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Old 10-27-2018, 08:10 PM   #1
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Removable solar panels + protection of MPPT controller

I am not new to solar. but I am new to fun van projects.

Had a panel on my camper many years back, and have 10K array on my house.

From the camper days, I have an aluminum frame 85W 12V panel, and I bought another solar controller within the past 2 years thinking my old one died (turned out the battery was dead) which is completely sealed and water proof 15A.

I haven't really started sizing the battery bank I need yet, but I found out how you can max out your E350 frame battery space right here on the forum
http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...box-12337.html

I am thinking of finding a similar panel (unfortunately, UL-Solar seems to be no longer in business, but I am sure I can find something similar).

My thoughts are as follows:

Mount 2 panels on my construction tubular rails running perpendicular to van length (previous owner installed to mount ARB awning)
Run them to MPTT controller along Aluminess ladder via zip ties below the body.
Mount controller somewhere below the van and connect directly to battery bank.
Monitor battery charge via cigarette plug, such as palumma car charger

Since usually the van site is more desirable to be in shade than in sun, I would prefer to be able to remove the panels.

Even better would be to have removable batteries but that's a project to consider down the line.

so 2 questions

1) anyone have similar setup or thoughts?
2) do I need to worry about alternator burning out MPPT

P.S. to take care of #2, i might be able to wire this through sPOD, but I would need to remember to 'disconnect' panels when starting the vehicle. Should be a more elegant solution for this.
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Old 10-27-2018, 09:04 PM   #2
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Here's a slightly older thread discussing fixed vs portable solar panels. They each have advantages and disadvantages.

http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...tup-13383.html


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Old 10-27-2018, 09:42 PM   #3
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We use a portable 180 watt system from Overland Solar and find it very convenient when we are parked for several days in the same place. We leave it at home if we are planning to move every day.

It would be better to mount the controller in the van" that way it is out of the elementals. Overland Solar also sells extension cables with Anderson and SAE connectors.
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Old 10-28-2018, 08:19 PM   #4
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Thanks
I found a bunch of threads (here and other forums) once I started searching for "portable" instead of "removable", as well as a number of portable recommendations.

I also may have found my answer on needing protection of MPPT controller from alternator (seems like answer is "no")

For now I'll just figure out how to mount what I have, and may ensure I have an additional plug for adding a "portable" later.


The best answer I found was to keep system flexible, and ideally use single controller for both.


The reason for keeping the controller outside was to minimize fiddling with wires (as all wires can be kept outside). The controller is "IP67 waterproof level and aluminum outer shell is able to effectively prevent various kinds of corrosion".



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Old 10-28-2018, 11:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larrie View Post
We use a portable 180 watt system from Overland Solar and find it very convenient when we are parked for several days in the same place.
I'm really impressed by this system. I've never seen a 3-panel "suitcase" configuration before. We have a 100W GoalZero suitcase (2 panels) that we connect to the pre-wired solar that SMH installed. Part of why we picked it was because it did not have a built-in controller so I'm impressed that they tell you up front that you can bypass the controller. We are considering going for more watts and the 3-panel design would meet that goal without exceeding our storage footprint. The only thing they didn't mention is how thick the unit is when folded.
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Old 10-29-2018, 05:41 PM   #6
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The three panel unit is 4” thick when folded plus an additional 1/2” for the carrying case. The cables are stored between the panels.
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Old 11-04-2018, 11:46 AM   #7
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Removable panel

I have 100w "panel" (really two 50w in serial for 24v) mounted on roof rack of Penthouse, simple mount with aluminum angle and quick removal pins to hold the rack on the roof (I do use a cam strap as a safety). Works great when parked somewhere for a bit, it's hidden and doesn't take up space in the van. It's connected to interior MPPT charge controller with oversized wire that has a "trailer connector" plug wired into it.


If in campsite for a while in the shade, I can remove panel from roof (pull four pins), unplug at the "trailer plug" and plug in 24' extension cord to trailer plug on roof and into back of panel and I can set up the panel away from the van.


I really feel it's best of both worlds (constant charging when just parked at trailhead for a few hours or something, but can get serious about positioning and park in shade while still getting solar when somewhere for night). Keys are remembering to take it off before you pop the top (duh, but I forget this frequently) and sizing the wire so the voltage drop with the extension cord in there is still reasonable.


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