DIY Solar Panel Installation

Jul 22, 2020
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NW - UK
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Afternoon,

I have been wanting to have a solar panel fitted onto my factory PVC (based on a Peugeot Boxer) and did look into it last year, during the respite between lockdowns, however even then lead times for having panels fitted was quite long. Heaven knows how bad it will be once businesses can open again.

Therefore I have been pondering fitting them myself and was hoping some fellow MH Fun members can offer advice or warn of potential issues, based on their own experiences.

My current setup is –
10 year old Peugeot Boxer PVC -
Sargent EC400 power supply unit (located in base of wardrobe locker which itself is positioned under the fridge)
Leisure Battery – 1 x AGM 100AH (located under dinette bench seat) which backs onto above mentioned wardrobe locker)

From the reading up I have done it seems to me that a MPPT Solar Charger is advisable (I am UK based so I expect clouds and overcast skies). The Sargent EC400 has built in solar panel connections however I assume as the Sargent is 10 years old (it appears to be the original factory fit one) then that it will be quite old tech when it comes to solar efficiency.

Therefore would I –
Fit solar panel to roof,
Wire up panel through roof into a MPPT controller,
Then does the MPPT controller go straight to leisure battery (piggy backing on existing connections) or does the MPPT get wired into the Sargent’s solar panel connections ?

Already on my van’s roof are two roof lights, one bathroom vent and TV aerial all of which don’t give me much flexibility when it comes to possible solar panel placement. I need to measure up properly but one solar installer told me a 120W to 150W would be approx. maximum I would fit (as a single panel).

I have been considering a 150w 12v MPPT Solar Kit with a Victron Smart Solar MPPT, such as those sold by Sunstore. My van has a ridged roof, so is it ok to use the usual plastic corner mounts – I’ve seen a couple of videos where people “dremel” the foot of the corner mount to match the contour of the roof’s ridges. Is this usually secure enough ? I think I would opt for 6 mounts (adding two side mounts on the long edge) just for my peace of mind.

I think the panel would fit best going width ways across the van (rather than along the length), is this a big no-no for air resistance etc. or if I did use the six mounts should that be ok ?

At the moment I only have one leisure battery and it looks to me that fitting a second battery in the same place as the existing one would be tight. I believe that if I do manage to fit a second battery later I can wire it up in parallel and the solar charger will work on both batteries.

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions based on the above would be gratefully received.

Many thanks.
 
Oct 10, 2018
180
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Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex
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If you wire the controller into the sargent EC400 unit you will be able to use its smart charging setting in its menu to enable the solar panel to be able to charge both engine and hab batteries as required.
It may be as well to check with Sargent as I think the max solar is 120w that can be used with the EC400
 
Last edited:
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DBK

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It's all quite doable. I fitted an extra panel on my PVC with a ridged roof and just used Sikaflex and stainless steel self-tappers but there are plenty of installations which just use Sikaflex.

There is a link in my signature which might help. The panel I fitted was an unusual shape. They are no longer available from the manufacture I used but if you search for slim panels there is at least one alternative available but if you can fit a more conventional shape it will be a lot cheaper.

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Oct 10, 2018
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I fitted a 120 w panel across the roof of my boxer ( Autocruise Rhythm) using the Sunstore aluminium L fixings and the bonding sealant they supply. It is wired into the controller and then from the controller in to the Sargent unit.
 
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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
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Thanks for the replies and suggestions.
I hadn’t thought about utilising the Smart charging feature of the EC400. However my EC400 user manual states 100W is maximum panel and I have been reading quite a few negative reports on the Smart charging feature with suggestions to wire the solar controller straight to the leisure battery.

I will also have a look at the option of the L shaped metal mounts and will look at DBK’s link tomorrow.
 
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Lenny HB

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It may be as well to check with Sargent as I think the max solar is 120w that can be used with the EC400
I think that is because of the rating of the solar regulator they fit. It is a seperate unit in the back of the charger/distribution unit so you can remove it and wire the new regulator to the unit.

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Oct 10, 2018
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If you do not want to use the smart system you could fit a Vanbitz battery master between the leisure battery and starter battery to keep them both charged or would it be possible use a twin output controller to supply each battery.
 
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Sep 23, 2013
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The two well known, European designed MPPT controllers are Victron (Netherlands) & Votronic (Germany). The Victron Smart range has the advantage of built in Bluetooth, so you can monitor & control it from your smartphone without needing any additional kit, but if you want to charge both leisure & engine batteries from it directly, you need something like the VanBitz Battery Master mentioned above.

The Votronic range have two separate outputs, one for the leisure battery & one for the starter battery, but to link it to your smartphone, you need to buy an extra bit of kit to add Bluetooth. One Votronic Bluetooth connector will let you link several bits of Votronic kit to your phone, but that is only helpful if you need other bits of kit.

Not everyone needs to charge their engine battery from solar. It depends where you store the van when not in use & for how long & when you are using it, what drains do you have on the engine battery while off-grid.

If you do manage to get 150W on the roof, a second battery would be a good addition. It is a shame to produce more power than you can store & you will always find a way to use it!
 
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Mar 23, 2012
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I fitted a very similar setup to our MH last year. I used the factory fitted wiring as it was easier. Mine just goes to the leisure battery we move around on holiday a lot and are on why when parked at home so don't need the hab battery fed . Ours is coachbuilt so a different construction but after getting your head around drilling your pride and joy!!!! it wasn't too bad.

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Apr 27, 2016
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Already on my van’s roof are two roof lights, one bathroom vent and TV aerial all of which don’t give me much flexibility when it comes to possible solar panel placement. I need to measure up properly but one solar installer told me a 120W to 150W would be approx. maximum I would fit (as a single panel).
You could consider several smaller panels rather than one big panel. If you can fit one 150W (single) panel then perhaps you could fit four or even six 50W panels. Identical panels are easy to connect to a single controller.
 
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Sep 7, 2016
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Ayr
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Adria Matrix M670SL
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2006
Afternoon,

I have been wanting to have a solar panel fitted onto my factory PVC (based on a Peugeot Boxer) and did look into it last year, during the respite between lockdowns, however even then lead times for having panels fitted was quite long. Heaven knows how bad it will be once businesses can open again.

Therefore I have been pondering fitting them myself and was hoping some fellow MH Fun members can offer advice or warn of potential issues, based on their own experiences.

My current setup is –
10 year old Peugeot Boxer PVC -
Sargent EC400 power supply unit (located in base of wardrobe locker which itself is positioned under the fridge)
Leisure Battery – 1 x AGM 100AH (located under dinette bench seat) which backs onto above mentioned wardrobe locker)

From the reading up I have done it seems to me that a MPPT Solar Charger is advisable (I am UK based so I expect clouds and overcast skies). The Sargent EC400 has built in solar panel connections however I assume as the Sargent is 10 years old (it appears to be the original factory fit one) then that it will be quite old tech when it comes to solar efficiency.

Therefore would I –
Fit solar panel to roof,
Wire up panel through roof into a MPPT controller,
Then does the MPPT controller go straight to leisure battery (piggy backing on existing connections) or does the MPPT get wired into the Sargent’s solar panel connections ?

Already on my van’s roof are two roof lights, one bathroom vent and TV aerial all of which don’t give me much flexibility when it comes to possible solar panel placement. I need to measure up properly but one solar installer told me a 120W to 150W would be approx. maximum I would fit (as a single panel).

I have been considering a 150w 12v MPPT Solar Kit with a Victron Smart Solar MPPT, such as those sold by Sunstore. My van has a ridged roof, so is it ok to use the usual plastic corner mounts – I’ve seen a couple of videos where people “dremel” the foot of the corner mount to match the contour of the roof’s ridges. Is this usually secure enough ? I think I would opt for 6 mounts (adding two side mounts on the long edge) just for my peace of mind.

I think the panel would fit best going width ways across the van (rather than along the length), is this a big no-no for air resistance etc. or if I did use the six mounts should that be ok ?

At the moment I only have one leisure battery and it looks to me that fitting a second battery in the same place as the existing one would be tight. I believe that if I do manage to fit a second battery later I can wire it up in parallel and the solar charger will work on both batteries.

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions based on the above would be gratefully received.

Many thanks.
Hi if you go on to You Tube, The Motorman Channel, there is a very good video of him fittino a solar panel onto a motorhome it's a very good video not like usual you tube ones , and it's done step by step, the guys name is Jason , he explains it very well including the dual battery controller , it worth a look ,
 
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BlackIce

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Sep 20, 2020
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Hi,
If you are nervous of DIY fitting have you considered a freestanding solar panel?
We have a 100w panel on the roof of our PVC but even with 2x95Ah leisure batteries found we were running low on power after a few days off grid with typical UK cloudy weather.
Due to placement of existing panel and vents fitting a second panel was problematic so we decided on a portable freestanding 150w panel. We upgraded our controller from a basic PWM type to a Victron smart MPPT and chose a panel without a built in solar controller as the built in ones tend to be inefficient. I have wired both panels through the Victron unit using an Anderson plug for the freestanding panel. We now have sufficient power for extended stays off grid even with a compressor fridge and blown air heating. Incidentally using the bluetooth function I can see the 150w portable panel generally produces double the amount the 100w roof mounted one. I can only assume that an angled panel that you can position is a lot more efficient than one laid flat on the roof.

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Lenny HB

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Hi if you go on to You Tube, The Motorman Channel, there is a very good video of him fittino a solar panel onto a motorhome it's a very good video not like usual you tube ones , and it's done step by step, the guys name is Jason , he explains it very well including the dual battery controller , it worth a look ,
Just watched, its a good example of how NOT to fit a solar panel.

Here is why:-
Didn't rough up the roof surface to give good adhesion.
Can't hold a drill straight the hole through the roof was at 30 deg.
Cables to the panel were way undersize.
Didn't use MC4 connectors to make the panel removable if needed.
Used self adhesive trunking it's not designed for outside use and will start falling off in a year or two.
A right bodge running the cables in the van he should have found an existing cable route and used that.
Stupid place to mount the regulator why put in a cupboard that is in use, plenty of space near the battery and electrically better.
I didn't think much of the cheap regulator.

Must be mates with Gadget John two bodgers together.
 
Last edited:
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Sep 7, 2016
437
415
Ayr
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Adria Matrix M670SL
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Just watched, its a good example of how NOT to fit a solar panel.

Here is why:-
Didn't rough up the roof surface to give good adhesion.
Can't hold a drill straight the hole through the roof was at 30 deg.
Cables to the panel were way undersize.
Didn't use MC4 connectors to make the panel removable if needed.
Used self adhesive trunking it's not designed for outside use and will start falling off in a year or two.
A right bodge running the cables in the van he should have found an existing cable route and used that.
Stupid place to mount the regulator why put in a cupboard that is in use, plenty of space near the battery and electrically better.
I didn't think much of the cheap regulator.

Must be mates with Gadget John two bodgers together.
The basics of mentioning to the op was it gives insight how to fit a panel just because you have picked up things like drill angles and routing of cables the type of controller used if you read the questions the installer was asked you would have seen that it's how the guy wanted it fitted, as I said it give some insight to the basics of how to fit a panel there are loads of videos on how to instal which I'm spsure the op will also have a look at I was just informing him of this one to give him an insight .
 
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Lenny HB

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The basics of mentioning to the op was it gives insight how to fit a panel just because you have picked up things like drill angles and routing of cables the type of controller used if you read the questions the installer was asked you would have seen that it's how the guy wanted it fitted, as I said it give some insight to the basics of how to fit a panel there are loads of videos on how to instal which I'm spsure the op will also have a look at I was just informing him of this one to give him an insight .
No excuse for basic mistakes like not roughening the roof for adhesion and using totally undersized cables.

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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
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32
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Thanks again for all advice and opinions.

I had a look at DBK’s link to his own slim panel installation and it was great thanks.

Some info I overlooked putting in the OP that is influencing my current plans -

1 - My van is also my day to day vehicle so I am not too concerned over keeping an eye on the vehicle battery, etc and it doesn’t go into storage. I also already have a Noco Boost “jump starter” gadget so that should cover me in emergencies, although I would probably look to add the Battery Master idea in the future.

2 - I also don’t park it on my driveway (as neighbour’s cars constantly overhang / restrict access) so it is not worth the stress. We are hoping to move house in near future so also don’t want any slanging matches with the neighbours as I believe you have to declare such now during conveyancing. This also means it is a bit awkward to connect EHU at home so I am hoping a solar panel will aid a bit towards alleviating this.

I am going to contact the supplier to check that the L shaped brackets are the right option for me (and send them a picture of my ridged roof) but I think that will be the way to go. Then fit panel across width of roof which will leave smaller areas free for later upgrades.

I don’t think I feel confident enough to start modifying the Sargent EC400 (as mentioned by Lenny HB) to accommodate a third party regulator but I will have a google to see what’s involved.

Thanks to Trout Bum for the pointer towards the Motorman’s video – I took that in the spirit I believe it was intended – a useful video to watch rather than a step by step perfect guide to installation. I do agree that it didn’t look the best job in the world, and I am a fussy so and so and would do my utmost to avoid that trunking inside the hab area. I think it was the wires going into the regulator that offended me the most 😊. However I believe it was worth watching as it eased my fears over the complexity of the whole process.

I am currently keeping my eye out for a large piece of cardboard or hardboard to make a panel template to get on the roof (is a Boxer roof strong enough for me to crawl on?) to fully check out my size restrictions. I will then get an order in for one largish panel, a Victron MPPT and connect straight to the leisure battery. The kits seem to come with a Victron 75/10 – is this sufficient for a 150W panel onto a single 100AH battery ? Should I upgrade the Victron to a 15A model if I’m thinking of adding a second 100AH battery later ?

Once ordered I would hope to have fitted it all in the next couple of weeks so I will post to let you know how it went (or what hospital I am in).

Thanks
 
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Oct 10, 2018
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If you do decide to use your EC400, Sargent electrical sell a lead that plugs into the rear of the unit and then connects to your chosen controller (it is in their website shop) also, in case you have not seen it, there is information in the resources section of this site regarding EC400 smart charging.
When you check your roof for possible solar fitting allow for the fact that the roof is not flat but is slightly curved across ways.
 
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Jan 28, 2008
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I always use aluminium angle to make brackets and to give a decent sized contact patch onto the roof ijust glue them on with stixal the self tap through the frame of the panel

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Jun 17, 2019
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Ring Sargent up they will tell you the maximum size panel you can use with ec400 and supply lead for around £18-£20
so both hab and vehicle batteries are charged. I wanted a larger panel than my ec325 would take so bought victron 175w
with victron mppt blue tooth controller. The victron kit is very good and in conjunction with the little black box that directs any excess charge from my hab battery to my vehicle battery.
 
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Jerryguess

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If you wire the controller into the sargent EC400 unit you will be able to use its smart charging setting in its menu to enable the solar panel to be able to charge both engine and hab batteries as required.
It may be as well to check with Sargent as I think the max solar is 120w that can be used with the EC400
I have the EC500 and that is 120W max input, the plug for the solar input motherboard is available from Sargent.
 
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Silver-Fox

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Just watched, its a good example of how NOT to fit a solar panel.

Here is why:-
Didn't rough up the roof surface to give good adhesion.
Can't hold a drill straight the hole through the roof was at 30 deg.
Cables to the panel were way undersize.
Didn't use MC4 connectors to make the panel removable if needed.
Used self adhesive trunking it's not designed for outside use and will start falling off in a year or two.
A right bodge running the cables in the van he should have found an existing cable route and used that.
Stupid place to mount the regulator why put in a cupboard that is in use, plenty of space near the battery and electrically better.
I didn't think much of the cheap regulator.

Must be mates with Gadget John two bodgers together.

Say what you think Lenny HB
Don’t be holding back 😂

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Jul 9, 2013
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I have just fitted solar to my van and when doing my research I fond an EU site that gave the solar harvesting expected at different latitudes and months of the year. I have attached my summary of this. As the figures were given every 5 degrees I interpolated the values for 51 deg N as being a fifth of the difference between 50N and 55N. These figures are for a sunny day so I assumed that I would get much less that that on average. Now my panels are fitted I can confirm that I am getting at least what I expected. I have 2 x 175w panels and earlier this week when it was overcast all day I was getting 140w per day. Yesterday when it was sunny for a large part of the day, I was able to get 170w out of the panel which equates to about 630 max per day as I calculate there are 3.75 hours of usable (max) sunlight per day. So the figures in the table look reasonable.
On the question of what panels to fit, I would recommend fitting 2 panels (or pairs of panels) wired in series (the pairs then paralleled) so that you can continue to harvest some power in the morning and evening period. To be able to charge a battery you need at least 13v coming from the panels. If you have 1 panel the output soon drops to this value in the 2 hours after sunrise and before sunset. If you have 2 panels each producing 6.5v you have 13v. With my 350w panel I can get between 40w and 20w of power right up to sunset at the moment. It may not sound much by that is over 3ah into the battery both morning and evening or more than enough to run the LED lights during those hours with taking anything from the battery. Also as has been said else where it may be easier to find space to fit 2 smaller panels than 1 large panel.

SolarOutput.png

All the figures here are for 100w panel so just take the size of your panel and multiply it up (Your panel size/100). But remember that these figures are for a full day of sunshine so only expect to get about 50% of that for you average British day.

For the record I am using 2 x Victron 175w panels with and Epever Duo Racer DR3210N controller.
 
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May 7, 2017
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Don't know where you live, but there's a good Electrian near Stowmarket Suffolk who done ,neat job works well, reasonable price.
 
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Lenny HB

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On the question of what panels to fit, I would recommend fitting 2 panels (or pairs of panels) wired in series (the pairs then paralleled) so that you can continue to harvest some power in the morning and evening period. To be able to charge a battery you need at least 13v coming from the panels.
Although series wired panels are slightly more efficient, parallel is a far better solution on a Motorhome. In series if one panel is in shde you will loose the output to that panel and all the panels connecting to it.
You actually need around 16v going into the regulator for it to work efficiently

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Oct 7, 2019
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I used www.sunstore.co.uk so helpful before I purchased anything, I had done my research and then asked all my silly (or so I thought) questions and they were so helpful.I installed it myself, their instructions are step by step and so clear. I had also watched a couple of YouTube clips too as well as reading all the great advice on here. I’m a 50 year old female with limited DIY knowledge - I had to buy a drill that shows how little I did! I measured lots and where I thought I would drill through the roof when I actually thought about it from both inside and outside meant I changed my mind and drilled into the wardrobe making it tidy. I’m really pleased and like everyone else I can’t wait to get out again
7FFB241C-5196-4ED8-B20B-FEEA0B947533.jpeg
D795A2FC-AF0C-4F44-B051-C1C4332CDA4E.jpeg

072399E9-294D-4831-9E97-74701C132C2E.jpeg
9D6A7B79-F133-4490-8AD8-D1BCC5141C01.jpeg
DE483AF6-8B6E-436D-B41E-BE4E36D7EA85.jpeg
 
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May 7, 2017
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Don't know where you live, but there's a good Electrian near Stowmarket Suffolk who done ,neat job works well, reasonable price.
Name Motorhome/ Camper / Caravan Electrician Tony Sparrow , Company , Stowmarket Vehicle installs.
Website www.stowvehicleinstalls.co.uk , he did work for Stowmarket Caravans until it went down the Tube , then worked for a Camper van company in Diss Norfolk .
 
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Mar 30, 2019
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I used www.sunstore.co.uk so helpful before I purchased anything, I had done my research and then asked all my silly (or so I thought) questions and they were so helpful.I installed it myself, their instructions are step by step and so clear. I had also watched a couple of YouTube clips too as well as reading all the great advice on here. I’m a 50 year old female with limited DIY knowledge - I had to buy a drill that shows how little I did! I measured lots and where I thought I would drill through the roof when I actually thought about it from both inside and outside meant I changed my mind and drilled into the wardrobe making it tidy. I’m really pleased and like everyone else I can’t wait to get out again View attachment 469725 View attachment 469724
View attachment 469717 View attachment 469718 View attachment 469719
Nice job 👍

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Dec 2, 2019
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Although series wired panels are slightly more efficient, parallel is a far better solution on a Motorhome. In series if one panel is in shde you will loose the output to that panel and all the panels connecting to it.
You actually need around 16v going into the regulator for it to work efficiently
Agree, avoid series panels at all cost and go for high voltage panels. The voltage is dependable on the regulator used. If it’s a mppt, it will need 5v above battery voltage to start charging at a minimum. The cheap PWM choppers, will only need 1-2v above the battery voltage, but, as soon as the battery draws some, the voltage will fall of the cliff to battery voltage. The mppt will continuously optimise the power curve and extract everything the panel can give.
 
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Mar 14, 2019
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Afternoon,

I have been wanting to have a solar panel fitted onto my factory PVC (based on a Peugeot Boxer) and did look into it last year, during the respite between lockdowns, however even then lead times for having panels fitted was quite long. Heaven knows how bad it will be once businesses can open again.

Therefore I have been pondering fitting them myself and was hoping some fellow MH Fun members can offer advice or warn of potential issues, based on their own experiences.

My current setup is –
10 year old Peugeot Boxer PVC -
Sargent EC400 power supply unit (located in base of wardrobe locker which itself is positioned under the fridge)
Leisure Battery – 1 x AGM 100AH (located under dinette bench seat) which backs onto above mentioned wardrobe locker)

From the reading up I have done it seems to me that a MPPT Solar Charger is advisable (I am UK based so I expect clouds and overcast skies). The Sargent EC400 has built in solar panel connections however I assume as the Sargent is 10 years old (it appears to be the original factory fit one) then that it will be quite old tech when it comes to solar efficiency.

Therefore would I –
Fit solar panel to roof,
Wire up panel through roof into a MPPT controller,
Then does the MPPT controller go straight to leisure battery (piggy backing on existing connections) or does the MPPT get wired into the Sargent’s solar panel connections ?

Already on my van’s roof are two roof lights, one bathroom vent and TV aerial all of which don’t give me much flexibility when it comes to possible solar panel placement. I need to measure up properly but one solar installer told me a 120W to 150W would be approx. maximum I would fit (as a single panel).

I have been considering a 150w 12v MPPT Solar Kit with a Victron Smart Solar MPPT, such as those sold by Sunstore. My van has a ridged roof, so is it ok to use the usual plastic corner mounts – I’ve seen a couple of videos where people “dremel” the foot of the corner mount to match the contour of the roof’s ridges. Is this usually secure enough ? I think I would opt for 6 mounts (adding two side mounts on the long edge) just for my peace of mind.

I think the panel would fit best going width ways across the van (rather than along the length), is this a big no-no for air resistance etc. or if I did use the six mounts should that be ok ?

At the moment I only have one leisure battery and it looks to me that fitting a second battery in the same place as the existing one would be tight. I believe that if I do manage to fit a second battery later I can wire it up in parallel and the solar charger will work on both batteries.

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions based on the above would be gratefully received.

Many thanks.
I fitted my own solar panel on the roof using the kit supplied having careful measured for the space where I could place it as I have three rooflights limiting the spaces available. I have a 120 watt panel with a controller allowing the panel to keep the leisure and vehicle batteries charged 50/50 but that is user selectable ratio. So far after the two full years in use there has been no issues arising. Ensure that you get a water tight connection through the roof. In my case I did not need it as the external trim at the rear near to the panel is hollow so could take the cables to the conroller and on to the battery. I also went for the remote display so can monitor the output and the battery states easily. Routing the cables from the controller to the vehicle battery was the largest challenge as it is in the usual Ducato position under the floor at the front next to the driver but I have a double floor so no cabling underneath. The leisure battery is also between floors at the rear. Assuming you do have to penetrate through the roof get the special waterproof cable connector and use Sikflex for any sticking down. Where you have screws in the roof seal those as well. Good luck and take care carrying the panel up to the roof as they are not lightweight. Forgot to say, get some trunking and stick it down securely for routing the cables on the roof, you do not want those flapping in the breeze as you drive along!
 
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