Solar panels ! Who has installed them on a Vista Cruiser MB.

bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
I'm hoping to get at least 400 watts of solar panels up on the roof of my 2004 Vista Cruiser MB. Looks like I have about 57" front to back and 55" - 60" side to side. Hoping to find a solution that does not involve drilling holes in my roof. Anyone been down this road with one of our vans?

Brian in Austin
 

NewfD90

Member
I too, wanted a no drill solution and opted for a cheap 200W flex solar panel taped down with that uber sticky mobile home roof tape. It stayed on there good enough. Attachment wasn't the problem - quality was. It died in less than a year.

Regardless of the attachment method, you've still got to drill a hole for the cable.

I gave up on the cheap crap and went with a Renogy 160W rigid aluminum framed panel with their attachment feet. I put 3M VHB tape between the feet and the van roof, and then used self tapping and rubber washer metal roof screws. I also bedded them down in silicone. No leaks, no problems almost 2yrs later. I'm using an MPPT controller and get close to 10A in direct sun. More than enough to run the fridge (~4.5A) and charge the batteries. Speaking of which, I just went to 2 AGM golf cart batteries and that just about doubled my capacity to 225Ah.

The panel I used was 58.3x26.5in and it fit nicely between the A/C, bathroom vent and forward opening vent. It looks like Renogy's latest is a good 7" shorter. Might could have fit one more if I'd have eliminated the HDTV antenna, but I didn't want to.
 

Saturn949

Member
I install 100W only. I checked that i could fit single 160W panel but did not want to as some time on rough roads vibration can be too bad and this can be too much stress larger frame. Here is the picture on my roof. Remember to have air gap for air to flow under panel for panel cooling and not to heat up your roof and sealing inside the van.IMG_20181015_144826515_HDR.jpg
 

bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
I too, wanted a no drill solution and opted for a cheap 200W flex solar panel taped down with that uber sticky mobile home roof tape. It stayed on there good enough. Attachment wasn't the problem - quality was. It died in less than a year.

Regardless of the attachment method, you've still got to drill a hole for the cable.

I gave up on the cheap crap and went with a Renogy 160W rigid aluminum framed panel with their attachment feet. I put 3M VHB tape between the feet and the van roof, and then used self tapping and rubber washer metal roof screws. I also bedded them down in silicone. No leaks, no problems almost 2yrs later. I'm using an MPPT controller and get close to 10A in direct sun. More than enough to run the fridge (~4.5A) and charge the batteries. Speaking of which, I just went to 2 AGM golf cart batteries and that just about doubled my capacity to 225Ah.

The panel I used was 58.3x26.5in and it fit nicely between the A/C, bathroom vent and forward opening vent. It looks like Renogy's latest is a good 7" shorter. Might could have fit one more if I'd have eliminated the HDTV antenna, but I didn't want to.
I'm surprised to hear that the 160 watt keeps your fridge running and batteries charged. That may be the way to go and keep things simple. Any chance of some pics of your roof, electronics bay, and where you put your two AGM batteries? Sounds like you were possibly south of $1000 on the total set up?
 

NewfD90

Member
With a MPPT solar controller, I generally see a bit over 10A at noon. Fridge draws ~4.5A - duty cycle is highly dependent. So generally no problems. If I run into a few cloudy days, there’s the generator and alternator.

We’re currently on the road, so getting roof pics isn’t possible, and the bike drawers in the garage are preventing access to the batteries. But, the golf cart batteries just barely fit with original enclosure removed.

I’ll try to get some pics when we return home next month.
 

bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
With a MPPT solar controller, I generally see a bit over 10A at noon. Fridge draws ~4.5A - duty cycle is highly dependent. So generally no problems. If I run into a few cloudy days, there’s the generator and alternator.

We’re currently on the road, so getting roof pics isn’t possible, and the bike drawers in the garage are preventing access to the batteries. But, the golf cart batteries just barely fit with original enclosure removed.

I’ll try to get some pics when we return home next month.
I Would love to see your bike drawer set up as well. I bought a folding electric (Sondors Fold X7) and it fits in the garage,...but it weighs 75 pounds and after double hernia surgeries, I would prefer to have a lighter (mountain) bike back there. additionally, the battery is good for 25 miles, then takes about 4 hours to recharge on 110 volt.
 

NewfD90

Member
OK, got some pictures of everything. Drawer is simple, but tailored for road bikes. A few $$ in lumber and the most expensive thing was the long drawer pulls. I had some gym flooring that I glued to each sheet of plywood for cushion. Only the front wheel must be removed. It's served us quite well over many, many miles. Keeps the bikes secure and out of the elements. We still have plenty of space for all the other required stuff.

Also included a pic of the dual golf-cart AGMs. As you can see, with the Progressive Dynamic charger, cut-off switch, shunt for power monitor and Trik-L-Start, there's barely enough room. But it all fits well enough.
 

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bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
OK, got some pictures of everything. Drawer is simple, but tailored for road bikes. A few $$ in lumber and the most expensive thing was the long drawer pulls. I had some gym flooring that I glued to each sheet of plywood for cushion. Only the front wheel must be removed. It's served us quit!e well over many, many miles. Keeps the bikes secure and out of the elements. We still have plenty of space for all the other required stuff.

Also included a pic of the dual golf-cart AGMs. As you can see, with the Progressive Dynamic charger, cut-off switch, shunt for power monitor and Trik-L-Start, there's barely enough room. But it all fits well enough.
OH! I was thinking slides with mountain bikes standing vertically! Couldn't imagine how that would work. Never considered laying the bikes down. Hmmm. Great idea. yes, your cabinet is a bit crowded now, Where is your charge controller? Is that the original inverter in the pic? Thanks for posting the pics. Also curious, are you still using the OE water heater?
 
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NewfD90

Member
I would have preferred vertical, but didn’t want to have to lower the seats every time. The water heater is now an electric tank unit sitting to the left of the drawers. You can see it in pic 2. Solar charge controller is mounted in the middle cabinet so I can check the display from inside. The Progressive Dynamic (PD-9165 I think) is an upgrade. I have a small 600W inverter mounted inside between the mattress and cabinet to power the few AC items we use when off grid (LCD TV, AppleTV, milk frother).
 

bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
I would have preferred vertical, but didn’t want to have to lower the seats every time. The water heater is now an electric tank unit sitting to the left of the drawers. You can see it in pic 2. Solar charge controller is mounted in the middle cabinet so I can check the display from inside. The Progressive Dynamic (PD-9165 I think) is an upgrade. I have a small 600W inverter mounted inside between the mattress and cabinet to power the few AC items we use when off grid (LCD TV, AppleTV, milk frother).
Thanks for sharing your set up. Does your single panel keep your AGMs charged, fridge running? Do you have things wired so that once the house batteries are charged, your system will charge your starting battery?
 

bcolins

2004 158" Vista Cruiser
Oh, yes saw that there,...thought it might be a soft start for roof AC when using external generator. I remember reading about the Trikl Start now. Thanks.
Brian in Austin
 

greybush

New member
Anyone have any insight on cable routing for solar? I have only owned my Vista for a few months, so I haven't really dug into it, but I am concerned about how I am going to get power cables from the roof all the way back to the garage.
 

NewfD90

Member
I routed my cable to the back of the van, drilled through the roof and routed it down the inside of the trim pieces on the passenger side rear pillar. I used marine grade 10/2 stranded cable and grommets where the holes in the roof are. I used eternabond roof sealant tape over the cable. Been a couple years now and no leaks. Very pleased with the MPPT controller I bought.

Here's my Amazon shopping list:


On a side note, I have an older Tri-metric battery monitor, and while it works fine, I wanted to remotely monitor the vans batteries (2x6v 225Ah golf cart batteries) during the winter when it doesn't get driven. To that end, I installed a Thornwave Powermon (https://www.thornwave.com/collectio...ucts/bluetooth-battery-monitor-dc-power-meter). Excellent bit of kit! I installed it in parallel with the Tri-metric (using the same shunt). I was hopeful the Bluetooth would reach inside the house, but not quite. So, I put a Raspberry Pi in the van and wrote some Python to decode the bluetooth data, store it in a RRDTool database and generate a webpage. Works great! The added benefit of the RPI is that it, coupled with an SSD drive is also the Van's Plex Entertainment server.
 

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greybush

New member
I routed my cable to the back of the van, drilled through the roof and routed it down the inside of the trim pieces on the passenger side rear pillar. I used marine grade 10/2 stranded cable and grommets where the holes in the roof are. I used eternabond roof sealant tape over the cable. Been a couple years now and no leaks. Very pleased with the MPPT controller I bought.

Here's my Amazon shopping list:


On a side note, I have an older Tri-metric battery monitor, and while it works fine, I wanted to remotely monitor the vans batteries (2x6v 225Ah golf cart batteries) during the winter when it doesn't get driven. To that end, I installed a Thornwave Powermon (https://www.thornwave.com/collectio...ucts/bluetooth-battery-monitor-dc-power-meter). Excellent bit of kit! I installed it in parallel with the Tri-metric (using the same shunt). I was hopeful the Bluetooth would reach inside the house, but not quite. So, I put a Raspberry Pi in the van and wrote some Python to decode the bluetooth data, store it in a RRDTool database and generate a webpage. Works great! The added benefit of the RPI is that it, coupled with an SSD drive is also the Van's Plex Entertainment server.

Thanks for the write-up! I am planning on removing my TV antenna so I can fit another panel up front, and for some reason I was thinking I would re-use the hole from the antenna, but running the cables along the roof makes so much more sense.

I just bought my G24 fairly recently and I got a great deal on it, so I'm planning to splurge on the battery/solar. I'm in the planning stages now, so I'm just trying to put together a plan and a budget.

I'm not going full van-life, but I do plan on working from the road quite a bit which means I will need to power a laptop and a second monitor for 8 hours during the day. I also need to power the fridge and the fan too, so I am shooting for 200 watts of solar and 200 ah of batteries. My generator is in good condition, so I can use that to run the A/C and the water heater and charge the batteries in a pinch.

I do like the idea of being able to monitor the battery remotely; I use an old android phone to capture data in my home brewery, maybe I can cobble together something similar for my Vista.
 
See my Youtube video at:
1800 Watts on my van roof. Held them down with 3M VHB RP62 tape on aluminum L bracket. Very strong.
Used five Sunpower X22-360 panels
 

TinManKC

Member
See my Youtube video at:
1800 Watts on my van roof. Held them down with 3M VHB RP62 tape on aluminum L bracket. Very strong.
Used five Sunpower X22-360 panels
You mention you are using a Tesla model 3 battery. What’s the size of the battery and where does it get stored? How much storage does,the battery provide? Thx!
 
You mention you are using a Tesla model 3 battery. What’s the size of the battery and where does it get stored? How much storage does,the battery provide? Thx!
The Tesla Model 3 battery is about 6 x 2 x .5 feet, 250 pounds, 20 KWH, 96 VDC. It runs my all-electric van. This battery can output 20KW, enough to power two 6KW inveerters.
 
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TinManKC

Member
The Tesla Model 3 battery is about 6 x 2 x .5 feet, 250 pounds, 20 KWH, 96 VDC. It runs my all-electric van. This battery can output 20KW, enough to power two 6KW inveerters.
Nice, what’s the best source of such? Where did you mount the battery on your T1N?
 

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