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Which solar is right for me?

ThomasHJ

ThomasHJ

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Location
Netherlands
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T5 SE 140
I'm considering getting solar panels. Have thought about it a few times, 'cause it seemed nice to be independant of hookup, but could never justify the cost, as we hardly ever wild camp. We do however tend to spend time on camp sites without EHU more and more often these days. And I get annoyed that the 2 leisure batteries (T5 California SE) only last about 48 hours. Even though they are quite new and people here often mention they can do more then 48h without EHU. I do always have the fridge on 5/6/max and the last few weeks noticed that when I turn it to 3/4 the batteries hold out longer. But then I worry about spoiling my steaks. And now I'm always checking the batteries charge state and telling my kids not to use the lights. Even had to run the motor on idle a couple of times and found myself driving the van to charge the batteries. Not always very convenient. So solar suddenly seems like a useful addition. And might even help us try to do some wild camping.

Now, having read a lot of good reviews on here of @Roger Donoghue solar kits, I'd be tempted to go with that. I like that they can be screwed on, like the fact that several people here have 'm and that they seem to come with good service from @Roger Donoghue. So, I will send him an e-mail soon to get some information.

I read a lot of threads about solar of course, but I would also love any (new) information you guys can give me. Especially those of you who have one of his kits installed on your van.

I have a few questions:

- How many panels to go for?
We drive a T5 California SE (what is nowadays called an ocean). We really only use the fridge (on a high setting) and we charge phones. Would like to extend our capacity to say 5 days without EHU. Hope 1 pnale will suffice. Does 1 suffice for you guys? Would also like to keep room for a roof trunk in the future.

- what charger to go for?
I can't choose cause I really dont know what I would need/want.
 
Hi @ThomasHJ , we'd be happy to explain our solar panel set up. Just come round one day! You will have seen what we have on our roof. We have daylight panels, even in not too sunny circumstances we have done 5 days without EHU easily, with fridge and lights and charging telephones...
 
@ThomasHJ our SE will easily do 3 days with fridge on 5 and batteries still at 80% (although Scotland isn’t quite as warm as Netherlands). Have you checked currents being drawn as 48 hours doesn’t sound correct?
 
Hi @ThomasHJ , we'd be happy to explain our solar panel set up. Just come round one day! You will have seen what we have on our roof. We have daylight panels, even in not too sunny circumstances we have done 5 days without EHU easily, with fridge and lights and charging telephones...
Thank you very much for the offer. I will gladly take you up on that. Will walk over next time I see your van. :)
 
@ThomasHJ our SE will easily do 3 days with fridge on 5 and batteries still at 80% (although Scotland isn’t quite as warm as Netherlands). Have you checked currents being drawn as 48 hours doesn’t sound correct?
@Camperfamily what's the lower limit in V (on the control panel) at which you consider the batteries critically low and feel you absolutely need to EHU or drive? Perhaps I am playing it to safe.

Our batteries were all replaced less then 2 years ago. We did have a repair done a while back on the earth shunt when we had a problem with the control panel showing the batteries emptying quite fast. But It'd be good to know if the batteries still drain to fast or there's still something wrong with the numbers shown. Problem is, its hard to compare with others cause the level at which you set the fridge and the amount of power being used of course differs between people.
 
Hi Thomas. 48 hours is short for two batteries. You might want to check the temp inside your fridge as often running them at medium uses a lot less power but only costs a few degrees. I used to run a compressord fridge for 48 hours on one 75 ah battery.

In the summer, a single 100w panel is plenty for keeping on top fo the fridge.

Regarding MPPT – they all perform the same, it’s just about how they display information. The £38 MPPT charger gives you 20% extra power and shows you your battery level, and solar charging power on a built in LCD display. The Victron chargers perform the same but have no display but connect to your phone instead, with an app. They also show you historical data. The Epever Duo will also charge your starter battery (as well as your leisure battery). Both Epever chargers have an optoinal remote mountable LCD display, repeating the information that is already shown on the charger itself. This is for convenience and is not a requirement.
 
With 2 x solar panels, our Leisure Battery is fully charged each day with fridge (Dometic CFX35) running 24/7. Have had it running in for past 8 weeks to test panels & new fridge. Also been charging various iphones & small water pump for the sink in an attempt to flatten the battery, but been impossible so far!

No need for EHU at all.
 
If you go with SPS Thomas, please keep us posted here on the process. I’ll likely fit one panel on my van next year and am interested to know how the international shipping works out, etc.
 
Do it, you will go from battery anxiety to battery satisfaction as you watch them fill up on sunny days.
We have 1x100 watts and is enough in the summer when the fridge is working harder. Orientation is important though, makes a big difference so if not moving for a few days, so ensure roof slope is the right way.
 
Do it, you will go from battery anxiety to battery satisfaction as you watch them fill up on sunny days.
We have 1x100 watts and is enough in the summer when the fridge is working harder. Orientation is important though, makes a big difference so if not moving for a few days, so ensure roof slope is the right way.
Agree, we have 2 x 100 watt panels and they keep the leisure batteries fully charged. Camping display normally shows >60 hours and we have left the fridge on permanently for the last few months. Our solar system also trickle charges the starter battery. That’s a benefit too as the front/rear dash-cams remain permanently powered up in Parking Mode.
 
I had 1 x 120W on the ocean, good with the fridge in 5 from March to late October and batteries full most of the time.
The 120W failed after 16 months, good replacement under warranty from Rodger and I added another panel too so now 200W total.
Why, well we camp all year and it just extends the time solar is useful with less daylight hours with more collection capacity, 200W vs 120W.
If you are summer only then 100W is probably fine.
 
@Camperfamily what's the lower limit in V (on the control panel) at which you consider the batteries critically low and feel you absolutely need to EHU or drive? Perhaps I am playing it to safe.

Our batteries were all replaced less then 2 years ago. We did have a repair done a while back on the earth shunt when we had a problem with the control panel showing the batteries emptying quite fast. But It'd be good to know if the batteries still drain to fast or there's still something wrong with the numbers shown. Problem is, its hard to compare with others cause the level at which you set the fridge and the amount of power being used of course differs between people.
@ThomasHJ I don’t know what is critically low, but I personally keep the leisure batteries at 80% or above and would run the engine if we weren’t moving on (we almost always move after 1 or 2 nights anyway). This is probably excessively prudent.
 
Anyone gone from two solar panels back to one…?
I’m finding two panels, takes up to much roof space and I’m considering dumping one panel and running just one.
I tend to move every couple of days anyway, so I’m sure between one panel and regular driving the leisure batteries would be getting enough charge…?
 
Anyone gone from two solar panels back to one…?
I’m finding two panels, takes up to much roof space and I’m considering dumping one panel and running just one.
I tend to move every couple of days anyway, so I’m sure between one panel and regular driving the leisure batteries would be getting enough charge…?
I went from 1 to 2 panels after one failed inside 2 yrs. 1 was ok April to October but I wanted better winter performance up here in the far north, low sun or more like lack of sun !
Two has been an improvement but at the moment 200W on a good day like today was only 60W possible.
 
I went from 1 to 2 panels after one failed inside 2 yrs. 1 was ok April to October but I wanted better winter performance up here in the far north, low sun or more like lack of sun !
Two has been an improvement but at the moment 200W on a good day like today was only 60W possible.
Blimey I got 53w today from my 2x 55w sunpower solars. They do have a very good rating though. What make are yours?
 
Blimey I got 53w today from my 2x 55w sunpower solars. They do have a very good rating though. What make are yours?
That was yesterday, the batteries were fully charged today. They are Solarcamper solutions, 2 x 100W. Mid winter overcast or raining, std conditions here, might get 10W where as the Solar camper solutions 120W I had which failed was about 5W.
 
I went from 1 to 2 panels after one failed inside 2 yrs. 1 was ok April to October but I wanted better winter performance up here in the far north, low sun or more like lack of sun !
Two has been an improvement but at the moment 200W on a good day like today was only 60W possible.

Think I’m going to remove one tonight.
I need to mount a roof box to carry skiing equipment and the two panels space the cross bars too far apart.
I’m rarely more than a couple of days between stops, so thinking that between one panel and regular driving. The batteries should stay charged…
 
Think I’m going to remove one tonight.
I need to mount a roof box to carry skiing equipment and the two panels space the cross bars too far apart.
I’m rarely more than a couple of days between stops, so thinking that between one panel and regular driving. The batteries should stay charged…
I remember seeing a post on here where somebody had mounted a solar panel on top of their roof box. Perhaps an option?
 
Just asking -and let me first say that everyone does what he wants and what he deems necessary- but why the need for solar panels? Never had it: on holiday we drive around and the batteries are always topped that way. We are nowhere longer than a day and exceptionally 4 days max. The batteries can handle this. The solar panels should also capture the sun directly and that does not seem very obvious to me with a stationary campervan with a sloping folding roof. For me, it contributes nothing (or very little) to autonomous travel. Or am I seeing it wrong?
Must say we now have a T4 westfalia california with two 75 ah batteries and ordered a new coast. Maybe the new ones have lesser batteries, dynamo/alternator?
Greetings
 
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Just asking -and let me first say that everyone does what he wants and what he deems necessary- but why the need for solar panels? Never had it: on holiday we drive around and the batteries are always topped that way. We are nowhere longer than a day and exceptionally 4 days max. The batteries can handle this. The solar panels should also capture the sun directly and that does not seem very obvious to me with a stationary campervan with a sloping folding roof. For me, it contributes nothing (or very little) to autonomous travel. Or am I seeing it wrong?
Must say we now have a T4 westfalia california with two 75 ah batteries and ordered a new coast. Maybe the new ones have lesser batteries, dynamo/alternator?
Greetings
I understand what you are saying, but things have moved on since the old days.
1. Modern Californias, because of emissions technology and smart alternators, the leisure batteries are only charged to 80% capacity by driving, unless you are knowledgeable enough to know how to overcome this little foible of the modern era.
2. Most campervanners now have multiple mobile phones, iPads/tablets, laptops or portable games consoles to charge and even TV's/satellite boxes or wifi routers to run, not to mention bluetooth speakers and standalone rechargeable radios etc:. On top of that many want awning lights and fairy lights and despite the interior camping lights now being LED we have under cabinet lights. mood lighting and multiple lights in the elevating roof to run as well.
Long gone are the days when all you ran was a fridge and a few lights when it got dark combined with a battery radio and a couple of NON- rechargeable torches .
 
I understand what you are saying, but things have moved on since the old days.
1. Modern Californias, because of emissions technology and smart alternators, the leisure batteries are only charged to 80% capacity by driving, unless you are knowledgeable enough to know how to overcome this little foible of the modern era.
2. Most campervanners now have multiple mobile phones, iPads/tablets, laptops or portable games consoles to charge and even TV's/satellite boxes or wifi routers to run, not to mention bluetooth speakers and standalone rechargeable radios etc:. On top of that many want awning lights and fairy lights and despite the interior camping lights now being LED we have under cabinet lights. mood lighting and multiple lights in the elevating roof to run as well.
Long gone are the days when all you ran was a fridge and a few lights when it got dark combined with a battery radio and a couple of NON- rechargeable torches .
Thanks for your answer; so point 1: too bad, only 80%? This seems like a lot but is actually nowhere near full and a battery that is only charged to 80% is closer to empty than full I was once told. I am not an expert…
Point 2 then: we also have smartphones and GPS (not built-in) but charge while driving. Although we are huge movie fans, we don't watch TV when we travel. Playing games with the children takes precedence and reading a lot in the evening indeed with a light. Or sit outside and chat and have a drink, we see what happens. I think we are semi modern and not fully evolved yet, but one day we will have our new coast and we will be back with the times… and with weak batteries that need solar panels apparently.
About the many light points in the new Californias: when we received a courtesy vehicle from the dealer last summer because of the too long waiting times - this was a fully equipped ocean - we noticed that the lights in the elevating roof are very handy for us and we ordered them whatsoever. The under cabinet lighting and mood lighting: I agree with you: they are not useful for us either, but maybe they are for others.
There are indeed more lights spots in a new California than in our old one, but even if there are a hundred, people don't have to put them all on: they can also turn them off; better for the battery capacity ;)
I've already read about better batteries, lithium I guess: maybe I'd rather put them than solar panels, but I'm not sure. I'm following it right here. It’s interesting.
Greetings
 
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I remember seeing a post on here where somebody had mounted a solar panel on top of their roof box. Perhaps an option?

That’s not for me.
Rarely need a roof box. However, if the roof box was a permanent thing, I could see the merit in adding the solar panel to the box :thumb
 
Thanks for your answer; so point 1: too bad, only 80%? This seems like a lot but is actually nowhere near full and a battery that is only charged to 80% is closer to empty than full I was once told. I am not an expert…
Point 2 then: we also have smartphones and GPS (not built-in) but charge while driving. Although we are huge movie fans, we don't watch TV when we travel. Playing games with the children takes precedence and reading a lot in the evening indeed with a light. Or sit outside and chat and have a drink, we see what happens. I think we are semi modern and not fully evolved yet, but one day we will have our new coast and we will be back with the times… and with weak batteries that need solar panels apparently. I've already read about better batteries, lithium I guess: I'd rather put them than solar panels, but I'm not sure. I'm following it right here.
Greetings

I think lithium will be an ideal solution once the costs start to reduce. They are still way to expensive.
 
Hi Thomas, also check bluepower.nl, they have good feedback and the discount "bynomads10" seems still valid... Fellow Exclusive owner installed some package (flex) from Greenakku (mobilPV). Just in case you"d like to compare things.
 
I think lithium will be an ideal solution once the costs start to reduce. They are still way to expensive.
I think so too: currently lithium batteries (also called LiFePO4) are expensive. There are of course pros: much lighter (can be important) and can be completely discharged (maximum capacity to be used), recharge faster and are completely maintenance-free. Also a much longer life. Do they have any disadvantages (besides the high price then)? Yes, they cannot deliver such high discharge currents, so no inverters of, for example, 3000 watts / 250 A (for us no problem, no need for that). This shortens the lifespan but can also cause them to ignite! (Chemical fire and difficult to extinguish). For that you need a Battery Management System (BMS) to monitor the cell voltages, temperature and alarm status that shuts down users and stop the charging process when the temperature of a cell gets too high. They can also freeze: you can still use them, but you can only charge them above freezing point and that is not really convenient. I'm still in favor of them, but I know that they aren't an all-encompassing solution either, I don't want to glorify them, not yet but they could become an ideal solution. Good household batteries, possibly supplemented with solar panels, are of course also possible. I'll follow and see.
Greetings
 
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