Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Joemdt

Freestanding solar panel tips

Recommended Posts

Looking to expand our horizons and got to more site without EHU. To keep the costs down and to prevent having to drill into the caravan roof, we are thinking of getting a freestanding panel which we just get out when we need. 

 

The only problem we see with that is that on our caravan (Bailey Phoenix 420) the battery locker is under the floor, rather than being on the outside.

 

Can anyone give me some advice on if it is possible to fit a panel, or if this is even a sensible idea?

 

What kit would I need?

 

Cheers in advance guys. 

 

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wherever the battery is you still need to have a controller somewhere nearby and a connection point for the solar panel, my connection plug is in the outside locker battery locker but you can put one in another side locker provided its not the gas bottle locker.

 

You can get plug n play freestanding panels without worrying about the internal controllers but you should then go for a bigger panel to make up for any power losses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me, I prefer the roof mounted one, no hassle, always working, plenty of space up there. Free standing I would fit a small socket somewhere in an external locker (not the gas locker) to plug the panels into. Pretty straight forward to do. Dont the new Baileys have the wiring installed for a roof mounted solar panel? I thought Id read somewhere that they do.

1 minute ago, Paul_B said:

You can get plug n play freestanding panels without worrying about the internal controllers but you should then go for a bigger panel to make up for any power losses.

Or a thicker cable to negate the power losses which is probably cheaper. With relatively short runs it shouldnt be an issue really

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a free standing panel you can get away without any real fitting at all. The controller could be located adjacent to the panels, with a lead in through a window into a 12V socket, or put the controller inside.

If you adjust the panel a few times a day to face the sun it will be much more efficient than a roof mounted one.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Stevan said:

With a free standing panel you can get away without any real fitting at all. The controller could be located adjacent to the panels, with a lead in through a window into a 12V socket, or put the controller inside.

If you adjust the panel a few times a day to face the sun it will be much more efficient than a roof mounted one.

Yes it will, fit a larger panel on the roof that works all of the time is way better than a portable unit, less hassle, no potential security issues and you have got a cable draped through a window yuk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, AJGalaxy2012 said:

Yes it will, fit a larger panel on the roof that works all of the time is way better than a portable unit, less hassle, no potential security issues and you have got a cable draped through a window yuk.

The OP was specifically interested in an external panel and wanted to avoid a permanent fixture.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Stevan on this.....always used free standing and a controller.

 

geoff

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have both, 90w on the roof for keeping the battery topped up while the caravan isn't used and I take a 50w freestanding for when we go off hookup. 

The roof ones are ok but nowhere near as good as the freestanding 50w,  both my Morningstar controllers are under the front seat.

  • +1 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Joemdt said:

Looking to expand our horizons and got to more site without EHU. To keep the costs down and to prevent having to drill into the caravan roof, we are thinking of getting a freestanding panel which we just get out when we need. 

 

The only problem we see with that is that on our caravan (Bailey Phoenix 420) the battery locker is under the floor, rather than being on the outside.

 

Can anyone give me some advice on if it is possible to fit a panel, or if this is even a sensible idea?

 

What kit would I need?

 

Cheers in advance guys. 

 

Joe

 

Don't think you need to drill for it. Isn't the supports for the solar panels usually bonded to the roof?

Ours came with a 100w panel but if I started from scratch I would put a big LG panel on the roof, preferably a 360w panel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Stevan said:

The OP was specifically interested in an external panel and wanted to avoid a permanent fixture.

 

The OP said "Can anyone give me some advice on if it is possible to fit a panel, or if this is even a sensible idea?" You dont fit a free standing panel.
I was responding to you and your comments about free standing is more efficient merely pointing our for convenience roof mounted is so much better and if you increase the size to compensate for less optimum alignment its a no brainer really.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, AndersG said:

 

Don't think you need to drill for it. Isn't the supports for the solar panels usually bonded to the roof?

Ours came with a 100w panel but if I started from scratch I would put a big LG panel on the roof, preferably a 360w panel.

 

Bonded, but you need to drill to get the cables through the roof, not a problem if done properly with the proper waterproof gland.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Paul_B said:

I have both, 90w on the roof for keeping the battery topped up while the caravan isn't used and I take a 50w freestanding for when we go off hookup. 

The roof ones are ok but nowhere near as good as the freestanding 50w,  both my Morningstar controllers are under the front seat.

One big bug-bear with roof mounted panels is the frequent need to clean them! I find it beneficial to clean mine before every outing.  Ignoring this will only result in a markedly lower performance. It only takes one leaf,  similar obstruction, or general dirt to drastically reduce output. This requires the use of a ladder but doing it on site becomes near impossible if an awning is in use..... &, of course,  there is the added weight of carrying the ladder (around 4 Kg or more)..

 

Having said that I am about to try carrying a lightweight 4 step folding ladder around with me as my air awning is apparently getting heavier,  more cantankerous, & difficult to feed through the rail, as it (or is that I?) gets older LOL. So  I'll be I’ll have the ability to inspect the panel's cleanliness on site as required.

 

I still feel the need for an extra free-standing panel when the sun goes into hiding, or outside of mid summer when the sun's rays are at too low an angle, i.e. most of the time!.  Luckily I use two 60ah batteries which can be electrically separated allowing independent charging.

 

Having the panel fixed to the roof does aid security though, however, for the same actual output they need a much higher rating.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, micktheshed said:

One big bug-bear with roof mounted panels is the frequent need to clean them! I find it beneficial to clean mine before every outing.  Ignoring this will only result in a markedly lower performance. It only takes one leaf,  similar obstruction, or general dirt to drastically reduce output. This requires the use of a ladder but doing it on site becomes near impossible if an awning is in use..... &, of course,  there is the added weight of carrying the ladder (around 4 Kg or more)..

 

Having said that I am about to try carrying a lightweight 4 step folding ladder around with me as my air awning is apparently getting heavier,  more cantankerous, & difficult to feed through the rail, as it (or is that I?) gets older LOL. So  I'll be I’ll have the ability to inspect the panel's cleanliness on site as required.

 

I still feel the need for an extra free-standing panel when the sun goes into hiding, or outside of mid summer when the sun's rays are at too low an angle, i.e. most of the time!.  Luckily I use two 60ah batteries which can be electrically separated allowing independent charging.

 

Having the panel fixed to the roof does aid security though, however, for the same actual output they need a much higher rating.

 

 

I must be lucky, I have 320w of solar up on the roof flat, only clean them once per year and they just work, I do use quite a bit of power (3kw Sine Wave Inverter) for the microwave and the TV in the bedroom and we simply dont need hookup at all, overcast days are fine, we get plenty of charge. Depends a lot on the quality of panels how successful you are I suppose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This question seems to come up a lot how to connect to a Bailey  inboard battery.    I don’t know the answer but how is the connection made with the factory  fitted panel on the unicorn?  Does it connect direct o the battery or via the distribution box? That should give a clue how to do it.  Then you can make a similar connection.

 

FYIW, I swapped a 43W free standing panel with a 135W roof mounted panel.  I think that the performance was more or less identical.   I currently have a 150W which I have recently add to with another 120W  panel.  I have opted for roof mounted for the convenience factor because we store and go a lot off ehu.  But if the caravan was stored at home.  I think I would be happy with a free standing panel. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello everyone - this is the closest post I’ve found without starting a new thread especially as I have a Bailey Pegasus Palermo with the floor battery box (and without solar panel prep)

 

i have a portable 150w solar panel with built in controller and mc4 connectors.  What is the best way to easily connect this to the battery.

 

I can’t find a suitable outlet panel so what are my options?

 

a) connect to mover 12v supply (before key switch) and dangle mc4 cables out of the window? (Advantage is nice fat cables direct to battery)

b) connect directly to 12v cigarette socket

c) find 12v (non habitation relay supply) from behind fridge and route through vents.

d) a much better solution that I haven’t thought of

 

I’d really appreciate a steer.

 

Many thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A tip when using portable solar panels: use a regulator that has a live display of the input amps etc. That way the panel can be set to give the best input- which is not always facing the direction of sun. Sometimes reflection off the clouds give more much power. It also proves quite entertaining/satisfying to see the actual input being produced. Almost as entertaining as some soaps LOL.

Be warned though, it can become quite hypnotising as the regulator display flips between input/output/load, input/output/load................

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for that tip - yes mine has a nice display although the regulator is currently mounted on the underneath of the panel so one needs to be a bit of a contortionist to read the values!

 

Looking forward to hearing other ideas for connections.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a weird conversation with someone on a site I’m on at the moment. Long story short is that our generator is giving me some issues ( thinking fuel pump failure but no tools to diagnose fully until I’m home), so I’ve shared access to another one for the few times I need it for a high draw. The lady I’m sharing it with was quite sure in herself that running mains while having a solar panel plugged in would break the regulator. I was highly sceptical, but didn’t want to argue. Can I confirm that it’s fine and the regulator would be ok?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, anthdci said:

The lady I’m sharing it with was quite sure in herself that running mains while having a solar panel plugged in would break the regulator. I was highly sceptical, but didn’t want to argue. Can I confirm that it’s fine and the regulator would be ok

Our solar controller is permanently connected to the battery, and has no problem with using the onboard charger via mains hookup. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Practicalities

 

1. Contact Bailey and see if there is a solar input point to the harness. I’ll be surprised if 5er isn’t

2. You glue panels to the roof so no holes there

3. You can fun the cables across and then use the off side awning channel.  Disadvantage is the length of cable. But no holes

4. Free standing just plug in and that can be into a socket mounted any where

 

We have the standard roof mounted unicorn 100 w. Plus a 60 w free standing.  I can monitor what is generated by each. They both go into a common 30amp controller

 

Free standing far out performs the roof mounted. If you point it directly at sun and keep shifting it every hour or so.  Go out for the day and it finishes up doing sod all.

 

Overall the roof mounted actually out performs it during summer months.  In winter the free standing, if moved is far better. Put both together like we do and you have a flexible efficient system.  But at a cost.  Have not needed Sparky the generator for last four years. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My solar panels are connected directly to the battery (from the built in regulator).  There is a permanent connection and then an Anderson Plug/socket.  Normally the cable goes through a window.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Alan Stanley said:

1. Contact Bailey and see if there is a solar input point to the harness. I’ll be surprised if 5er isn’t

 

It would be helpful and useful if anyone with a central battery and a factory fit panelU4?   Could  check and tell the OP where the output from controller goes?  

 I have drilled a hole for the cables in the roof of two of our vans.   It is no big deal, but the first time it took me about 3 months before I was brave enough to do it. 

 

In addition to 2 roof mounted panels I also have kept my original 43W  freestanding panel, mainly for winter use.   Like Kelper I use an Anderson connector to connect this.   I feed this through a gas drop in the floor. No need to open a window.  Each type of caravan will have different layouts and ways of getting a cable out.  Sometimes a dose of looking and thinking before doing works wonders.

Edited by fred

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, Alan Stanley said:

 

Free standing far out performs the roof mounted. If you point it directly at sun and keep shifting it every hour or so.  Go out for the day and it finishes up doing sod all.

 

 

I am staggered to read that statement, as whether you are in or out has no effect on the solar cells performance.

 

A free standing panel in use whilst you are out can out perform a roof mounted, if you are savvy enough to  place it correctly.

Lay it on the ground and it can't but match the flat on roof panel's performance.

Place it at 15 degrees to the horizontal, facing south, and it will outperform a flat mounted panel.

Here depending on when you go out you can place it other than directly facing south to best optimise the sun track of the period you are out.

The silly rather upright  position most proprietary panel stands set the panel is the issue, during much of the high yield part of the day it is way off optimised, for use in the summer. I set mine for the appropriate sun elevation.

 

Just having a rudimentary understanding of the track of the sun across the sky, and placing the position and elevation of the panel to exploit this is all you need to take on board.

Edited by JTQ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, carlnorthwood said:

Hello everyone - this is the closest post I’ve found without starting a new thread especially as I have a Bailey Pegasus Palermo with the floor battery box (and without solar panel prep)

 

i have a portable 150w solar panel with built in controller and mc4 connectors.  What is the best way to easily connect this to the battery.

 

I can’t find a suitable outlet panel so what are my options?

 

a) connect to mover 12v supply (before key switch) and dangle mc4 cables out of the window? (Advantage is nice fat cables direct to battery)

b) connect directly to 12v cigarette socket

c) find 12v (non habitation relay supply) from behind fridge and route through vents.

d) a much better solution that I haven’t thought of

 

I’d really appreciate a steer.

 

Many thanks.

My answer, and I use it myself, is to make up a short fly lead with mc4 connectors on one end. Connect the other ends of the lead directly to the battery using ring connectors and there you have it, a quick and easy way to connect up on site. I have modified my fly lead in that I have added a 10amp fuse in the positive side. There you are, easy to do, neat and easy to use.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JTQ said:

I am staggered to read that statement, as whether you are in or out has no effect on the solar cells performance

Stagger no more!  He means that when he's out he can't reposition it regularly to point at the sun!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  



×
×
  • Create New...