Nick’s Tips #19 – Go On My Sun! Solar Power!

Nicks tip #19

Go On My Sun

Solar Power

Solar 3

Most motorhomes in the UK seem to have a constant umbilical chord d to the National Grid. However there is a group of us who enjoy the fact that we don’t really have to park next to a power point.

Personally we travel throughout Europe for a few weeks each year and it is very rare that we plug in. We also attend a few festivals (including a week at Glastonbury) where power isn’t an option.

However to keep all the gadgets charged and the fridge running something is needed.

This is where a Solar Panel (photo voltaic) can be an essential accessory on your van.

On my previous van I fitted an 80w panel. The size of this was determined by available roof space over where the leisure battery was located. I say by the battery because I wanted to limit the length of the cable run to a minimum. This 80w panel did us proud when the sun was at full strength but when the dreaded clouds came over or we parked under or close to shade giving trees the 80w max was possibly reduced to as low as 20w. Remember the rating of a panel is a peak level making several assumptions. Firstly that you are in the midday sun and secondly that the panel is tilted to the optimum angle pointing directly at the sun. Now both these things are unlikely to happen unless you invest heavily in a tracking system that tilts the panel and follows the sun.

Now I have a new van I had the opportunity and the space to upgrade to a bigger panel and generate a bigger supply. I opted to fill the maximum space with a single panel and was able to go up to a 150w system. This system is now installed but as yet has not been road tested. A festival at Whitsun will be its inaugural outing.

The cost of the system? I hear you shout. Well I paid a tad under £200 for the panel, controller, cables and roof access box. Add to this the cost of the Sikaflex adhesive and a 20a DP switch and  we nudge just slightly north of £210. All this was bought from the internet.

I fitted it myself. This obviously saved several hundred pounds. But as a qualified electrician it fell well within my comfort zone. I have seen similar systems advertised as fitted for around £500 upwards.

The key to DIY other than understanding the not to difficult electrics is to ensure that the panel is securely fixed, so it stays in place at motorway speeds and to also ensure that you don’t compromise the integrity and waterproof design of the van. To help with this I would recommend the industry standard Sikaflex adhesive/sealant. Though not cheap this is the proper product for the job. I added a self tapping roof bolt at each mounting point to ensure it would not move again.

To get the cable into the van I drilled upwards in the roof locker (after careful measuring). With the addition of the roof cowl, again glued into place with Sikaflex and held in place with tape until cured, this should make a waterproof entry point.

The wiring I won’t go into hear, but the reality is that it is quite straight forward. There are plenty of examples on Google for you to follow. The only addition I made was to install a 20a double pole switch to the system so I can isolate the panel if I want.

The photos below show the panel in situ on the new van as well as the, switch, controller and the cowl.

Solar 2 Solar 3 Solar 1 Solar 4 Solar 6 Solar 5

Silkaflex sealant/adhesive

Silkaflex sealant/adhesive

Why don’t you buy your own kit now from Amazon?

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