Okay, with our new rig and our new solar system, we've made some rookie mistakes and discovered that maybe we should have done at least one thing differently on our install that has nothing to do with the actual solar part of the equation.
The big issue is that our converter doesn't play well with the new system as installed. Again, we didn't put in a sub-panel to isolate high-draw appliances and the converter. We wired the entire coach through the inverter knowing that we couldn't run the air conditioner/heat pump or other high-draw appliances for any length of time.
There is a transfer switch within the system. So, when we are plugged in OR running the generator, the power runs through the inverter and our inverter monitor in the coach shows a green light for "Status" meaning we have 120-volt AC power.
If the inverter is on, and we are not plugged in or using the generator, the "Status" light is yellow meaning that we are using 12-volt battery power through the inverter to run appliances.
If there is a fault, the "Status" light is red.
Now, here is what we don't like about this particular monitor. It doesn't show whether the inverter is "ON" or "OFF" when power is passing through from the electrical pedestal or the generator. And it took a fault and reading the manual (and a couple calls to Bill) to realize how and why this is a problem.
While we were out hiking, we returned to the rig to find a fault code on the monitor and an incessant fault alarm beeping.
I read through the manual to at least figure out how to silence the incessant beeping. As I continued to read, I learned that I have to scroll through some buttons to determine if the inverter itself is actually "ON" or "OFF". It had been "ON" the whole time and we didn't realize it.
So, when we were out on our hike, the power from the pedestal went off and, unbeknownst to us, the inverter was "ON". So, it tried to run our air conditioner using the batteries while we were gone and that created an "E03" error - "AC output overload shutdown".
We always preach "read your manuals" and this is a time we should have heeded our own advice. By reading the manual, I learned that there are two "ON" modes and an "OFF" mode. But you can only set which mode the inverter is in by pushing a sequence of buttons, scrolling through the options, and selecting your choice.
In our fifth wheel, it was very easy to see when the inverter was "OFF" or "ON" on the monitor, and it was easy to turn it "OFF" or "ON". We only turned the inverter "ON" when we were boondocking and wanted to use AC appliances.
So, now we know how to turn the new inverter "OFF" and we will leave it "OFF" unless we are boondocking.
Well, "Why can't use just use the power button on the inverter monitor?" Good question. You see, when the inverter is set to "OFF", you can't turn it on or off with the power button. But, when the inverter is set to one of the "ON" settings, you can turn it "OFF" and "ON" using the power button. The problem is, when we are on shore power, you can't tell whether it is "ON" or "OFF" by looking at the monitor, so you still have to scroll through the settings to be sure.
From the manual:
NOTE: Inverter mode ON (“IN1”) will put the inverter on standby with
the power save feature. Inverter mode ON (“IN2”) will put the inverter
on standby but without the power save feature. Both inverter modes mean
that when shore power is present, AC shore power will pass through as
AC output. And when shore power is not available, the inverter will take
power from the battery and provide AC output power. The inverter is in
operation. When the inverter mode is ON, you can manually turn inverter
operation ON or OFF by using the Inverter Power button.
Inverter mode OFF (“IN0”) completely disables inverter operation.
When in this mode, it means that when AC shore power is present, shore
power will still pass through as AC output. However, when shore power
is not available, inverter operation remains disabled and therefore the unit
does not provide AC output power. When the inverter mode is OFF, you
cannot manually turn inverter operation ON or OFF by using the Inverter
Would it have killed them to put one more light on the monitor indicating whether the inverter is in "ON" of "OFF" mode? It's clear when not on shore power, but as we learned, it's important to know when on shore power as well.
Anyway, figuring that out was one important step in living with our new system.
Next, we left Valley of Fire and went to Red Rock Canyon Campground where we had no electric hook-ups.
When it was time to heat something up in the convection/microwave for a couple of minutes, we turned the inverter "ON" now that we know how to do that properly. But the power would pulse and then shut down.
Stupidly, we forgot to turn the converter off, so we had the circular problem that I mentioned at the end of this post - Solar Install For Winnebago Aspect 27K. The inverter was drawing battery power and powering the converter which was trying to charge the batteries. With the converter off, things worked as they were supposed to.
Next, we turned the generator on to do some tests. With the generator on and the inverter on and the converter on, we encountered similar problems. Even using the generator power, there is a conflict between the inverter and converter. They cannot both be on at the same time. So, we turned the inverter "OFF" and turned the generator back on and everything worked as it was supposed to - appliances were running and the generator was providing power to the converter which was charging the batteries.
Now, none of this has anything to do with the solar. The solar is working exactly as it should.
In our fifth wheel, we had an inverter/charger. The Xantrex RS3000 did both functions - that of an inverter and that of a converter. And we could turn either or both functions on or off easily. We could be plugged in or run the generator with either or both functions on. Plus, the Xantrex RS3000 system control panel/monitor gave us more information about our electrical status while on shore power, and I miss that additional detail. Note: We get some of that information from our portable Progressive Industries surge/voltage protection device, and eventually we'll upgrade to a hard-wired model with a remote monitor inside the coach that will give the additional info I'd like to have.
Also, we completely took the converter that came with the rig out of the picture. We kept it as a back-up, but after our inverter/charger was installed in 2007, the converter was never plugged in once.
So, having the inverter and converter separate is different for us. And because we didn't put in a sub-panel to isolate the converter, we have to make some modifications in how we use the system - the inverter and converter don't like each other. No big deal, we just have to change habits a bit.
When plugged in, we simply have to makes sure the inverter is "OFF" - power will still pass through and the converter can be on and charge our batteries.
When boondocking and running the generator, same thing - the inverter needs to be "OFF" and the converter can be on.
When boondocking and using the inverter, the converter needs to be taken out of the picture by turning its breaker off.
In hindsight, maybe we should have put in an inverter/charger and taken the converter out of play, but the cost would have been higher and we would have had to sacrifice some storage space. Or perhaps we should have put in a sub-panel. But now that we have gained a better understanding, I still don't think either of those options was really necessary.
Just looking forward to getting out there and using the system more.