107 – Lance Camper Solar Install

We own a nice 12’ Lance with a slide out used as guest quarters a few times per year. With the kids moving in full time a solar upgrade with an inverter makes sense. Working on RVs, in general, isn’t much fun. Then try to wrap your head around how tight and compact everything is in a well-built cab-over camper…………. Fuuuuuuuuuck.

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I’ve mentioned a guy they call Chicken Dan several times in past projects that I’ve posted. Fabricator and machinist with a background in wiring off-road race cars/trucks, turned electrician (20+ years as a Havasu contractor before I sucked him into this rural life). He now does primarily large off-grid solar installations and high-end solar installs for RVs. Despite wearing cargo pants and telling corny dad jokes, he’s pretty much the most intelligent guy we know.

This tight-spaced nonsense looked like a job for him because fuck that.

Storage space on a cab-over camper is rare, so an install that didn’t take too much room is appreciated. The ability for a battery upgrade down the road is nice too. We had recently installed two new 6-volt AGMs so the kid will use these as a starting point to see how they do. Two Battleborn lithium’s will be the first upgrade if the 6 volts won’t cut it. So far, they are holding up just fine.

Ol’ Chicken is not inexpensive, but he’s a great value. Once he knows your goals, he’ll engineer/design a bulletproof system and give you a parts list. You can shop your best price or leave it up to him to order the pieces. If you want to watch and or chit-chat while he’s working, remember that you’re paying by the hour, and the clock doesn’t stop running during the greatest of conversations. He’s completely mobile but also has a 5600’ building with a full fab shop inside. You’ll save a bunch of dough if you bring your coach to him. Licensed, bonded, insured etc Dan 928-486-8517.

I’ll let the pics do most of the talking going forward.

Shortly after moving the Lance to a nice camp spot with water on our property.

Dan’s ridiculously stocked service truck.

But wait!!!!!! First, let’s address several years of rats trying to murder this thing. We’ve done our best to keep traps fresh but living this rural has its downsides, especially if something doesn’t get regular use. He started by checking all the circuits and found several dead outlets. This slowed the install by at least three days. He ended up disassembling a large portion of the camper, including the belly pan to pull out 30lbs worth of rats’ nests before accessing the delicious wires that had been chewed up.

Once we were at least back to zero, the install could take place. We had several 250-watt panels leftover from a solar upgrade we did last year so add two of these to the roof. We used the existing roof rack with extensions built from there. This allows extra cooling beneath the panels and lets us use whole house fan without modification.

Up next was installing the custom wire loom he built in his shop. The amount of disassembly to run the harness was borderline obscene. It’s almost a shame that you can’t see the finished product as it’s so well hidden.

He installed a charging station for 12-volt goodies too. Nice to have.

Controls and monitors, everything is also run through an app on your phone via Bluetooth.

Here’s where the pre-planning and packaging really come into play.

Breakers, switches and shunts were mounted on a custom bracket in the battery slide drawer. The slide works as designed, nice smooth operation.

The Victron components are bitchin and customer service is second to none. The whole system does some pretty techy shit, so I was amazed how it all just worked together correctly right from the start. I think the design is perfect for a small camper like this. A larger coach would probably want a bigger invertor and more batteries plus panels, but this gives an idea of what a good installation takes on a cab-over. They pack so much into a small space.

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