1. Costco Solar Panel: http://www.costco.co....100054656.html
2. Lowes Charge Controller: http://www.lowes.com...oller=
3. Lowes MC4 Cables: http://www.lowes.com...=mc4&facetInfo=
Nothing was available in stores: It was all online and shipped to my house.
Lowes Charge Controller: $48
Costco 100 Watt Solar Panel: $135
Lowes 30’ MC4 Cables: $66
Tipping the guy who crimped it for me: $20
So, here’s the narrative:
Since I know nothing about electronics or batteries, and own no tools, I bought everything at stores where I could return everything without shipping in case this didn’t work. That’s why the great price for the Costco panel really made this a sweet deal. The Lowes price for the charge controller was high by $10, but I didn’t pay shipping, and I knew I could return it. Knowing it’s Chinese, that was important to me.
Having opened the controller I discovered that all of the cables were hard-wired into it.
That’s good for me since I don’t know what I’m doing and I own no electronic tools. The o rings for the battery were simple enough, you just unscrew the wingnuts, slip them over the posts, red + black - and re-tighten the wing nuts. The charge controller is made to just remain on the battery 24/7. Good. The mc4 cables will plug into the panel mc4 connectors. Great. Easy.
The only part of this I couldn’t do myself was connect the controller to the cables. The lines out from the controller to the solar panel were only about 24 inches long, and ended with plain wire, stripped to ¼ inch, with temporary protectors. The ends looked like this:
I need them to have these connectors on the ends so I can plug them into the longer extension mc4 cables. This is what I needed: http://en.wikipedia....i/MC4_connector
They had no connectors, just bare copper wires. I looked up online how to attach connectors and found the youtube how-to here:
I don’t own the crimper, and it’s something like $30-50+ dollars. I wasn’t sure I’d be buying the right crimper (there are lots of sizes) Plus, I don’t feel comfortable doing this myself. What if I’m not strong enough, or I do it wrong? Also, I’ll never need the crimper again.
So here’s my solution: I googled solar contractors in my area. The first one didn’t handle the hardware but he gave me 3 companies who do. I called them with my little story and they let me bring the controller to them. The men were out on jobs and no one in the office had the crimpers, so I left the controller with them, and the secretary asked the installers to crimp them for me when they came in. She called me when they were done and I went up and picked them up.
One important thing: Make sure you know if the positive end (always red) needs to be a male or female connector. That depends on your solar panel connectors. I drew myself a diagram of the positive (red) and negative (black) lines and noted all of the connectors for their male or female connectors, so that I knew which one was right for each line.
Now, my whole system is plug and play. I run the lines from under the bench into the sink area and use the power cord access panel for the cable. Everything is inside, nice and dry, except for the last panel connection, which I put underneath the panel in case of rain. I figure I’ll place it in the sun on a folding chaise lounge just to keep it off the ground. When I’m underway, it will be on the bed in my patriot.
I got it all home and connected, and it works!!! Yeah! I had un-plugged the casita from my house power a couple hours before, so, the battery had drained down to 12.5. As soon as I turned the panel toward the sun it re-charged up to 14 in a few minutes! I also turned on all 5 lights and the fantastic fan, just to put a drain on it. Sure enough, the voltage dropped, but the panel brought it back up.
I'll take it out and really use it and see how well it performs and add that to this post later.
Edited by jazzjunkysue, 31 July 2014 - 11:32 AM.