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Old 08-10-2009, 04:16 PM   #1
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Adding Solar to a used SMB

I am in the market for a pre-owned SMB but I am wondering how easy it would be to add solar panels and batteries afterward, OR, if I should just wait for the right one with solar pre-installed. Has anyone added solar panels after the fact? Do they have to do it at the SMB shop or are there 3rd party options out there?
I am in the Boulder/Denver area.
Thanks for the input. I look forward to being a SMB owner sooner than later.

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Old 08-10-2009, 04:20 PM   #2
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Re: Adding Solar to a used SMB

I had my van built with Solar PreWire, and later added a solar panel. The solar controller is pretty straightforward if you have some electrical experience. The hardest parts would be mounting the panel to the roof and routing the wiring from the panel through the roof to the solar controller.


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Old 08-10-2009, 05:59 PM   #3
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Re: Adding Solar to a used SMB

I have retroed a Westy and in the process of Full Solar for my 2001 SMB

I have done quite a bit of homework


Ya need to know:

-Figure out your needed watts or amp hours per day
-For this you need to know the amps for each appliance run
-There is some magic conversion for all this
-I use
-How many average hours of sunlight
-How many amp hours can be stored in your batteries
-THEN you can determine panel size/watts

For instance:
-I calculated
-4cf fridge
-led lights 4 hours per night
-dvd player/tv 3 hours per nite
-fans 6 hours per day
-charge cell phone
-laptop 3 hours per day
-sterio hooked to iPhone 3 hours
-gas/lp/smoke alarms
-water pump

I am at @ 1200 watts per day
My two 180 watt panels will just about make that
I have 420 amp hours of battery storrage

I figure i can run indefinatley with no shore power

my story and i am sticking to it

if ya all want specifics, will post my calculations and equipment specs

all my parts, two panels, controler, remote display, isolator, fuses, batt temp
etc shipped to Southern Cal was $2,300

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Old 08-10-2009, 06:16 PM   #4
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Posts: 310
Re: Adding Solar to a used SMB

Adding solar is easy enough, you'll just need to find a good place to mount the solar controller. Depending on the model you choose, it's only about 6 inches by 6 inches, and an inch or so deep. I think SMB mounts it into the headliner at the front of the poptop cutout; I built a little cabinet for mine behind the driver's seat, that also houses the stock speaker. You could probably cut out a hole pretty much anywhere in the SMB-installed wall panels to mount it.

Running the wiring to the top might be the trickiest - I've heard it's finicky to get the wires between the canvas and the fibreglass top. Not technically difficult, though, just time-consuming (this is all from hearsay). SMB did it for me when I ordered the top, but didn't install plugs or do any other wiring.

Getting it through the top is easy, you just need a drill!! I used a marine-style throughdeck fitting for the wires.

Mounting panels is easy, there are as many ways to do it as there are vans. I used aluminum angle and 3M tape; most people bolt the angle through the top. If you're going to drill through the top, most recommend drilling outside of the canvas walls (there's about 3 inches of overhang).

A battery depends on the space you have available, but there are lots of potential locations (under the van, under a seat). There are different sizes of battery, you might be able to fit two smaller ones where one larger won't fit.

All of this depends on your willingness to get your hands dirty - I wired mine all up as I built the van, but there's no reason you couldn't unscrew a cabinet to get access to the walls in a pre-built SMB. Pay attention to wire gauges and routing, but the actual wiring is pretty straightforward. Good luck! Lots of assistance available on this site.


Edited to add: check out the Arizona Wind & Sun site for ideas of cost. They're usually pretty competitive with prices, and have a good selection of quality stuff, with helpful writeups.
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Old 08-10-2009, 10:29 PM   #5
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Re: Adding Solar to a used SMB

Hey Fellas,
Thanks for the solid information. I appreciate it. It gives me plenty of data to get started on.
Thank You.
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Old 08-11-2009, 05:46 AM   #6
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Posts: 351
Re: Adding Solar to a used SMB


Just a thought. I talked myself out of solar (temporarily).

The O2cool fans at Walmart run for a couple of days on D batteries. The Dot-It Sylvania LED lights run for a solid week (24/7). A top of the line Coleman Extreme (or Igloo-with a screw on water drain-more reliable) will keep things cold for 5 days (especially with a reflictix envelope).

Not sure about furnace use. It's been 102 F. here for so long I can't wrap my mind around problems of being too cold....

There are D and AA stand alone solar chargers out there. I haven't picked one yet.

All in, a lot (over $1000) cheaper than a single Kyocera and solar controller. Something to think about especially if your trips are less than 5 days.


Austin, Texas
1995 SMB E250
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