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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

Doing a bit of research on here to see how people have fitted and connected solar panels to T5 models, so I thought I'd start a thread to describe my project as it goes along. I've had my panel and extension cables delivered, just waiting on the charge controller. Not going to bond anything on until I get it and can run a few tests! Photos to follow as the job progresses.


Panel; Baird 150W flexible panel, £200 from ebay
http://www.bestecoshop.com/biard-15...r-panel.html?gclid=CLz6gpKhlMQCFdPMtAodNywAhg

Their 3m extension cables, £10 from same eBay account

Charge controller; a little pricey at £85 but seems the business and other reviews are good. I've researched the value of MPPT and it seems worth that bit more. It basically controls the current output more intelligently to add efficiency across all conditions- google it.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/200W-20A-12V-mppt-solar-charge-controller-LCD-off-grid-/130549038710


Like many others on here (P.S. thanks to those who have already shared), I've opted for a flexible low profile panel and plan to bond it on with some Silaflex sealant. The panel manufacturer recommends it and there's some going free at work!

Mine's a tailgate 2006 T5, and because I'm fanatical about symmetry, I don't want to run the cables to the back of the roof and go through one of the tailgate hinges (the only place with a wide enough gap). I'd then have to go through the light cluster to avoid crossing the door seal, and from then on I'd have to dis-assemble furniture etc.- sod that!

So I'm trying something I've not yet seen anyone do... Rotate the panel 180, with the cables to the front end of the van, and run them via the spare "roof plugs" which are currently near the roof bars/gutter. They don't quite fit (by a fraction of a mm) so I'll take the roof bars off to bore each hole out slightly, run the cable through, and watertight it with a lick of sealant. Should fit like a glove. Pain in the bum, but I'll run one left and t'other right, then behind carpeted panels all the way to the charge controller and battery.

Any comments, questions, suggestions... fire away! I'll update as I go. P.S. I'll leave the discussion of power usage/reasons/why solar etc. to the end!

Clarkey
 

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I have 2x baird 100w panels on the rear of the poptop, cable entry is in-between the velcro that attaches the canvas no OCD worries there its completely symmetrical.
My fixing, which was meant to be temporary is using double sided foam tape, same as what you use for numberplates, I did this as I have a peeling paint issue on my potptop and my local paint sprayer said he could work round the panels and blend in easier if they were fitted. Not quite trusting that argument I used double sided foam tape and they are stuck down very solidly. If I need to get them off again it'll be a heat gun and cheese cutter style wire approach.
 

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Good information -
I've been watching the same controller & the 100w Baird (x2) panel on eBay for some months now as this is potentially my next project. Keep the information coming - particularly on sticking the panel to the roof & the routing of the cables.
 

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I have put two 100 wat baired on my pop top last sept no probs cable through canvas at back of poptop no probs but i sikaflexed mine on
 

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So I'm trying something I've not yet seen anyone do... Rotate the panel 180, with the cables to the front end of the van, and run them via the spare "roof plugs" which are currently near the roof bars/gutter. They don't quite fit (by a fraction of a mm) so I'll take the roof bars off to bore each hole out slightly, run the cable through, and watertight it with a lick of sealant. Should fit like a glove. Pain in the bum, but I'll run one left and t'other right, then behind carpeted panels all the way to the charge controller and battery.

Any comments, questions, suggestions... fire away! I'll update as I go. P.S. I'll leave the discussion of power usage/reasons/why solar etc. to the end!

Clarkey
I was also having similar thoughts as our van doesn't have a pop top, and dropping the wiring though one of the spare roof rack/bar fixing points was something I had thought about too.

Don't forget that there is a "floating" M6 threaded captive nut in the fixing point that will be in the "hole" that will also need to be drilled out too, so not too sure how that will work out if the drill bit catches and snatches on it ?

Although I would thinking that as the maximum amperage that the solar panel can produce (9amps) then even allowing for voltage drop over a few meters then its possible I suspect to source a smaller diameter cable that would fit.

Also another thought is do you really need to run the negative wire inside the van? If you electrically bonded it to the van (using the other roof rack fixing point possibly) then you don't need to take it inside as the vans body work would act as your negative return. The controllers negative just need bonding the metal work of the van to complete the circuit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That's interesting, thanks for sharing. Wouldn't have ever thought you'd get enough strength with tape. I guess you made sure the deck was nice and clean and used a good amount, going all the way to the edges?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hey Glitch, I test poked the cables through the spare roof holes. It's the captive nut itself that stops them going in by a fraction of a mm. Ideally it'd be not quite captive enough and I could just slide it out of the way, but that'd defy its purpose I guess! So a quick drill should do it. The actual hole in the roof is perfectly sized for just a small bead of silicone afterwards :)

True, I could probably go a smaller cable given small current involved, but the extension cables I've already bought have convenient connectors without the need for soldering (I'm not the most handy guy electrically and would need to pinch stuff from work!)

I see what you mean on the negative bonding. Can't say I really know for sure whether it'd work exactly the same though? Once I've routed one though, I might as well route the other by the same method (albeit a longer route) for simplicity.

Waiting on solar controller so I can get it done this weekend

Cheers guys.
 

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Hey Glitch, I test poked the cables through the spare roof holes. It's the captive nut itself that stops them going in by a fraction of a mm. Ideally it'd be not quite captive enough and I could just slide it out of the way, but that'd defy its purpose I guess! So a quick drill should do it. The actual hole in the roof is perfectly sized for just a small bead of silicone afterwards :)

True, I could probably go a smaller cable given small current involved, but the extension cables I've already bought have convenient connectors without the need for soldering (I'm not the most handy guy electrically and would need to pinch stuff from work!)

I see what you mean on the negative bonding. Can't say I really know for sure whether it'd work exactly the same though? Once I've routed one though, I might as well route the other by the same method (albeit a longer route) for simplicity.

Waiting on solar controller so I can get it done this weekend

Cheers guys.

Pretty sure the m6 thread pulls out from the inside....you can actually buy new ones when you add a roof prep kit. I think its on some sort of sprung clip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So, in the end I decided not to go through the roof bar holes. Seemed convenient at first, but meant a complicated run of wires under ply panels etc, but mostly because of the fact there would have been long flapping lengths of wire on the roof.

So I positioned the panel as far forward as I could (to where the ridges in the roof taper out to the front of the van) and drilled a hole for each wire (5.5mm hole, starting with a smaller pilot hole). A quick bead of clear silicone to water tight the holes.


Testing the panel thoroughly before drilling any holes!


I've used the double-sided tape suggested above for bonding. It sure is strong enough when applied in one big rectangle all over the panel, plus lengths down every roof ridge. The only trouble is I've maybe gone a little too far forward with the panel. This was in order to drill the holes at a convenient point where there is a cross-member in the van roof, and hence a gap in ply panels and carpet, therefore being a good place to run the wires on to the charge controller. This has meant the panel is bent downwards slightly at the front, and hasn't stuck so well. I'll simply pack it out with another layer or two of tape- don't want the wind getting under it and it flying off obviously! I did use clear silicone sealant to fill the gaps where the ridges are and watertight the whole panel on. Once I pack it out with more tape though this'll become a bit pointless.

As for wiring, here's what it looks like. Note the red unit is a 240V-12V Numax 4-stage charge controller (circa £50 ebay), which I fitted whilst I was here...


So far I've seen 60W power. This was a sunny 3 or 4 o' clock mid-March so I'm pretty happy with that. Of course, it only reads a high current when the battery requires it. Once the battery's full it drops back down, so you never know the potential for what you could be generating if it's sunny and your battery's already charged.


I contacted the manufacturers of the charge controller to ask why the load wasn't being displayed though...
"Thank you for the recent delivery of this charge controller. I've wired it into my motorhome but I'm having trouble displaying the "load current". Appliances, such as a refrigerator, are now wired through it. The appliances are working but the charge unit displays zero load. Is there a setting I need to change somehow?"

Their response...
"The "load" display has a certain detection sensitivity so if the load is not drawing enough power it'll display as zero.
But for load such as fridge which is inductive in nature when the compressor kicks in it can draw a lot of power (same like motor, pumps, etc..) so we recommend these to be connected directly to the battery, rather than through the charger. It's ok to connect resistive type load, e.g. light, consumer electronics which are consistent in consumption. "

I can understand that but expected to be able to plug the fridge through it when I bought it. Since the fridge DOMINATES power usage, I've just wired everything back on to the battery as you can see. If I can't display current draw from the fridge, there's no point for 12V LEDs and water pump, etc.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. Still not generating enough to run the fridge though, even when it's turned low on a sunny day. The fridge is rated 100W, so in theory around 8A max @ 12V (which would fluctuate, averaging something less than 8A), but it must just draw a lot more than the 2 or 3 Amps I hoped when switched very low. It's a 3-way big fridge, not at its most efficient when on 12V I guess.

Any questions- fire away! The wiring's pretty simple so can give details if requested.

Cheers all.
 

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Any questions- fire away!
Please can you make your album public so we can see the photos?

I didn't realise you had a 3-way fridge. As I understand it they are all designed to have the 12V side powered only with the engine running. If yours is like all of the ones I've looked at previously, the 12V element does not operate via a thermostat - it is on all of the time that power is supplied to it. I don't think there is any way that you could run that full-time from a 150W solar system (because it would only just keep up when the sun is out on the sunniest of days). But they are dirt cheap to run on gas anyway, provided you're not using a small Camping Gaz cylinder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sorry, new to this Forum game! Hopefully they're now visible?

It shouldn't matter tot the fridge where the 12V power is coming from (split charge or solar) as it's just from the battery either way. But yeah, it'd seem you're right on the fact it's non-thermostatic and it just saps current constantly! Certainly doesn't last long.

It's not got the flue going out anywhere (yet) so I can't run on gas :( That'd be super efficient though! Maybe I'll get it done one day.

Anyone got any more advice on fridge types and current consumption?

Thanks.
 
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