Do you have solar panels on your van roof? - Ford Transit USA Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 01:50:PM Thread Starter
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Do you have solar panels on your van roof?

If yes, how often do you find yourself parked / camped in the shade and therefore not getting enough sun to charge properly?

I'm trying to decide between mounting my panel(s) on the roof, or sticking with a portable briefcase version so that I can move it to where the sun is when camping (if necessary).

I'd prefer mounting so that I don't have to store it / carry it...but I've been warned about the above...so I'd love ya'll's input on this.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 02:15:PM
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Do both.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 03:38:PM
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A factor will be the color of your van. A darker color van you may want to have parked in the shade to prevent heat accumulation in hotter climates. This will be counter to getting sun to roof mounted panels. On the flip-side, rack mounted panels provide shade to the roof.

Oxford White vans and a few of the lighter colors will be less affected by this, but it will play into the decision of where to park.

Answering with that in mind, my van is Oxford White and I will choose parking spots that provide the best light for the roof-mounted panels.

Other factors to consider include:
  • Choosing a panel designed to perform in partial shade. (some older panels could be damaged over time when used in partial shade)
  • Wiring multiple panels in series (within the controller's input voltage limit) in order to deliver a higher voltage when in a shaded condition.
  • Whether the van's parking spot at home is in the sun or shaded. If shaded, shore power may be needed to keep the batteries topped up when idle.
Portable charging wasn't all that attractive to me because of the storage and setup aspects. YMMV

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 03:41:PM
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+1 both. You will want a solar that is charing your battery system when you are not driving unless you 1. always have shore power where you mostly park or 2. are ok with buying new batteries more often than not.

If you have batteries you want solar topping it off when sitting.


What are the warnings of mounting solar?
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 05:03:PM
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If I have a choice, I'll park in the shade in the afternoon after my batteries are charged and keep the van cooler for evening and sleeping. I'll pull out into the sun for a few hours in the morning. I have 2x170w panels on my roof. That would be a lot of suitcase panels.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 06:26:PM
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having roof and portable panels can work good - if U can afford them -

being able to park van in shade can be More important then gathering power -
Depends on U R situation - Location - weather- color of van etc -

I have both type panels -
flexible panels can be stored under bed mattress pretty easy -
super light weight 4 pounds each -
the price of Sunpower flex panels is pretty reasonable now -


I have some Flex panels and changed the output cables to 12 gauge extension type cord with 3 prong connector -

then extension cord can be used to run Shore power OR power from portable panel -
easy to run cord out to 50 ft away -
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 06:55:PM
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I just have a single 300 watt panel on the roof. With my electrical usage and climate that normally keeps up with my electrical requirements even in overcast conditions. I did once get down to 83% SOC after three days in the shade. If necessary I could move into the sun or idle the engine to charge the house battery using power from the vehicle powered inverter.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 07:23:PM
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I have 3 100 watt mono panels mounted on the roof, in the roof rack structure and wouldn’t change it.

We park in shade regularly and live in Canada so the sun’n angle in the winter limits our solar charge, yet I have never had an issue with the charge.

A 3-4 days of pouring rain last spring we were running low but weren’t having a great time. A couple of hours of driving and the battery was charged up fully again from the alternator.

The only other thing to keep in mind is that to run roof top AND a portable panel, you will either have to switch the feed into the MPPT charge controller (and likely match or program it for the panels) or have two charge controllers.

Given the added cost of a second charge controller, the added cost and space need for a second portable panel and how happy we are as is, we decided not to consider the portable setup anymore.

Hope this helps.



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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-16-2019, 07:26:PM
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I'm in the PNW, so shade is a fact of life.

My answer was to get a fairly large amount of solar (560W) on the roof.
4 panels wired in parallel, so if one is in shade, it doesn't bog down the other panels.

In moderate shade, or open view of overcast sky, I can just about keep up with my electrics. The biggest drain is the compressor fridge.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2019, 12:12:AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryanmichaelmeyer View Post
What are the warnings of mounting solar?
The "warnings" are that if I'm not parked in the sun, I may not get enough charge (as opposed to setting up a portable solar panel wherever the sun is).
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