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Should I Fit Solar Panel For Battery Top Up?


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For the first time in 25 years I am going to have to put my van into storage on a permanent basis due to the unsuitability of the house we are moving to. :(

I have always kept my vans on EHU at home so have never had an issue with drained batteries but am now worried that there won't be enough charge left in the battery to operate the mover after several months in storage, especially over the winter months.

Would it be beneficial/cost efective to fit a solar panel to the roof to keep the battery charged, if so, which type, or buy a second leisure battery and swap them each time keeping one on a trickle charge at home?

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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If the van doesn't require an active alarm or tracker for insurance puposes I would remove the battery and keep it at home - recharge it once a month or connect it continuously to a CTEK charger or similar.

 

If insurance dictates, then it's always useful to have a spare leisure battery and it will probably be the cheapest solution, as long as you are able to swap them over once a month (even in cold dark winter months), and don't mind acid batteries bouncing around in the boot of the car.

 

My van had a factory fitted 20watt solar panel to overcome the alarm/tracker battery discharge but when this died I replaced with a 40 watt panel, but 20 watts would be enough. However, if you are contemplating fitting a panel to the roof, which probably means drilling cable holes somewhere, it would be worth considering the largest panel that will fit, and you can afford. This will add weight to the van though.

 

Alternatively, you might consider mounting a portable panel inside the largest rooflight.

 

Edit: Obviously, if the van is stored under cover then a solar panel won't work.

Edit2: I never connect my van to EHU at home - the 40 watt panel always keeps the battery topped up, ready for using the mover when we go away.

Edited by onewheelonmywagon

Land Rover is now back towing.

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I have fitted a 60w solar panel to the roof of my van just for storage charging purposes. This maybe a tad overkill but it does a great job, always charged and ready to go.

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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You need at least 40 watts to keep it charged but

not a lot of good if it is stored under cover as one

blokes caravan was, the light he thought would run

it was from a single small panel in the roof. :rolleyes:

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You don't need to worry about heavy solar panels if you pay a little extra and fit a flexi type panel. 60 watt flexi prob only weighs a couple of Kg and sticks on unlike the rigid cheap types that are very heavy and need brackets mounting.

Have a look at the RoadPro web page or give them a call.

 

Remember you need a slightly bigger panel in winter due to reduced light levels and darker longer! 20 watt as per what certain caravan makers fit as standard are not going to cut it in winter really.

Edited by Roger3596

Audi Q5 3. 0Tdi S Line

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You don't need to worry about heavy solar panels if you pay a little extra and fit a flexi type panel. 60 kW flexi prob only weighs a couple of Kg and sticks on unlike the rigid cheap types that are very heavy and need brackets mounting.

Have a look at the RoadPro web page or give them a call.

60kW :o

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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60kW :o

Amazing the advances they make each year. ..

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Thanks for all the replies - van will be stored outside all year, but as the storage site is a Gold Secure site I will probably leave alarm off and take the battery home with me if the van is going to be there for more than a few weeks. I cancelled the tracker after 1st year as did not feel it was worth the money with caravan club 5C's cover - would not want my van back if someone nicked it.

It does bother me having to drill holes for cables etc in roof.

Have also looked at solar panels on line and they are not cheap!!

Think I will therefore keep battery charged up at home.

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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Thanks for all the replies - van will be stored outside all year, but as the storage site is a Gold Secure site I will probably leave alarm off and take the battery home with me if the van is going to be there for more than a few weeks. I cancelled the tracker after 1st year as did not feel it was worth the money with caravan club 5C's cover - would not want my van back if someone nicked it.

It does bother me having to drill holes for cables etc in roof.

Have also looked at solar panels on line and they are not cheap!!

Think I will therefore keep battery charged up at home.

Make sure you tell the insurance that you have disabled the alarm and tracker.

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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The tracker and alarm system has been mentioned above - I assume that with the Master Switch OFF the alarm system is still powered from the van battery. Does it really take that much out of the battery that it would go flat over the winter or are there other things still drawing current with the Master Switch OFF? Or does the battery just generally loose it's charge over time?

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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I believe internal battery losses can be as much as 0. 3%.

So for a 100 amp-hr battery this could be 0. 3 amp-hrs per day, or 9 amp-hrs per month, which is nearly 10% of the battery charge.

You can measure current drain by detaching one of the battery leads and using a multimeter in series with the battery.

 

My drain measured 200 milliamps, with the master switch off. This is about 5 amp-hrs per day, which is why my battery used to go flat in storage after about 3 weeks, until I discovered the solar panel was dead.

Land Rover is now back towing.

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For the first time in 25 years I am going to have to put my van into storage on a permanent basis due to the unsuitability of the house we are moving to. :(

I have always kept my vans on EHU at home so have never had an issue with drained batteries but am now worried that there won't be enough charge left in the battery to operate the mover after several months in storage, especially over the winter months.

Would it be beneficial/cost efective to fit a solar panel to the roof to keep the battery charged, if so, which type, or buy a second leisure battery and swap them each time keeping one on a trickle charge at home?

 

We have the same van as you & also store on a Cassoa site with the van not moving for at least 10-12 weeks over winter. We just use a laptop sized folding solar panel laid on the bed & connected direct to the battery terminals via crocodile clips. We close all the blinds except the overbed Heki & have never had any issue using the motor mover to get the van out for it's first trip of the year at Easter as this seems to keep the battery topped up nicely ( even whilst running the alarm & tracker ).

Les.
2. 0ltr 150TDCi TITANIUM X KUGA + 2016 Elddis Crusader Mistral ( Misty )

" I could agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong "

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We have the same van as you & also store on a Cassoa site with the van not moving for at least 10-12 weeks over winter. We just use a laptop sized folding solar panel laid on the bed & connected direct to the battery terminals via crocodile clips. We close all the blinds except the overbed Heki & have never had any issue using the motor mover to get the van out for it's first trip of the year at Easter as this seems to keep the battery topped up nicely ( even whilst running the alarm & tracker ).

Hi Lesbunny - thanks for info - sounds like a good option - what wattage and type is your solar panel?

As Happy Larry says above - could loose 10% of charge per month so keeping it topped up with alarm activated might be the best solution.

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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Hi LRN, It's a 4w solar briefcase. Available from Maplins for £19. 99. It works like a trickle charger & has an auto cut out when the battery is fully charged. I know zip about watts, volts or amphours - I just know it keeps our 110ah battery up to snuff. I connect it by pushing the jack plug through the gromit that holds the battery & mover wire through the back of the battery box, then lift the bed & feed the wire up the side. You may have to lift the plastic covers off the + & - terminals to get the crocodile clips to grip otherwise dead simple.

 

Takes about 2 mins tops.

Les.
2. 0ltr 150TDCi TITANIUM X KUGA + 2016 Elddis Crusader Mistral ( Misty )

" I could agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong "

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Hi LRN, It's a 4w solar briefcase. Available from Maplins for £19. 99. It works like a trickle charger & has an auto cut out when the battery is fully charged. I know zip about watts, volts or amphours - I just know it keeps our 110ah battery up to snuff. I connect it by pushing the jack plug through the gromit that holds the battery & mover wire through the back of the battery box, then lift the bed & feed the wire up the side. You may have to lift the plastic covers off the + & - terminals to get the crocodile clips to grip otherwise dead simple.

 

Takes about 2 mins tops.

4w at 12v is 300ma These type of panels reduce output by around 50% in anything but good weather and not directly facing the sun at the relevant angle IMHE, and if put behind a caravan window will loose another 30% efficiency.

Likely output is around 150ma if outside and reasonable sunny or around 100ma optimistically if behind the window of the van.

 

Of course, this would only be for around 6 hours a day in the summer.

 

So. .. 100ma for 6 hours = 0. 6ah, this would take around 92 sunshine hours to bring a 110ah battery back from 50% charge if the charging process was 100% efficient (Which it isn't). That equates to around 16days with no other losses but should be enough to provide a small maintenance current. :) But certainly would not charge the battery :(

 

Are my maths wrong :o

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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Hi all,

I have a 4watt panel fitted in the rooflight. It will give the battery a maintenance charge only and will not re charge the battery. To do this you will need a much bigger panel of about 40-60 watts but you will also need to fit a charge regulator with this size panel. The small 4watt panel will self regulate and also has reverse charge diode so when panel is not seeing enough sunlight the battery does not send power back to the panel.

I hope this is of some use.

All stars figures are correct using ohms law. :)

David.

Edited by rominyogi
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Don't know about the maths Dreadly but I tried a 10 watt panel in the front window over the winter and that didn't keep the charge up so I put a 20 in the window (south east) and that didn't work either :(

 

All I can put it down to is the 2 peices of plastic in the window are reflecting too much light

Paul B

. .......Mondeo Estate & Elddis Avanté 505 (Tobago)

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Don't know about the maths Dreadly but I tried a 10 watt panel in the front window over the winter and that didn't keep the charge up so I put a 20 in the window (south east) and that didn't work either :(

 

All I can put it down to is the 2 peices of plastic in the window are reflecting too much light

Yes, panels are much less effective behind a window, it is a drop of 30% per pane I seem to remember reading. A lot of roof panels are UV blocking so may even be completely useless. Has anybody actually taken readings from such a device? - My 60w panel, using a PWM controller, flat on my roof on a sunny but overcast day is putting out between 800ma and 3. 0a

depending on cloud cover and time of day. On a cloudy day mostly floats at around 1. 5a output, which is ideal for a good top up trickle charge. I may later fit a couple of 100w flexi panels if I start camping off-grid more.

 

Found this quick and very unprofessional video showing an example of power loss on a PV using just brand new clear perpex sheet. http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=IEDPUQKlE-I

Edited by dreadly

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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100 watt panel fixed to the roof charging 2 x 120 Amp Hour batteries. All set up to exist off grid all year round.

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Hi LRN, It's a 4w solar briefcase. Available from Maplins for £19. 99. It works like a trickle charger & has an auto cut out when the battery is fully charged. I know zip about watts, volts or amphours - I just know it keeps our 110ah battery up to snuff. I connect it by pushing the jack plug through the gromit that holds the battery & mover wire through the back of the battery box, then lift the bed & feed the wire up the side. You may have to lift the plastic covers off the + & - terminals to get the crocodile clips to grip otherwise dead simple.

 

Takes about 2 mins tops.

Thanks LB at £20 worth a try as only trying to maintain the charge not recharge.

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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100 watt panel fixed to the roof charging 2 x 120 Amp Hour batteries. All set up to exist off grid all year round.

 

I only use my freestanding 50w panel to a 110ah battery during the summer and we watch tv etc. The battery is usually full by about 10am if I leave it facing the morning sun before we go to bed :)

 

I used to take a spare battery for the crt telly and use it on my second solar system, but since getting the led telly I don't need it.

Paul B

. .......Mondeo Estate & Elddis Avanté 505 (Tobago)

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For the first time in 25 years I am going to have to put my van into storage on a permanent basis due to the unsuitability of the house we are moving to. :(

I have always kept my vans on EHU at home so have never had an issue with drained batteries but am now worried that there won't be enough charge left in the battery to operate the mover after several months in storage, especially over the winter months.

Would it be beneficial/cost efective to fit a solar panel to the roof to keep the battery charged, if so, which type, or buy a second leisure battery and swap them each time keeping one on a trickle charge at home?

Fit a panel, I fitted a 150w panel, less than £200 total cost and my battery is always 100% in storage, never an issue with the mover and off ehu it works like a dream, go for it you won't be disappointed.

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Fit a panel, I fitted a 150w panel, less than £200 total cost and my battery is always 100% in storage, never an issue with the mover and off ehu it works like a dream, go for it you won't be disappointed.

Urm!! Beginning to think that this might be the way to go after all this advice that keeps coming in.

I assume your panel is on roof and has an intellegent charging system so that it does not boil the battery and is not affected by the mains charger when on EHU.

Fit and forget sounds like a good option B) and all for £200!? :)

Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 XS and 2013 Bailey Unicorn S2 Valencia

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Urm!! Beginning to think that this might be the way to go after all this advice that keeps coming in.

I assume your panel is on roof and has an intellegent charging system so that it does not boil the battery and is not affected by the mains charger when on EHU.

Fit and forget sounds like a good option B) and all for £200!? :)

Yes, all for just under £200, maybe less now.

 

Ebay is your friend, solar panel came from Belgium, brackets and cable entry from another ebay supplier, Soudal Fixall and cable from another one and the controller with remote display completed the shopping list.

 

Took about 2 hrs or so to plan the route for cables, clean that area of roof and drill the hole eeek! I couldn't believe how well fixall works it's absolutely solid. Dead easy to install, I did it myself, alone, easier with 2 people.

 

Fit the brackets to the panel first, lay the panel on the roof, put masking tape round the edges of the brackets on the roof. This allows you to mark the position and makes for an easy cleanup of excess fixall. Drill the hole, feed the cables through, plug into the panel, apply the fixall and lower the panel into position, I did my cable entry under the panel with the cables facing backwards, this is also fixed with fixall. Run the cables inside, mount the controller near the battery, connect the battery to the controller via a fused lead (inline is ok), connect the panel to the controller. Sit back and have a cuppa, works brilliantly.

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