Solar power

Discussion in 'The Beginner' started by gordoncbrown, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. gordoncbrown

    gordoncbrown Funster

    Oct 2, 2011
    Hi, Although we live up in Scotland we are looking for something to keep our batteries topped up, or at least from going flat. we have thought about using solar panels. Does anyone know if the small ones that plug in to the cigar lighter are any good or do we need to go the whole way and install roof solar panels etc?:RollEyes:
  2. old-mo

    old-mo Funster Extra Special Life Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Haughton, Stafford..
    Good morning Gordon. I had one approx 2ft X 8 inchs that I used to keep on my fishing boat.. to supposedly keep the batterys topped up in the winter...

    What a waste of money.. Think it would have struggled to keep a mobile phone charged up.. :Sad:

    I have an 80 or 100 watt one on the MH and it seems to be keeping the leisure batterys up..

    But then I would hope so with the sun we have been getting...

    I believe the old saying bigger is better comes in.. :thumb:
  3. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

    Aug 20, 2007
    Acklam, Teesside, originally Glossop
    I tried one of the small ones from Maplins the first winter we had the van, just to keep the starter battery from going flat.

    As Mo says, a waste of money :Smile: I agree, the bigger the better.
  4. freelanderuk


    Sep 24, 2009
    mine had the opposite effect on the boat , with charged up battery's and one of the small solar panels ( think it was a 5 watt one ) from maplins i never had flat battery's on the boat for 2 winters:Smile:
  5. tonka

    tonka Funster Life Member

    Jul 2, 2008
    Cannock, Staffs or Benidorm, spain
    The very small ones you see very cheap are a complete waste of time.
    They only produce around 2 watts and thats at maximum in full sunshine !!
    So expect 1/2 of that and then even less on cloudy days...
    There are some on ebay rated about 4 watts sub £20... If your working to a budget then I recommend that as a minimum, alternative is the 13w briefcase one's that Maplin sell. When on offer ie £49-£59 then that is another option..

    The real answer is a proper 80w panel fitted on the roof... You can get DIY systems now for under £200..

    PS... If you do buy anything to plug into the cigarette socket make the socket is wired permenant and live when you take the ignition key out.. Otherwise you wont be charging anything....
  6. Incamania

    Incamania Funster

    Jan 16, 2011

    You are entering a minefield most of which is subjective.
    The stated output of solar panels is only achieved in optimum conditions, therefore, the performance in Northern climes will invariably be less than that on the Costas due to the relative light levels, so it follows that you need larger panels in our areas to compensate for these lower light levels to achieve a similar performance.
    As funsters have already said the, small panels are not man enough for the job so you will need to spend real money and fit suitable units to achieve the performance you require, otherwise you will just be wasting time and money.
    Firstly you must decide what you want to achieve i.e. keep the engine battery topped up, keep the habitation battery topped up, or both.
    First the engine battery, we use a 13 watt briefcase panel propped up inside the windscreen plugged into a live cigarette lighter socket. ( if you haven't a live socket you can use the crocodile clips provided, but, better fit the socket and avoid trailing leads. Also with the panel in the van you have security. Our van is always parked facing South, this allows for maximum light to the panel.
    Make sure you have a regulator fitted between the panel and the battery, the panel we bought was supplied with a regulator which prevents the battery overcharging.
    Cost - about £50 for the panel + fitting of the live socket
    Habitation battery, this is where the real money comes in and will set you back many hunderds of pounds so make sure you get it right. Additionally, you may well need to upgrade your habitation battery as well.
    We use an 85 watt panel which is firmly attached to the roof of the motorhome and has a charge controller fitted between it and the battery which has been upgraded from the standard fit.
    These systems work for us, but, only you will know your requirements. We only mention it to give you an illustration, when doing our research we went to several shows and spoke at length to the experts who were all very helpful - of course they will all want to fit the units for you, which may be what you require.
    Fortunately we had the expertise to fit our own system, but, unless you are competent and qualified don't go there!!
    If you want to go the 'whole hog', you can disregard the engine panel and fit the habitation system together with one of the units Jim has on offer in the competition, which will then look after both systems. Unfortunately when installing our system these black boxes weren't readily available otherwise this is the route we would have taken.
    Hope this has been of help to you, at least you know it's tried and tested over a number of years, but hey the fun of it is designing your own.
    Here's wishing you ::bigsmile: rather than :cry:.

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