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Solar Panel - planning an install, so advice is needed please (1 Viewer)

MisterB

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enough to know i shouldnt touch things i know nothing about ....
Hi. ive read through lots of posts and tried to glean as much info as possible but f anyone can add anything to my thought process without over complicating it then I would be grateful

why do I need solar? well, I want to travel around mainland Europe in the summer and winter and be 'off grid' though not extremely off grid. just aires with no services for a day or so before moving on. though if we found somewhere we liked we might stay 3 or 4 days max. so my thinking is I need to make sure I have enough power BUT can that only be achieved via solar panel or is there a better way?

why not just get an additional battery ? Having trawled through the posts, this seems to be the first port of call for anyone, especially if only 'laid up' for a couple of days. the batteries would recharge as I drive to the next location and should provide enough power - lights, tv, laptop etc. I would use gas for heating/hot water/cooking but the heater would require 12v to operate the fan. with big enough batteries though it shouldn't be an issue - two good 110A batteries should suffice or would they?

fitting an additional battery would make best use of a later fitted solar panel? fitting an additional battery wouldn't be wasted if I did fit a solar panel later would it? it seems from reading the threads that most who fit solar panels also fit additional batteries at the same time or later. so I suppose I am deliberating on which comes first, with an additional battery coming out on top at the moment. ANY VIEWS ON THAT THOUGHT PROCESS PLEASE?
 
Jan 26, 2017
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Another view.
Our van already had a 100w solar panel and a 75Ah battery fitted, we have no TV but keep a laptop, mobile phones and a few other devices fully charged.
We can last indefinitely without EHU.
 
R

Robert Clark

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It’s a balancing act

You need to consider Consumption, Storage and Generation.

Without knowing your actual consumption you won’t know how much storage or generation you need.

I’d start with a Victron battery monitor which will show you over time exactly how much power you are consuming.

You can then decide if you need more storage or more generation

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funflair

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An additional battery will give you more time before needing to charge from driving or hook up, it will also see you through periods of limited solar gain, solar panels will let you stay in one place for extended periods.

Martin
 
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Its all a question of balance , usage against either storage or charge rate , lots of solar wont overcome lack of storage capacity to get you thru the "dark" periods , lots of storage capacity wont make up for not enough recharge ability untill you use more of the stored energy .
 
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MisterB

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thanks for the responses. it makes sense to understand my needs before trying to meet them !!! the only downside of that is that if I wait until I am actually consuming what I want to then I wont be in a position to sort out my needs !!!

the battery monitor sounds like a good start though, is there a rough guide to useage anywhere that could give an indication - the motorhome is a swift bolero 2008 if that helps? fridge, tv, sat dome, laptop, phone chargers are the main things going to be running all the time
 
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I think you’ve answered your own questions, batteries first and see how it goes and then solar if you need it....

If you can afford it put both on and a battery master. It will open up more possibilities on what type of camping you can do and it becomes worry free which in my view makes a hell of a difference, doing what you want and staying where you want without having to worry whether your van can do it or not is number one in my book....(y)
 

Stealaway

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the battery monitor sounds like a good start though, is there a rough guide to useage anywhere that could give an indication - the motorhome is a swift bolero 2008 if that helps? fridge, tv, sat dome, laptop, phone chargers are the main things going to be running all the time

A simple volt meter will give you a good indication of the battery's state of charge. Just remember you have to replace what you are using, whether by running the engine or buying solar panels.

Just one of these might answer a couple of issues --

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R

Robert Clark

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thanks for the responses. it makes sense to understand my needs before trying to meet them !!! the only downside of that is that if I wait until I am actually consuming what I want to then I wont be in a position to sort out my needs !!!

the battery monitor sounds like a good start though, is there a rough guide to useage anywhere that could give an indication - the motorhome is a swift bolero 2008 if that helps? fridge, tv, sat dome, laptop, phone chargers are the main things going to be running all the time
Your fridge only runs on 12v when driving
 

Abacist

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Another view.
Our van already had a 100w solar panel and a 75Ah battery fitted, we have no TV but keep a laptop, mobile phones and a few other devices fully charged.
We can last indefinitely without EHU.

I imagine that this relates to summer use. I would question whether you could be so confident in your statement throughout the winter when the sun is so low in the horizon. I presume that you are using lights and water pump etc in addition to the small loads used by laptops and mobile phones.
 

GPW

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As people have noted you only need enough battery power to last overnight, it is your rates of generation vs usage that determine what solar you need.
An empty 100Ah battery is as useful as an empty 400Ah pack, but lighter and faster to charge.

I bought an 80W flexible panel the other day for £65 which is quite nice. I connected it up to some light bulbs (3 x 21W car lamps in series) and tested it - most interesting.

If I obscured any part of it the power disappeared - so beware shadows and obstructions.
If I laid it flat on the floor the low sun was pretty weak.
If I stood it up so the sun's rays hit it full on (perpendicular) it was pretty powerful and I could feel the heat from the bulbs.

So if you can find a convenient place to stow the panel you may find the biggest mono-crystal flexible panel you can store easily is a good idea and prop it up as needed. I think you can also get folding ones in aluminium frames.

Also get a MPPT type charger and work out what MC4 and SAE combo you need to allow you to easily desploy it! That's one way anyway :).
 
Jan 26, 2017
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I imagine that this relates to summer use. I would question whether you could be so confident in your statement throughout the winter when the sun is so low in the horizon. I presume that you are using lights and water pump etc in addition to the small loads used by laptops and mobile phones.
We use the moho up to the end of November, and then the beginning of March, it's also used as occasional extra accomodation through the Christmas holidays, no EHU required.

Yes, we use lights and water pump too, though any 'heavy' usage ie showering is best done in the daytime when the solar is working.

It's worth mentioning that keeping the heating on use no electrcity at all.
 
Mar 30, 2019
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We have a Fiat Trigano Tribute campervan with 100Ah habitation battery.
We have all led lighting, an Avtex Tv, waterpump, Dometic 3 way fridge, Webasto diesel heater, gas cooker etc.
I acquired a 255watt solar panel, the ones they fit to solar farms from work, yes it’s big but coupled with a votronic MPPT charge controller better than a PWM, it keeps our batteries charged even in dull weather. In the summer months the 100Ah hab battery will be recharged in about 2 hours.
I have it on a roof mounted frame (pointed south)so I can tilt it to the correct angle to catch the most of the sun, for winter use, I use an iPhone app called Simply Solar for this.
We did 3 days off grid last August on a wet bank holiday using the Webasto heater and watching tv for many hours with no problems.
Take a look at these YouTube channels, altE store and RV with Tito they explain a lot about the solar kit.
 

pappajohn

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I have it on a roof mounted frame (pointed south)so I can tilt it to the correct angle to catch the most of the sun
I assume the mount is a turn and tilt or do you have to park east/west every time to get it facing south. (Assuming the large panel is longitudinal)
That will be a problem on campsites.
 
Mar 30, 2019
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Yes it’s longitudinal and quite awkward about 1.8 x 0.9m.
I’ve given up with the rotation thing as it’s heavy when I’m up the ladder at 2.8m off the ground!
When we go off grid it’s generally grass field type campsites, although we have parked 90° on a few.
It’s mounted on roof bars made from unistrut with a large angle bolted to the roof bars and hinged using large gate eye type hinges.
I’ve repurposed some old crutches for the struts as they have those handy adjusters for the angle adjustment, more important for the winter when the sun is lower in the sky.
We camped last weekend and the panel was flat and still able to charge the batteries on a bright overcast day.

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Abacist

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You would considerably increase your range if you had two batteries connected together with the capacity of your solar panel.
 

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