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Solar panel in the luggage rack
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tarandusVDub
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:14 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

I find your real world experience very helpful. I would think delam of the panels, or degradation over time of the output, or cables cracking or falling apart after exposure to weather would signal lower quality manufacturing. I'm still researching my first system, so this is great info. The price is coming down so fast its great, but quality still really matters for longevity.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:59 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

tarandusVDub wrote:
I find your real world experience very helpful. I would think delam of the panels, or degradation over time of the output, or cables cracking or falling apart after exposure to weather would signal lower quality manufacturing. I'm still researching my first system, so this is great info. The price is coming down so fast its great, but quality still really matters for longevity.


It spends a lot of time in the sun (as it would) here in Colorado, and the only sign of degradation that I've seen is a fading/discoloration of the cables where they're exposed to sunlight here:

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The cables are probably not the best, but they're working so far.
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DeadSetMonkey
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

vw4life wrote:
100 watts, I posted to Vanagon owners and still have some testing to do but it fits nicely.

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Is that panel this panel?
http://www.ebay.com/itm/100-Watt-100W-12V-12-Volt-...rmvSB=true
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 4:39 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Using vw4life's inspiration (but still a few steps to go)...

Trimming the 100 watt panel...
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2'x4' bldg material insulation panels trimmed to fit the rack..,
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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Kkinsch
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Vw4life,

Is there any chance you could post details of your setup over here? I tried to join Vanagon Owners when I was researching my purchase and I was denied for not having any Westy content. Now I'm locked out for good


Also any feedback now that you've had it running for a while? Anything you'd change?
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

I'm not VW4life, but he inspired my install. Two sheets of polystyrene (about 2 1/2" total thickness), a sheet of corrugated plastic and 10 screws with finish washers into the luggage rack. It's been fine for six months.

If I was going to keep it (I'm replacing the pop-top with a high-top this winter) I'd use the corrugated plastic as a template to cut a piece of plexi (or heavy gauge sheet metal - a highway sign would be perfect) and use it instead of the corrugated plastic. Then, instead of 10 screws, I'd glue/tape the panel to the plexi/sheet metal and then use just four fasteners to attach that assembly to the luggage rack. That would be sturdier and cleaner.

This did reduce the wind noise a bit. I've considered some sort of quick-release system to locate the panel in the sun when I'm camped in the shade but the battery stays pretty well charged. Right now it's at 13.3 volts and I'm in the shade on a ferry (granted it was in full sun not too long ago but my point is the solar has kept the battery charged while running a TF49 fridge much of the summer).


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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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Kkinsch
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 7:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Thanks Jim. A few more questions as I'm looking to power a TF49 and a few 12v outlets for charging electronics

- how big of a house battery are you using and where do you have it mounted?
- what controller is that?
- did you drill 10 holes in the luggage rack?
- does rain water pool up there or is the drain hole unblocked?

Thanks again. The price of these panels is dropping pretty steadily and by making a quick release option, this could be the best of both worlds vs a suitcase or more permanent solution
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 9:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Kkinsch wrote:
Thanks Jim. A few more questions as I'm looking to power a TF49 and a few 12v outlets for charging electronics

- how big of a house battery are you using and where do you have it mounted?


A 100 ah battery mounted under the sink. It's not my preferred spot but it worked as I scrambled to get a bunch of stuff finished before a trip this summer. I manually combine it with the 44ah battery under the driver's seat which is combined via a Yandina to the starting battery. This means that if I feel the 100ah battery needs some help after running the fridge for several days, I combine it to the 44ah battery. I can get the 100 ah battery additional juice by doing this while driving. Then the 100ah batt. is good running the fridge on solar for several more days (at least).

Kkinsch wrote:
what controller is that?


It's a basic 30 amp one from Amazon. I liked the USB outlets. It doesn't appear to be available now.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B013HK2OOE/ref=yo_ii_img?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Kkinsch wrote:
did you drill 10 holes in the luggage rack?


I did. Not my best work but the departure date was coming fast. They're small and frankly unnoticeable, only when doing this project did I notice the PO's screw holes from what might have been a solar panel install.

Kkinsch wrote:
does rain water pool up there or is the drain hole unblocked?


I haven't seen any pooling and imagine it drains just as it did before. The drain holes are still unblocked.

Kkinsch wrote:
Thanks again. The price of these panels is dropping pretty steadily and by making a quick release option, this could be the best of both worlds vs a suitcase or more permanent solution


I've also considered getting a second panel and making it the remote option with a 25' cord. There's a good thread showing that solution. I just haven't seen the need yet (although running a fridge and Propex heater during shorter fall/winter days may be the tipping point).
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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.

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macjack
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 10:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

I have a single 100W panel in the luggage rack charging a single 85ah house battery under the pass seat. This battery runs a TF 55 full time, electric pumps for sink and shower, on board air compressor, loads of usb outlets for family of four and their devices, led lights inside, and a 20 inch monitor for the occasional movie. This setup keeps the battery in great shape.

Two things. Most of my camping is in sunny Colorado, Utah, or Wyoming. The solar panel is easily removed from the roof and placed so that it is angled to the sun. This makes a huge difference. For example, this week I was camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Pulled in at 6pm, and the charge controller showed we were pulling .9 A in the sun. I removed the panel and leaned it against the van on the sunny side, and it got 3.6A. Four times the charge in the evening hours.

Posted this setup in this same thread back in March. Since then, I had my Renogy panel fail, so replaced it with a Suaoki panel. This one seems much better made. Also removed the second plexiglas panel from the back of the solar panel. There is still a thicker piece of plexi in the luggage rack that stays there and the panel slides over the bolts and the flatbar and wing nuts keep it secure in all wind, and easy to remove.
Highly recommend this hybrid approach.
-macjack
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Kkinsch
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 10:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Thanks for the additional info Jim.

Macjack, I saw your post from march and I like that setup as well. When you say you removed the extra piece of plexiglass do you mean the 1/4" piece, not the 1/8" backer you added for stiffness? Do you notice any flapping or bowing of the panel at speed without the extra stiffness?

What 85 ah battery do you fit under the passenger seat and where is your starter battery?
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macjack
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 10:02 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Kkinsch, I removed the thinner ⅛ pice that was there for stiffness. When replacing the panel, I thought I'd experiment with just not having that stiffener in there. So far so good, after about 20 hours of highway travel this way. The ¼inch piece hard mounted to the van is what the panel mounts to, and supports it well. I put a little bit of weatherstripping under the rearmost edge of the panel, and that keeps it dampened. I do think that it rises and falls about an inch or two in the back at highway speeds. But the front edge is so secure I don't worry about it. I do want to eventually find a way to secure that back side, since it really has nothing holding it down as is, but I also don't want to cover any of the cells, and the way that everything lines up, it would need an offset front to back to reach the "bezel" portion of the panel without a cell under it.

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The Suaoki panel ( http://tinyurl.com/hjd7hzg ) is well made and very efficient, and I like the amount of edge for mounting purposes.

As far as the battery, I might have made up the part about 85AH. I looked up the specs and can't see what it actually is in amp hours. It is a Napa Legend group 41 battery, part number 7541 ( http://tinyurl.com/jxkfgjz ). I had wanted to get an AGM when leaving for a trip and no place in town had a group 41 AGM, so I bought this one and hit the road to the bluegrass festival with my wife before she (my wife) blew a gasket over my van tweaking.

I moved the starter battery under the rear seat many years ago when I went to a two battery system. It has a nice fat cable to the starter in a short run, and starting the TDI has been a breeze this way. I do give up some of that storage this way, but I'm happy with it overall. All accessories are run through the house battery, including stereo, subwoofer, and headlights. I never expected to keep that battery as long as I have, wanting something more "deep cycle" with bigger amp hours, but so far I've never needed to upgrade, as leaving the panel in the luggage rack keeps it topped off on a daily basis, and removing the panel under heavier use when camping has also worked. I originally purchased 50 feet of PV cable ( http://tinyurl.com/jxtp73o ), which I cut up into smaller pieces and recrimped with MC4 connectors ( http://tinyurl.com/jxtp73o and http://tinyurl.com/hbxmg45 ). I used two sections to get from the charge controller to the luggage rack- these pieces staying place and the panel connects directly to them when it is in the luggage rack. Then the remainder I keep coiled under the rear seat to be connected in line when the panel is removed, adding about 20 feet or so, which gets me all the flexibility of location of the panel I need.

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

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-macjack
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 7:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

macjack wrote:
Pulled in at 6pm, and the charge controller showed we were pulling .9 A in the sun. I removed the panel and leaned it against the van on the sunny side, and it got 3.6A. Four times the charge in the evening hours.

-macjack


That's notable and a remote panel is well worth considering, esp. If you're gonna spend a week with the van camped in a perfect shady spot (with the sunny spot 15' away).
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:04 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

I and others have had bad experiences with the flexible panels, now I have two 100 Watt panels hardmounted in my luggage rack (bus not vanagon). Here is the build thread.

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=664258

However; these may be about .5" to wide for the vanagon rack, although I think it may sit flush if it sits high in the rack. I hope someone finds out because these panels kick ass!

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macjack
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 6:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

thebusandus, that's a cool looking setup with the hinge!
I did have two bad rounds with the Renogy type of flexible panels, and since I switched to a Suoaki panel, it has been reliable. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

I recently had a mechanical engineer friend visiting, and he looked at my solar panel mounting system and offered some very helpful input. He suggested to epoxy threaded mounts to the fiberglas. While I generally like more easily reversible options, I am fully committed to a removable solar panel in the luggage rack, so I decided to go for it. He even went so far as to email me the parts number from McMaster:

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I then scuffed the bottom of the mount, and the fiberglass, degreased and alcohol wiped everything, used a 2 part 2-ton epoxy, and soaked some fiberglas fabric in the stuff, and poked the threaded length through the fiberglas fabric and mounted it to the roof so the fabric covers the top of the mount and is completely bonded to the luggage rack:

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I used one of these at each corner of the panel, a couple washers under the plexiglas at the front corners to help it clear the stock footman loops of the luggage rack.
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Underneath, for stiffness, I used a ¼ inch piece of plexiglas cut to fit, also stacked on the mount.

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

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


Across the front, I used a piece of aluminum flatbar with holes for the mounts, to stack over the panel and plexiglas on the front mounts.
It makes for a completely solid mounting method, a little rough looking if you are up high looking down at the roof, but overall I am happy with it. From street level, it is quite low profile.

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


Thought I would share the evolution of my thin flexible solar panel mounting method, in case anyone else is willing to epoxy mounts to their luggage rack!
-macjack
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:46 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

^^^ I like your idea there. It may be a good approach to mounting a dolor panel on a fiberglass high-top. I don't want to drill and I'm not convinced that using adhesive to attach the panel is the best approach, esp. if the panel fails.

Good food for thought!
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macjack
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:22 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Yes, jimf909, I think it would work well on a hitop. And without a cavity to span like the luggage rack, you wouldn't need the plexiglas.
I am thinking of picking up some white rattlecan white paint to spray the Epoxy and figerglas so that at least it is white rather than the yellow.
And I keep some extra nylock nuts in a baggie in the glove box (in case I drop or lose one in the leaves at a campsite) along with a ratcheting wrench, for removing the panel.
-macjack
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:48 am    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Have appreciated all the ideas from this thread, thanks everyone! I bought mine intending on trimming to place it in the solar rack, but being able to move it very easily, use the luggage rack on most trips, and place it perpendicular to the sun when deployed won out. Couple of 65lb magnet hooks did the job for me. Sits in the luggage tray when the sun is higher in the sky, on one of the four sides of the van this time of year, and stows perfectly underneath the rear mattress when not is use.


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macjack
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Love the magnet idea, owokie!
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macjack
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

Owokie, how do you protect the van paint from the magnets?
-macjack
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Agna
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Solar panel in the luggage rack Reply with quote

I am right in the middle of this install myself. I was wondering about trimming the edges, looks like it can be done without affecting the panel. I used some sheet aluminum cut to fit the rack. Here are the hinges I am using. They have a removable pin, so I can take the panel off. Bought these from Amazon for about $10.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

I removed the front cleats and these fit perfect in the indentation. I'll post more pics when I'm done.
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