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Old 01-17-2017, 08:11 PM   #1
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Solar Setup

Well, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I値l be picking up my 2003 Ford E250 SMB RB 2WD this Friday! Was able to make a surprisingly good deal with this dealership, so I知 hoping everything is in top shape.

Anyways, now begins the extensive list of improvements. Which, at the very top, is solar.

I致e been reviewing the many threads on the topic and Eric has been helping me out with some suggestions as well. I致e put together what I think makes the most sense, but I was hoping I could get some input to make sure I知 going about this the right way.

Here痴 what I currently have:
A. 2000 Watt TripLitte Inverter
B. UB40 1222000 12V Battery (not sure of age or condition this was the info the dealer provided, said they will review load results)
C. InstaHot water heater
D. Fridge, not sure of specs yet, but SMB installed
E. Needs: would like to be able to work on a laptop for a few hours a day, keep the fridge cool for a few days at a time, rarely use the hot water heater without it running, have some lights on occasionally, use the stereo occasionally, charge phones at night.

1. Panels 2 100W panels:
-Thinking maybe I should go with higher watt panels, but they seem to jump up in price significantly. Hoping these are sufficient.

2. Controller:
-Seems to be a pretty high end controller which should cover my needs. Not sure if there are any cheaper options available that would be equivalentstill looking.

3. Wiring not sure what I need as far as connectors, wiring, housing, etc.

4. Mounting - considering a couple of ideas. Most likely would like to use pre-existing PH bolts, replace with 4 longer bolts. If I go this route, how should I attach the panels to the angle aluminum as it will be narrower than the width of the panels. Also, should I reseal all of the bolts with new rubber gaskets (should I do the other bolts on the roof while I知 at it), and do I need to use anything beyond the rubber gasket (like some sort of sealant)? Forgive my TERRIBLE drawing.



5. Running wire, not sure where the ideal location for my controller would be. Thinking maybe here (close access to inverter, can drill through taller cabinet, out of the way).


6. Also, trying to figure out the cleanest way to get the wiring into the cab. This is my biggest concern. Want to avoid drilling as much as possible and want to ensure that I do this efficiently and correctly. Any ideas here are appreciated. I saw some cable junction boxes on previous threads that looked pretty cool...seemed like the output from the solar connected right into that thing and it had a nice seal on the bottom (though my roof is rhino lined). Beyond the actual act of getting it into the cab, I'm trying to figure out where it goes from there/how to actually get it to the controller.

Finally, I know I知 new to the forum but if anyone in the SoCal area has some free time and wants to lend a hand, I壇 be more than happy to provide some form of compensation (beer, cash, help you with your taxes, haha).

As always, thanks for all of the help!
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:32 PM   #2
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I'm in OC and can certainly help you out if needed....I'm in Coto De Caza

The panels and controller look fine, both Chinese.....

You could also consider Renogy Panels...you can buy them at the manufacturer in Ontario..as well as that controller that you posted from amazon..and while you are there buy a couple of the connector wrenches, connectors, crimp contacts and perhaps some wire.

I have a crimper for the connectors that you can borrow...saves you $25.

That appears to be a surface mount controller....a flush mount controller usually gives a cleaner look but requires cutting a hole in a cabinet or panel somewhere.

Consider solar panel wire...it's got a UV resistant jacket and you can also pick it up cheap on ebay (or perhaps renogy)

Most of us have the wires penetrate the penthouse roof and then run the wires under the headliner; there are several common ways of getting the wires through the roof (cable strain relief/gland, etc)

If the roof penetration is made outside the canvas the wires can be easily brought inside between the roof and the canvas...this greatly reduces any chances of roof leaks.
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:37 PM   #3
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I used the front PH bolts exactly as you are thinking......yes longer bolts.....you can buy stainless steel bolts at McFadden Dale hardware in OC or Marshall's hardware in San Diego; the stuff under the washers is butyl....maybe available at Marshall's hardware definitely available from McMaster Carr.

I also used fancy sealing washers from McMaster on those bolts...and 6063 aluminum channel for mounting the panels...available in OC or San Diego at Industrial metal supply
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:55 PM   #4
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From my experience choosing solar panels is easy. First you gotta figure out how many amp hours your battery is. Rule of thumb so far from what I've learned is one 100 watt panel per one 100 amp hour of battery.
As for the solar charge controller I'm rather happy with my ecco-worthy but it does have its quirks, mounting is it's a sit-on-top design... I will be flush mounting it in the near future but I'm also concerned about any heat build up and being released.
Running wires isn't so bad, it's the roof penetration that can be nerve-racking but I recently found a device on Amazon that allows for a very clean, sleek look for penetration. As for the MC4 cables that are commonly sold, most tinned wire, you don't want those they don't conduct electricity at maximum efficiency. You want pure copper stranded wire. I made that mistake but the distance I ran is less than 3 feet... So I don't think it has much of an impact for me. Also the distance of wiring from the PV panels to the charge controller needs to be as short as possible but from the charge controller to the battery can be longer but also as short as possible.


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Old 01-17-2017, 08:59 PM   #5
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@boywonder - man, you are on it! Super helpful. Yeah, I was wondering about the flush mount vs surface mount...I'll keep researching. Great idea regarding renogy....maybe I'll drive up there and try and bundle as much as I can.

Right now, I'm thinking 2 100W panels (connected using angle and existing bolts, as discussed), Y connectors to put in parallel, into GOPower Cable entry, solar cable into PH under headliner (not sure where it goes once it's under headliner...how do you get it down to controller - are the wires just exposed inside the penthouse until it gets behind the panels in the cab?), connect to mppt controller (thinking 40A - also, rethought mounting point, it would actually make more sense to put on the far side of the cabinet I indicated since that's where the house battery is located...though I have no idea how to access that, as the salesman could only find the info by looking under the van).

I wasn't planning on involving the chassis battery unless you think that makes sense. If so, I would need a separator and I'd have to find a way to get the wires up there as well...right?

Finally, I may have to take you up on your offer...that's a short drive for me (Carlsbad), and I'd feel a heck of a lot better having someone with some knowledge there to help me along. I'll keep you posted once I actually have the van and start working out the details. Thanks again!!!
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:07 PM   #6
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As for a 40 amp charge controller that's great but two 100 watt panels here in Florida only give me 15.x amps peak so far...

Also strongly consider the Blueseas ACR 7622, for the times when you are running the motor it will charge your house batteries. For things like a microwave or other heavy draw appliances including that big inverter you mentioned earlier. It's a great way to keep your house batteries from getting sucked dry because you only get 15 amp speak coming in off those two panels.
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbasso View Post
device on Amazon that allows for a very clean, sleek look for penetration.
Great timing! Literally just reading the post about that device. Seems like that would work very well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbasso View Post
distance of wiring from the PV panels to the charge controller needs to be as short as possible
Makes sense. I was thinking two panels towards the front of van, hooked in parallel, and then dropped straight down maybe the front right corner of van using the gopower. I think I could reach the gopower with the y cables hooked into the panels. Then that would go straight down by the side doors to the controller, which would be mounted on the nearest cabinet.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbasso View Post
MC4 cables that are commonly sold, most tinned wire
The panels have 35 inch MC4 cables that come with them...are these sufficient. I could make sure the cabling after the gopower is copper, just wondering if these are ok?
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:13 PM   #8
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Whatever you do I strongly suggest you don't cut any of the MC 4 cable, the connection that comes with them is watertight, UV resistant and has good continuity. As for the distance your running I can't say much about that but if you're using copper wire after the roof penetration you'll be fine.
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:19 PM   #9
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Based on what the salesman told me, this is the house battery currently in there.

Once again, don't know age or condition. But, assuming it's working properly, at 200ah, 2 100W panels should be sufficient. With that in mind, sounds like a 20A MPPT should work.

That BlueSea device seems pretty useful. Wondering how the thing is currently wired...how do you generally keep a big house battery like that charged?
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Old 01-17-2017, 09:22 PM   #10
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A couple of other considerations about the panels and a few other things......

If you have a penthouse, you gotta lift those puppies up every time you lift the top....you can adjust the PH springs to help with this....in my case I bought Renogy Eclipse monocrystalline panels since they are small (and light!!) and have a high energy density.

Since you are buying a Sportsmobile, it's highly likely that it already has a battery separator (or an isolator)....probably a Surepower. I would consider replacing that with a blue sea separator for a few reasons, especially when adding solar. I'm running a blue sea ACR......works great and about $75 from amazon and a few others. The blue sea 7622 is popular here and has a few more features and runs about $175.

To answer your question about how to get the solar wires from under the headliner to the lower part of the van, SMB runs a cable loom either down the rear corner or front corner of the penthouse. You can usually run the solar wires in this loom too, although getting them in there is a PITA.

An MPPT controller allows you to wire the panels either in series or in parallel...each way has plusses and minuses.....yes pick up the Renogy Y connectors if you want to run parallel wiring.
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