"How I Do" – DIY Solar Suitcase Build – Full Time RV Living


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Unhappy with the options available to us at the time we were looking, we decide to build our own solar suitcase. Using 2 100 watt Renogy panels, a Victron MPPT 100 / 30 solar charge controller, aluminum square tubing, flat stock and angle purchased from the hardware store to make the frame, we saved ourselves a few hundred dollars and have a suitcase with an upgraded charge controller with room for expansion.

– Renogy 100 W Solar Panel: https://amzn.to/2AR0LoR
– Victron MPPT 100 / 30 Charge Controller: https://amzn.to/2yVMZjr
– Renogy MC4 Connectors: https://amzn.to/2D6agC6
– 1″ x 1″ x .25″ Aluminum Angle (4 legs at 24″ each): https://amzn.to/2REO6uu
– 1″ x 1″ x .125″ Aluminum square (4 spacer/leg mount 3″ each): https://amzn.to/2yUq6fZ
– .25″ x 1.5″ aluminum flat (cross bracing for legs cut to about 21″ long for each leg set): https://amzn.to/2RJmQvf
– .25″ pop rivets
– Stainless steel or rust proof hinges x 2
– .25″ stainless steel screws x 2
– .25″ stainless steel washers x 2
– .25″ stainless steel lock nuts x 2
– .25″ plastic washers x 2
– 14 gauge 50′ extention cord
– Aligator clips
OR
– Quick disconnect for battery: https://amzn.to/2SRFPVH
– Circuit breaker (goes on the positive side of the battery to quick disconnect positive): https://amzn.to/2RHTOw2

(You may be able to source the hardware cheaper locally, we’ve included as many links as possible for your convenience.)

The video I reference that discusses connecting in series vs. parallel – https://youtu.be/hu8n9cYnFDo

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27 comments

  • My works too. Used Avasva handbooks and build it with no problems.

  • DC current travels on the outside of the wires surface, so multi strand wire adds more surface area per wire thickness. AC current travels on the inside of wires, so solid wire is the way to go there.

  • Great project. Going the same route I think.

  • If you connect your panels to the solar controller without connecting to your battery first you can fry your controller. Just beware. The eclipse is down to $178. They are not the same. The eclipse will give you a higher output especially in lower light conditions. The ‘rated’ output of 100 watts is ‘ideal conditions’. If you decide to put panels on your airstream you will appreciate the eclipse panels smaller footprint.

  • Thanks for sharing guys!🙏👏👍

  • Great video, thanks for making it! I saw where you were told over and over that your controller was in the wrong place. Did you ever move it, and if so, could you post a quick video about how you have this set up now? If you didn’t move it, have you noticed degradation in performance and if so, was it not enough for you to consider moving it?
    Thanks again

  • Where were you when you filmed?
    Is the charge controller water proof?
    How do you secure the setup when you are gone during the day?

  • Excellent video! We've thought of purchasing one of the suitcase style solar panels ourselves, as our needs are higher in that we currently have Lithium batteries, but also we have a residential fridge, which is pulling power constantly. So, we need to figure out a plan as to 'if' the suitcase style will fit the bill, or if perhaps X amount of roof, plus X amount of suitcase! I see this particular video was made quite some time ago, and I'm unsure if you've updated what you currently have here, or if you've found it to be enough now that we're that much further along here in 2020? I've watched some of your newer video's, realizing your situation aka 'Covid' in Washington…and love your hikes and scenery images, so once you're on the road again, hopefully you may have another video with a little content on how your solar is working out! Stay safe you two!!

  • I'm subscribed! Great job, you've inspired me. One concern. Did you have any worries about the hinged end of the leg hitting and damaging the back of the solar panel if it traveled too far? I thought a length of small chain or wire to limit the angle that the leg could travel would prevent that from happening. I recently ordered a Renogy 4 panel 400 watt kit with 40 amp controller from Walmart for $582. I intend to put 2 on the roof of the RV and build a suitcase to supplement when needed. I'll let you know how it goes.

  • Well done video… concise, thorough enough, good camera angles, good ideas. Thanx.

  • Outstanding build!

    I am currently building a 200w suitcase for our 5th wheel. I used a Stainless piano hinge and lined the whole perimeter with of my panels with the 1” aluminum tube and pop riveted it every 6” hoping that the extra material will go towards making it more robust. I went with the victron controller as well but went with the 100/50 so the can add 5 more panels to the roof in the future if we see the need for them. I mounted my controller at my batteries and use the Zamp bulkhead connector on our rig to plug my suitcase panels. We currently have one 100ah Battleborn battery and plan to add 3-6 more over time depending on how much we enjoy boondocking. We are also considering switching to a composting toilet.

  • Hey TJ I’ve just ordered everything to duplicate your solar setup would you please comment on how and where you store the solar panels. We have a 25fbtw airstream tt. Thanks David.

  • i really enjoyed this video. i learned alot from it. thanks

  • I appreciate that you are out long enough to test it and are familiar with the load that is on your batteries. I built a similar panel. My controller is mounted in an old steel first aid kit box. One panel with one leg. Similar reason for keeping it portable. I have taken it out in the field and used it on tractor batteries! As you mentioned the furnace can be a huge drain, especially in our area. We have been using a portable medium sized catalytic heater when needed and the panel keeps up with everything else. Thanks again for sharing.

  • You should put on the roof your Van " Solar "

  • I have solar work very will free energy and power.

  • First of all I love your vlogs. Wouldn't it be better if the panels were hinged at the ends so they're not so high profile that they catch the wind? I would think about securing them somehow with sandbags or stakes if left outside. I would like to hear more about your back story and future plans.

  • The project like this step by step is described on the Avasva website and many more plans you can find on that website.

  • if you want to know how to make it yourself , just go to Avasva webpage. There you'll find your answers 🙂

  • You say you're connecting in series for higher line voltage so you can use thinner wires. But then you run the long wire from the controller to the battery, not from the panels to the controller. The controller-battery wire is only ever going to have 12-14V on it, no matter how high the voltage is between the panels and the controller. Your higher voltage is only running on the short wires.

  • Great tutorial – and you have a gorgeous Brittany Spaniel! We have two Brits and they're the best dog ever. 🙂 Cheers from Alberta.

  • What kind of batteries are you using? Amp Hrs?

  • Love this idea. Also kudos to all the comments that tweaked the wiring, fusing, connector set ups. We all learn from each other.

  • Nice work on creating your own portable collection system.

  • We just found your channel. Love the videos especially the central and western states. Please keep it up

  • Ok thanks for the information but you need to stop turning away the camera please

  • Hi Guys, Enjoyed the vlog. I noticed the date on this video. Now that you've had the panels for more than a year, are you still enjoying your solar panels? I Love the simplicity of the design.

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