries to put in locations where you need to place them on their sides, or in your particular application you cannot readily get access to and service them (check water levels) then AGM might be worth the extra expense.

    Another battery maintenance note: Always clean the top of the battery before checking the cells and only add distilled water with flooded lead acid batteries. Its taken me a while to sort out what is happening when you don’t as I see quite a number of batteries where this was not done and impurities entered into the cells- this (and freeze damage) is the big cause to the battery starting to self discharge at a much higher rate than a battery where only clean distilled water was added, and often dramatically shortens the life and capacity of the battery.

    I will save for another time to talk sulfation, loss of capacity and about what chemically happens in a lead acid battery during use (Flooded, AGM or gell cell) and how to routinely get 7-10 years of life out of your batteries.

    A quick answer to the post above. I camp in areas where there often trees so I have all 5 of my solar panels connected in parallel so if one panel has shadowing on it from a tree (causing the power to drop from 7 or 8 amps to less than .5 amps), then the others are free to continue to produce power to my Tristar TS solar controller and system. If you connect your panels in series then any shadowing drops your output dramatically and the additional voltage is wasted as heat at your controller (assuming 17-18 volts solar output at load and your running a 12 volt RV system)

    -Scott
    C23flyboy@hotmail.com

  19. Bless you Sir, this has become my RV Solar Bible.
    I have just found the most indepth and more importantly, the most sensible explanation for my “Solar Pain”. Contrary to the many beefers out there about how detailed your information is, I find it absolutely refreshing!
    I have also, like so many others, wondered in the wilderness of so-called, “ProfessionaI Halls of Knowledge”, (Other Blogs) and ended up on the ripoff sites, “Buy this Kit and you are good to go”, or believe it or not, from the even less informed, “It’s simple, you buy the solar panel, you plug your battery in, and you’re good to go” !?!
    I have delved deep into the chronic misunderstandings and rants of frustrated RV’ers, especially those, who will not see. All you can do is take them to the water Sir, you cannot make them see what is right infront of them. Yes, I did have to read it several times, not because it was too long, but because I finally grasped what you were trying to tell me!
    With your guidance, I now have the knowledge to put together, what I deem fit, for my family’s little 23 foot RV. So much of what I have read, has made me gasp out loud, “Yes of course!” (click!), or “Oh dammit!” (thought it was much simpler). Please pour yourself a glass of “The Good Stuff”, then get yourself comfortable around the fire tonight, knowing you have helped me out, bigtime!

  20. great info.. we am currently not a RVer’s but we are wanting to be full time in 6-8 yrs and this info on solar is very good to know. I understand when you say the so called experts are not telling the whole truth. they may not know the “the truth” or have decided to do things the way they have been doing them,, poorly. . I have some of the same issues in my industry as well as i know your
    pain.

    I hope to meet you some day and say thanks in person as i am sure many others who have happened to find or were told of your site.. I found a referral from airforums.com site.. a site mainly frequented by airstream owners who buy and large appreciate high quality products.

    Again thanks for you info and i hope you have a good holiday season this year of 2013..

  21. HandyBob has saved me a lot of money and time. While it took a couple of days to read his writings it was time well spent. I can’t imagine the money I will now save and even be able to have a somewhat intelligent conversation with my installer. Bob, I truly appreciate your honesty and frankness. I have made a donation to the cause!

  22. Bob,
    Thank you for your efforts. I’ve installed two systems in motorhomes based upon your logic that have worked great and saved me a considerable amount of money. The most recent one utilizes the Bogart Engineering Trimetric 2030 charger.
    While I’m not qualified to comment on the technical aspects of Bogart’s products, I can give praise about outstanding service. I had an installation problem that was totally my fault that Ralph cured. Every once in a while, ones faith in humanity is restored.

  23. I am a retired mechanical designer who has spent 50 plus years in the field. I AM NOT an electrical designer nor am I an engineer. I took an idea and made it a reality but I did not come initially with the design concept because I’m not that good. I have worked with a few very good design engineers and some of the best (but not all) were non-degree engineers; it is an ability that a person innately has or doesn’t. Bob is the type of “non-degree” engineer that was a joy to work with and I truly mean “JOY”! As a Christian I find truth the backbone of existence and without there is NO life just a vague resemblance. So Bob thank you for reflecting Christ in your life style. I will study your blog and “try” to become a decent electrical man!

  24. Bob,

    Just wanted to let you know that I followed your guidance to the “T” and have a Awesome working solar system on my RV now. My RV had a system installed that would NEVER charge the batteries. All of the common problems, Cheap Controller, Undersized wire, Too long of wire runs. Thank you for putting this info on the Web it has save the RV community from the prey of shitty installers.

  25. Here goes I listen to everything Bob said and found his words exactly I put my system in at the beginning of July two 150 Watt panels from her knowledge or 260 crown amp hour batteries
    Trimetric 2030 charge controller and monitor and a 600 W magnum inverter
    Six months later it’s working excellently been off grid all this time thank you for your help Bob and responding to my email you the real Deal thank you

  26. After receiving the last comment I have to say something. I heard from a couple yesterday who were having trouble with their Trimetric SC & TM2030 because the shunt was hooked up wrong. It is always the same thing, wires on the battery side of the shunt that should not be there. A couple of questions about voltage and amps made it obvious that the charging was working; they just could not see it, and now it works. One of the things they said was that they had taken their rig to Discount Solar in Quartzsite to have it looked at. They were told that the Trimetric is junk and they would need to replace it with the crap that Discount sells if they wanted it to work. This from the company that I have featured in my photos and who continues to do things wrong. I once had to re-fix a system that I had already made work when the poor lady went to Discount for new batteries. After they were done, her meter no longer worked. January 2016 and buyer beware is just as true today as it was back in 2002 when I started fixing the things they were doing. Money back guarantee?

    The Trimetric PWM outperforms many MPPT controllers. It’s circuitry is far more efficient and it puts more amps into a battery once the absorption phase is reached, not less. You have to remove one and install the other to see this. If you are going to believe the glossy marketing brochures and the liars I cannot help you.
    Bob

  27. I lurked on the site for some time while planning solar power for our boat. Boats are a special case where highest power to area is worth spending extra. We bought 3 X 220 watts SANYO HT with 3 diodes per panel; 54 VOC. The boat is 24 VDC so we used a Morningstar MPPT 45 charge controller. Following Bob’s holey texts; the panels are parallel #8 about 4 to 6 feet long. Panels are individually wired to 2-pole 10 amp breakers. After the breakers #6 to + & – combiner blocks. Out of the combiners with #4 to the charge controller. Out of the MPPT to a 40 amp 2-Pole breaker using #4 wire to junction blocks. Junctions split the power to a monster rotary switch for selecting bank A or B. From the rotary switch to the batteries – about 6 feet. All cabling is short and big. Several lightening strikes over 6 years mandate that all devices can be isolated (the breakers). This includes all sense wires as well. Following Bob’s advice, we added the digital panel to the MPPT to be able to follow its performance. We also added high end battery monitors to both banks. We can’t help the inevitable partial shading but the parallel system with diodes will help.

    I found the advice on this site really very useful. It probably guaranteed success on this installation.

  28. Found your website last year when I was setting up a small off-grid solar for my home. Did not realize how much I didn’t know about battery banks, panels, cables, etc. until I found your website. I read every line, and I mean every line! Don’t know what I enjoyed most, the great info that you provided or how you presented it. Very funny and to the point! I can’t speak for others, but, for me, your website is the first place I go for help with my system.

  29. After reading your blog, I decided to try out the TM- & SC-2030. You are dead on that these to together are the perfect small system setup. Plus, Ralph @ Bogart Engineering answered several of my questions quickly & personally. How often does the company do that anymore?

    I too am like you and see horribly installed systems. A lot them are “No Power” systems coming out of a huge mega-dealer here on the East Coast. I brought it up with them quite a few times and have been told “we’ve done 100’s that way” and “that’s how the factories do it”. My favorite was “it pays the same no matter how we hook it up. That way takes less time” (a rig they did that had used wire nuts and t-taps to tie into the factory 12ga wire at the converter ). I wish I had pictures.

    Hopefully people read your blog before buying and demand better. Remember people, Quality work done right is always costs less then cheap work done twice.

  30. Learned a lot from this site so I thought I’d give something back: a recommendation. Check out Victron Energy. I’ve got a bunch of their gear in our campervan and it just works. The company is super responsive, innovative, promotes open source development and most of all, their products are usually much cheaper than anything else comparable. In short, they’ve got their shit together.

    Added by Bob: I have no personal experience with Victron so I cannot recommend it. This guy could be right and then again, he might work for them. Could be great, might not be. What I found is that unless you compare things side by side or take one out and install another, you simply cannot know how well things work. Some of the products that have the best reputations today are actually the worst things made. This seems to never change. My experience with MidNite really proved this to me. People on forums are still claiming they are the best, when I know the truth to be far different and not long ago I saw a forum post that said the same thing deleted by the moderators, so where is the truth to be found? Back in the day, it was the same thing with the first MPPT controllers made and today I hear from people who try the cheap ones, only to find that they don’t work at all. Buyer beware.

    Sent later by the author of this comment:

    PS: I can understand why you might think that but no, I don’t work for Victron. Entirely different end of Europe and field. Although now that you said it, I sort of wish I did. I really am that impressed by how they approach product development and custumer service. My only connection to the company is 5 of their products in our van: solar charge controller, battery monitor, USB data interface, software and a battery combiner. And a bunch of emails and blog comments that get nearly instant replies. Let’s put it this way, they are not a one man band and they’ve got the brains to build on top of what Bogart is doing with fully customizable systems and software solutions while having the scale to keep prices reasonable. And spending a lot of effort on education (see their blog and Energy unlimited ebook as PDF).

    But obviously nothing beats personal experience. They don’t have much of a US presence. I’ve seen some things on technomadia and recklesschoice blogs but that’s about it.

  31. Three years ago I stumbled onto your blog, what a find!! With just enough experience to be dangerous before reading I found you to be the teacher I needed. Bought the German panels you suggested, the 2025 & it’s complimentary meter. Kept my wiring runs as short as possible, no.8 down to the controller, and no.4 to the batteries in the next compartment. When we head to Az. We stay in parks that charge extra for electricity used
    We pay the minimum while others may pay $150-$200/month. System is not paid for yet but I think maybe 2 years more and I love being green. Thank you . You are the working man’s teacher.

  32. Bob, I just found your blog site while searching google for info on trying to take my home off grid, because of just being sick of dealing with Duke Energy, and also loathing them enviromentally for what they are doing to Thousands of N.C. residents drinking water. 1st impression of your blogs and info…TOTAL TRUST. As a ACOE veteran, and lifelong hot rodder and hobbyist…much of what you teach is just good old (not so anymore) common sense!! Shorter wire runs, proper wire guage, A-B field comparisons, Expensive doesn’t equal best, etc. And Hands on, real world beats Lab Tested EVERY TIME. And as ACOE (Army Corp of Engineers), I’m a big advocate of over engineering just a pinch, do it right the first time, don’t rush, double check your work, then watch it work. Kudos to you, sir. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. I now look forward to building the system on the 60s Camper I’m building for my 10 yr old daughter and I to enjoy. Namaste’


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