Solar panel for dummies

Discussion in 'Solar Power' started by redchad, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. redchad

    redchad Read Only Funster

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    Hi dont know anything about the subjet so looking for advice, i was recently in Spain and got chatting to a couple in a motorhome who were touring for the winter. They advised solar panels as a must have.

    We plan on setting off into Europe in April and researching the solar panel subject seems pretty complicated, so can anyone advise what size panels for a 4 berth 2 occupants our water heater & cooker runs off gas only so only looking at lighting, laptop phones & maybe a 12v TV.

    next question is where in the northwest can i get one fitted.
     
  2. Wildman

    Wildman Read Only Funster

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    80W plus a pair of 110 amp/hr batteries good, 120W even better. it really depends on thwe amount of amp/hrs of battery power you use TV/laptop etc. Also how often you move on if you sit in one place for weeks then 120 would suit you better or even a pair of 80W. You cannot have too much.
     
  3. Reallyretired

    Reallyretired Funster

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    What you need relates more to time of year that you will need it. An 80w should be plenty in the summer but in the winter especially running blown air heating you might need 400w+ as the low sun produces much less energy.

    Invariably whatever you do will be a compromise as 400+w in the summer will produce over 30A in ideal conditions and getting a regulator over 30A is not easy or cheap. Their is also the question of weight which will be in the region of 10-15kg per 100w.

    For use outside the winter period then it is great, and once you've forked out the initial cost the energy is free:BigGrin:
     
  4. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    One thing often overlooked is just exactly what spaces you have that are suitable on your roof.
    This is both by dimensions and clear of sliding hekis or aerials etc that may cast a shadow
     
  5. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Presumably you managed before you got chatting .. ?

    Are you now planning on a lot of off site camping with stays of longer than a couple of nights .. ?

    If not then I see no need.. In three years full time touring I never had them and never found I needed them.. but then again I prefer aires and sites with EHU and when free camping only every stopped for one night.

    For emergencies I carried a 2kw Honda genny .. but if truth be told it was hardly ever used.. so I sold it..
     
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  6. Stewart J

    Stewart J Funster

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    Lot of good info on this site:-

    http://www.aireandsun.co.uk/guides___datasheets.php

    If your confident enough buy a kit and fit it yourself you'll find motorhome kits on the website. There are cheaper kits on Ebay but perhaps not as efficient as Kyocera panels.

    He fitted our panel and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending him. He has an arrangement with the Caravan camping site at Bellingham, Northumberland (Keilder Forest area) so you could have a holiday in this lovely area and have it fitted on site.

    We often rally off ehu, have 2 x 110ah leisure batteries run a tv, sat system and lighting without worrying about battery charge levels as well as phone and computer charging.

    I did post on a forum asking much the same as you prior to having ours fitted, one poster told me to buy the biggest panel I could afford/would fit in the available space and I took that onboard fitting a 135w unit and I've no regrets.
     
  7. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    I try to promote diy with pictures. I've posted this info on a number of forums.
    You can take or leave as much of it as you like as there are more ways to skin a cat.


    For this task
    You'll need some aluminium angle 60mm x 40mm x 3mm x 1 metre or equivalent
    set square
    hacksaw
    file
    drill
    tape measure
    pencil
    rivet gun
    4mm rivets
    4mm hss drill bit
    5mm tap
    5mm set screws

    This is the third set of brackets I've made so far. I've used 60mmx40mmx3mm angle as I came by it handy like :lol:
    A metre length of this stuff or similar can usually be bought for under a tenner, Ebay is good for this but plus P&P
    Closest I've found is 2.5"x1.5"x1/8" x1M for about £14 delivered.
    Previously I've fitted 60 watt and 80 watt panels which require 4 brackets each and so only 1 set screw needed for each one. In this instance I've made brackets for 2 x 30 watt panels that will only require 1 bracket at each end and so I've fitted 2 set screws to keep them level. These are 5mm and I used a 4mm hss drill bit followed by a 5mm tap both driven through using a battery drill. You can use anything similar to achieve this or just a spacer.
    Sikaflex 512 adhesive requires a MINIMUM thickness of 2mm and the set screws guarantee this will be acheived. I use the thickness of the brackets 3mm as in picture 3 to guage this.
    These particular brackets are 200mm long and the panel ends (to be illustrated next) are 445 mm wide.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Attaching to the panels to follow...........



    These brackets are being used on 2x30watt panels. The reason for using this configuration rather than a 60 watt is purely due to space constraints.
    These measure only 445 wide by 540 long so will fit in the narrow stip between the sun roof and the van edge.
    pic 1 a bracket drilled and riveted to a panel end. I use rivets because they wont come undone but can be easily drilled out should a panel need replacing.
    [​IMG]
    pic 2 panels laid out simulating how they will be on the roof
    [​IMG]
    pic 3 male & female branch connectors to couple the 2 panels in parallel ready to go to regulator or another panel
    [​IMG]

    USING MC4 CONNECTORS
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    You will need these plus Sikaflex adhesive (512) and cartridge gun
    [​IMG]
    Position panels and mark the footprints of the brackets
    [​IMG]
    Clean the areas and underside of brackets with Sikaflex 205 cleaner primer
    [​IMG]
    Adjust set screws to give a MINIMUM of 2mm spacing I prefer 3 to 4mm
    [​IMG]
    Apply plenty of adhesive
    [​IMG]
    Position panels and press down firmly
    [​IMG]
    Clean off excess and smooth off
    [​IMG]
    Leave overnight to set
    [​IMG]

    Autotrail Grand Frontier
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Ace Genova
    [​IMG]
    Multiple entry box used to facilitate rear view camera cable at a later date or a satellite dish
    [​IMG]

    Don't be defeated by cheap rubbish cartridge guns like sold at B&Q etc! I had one break on me and caused real inconvenience.
    I recommend this (no connection with me) just the best
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/110781338...AX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649#ht_500wt_1180
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
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  8. jezport

    jezport Funster

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    Can I ask why people use the crimp on MC4 connectors when as against soldering the cables and then sealing them? I have never liked putting connectors on which could oxidise over time.
     
  9. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    They are a purpose made outdoor weather proof connector so should not oxidise.
    No one says you cant do it your way.
     
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  10. eddievanbitz

    eddievanbitz Trader - Funster

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    First question that we ask is " Will you have hook up most of the time" If the answer is "Yes" Then you don't need panels.

    Next question is "if there is no hook up would you stay more than a couple of days in one spot? if the answer is "No" Then you don't need panels

    Then we ask, "Will you be travelling in the Winter in the UK" If the answer is "Yes" then you don't need panels (No point they won't work LOL)

    Lots of people drive around with panels on their roof's that are pointless, other than a conversation piece and the ability to get their own back on Newbies and say "Oh you must get a solar panel"

    In the Northern Hemisphere panels work very well in the Summer when you use little or no power as you outside all day and are useless in the depth of winter when your power usage is at it's highest!

    Yes we do import Alden panels, yes we sell Alden panels to lots of dealers, and yes we sell and install lots of panels, but at least we sleep well knowing that out normal advice of "try it first and see if you actually have a power problem" saves lots of people forking out for things that simply do not work in the Winter in the UK and work moderately well in the Spring and Autumn and work very well in the Summer when you USE NO POWER:Rofl1:

    Eddie
     
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  11. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    We have two x 80w panels and two x 110amp batts.
    In summer in the UK we stay on CL/CS's at £5/6 a night with no hook up from mid April till mid October.
    We have stayed for up to a fortnight in one place.
    We had a week at Mytholeroyd and it rained almost all the time but we still got enough power to keep us going. Alan (Laneside) who lives near there offered to loan us his gennie if needs be, we did not need it.
    So for us yes they are not cheap to have fitted but we recoup the cost in site fees. :thumb:
     
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  12. jezport

    jezport Funster

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    Cheers, just wondered why
     
  13. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Couldn't agree more Eddie , :thumb:

    basically what I was saying in my last post ...
     
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  14. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    It's as much a question of value for money. If you can do it yourself it's excellent value, if you need a dealer it could smart a bit :Laughing:
     
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  15. CHRI$

    CHRI$ Funster

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    100% agree:thumb:
    Was at the five day whenbury meet,and noticed alot of vans fitted with solar panals needed the use of machnical energy:Rofl1:
     
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  16. knokinonabit

    knokinonabit Funster

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    I have been thinking of having solar panels fitted and was agonising between need and want.

    After reading the advice on this thread I realise that I wanted them rather than needed them. I will be fitting an extra leisure battery (I only have one at the moment), as the type of overnighting that we do is usually on sites, where hook-up is normally available. The extra battery and generator will see us through the few nights that we "rough it" as we don't have loads of electrical need.

    Thank you for all the informed advice from members, and a special thanks to Eddie for his honesty. :thumb: :BigGrin:
     
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  17. slobadoberbob

    slobadoberbob Read Only Funster

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    VERY TRUE and OFTEN FORGOTTEN

    I looked at solar a couple of times.. but when I looked at my RV roof (remember I am 23'9" long) but I have fridge vent, toilet vent, showed domed roof light, a pus up vent, a satellite dome, a Aircon box, a windup arial, a CB ariel and a radio ariel on the roof. The only free area will be in shade or shadowed a lot of the time.

    I would need to have a rack made to go over a lot of the equipment.. as I am already near 13' at the top of the roof that makes it even taller .. also need to get to it to clean it. so that means the ladder which also goes up and over on to the roof so more shadow risk.

    I will stick with the 4 kw chassis genny and the 200 amp batteries. (2 x 100 amps)...

    Solar is OK if you are going to be in the sun long term.. but for the UK I have my doubts l=unless you can put serious amounts of panels on the roof.

    Hear all the for and against arguments before.

    Bob
     
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  18. Techno

    Techno Funster Life Member

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    It is good that you have made a personal decision given the info available and your actual needs :thumb:
     
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  19. jhorsf

    jhorsf Read Only Funster

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    Excellent pictures and how to do thank you this post could be put in a how to do for others ?
     
  20. Reallyretired

    Reallyretired Funster

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    Another point that I don't think has been made on this thread, though I may have missed it.

    Lots of people have their motorhome in storage with no EHU during the winter months and probably only use it infrequently. A single 80w panel will probably not produce more than 1A in the depths of winter but this is plenty to keep the batteries topped up even running alarms etc. Those little panels you can buy in Maplins (and Johns Cross) produce virtually nothing in the winter and you could still end up with flat batteries. if it snows you need to clear the snow off the panels of course but snow for more than a couple of days is rare down here in the south.

    My 4x80w panels, which may seem excessive to some, will produce up 4-6A (roughly 20Ah per day)even on a dullish January day at midday. Not enough to run your heating blower (40-50Ah per day), but enough to extend the time you are off EHU by a factor of nearly 2.
    In the summer could produce 200Ah+ per day, more than you'd normally use by a long way, but you can always save gas by using an electric kettle from the inverter, or with a bit of rewiring run your fridge on 12v or inverter during daylight hours. We run hairdryer and toaster via inverter and could run a microwave (if we had one)
     
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