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scottjk
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 7:54 am    Post subject: Solar Cargo Panel Reply with quote

I realize there has been a lot of posts about solar panels but I'm curious if anyone has found any new products or suppliers lately.

I need a panel that will fit inside the top cargo area that I can use to maintain my battery while the van sits. My starter battery is a regular Bosch that is linked to my UB12220 bank via a Yandina.

I've got a slow drain on my starter batter that I have not been able to diagnose yet so my main goal at this point is to just keep the starter battery charged when the van sits. What are the recommended min specs to maintain a starter battery in the North West USA?

Which suppliers are you guys happy with.

Thanks

Scott
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without knowing how much current is being drained from the battery I don't know how you could determine what size setup you'd need. Do you know what amperage the drain is?
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scottjk
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:14 am    Post subject: Amperage drain Reply with quote

I'm in the process of determining that now. I guess what I'm looking for is the largest most efficient panel that will fit inside the top cargo hold so I can leave it outside the van.

Scott
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott, the Solarex 20 fits well. You can lay them in the cargo area, end to end. You can stack em two high, for 4x20W capability. Two would be covered, but the other two could charge while driving. When you park in the shade, at your destination, you can deploy the other two and move the array into the sun. I am in the process of doing this, this week.
Good luck
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was strolling thru Harbor Freight yesterday and noticed a complete 45 Watt system for 199. Didn't measure it but it looked about the size of the luggage bay. If you find a 20% off coupon you could maybe pic it up for 160 or so
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ohlott
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check these guys out. Good quality stuff. I purchased a 135 watt panel from them.

http://store.solar-electric.com/1to39wasopa.html
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PDXWesty
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen a lot of good deals on Amazon lately. I don't know what size will fit, but I'm guessing not more than 40 watts or so.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=20+watt+solar+panel
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crazyvwvanman
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Ebay seller has various size solar panels going pretty cheap. I bought 65W panels for well under $150 each including shipping. Look for the auctions, not the buy it now, though the BIN are pretty low priced too. I'm no solar panel expert but I am putting a couple Vanagon systems together currently with budget being a high consideration so time will tell.

The 40w is too wide to fit down inside the Westy front rack but the 30w would fit with ease.


Mark



PDXWesty wrote:
I've seen a lot of good deals on Amazon lately. I don't know what size will fit, but I'm guessing not more than 40 watts or so.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=20+watt+solar+panel


Last edited by crazyvwvanman on Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

a solar panel that was shaped to exactly fill the front cargo recess in the Westy top would save a fair amount on gas mileage & wind buffeting (maybe noise too)

then when stopped, you could tilt it up and rotate it for maximum power.

idea free to anybody good with fiberglass...
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scottjk
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 4:29 pm    Post subject: Panels Reply with quote

It looks like 2 20 watt panels will fit nicely as stated above. Only problem is the cost per watt is much higher than larger panels. I also looked at the 30 watt panel listed on EBAY but two wouldn't fit side by side.

Scott
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 5:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Panels Reply with quote

Why would you need 2 panels side by side? I thought you were looking to keep the batteries up while the van was parked unused? 30 watts is more than enough for that. 20 watts would be enough.

Mark

scottjk wrote:
It looks like 2 20 watt panels will fit nicely as stated above. Only problem is the cost per watt is much higher than larger panels. I also looked at the 30 watt panel listed on EBAY but two wouldn't fit side by side.

Scott
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scottjk
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 5:29 pm    Post subject: Two Birds Reply with quote

The more I thought about it and realizing I could actually get 2 20's up there with a controller I could not only top the batteries but I could run my Vitrifrigo fridge without having to worry about pulling out the large panel. Then when we are parked for awhile using laptops, phones, lights ect... I could pull out the larger panel to supplement the 2 20's.

Scott
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madspaniard
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 8:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Two Birds Reply with quote

scottjk wrote:
The more I thought about it and realizing I could actually get 2 20's up there with a controller I could not only top the batteries but I could run my Vitrifrigo fridge without having to worry about pulling out the large panel. Then when we are parked for awhile using laptops, phones, lights ect... I could pull out the larger panel to supplement the 2 20's.

Scott



Hi Scott,

any updates with this? I'm also looking at what I could do to fit solar panels in the top rack/cargo area
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My understanding of solar panels is that when the battery is fully charged they will still keep charging potentially damaging the battery. Is that false information? If not how do you guys bleed off the extra power that the panels produce when it is not needed?
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izzydog
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With a charge controller. They are rated by amps so get one that matches or exceeds the output of your panel(s). Be sure to get one large enough to "future proof" your system. Some will have a panel display that will show you your watts and or voltage coming from your panels.

A typical PWM (pulse width modulated) controller will start dropping the voltage (from the solar panel) as the battery reaches full charge to protect the health of the battery. Once the battery reaches full charge, the controller goes into float mode to keep the battery topped up.

There is another type of controller - MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) - that is more efficient than a PWM controller but its also much more expensive.

Be sure that whatever solar panel you buy has a blocking diode built in so that your panel doesn't work backwards and draw power from your battery when the sun goes down.
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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

izzydog wrote:

There is another type of controller - MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) - that is more efficient than a PWM controller but its also much more expensive.


The controller function of an MPPT unit is actually less efficient than a plain PWM 3-stage controller, but by operating the panel at its best working voltage rather than at battery voltage the MPPT can cause the panel to make more power under certain circumstances, when the panel is cool and/or the battery deeply discharged. Under those conditions an MPPT can make as much as 25-30% more amperage into the batteries. When those conditions are not presnet, the MPPT wil actually cost you a little power because of its lower overall efficiency. But this type of controller does cost about double the equivalent amperage-rated PWM controller, and for small arrays (like less than oh...150w or so) it's not going to be cost-effective. It would be cheaper to simply add 25-30% more wattage of PV instead.

Quote:
Be sure that whatever solar panel you buy has a blocking diode built in so that your panel doesn't work backwards and draw power from your battery when the sun goes down.


This is pretty outdated info, blocking diodes went out of fashion just after cocaine did. They cost you power, and would only be useful if you were going panel direct sans controller. Even the most low-budget controller opens the PV circuit when there is no charge present to prevent reverse charging, but allows better efficiency when in operation because power isn't being sacrificed to a diode.
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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject: Newer flexable solar panels... Reply with quote

I was looking at electric golf carts & there is a company selling a roof flexable (very thin) solar panel...
They are glued on, very thin & have good power out...
Would this be a better solution??
They are pricey though...
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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Flexible-substrate PV has the lowest area efficiency and highest cost-per-watt of any of the available technologies. It does allow more varied mounting options, obviously, and obviates the need to protect a glass-covered panel in transit (even though the glass used is extremely tough so breakage is rare, but accidents do happen...) but it will also require an array of larger area to achieve an equivalent power output. Those are the relative factors in this technology at present, so weigh them in your decisions.
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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 6:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Two Birds Reply with quote

madspaniard wrote:
what I could do to fit solar panels in the top rack/cargo area

The bottom inside of the cargo area measures roughly 47x19.5". Those dimensions flare wider to the top.. something like 48x20ish

The 80 watt Sharp panel with frame is 47x21.. it might fit very well "over" the top.. and could mount right to the OE cargo loops.. acting as a "lid" over the cargo area.

There are other smaller panels that would fit down inside.. If I recall correctly there is one that is 17ish" wide.. I'll look thru my files.
I am thinking of one panel that is 17x 10 or so.. and you could gang up 4 of those up there..
Likely not as many watts, allowing added room for multiple frames.
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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regardless of the reason I think a solar panel is a cool idea...but instead of dropping a couple hundred on a solar panel because the slow drain...why not just start tracing wires etc...disconnecting things and taking a voltage reading the next day etc. it's free....then when you get the panel, it's even more useful...for things like blenders and Xbox Wink
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