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Solar Panel and Schematic suggestions

5607 Views 26 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  GROOVY2
Hello,
I'm looking for input on a solar system I'm planning for my 2021 Transit.
I have done some research and am heading in the following direction
I'll use about 80 amp hours per day and want about 2 days of storage. I'll use solar, alternator, and shore power to charge my system.
I would like to use a single 400 Watt Solar panel on my van to simplify my install, connections etc. - Does anyone have any concerns with going with a single panel vs 4 separate panels? I am looking at the Solaria panel. Does anyone have experience with this panel or suggestions for an alternative panel?

Also, I have been looking at the various sites for van builders and their electrical schematics. I'm thinking of using the solar schematic from
Any concerns with this site or alternate suggestions.

Thanks for any input
Camperguy
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FYI:


Single panel simplifies the installation. No rack required. Two holes in the roof for cables. One for positive cable and one for the negative cable. Two 90 degree bulkhead fittings. Buy a MC4 extension cord and cut it in two for cables between the panel and the controller.. Keep the MC4 connections above the roof. Add a CB between the panel and the solar controller so you can turn off the solar panel power.

Buy a MPPT solar controller. Single panel has high voltage and low amperage. The MPPT converts that to charging voltage and higher amperage. Solar voltage x solar amperage = charging voltage x charging amperage.

I have a single 300 watt panel that provides enough power for my electrical loads in my climate. Seldom need to use my backup method of charging.
 

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I looked at the dimensions of the solaria panel and are almost exactly double than a Newpowa 210W. Spanning 1.2 meters across the roof of the van will result in a high gap at both sides to clear the tumble of the roof at the center. Could it be better to split in two panels and have a more aerodynamic installation?
 

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I looked at the dimensions of the solaria panel and are almost exactly double than a Newpowa 210W. Spanning 1.2 meters across the roof of the van will result in a high gap at both sides to clear the tumble of the roof at the center. Could it be better to split in two panels and have a more aerodynamic installation?
No issues with my single 300 watt panel. No roof rack eliminates extra structure on roof. No noise and no measurable difference in MPG. No extra deflector on front edge of the panel. Been installed for 5 years without any problems.
 

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I got two of the 370W Solaria panels from them directly, they were on sale and they delivered them to me for no charge because they have a warehouse in San Diego. Freight can add up quickly. Solaria had another CA location with free will call or delivery, sorry can't remember the city, I was just too excited about free delivery and sale together....Pics of same exact panels on another members extended length T350 below. I am also using Nate's diagrams, I found his free 12 V wiring course(s) to be really helpful. Will see how helpful when I get to work, have no van as of yet.
 

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@Ranger Robin
That's sweet , totally black solar panels .
I would buy that same exact setup right now but shipping to Iowa would probably be crazy high.
I think they would cover my entire roof being that I don't have a extended van.
A lot of the new larger panels are solid black as they do look at aesthetics on peoples' houses I suppose. Mine are totally black frames and the cells too. Check around manufacturers of the large ones, it was through some poking around that I found that Solaria had a warehouse in San Diego. LG makes some nice big ones, also Heilene (US made), REC and Panasonic all had large wattage panels available (+300W). Northern AZ Wind & Sun had decent rates for freight but rates are thru the roof for everything at the minute. At least try to find a company closer to you, anyone in So Cal tho should look at Solaria if it meets your needs. I got these 370W for $303 each plus tax. And like Orton mentioned, if you are just doing one panel, the voltages are high enough to make good use of the capabilities of an MPPT controller and the wiring is simple. The pics and post are from a transit fb group member.
 

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What I do for Transit vans is to mount a 1515 rail from front to back on each side.

Mount 150 - 200 watt panels cross wise.

Here is a photo from my web site just because I can find it quickly but plenty of people do it similarly.

It is common for people to be uncertain of exactly what the final roof layout will be, but very helpful to have some panels up there early in the build. The extrusion rails make moving the panels around easy - just loosen and slide to the new position.

This is a 148 MR. Originally we had 9 ft rails on it, but the customer wanted more flexibility so the current ones are 11 ft. They go pretty far forward and slightly past the rear of the roof - but not past the rear bumper. Since it was just normal 1515 extrusion it was very fast to swap the new length rails in, even though we already had a panel up on the 9 ft ones.

Your goal of ~ 400 watts is a good target from what I am observing.

The panel shown is 59 inches long x ` 26 wide , so that is kind of the minimum length for this approach to work, but we test fit a 64 inch long one and it is fine.

That particular panel has a 2 inch depth frame and is quite strong, so no need for additional frame work over just the 2 rails main rails. It is a solarland panel sold by many places and shipping is usually free from the places that I have purchased from. Grape and newpowa make similar size panels which are common in the RV industry.

 

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Timing was good after AdWagon install- dropped by DiY van afterwards for Hein's new V2 towers and see exactly what 8020 would be needed. He had just completed a solar install using aluminum angle and two panels going east/west. His are in the front and mine will be in back due to Maxxfan up front.

Bought a 15' stick of 2 x 2 x 3/16 for $110. Had them cut it to 64" so got 4 rails + small scrap. Am using #2 & 4 roof mount locations for 2 EcoWorthy 195 panels in series. They are 12V and together will be 46 amp so I can use them with my GZ 3100X. Panels are $192 @ Amazon.

Hein included all the hardware I will need as well as VHB backed pads for V2 brackets. At about $650 for everything not too bad for 390 watts of solar, and as Hein said it will be a very easy install.

I have 2 extra rails if anyone near San Luis Obispo needs them.
 

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Be sure to check out what power you can get from the alternator as well. We put 800W on our roof (tilt-ready) based on our experience with the Sprinter in the past. Turns out we can get ~1500W from the alternator pretty easily with the dual-alternator setup. Pretty sure you could get that from the single as well (they're 250A each). So ~400-600W solar would have been fine for us - and use the alternator to back it up on non-sun days.

FWIW, our daily draw is similar to what you've projected (~1kWh) and we've seen multiple days with zero sun over the last few years - sometimes winter / ski and other times just rain / clouds in summer - and we learned that we wanted to have 4-5 days worth and to count on it being tested regularly. Right now, summertime, it's filled back up in a couple hours. In November in Yosemite valley... might as well be zero even without a storm.

We ran ~5kWh usable storage in the last rig (3 x 255Ah @ 12V AGM) and moved to ~8kWh of LiFePO4 (2 x 170A @ 24V) in this rig. Haven't regretted the additional space or cost. And have only drained half once or twice so far.

The schematics and such are fine - there's lots of options out there and it ends up being pretty simple once you get over the myriad connections. But that does take some time to get used to.

For simplicity and expediency sake, we wired up alternator charging for a friend's rig (Renogy 60A plus one 200A 12V LiFePO4 and an inverter) and he hasn't bothered with the solar panels yet. The controller is installed and he's got the panels but he's busy using the van and it's working great, so... 🤷‍♀️

It's not solar that matters, it's storage. And getting it back in there after you use it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I looked at the dimensions of the solaria panel and are almost exactly double than a Newpowa 210W. Spanning 1.2 meters across the roof of the van will result in a high gap at both sides to clear the tumble of the roof at the center. Could it be better to split in two panels and have a more aerodynamic installation?
Thanks for the idea of splitting the panels to keep the profile to the roof low - I had not considered that. I want a roof rack anyway and plan to build my rack so it is very low profile so I'll go with a single 400 watt panel and mount it very close to the roof.
 

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Thanks for the idea of splitting the panels to keep the profile to the roof low - I had not considered that. I want a roof rack anyway and plan to build my rack so it is very low profile so I'll go with a single 400 watt panel and mount it very close to the roof.
I am not sure if this will help or not. The center of the roof is the tall point, so the height is determined by crossing that location.
 

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Thanks for the idea of splitting the panels to keep the profile to the roof low - I had not considered that. I want a roof rack anyway and plan to build my rack so it is very low profile so I'll go with a single 400 watt panel and mount it very close to the roof.
No need for a roof rack with a single high voltage panel. Less weight, less noise, lower cost and more stealth.

Solar System | Orton Travel Transit (ortontransit.info)
 

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Thanks for the idea of splitting the panels to keep the profile to the roof low - I had not considered that. I want a roof rack anyway and plan to build my rack so it is very low profile so I'll go with a single 400 watt panel and mount it very close to the roof.
Wanted to share my design if you are looking for a rack combination. I used a Front Runner rack and adjusted the slats to accommodate the Maxxair then added 4 100w Renogy panels, (one of the narrowest dimensions I could find to fit beside the fan) The extra slats that were moved for the fan created a deck area in the rear. The T-slot design allows for unlimited accessories/attachments.
 
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