Solar install and van refit
We volunteered to help Ken and Liz to put some solar panels on their van and trailer to help them freecamp for a bit longer without using a generator. They’ve got a 2005 VW, which is an ex rental in various shades of blue. The plan is to put 375 watts of panels up, through a Tristar 45 controller, and a Trimetic 2025 battery monitor. At the moment, they know the batteries are flat when the lights go out, which isn’t ideal, so hopefully they’ll have a better idea of how much power is left and be able to protect the batteries a bit better.
Once we had a look at the existing wiring it was pretty clear it needed doing again. The alternator charging is done through a solenoid at the front, using light 8AWG cable and a 10AWG earth return, with no fuses or circuit breakers. The fridge isn’t vented and is running on speaker cable about 6 metres from the battery, so it runs continuously due to the voltage drop. Most of the other wiring was very small gauge, with only three fuses in the van. We decided there was not point in doing much until that was rectified. Luckily I’m not paying!
The first job was replacing the alternator charge wire with 4AWG (+ve and –ve), and fusing both ends with 100 amp fuses. A fuse box was installed, and all circuits fused appropriately, and wire sizes increased. The inverter had a circuit breaker added. We also wired up the battery monitor, which worked well.
Once the wiring was improved, and fuses and circuit breakers included, Liz decided she doesn’t like bending down to use the fridge and could it be moved higher off the ground. And so it began. A full refit. The fridge moved to the other side of the van, and lifted 450mm off the floor. Original cupboards removed and new ones built. And of course, the old fridge might as well be replaced! Typically, it became clear that the fridge door wasn’t going to open in its new position because of the cupboards opposite. So the airconditioner needed to be moved so the corner of the cupboard could be chopped off. Which needed new bench tops of course. So that’s where we’re at right now.
The next stage is fitting the fridge and new bench tops. More photos to follow when thats done :)
Well, we've been making progress with the van. New cupboards have been built, and the fridge is in and working. One of the solar panels is up on the van roof (the other two are going on the trailer), and it is recharging the battery each day. There aren't many loads on the batteries at the moment, but they should cope well once all three are up and running. There is also a new flooring - stick on vinyl tiles whicha have come up well.
Just got some finishing up to do before we head off. We need to finish off a new sofa and sort out the other solar panels. And then we are done. Finally!
The van has satellite TV, and the receiver box is now permanently wired into a cupboard, and an antenna connection point mounted outside, rather than trapsing the cables through the van
The two bench seats are being amended to allow seating across the back of the van. This will make it a bit easier to sit around in the evenings
Well, we finally finished the van. It looks quite good. The sofa may well get recovered to all be the same colour, but for now its covered in sheets! The other two solar panels went on the trailer and connect up using Anderson plugs. Should be set for almost continuous power on the road now.
We've since headed off to my uncle's in Brisbane for a week and will be on our way south soon. The details are here.