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Solar...hard mounted vs portable.
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ScottShelley
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:34 am    Post subject: Solar...hard mounted vs portable. Reply with quote

So, now that I've got the Subie conversion on its way to being dialed in, I am moving on to other project in my Syncro Westy project. On my first Westy I did the old style GW solar mounted on the top but removable so you can put it in the sun. When I have gone on trips and camped I am usually trying to find shade to park in so the van stays cool. For that reason I can see no point in mounting a bunch of solar panels on the roof of the van. I'm leaning towards a 120 watt portable system that. I can bring with me on trips and leave behind when I don't need it. Don't get me wrong, I really like the "cool" factor of having all that solar on the roof, but it just seems pointless if I want to avoid being parked in the blazing sun all day.. What are others experiences...
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crazyvwvanman
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think doing both will be the ultimate answer for me. A moderate size panel on the roof and a moderate size portable panel to deploy when I need or want to park the van without regard to solar on the roof. Moderate for me means 50-100 watts.

Mark
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jackbombay
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I set mine up so it was mounted on the roof, but it was fastened there with locking Thule roof rack knobs so I could take the panel off the roof pretty easily, I had 40' of ten gauge wire under the panel so I could easily park the van in the shade and put the panel in the sun, but I only ever did that one time. I generally just parked the van pointed away from the sun and popped the roof.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


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whynotvw
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hard mount it and be done with it. Get enough solar and big aux batteries.
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insyncro
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Mark, both.

I have a portable Voltaic system for my computer, phones, music....leaving lights, fridge, Propex and mechanicals to be charged by the static mounted panel.

http://www.voltaicsystems.com/

The batteries they sell are the best and smallest I have found.
Plus I enjoy supporting a NY based company.
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Corwyn Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mine is mobile - from the roof rack to anywhere else. With a 25-foot cable, I park in the shade and put the panel in the sunlight.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:00 am    Post subject: Re: Solar...hard mounted vs portable. Reply with quote

ScottShelley wrote:
When I have gone on trips and camped I am usually trying to find shade to park in so the van stays cool. For that reason I can see no point in mounting a bunch of solar panels on the roof of the van. I'm leaning towards a 120 watt portable system that. I can bring with me on trips and leave behind when I don't need it.


^Ditto. On top of that, in reading solar literature, to be most effective at capturing the sun's rays, the panel(s) should be aimed south. Mounted on a pop-top, no problem; just aim the van's nose north, pop the roof, and the panel is tilted/aimed south (although that's not always possible to do). I'm sure it's not that big of a deal for our smallish systems having the panels flat on the roof, just pointing out what I've read. Wink Anyway, I went with Renogy's 100W suitcase version:

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


In full sun, it produces around 21.8 open volts and drops 0.01 volts per second as it heats up (didn't bother seeing how low it actually goes). Put just your hand in front of one panel and the volts drop off even faster. I removed the charge controller that came mounted to it, spliced the two panels' wires together, cut off the giant 50A Anderson connector with alligator clips, and installed a small 45A Anderson connector. I then mounted the other half of that 45A Anderson connector to the GoWesty city water hookup:

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


The charge controller that came with the panels is digitized and semi-programmable, but I already had a simpler Renogy controller to use with my little 10W panel that uses three times less amps (other one will be a spare). Reading that a charge controller is most effective mounted near the battery (and not being weather-proof), I would've removed the digital controller from the panels regardless. I mounted mine where most end up going:

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


Folded up and in its cover, it barely doesn't fit completely inside the luggage bin. Bummer, but not a deal-breaker.

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


If I mounted a panel to the roof, I couldn't continue parking my van in the garage... big negative for me. Mounting a panel in the luggage bin would prevent me from using it as, well, a luggage bin for hauling stuff, which I do regularly. The Renogy suitcase fits between the new ARB and passenger seat (or elsewhere inside) so I can use the luggage bin if need be. Plus, I can leave the 30-pound thing behind when driving around town, or on trips when I'm on the move everyday.

The portable route will work best for my needs, but I certainly see the attraction in going the "mount it and forget it" route. Cool
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Kombi Dad
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Corwyn wrote:
Mine is mobile - from the roof rack to anywhere else. With a 25-foot cable, I park in the shade and put the panel in the sunlight.


Agree. I use 120W portable panels which I have fitted with heavy duty cable so that I can even get the panels out further in the sun. I carry them in a trailer I tow when we go camping. The second battery is 137Ah and is charged through an isolator from the alternator when we are travelling. This has worked very well for me over the past eight years. Before that I used a generator to charge the second battery when camped for periods.

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Ian
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Timwhy
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both! 135 watt on the roof and 100 watt portable to be moved around the campsite if needed?


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jackbombay
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I were to do mine again I would just hard mount it to the roof and be done with it, I would mount it all the way to the passenger side to minimize westy lean though, and then I would still sort of have enough space on the roof racks to put a canoe up there without shading part of my solar panel.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have had solar on my poptop for many years. I recently replaced it with a larger panel and added another panel to the front luggage rack area. Even so I know we won't be able to count on that fixed solar to always meet all our 12v needs. So we will also be carrying a portable panel and a long cord. Even that won't always suffice.

Over the past few months I have tested 8 different panels with 5 different charge controllers to see what more I could learn. I wanted to do all my fooling around with solar at home rather than when we are on the road depending on it.

Mark
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singler3360
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

crazyvwvanman wrote:


Over the past few months I have tested 8 different panels with 5 different charge controllers to see what more I could learn.

Mark


Mark,
Any conclusions you can share?

Rob
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kourt
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mounted solar on roof; would do again.

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=582511&highlight=

kourt
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Vanaganistan
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

whynotvw wrote:
Hard mount it and be done with it. Get enough solar and big aux batteries.

How to get the most solar realestate up top but still keep room for some storage?

I have 2 panels and 2 100ah AGM batteries i'd like to keep juiced. I have the main starter battery and aux battery hooked up via solenoid so they are separate until the van is on, or i flip a switch. this lets me self-jump the van if i need to.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have 80 watt solar panel hard mounted and most of the time it gives me enough juice. When I need more I carry honda eu1000i generator inverter and Iota 30amp charger. I can top off my batteries in 2-3 hours without any sunlight. It is really quite, when i have it on the rear of the van I can't hear the generator. You can carry conversation being right next to it. But most of the time my 80 watt hard mount is good enough for my needs.


I feel like there are enough things to dismount and mount and etc.... Being in a small van like ours. I just don't need another thing to remove and set and keep moving around to face the sun. Then I have to re-pack. But honestly for my needs even if I had another portable solar panel it still wouldn't top off my two trojan 6volt batteries.

Buying the Honda eu1000i or the 2000i was the game changer for all my energy needs. (don't need to depend on sun) One gallon lasts 10 hours. I used to carry honda eu2000i but I'm using the Honda eu1000i becasue its 20lbs lighter. Fits perfect in my Aluminess box. I carry extra 2 gallon fuel. So I have aopprox 25 hours of charge time. Due the math 3 hours can top off my batteries and my two Trojan 6 volt batteries has 220ah so it will last couple of days. Since buying the inverter I don't need to stress about charging my batteries anymore. But most of the time my 80 watt hard mount is good enough. I bought my Honda eu1000i used for mint $600 and Iota 30amp charger for $125. That took care of all the energy needs.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a fixed panel mounted on the bottom of my roof rack bars. My friend is buying the gowesty portable solar setup so now I won't have to buy one! Best of both worlds! Laughing
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ezmc321
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just get more solar and battery than you really need and forget about it. I see everybody on here engineering their energy needs precisely to what they expect to use and I think it's unnecessary. Put at least 200w (even 300w) on the roof and 220AH under the bench and never have to worry about conserving power. Just use it like you would an outlet in your house. So much more fun to never stress about it. My batteries charge fine in rain, cloudy weather, shade, who cares over engineered.

I have 2 100w panels but if they had been available I would have used the semi-felixble panels for a few more dollars. Get 3 100w flexible panels for 200 a pop. Stick to the surface of the pop top and put your rack or whatever on top and just forget about it. It's more than enough that you wouldn't have to worry about optimum charging angels or shade.

And if you have a syncro with a subaru swap the cost shoouldn't be an issue ($50 more X 3 for the flexible panels, $600 total) Worth it
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advantageaction
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd agree with Mark on this.

We have a 190W panel fixed to the roof, connected to an MPPT controller that keeps our batteries wonderfully topped up when in the sun.

Camping a lot in the Pacific North West we are in nicely treed campgrounds with little direct sun so having an alternative charging opportunity for the 4 or 5 day long weekend camping trips would be great. Our batteries have no problem with 3-4 days but an extra day or two can be a challenge with little to now sun getting through the tree cover.

I think we will find a 50W or so panel for mobility, one that we can carry upstairs when it is not in use, and connect it to a low cost PWM controller with a 25'-50' cable for when we need to chase the sun when camped in a shaded area. We don't use the city water or the tank fill utilities on the side so I think a water tight connection there would work well.

With an MPPT controller one isn't supposed to mix panels of different sizes so that is why I have decided on a second controller.

If I had to do it again, or when I upgrade to lighter, thinner panels I will try and go with two smaller matched panels instead of on large one. A bit of shade from a single small tree branch on a large panel renders it almost useless so being able to mitigate that would be helpful. With costs continually falling that should be an opportunity soon.

In commenting to ezmc321... you can never have too much solar or too much battery! I can and do forget about it now on a regular weekend, but recently allowed someone to plug their ARB in as they ran out of battery, as well as having to charge my MacBook a couple times on the weekend and I actually had to worry as we were well in the trees. There were nice sunny patches that I would have liked to have had a panel in. There was no chance I was going to pack up and move to get some power. We have 220AH from 2x6V AGMs under the back seat.

Cheers!

Barry
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ours is hard mounted and I wouldn't want it any other way.
No hassle of setting up yet an other piece of gear on top of the chairs, table, gas cooker, gas lamp, changing tent, folding toilet, side tent, etc.
No room for it inside the van or in the luggage rack anyways.
It's making power the second I get out of the garage which is quite convenient when running errands, waiting for a ferry, parked at the beach parking lot, stuck in traffic, driving on the free way or parked anywhere as a matter of fact.
Where I live shade is bad, you want to be in the sun as much as you can before the snow comes back, so we camp in the sun and we are making power.
Some times if the angle with the sun is bad with the top up, I just keep it down until dusk.
The only downside is the loss of 1-2 mpg because of the rack and panel drag but it's worth it.
I can see why people would want a portable one if they live in a hot climate because I lived in Australia where shade was a very good thing, the first parking spots taken were the ones under the trees even if they were a mile away from the mall entrance.
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