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Old 11-27-2016, 11:05 PM   #1
KTB
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Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Challenger 37T
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THOR #6017
Solar Panel advice please....

Hi Guys! We just bought a 2017 Thor Challenger 37tb and with the residential refrigerator, I'm thinking solar panels will be a great investment for dry camping trips. I've done some electrical at home and lots of car stereo installs so I'd planned on installing everything myself. The coach came with 2 6v batteries for the coach and I'm going to bump that to 4. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 11-28-2016, 12:59 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by KTB View Post
Hi Guys! We just bought a 2017 Thor Challenger 37tb and with the residential refrigerator, I'm thinking solar panels will be a great investment for dry camping trips. I've done some electrical at home and lots of car stereo installs so I'd planned on installing everything myself. The coach came with 2 6v batteries for the coach and I'm going to bump that to 4. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Our friends have the a residential refrigerator with 4 6 volt batteries for a bank of 432 Ah. They have to run the ginney 4 to 5 hours each day to recharge the battery bank. Their inverter/charger generates 60 amps.
If your refrigerator is anything like theirs 60 amps for 18 volt, 12 volts after the charge controller, is about 1086 watts of solar to produce that much charge. You can go with higher voltage panels and a MPPT controller which will help; but your final solar array will still be something like 1200 to 1500 watts when you take in other usage etc.
Based on that you will need to probably mix both solar and ginny run time.
The residential while more efficient then propane is maybe not the best way to go for dry camping. When the cost to run it with a solar/generator is figured in. It is difficult to get rated wattage from solar panels due to real world conditions, dirt, partial shade, or winter sun.

We spend 6 to 8 months a year dry camping.
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Old 11-28-2016, 12:01 PM   #3
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We have 4 12V batteries in our Hurricane and 400W of solar on the roof. We dry camp fairly often but not for long (more than 3 days) periods at a time. We have found the batteries hold up with the combination of alternator, solar and maybe a couple of hours of generator charging (if it is cloudy or rainy) and this includes the residential fridge, TVs, satellite and gaming systems.


Of course, there are limits and everyone must be conscientious about turning things off when not needed or being used.
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Old 11-28-2016, 12:27 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by scrubjaysnest View Post
Our friends have the a residential refrigerator with 4 6 volt batteries for a bank of 432 Ah. They have to run the ginney 4 to 5 hours each day to recharge the battery bank. Their inverter/charger generates 60 amps.
If your refrigerator is anything like theirs 60 amps for 18 volt, 12 volts after the charge controller, is about 1086 watts of solar to produce that much charge. You can go with higher voltage panels and a MPPT controller which will help; but your final solar array will still be something like 1200 to 1500 watts when you take in other usage etc.
Based on that you will need to probably mix both solar and ginny run time.
The residential while more efficient then propane is maybe not the best way to go for dry camping. When the cost to run it with a solar/generator is figured in. It is difficult to get rated wattage from solar panels due to real world conditions, dirt, partial shade, or winter sun.

We spend 6 to 8 months a year dry camping.

Where did you end up putting your inverter and other associated equipment. My equipment is arriving today. The panels I've got figured out on where to put them on my 24.1, but the controllers and transfer switch, etc. I'm having some issues with.
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Old 11-28-2016, 01:34 PM   #5
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Where did you end up putting your inverter and other associated equipment. My equipment is arriving today. The panels I've got figured out on where to put them on my 24.1, but the controllers and transfer switch, etc. I'm having some issues with.
Since we are not T.V. watchers, everything except the shunt for the Trimetric went into the exterior T.V. cabinet; 3rd picture down here:"The Nest" and it's solar
The inverter is small, about the same size as the breaker panel so it is mounted just to the left. I mounted a 2 stud, Blue Sea, terminal below the breaker panel for connections like that. Also a place to hook the smart automotive charger we carry with us.
Our worst case usage is 50Ah in 24 hours and while normal is less then that the house batteries that came with the coach are down to 45 to 50% SOC over night.
Those will be changed out in Jan or Feb 2017 when I add 200 watts to the roof.
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Old 11-28-2016, 08:29 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advise!
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Old 11-28-2016, 10:16 PM   #7
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We have a Four Winds 31W with the residential fridge... added 400W of solar, with a total of 5 12W batteries... and have the same experience.... 3 days with a few hours of generator usage. We've also learned to turn off the inverter cutting fridge power when we go to bed, and turning it back on when we get up. I found that the ice stays solid and the ice cream hard even when it's the dead of summer...
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:42 PM   #8
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We recently purchased a Challenger 37tb and just did our first long dry camping with it to the desert for Thanksgiving. Before we even left the lot to bring it home we added 2 Lifeline batteries to replace the junk batteries that come with the coach. Added 2 160w solar panels. This was our true test as we were dry camping for 4 nights and running the heater at night. Also during the day was little sun to help with the solar charging. I have found to leave the fridge on the lowest settings both for the freezer and fridge areas. Also I am now looking into a solar panel tilt kit to help get as much as the sun as possible. When the panels are mounted flat on the roof they do get some power but if they were tilted I could get alot more. Since we were dry camped for 4 days the tilt option would have been great. I have learned alot just on this one trip. Plan on adding one more panel and 2 more batteries to the bank as well as the tilt kit.
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Old 11-29-2016, 05:15 PM   #9
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The Whirlpool residential refrigerator is not as bad as people say. If you want to install solar, you first need to determine your power requirements.

You need to calculate your appliance amp hour requirement and divide by abut 50% of your available battery amp hours. You never want to run your batteries down less than 50% assuming they are deep cycle acid batteries and not lithium. Lithium batteries are a different ballgame. Let's assume your batteries are 220 amp in parallel and series giving you 440 amp hours. 50% of that would be 220 amp hours available.

If you have the Whirlpool with an ice maker, it uses 7.2 amps on full load. We will round that down to about 5 amps per hour so in a 24 hour period it will use about 120 amp in you leave it on for 24 hours. Most people recommend turning your inverter off when you go to bed as your fridge will stay cold through the night. Based on that calculation, you would be good for about two days, which will also allow you to run LED lights sparingly. The other problem is that you have other devices that while plugged in are parasitic, which means that even if they are not on they will still pull a very small amperage. This would include any plugged in electronics even USB power cords are parasitic even if they are not charging any device.

Look at this calculator to determine what your actual requirement is: https://www.renogy.com/calculators

Now that you know your requirements, you can determine what size batteries you need and how much solar you require. I just upgraded by batteries with 4x 6v Trojan T125 giving me 240 usable amp hours. Here is the link with that info. Upgraded to Trojan T125 Batteries on Challenger

My next project is 4x 150W solar panels, which will sustain me for many days without running my generator for a full charge as long as I am energy smart. In all reality, everything is based on simple math and knowing what is drawing power from your batteries.

Also, not sure what year your Challenger is and how it differs from my electrical diagram but all the 5B receptacles are connected to the inverter including some other basic items like the water pump. I have attached mine as an example but I would check with Thor for yours based on your VIN. Best of luck.
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Old 11-30-2016, 12:50 AM   #10
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You can see the system for titling panels I came up with here: Woodalls Open Roads Forum: Tech Issues: The "nest" and it's loads

Also the energy audit data for the previous camper.
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Old 10-25-2017, 01:29 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by doubravsky View Post
We have a Four Winds 31W with the residential fridge... added 400W of solar, with a total of 5 12W batteries... and have the same experience.... 3 days with a few hours of generator usage. We've also learned to turn off the inverter cutting fridge power when we go to bed, and turning it back on when we get up. I found that the ice stays solid and the ice cream hard even when it's the dead of summer...
Where is the connections for the pre-wired solar on the 31W?

Thanks,
Pete
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Old 07-22-2019, 11:36 PM   #12
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Can someone please info me as to the location of the solar controller in my 2018 31W?
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Old 07-23-2019, 12:26 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by doubravsky View Post
We have a Four Winds 31W with the residential fridge... added 400W of solar, with a total of 5 12W batteries... and have the same experience.... 3 days with a few hours of generator usage. We've also learned to turn off the inverter cutting fridge power when we go to bed, and turning it back on when we get up. I found that the ice stays solid and the ice cream hard even when it's the dead of summer...
I would love to see how/where you placed your panels on your 31W. I have the same coach, 2017 and want to install solar on the roof. Also how/ where did you install the 5 batteries.
Any info you could pass along would be great.
Thanks
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Old 07-23-2019, 12:39 AM   #14
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I have a 2017 31W it did not come with a solar controller and I don't believe it was even offered. But the 2018 could be different
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:43 AM   #15
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Can someone please info me as to the location of the solar controller in my 2018 31W?
According to the brochure, the 2018 31W is only pre-wired for solar.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:49 AM   #16
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I would love to see how/where you placed your panels on your 31W. I have the same coach, 2017 and want to install solar on the roof. Also how/ where did you install the 5 batteries.
Any info you could pass along would be great.
Thanks

I have an Outlaw 29H, which is a similar footprint to the 31W and it was also pre-wired for solar.

I installed two Renogy flexible 160W panels in parallel. I didn't want to drill holes so I went with the flexible since they could be attached to the roof with Eternabond tape. They are also very lite and two panels can generate over 300W.

These pictures aren't the best but will give you an idea of how I did it.
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Old 07-23-2019, 02:30 PM   #17
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Thanks. One question, how did you find the other end if the prewire? I have the connection on the roof like you but us the other end in the battery Bay? Where did you put your charge controller?
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Old 07-23-2019, 03:17 PM   #18
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Thanks. One question, how did you find the other end if the prewire? I have the connection on the roof like you but us the other end in the battery Bay? Where did you put your charge controller?
I contacted Thor to get a wiring diagram to see where the wiring from the roof terminated.

On my Outlaw 29H, the wires from the roof terminated behind the WFCO Power Distribution Panel. They are 10awg wires and one was orange / black and one was white / black with some electrical tape over the ends.

If you go to this thread you will see some pictures I posted of the wiring and where I mounted my Controller.

Houston..... we have solar!


I had it pretty easy. The garage / master bedroom on our 29H has a TV on the wall right above where the WFCO Panel and all the wiring is located beneath some drawers. I was able to run wires through the opening the TV used for the cable TV and HDMI wires to run the Controller wires down behind the WFCO panel.

I tapped into the battery wiring behind the Converter instead of running wires all the way to the battery compartment as well.

I am very happy with the system. I went with the Renogy Rover MPPT Charge Controller, which has an Equalization Mode to de-sulfate the battery plates that the stock WFCO Charger does not have.

Even with the panels flat on the roof, I have been able to run the refrigerator during the day using the Inverter without any issues and I have also run the 5000 BTU air condition in the garage on the Inverter for well over an hour continuous without any issues. I rarely plug in at my house now when the rig is parked because the Solar can keep the batteries charged.
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Old 07-23-2019, 05:36 PM   #19
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Thanks I'll contact Thor. I have wire schematics but not a diagram that shows what is where physically.
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Old 07-23-2019, 09:56 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Judge View Post
I have an Outlaw 29H, which is a similar footprint to the 31W and it was also pre-wired for solar.



I installed two Renogy flexible 160W panels in parallel. I didn't want to drill holes so I went with the flexible since they could be attached to the roof with Eternabond tape. They are also very lite and two panels can generate over 300W.



These pictures aren't the best but will give you an idea of how I did it.


Shorten the wires and tie them down with dicor?
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