Sanity check on solar plan please! :)

Mar 3, 2021
10
8
Funster No
79,533
MH
Looking for one
Hi all, I’m just about ready to take the plunge into ordering but want to offer my plans for a final sanity check before clicking ‘buy’ and welcome your wisdom on this! Particularly:
  1. Does the planned position for components look sensible?
  2. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to get wires through to main battery under bonnet on this model? Do I just need to drill through firewall?
  3. Is one of my 3 shortlisted solar kits a suitable option and, if so, which one? Is the used larger panel worthwhile or too old and/or heavy?
The van is a 1998 Fiat Ducato Sundance. The leisure battery is under the driver’s seat and the main battery is under the bonnet. The first picture below shows planned position for the solar panel, controller and cabling.

Screen Shot 2021-04-23 at 11.01.34 pm.png


The second picture shows the measurements on the roof. To my understanding, there seems to be plenty of space between the middle and front skylight for one or two panels with brackets (panel sizes are below):
Screen Shot 2021-04-23 at 11.01.01 pm.png


Based on previous advice, the kits I’m considering are below:
The 100W panel is 925 x 670 and 7.7kg. The 250W panel is 1650 x 992 and 18.7kg. Would appreciate thoughts on reliability of the used panel, whether the weight is a concern, general capacity, and whether Victron is worth the extra money.

We’re not actually planning to hold onto this van for longer than a year due to leaving the country, so I want to leave it in good condition for next owner but not over invest. Our power needs are minimal – charging phones and computer, a bit of TV. Mostly want to be able to camp off grid without worrying about a flat battery.

Thanks in advance for any input!
 
Mar 23, 2012
5,616
16,711
sleights
Funster No
20,245
MH
c class
Exp
1
I'm no expert but think the controller is supposed to go close to the batteries if possible as it's higher voltage before the controller so less power loss in the cables. Our motorhome is a different make we have two relays one for each battery in the hab area so would be easy to wire to the batteries there maybe you have similar.
 

Tombola

LIFE MEMBER
Nov 21, 2020
891
2,672
Merseyside
Funster No
78,053
MH
Autotrail Imala 734
Exp
12 years
YEs as the wino says drop the mppt as close as you can to the battery.
Solar panels, I personally would not trust second hand but thats just me

the size of panel is judged by what type and size of battery you have, and how much power you use. A 100w panel for pccasional 12v off grid wth 100ah battery would be fine more then that then its another question.

does the mppt you are looking at have the ability for dual output to hab battery and leisure ?. You may want to think of fitting a battery master from eddievanbitz , cheap to buy and easy to fit .... which trickle charges from your leisure when it is above a certain voltage to keep your cab battery charged. If your MPPT just charges your leisure battery this is a good option and well recommended by funsters.

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OP
sorenson
Mar 3, 2021
10
8
Funster No
79,533
MH
Looking for one
Thank you both. I'll double check, but the plan was to have a controller with two outputs. I'll check the specs and look into the battery master as well.
The controller position was for visibility within an overhead cabinet, but I can easily enough move it lower down.

One of the bits I'm still unsure about is the best way to get the cable from controller through to the main battery under the bonnet. Hoping someone might have tips on this, but I'll research further and have a closer look on the van next time I'm back there!
 

Bobby-gg

LIFE MEMBER
Feb 28, 2020
357
803
Northumberland
Funster No
69,066
MH
Ducato IH pvc
Exp
Since 2010
I've got 1kw of used 250w panels from bimble, with another 1kw to fit this summer and they've been absolutely perfect, I'm sure mine were 2 years old from a solar farm.

And I've got both a epever controller and multiple victron controllers and I'd go victron everytime from now on, they are nice bits of kit and just work, and the Bluetooth is a nice extra, although they haven't got the dual output.

And, I'd recommend the biggest panel you can fit, but make sure it's well fitted 👍
 

funflair

LIFE MEMBER
Dec 11, 2013
14,851
19,264
Guisborough
Funster No
29,351
MH
MORELO palace
Exp
since 2012
Thank you both. I'll double check, but the plan was to have a controller with two outputs. I'll check the specs and look into the battery master as well.
The controller position was for visibility within an overhead cabinet, but I can easily enough move it lower down.

One of the bits I'm still unsure about is the best way to get the cable from controller through to the main battery under the bonnet. Hoping someone might have tips on this, but I'll research further and have a closer look on the van next time I'm back there!
You don't need to go direct to the starter battery, if you can find a starter battery feed in another more accessible place that would be OK.

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Mar 30, 2019
595
853
Funster No
59,476
MH
Coachbuilt
Exp
Since 2016
I fitted a 270watt Bimble used panel 4 years ago and it's still working well this morning. They specialise in these ex solar farm panels. Definitely get a dual output controller, adding a battery master costs about the same as the difference between standard and dual controller. I would also agree, get as big a panel as will fit, the cost difference is minimal and it's all the same work to fit.
 
Nov 4, 2011
3,357
13,536
Uk
Funster No
18,763
MH
A class
Exp
2001
You don't need to go direct to the starter battery, if you can find a starter battery feed in another more accessible place that would be OK.
That’s what I did, fed to both batteries comes from connecting block on the back of my charger.

Not sure if I’m right but I thought it’s best to have regulator near batterie.

The regulator i fitted , Votronic duo 250 has a flashing light on it at night, so be careful where you site it.
 
Nov 3, 2020
212
606
Funster No
77,452
MH
Ace Siena
Exp
Since 2019
In terms of how things all fit together on our van, the solar panel is slightly forward of the middle of the van, the leisure battery right at the rear and the start battery (as you would expect) is in the engine bay. The controller and charger are more or less in the middle between the two with a slightly longer cable run to the engine battery. It all works tickety-boo so I wonder just how important some of the finer adjustments to position and cable runs etc are. The van is an Ace Siena 6.3m long.

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Apr 6, 2019
1,690
2,635
High Street, Eye, Peterborough, UK
Funster No
59,702
MH
C Class?
Exp
1999 Autocruise Impala, bought 2019
That year of Fiat.... Take lower right dash off and look towards fire wall. There is a large grommet for the headlight adjuster pipes and I recall another grommet unused close by if you want to route wires.
 
Aug 18, 2020
90
118
Funster No
74,640
MH
Trigano Tribute
Exp
2020
Definitely get a dual output controller, adding a battery master costs about the same as the difference between standard and dual controller.
so is that get dual output controller and no need for battery master......or get one anyway? Still learning. Got an appointment to check existing electrics with a view to adding solar.

Our power needs are minimal – charging phones and computer, a bit of TV. Mostly want to be able to camp off grid without worrying about a flat battery.
ditto, old van needs investment but not over the top. No 240v kettle or coffee makers etc.

200W solar, dual controller what else? Want to be careful not to be fleeced by over the top spec recommended by installer.
 
Jan 4, 2020
183
217
Funster No
67,812
MH
Globecar Campscout
Exp
Since 2005
The Votronic Duo MPP range have a second output which can connect to the engine battery and provide a trickle charge to it. (Don't forget your RoadPro discount as a Funster...)

Check your exisiting charger, if it has a function to charge the engine battery on EHU, will have a connection to it that you might consider tapping into rather that having to push a wire through the firewall?

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Aug 18, 2020
90
118
Funster No
74,640
MH
Trigano Tribute
Exp
2020
Check your exisiting charger, if it has a function to charge the engine battery on EHU, will have a connection to it that you might consider tapping into rather that having to push a wire through the firewall?
Don't know if this was aimed at me, but thanks I will bear this in mind when speaking with the technician.
 
Mar 30, 2019
761
963
East Sussex
Funster No
59,486
MH
Trigano Tribute
Exp
Since 2017
Get the biggest panel you can get in the space and a mppt controller I’ve got the Votronic 350 for our 255watt panel (acquired for free)
At least with a bigger panel you’ll get more power when the weather isn’t so great.
A good controller will look after your batteries what ever size of panel you have.
 
Jun 8, 2019
3,989
14,067
Bexley West Kent
Funster No
61,505
MH
Autocruise starlet 2
Exp
May 2019
Not sure how you would get on if God forbid you had a fire or something and the insurance found out that you had drilled through the firewall. After all its there for a reason. Good luck with whatever you chose to do👍🏼🤞

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TheBig1

LIFE MEMBER
Nov 27, 2011
14,936
29,233
Dorset
Funster No
19,048
MH
A class
Exp
many many years! since I was a kid
I was working on a 99 swift sundance this week. Both leisure and engine battery feeds can be accessed easily at the control panel (over the door on this one) and feed back directly, via fuses. Nothing hi tech or complicated on those vans so very straight forward
 
Sep 28, 2015
1,370
1,408
Kingston upon Hull
Funster No
38,946
MH
Hymer B544
Exp
2011 on
I’d be going for the biggest panel you can get to fit in that 1170 x 2090 space between the front and middle skylights, then use a Votronic MPP Duo controller. You may not have to worry about getting a wire through to the vehicle battery because somewhere there should already be a positive lead coming from the battery to your control box.
 
Jan 27, 2018
759
622
Northampton
Funster No
52,151
MH
Rapido & Bongone
Go large
I
Tripplesolar a large industrial unit wall to wall with panels. the 320w i have is correct voltage for votronics 350 the Panasonic are efficient but over 60v.
If controller less than 2m from battery don't worry, next to is preferred .votronics temperature sensors come with 2m leads.

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