Electrical including solar:
I ordered a Fantastic vent and other bits and pieces needed for the electrical portion of the project. All the cables have been pulled and I installed switches and outlets for the 120VAC and 12 VDC devices. For now I keep it simple, I installed a Marinco 15A shore power inlet and keep the house system separate from the car battery. We either run on shore power or run on the house battery if shore power is NOT connected. I automatically activate a relay when shore power is plugged in and switch to 12VDC from a 120VAC to 12 VDC transformer. When not plugged in, the system will pull power from the extra battery, which is not yet installed. Solar power will happen sometime next year. For now I want to try the layout and systems. If we like it I'll pull everything out of the van and insulate it. After that I finish the wall and ceiling panels and finish the furniture.
08/29/2016 House battery
Until now I had used a small jump start battery
pack as my house battery
but this battery died after it hadn't been used and maintained over the winter. So I purchased a Duracell Ultra AGM deep cycle battery of 92 AH this weekend and installed it with a NOCO Genius battery
charger. Eventually I plan on installing a solar panel(s) but for now this will have to do. I built a solid cabinet for the battery between the driver side wheel well and the galley cabinet. The battery is installed in a battery
box and strapped to the floor and side anchor bolt of the van. After our trip I will finish this additional piece of furniture.
12/15/2016 Time for solar.
After several months in China for business I finally have some time to work on the van again.
It's cold and miserable in the Pacific Northwest so I won't be doing anything on the outside of the van. I decided to buy the materials for the solar portion of the project.
There are many different companies that sell components or complete solar kits and it seems that most DIY builders go with a kit from Renogy. I did some research and decided to buy a kit from a small local company here in Portland called "Light Harvest Solar".
My electrical house system is simple and all I have is a 12VDC/120VAC fridge/freezer, Fantastic fan, 12VDC water pump, 12VDC LED lights and some 12 VDC outlets. There are also 120VAC outlets for when we are connected to shore power. When connected to shore power a 120VAC / 12VDC power supply feeds all the 12VDC devices and charges the battery. When there's no shore power we'll get it from the battery. I installed a single 100 Ah AGM battery a few months ago, which is small compared to other installs here but it should be enough for us.
Due to the small size of our electrical system I decided to go with a single 190 Watt Monocrystalline solar kit. The kit comes with a Tracer 2210A MPPT (20A) controller, cable, brackets, fuses and I bought a remote controller as well, which will be mounted in the upper cabinets.
The solar panel is a high voltage panel so I had to go with a MPPT controller.
Can't wait to get it all installed.
03/21/2017 Solar panel install:
Finally have a week at home after constant business travel since early January. Luckily it stopped raining for a few hours in the Pacific Northwet. I decided to install the solar panel, which I purchased last year.
I used the Z-brackets that came with the panel to mount it to the roof rack on the driver side. The brackets bolt to Unitstrut nuts that fit perfectly in the slats of the Rhino roof rack. I am cheap so I made some aluminum strips with M6 thread that would fit in the slats.Later I found out that the Unistrut plates with 1/4"x 20 thread fit perfectly in the slats. Much cheaper than the Rhino hardware.
Since the spacing of the rack slats is fixed it wasn't possible to use z-brackets on the other side. I decided to use hinges, which make it easy to clean the roof underneath the panel. In the future I'll make some adjustable legs so I can change the angle of the panel when parked for better efficiency.
Due to the install of the fan there wasn't enough space for the 190W solar panel. I talked to the owner of Light Harvest Solar in Portland who was willing to exchange the panel for a smaller unit. In the end I decided to just let it stick out a little. The panel sticks out about 6".
Tomorrow I'll install a fairing in front of the panel and the roof rack to make it more aerodynamic and somewhat pretty.
04/08/2017 Catching some rays.
04/12/2017 Are we done yet?
Found a few hours to do some more work on the Transit. This project should have been done a long time ago but business travel pays the bills so the Transit will have to wait.
Wired the solar panel. The "temporary" electrical setup will be cleaned up soon and I'll enclose it in the current location underneath the bed.
Quick and dirty temporary mount for the MT50 remote meter. Man, is it a satisfying feeling to see all that "free" power coming in.
04/13/2017 Roof rack fairing install:
I ordered a 50" roof rack fairing from Rhino that is designed to be clamped onto a Rhino crossbar. Since the solar panel is sticking out I had to build a support structure that the fairing can be connected to. The nice thing about the Rhino roof rack is that it is very easy to mount something on the slats without drilling into the rack. I fabricated a support that can slide back and fort so I can try the perfect angle and distance to the roof rack.
I'm not sure that I like the looks of it because the roof isn't flat and the faring is too short.
So, I went to TAP Plastics to buy some black ABS material to extend the fairing to the top of the solar panel.
However, while I am posting this I realize that this is stupid! I should have bought a larger piece of ABS and make a one piece fairing. The old fairing can be used as a template for the holes.
This is the fairing with the added piece: