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Old 06-20-2009, 05:12 PM   #1
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Default Solar in a conversion van

I bit the bullet and started on a real solar system for my converted Convesion Van. It came out pretty well, I think, and works remarkably well once in place. While wandering the web in search of a system for me, after having a few disappointing contacts with so-called Solar Experts, I hooked up first with Carmanah as a manufacturer and then a dealer in the U.S. willing to listen as well as offer ideas. He is Chad, in New Orleans. You can see the results at http://www.outsidesupply.com/solar-camping-van.aspx . This isn't a commercial, just a nice guy and a place to see what I did. Chad has a teardrop trailer and an SUV. There's hope for him seeing the light of "B" ing.
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Old 06-21-2009, 04:32 AM   #2
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

That looks really good Vern and easy to expand if the need arises.

I copied some of your photos from Outside Supply http://www.outsidesupply.com/solar-camping-van.aspx





My regulator / controller is a different brand than yours and 20 amp compared to your 25 amp capacity but they look similar. It is very satisfying to see 5 amps coming in when your running a fan for example that's drawing 2 amp hrs.



My LCD display is failing - part of the 2 is missing in 12.6. It comes and goes.

Great job. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-21-2009, 08:00 AM   #3
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Thanks for sharing Vern. I have been thinking a lot about adding solar to our "B"...and wondering how to do that. Your photos were great in helping me visualize how it might work. Very timely
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Thanks, Mark, for bringing the photos on board. l have never gotten the hang of doing that. This old dog is limited in the number of new tricks you can teach him, I guess.
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Old 08-06-2009, 01:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Solar update. I've nw completed my van-solar instllation -- earlier than I expected. I
wanted to make sure I got the panel I wanted since size is important in
keeping it "stealthy."



Inside, I've added e a 1000 watt modified sine wave inverter
(also GoPower/Carmanah brand). Bolted on the side of the cabinet just above the charge controller.

I reasoned I don't need the expense of pure sine wave as
it'll be limited to 120 volts only for running microwve for brief heat-ups and, if I should
find I need pure sine wave, a unit to match the demand is going to be
cheaper than buying a big pure sine wave inverter and not using all its
power. I have read that pushing an inverter to near-full or full load is
more efficient.

As an aside, I also found a great source for day/night shades. Surplus
Online V-Sales (http://www.rvandvansrplus.com) in Elkhart, IN. Good quality, wide
choice of fabrics and colors and, for me, retro fit. That part of my project is just about done too.

Now, where to go first???
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Be proud of me, Mark. I finally figured how to get an updated image of the van (both panels now on) in the messsage.
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Old 09-13-2009, 02:27 PM   #7
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

I noticed that right away - well done!

And, great job on the solar. The panels fit in that space perfectly. I'm a big fan of solar power. I just love it when I'm dry camping somewhere and the meter shows that I have more amps coming in than the amount of amps I currently using.
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Old 09-16-2009, 11:44 PM   #8
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Have back burnered this mod until I got some more pressing ones sorted. They're now all done
except the replacement isolator. Hopefully within the next month.
So, I got in touch with a renewable energy place in St. Thomas, Ontario called
"The R.E. Source Store" (go figure,eh?) and they quoted me prices for the following.
They've based their estimates and capacities on what info I gave them about my
current battery/isolator/electrical etc. setup, and it's based on that. They haven't
had a chance to actually have a hands on look at my setup, so it is a true "estimate".
They did say they've been asked about this sort of solar application before (RV systems).

STP085s-12 Suntech 85 watt 12 vdc monocrystalline Solar Module 1 unit 463.39 463.39T
GPR-25 Go Power! 25 amp 12 volt Charge Controller 1 Units 209.00 209.00T
MH-4 Mounting hardware bag w/Z-feet, Exp. plug and hardware. Set of 4 = 1 complete set 24.70 24.70T
SK1000-112 Samlex SK Series 1000 watt 12 vdc sine wave inverter 1 unit 609.00 609.00T
TOTAL (approx) 1523.13 tax included.
They don't actually do installation, but did say they could "help/guide me" through the process.
I'd be lost without some help of where to put things and where to connect stuff to other stuff.

Any of you solar "veterans" have any idea if this is a reasonable setup or price? I have
no factory inverter (2002 C190P) for 110-120VAC from the coach batteries,
have 1 coach group 27 deep cycle wet cell, and 1 deep cycle agm now, and my
isolator is flaky. I'm hoping to have it replaced before the snow flies.
I have a 2800 Onan Microlite genny if that matters. And shore power, of course.
I'm not committed (although some would question why not ) and have no plans to
proceed any time soon, I just wanted a ballpark estimate.

Any comments or thoughts are welcome. (I saw your comments in the other thread)
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Old 09-17-2009, 12:48 AM   #9
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

That's a good package and the cost isn't too bad for a Canadian supplier. You could save money on the charge controller and the inverter.

The charge controller quoted would be able handle two of those 85 watt panels. Would you add another panel later? If not, a 10 amp controller would be sufficient. A Morningstar SS-10L-12V 10 amp controller would cost maybe $75.

The 1000 watt inverter might not be enough to run your microwave and it is maybe 3 times what you need for your other stuff like your TV. Will you run you microwave off the inverter? If yes then a 1500 watt modified sine wave inverter might run you $150 - $200. The quote was for a pure sine wave inverter. That is better and easier on electronics. If you don't plan on running your microwave off the inverter and want a pure sine wave inverter then 400 watts is probably enough for TV, DVD, laptop etc.
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Old 09-17-2009, 01:03 AM   #10
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Mark's right on. My only flag went up over the pure sine wave Inverter. If you don't have a real need, it is an expense you don't need for just turning on motors and pulling a little microwave time. My 1000 GoPower inverter easily starts my 700 watt microwave and runs it the few minutes at a time I ever use it. I wouldn't want to cook a long dinner that way, but I don't do that, just heat quick meals (90-second run time), and breakfast foods which include my 90-second omlettes, etc.

If you do have a pure sine wave need, such as exotic electronics or digital printers, choose a second Inverter for just those loads and you'll come out way ahead on cost.

FYI, Carmanah includes all necessary mounting hardware, brackets, bols, wire guides and ties, etc., with the panels. Suggest your vendor "sweeten the deal" by at least that?

I didn't see a catastrophy fuse in there. You'll need a 150 amp or so one in the lead between batteries and Inverter. And Number 4 wire for that Inverter-battery run too.
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Old 11-11-2009, 03:55 AM   #11
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

marko, Vern, I just found this while searching for something else on here. I'd forgotten all
about it in between our 2 summer time trips and a plethora of other non-Rv issues
I've been dealing with. Many $$ related mods I was thinking about back then, are definitely
on the back burner for a while. This recession is really turning out to be a bigger pain than I
had foreseen.
So sorry, I wasn't ignoring you, just not always getting email notifications when someone
updates a thread I'm following. In fact, I'm not getting many, if any at all.
I do appreciate your thoughts and will have more questions when I'm ready to proceed.
I agree that off the grid when traveling, and generating more power than you use, is
the whole point of the conversion.
I'd say that when the financial situation improves a bit, and I'm hoping it will be sooner
than later, solar power and satellite will top the list of must haves.

Thanks,
Mike.
p.s. I got the isolator but still haven't figured out how/when/where I'm going to get it installed.
No rush on it either, with winter approaching, I guess.
Yes, I would add a second 85 W panel. Can't "fry" on one wing!!! In for a penny, in for a pound.
Pure versus modified sine wave inverter? Hmmm, I guess it'd be nice to be able to run as many
things off the sun as possible, so probably yes to the m/w off the inverter. And any other lo-tech
electricity sucking toys I could come up with, too! Possibly a small draw space heater? Would I
have the wattage/amperage to heat the van, until I could replenish an empty propane tank, for 1 night?
As for hi-tech electronics stuff? I doubt it. Not likely to need a pure sine wave inverter.

p.p.s. something else occurs to me after thinking about the hail storm we had summer 2008. if I went with
permanent roof mounted panels, is there a transparent armour that could be used to protect the panels
from damage by hail, bird poop, etc.? $400+/panel is a lot to have damaged by an "act of God".
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Old 11-23-2010, 01:45 AM   #12
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

I have more solar panels than you


Three 260 Watt 24V SunTech Panels.
I make enough Juice that I don't even worry about power from the alternator. My solar setup is 100% independent from the starter battery and alternator.
Photo from my recent three week trip from Delaware to Moab Utah.
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Old 11-23-2010, 03:16 AM   #13
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

I see a logo/sign of some sort on the rear of the van, I'm assuming it's your work van or commercial?
What do you run off of the 780W you generate? Fridge, microwave, TV?
Also, does it have issues aerodynamically? The roof mounting looks a bit fragile, and like it might create
lift at the right angle.
I do admire your aggressive stance regarding solar renewable. That's a lot of wattage.
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Old 11-23-2010, 10:52 AM   #14
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Default Re: Solar in a conversion van

Looks like the panels would provide shade and maybe keep the inside a bit cooler.
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