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Clem

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To save me doing my own research ... ;)

Years ago people started trying solar panels for charging batteries and then they were pretty much useless.

I've seen people camping recently using them to charge phones etc. So, anyone here using them successfully? Any pointers for good options?

Ideally Id like something I can lay out on my roofrack when camped that will trickle charge my van battery, or feed a couple of usb ports for device charging.

Cheers
 

creationblue

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I’ve used a solar panel on the roof for a few years now. It fits nicely in between the roof skin when not in use.

Coupled with a 110ah battery it runs my Waeco cool box for as long as I’m away as well as charge everyone’s phones etc. will have to look but it’s around 80w
 

Clem

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Any links to what I need to buy?
Is there an amp spec I need to meet?

Cheers
 

pgtips

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Might also be worth looking into lithium leisure battery. That's a game changer from people I've spoken to.
One said if he had not installed solar he wouldn't have bothered once he realised what lithium was capable of

I think it really boils down to how long you plan to be off grid and what usage but if nothing else it's something to also look into.

To help you get up to speed lithium do need different charger, solar panels do too. Lithium doesn't drop off so you get full power for >80% of battery whereas normal LB fades away down to 50% . That means more full power for longer. (in theory could even get a smaller battery so gives out more)

They are lighter and smaller.
Up front Lithium cost lot more but they last longer so it's actually cheaper.
 
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Coda

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I built my own lithium battery pack. 4x 280Ah cells with a JBD bluetooth BMS. It fit nicely in the useless space under where the Dormobile cooler used to be, and I put a 15L fridge on top of it.

We went away for a week, the fridge was at 4c the whole time. When we got back the batteries were still at 80%. They were never charged while away...
 

Adam1970bay

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We have a surf board on our roof, with a 10watt panel, that trickle charges the leisure battery,
These will be at tatton park and dubs at the pub.
Ours is connected to a leisure battery and charges many phones, kindles and iPads, lights and water pump, even in rainy Derbyshire last year.

We have tried a 60w panel connected to a 110 leisure battery running a berg fridge freezer in the same conditions, lasted 5 days on temps off 3. Degrees on fridge. If it had been sunny think would last a week.

There is lots of variables in what the panels will do. They reduce quality in time.
Higher the watt, bigger the panel. Flexibility ones are better if you are going to move to different locations, as they don’t have bulky frames.
 

Mikemanc

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We bought a kit from an online solar store. It included a 100w panel, Pwm charger and some cables.
It was really easy to fit, I decided I didn’t want to drill holes anywhere so I attached to our rear roof rack and fed cables down the air vent.
It charges our leisure battery really well.
I think I paid around £100 for the kit. Wasn’t expensive at all.
 

67westy

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This is what I've been running for the last 4 years, no issues and keeps everything topped up whilst running the compressor fridge, lights, charging etc. Recently I've been using it to power the rapido 12v as well. I have it permanently fixed to the rack but could easily be made removable if you use the rack. The charger also has a feed to the starter to trickle charge it when the leisure battery is approaching full.

No new holes were drilled for the install, the cable feeds through the zipped part of the poptop and I already had a hole from inside the cupboard down to the engine bay


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Pickles

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I've been running a very similar set up to 67 Westy for a number of years. I have also just fixed some flexible panels on my boat using heavy duty Screwfix velcro. The best advice is to buy from a reputable supplier, there's a lot of chat about cheap MPPT controllers not being what they seem but being PWM controllers badged as MPPT. Of course if you dont want fixed then there's the option of foldable which come with their own built in controller. Dont over think it.
 

Clem

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Thanks everyone. Useful stuff , but! it’s made me think I may be overthinking it generally …
I don’t have any electrics draining when parked other than the dash clock and interior light (which is led).
It’s really just device charging I’m thinking about and to be honest, buying another portable charge pack is probably a much simpler option!
I’ve just had a couple of, self imposed, power shortfalls recently that has made me think about it.
 

subheatadey

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What about a portable power station like Ecoflow, Bluetti etc.Saves wiring in MPPT controllers and stuff and you could have a 100 watt flexible solar panel plugged in, and its portable. Simples, go for one that is LIFEPO4 as they last longer.
 

milfredo

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I bought a folding panel off Banggood and it seems pretty good quality. There are clips for a battery but no controller so to speak. What are the real benefits of putting a charging management box between it and the battery when panel is in use while camping?
 

mike202

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Thanks everyone. Useful stuff , but! it’s made me think I may be overthinking it generally …
I don’t have any electrics draining when parked other than the dash clock and interior light (which is led).
It’s really just device charging I’m thinking about and to be honest, buying another portable charge pack is probably a much simpler option!
I’ve just had a couple of, self imposed, power shortfalls recently that has made me think about it.
If you just charge phones up and don’t use a lot of battery power whilst camping I would just get a decent LB. I only got my solar panel because of the fridge draining the LB whilst camping in summer for several days, and didn’t want to risk the LB going flat.
 

mike202

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I bought a folding panel off Banggood and it seems pretty good quality. There are clips for a battery but no controller so to speak. What are the real benefits of putting a charging management box between it and the battery when panel is in use while camping?
Folding panels usually have a built in charge controller whereas separate panels need to have one installed at the same time the solar is installed. The solar panels make too much voltage for the 12 volt battery so it has to be transformed down from around 19 volts otherwise it would fry the battery. That’s my understanding of it any way!
 

pgtips

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I built my own lithium battery pack. 4x 280Ah cells with a JBD bluetooth BMS. It fit nicely in the useless space under where the Dormobile cooler used to be, and I put a 15L fridge on top of it.

We went away for a week, the fridge was at 4c the whole time. When we got back the batteries were still at 80%. They were never charged while away...
Hi Coda, did you look at a DC-DC charger , they're quite pricey for a 60A but I might go the whole way. Were the cells easy enough to join (solder?) and how did you spec the BMS?
Asking because this is the sept/Oct 'job'.
Also did you house the cells or leave exposed?
Pg
 

Coda

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Hi Coda, did you look at a DC-DC charger , they're quite pricey for a 60A but I might go the whole way. Were the cells easy enough to join (solder?) and how did you spec the BMS?
Asking because this is the sept/Oct 'job'.
Also did you house the cells or leave exposed?
Pg
I decided I don't need a DC-DC charger because of the massive capacity of the pack. It will last two-four weeks if it's fully charged when I leave the house. And I never go away for that long in the bus. Otherwise I would have bought the usual blue one, for about 200 quid.

The battery cells are joined with zinc-plated copper bus-bars. They are also wrapped together with tape, and there is foam material in-between the cells and the walls of the bus/furniture to stop them from moving too much.

You spec a BMS by deciding how much current you will draw, then getting a BMS that can handle it with a good margin. If you're getting a chinese BMS I'd recommend 2x margin. (50A max draw = 100A BMS, it will last longer). My BMS can do 100A but at the moment it only runs the fridge, the stereo, and some LED lights. That's probably 10-15A max.

Also, you will want a fuse that will blow in case of a short (don't rely on cheap chinese circuit breakers, they often do not trip in time i.e. dangerous).
 

radish

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Mike
I bought one of these a few years back, took it Glastonbury and it kept the leisure battery topped up all week in my mates Hymer. Just for using the lights at night and 4 phones it was perfect. I've used it loads since to keep the leisure battery topped up for charging.

or spunk a load of cash on one of these things.

 

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