Fitting a Solar Panel to an 07 Autotrail Cheyenne through Sargent EC325 Power Supply Unit

Discussion in 'Solar Power' started by Phil J., Feb 12, 2015.

  1. Phil J.

    Phil J. Funster

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    Today I fitted a solar panel to our 07 Autotrail Cheyenne 696 and thought the process might be a help to anyone else who wants a similar setup.
    This is a very simple as many Autotrails and other motorhomes are fitted with the Sargent EC325 power supply unit and can take a maximum of a 100W panel. Other models of Sargent units can take a panel so it’s worth checking if you have one and you want to fit one. The job is well within the scope of the average DIYer (and believe me I am average). However, the job is a lot easier with an assistant (my pal Trev!).


    Parts required (prices include postage):

    Ebay:

    Biard 100W Solar Panel £89.99

    End Mounting Brackets £19.99

    Biard MC4 Connectors £3.99

    Sikaflex 521 £12.99

    Feed Gland £6.95

    Sargent:

    Solar Connecting Lead for EC325 £12.35

    Total £146.26


    Tools and other items required:

    Drill

    Soldering iron

    Hole cutter

    Cleaner

    Corrosion resistant self tapping screws


    Prior to fitting the panel I fitted the end mounting brackets. This was a simple matter of offering the end bracket up to the panel, drilling one hole and putting one screw in to hold the bracket in position. Then drill the remaining holes and screw in the remaining corrosion resistant self tapping screws. Care should be taken not to drill the actual panel.

    The panel came with MC4 connectors fitted to the positive and negative leads so it was just a matter of fitting a pair to the Sargent connecting lead. This is very simple and only a low power soldering iron is required to solder the inner connectors to the leads. Confusingly, the panel had red positive and black negative leads but the connecting lead has brown positive and blue negative – ensure you fit the connectors on the correct leads.

    We are now ready for fitting the panel to the motorhome. Lift the panel into the most suitable position and carefully mark out the corner positions of the mounting brackets with a pencil. I ensured that the panel couldn’t be obscured by anything on the roof, e.g. satellite dome or ariel, etc. I also positioned mine so I could reach it through the large roof light in the lounge area for cleaning purposes, apparently one of the biggest causes of reduced solar panel performance is failure to keep them clean. Remove the panel complete with mountings from the roof. Clean the marked roof area thoroughly with Tcut, cutting compound or similar and final clean with mentholated spirits.

    Next, the end mountings should be temporarily removed and the mounting undersides given a scuff up with sandpaper (I used 80 grit) to improve adhesion and cleaned with the meths.

    Fit the Sargent connecting lead by the MC4 connectors to the panel – its a lot easier done at this stage and you can hide the connectors under the panel.

    Apply the Sikaflex to the mounting face of the end mountings and place the mountings on the area you marked on the roof. Clean of the excess Sikaflex and then refit the panel to the mountings with the self tappers.

    As I knew there would be too much cable on the Sargent lead I cut the the lead about 30cms (about a foot in old money) from the EC325 plug. This made it easier to thread the lead through the roof.

    Now for fitting the gland – carefully position and mark with pencil, clean with Tcut and meths in a position suitable for access to the Sargant power supply unit. Drill the hole using a hole cutter or suitable diameter drill. Scuff up and clean the underside of the gland as per the panel mountings.

    Thread the lead from the panel through the gland and Sikaflex the underside – thread the lead through the hole in the roof and place the gland in position. Clean off excess Sikaflex. You can see fromm the pictures I used a duel entry gland. I placed a short length of wire in the unused gland to a. seal the hole and b. give me something to tie to if I want to pull another lead through later.

    Now trim of the excess lead and rejoin the Sargent plug using a block connector – careful to connect blue to blue and brown to brown.

    Connect the plug into the dedicated socket on the bottom of the EC325. There’s only one and it can only be inserted in the correct position. I had to remove the EC325 from the wall as I tried to fit it with a mirror but there wasn’t enough space. It’s only held on with 4 screws and releasing it from the wall just a centimetre or two gave me enough extra space without removing or stressing the wiring to insert the plug.


    Hey presto, job done in a couple of hours! Nearest thing to scary was Trev's tea....and maybe releasing the EC325 from the wall but that was no problem at all in the end - and the best bit even on a dull Derbyshire day the panel is charging.

    I hope this helps anyone who is thinking of fitting a panel to a Sargent unit.

    Cheers
    Phil


    DSCF1483.JPG Panel with mountings fitted

    DSCF1485.JPG From left to right - MC4 connectors fited, gland with lead threaded through and wire in spare gland, Sargent lead with dedicated EC325 plug.

    DSCF1488.JPG Location for the panel

    DSCF1489.JPG One of the markings out for the mountings.

    DSCF1490.JPG Trev doing a bit of cleaning and polishing

    DSCF1492.JPG
    In position

    DSCF1493.JPG Gland fitted and wires threaded

    DSCF1494.JPG
    Sargent plug reconnected ready for plugging in. DSCF1495.JPG Panel fitted and ready to go
    DSCF1496.JPG Gland fitted and sealed.
     
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  2. dave newell lvs

    dave newell lvs Trader-Vehicle Services

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    I sincerely hope you did more than just clean the areas for Sikaflex, it needs to be abraded before final cleaning to enable proper adhesion. Other than that minor comment well done, tidy job.

    D.
     
  3. Phil J.

    Phil J. Funster

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    Cheers Dave. Yes I agree abrading will give extra adhesion. My friend Trev is also a caravan repairer and has fitted many panels without problem and felt the compounding and cleaning is sufficient on the roof area. Time will tell but, just in case, it's best for anyone else fitting a panel to do everything possible to ensure maximum adhesion.
    Great input Dave.
    Cheers
    Phil
     
  4. Dazzlin

    Dazzlin Funster Life Member

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    Just gave a quick clean with a rag on mine before sikflexing. Recently moved panels to roof rails and having some right probs getting old brackets off after just 12 months!
     
  5. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    I only abraid plastic parts, not a problem on aluminium, grp, gel coat or paint if Sika cleaner aktivator is used. No one has told me their panels have flown the coup :LOL:
     
  6. Lenny HB

    Lenny HB Funster

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    Neat job just a couple of points, a 100w panel is quite large would add a couple of centre support brackets. Also not keen on fixing with self tappers, I prefer to use nuts & bolts or rivet bushes, stainless steel self tappers should not be used as you get galvanic corrosion between aluminium & stainless steel the aluminium around the screw will corrode making the fixing very insecure.
     
  7. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    I disagree the frames are made to support the glass panel. They are not meant for walking on.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Lenny HB

    Lenny HB Funster

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    I would just rather play safe a lot of wind load on the panels travelling at 70mph into a headwind.
     
  9. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    That photo of mine is two years old on the 15th , they are going nowhere.

    Except where the van goes :LOL:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
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  10. Lenny HB

    Lenny HB Funster

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    image.jpg Used six aluminium brackets on each panel that allow the panels too be removed easily they were a bit expensive but very easy to get a panel off if needed.
     
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  11. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    You have a very nice roof Len (y)
    Yes I normally use alloy angle but on my van (above) four of the brackets were existing so I bought two more and three new panels.
    I mask off as much as possible to make it easier & cleaner removing surplus adhesive
    [​IMG]
    In the unlikely event of replacing a panel I just drill out the rivets.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    The brackets I make now incorporate a pan head screw which automatically ensures the recommended (minimum) thickness of Sikaflex
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
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  13. Lenny HB

    Lenny HB Funster

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    Thanks van was only a few weeks old when I took that photo.
    I was going to make my own brackets but couldn't be bothered, was going to buy cheap ones & drill rivets out if needed to remove panel but decided to get the ones I used before. Cost over £60 for the 12 brackets, one part fixes to the roof other to the panel, one screw to undo to separate.
     
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  14. musson

    musson Funster

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    Hi
    I watched the guy fit my panel and sat dome,he did not use any abrasive to the roof just cleaned done with wipes,
    he did however fit 4 self tappers one in each foot on the done,(covered head with sikaflex )he said he had known them come of roof.When I changed MH I left all brackets and feet on MH.

    I refitted them to my new MH with no issues,I do have the center feet on my 100watt panel
     
  15. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    Unfortunately my first dome was installed by a German dealer and they too put a screw through each mounting foot. Had I fitted it I would not have done that as it is a completely unnecessary perforation x4 into a less that half a millimetre thick roof skin beneath the anti hail coat of my Rapido. The mounting feet are plastic and should be abraided prior to cleaning and adhesive. The relatively huge surface area of the four mounting feet will render them impossible to ever remove. Dome manufacturers make a second set of feet that screw to the glued set so that a dome can be easily transfered from one van to another but these are rarely used as it is easier to just buy a new set of plates if transfering one.
     
  16. jtp890

    jtp890 Funster

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    Dazzlin, is there a connection on the dethleff control module? Wondered how you wired in yours.
     
  17. Phil J.

    Phil J. Funster

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    We've done 80 miles over the weekend and it's still solid on the roof thank goodness! It's done a great job charging over the weekend even with very limited sun.
    All the parts purchased and the fitting method was based on the best advice I could get from other motorhomers, technicians and, of course, the internet.
    Many people will have different opinions about the best way to fit, etc. but this appears to have worked for me and the main purpose of my post was to say that the operation is well within the scope of most diyers.
    Cheers
    Phil
     
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  18. Tom A

    Tom A Funster

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    Great bit of advice.
    We pick our Bessacarr up on Friday and think it as the same control panel. If so will a solar panel charge habitation and cab battery ?
     
  19. Phil J.

    Phil J. Funster

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    The sargeant EC325 charges both habitation and cab battery if a solar panel is fitted directly to the EC325.
     
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