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Solar Panels

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Dave Wickham

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137
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T6 Ocean 150
Can anyone recommend a decent portable solar panel that plugs directly into the Cali external hook-up socket? Thanks in anticipation of some guidance.
 
AlisonF

AlisonF

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The external socket is for mains hook up (240V). Solar panels need to be connected to the leisure battery. I’m sure someone will correct me if that is wrong.

Edit - link to the Solar Panel section

 
WelshGas

WelshGas

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Can anyone recommend a decent portable solar panel that plugs directly into the Cali external hook-up socket? Thanks in anticipation of some guidance.
As @AlisonF has said, Solar panels are 12/24 v external socket is 230 v Mains only.
You could have an external 12 v socket wired to one of the Leisure Batteries.
 
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Dave Wickham

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Newcastle upon Tyne
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T6 Ocean 150
Thanks, attachment to the front battery under passenger seat will be more practical for access than the one at the rear? Still the front one looks a devil to get out - it has a rubber cover and its damn hard to get it off. Looks like a job for an auto-electrician
 
WelshGas

WelshGas

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Thanks, attachment to the front battery under passenger seat will be more practical for access than the one at the rear? Still the front one looks a devil to get out - it has a rubber cover and its damn hard to get it off. Looks like a job for an auto-electrician
Only has to be done once. To wire a socket on. Then plug the panel into the socket.
It is in fact fairly easy to get at.
Ignition Off, and leave keys in pocket. You'll see why shortly.
Undo 4 bolts/nuts holding seat to rails. Once undone lift rear of seat and lean seat forward so backrest leans against dashboard. There are 2 connectors on wiring into seat base. For airbag and seat heating. These Do Not have to be disconnected but if you do Do Not switch on ignition until reconnected.
Pull cover of battery and wire in socket correctly to +tve and - tve terminals.
Refit cover and seat.
 
GrumpyGranddad

GrumpyGranddad

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Wendover
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T6.1 Ocean 199
Thanks, attachment to the front battery under passenger seat will be more practical for access than the one at the rear? Still the front one looks a devil to get out - it has a rubber cover and its damn hard to get it off. Looks like a job for an auto-electrician
Hi Dave, are you set against a permanent panel or two, on the roof? I’m a newbie Cali owner and deliberated for a long time, whilst waiting for my van, about portable v fixed. I finally went for fixed. The advantage for me is that it is ‘fit and forget’ and I had it installed to charge both leisure and starter batteries. I also retain valuable storage space in the van that the portable panel would have taken up. I got a bit hung up on having the curly cable laying across the roof but it’s fine (might put a clear paint protection strip under it at some point, but probably not necessary).
Portable does have the advantage that you can orientate it to suit the position of the sun more easily than by moving the van. In hot locations you might want to park the van in the shade but want solar panel in the sunshine. Don’t forget if you buy a portable panel that you’ll need a charge controller - some portables come with one built in, some don’t.
The other consideration with fixed is height of the van. The panels I had fitted still give a little clearance under 2m height barriers (but i’ve had my van lowered 30mm anyway which gives a little piece of mind).
Had I gone for portable, I had planned to install an Anderson plug at the rear adjacent to the shower outlet and, for flexibility, possibly a second Anderson plug connected to the front leisure battery.
One other point is that it is apparently preferable to connect the negative cable from the solar to the chassis near the battery. I think this is in order that the van’s battery monitoring can ‘see’ the solar charge (others on here can probably provide a better explanation).
 
GrumpyGranddad

GrumpyGranddad

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1,685
Location
Wendover
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T6.1 Ocean 199
Hi Dave, are you set against a permanent panel or two, on the roof? I’m a newbie Cali owner and deliberated for a long time, whilst waiting for my van, about portable v fixed. I finally went for fixed. The advantage for me is that it is ‘fit and forget’ and I had it installed to charge both leisure and starter batteries. I also retain valuable storage space in the van that the portable panel would have taken up. I got a bit hung up on having the curly cable laying across the roof but it’s fine (might put a clear paint protection strip under it at some point, but probably not necessary).
Portable does have the advantage that you can orientate it to suit the position of the sun more easily than by moving the van. In hot locations you might want to park the van in the shade but want solar panel in the sunshine. Don’t forget if you buy a portable panel that you’ll need a charge controller - some portables come with one built in, some don’t.
The other consideration with fixed is height of the van. The panels I had fitted still give a little clearance under 2m height barriers (but i’ve had my van lowered 30mm anyway which gives a little piece of mind).
Had I gone for portable, I had planned to install an Anderson plug at the rear adjacent to the shower outlet and, for flexibility, possibly a second Anderson plug connected to the front leisure battery.
One other point is that it is apparently preferable to connect the negative cable from the solar to the chassis near the battery. I think this is in order that the van’s battery monitoring can ‘see’ the solar charge (others on here can probably provide a better explanation).
Forgot to say that another advantage of a fixed solar panel for me is that I have dashcams fitted that have ‘parking mode’. Parking mode will draw power from the starter battery. Could drain the starter battery if parked for an extended period. I have a ‘power magic pro’ fitted which switches the dashcams off when the battery charge level reaches a certain threshold. That’s good in one obvious respect but of course there’s then no dashcam monitoring of the parked vehicle. The solar setup extends the period of time the dashcams will stay active (obviously subject to amount of sunshine).
 
66tim99

66tim99

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Messages
774
Location
London
Vehicle
T6.1 Ocean 150
Hi Dave, are you set against a permanent panel or two, on the roof? I’m a newbie Cali owner and deliberated for a long time, whilst waiting for my van, about portable v fixed. I finally went for fixed. The advantage for me is that it is ‘fit and forget’ and I had it installed to charge both leisure and starter batteries. I also retain valuable storage space in the van that the portable panel would have taken up. I got a bit hung up on having the curly cable laying across the roof but it’s fine (might put a clear paint protection strip under it at some point, but probably not necessary).
Portable does have the advantage that you can orientate it to suit the position of the sun more easily than by moving the van. In hot locations you might want to park the van in the shade but want solar panel in the sunshine. Don’t forget if you buy a portable panel that you’ll need a charge controller - some portables come with one built in, some don’t.
The other consideration with fixed is height of the van. The panels I had fitted still give a little clearance under 2m height barriers (but i’ve had my van lowered 30mm anyway which gives a little piece of mind).
Had I gone for portable, I had planned to install an Anderson plug at the rear adjacent to the shower outlet and, for flexibility, possibly a second Anderson plug connected to the front leisure battery.
One other point is that it is apparently preferable to connect the negative cable from the solar to the chassis near the battery. I think this is in order that the van’s battery monitoring can ‘see’ the solar charge (others on here can probably provide a better explanation).
Very helpful thanks. Does charging the starter battery (as well as the leisure) allow you to use the stereo constantly when parked up if the panels are charging?
 
kurienp

kurienp

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1,376
Location
Newbury, Berkshire, UK
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204 4Motion
Very helpful thanks. Does charging the starter battery (as well as the leisure) allow you to use the stereo constantly when parked up if the panels are charging?
unfortunately no. The time off for the stereo is programmed into the BCM. You will still need to switch it on again after 20 minutes
 
GrumpyGranddad

GrumpyGranddad

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1,685
Location
Wendover
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T6.1 Ocean 199
Very helpful thanks. Does charging the starter battery (as well as the leisure) allow you to use the stereo constantly when parked up if the panels are charging?
I’m no expert but somehow doubt it. The charge controller prioritised the leisure batteries and when they are ‘full’ then trickle charges the starter battery. Lot’s of variables at play.
 
Calimili

Calimili

Messages
747
Location
Lake Starnberg / Frankfurt
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 150 4Motion
I went for a foldable 120W from OFFgridtec and the Victron MPPT 75/15 controller. It can also fit inside the windshield, I connect it to the front leisure battery.
Of course i can also charge the Engine battery by plugging into the dash cigarette socket near the gear lever or charge both Leisure and Engine Battery by plugging into the front leasure battery and using a cable with two cig plugs, one of which switched, to connect the cig plug on the kitchen unit (fed by the leisure batteries) to the front dash cig plug near the gear lever (fed by the engine battery).
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/post-378239

sorry, this is the correct post :
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/page-3#post-412885
 
AlisonF

AlisonF

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T6.1 Beach camper 150
I went for a foldable 120W from OFFgridtec and the Victron MPPT 75/15 controller. It can also fit inside the windshield, I connect it to the front leisure battery.
Of course i can also charge the Engine battery by plugging into the dash cigarette socket near the gear lever or charge both Leisure and Engine Battery by plugging into the front leasure battery and using a cable with two cig plugs, one of which switched, to connect the cig plug on the kitchen unit (fed by the leisure batteries) to the front dash cig plug near the gear lever (fed by the engine battery).
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/post-378239

sorry, this is the correct post :
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/page-3#post-412885
I commented on the link. Looks a great solution for my situation. Thanks.
 
Breeze1

Breeze1

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Messages
990
Location
Dorset
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Grand California 600
Very helpful thanks. Does charging the starter battery (as well as the leisure) allow you to use the stereo constantly when parked up if the panels are charging?
I have the Votronic MPP 165 duel fitted to the GC, this charges (prioritise) the leisure batteries first then the starter, when charged it trickle charges.
 
D

Dave Wickham

VIP Member
Messages
137
Location
Newcastle upon Tyne
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 150
Only has to be done once. To wire a socket on. Then plug the panel into the socket.
It is in fact fairly easy to get at.
Ignition Off, and leave keys in pocket. You'll see why shortly.
Undo 4 bolts/nuts holding seat to rails. Once undone lift rear of seat and lean seat forward so backrest leans against dashboard. There are 2 connectors on wiring into seat base. For airbag and seat heating. These Do Not have to be disconnected but if you do Do Not switch on ignition until reconnected.
Pull cover of battery and wire in socket correctly to +tve and - tve terminals.
Refit cover and seat.
cheers
 
D

Dave Wickham

VIP Member
Messages
137
Location
Newcastle upon Tyne
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 150
Hi Dave, are you set against a permanent panel or two, on the roof? I’m a newbie Cali owner and deliberated for a long time, whilst waiting for my van, about portable v fixed. I finally went for fixed. The advantage for me is that it is ‘fit and forget’ and I had it installed to charge both leisure and starter batteries. I also retain valuable storage space in the van that the portable panel would have taken up. I got a bit hung up on having the curly cable laying across the roof but it’s fine (might put a clear paint protection strip under it at some point, but probably not necessary).
Portable does have the advantage that you can orientate it to suit the position of the sun more easily than by moving the van. In hot locations you might want to park the van in the shade but want solar panel in the sunshine. Don’t forget if you buy a portable panel that you’ll need a charge controller - some portables come with one built in, some don’t.
The other consideration with fixed is height of the van. The panels I had fitted still give a little clearance under 2m height barriers (but i’ve had my van lowered 30mm anyway which gives a little piece of mind).
Had I gone for portable, I had planned to install an Anderson plug at the rear adjacent to the shower outlet and, for flexibility, possibly a second Anderson plug connected to the front leisure battery.
One other point is that it is apparently preferable to connect the negative cable from the solar to the chassis near the battery. I think this is in order that the van’s battery monitoring can ‘see’ the solar charge (others on here can probably provide a better explanation).
Thks Grumpy Grandad. Good point about fixing panels to the roof - then affects the overall vehicle height. I have not had the suspension lowered and don't want to given the amount of speed bumps around where I live. The other issue for me is making fixings onto the roof that might affect VW warranty (I have a 5 yr extended warranty). I am leaning toward a portable unit.
 
WelshGas

WelshGas

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Thks Grumpy Grandad. Good point about fixing panels to the roof - then affects the overall vehicle height. I have not had the suspension lowered and don't want to given the amount of speed bumps around where I live. The other issue for me is making fixings onto the roof that might affect VW warranty (I have a 5 yr extended warranty). I am leaning toward a portable unit.
The Solar panel kits supplied by Roger Donahugh, a forum member, do not raise the height and fix in the Roof Rail fittings already on the California roof. There is No Drilling involved in fitting the kits and the vehicle height is unaffected. I have one of his kits for the past 6 yrs and regularly use 2 m car parks without a problem.
 
GrumpyGranddad

GrumpyGranddad

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Location
Wendover
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T6.1 Ocean 199
Thks Grumpy Grandad. Good point about fixing panels to the roof - then affects the overall vehicle height. I have not had the suspension lowered and don't want to given the amount of speed bumps around where I live. The other issue for me is making fixings onto the roof that might affect VW warranty (I have a 5 yr extended warranty). I am leaning toward a portable unit.
Just for reference the panels from Solar Camper Solutions bolt into existing roof channels so no warranty issues. Are also very low profile so lowering isn’t absolutely necessary.
The portable version that Calimili looks like a really good solution also if you’re not worried about ‘always on’ solar.
 
GP

GP

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Messages
56
Location
Bath
Vehicle
T6.1 Ocean 199
I went for a foldable 120W from OFFgridtec and the Victron MPPT 75/15 controller. It can also fit inside the windshield, I connect it to the front leisure battery.
Of course i can also charge the Engine battery by plugging into the dash cigarette socket near the gear lever or charge both Leisure and Engine Battery by plugging into the front leasure battery and using a cable with two cig plugs, one of which switched, to connect the cig plug on the kitchen unit (fed by the leisure batteries) to the front dash cig plug near the gear lever (fed by the engine battery).
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/post-378239

sorry, this is the correct post :
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/leisure-battery-charging.32304/page-3#post-412885
I really like the look of this solution especially since I don't really want to put a solar panel on my roof and it gives me the flexibility. My slight concern now is will there be import/custom duties/ extra shipping costs because we are ordering from Europe? That could push the cost up quite a lot. I have written to them to ask but I wonder if anyone has order similar type items form Europe in January and had any problems with extra hidden costs as a result of Brexit?
 
Calimili

Calimili

Messages
747
Location
Lake Starnberg / Frankfurt
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 150 4Motion
I really like the look of this solution especially since I don't really want to put a solar panel on my roof and it gives me the flexibility. My slight concern now is will there be import/custom duties/ extra shipping costs because we are ordering from Europe? That could push the cost up quite a lot. I have written to them to ask but I wonder if anyone has order similar type items form Europe in January and had any problems with extra hidden costs as a result of Brexit?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07L11GSSZ/?tag=eliteelect-21

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075NQQRPD/?tag=eliteelect-21
There you go
 
GP

GP

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Messages
56
Location
Bath
Vehicle
T6.1 Ocean 199
Many thanks for the links, interesting. Unfortunately I think that is significantly more expensive. No doubt you are happily sitting in Germany without the problem we have made for ourselves here in the UK, you are the lucky one. Firstly the combined purchases are far more than the euro cost of the Offgridtec site and then I will still have to pay tax and the potentially huge additional courier admin fee on top since the supplier is still the same from Germany. I calculate that the rough cost including taxes and admin and before the shipping charges is £537 versus your original site cost of Euro 311 which translate into approx £275 i.e almost double the price!!. Looks like we will have to stop buying from Europe. Luckily I have bought almost everything I need for our van but a real shame for anyone trying to fit out their van from now on. I am also lucky to have a relative living in Holland (also in the solar industry) who travels to the UK regularly so will hopefully get it brought back via him??
 

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