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Discussion Starter #21
Another stunt is to insulate the fridge. --Heavily. This could cut down its cooling requirements by 1/2(*) and can dramatically alter power calculations.

(*) hard to tell exactly because I suspect there's a huge variation on how well fridges are insulated. Maybe nip heat transfer in the bud.

How you use it is also a big factor. Some people want their beverages cold and drink lots of it. Two people like that could be taxing on refrigeration.

The OP says the van will be used in SW US and NW Mexico. So, yes, lots of sun for solar, but also lots of heat in the van too. So again, consider extra insulation for the fridge.
Another stunt is to insulate the fridge. --Heavily. This could cut down its cooling requirements by 1/2(*) and can dramatically alter power calculations.

(*) hard to tell exactly because I suspect there's a huge variation on how well fridges are insulated. Maybe nip heat transfer in the bud.

How you use it is also a big factor. Some people want their beverages cold and drink lots of it. Two people like that could be taxing on refrigeration.

The OP says the van will be used in SW US and NW Mexico. So, yes, lots of sun for solar, but also lots of heat in the van too. So again, consider extra insulation for the fridge.
Travelvanman. That is a very good idea, got it on my check list already. Planning for a chest fridge underneath a flip-up galley counter. Going to surround the fridge with the pink foam board.
Yes, for us its almost more about keeping heat out, not in. Van is the PM white. With a whole lot of thinsulate & vents & windows. Probably about as good as it can get?
 

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Planning for a chest fridge underneath a flip-up galley counter. Going to surround the fridge with the pink foam board.
Also consider insulation under the lid. I attached a Thinsulate pillow to the underside of the lid. I can tell that it helps.

(Weird shape of lid caused by steel frame encasing the fridge.)

 

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RobPromaster, boy that's some fancy stuff yer talkin about there..I'm a keep it simple kinda guy. Fridge, tiny fart box fan. A few led lights in the evenings and charge some small devices now & then. Thats really about it.
Actually those small devices we can just charge while we are driving most of the time. Heater? Pm's already got a very robust heater. Start the van let it warm a few minutes, and crank the heat, you you would be suprised. With the heat on high and on dash vent. I cannot even sit in the front seats for more than 30 seconds, get baked right out of there.
Nightime heat, two hot water bottles & a compact wife.
Stove, propane. Fan? Got a large roof vent over the galley instead.
Its so easy to go crazy with tech building a van these days. But in the end, we are going camping guys. And camping really has been about keeping it simple all these years anyway.
Not aware of where you are camping, your particulars. Your rig, your time, your dime, make it yours.
Just gave a wild guess of where and how things could go.
Solar tech is exploding, never would have guessed I could get 280ah LiFePo4 for $420 delivered from China. But now I think there are better ways to go. Would love to get a different panel, they have evolved. Solar charge controller, maybe.., yup, keep it simple.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
Not aware of where you are camping, your particulars. Your rig, your time, your dime, make it yours.
Just gave a wild guess of where and how things could go.
Solar tech is exploding, never would have guessed I could get 280ah LiFePo4 for $420 delivered from China. But now I think there are better ways to go. Would love to get a different panel, they have evolved. Solar charge controller, maybe.., yup, keep it simple.
RobPromaster, you get that LifePo4 battery off of ebay or another source?
Just curious.
 

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Check out DIY Solar Power Forum.
Lots to learn if you go down that rabbit hole. I figured the $400 was a learning fee, if the battery works, even better.
So much to learn...
 

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So Harry N. You are running vanlife solar panels both horizontally & vertically & comparing the results?
If I am understanding you correctly. Do tell, what are you finding?
I will get a picture and post it to clarify.

My van I am using is just an old dodge mini van
  • 2 x 150 watt solar panels (a brand that doesn't exist any more)
  • They are the typical ~ 26 x 58 inch size panels, facing "up".
  • These panels get sunshine when the van is parked in the sun at home, but at the shop I park it in the shade due to how things work.
  • This is the primary source of power for the shop
  • When there is not enough sun access or there is a lot going on, I charge this pack up from a 120 vac charger
  • This feeds an early prototype of the 2x2 product (4 LIfeline AGMs, 2 kW inverter)

Test stand #1
  • I added this earlier this year to help test systems and components
  • Everything gets tested, and this takes time, power, sun, etc.
  • Also to charge battery packs and run some lights.

  • It is 2 x 150 watt solarland mono panels, same physical size as the ones on my van
  • Typical Vmp of RV panels ~ 18 volt @ MPP
  • Usually I have them wired in series to feed 24 volt pack via a bogart PWM setup, but it also is used in other configurations
  • Physically these are vertical so that they can be inside of the door way and leave the drive path open.
  • They are facing mostly south
  • During the heavy smoke we had, power was @ 8 watts total from 300 watts of panels. Yes, really, 8 watts.
  • In November, they have been running Vmp ~ 15 volts (each) @ 3- 5 amps, so 300 watts of panels are producing ~ 50 - 75 watts (edited to correct my math)

You can see why the bogart PWM controller works so well for this arrangement as there is considerable Vmp droop and it would never run a normal mppt controller except when 2 panels are wired in series feeding a 12 volt battery.

When the van is at the shop, it is usually in the shade, so there isn't an easy way to do a one - one comparison.

Test stand #2
  • Just about finished setting it up
  • 2 each solarland poly panels, 24 volt type ( so Vmp = 36 volts), 140 watts each
  • These are perhaps not a typical panel found on vans, as they have 2 inch frames vs 1.5 inch and some other aspects
  • There is a center tap on these panels, so I can arrange them as Vmp = 18, 36, 48 and 72 volts
  • This makes it easier to test higher voltage arrays than the cobbled together solar array version I was using before.
  • Also expands the number of systems that can be under test at any given time.
  • Not finished setting it up, so no info yet
I used to have a test stand on wheels that completely mimicked the roof of a sprinter with rails and could mount 3 panels on it. There just was not a good way to use it at the current shop location.
 

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@Nick H. We are using 2 x 100W Renogy panels that charge 2 x 100 Renogy AGM batteries. Our set up is not exactly like RobPromaster mentioned but we do have some of those bells and whistles as we live and work out of our van in a wide range of climates for most of the year. On sunny days as long as we aren't running our inverter and charging both laptops we hardly drop below 85 to 90% battery capacity. We do have a battery doctor so we can charge while driving when we need to.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
@Nick H. We are using 2 x 100W Renogy panels that charge 2 x 100 Renogy AGM batteries. Our set up is not exactly like RobPromaster mentioned but we do have some of those bells and whistles as we live and work out of our van in a wide range of climates for most of the year. On sunny days as long as we aren't running our inverter and charging both laptops we hardly drop below 85 to 90% battery capacity. We do have a battery doctor so we can charge while driving when we need to.
EricO, well two Renogy 100w panels and two Renogy 100 AGM's is pretty much what we are thinking of doing.
What controller are you using in there Eric?
 

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EricO, well two Renogy 100w panels and two Renogy 100 AGM's is pretty much what we are thinking of doing.
What controller are you using in there Eric?
We went with the Renogy Rover Li 24-Volt 30 Amp Mppt Solar Charge Controller with Bluetooth Module and haven't had any issues. I sized up so the controller from 20amp to 30amps and my cable that I pulled so that I could add more panels in the future if I wanted to which we may do sometime in the next year. The only real times our system didn't have enough capacity was in the dead of winter in Colorado if we had a few cloudy days in a row and we weren't driving a lot. That on top of being the additional constraints that Covid imposed meant we could not work inside coffee shops, library's, etc. so we were running our heater more and charging our laptops more from our battery bank.
 
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