I've got a Solar Headache

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by Brakers, Apr 6, 2016.

  1. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Kiddiewinks

    Hope you are all well and rested from last weekends trip in your motorhome.

    The question I have today is about Solar Panels and the installation and experience you have of such. I myself have a 100watt solar panel on my motorhome, the current setup is that the ECU can coupe with a single 100watt panel without modification.

    I am considering putting two 150watt panels on my motorhome with two or three batteries and and inverter and removing the 100Watt one,

    I’m assuming that I could not just add a 150watt panel to the existing one and even if I could the age of the old panel means that the output is likely to have dropped to some extent.

    I have been reading up on panels and it seems the mono-crystalline panel tends to get the thumbs up.

    The price varies way too much and the specification does not give you any indication why you should buy the dearer one, apart from the fact that they say they are better made etc.

    Obviously people will say you get what you pay for, and that is true to a large extent but sometimes you are paying for the name of a company, and you could get a similar product from a reputable supplier cheaper, which would work and last just as well if not better.

    I have joined Which on a trial month that does a solar company check on how they produce panels and the quality control etc, but this is mainly dealing with house or business panels and although I searched for panels made by the top rated company, I can’t find any relation to panels for the leisure people, so that was a waste of time that was.

    So if you good people could give me your experience on your set up and batteries and usage, also what make of panel and wattage you went for, that would help me no end.

    Also any good reputable fitting companies near me in Eastleigh (Nr. Southampton) which you may of used or been recommended by someone.

    Many Thanks and Best Wishes Tony
     
  2. chaser

    chaser Funster

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  3. Boringfrog

    Boringfrog Funster

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    Don't know what you mean when you say "your ECU can only cope with 100watts"? Do you mean!your regulator/solar controller?
     
  4. Taran_Las

    Taran_Las Funster

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    I have a Biard 100w & Solarventa 50 watt panel. A MPPT solar controller same as this and two 110amp/hr batteries. I have a small 300watt pure sine wave inverter for charging laptop, tablet, tooth brush etc. (All other devices are 12volt) I also have a CBE CSBII to direct charge to my cab battery.

    All the above have been on the van over 3 years now and so far I have been more than happy with them.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  5. tonka

    tonka Funster Life Member

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    I think, means the PSU unit.... Later Sargent PSU boxes have inbuilt solar regulators and depending on the model can either take a 100 or 120w panel direct into them.. The one in my Autotrail (EC500) takes a 120w panel and will "smart charge" to both leisure and engine batteries. Only needs the panel and a connecting lead... If I want anymore than 120w I would need to use a seperate regulator / split charge.
     
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  6. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    I would go for the rigid panel with the glass top face rather than flexible as I have seen the flexible ones go very opaque in the sun which surely must reduce the efficiency.

    Also make sure you go MPPT on the regulator, two 150 watt panels should give you a decent charge even when there is not that much sun, two 110 Ah batteries especially if they are good ones will cope with an inverter but depending what you want to run of the inverter you may need more battery capacity, no point in carrying around more battery than needed as they are heavy (especially good ones).

    Martin
     
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  7. DanielFord

    DanielFord Funster

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    We have a 150w panel on the roof and 2 x 100ah leisure batteries, which seems more than adequate for our needs, it was fitted by @eddievanbitz and came with all the necessary gubbins, including a battery master to top up the cab battery.
     
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  8. Cavs

    Cavs Funster

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    I recommend Southdowns at Portsmouth for good work and excellent service.
     
  9. John Laidler

    John Laidler Funster

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    Before you lash out on new solar panels do you need the extra power? If you're new to motorhoming I suggest stick with what you've got and see how you get on.

    If you want an inverter to run a hair dryer and perhaps a microwave then you may need 300W on the roof otherwise I'm not sure you will.

    And from my understanding there isn't a huge difference between panels from different manufacturers. Most of them are made in China.

    Monocrystalline is slightly more efficient so the panels will be slightly smaller for the same power output compared to polycrystalline but the difference between modern panels isn't huge.
     
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  10. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    I have the EC325 which I was told stands for Electronic Control, So I said the ECU meaning the Electronic Control Unit, and in the manual it says you can install a 100Watt solar panel without any modification, it does not mention the PSU but that does not mean that it's not the PSU that is the limiting factor. Sorry if that was a bit confusing.
    Best Wishes Tony
     
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  11. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Thanks for that, yes prudent words, I not sure about the solar yet, I like to get lots of info way before I decide, I'm not one to jump into thing and spend money willy nilly, but I do know I will need more batteries as went to the NEC last week and the heater started giving me trouble "red flashing light" manual said low power. so another battery or so might just sort that out.
    Best Wishes Tony
     
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  12. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Taran Thanks for that yes it's all helpfull and the fact that you are running two different wattage panels together might mean I can keep the one I've got and add another one.
    I always say the best info you can get is from people who have had experience in different types of setup and can impart their knowlage it to others.
    Thank you Best Wishes Tony
     
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  13. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Tonka You could be correct in your assumption, as I've said above I have a EC325 and I was told that stands for Electronic Control, So I said the ECU meaning the Electronic Control Unit, and in the manual it says you can install a 100Watt solar panel without any modification, it does not mention the PSU but that does not mean that it's not the PSU that is the limiting factor. I'm not technical so I might get it wrong, sorry if I've missled anyone, and thanks for your input.
    Best Wishes Tony
     
  14. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Martin Thats a thought, I did not think of that, I'm sure your right that anything that goes opaque will reduce the light getting to it, not sure if they have overcome that or not. As you say you don't want to carry around more batteries than you need but how do you tell a good battery, the company which supplied my motorhome put a new 110Ah battery on it, but I don't know if it's a good one or for want of a better word a cheapy. Is it just on price or is there a way to tell?
    Best Wishes Tony
     
  15. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Danial Thanks for the input, could you please tell me what you would normally run on this set-up, do you watch TV alot and do you go wild camping quite often?
    Best Wishes Tony
     
  16. Brakers

    Brakers Funster Life Member

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    Hi Cavs Thanks for that, they are fairly near to me, did they fit your solar panels, and if so did they do it while you wait or did you have to leave it with them for the day. I ask as I am on my own and have no one to pick me up and drop me back.
    I do know some dealers have loan cars.
    Best Wishes Tony
     
  17. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    Hi Tony

    Weight is a pretty good indicator of a quality battery a 100ah or 110ah should be around 28kg, I have a bit of a thing about GEL batteries as our van came with them when it was 6 years old and I believe they were/are original fit, we have been running these for another 4 years with 320watts of solar charging them and a 2000 watt inverter trying to flatten them, ours are EXIDE G80/ES900 which are rated as 80ah but that is at a 5hr discharge rate, they are 100ah when measured on the more normal 20hr rate.
    I recently bought 2 more of these in Germany as they are a lot cheaper there and I thought ours were going off but it turned out that they just needed a good charge as we had been off hook up and had a lot of cloudy days I could no throw the old ones away so I broke all the rules and fitted the two new ones in the standard position and then wired the old ones back in through an isolator if I want to switch them out. I am well pleased with this set up as I can run the microwave on the inverter for 4 minutes and the batteries show around 12.4/12.5 volts on load and straight back to 12.9/13 Volts off load.

    I you have GEL you need to make sure your chargers are capable of being set to GEL.

    Others will have different opinions of course so I wish you the best of luck making up your mind.

    Martin
     
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  18. DanielFord

    DanielFord Funster

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    We have a 12v TV which uses about 1 amp when in use, and we do use it a lot, we have a young daughter who loves watching telly. We run all the normal things, blown air, lights etc. Also we have an inverter so we also use the microwave and a pod coffee machine.
    We do stop in places without hookup and don't have any issues, I posted a thread up recently about a little experiment I did with the power set up here:
    http://www.motorhomefun.co.uk/forum...ew-gadgets-and-solar-power-experiment.128170/
     
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  19. Cavs

    Cavs Funster

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    Hi Tony,
    They have just fitted solar panels for me while doing other work, so they've had the van for several days - I picked it up only on Tuesday so I haven't any experience of using the solar yet, but the installation looks professional from the bits I can see inside. I don't know whether they normally give a loan car, but Hilsea railway station is just round the corner from their service place and is on the same line as Eastleigh.
     
  20. Minxy Girl

    Minxy Girl Funster Life Member

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    All I suggest you do at the moment is fit another matched battery, easy to do yourself so no need for paying out for others to do it. We run a single 60w panel and 2 x 95 amp batteries and haven't run out yet, in our previous PVC we had a 75w panel and 2 x 100 amp batteries and had more power than we knew what to do with!

    Your existing 100w panel, even if it is a few years old, will still be doing a good job as they don't lose much generating capacity even after 20 years I believe, so adding an extra battery means you will be able to store the extra power that you can't at the moment, if you then find you still need more power simply add another panel to your set-up but I doubt you'll need do.
     
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