Advice on solar power please

Discussion in 'Solar Power' started by peterc10, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    I am a newbie and am thinking of fitting a solar panel in my 2008 Adria Coral. I have been doing some research and and have come to some tentative conclusions, but would like some advice and comments please. I am aiming to DIY fit if it is easy enough.

    We are not keen wild campers but we would like to have the option of occasionally spending a night or two staying on Aires and other interesting places that may not have hook ups. Our power demands are not high. I guess a couple of hours TV and a couple of hours with 2 x 10W lights on at night, having the Truma heating on overnight sometimes, and enough power to fill a kettle and and each have a shower in the morning. We can do without mains powered appliances for the couple of nights at most we will not be on hook up.

    Panel size. I have guessed that we may need a 120W panel. But maybe a 100W one will do? There seems to be a step change in price between 100 and 120W. We have plenty of room on the roof so could go for either type. Any to avoid please? Is the size OK?

    Regulator. We have a Schaudt EBL226 distribution board and LT500 control panel and I would like something that will work with those so as to coordinate the power sources when we are on hook up and driving. The obvious choice is the Schaudt LR1218 which plugs in to the EBL226 and can use the display on the LT500 to show me what it is doing. This is a PWM regulator rather than an MPPT one. Does that matter for my needs? I think I would rather have a bigger panel with better integration than a smaller one with a better regulator. I don't like seeing odd aftermarket fitted display panels and I don't want to have to remember to switch things on or off when I am driving or hooking up.

    Battery. At the moment I have an 85Ah Gel battery that is over 5 years old I think. It seems OK, but then I have not stretched it much to date. Is that going to be OK? If not what should I replace it with? What capacity will I need? What is best - I can't see the need for traction batteries for what I am doing can you? I have read good comments on the Bosch S5 and S6 batteries. But I am not sure I will need a Gel battery (the S6 is).

    I apologise for so many questions but would welcome any help and advice you experts can give please.
     
  2. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    Two 10W lights could easily be two ONE watt LEDS.

    Schaudt do their own solar regulator.

    100W good in summer but not going to do a whole lot here in winter.
     
  3. simbadog

    simbadog Funster

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    We have a 100w panel & that works fine for us in most conditions, have done 6 days with no hook up, shows charge even in cloudy weather.
    That is to run the lighting which is all LED & the TV for 3 or 4 hours.
    We do run the fridge, heating & cooker off gas though.
     
  4. JeanLuc

    JeanLuc Funster

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    I would go for the LR1218 (that is what we have linked to a 130W Kyocera panel and an older EBL 99). Despite it being a PWM regulator rather than a MPPT model, I don't think you will be giving up very much additional performance on a single panel and for the usage you suggest. We have never had to hook up between the beginning of May and end of October. Typically we stay just a few nights at a time but often do not drive far enough between stops for a full recharge. The other advantage of the LR1218 is that it is a dual battery charger and connected to the EBL will also keep your starter battery fully charged when the van is stationary for extended periods - including winter.
    The instructions with the LR1218 are very clear and if you need any help, Udo Lang at Schaudt speaks excellent English and will respond to any emails.
    Udo.Lang@schaudt-gmbh.de

    Having said all that, I did not install ours myself but used a firm called Aire & Sun near Hexham. They were very good but their website seems to be out of action now.

    p.s. You don't need to use gel batteries - just get decent maintenance-free ones. We have 2 x 110 Ah Elecsols and they seem fine but I believe the firm has ceased trading. Any decent brand of 'leisure' battery should be OK for your needs - Banner, Varta etc. Despite most batteries being described as 'maintenance-free' I think it is a good idea to vent them in case a cell fails towards the end of its life. That can result in gassing (hydrogen) even though the charging voltage is perhaps only 14.4V.
    In my view, a second battery would be the first step (or two matched new ones in your case) before investing in a solar panel. Just remember to change the battery selector switch on the EBL if you move away from gel to standard flooded lead-acid batteries.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
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  5. iandsm

    iandsm Funster

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    Solar

    We have two 110 batteries and a single 80 panel. Many would say it's too small, however in the summer it provides enough for us and we regularly are "off mains" for ten days at a time. All our lights are converted to led and we don't use a TV.

    Of course, in the winter there eld be greater use of lights because of the dark evening, a little heater use and in your case tv so obviously you would probably taking more out of the batteries that you are putting in.

    I could have another 80 panel installed but so far we are managing fine for as long as we want in the summer, only just 2/3 days in the winter.
     
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  6. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    It always amazes me how helpful people on this forum are. 4 good replies within 10 minutes! And thanks to you all. Just some comments

    Brian (hilldweller) - I think the Schaudt one is the LR1218 that I mentioned. I am thinking about getting LEDs. Probably easy with the bed reading lights and they use MR11 type connectors and are such that I could easily fit an LED downlight. But the existing downlighters are very thin - not sure what I would use for them.

    Phillip (JeanLuc) - I have already emailed Udo yesterday after reading about his reputation for helping. I downloaded the instructions for the LR1218 and one of the things that I like is how easy it appears to fit it with the EBL. If I do get two batteries how should I wire them - presumably in parallel? Will the EBL still work OK with two batteries?

    Simbadog - I would run the heating and cooking off gas. But I still need the 12v to blow the hot air around and work the water pump. Does that take much?
     
  7. Minxy Girl

    Minxy Girl Funster Life Member

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    We have a 75w Alden solar panel and 2 x 110 amp leisure batteries, we wild camp or use aires (can't remember the last time we stayed on a site!) and having done 45 days in Germany/France in May/June (including the awful 3 weeks of atrocious weather and flooding!) and a month in Ireland in August/September we never went short of power.

    Before we had the solar panel we could easily last a good few days off hook-up and that was with standard bulbs in the lights (no LEDs then) and a standard TV and a video player which were power hungry.

    Personally, I'd first get a couple of good 110 amp batteries and see how you get on with them as, if you do what most people do on the continent and move every 2 days, and/or use a site as you've suggested, you shouldn't have any problems with meeting your power needs just from the energy pumped into the batteries from the engine battery as you drive along.
     
  8. lunarman

    lunarman Funster

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    If you want any help or information about Schaudt electroblok and solar panels these people are very knowledgable and helpful http://www.aandncaravanservices.co.uk/.

    If you phone or email they will give you advise without freely.

    Lunarman
     
  9. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    Minx - many thanks. What make of batteries do you recommend please? Also Gel or liquid?

    Is there any way of checking how much life is left in my battery please? If it was still OK I could just get another one. I know it will have to be Gel again, but can it be a different capacity and still work?
     
  10. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    Thanks. I have already come across those on the web. They are selling an LR1218 on ebay
     
  11. JeanLuc

    JeanLuc Funster

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    Two identical batteries should be wired in parallel. The EBL will cope perfectly well with two of around 100 Ah each - it will just take longer to charge them. If you really go for broke and fit an enormous battery bank, there is a supplementary Schaudt charger that connects to the EBL - basically a second charging module - but that is way beyond what you need (and it's expensive).
     
  12. JJ

    JJ Funster

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    My motorhome use is different to yours so what is vital to me is not to you but I say this...

    I can't see how fitting a solar panel can do you any harm and could, under certain circumstances, be very useful to have.

    I have as many panels and battery capacity as my wallet, roof area and payload can stand...


    JJ :Cool:
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  13. JeanLuc

    JeanLuc Funster

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    NO - absolutely not recommended! As your original battery is over five years old, don't be tempted to add another one to it. It is likely to be nearing the end of its life and it will drag down the performance of a new one. The standard recommendation is to fit two matched batteries of the same age.
     
  14. simbadog

    simbadog Funster

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    Have to say, we have never used the blower, not even sure if it works when not on hookup? Hmmm, will check that!
    Water pump will use almost nothing, would definitely suggest changing to LED bulbs though, makes a huge difference to power consumption.
     
  15. Minxy Girl

    Minxy Girl Funster Life Member

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    I can't remember what we have as they are 'buried' in the bottom of a locker and I'm stuck in bed at the moment poorly trying to keep myself amused with you lot on here! :BigGrin:

    You should use your existing old battery as if it is 'faulty' it will bring a new one down with it and shorten it's life, so I say you need to get 2 new lead acid batteries of the same size from the same manufacturer. Don't bother with gel as they are expensive and offer no real benefits for a standard motorhome - they are really meant to be used with vehicles/kit that could 'turn over' and have issues, such as a boat, quad bike, motorcycle etc ... so unless you are going to loop-the-loop with your MH you wont need them! As regards what make, Varta and Banner appear to be the better ones, but others funsters will have their own views on this.
     
  16. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    Yes, sorry about that, must learn to read more than one line.

    A picture of your downlighters might get you some help, opened up if poss. I have used some flat modules that give staggering light for just a pound or two. I fitted 3 as our main light and had to disconnect one because we were getting a sun tan. Similar to these....

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/T10-Car-I...arts_Vehicles_CarParts_SM&hash=item3cd5fb7fd1

    You say "have to use gel again". Gel is a problem if whatever you use to charge it does not have a gel setting. Good old wet is the easy option. Look to see if your Schaudt has a gel/wet switch before deciding.
     
  17. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    The Varta and Banner seem expensive. Does that make them better?? Cheaper are Lucas and Numax - has anybody has any experience of those please?
     
  18. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    Thanks again Brian. The Schaudt has a Gel setting which it is on at the moment. If I am going to keep the old one then I will need the same again. But the consensus so far is to get rid of it and buy two new ones, in which case I will definitely not go for Gel.
     
  19. Taran_Las

    Taran_Las Funster

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    Maybe of use if you're fitting them yourself here.
     
  20. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    Brian. They are not like that. They are swivel type downlighters with a 20W G4 halogen bulb in them. About 65mm diameter and 25mm thick. Three of them have their own switches whereas the others have remote switch. They are a bit like the low voltage downlighters I used to have in my kitchen.
     
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