Solar / Electrics

Our aim with power in the van was to be self sufficient, without plugging in anywhere, or using the alternator. That left using a generator, or solar. We opted for solar.


There's lots of information on the net about what you can and can't run from solar.  Much of it is wrong, but it's difficult picking the good from the bad.  A good place to start is HandyBob.  He uses solar more or less exclusively in his van.  We have utlised a lot of his information and found it to be good in practice.      


We use 2x 150 Ah AGM batteries (Ritar brand), wired in parallel. AGM's are expensive but don't need maintaing or ventilating to the same degree as 'wet' batteries.  We also put 475 watts of solar on the roof to keep them charged up, using a Morningstar Tristar 45 PWM controller.


We run a 12 volt dc 140 litre fridge, lights, TV, bed hoist, phone / computer chargers, a toaster, microwave, coffee machine, ceiling fan, media centre and PlayStation from the batteries.  We have a couple of inverters (380 watt pure sine wave, and 1200 watt modified sine wave). It is all monitored using a Trimetric 2025 battery monitor.


So far, despite cloudy days, and rain etc, we haven't dropped below 87% charged, and have always ended each day at 100% charged.  In the sun, we are fully charged by mid morning, and thats when we use the high draw items like the media centre / TV etc (which don't use a lot but are on for hours at a time).  On cloudy / wet days we are fully charged by mid afternoon.  We use the toaster / coffee machine whenever, and only lose a couple of percent battery charge. Generally, we are above 90 - 95% charged most of the time.  A hot night (25C +), with the fridge / fan / lights going all night leaves us at about 88 - 90% by morning.



Solar panels being glued / screwed to two aluminium box frames. This keeps the panels off the roof and air flowing under them keeps them cooler and more efficient



The 5 panels are wired together in parrallel on the roof, so heavy cable can be run to to the charge controller to minimise voltage drop and subsequent loss of power





Scaffolding certainly helps with the mounting process




Plenty of Sikaflex.  It took about 3 months for the paranoia to fade regarding them blowing off the roof on the freeway.  





All glued on!



Starting the wiring.  Everything goes through a catastophe fuse, then some circuit breakers, then a fuse box.  Just gets messier and messier!





It gets worse