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Old 02-08-2016, 04:24 AM   #1
WestyTat
 
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Question Going Solar

Hello everyone.
This post is my attempt to gather all related information about adding Solar panels to Westy in one place.
If there is a thead and I missed it - please point it out.:-\
There is tons if good info within this forum and all over internet (HandyBobSolar comes to mind...) But NOT in one spot!

Since I am replacing OEMs Exide house batteries with Trojan Gels, I want to add Solar panels to keep those bats topped up while boondocking.

So here is my list of questions:
1. Solar panels brand to consider? Mono or poly crystal? Semi-flex?
2 .wattage (will 2x100watt will be enough to keep batteries charged when used only for fridge and fan?) Found 180 watt panels, but too big to fit on the roof behind the skylight (no AC on the roof)
3. Mounting solutions (3M double sided auto tape? Screws? Silicone?)
4. Controller - what brand to go with? I am considering Samlex SCC-30AB since its designed for gel batteries. Any other brands to consider?
5. Wiring .

Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-08-2016, 04:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Going Solar

That would be great, could you add the links you already found? Then it could be added to the Sticky.

My thoughts for a solar panel would have 2 of them that you can fold together for traveling. Then when setting up camp, park the Westy in the shade (if possible) and set up the solar panels in the most optimum sunny spot.


Cheers,
-illya
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Going Solar

I went with this set up, plug and play, and a lot of good reviews...controller matched etc. I also added a digital volt meter to keep an eye on things.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o04_s00

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o03_s00
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Last edited by Jmolan; 02-08-2016 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:35 PM   #4
OldWest
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Default Re: Going Solar

Answers to Questions.

1. Solar Panels.

Have limited space on roof so need to go with most efficient panels (usually Monocrystalline, Sunpower? Cells). Rules out Polycrystalline and Amorphous Cells.

Want lightweight panels to avoid more Weebles Wobble. This rules out rigid frame glass panels.

Unless remove AC, roof is curved so semiflexible panels make sense (flexible panels are usually amorphous and not productive enough).

Solbian (Italian made) at bruceschwab.com are semiflexible, efficient, and expensive panels. Can mount two of them (each 100 watt) on the curved roof area with 3M Dual Lock tape--will need to trim overlapping areas of panel down centerline of vehicle.

Other options include cheaper semiflexible panels which may be fine even if last shorter time, polycarbonate backing panels and rivet mechanical mounting for better air circulation (cooler panels work better), rigid panels mounted on custom frame like kayak/surfboard lifts on side of fiberglass top, etc.
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Going Solar

2. Wattage

200 watts fixed on curved portion of roof is enough to boondock indefinitely to run fridge, bathroom Fantastic Fan, lights, recharge computer/toothbrushes/camera batteries, top off engine battery, etc.

Caveats include--use more stuff in afternoon when solar panels have already topped off coach batteries, orient vehicle solar panels in right direction (winter sun is lower), etc.

No big inverter use like microwave.

Rule of thumb is one solar watt per amp-hr of battery storage.

Can probably survive indefinitely with a portable 100 watt panel if move panel periodically during day.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:24 PM   #6
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Question Re: Going Solar

3. Mounting

For semiflexible panels, 3M Dual Lock (mushroom like Velcro around perimeter of panel and support strips for rest of panel works great. The Dual Lock allows the credit card thick semiflexible panels to curve nicely around the roof's compound curvature (otherwise, if glued the perimeter of solar panel, would get bunching/wrinkles).

A gap at the lowest point of solar panels to allow any moisture to drip out.

Front edge caulked with Lexel to prevent any wind lift.

Can remove panels if necessary and remount.

Permanent type double-sided tapes, adhesives, etc. Are a nightmare to remove (destroying panels in process).

For rigid glass panel (in lieu of Air Conditioner), look for plastic corner blocks which adhere to roof. Much more attractive than bent metal mounts. for example,

http://www.lowenergydevelopments.com...g-Brackets-Set

Another aesthetic option is rounded or triangular metal mounting frames used by one Westy owner--much nicer than square.

In all these examples, using adhesive.

Another possibility if want mechanical fasteners is a type of rivet mount with a polycarbonate panel support back for air circulation--see OneManVan.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: Going Solar

4. Controller

Put controller as close to batteries as possible for maximum charging of batteries.

Consider a controller which can also recharge engine battery (or look for a Trik-L-Start which siphons off from coach batteries to engine battery).

For smaller solar setups (less than 300-400 watts), MPPT is not better than PWM controllers (see Morningstar White Paper). MPPT controllers use energy to operate so worthwhile for larger setups where energy usage is offset by greater output.

Can also consider multiple small controllers.

Best name brand is Morningstar. Lots of different ones. Currently have the small 15 amp MPPT one for 200 watts of solar panel. Small size fits nicely under kitchen sink.

Next time, would go to larger size so can hookupna portable panel too.

HandyBobSolar points out that BogartEngineering now has a controllee.

Bogart has nice meter.

Do not use the Xantrex LinkLite meter (has really nice small size but problematic).
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:47 PM   #8
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Default Re: Going Solar

5. Wiring

Biggest deal is right size (gauge). Look at length of wiring run and voltage drop.

For bigger systems, can offset (go with thinner) wiring gauge by going with higher voltage solar panels and a controller which can handle higher voltages.

Also, same issue for wiring from controller to coach batteries.

For easiest if not aesthetic route, run through the air vent above upper kitchen cabinet.

For more aesthetic look, run through air conditioner cabinet, down corner in van body and then behind bottom kitchen cabinet.

Do not need a combiner box for 200 watts of solar panels--just run wires directly with connectors.

For portable panel options, one plug in option was located below large awning window on driver side near coach batteries. Another alternative is to retrofit telephone jack as a solar connection hookup.

OneManVan for smaller portable set up just uses existing 12 volt outlets (run wire through open skylight or rest right under skylight and plug into 12 volt outlet on upper kitchen cabinet. Can also plug into engine 12 volt outlets to recharge engine battery.
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Old 02-08-2016, 11:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: Going Solar

6. Other

Don't forget fuses.

Also, controller should be connected to temperature sensor to adjust controller voltage by temp of coach batteries (higher voltage into batteries when colder).

For long term, consider whether controller should be able to handle other types of batteries (gel, AGM, lithium) or not worth the hassle now.

DIY is a realistic option, especially with all the expertise of so many Westy owners.

If need more advanced help, HandyBobSolar (if available) and John Palmer in Florida both want you involved to understand how it works.

John Palmer installed a Morningstar SureSine inverter for me (and I helped watch and pull some wires).
His rates are ridiculously low (think he works more for fun). He also let me borrow tools, ladder, etc., for free on my DIY solar panel installation.

For most of my system (other than solar panels), I used AMSolar for the installation, but can only recommend with strong reservations/caveats re price, quality of work, and follow-up. For buying pieces of solar panel, they should be fine.

Northern Arizona Wind Sun was also fine to order stuff.

Can recommend bruceschwab.com highly for solar panels if willing to go the marine panel route.
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Old 02-08-2016, 11:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Going Solar

7. Storage

Mentioned in another thread but repeated here.

Even with a portable set uup, semiflexible panels are much thinner and lighter so easier to set up and store.

If don't use dining table, can use that storage for portable solar panel set up.

Other locations include back of bathroom wall behind rear doors, behind rear seat back, behnd front driver seat, etc.

8. Other Additional Thoughts

Solar panels come in lots of sizes to fit the curved roof area, on top of skylight?, beneath skylight resting on ledge?, in area instead of air conditioner, on side of vehicle?, etc.

Be interesting to see photos.

Check our German friends' website for photos of their solar installs.
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