Fitting solar at Techenders

Discussion in 'Mech Tech' started by scrooge95, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. So as the title suggests, my project for April Techenders is to fit a 100w solar panel on the van.

    Firstly, lets get this out of the way.... I know little about how to do this, so I am hoping that any experienced TLBers with nothing else to do for a day might like to lend a hand. @pkrboo has kindly offered so far, but after the decidedly 'damp' mud-flap fitting at September techenders I figure I shouldn't be abusing his kindness completely, and so the more the merrier I say ;)
    Seriously though, I would greatly appreciate any help available. Tea / Beer / Cake etc can be arranged!

    I've read through threads on here to see how others have done it, and @1973daisey 'solar from scratch' has given me a good load of info, especially as Si's roof is very similar to mine (albeit the roof vent is in a different position)

    So far I have purchased the 100w semi flexible panel and controller from Photonic Universe, some sikaflex to stick it down, and some corner / side fixings with bolts to mount it on (and hopefully get over the height differences across the roof where I have three distinct ridges)

    IMG_2666.JPG IMG_2667.JPG IMG_2668.JPG IMG_2669.JPG IMG_2670.JPG IMG_2672.JPG
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
  2. I thought I'd start this thread with a month or so to go, so that I'm not panicking at the last minute, but as it stands my van is off having a bit of welding done so I'm no able to use any up to date photos, but I did do some measurements before it went away.

    The plan is to mount the panel behind the roof vend at the back of the Devon Pop-Top. There is 1100mm width available across the pop-top, and 550mm behind the vent, so space for the panel I think (tight, but just enough..... if not it can go in front of the vent).

    Solar cable route diagram.jpg

    So the two 4mm cables from the panel travel through the fibreglass pop-top, outside of the canvas inside a nice snake-chain type thing: I think this is the right thing.
    Then into the fibreglass pop-top base bit (no idea what the tech term is!), out the back, and down through the metal of the roof into the headbanger locker, using a waterproof double entry cable gland:
    From there it's down into the wardrobe where the controller will be located.
    And then into the engine bay, and across to the leisure battery.

    Sounding okay so far?

    I think I will need to extend the cables that come off the panel, so I've got these extension cables sitting in my ebay shopping basket: Which will fit into the controller.

    After this I'm a bit lost with the wiring to get to the leisure battery.
    I have a split charger located in the engine bay already:
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
  3. So that's the plan as it stands.
    This is the ridgy-ness of the roof:
    area behind roof vent (before refurb).jpg
    Don't worry, it looks a bit nicer than this now ;)
    There's three ridges that the panel can be stuck to, plus the corner bits I've bought.

    The controller connections look like this:

    And here's a completely gratuitous photo of my wardrobe:
    wardrobe area.jpg

    Any thoughts about what else I need to buy beforehand?
    Or if I've picked wrong / unnecessary stuff.

    Thanks in advance chaps, I know you won't let me down :)
  4. I have no idea about these things, but would it not be better to drill one hole in the cap next to the panel put the wire through a gland and the run it internally being as you have a straight lift roof and don't have a close "hinge end"?
    The hole in the fibreglass wont rust, it's up the top out of eye line and can be sealed with generous amounts of sealant, the cable will be inside away from the elements and can be tucked up when you pull the roof down.

    Just an idea, as I say I have no clue about solar.
  5. Thinking about it I have some internal flexible cable conduit and some glands if you wanted to make a nice tidy loop inside, if you want some i'll put it in the car and next time i'm passing i'll drop it off.
  6. Hmmm, yes I see what you mean. I didn’t especially want the cable inside, and had originally thought to take it down into the headbanger directly through the base bit without venturing into the elements, but the logistics of drilling through the fibreglass base and through the metal roof in one hit seemed overly difficult.
    I’m open to suggestions, but would prefer to keep the cable outside if possible so it’s not looping around if I camp without raising the pop top.
  7. Ah okay thank you, sorry didn’t see this whilst I was typing my previous post. Any photos? Not picturing what internal cable conduit looks like.
  8. Like this

    Attached Files:

  9. Oh I know what you mean. Like the stuff my TV and stereo cables are tidied into. :thumbsup:
  10. Given it some thought and whilst keeping it all inside eliminates the potential leakage issue, I think I like the tidiness and hidden cables of outside.
    Thank you for your kind offer @paneuropaul, but I’m gonna work on the outside of the canvas if possible. Thanks so much though.
  11. I would run it outside as you propose, as running it down the Devon springs and struts uses a lot of wire.. about 5 metres extra.

    The downside is trying to get the wire from the top of the base inside the Devon poptop sardine tin opener rip up and curl architecture where the mangled metal is screwed to the wooden frame inside the headlining covering the inside of the poptop base.

    I will bring a small laptop with one of those USB bore cameras that can peer into 5 mm holes.

    As for battery charging connect the solar charger to the leisure battery. The nice VSR in your setup will work to charge the starter battery if ever the leisure battery is full.. like when its parked up outside

    Oh yes bring a stepladder thats big enough to tie to something so you dont fall off when it sinks in the ground.
    scrooge95 likes this.
  12. sANDYbAY

    sANDYbAY On benefits-won't sponsor!

    Although my panels aren’t working at the moment, (overheating issues because they’re glued directly to the roof) I found a tidy way to get cables from the top via the controller (exactly the same one as yours) and thence down to the leisure battery.
    I mounted my controller at the back on the offside purely because of the way my interior is set up. But it would give a shorter cable run if your stuff comes down the near side of your van.
    I’ve written up how I did mine on here.
    scrooge95 likes this.
  13. My interior wiring is quite like your exterior wiring - the struts telescope rather than slide which means the wire loops are smaller at the top. I used silicone covered Halfords OFC fine stranded speaker cable as it is more flexible than normal stranded cable.

    The OFC bit is irrelevant for this usage, its the many fine strands that is important.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
    sANDYbAY likes this.
  14. If helps this is what ours was like when doing refurb. If running cables was only 25mm depth. Cant you use 2 pin plugs with curly flex onto poptop so removeable[​IMG]

    Sent from my SM-J510FN using Tapatalk
  15. sANDYbAY

    sANDYbAY On benefits-won't sponsor!

    I do like @scrooge95 flexible cable track, I shall be having a good nosey around at that when I see it.
  16. I'll look see if I got some left on Monday at work

    If ever wanna search it it's called energy chain

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    scrooge95 and pkrboo like this.
  17. @scrooge95 I've also spotted a problem, the panel you have doesn't have the eyelets in it for the mounts you have
  18. Hmmmm, yes I did wonder about that. As long as I avoid the black solar bits, can I drill a hole in the white 'frame' around the edge do you think?

    This was one of the pictures from the bloke selling the mounts:
    Looks like he might have drilled through. I've measured and there would be enough 'white frame' , as long as it's not detrimental to the panel.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
  19. Does anyone else find Sikaflex not as good as some of the other Polyurethane adhesives out there. I used Sikaflex and it came apart. Had to rebond with either Nemesis Nail and Seal from Screwfix, or Unibond Nail and Seal is my favourite.

    I have never had overheating issues with my 200W setup directly bonded to my roof. Have 230Ah of SLA leisure battery though. Just brought a lithium 110Ah battery for my other van. Seems vastly superior, but expensive.

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