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I don’t see much about solar panels so I wanted to start a thread for it!

I want to get some rooftop solar panels to help keep my backup battery charged and run my two MaxxAir roof fans.

What solar panels do you have on your van? What are they used for? How do you like them??
 

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Two Renogy 100 panels feeding a 30(?) Ahr house battery. Very easy install, especially the panels, and no maintenance at least so far. We have very little power draw, just some LED lights (puck lights, strip mood lights and exterior area lights) and a fan. Plus an inverter for charging electronics. Like the system a lot and would recommend it to others with similar needs.

Had considered trying to hookup a system to charge the house battery from the PM alternator when moving, but now realize it is unnecessary for our typical use.
 

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Also two Renogy 100Watt panels mounted on tabs. 215 Amp Hr set of golf cart batteries. Tracer MPPT controller. Lots of electrical stuff but all 12 volts.
 

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I've run four 100W Renogy monochrystalline panels on my previous build with a victron 100/30 MPPT controller into a 12v 80ah lithium battery bank. Also have the PM alternator hooked up to a relay with an override to provide either manual or automatic control of the connection.

There's tons of great info out there on solar/off grid installations for campervans. I'm currently working on my wiring diagram and product list for my current build, which will have about 630W of solar on the roof, utilizing another victron MPPT controller and an inverter/charger to add shore power capabilities in addition to the alternator options. Going to be using a much bigger battery bank on this go around though (about 300ah).

I'm an engineer and a total nerd for this stuff, so apologies if I tend to rant when it comes to this stuff...
 

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I'm currently looking for panels to max out the roof space w/ my Fiama awning. I have MAXIMUM 60" roof width to play with if the panel is at the edge. Most panels are rectangular and longer than that on their long dimension and only 40" wide. So that means they'd have to be mounted lengthwise loosing some valuable space - though they'd be more recessed from the edge and less visible. I have found the Renogy 160W monocrystaline which are 51"x26". So I could mount them sideways or even stack two widthwise (51x52 is pretty much square.) I'd easily have enough room for a third and probaly a fourth down the road if I need more. Need to get the ladder out and double check my measurements before I order.
 

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I'm currently looking for panels to max out the roof space w/ my Fiama awning. I have MAXIMUM 60" roof width to play with if the panel is at the edge. Most panels are rectangular and longer than that on their long dimension and only 40" wide. So that means they'd have to be mounted lengthwise loosing some valuable space - though they'd be more recessed from the edge and less visible. I have found the Renogy 160W monocrystaline which are 51"x26". So I could mount them sideways or even stack two widthwise (51x52 is pretty much square.) I'd easily have enough room for a third and probaly a fourth down the road if I need more. Need to get the ladder out and double check my measurements before I order.
I have three of these, also mounted sideways. They work great.
 

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I don’t see much about solar panels so I wanted to start a thread for it!

I want to get some rooftop solar panels to help keep my backup battery charged and run my two MaxxAir roof fans.

What solar panels do you have on your van? What are they used for? How do you like them??

It's probably worth figuring out your loads and then seeing what size panels you need to replenish them. Also what battery size you have (or need) to store those loads.



Not complicated stuff really. A friend of mine has a write-up that might help.


http://www.advodna.com/2015/02/considerations-for-installing-solar-on.html
 

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I have 2x 100watt Renogy Elite panels mounted lengthwise side by side with room to mount a third horizontally. I chose to leave ample space around my Maxxair fan to avoid shading on the panels. I also have 200amp hrs of ReLion lithium batteries.
 

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I've run four 100W Renogy monochrystalline panels on my previous build with a victron 100/30 MPPT controller into a 12v 80ah lithium battery bank. Also have the PM alternator hooked up to a relay with an override to provide either manual or automatic control of the connection.

There's tons of great info out there on solar/off grid installations for campervans. I'm currently working on my wiring diagram and product list for my current build, which will have about 630W of solar on the roof, utilizing another victron MPPT controller and an inverter/charger to add shore power capabilities in addition to the alternator options. Going to be using a much bigger battery bank on this go around though (about 300ah).

I'm an engineer and a total nerd for this stuff, so apologies if I tend to rant when it comes to this stuff...
Vangineer, the engineer nerd ... sounds like you may be just the person I'll be needing to ask questions of!! I am definitely not an engineer and am super anxious about installing all the parts needed for solar, batteries, inverters, controllers, relays, etc. I hope you don't mind ... I'm just about to purchase a 2019 159wb high roof and my first question is about roof racks. Do I need them for the panel installation? How do most people attach them to their roof? I don't intend to put anything else on the roof (i.e. kayak, surf board). I will have a fan installed. The roof racks I've looked at are expensive so if I don't need it then I'll save that money for something else. Thank you for your help!
 

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I’d go buy some 1.25” angle aluminum and just tape and screw it down to the roof and into the sides of the panels. Super simple, very cheap, works great!
PanelMountDetail.jpg
 
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I’d go buy some 1.25” angle aluminum and just tape and screw it down to the roof and into the sides of the panels. Super simple, very cheap, works great!
View attachment 60535
3M VHB Tape? and Dicor Sealant?
Thanks for your help! I like simple and cheap ... when I don't have to spend ... much rather put that money toward something that needs to be high quality a/k/a expensive.
 

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For areas that tend to have overcast conditions, poly panels like the solarland ones will create more power than mono panels.

Renogy has done a good job at marketing panels to van owners, but we won't install them. Too flimsy, so it takes an excessive amount of framing to stiffen them up.
 

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Yes VHB tape under. Pre-drill the aluminum and apply the VHB tape, set the bracket on the roof and use a self-drilling screw into the roof and a couple into the frame of the panel. Dicor self-leveling on top and around the edges if you want.
 
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For areas that tend to have overcast conditions, poly panels like the solarland ones will create more power than mono panels.

Renogy has done a good job at marketing panels to van owners, but we won't install them. Too flimsy, so it takes an excessive amount of framing to stiffen them up.
You are thinking amorphus panels. Poly and Mono are similar in diffuse conditions. Size for size though the mono still usually wins overall. Can pack so many more watts into a fixed roof space with it. Typically on the order of 25%
Not sure which Renogy panels you've installed. The 160W mono have hollow extrusions like most other panel manufacturers. Plenty stiff.
 

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You are thinking amorphus panels. Poly and Mono are similar in diffuse conditions. Size for size though the mono still usually wins overall. Can pack so many more watts into a fixed roof space with it. Typically on the order of 25%
Not sure which Renogy panels you've installed. The 160W mono have hollow extrusions like most other panel manufacturers. Plenty stiff.
Thanks

Actually I am pretty familiar with mono vs poly vs amorphous. Not just the concept, but real world producing semiconductor circuits and selling equipment for deposition of these types of films.

It isn't just poly vs mono. Panels can be spectrally tuned for different color temperature conditions that will occur in each region and diffuse light vs the laser beam like light that happens in Albuquerque.

There are some solarland panels that have strengthened frames so that they can be mounted cross wise, which is what I prefer when possible.

I have seen renogy panels in person and won't install them on a van, nor most of their other products. For people doing DIY stuff it might be fine, but since I have to stand behind the results and liability of someone having panels on their roof and the system working "correctly" as I said it would - I use other products. 90% North America content actually for the items that I provide. (Solar panels made in USA - that is of course a dearth)
 

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I ordered two HQST 150w poly panels, same size as Renogy 160W, both are 51"x 26" and 22lbs. I'm planning to mount them to 80/20 rack, just below the rack so I can use the rack for toys. They'll be mounted fore and aft so half the rack can be used. Panels will be hooked parallel, so when one panel is covered I still have 150w. Using a Victron 100/30 MPPT smart controller into a 12v 200ah lithium bank.
 

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Vacillating at this time... 2 x Renogy 100W or 2 x Renogy 160W. Either way, they would be in parallel for redundancy.
 

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my first question is about roof racks. Do I need them for the panel installation?
No, but mounting on elevated racks allows underside cooling. Which reduces cell temperature. Which reduces heat derating. Which gives more power with MPPT (and in certain cases with PWM/shunt).

How do most people attach them to their roof?
There are built-in rack pads on the roof, with nubs the rack towers attach to.
 

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We decided to use 4x SunPower flexible 110w solar panels. We mounted them directly using VHB which makes for a very low profile. We have only installed 3 of the 4 installed (not sure of the position on the 4th--might need to move for a vent) and we have not electrically connected them yet. Writeup here:



(affiliate links in this post)
 
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