Solar The Solar Panel Thread

May 9, 2019
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Yep @Joves I have 200w on the roof running to my controller and I have 2 external Anderson plugs on van one is a direct feed to the batteries which has an inline Maxi Fuse and can be used for regulated power from my portable panel or I can draw power for fridge, lights or whatever and the other is direct to the solar reg for unregulated power from my portable panel.... I have just used grey plugs as my extension leads 5mt and 10mt are used for various jobs and dedicated plugs would preclude that use. You just have to be aware of what you are doing...... Check out @Boots in Action as he has his well labelled, I have thought about spray painting mine red or blue, one day.....

My portable panel(120w) has a controller fitted but I have fitted an anderson to the controller as well as one which is direct off panel box, this allows me to supply regulated power to my aux battery or van battery direct or I can plug my extension lead into the unregulated plug which in turn plugs into my van solar system using the van controller.............. It can be used in multiple situations my Jeep now has an anderson under the bonnet for not only drawing power for compressor and stuff but also if I need to plug my panel in as a battery charger...... One item with many uses is always of great value off grid.

My rig doesn't have a BMPro or Setek type system, the cables from my batteries go to a Bus Bar where everything draws or provides power, which does make things easier in that batteries and chargers are in the one place and cable runs are nice and short. I have used 8 B&S cable for all leads.
Thanks for confirming, @Drover, that explains it all very well.
 

Drover

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Removing the solar input from the BMPro will mean the display won't show everything but test it out first as it may have a hissy fit since they are supposed to be an all in one system, automatically switching from 12v tug power, solar and 240v....
 
Apr 17, 2017
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@Joves understand what you're trying to do.

I thought that's the advise we had all been giving.

Between what we all had suggested that you can plug in your portable panels to the regulator on the portable panels, plug from output of portable regulator to an Anderson on the outside of van that goes to the batteries and is fused. Does that not give you what you're after with minimal work and cost?

As for fuse size, the 12V inlet /outlet Anderson I'm talking about you installing (or getting an auto-elect or sparky do) can be used as the regulated solar input or to run devises outside van, fridge, fan, light etc. If your biggest load is only say 5amps then the solar input will be the highest rated reason for fuse size.

If you're putiing in 300W and battery is low 11V then you could be putting in 300 / 11V = 27amps. Your standard little 30amp car automotive fuse won't cut it as they're to small to dissipate the heat. A larger sized 40amp fuse is better.cable sized accordingly.

That should cover the theory bit. As for doing it, if you don't know how to safely fit a fuse inline or fit off an anderson plug then maybe you should employ someone with those skillsets. In all honesty we like to share knowledge and how to's but safety is No 1. If you're trying to save a few dollars by doing it yourself at the risk of burning your van or hurting friends or family without the right skills or tools to do the work then that is not sound reasoning.

Yes there are other options, but i fear you may interpret it incorrectly and may not implement it safely so reluctant to advise on others.

The keep it simple & safe solution might be a better option and leave the BMPro as it is and leave out other isolators.

I'm human and all us humans make mistakes, if you have to remember to switch something off to prevent something overloading or blowing a fuse it's not a good idea.

I'd rather sleep peacefully at night time with my mind at rest knowing all I've got to do at night before i go to bed is restock the drinks fridge for tomorrows camp fire yarns. That's my advise. Up to you what you do though.
 

Crusty181

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Feb 7, 2010
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Thanks @Boots in Action, I was pretty sure I was right in thinking that I should bypass the panel controller if connecting into the MPPT. The sales guys was definitely saying I should use both and that the MPPT wouldn’t handle the spikes in power sent out from the panel itself. I figured the MPPT would do a better job of it than the supplied panel controller, which is the whole purpose of having it in the first place, but chose not to argue the point.

Don’t be confused by the size of the controller. It really wasn’t that much more expensive in the scheme of things, when compared to a 20 or 30 amp controller, so I figured it can’t hurt to have the extra capacity, even if it is never required. By all accounts, the Victron’s are great controllers, so it’ll be handy to have if i ever do find myself wanting to upgrade the whole solar setup in the future.

@Clewsy, I definitely won’t be permanently installing anything until I know that it is required. If the current setup works fine, then it will stay as is. I know it looks as though i have 305ah in batteries and 620W of solar, however, in reality, I have 320W of solar hooked up to 200ah of battery. The extra 105ah battery is currently an auxiliary battery, which I have decided, after receiving much appreciated advice in this thread, will not be connected in parallel to the other batteries. This leaves me with 200ah of battery (100ah of useable battery really) and 320W of solar which will do sweet nothing if i’m parked up in the shade or if weather conditions are less than ideal. I really want a way of utilising the extra 300W of solar into the van system itself. The 300W will keep the auxiliary battery charged without a sweat, but I really do want the option/ability to utilise it in the van’s power supply on the occasions (which I dare say probably won’t be odd occasions) when the roof panels just aren’t cutting the mustard. I figure I can test and decide whether it is all needed before permanently installing it in the van. There is no need to run the cabling neatly through the floor and onto the drawbar at this stage. I can just take the lot with me and hook it up to the batteries if/when the need arises, then decide, depending on how frequently it is required, whether I install it all permanently.

I hope this makes sense. Or, do you think it is still overkill? The current panels are doing a great job so far, but they really haven’t been tested in shady or unfavourable conditions.

Sorry to ask again about the in-line fuse. Am I right that it really doesn’t matter where it is installed, so long as it sits between the solar panel and the solar controller? And is 40amp the right fuse to be installing?
Ive got a couple of roof panels on the van, and a couple of blanket panels. I have a 15amp Victron Smart Solar 75/15 for the blankets (theres nothing at all wrong with your 50amp, in fact Id be happy to take yours if these other blokes successfully talk you out of it :) ). I use the blankets primarily for the car (Engel), and can use them on the van if required. I have a fused Anderson on the van's chassis directly below where the batteries live under the couch, and wired directly to the batteries. That Anderson is for both power in and out. Out being an external water pump, a waste pump or the tyre pump, and in being the solar blanket panels via the Victron to charge the batteries if required. The Victron doesn't affect the vans controller, and they both play quite happily together. There's no other special magic to do, just plug that puppy in and grab a cordial. Keep it simples .... wise Meerkat words
 
Likes: Joves
May 9, 2019
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Sydney
@Joves understand what you're trying to do.

I thought that's the advise we had all been giving.

Between what we all had suggested that you can plug in your portable panels to the regulator on the portable panels, plug from output of portable regulator to an Anderson on the outside of van that goes to the batteries and is fused. Does that not give you what you're after with minimal work and cost?

As for fuse size, the 12V inlet /outlet Anderson I'm talking about you installing (or getting an auto-elect or sparky do) can be used as the regulated solar input or to run devises outside van, fridge, fan, light etc. If your biggest load is only say 5amps then the solar input will be the highest rated reason for fuse size.

If you're putiing in 300W and battery is low 11V then you could be putting in 300 / 11V = 27amps. Your standard little 30amp car automotive fuse won't cut it as they're to small to dissipate the heat. A larger sized 40amp fuse is better.cable sized accordingly.

That should cover the theory bit. As for doing it, if you don't know how to safely fit a fuse inline or fit off an anderson plug then maybe you should employ someone with those skillsets. In all honesty we like to share knowledge and how to's but safety is No 1. If you're trying to save a few dollars by doing it yourself at the risk of burning your van or hurting friends or family without the right skills or tools to do the work then that is not sound reasoning.

Yes there are other options, but i fear you may interpret it incorrectly and may not implement it safely so reluctant to advise on others.

The keep it simple & safe solution might be a better option and leave the BMPro as it is and leave out other isolators.

I'm human and all us humans make mistakes, if you have to remember to switch something off to prevent something overloading or blowing a fuse it's not a good idea.

I'd rather sleep peacefully at night time with my mind at rest knowing all I've got to do at night before i go to bed is restock the drinks fridge for tomorrows camp fire yarns. That's my advise. Up to you what you do though.
Thanks again for all your advice, @Clewsy! I was only kidding about it all being too difficult, sorry if that didn’t come across.

I agree that installation should be left to the professionals. Any install in my van will be done as such, as i’m not really that handy a person. I’m also not one trying to save a few dollars by doing it myself. I’m happy to spend a few dollars for it to be done right and safely.

I am interested in knowing the best way to go about installing what I am hoping to achieve though. I’m mindful that an auto-electrician will be good at installing what is requested, however, I’m also mindful that he will do a better job if I can explain exactly what it is I’m wanting him to do. Hence the questions.

Thanks again for your help. If there are better options to consider, I’d really appreciate you sharing.

Cheers,
Joves
 
Apr 17, 2017
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@Joves well done, you're picking up the sarcasm quickly! Sorry i missed it.

Good to know you want it done right.

Do you have the model of your power hub? The project manual I just read said it doesn't have an inbulit regulator or charger.

Might change what you're planning as guessing you still want to charge that one as well as van batteries with the portable solar?

The vitrons are good gear don't get me wrong and being mppt most efficient and will work fine if you install it in the van along with leaving the existing BMPro as is.

You just have to think it through. Good you can put more solar on in the future, but the charge current might be to high for your batteries, unless you have a long term plan for bigger batteries as well?

Potentially if you did more solar on roof and more portables 28 + 50amps is pretty high for 200Ah's I'd say.

Do you know the specs on what the recommened and max charge currents are for the different batteries you have?
 
Likes: Joves
May 9, 2019
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Sydney
Hi all,

Sorry to ask a whole heap of questions, get some great answers, and then go to ground. I’ve been flat-out with work and meaning to reply for days, but have gotten caught up every time. Sorry and thanks heaps, as usual, for your replies.

@Crusty181... sorry mate, I must have missed your post altogether when last replying. That is fantastic news that your controller plays along well with your vans controller, which I assume is also a BMPro? That solves/resolves a big concern I had with hooking up the extra Victron controller. Glad to hear you also have this controller, so hope mine will play along just as well. It certainly looks a good piece of kit. The one I’ve purchased has built-in Bluetooth which supposedly will allow me to see how it is travelling on my phone/device. I have every intention of setting and forgetting, but this will come in handy when I want to see how the panel is performing. Is yours the BMPro B?

The panel arrived today, btw. Looks great... let’s hope it performs as well as it looks.

@Clewsy ... thanks for the compliment on my sarcasm. There is plenty more where that came from... just need to be careful how it is used, as words on a page can be sometimes hard to read.
Absolutely, whatever is done on the new van (particularly electrical) needs to be done properly. There is no way on earth I’m going to jeopardise my families safety with electrical stuff by my own DIY’s. I have absolutely NO experience in that stuff, as I’m sure comes across in my very very basic questions. I’m pretty decent at figuring out how to do things technically, but I wouldn’t risk this kinda thing. At very least, I want it done safely... almost as importantly, I want it done neatly and professionally!
You’re 100% correct about the Power Hub not having a charger. Sorry, I meant in my earlier post that I actually purchased a charger alongside the Project. It’s a Ctech 10amp charger, but I’m thinking it’s not likely to get much use. The KickAss panel has a built-in regulator which I will use when connecting to the Power Hub, via the Anderson connection. I might even have a play around bypassing the panels controller and hooking up through the Victron when it arrives. Will see if it makes much of a difference.
Good point regarding the batteries. Again, another example of my cluelessness on these matters. The batteries installed in the van are Ritar 100ah GEL’s, and they appear to each have a max charge rating of 30amps. Does this sound right? I must stress again that, if the sun is shining brightly on the rooftop panels, I wouldn’t connect the portable panel. If I’m parked up in shade, which I’d be hoping to do in the middle of summer, I’d be putting the portable 300w panel out to cover the load.

What kind of setup are you working with, out of curiosity? Again, I really appreciate your advice.
 
Apr 17, 2017
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So you'll be wanting to charge either your powerhub or van batteries with portable panels and the MPPT you bought?

I'd say you'll be fine with having both a BMPro and victron connected at the same time fine.

The victron will be better and more efficient at the job. But if you want to move it around from one to the other is a bit more of a challenge.

What also is a key part of a good charger / regulator is having a temperature probe on the battery to adjust the charging voltage with different temperature. Might be hard for you to do for different battery locations.

Looks like the ones you have are 20amps each, so 40amps for the 2 you have.
 

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May 9, 2019
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@Clewsy and all,

Well, I’ve just spent three days away at Bent’s Basin, a national park just southwest of Sydney, so an unpowered site. What a great experience, both in having an absolutely awesome time in the new van with the family (totally affirmed we made the right choice buying it in the first place!) and also in getting to know the van and it’s limitations a little.

As suspected, it’s pretty well set up for a long weekend away without access to mains power or water. We left absolutely horrible Sydney weather early Friday afternoon and arrived at around 3pm, with completely full batteries and tanks, to surprisingly dry but overcast weather just 56km away.

After setting up on Friday afternoon, we proceeded to use lighting and radio fairly liberally, which were pretty much our only real power consumers, aside from the occasional kids iPad top-up. The water we used even more liberally, with both my wife and I showering that night. The Waeco “drinks fridge” was nestled comfortably under the awning, powered just as comfortably by the Projecta Power Hub with 105ah AGM battery inside.

Saturday morning, wife has another shower and both of us head back to Sydney for half a days work whilst family, in their own vans, looked after the kids. We arrived back at about 3pm again to similar overcast (but clearing weather). Batteries were down to about 50% on the monitor, so I’m guessing down about 25% of full capacity (as the monitor factors in the fact that they should only ever be drawn down to around 50% of this). Another night of sporadic lighting and constant music, plus plenty of drinking, which kept my attention also on the Projecta and 65litre Waeco. Battery in the Power Hub still at 100%... very impressed!

By Sunday morning, the battery monitor had dropped to the very lowest level, so down to approximately 50% of full battery capacity (or 100% of realistic useable power supply). Fortunately, Sunday morning was as bright and sunny as could be hoped for. So much so, that bacon and egg sandwiches cooked on the bbq with sun belting down on us saw me work up a bit of a sweat. Perfect, these batteries are going to get some decent charge!

I kept a good eye on the controller throughout the day and watched it gradually increase to a maximum of around 9.7 amps input. The battery capacity bars slowly increased to around 50% (75% full capacity) before the amps decreased to the point of discharge rather than charge. By the end of the night, they were dropping again and by this morning, they were back down to minimum as the sun rose and the cycle started again. After pack-up and traveling home in full sunlight, they were sitting at about 50% again this afternoon as the sun dropped.

What did I learn from this wonderful experience? I’m glad I purchased the 300W portable panel and will be installing the anderson plug and Victron ASAP. The maximum amperage I could pull at any given time out of the roof panels over the past two beautifully sunny days was just shy of 10amps. Now, I’m aware that the sun is sitting lower in the sky at the moment than it will be in the coming months, but this barely cut the mustard. I’d feel a lot better if I went to bed each night with full batteries. If we’d had one or two more overcast days, and intended on staying for a few more days, I reckon we would have been cactus from a power point of view.

What else did I learn? Well, you can chew through 246 liters of onboard water pretty easily. Don’t get me wrong, we were not trying to conserve in the slightest, so I’m sure we will be able to make it go a lot further if we try to, but wow... that water just GOES!

Last thing I learnt... these Waeco fridges draw bugger all power. Whilst the draw got as high as 4.5amps whilst cranking up, they sit idle most of the time. After practically 4 full days use, the battery is still sitting at 96% capacity. I’m mighty impressed!

Overall, a great weekend and such an AWESOME learning experience. That portable solar panel is absolutely going to be put to good use!
 
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Sounds like you had a great trip @Joves , glad you all love the van and camping and gave your drinks fridge the attention it deserves!

I'm guessing you had the 300W portable panels on the power hub as sure with the attention you gave the fridge, it would have been on more than 1hr during the 4 days
 
May 9, 2019
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Thanks @Clewsy, it was a really great trip. Was so good to test out the van. I must say, we really love it, possibly even more than we thought we would.

The 300w portable stayed on its case the entire weekend. The fridge sat under the awning plugged into the Projecta via its merit socket, with no power in whatsoever. In fairness, whilst the weather was nice, it certainly wasn’t hot, so the fridge wasn’t being asked too much of, but the beers stayed chilled and the battery literally barely did not drain.
 
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Great stuff, keep enjoying the great outdoors.

Interesting, understand the fridge was in good conditions. That power hub must have a flux capacitor inside. You used about 5Ah of 105Ah battery in 4 days, if compressor use 4.5A then it was only on for 1hr in 4 days, outstanding efficency.

And in the van you use 50Ah first day + 50Ah 2nd day + 50Ah 3rd day plus bit more solar production for what was on during the day say another 45Ah over the 3 days that's a complete guess, hard to say with thr conditions you had and what you did during tge day )

65Ah on average per day for lighting, radio, water pump and ipad & phone charging. That's more than i thought it would be. Learn something new everyday. More gadets you have, more power you need.
 

mikerezny

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Sep 11, 2016
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That seems a bit weird. I don't know the setup, but it would seem to me that the house batteries were actually running the outside fridge. 50Ah per day is about what a 2-way fridge would draw. Probably a bit less in cool conditions.

cheers
Mike
 

Crusty181

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Feb 7, 2010
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Well done @Joves. All I read was the booze fridge performed admirably, so the entire weekend was a complete success.

We use an outdoor portable shower when freecamping for the reasons you've discovered; we average under 25ltrs water consumption per day with all 3 of us showering each day. Caravan showers frit away a lot of water. For overnighters, we don't bother with the portable and just use the vans shower. We've stayed at a caravan park that has a centralised tank water which is filled every other day by truck, but there is no tap water to sites. We can have as much water as we like, we just have to collect it in jerrys and decant it into the van. From doing that every day over a week long stay we now know that our unchecked normal water free for all is around the equivalent of an 80ltr tank every day; a stark contrast to our 25 ltr freecamping usage
 

Boots in Action

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Mar 13, 2017
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That seems a bit weird. I don't know the setup, but it would seem to me that the house batteries were actually running the outside fridge. 50Ah per day is about what a 2-way fridge would draw. Probably a bit less in cool conditions.

cheers
Mike
I have to agree with you @mikerezny about the figures that @Joves has quoted about the use of the Waeco fridge. It the fridge used approx 4A every time it started and ran the compressor, it must have used at least 4ah for each period of one hour's total run. If it ran only 20% of the time per day for a total of one hour???, you are still talking about 20ah which is 20% of battery capacity! In cold weather and with cold drinks in there originally and cold drinks exchanged for those used (not warm replacements), the usual cycle of ON (compressor) for 60% of the time and OFF ( compressor not running 40% of time) would not necessarily apply. However, in the very best of situations, even a 20% cycle of compressor run would use nearly 20ah per day unless the temperature setting was set so very high so compressor hardly ran at all , or low voltage cutout was somehow involved. Theoretically, it is not possible to run a compressor fridge for that many days on a 105ah AGM and still have 96% power remaining without some charging input. The percentage of power available is usually based on voltage available at the time and not necessarily under load - compressor NOT running. Like a motor vehicle , it goes alright just idling. It is only when you place a load on engine (in this case battery) that you find out just how much power (guts) it has left . @Joves , the battery must be under load to see what really is left in battery capacity.