DIY Solar Panel Installation

Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
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.
 
Mar 23, 2012
5,478
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sleights
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20,245
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c class
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1
I think a tip I would give is make sure the trunking for cables one the roof has not got a self adhesive strip on as it's a b**** to get off and I wouldn't fancy relying on the self adhesive stuff staying on.
 
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May 30, 2020
204
183
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71,224
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Carthago Compact 138
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11 yrs
one tip, if you can avoid the Sargent PSU do so...
the Autosleepers forum, where their vans are Sargent equipped, is riddled with owners with wintertime flat vehicle batteries...
this is due to the poor 'smart charging' profile and the fact that the ECxxx (PSU) has to be turned ON to be 'smart' and has a very considerable draw...often more than the winter solar input...
a twin output MPPT controller connected directly to the cab/hab batteries doesnt need a PSU to provide smart charging, so all power harvested goes to the batteries.

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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
Thanks for that.
I have decided to not use the Sargent and gone for a Victron MPPT separate controller.
I’ve not gone for a twin output as I am not too concerned about the vehicle battery as my van is also my daily drive vehicle and doesn’t get put into storage etc.
Got the kit today so now just need to plan when I’m going to try fitting it.
Will update once done in case anyone is interested.
 
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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
Evening all.

I fitted my panels onto the van today.
only half way through the interior wiring so hopefully finish that off tomorrow.

Took a bit longer than I’d imagine partly as I was wanting to make it as neat as I could and I must have spent an hour just on getting the cable through the roof and into an overhead locker.
Biggest problem was me as I very annoyingly knelt on a mount bracket and squished the adhesive out and then knocked the panel whilst trying to correct myself. I ended up with blobs of Soudaflex everywhere.

I am slightly puzzled as what to do with the MC4 cable connectors. Obviously I’ve got the two coming off the panel and they will connect to my cable which goes through the gland into the roof. What do I do with the cable from the panels to the MC4’s ? They are too big to fit inside trunking and I assume I don’t want them flapping around on the roof. Is cable tying them to the side of the metal frame of my panels acceptable ?

Thanks.
 
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Lenny HB

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 18, 2007
29,442
50,946
On the coast in West Sussex
Funster No
658
MH
Hymer B678 Dynamic Line
Exp
Since 2008 & many years tugging
Just tuck the MC4's up under the frame and cable tie them to the side of the frame so they don't rattle around, probably need to drill a couple of holes in the frame.

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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
Great thanks, I thought that would be the way.
The frame already has a handy pre cut oval hole in about the right place so I assume that is what it is designed for.
 
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Sep 26, 2018
88
56
Uk Suffolk, Spain Terrazas de la Torre.
Funster No
56,398
MH
Autosleeper Warwick xl
Exp
I’m a newbi
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.
Hello I have a votronic duo solar controller wired using the Sargent wiring, for me this is not working, light on controller says no solar power when quite clearly there is, also controller does not shut down when battery charged , it just keeps pumping out till sargent trips
 
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Lenny HB

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 18, 2007
29,442
50,946
On the coast in West Sussex
Funster No
658
MH
Hymer B678 Dynamic Line
Exp
Since 2008 & many years tugging
Hello I have a votronic duo solar controller wired using the Sargent wiring, for me this is not working, light on controller says no solar power when quite clearly there is, also controller does not shut down when battery charged , it just keeps pumping out till sargent trips
Have you got the Votronic set up correctly for the type of battery?
After ensuring the regulator is set correctly I would connect it directly to the battery and monitor what happens, it should work as 3 stage charger bulk/absorption then drop to a float voltage unless it's been set to Lithium.

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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
Hi,

have a look at these videos. Do make sur you get the roof clean to provide a good bond if you are doing this yourself!


Part 1 =
Part2 =
Part3 =
Thanks for the advice - all installed now.
I did clean the roof and then once again with a degreaser and then keyed up the paintwork before adhering the mounts.

I still imagine it will take a while for me to feel comfortable that it’s not going to fly off though.
 
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Sep 26, 2018
88
56
Uk Suffolk, Spain Terrazas de la Torre.
Funster No
56,398
MH
Autosleeper Warwick xl
Exp
I’m a newbi
Have you got the Votronic set up correctly for the type of battery?
After ensuring the regulator is set correctly I would connect it directly to the battery and monitor what happens, it should work as 3 stage charger bulk/absorption then drop to a float voltage unless it's been set to Lithium.
Hi yes, correct profile set, I ran both wires direct from controller to battery, still no leds showing except the one that says no solar power. Also my display panel is now blank no readings at all, so I removed the wires from the battery reconnected to the wires from the Sargent , display is now working again, and controller still showing no solar power, but display says battery is charging.
 
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Lenny HB

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 18, 2007
29,442
50,946
On the coast in West Sussex
Funster No
658
MH
Hymer B678 Dynamic Line
Exp
Since 2008 & many years tugging
Hi yes, correct profile set, I ran both wires direct from controller to battery, still no leds showing except the one that says no solar power. Also my display panel is now blank no readings at all, so I removed the wires from the battery reconnected to the wires from the Sargent , display is now working again, and controller still showing no solar power, but display says battery is charging.
I would disconnect the controller from both the batteries and the panel then reconnect the batteries to the panel first and then the panels. It is important to connect the batteries first.
Hopefully that will reset the controller.

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Dec 17, 2016
407
314
Malvern
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Hymer B525 2006 A cl
Exp
2012
I would disconnect the controller from both the batteries and the panel then reconnect the batteries to the panel first and then the panels. It is important to connect the batteries first.
Hopefully that will reset the controller.
I think Lenny HB means connect the batteries to the controller first and the the panel to the controller. This ensures that the controller knows you have a 12v rather than 24v system.
 
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May 30, 2020
204
183
Funster No
71,224
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Carthago Compact 138
Exp
11 yrs
which wires have tou connected to the Sargent?
in their usual set up a single output controller is connected and the 'smart chaging' in the sargent PSU determines where the charge goes...
im guessing youve connected the leisure battery wires?....and the vehicle battery wires to the vehicle battery?
what solar settings do you have on the sargent....it can be 'smart'...or leisure or vehicle...
if smart....you could be sending two streams of power to the vehicle battery...one from the Votronic, one from the smart side of the Sargent...im not sure what effect this might have.
most AS owners whove made the change, avoid the sargent unit altogether...
AFAIK, when first connecting the Votronic, ypu need to connect the leisure battery first to let it determine voltage (12/24)....could this be wrong and is not recognising the panel?
Ha! snap, Lenny.
 
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Sep 26, 2018
88
56
Uk Suffolk, Spain Terrazas de la Torre.
Funster No
56,398
MH
Autosleeper Warwick xl
Exp
I’m a newbi
I would disconnect the controller from both the batteries and the panel then reconnect the batteries to the panel first and then the panels. It is important to connect the batteries first.
Hopefully that will reset the controller.
Thanks will try that .

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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
I am trying to look into the getting to correct battery settings in the VictronConnect app.

It is currently just set to default 12v / 10amp (my Victron is only the 10a model) but I can’t seem to find the correct charging parameters (or maybe I’m not understanding them properly) so I’m going to email the battery company to ask them.
I have Platinum VRLA PAGM-100-12 and all I’ve found so far online is Ideal Charge Voltage of 14.1 - 14.6 and Top Up Charge Voltage of 13.5 - 13.8

i assume it is worth trying to get the parameters to optimise the charging.
 
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Lenny HB

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 18, 2007
29,442
50,946
On the coast in West Sussex
Funster No
658
MH
Hymer B678 Dynamic Line
Exp
Since 2008 & many years tugging
I am trying to look into the getting to correct battery settings in the VictronConnect app.

It is currently just set to default 12v / 10amp (my Victron is only the 10a model) but I can’t seem to find the correct charging parameters (or maybe I’m not understanding them properly) so I’m going to email the battery company to ask them.
I have Platinum VRLA PAGM-100-12 and all I’ve found so far online is Ideal Charge Voltage of 14.1 - 14.6 and Top Up Charge Voltage of 13.5 - 13.8

i assume it is worth trying to get the parameters to optimise the charging.
For a starting point I would set the charge voltage to 14.6v, Absortion time to 1 hour & float voltage to 13.6.
 
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OP
SJA42
Jul 22, 2020
19
32
NW - UK
Funster No
73,313
MH
PVC
Exp
Newbie
Some good customer service from Platinum International Batteries.

I emailed to ask for help with the expert settings in the VictronConnect app and listed all the various settings that can be configured to optimise the charging of my Platinum VRLA PAGM battery.

In less than an hour I got the following detailed reply -

Thank you for your enquiry, please see comments below:

Charge Voltages
Absorption Voltage: 14.6v
Float Voltage: 13.5v
Equalization Voltage:
AGM or GEL batteries should never have an equalising charge. This profile is for wet flooded batteries only and is required to reduce ‘stratification’ of the electrolyte within the cells of a deep cycle wet flooded battery. Never attempt to ‘Equalise’ AGM or GEL batteries as this will damage their internal components, reduce service life and as a worst case scenario result in an explosion of the battery.

Stratification:
Within a wet flooded deep cycle battery and during regular usage, the electrolyte’s (mixture of sulphuric acid and water) specific gravity will differ from the top to the bottom of the cell, becoming too weak towards the top and too strong towards the base. So towards the top of the plates there will be very poor chemical reactions, and towards the base there will be excessive corrosion. An equalising charge is a minor overcharge and mixes this electrolyte to reduce stratification, increase performance and maximise service life.

As AGM and GEL have no liquid electrolyte within the cells, this will not occur.
Bulk
Re-Bulk Voltage offset:
Same as Absorption at 14.6v

Absorption
Absorption Duration: (Adaptive/Fixed)
Maximum Absorption Time:
Tail Current:

This depends upon the output (A) of the charger. To fully recharge a battery in the least possible time, an initial current of 10% to 13% of the Ah-C20 is required. This will tale off as the state of charge increases. As the battery reaches full charge, the tail current will be almost zero

Equalization
Equalization Current Percentage:
Automatic Equalization: (Disabled / Equalize every ____ Days)
Equalization stop mode: (Fixed Time / Automatic on Voltage)
Maximum Equalization Duration:

As above. Never ‘equalize’ an AGM or GEL battery
Voltage Compensation
Temperature Compensation (mV/°C):
5mV/25°C, But this is negligible with regards to the climate in the UK.

Battery Limits
Low-Temperature Cut-off (optional):
The operating temperatures for AGM batteries is between -20°C and +50°C, but should not be recharged below 0°C
 
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Nov 13, 2011
281
273
Lincolnshire
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18,889
MH
PVC
Exp
30 years
Hi
The Victron controller, if one of the latest models, uses an algorithm to calculate absorption time. It monitors the battery voltage at startup (when the solar panels begin to produce charge ie. early morning).
Depending on the battery voltage it calculates how long the absorption time should be.
The higher the battery voltage, the shorter absorption time.
I find it works very well.

Geoff
 
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Sep 26, 2018
88
56
Uk Suffolk, Spain Terrazas de la Torre.
Funster No
56,398
MH
Autosleeper Warwick xl
Exp
I’m a newbi
which wires have tou connected to the Sargent?
in their usual set up a single output controller is connected and the 'smart chaging' in the sargent PSU determines where the charge goes...
im guessing youve connected the leisure battery wires?....and the vehicle battery wires to the vehicle battery?
what solar settings do you have on the sargent....it can be 'smart'...or leisure or vehicle...
if smart....you could be sending two streams of power to the vehicle battery...one from the Votronic, one from the smart side of the Sargent...im not sure what effect this might have.
most AS owners whove made the change, avoid the sargent unit altogether...
AFAIK, when first connecting the Votronic, ypu need to connect the leisure battery first to let it determine voltage (12/24)....could this be wrong and is not recognising the panel?
Ha! snap, Lenny.
Thanks for the info, van is now going in next week to have Lithium batteries and a B2B charger fitted, going to get them to by pass Sargent unit completely with the solar charging, hopefully Votronic should then work .

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