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School me on Solar
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E1
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:31 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Abscate wrote:
That Sprinter install has at least four major workmanship flaws in the installation. This is an area best left to the pros if you donít want your Bus or Van burned up.

You cannot acquire expertise By reading the internet or looking at pictures

You just crashed the entire web. Laughing
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:30 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

syncro surf wrote:
Can some of you experts tell me if this a crazy install or is this just what it takes?


Youíve gotten some great advice, ersteís illustrated description is very helpful.

Iím no expert but I have rigged up a solar system that meets my needs fairly well. My needs: Truckfridge 49; Propex furnace; assorted LED lights inside the van; assorted chargers; short-term lap-top use; stereo, etc.

A basic solar set-up consists of:
- Solar panel to collect energy. Any number of options work well: permanently installed, portable suitcases, portable panels. The choices you have to make are total wattage (50 - 200 watts are common here) and form factor (I have 75 watts permanently installed and a portable 100 watt panel)

- Charge controller. This device manages the energy coming out of the solar panel into the battery. It keeps the battery charged w/out overcharging it to death. PWM v. MPPT can take a page or two (or 100 pages of ranting on the internet). I was satisfied in short-order that MPPT was a good solution and went with it (Although I canít tell you why. Remember, Iím no expert).

- Battery. Youíll need to do some math to calculate your needs (for both the batt. and the panel). 50ah - 200ah seem to cover most Vanagons. Those ranges are pretty big so thatís where you need to define your needs. I have 150ah of battery and it provides ice for manhattans in the summer and heat from the Propex in the snow.

- Fuses and wiring: match your wires and fuses to your loads. This will keep from overloading the wires which can lead to excessive heat which can lead to unwanted fires. Vans burn down from not getting this right.

Thatís what you need to get a solar system running. Many folks add an ACR (automatic charging relay) to charge multiple batteries once the source (alternator or solar panel exceeds about 13v), inverter (to convert 12VDC to 110VAC (an inefficient use of battery power) and other bits but these systems can be fairly simple.

My to-do list includes: ramping up to 200 ah of battery (mounted in the back of the van instead of under the driverís seat and the kitchen cabinet) and 200 watts of solar (mounted to a rack for the high-top) for a bigger cushion when I run the furnace all day or park in dense forest or just donít want to worry about being conservative with the house head unit + equalizer + amps.

Going clockwise: Charge controller in the upper-right (I intend to upgrade Iíve the cheap $30 unit and to mount it on a heat sink); the tiny black box is a Yandina ACR that allows all the batteries to be charged by the alternator or the solar panel; 400 watt inverter (rarely used, mostly when a camera or some other battery can only be charged via 110AC; fuses.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Aux. 100 watt solar panel (stows under the rear cushion over the engine when not in use, 25í cord stows under the closet cabinet)...
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


100 watt solar panel mounted in the luggage rack (pre High-top)...
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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Current: 1990 Westy Camper - Bostig RG4, 2wd, manual trans w/Peloquin, NAHT high-top, Flash Silver, seam rust, bondo, etc., etc.

Past: 1985 Westy Camper - 1.9 wbx, 2wd, manual trans, Merian Brown, (sold after 17 years to Northwesty who converted it to a Syncro).


Last edited by jimf909 on Sat Mar 31, 2018 3:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Abscate
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:44 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

E1 wrote:
Abscate wrote:
That Sprinter install has at least four major workmanship flaws in the installation. This is an area best left to the pros if you donít want your Bus or Van burned up.

You cannot acquire expertise By reading the internet or looking at pictures

You just crashed the entire web. Laughing


$hit, not again.
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Sodo
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:46 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Heres my system. Hastily assembled 2 days before leaving on a 2weeks trip (Syncro Safari in Moab, Utah). Which I am enroute, NOW passing thru Oregon. Its good to be afield! Wink Main draws are Propex furnace, Truckfridge CF49, LED lights and USB chargers.

I have a group65 house battery (Diehard) thatís not very healthy. 100 watts (two 50w panels @24v) from my brother. 16ga extension cord. SmartSolar 75/10 MPPT controller with Bluetooth. This is what I need, ASAP. Will improve as time passes and plans solidify. I have a 30A fuse 2 inches from the house battery. Pretty sparse in comparison to the Sprinter. But Iíll probably get a good idea what I ďneedĒ. Wink

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Two 50w panels on Yakima bars

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


SmartSolar 75/10 Bluetooth MPPT controller.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


The phone app.
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Royb
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:13 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

I have a 15 watt trickle charge solar cell and a cheapo little hokey $20 charge controller wired directly into the battery. It seems to work, itís simple, and itís cheap. Am I crazy/ doomed?

I donít use a lot of electricity, itís just to cover the auxiliary battery and the inevitable draw from the house lights, igniting the fridge, etc. when traveling and camping, so I donít think I need a 100 watt panel and better charge controller. I use it when itís parked at home too. I use the Westy to escape most electricaal crap and clutter.
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E1
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:15 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Sodo, Congrats on your Great Escape!!! Cool
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:44 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Royb wrote:
I have a 15 watt trickle charge solar cell and a cheapo little hokey $20 charge controller wired directly into the battery. It seems to work, itís simple, and itís cheap. Am I crazy/ doomed?

I donít use a lot of electricity, itís just to cover the auxiliary battery and the inevitable draw from the house lights, igniting the fridge, etc. when traveling and camping, so I donít think I need a 100 watt panel and better charge controller. I use it when itís parked at home too. I use the Westy to escape most electricaal crap and clutter.


That doesnít sound crazy at all if you donít have any big loads like a fridge or furnace. Simple is usually better. If this keeps your battery charged youíre done. If you find it running low on trips you may consider adding an ACR to charge the aux. battery from the alternator along with an onboard A/C powered charger to charge the batt. when a/c is available.

Again, if your current set-up works and you like to minimize crap then stick with what youíve got and watch the birds or do whatever it is that you prefer to do when youíre not futzing on a car.

The Samba is a good place to find things that keep us fucused on the cars. NTTAWWT.
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Current: 1990 Westy Camper - Bostig RG4, 2wd, manual trans w/Peloquin, NAHT high-top, Flash Silver, seam rust, bondo, etc., etc.

Past: 1985 Westy Camper - 1.9 wbx, 2wd, manual trans, Merian Brown, (sold after 17 years to Northwesty who converted it to a Syncro).
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mtnride1
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:58 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

My solar set up is a zamp 120watt portable unit with the charge controller on it. I have a 165ah battery under my slider and the 48ah under drivers seat, also an 1100 watt inverter. My solar has an extension on it so I just move it around and with just running my truck fridge, stereo and all LED lights I can be out 5-7 days without even hooking up my solar. My hook up for my solar is in the spot the vent was for the stock fridge. I recommend Zamp this is my second unit and am very happy with it. Pricey though
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syncro surf
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:08 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Abscate wrote:
That Sprinter install has at least four major workmanship flaws in the installation. This is an area best left to the pros if you donít want your Bus or Van burned up.

You cannot acquire expertise By reading the internet or looking at pictures


Could you point out the problems that you see? The owner of the Sprinter has paid someone who claims expertise for this install, precisely so his van doesn't burn up. If you see something dangerous I'd like to be able to alert him.

Thanks for all the examples of slightly more sane installs - I'm sure that I will have no need to power a small town from my van Smile
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:47 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

I don't know what all the errors are in the Sprinter install. However, I did a "Solar 101" post about 4 years ago. You can find it here:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=592743&highlight=

Here are a few more quick pointers:

1. If you live and camp where there is very little cloud and very little rain, you can get by with less solar panel capacity. I use a 100 watt folding panel, I live and camp in rainy BC.

2. Solar panels and solar charge controllers are only one part of your overall charging and battery system. Other important components are switches, manual or automatic, that control unnecessary draws on the batteries.

3. If you use a stock Vanagon engine, install an upgraded voltage regulator in your alternator. The charging power of your alternator is a huge component of the overall charging system and the stock voltage regulator keeps voltage too low (about 13.2 volts instead of, 14.4 like a modern system) to properly charge even the starting battery, let alone the house battery.

4. Avoid 120 volt draws as much as possible. For almost everything requiring 120 volts, there is a 12volt low-draw equivalent.

5. Inverters are best avoided. They are inefficient and the process of inverting wastes battery power. Most importantly, if you choose to use an inverter (I have one for emergencies only), disconnect it from your house battery when you are not using 120 volts. Inverters typically have a surprisingly high (and constant) battery draw even when no 120 volt items are being used.


6. Get a charge controller that is programmable and then program it. Factory pre-sets are often low charging voltages to avoid battery damage from over-charging. The result is your battery does not get fully charged. Always find the battery manufacturers actual charging recommendations and then set up your controller to deliver that voltage.

7. MMPI controllers are not necessary. In many cases, they can deliver an inferior result compared to a quality Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) charge controller. Many Chinese alleged MPPT controllers are not MPPT at all. True MPPT controllers convert a high voltage-low current panel output into a controlled voltage, with higher current output to the battery. This is useful when you have lots of solar panel output and your charging draws are low to modest - - instead of chopping off the panel output the way a PWM controller does, the MPPT controller actually varies the voltage down (to avoid the ill effects of too high a charge voltage) and the increases the current flow.

8. Really, it is all about the battery. Every component in your system, when optimized, should be oriented to minimizing battery draws and maximizing battery charging opportunities. If you choose to use multiple batteries, they should be the same specification (preferably the same brand too) and the same age. An older battery always draws power from the newer one.

9. Get a quality plug-in charger to use when you get home. I use the NOCO Genius 7200, but there are many good smart chargers out there these days. The goal is to fully charge your house battery when your trip is over to prevent sulfating the house battery. Even slightly discharged batteries experience sulfating over time.

10. Regarding safety, many systems I have seen in pictures here on the Samba appear to have many positive ( + ) connectors exposed. This can be hugely dangerous. Our Westfalias get crammed with all manner of things when we go camping, many of them metallic. These items can get jostled into positions where they cause shorts. The amount of electrical energy in a 12 volt deep cycle battery when shorted is hard to appreciate, but it is sufficient to do arc welding. While the person installing the system knows not to put metallic items in proximity to the exposed terminals, their spouses, kids, and friends using the Westfalia do not know this. Therefore, the exposed positive terminals and connections need to be very carefully shielded from any possibility of metal items coming into contact with them.
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E1
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:54 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

syncro surf wrote:
Thanks for all the examples of slightly more sane installs - I'm sure that I will have no need to power a small town from my van Smile

That's a bit much, though powering a Deep Purple concert might have perks. Laughing

Edit: Howesight, great info there, Thanks. Cool
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syncro surf
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:12 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

E1 wrote:

That's a bit much, though powering a Deep Purple concert might have perks. Laughing


Jon Lords B3 may draw too much current... Shocked
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RichBenn
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:17 am    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

Howesight wrote:


7. MMPI controllers are not necessary. In many cases, they can deliver an inferior result compared to a quality Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) charge controller. Many Chinese alleged MPPT controllers are not MPPT at all.

.


Well, this is somewhat misleading. MPPT controllers are PWM only mode when the differential between the panel voltage and the required charging voltage is too small to convert the excess voltage to more current. MPPT controllers have very advanced algorithms these days, and the price has dropped so that you can get 10A ones for as little as $65. Most panels today are now designed to use MPPT controllers, having high VMPP and lower IMPT. Not having a transformer, all the PWM controller can do is throw away that extra power. This means a bigger panel is necessary to get the same charging current. Thats a big thing when space is at a premium for the vanagon.

I've designed many RV solar setups over the years. The current crop of MPPT controllers do such a better job with battery longevity than, for example, my NOCO genius charger. So much so that I try to use solar rather than the NOCO on my own van. Of course being able to fine tune the bulk, absorbtion and float modes to the specific battery specifications is a huge reason the solar setup works better.

Yes, those $20 MPPT devices on ebay are not actually MPPT controllers. Amazon at least has been yanking those falsely marked third party Chinese seller ads when they are reported.
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kbeefy
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:03 pm    Post subject: Re: School me on Solar Reply with quote

I'm a fan of the K.I.S.S. approach. Less complexity means less things to fail.

There was a scratch and dent sale at Zamp so I picked up 3 x 100w panels and a 30A PWM controller.

Already had a 100A Flooded battery.

No Inverter (60 day road trip only thing I charged on AC was an electric shaver)

300w is overkill but I get a pretty decent charge regardless of shade or clouds.

No automatic cutoff but I shut everything down at 12v, hasn't happened since adding solar 3 years ago.
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