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After fit Solar Panels

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Posted: 5 years ago
We bought a 2012 Sterling Eccles 544 Lux last year and after visiting the Caravan show last month noticed that the new models come with Solar Panels fitted. I can understand why after this winter with the Alarm draining the battery within a couple of weeks. Does anyone know if is possible to get a Solar Panel fitted to my caravan and also what size is recommended . Thanks
Total Posts: 122
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Posted: 5 years ago
Hi Orangutang you can go on the net and put in solar panels for carvans and youll get hundreds to choose from start from about £35 for 5watt.
But you are better going for a 10watt semi flexable with built in blocking diode to stop battery drain during night about £95/100 , being semi flex it will mold to van roof or can be fitted to roof on plastic corner raisers. If you go for higher wattage models you then have to start thinking of regulators. unless your van electric managements stystem/ charger has built in solar control. but this means more wiring. I would suggest you mount it on the oppsite side to your awning or use a fold up type which can be used virtually along side your battery box and use crocidile clips this will put price up, Only if it is safe to leave in such a position. You did not mention what your winter storage is under cover in the open, if you store your van at home can you not run power to van and charge battery once a week for one day to keep topped up if not convenient to keep connected all winter. Your nearest van dealer will arrange for it to be fiited ( if you dont want to tackle job your self) But this will most probably triple the price if not more.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Thanks for the advice , I will look on the Internet to see what I can find. I have seen the free standing units which connect to the battery but really I want one permanently fitted to the van so don't have to worry. Not sure if the van is wired for solar panel but being a 2012 model it may do. I have bought an adapter for normal plug to keep the van on permanent charge over the winter especially as I have a winter cover on it. Time to go searching
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Posted: 5 years ago
Depends on what you intend the solar panel for, if it's to trickle charge the battery and keep it topped up just for alarm purposes then fine, if it's to run 12 volt appliances then no. I have gone into this solar panel lark extensively and fitted panels (notice PANELS plural) to my van if you want any more info then email me at rcpilot@sky.com I DO NOT sell panels I try to inform fellow caravaners
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Posted: 5 years ago
Swift vans have been fitted with a solar panel conection for some time. I can be found in the offside locker near the the battery box. You require a connerctor to link into it. There is mention of it in the handbook. I have today been putting wires in to connect a panel which I am fitting to the roof, when the weather gets a bit better. At the moment I use a small 5w panel int eh roof light and that helps keep the battery up to scratch. I've never had a problem with my alarm. A good place to look is the Sergeant web site for the connectors.
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Posted: 5 years ago
It really is important to define what you will use the panels for. If you have a winter cover for the van, the panels won't get light so won't work to top up the battery and keep the alarm live. If you want to go out at weekends on sites/rallies without mains electric then look for something in the 40 watt or above category and fit a control panel to ensure you don't overload the battery. An important bit of information is that solar panels don't necessarily generate 12volts, sometimes they get up to 19v, so the control panel is important. If you go for multiples of panels instead of just one, wire them in series to increase the ampage ( parallel increases the voltage which you don't want).
To fit them on the roof, you need to make sure you use the manufacturers fixing points ( or your warranty and insurance are void), and you have to get the wire down through the roof and down the walls to the battery box area ( not easy). I have a 2011 Sterling Eccles Moonstone, so looked at all this and spoke to the dealer. I worked for a solar panel installation company, so found out about the practicalities. In the end I bought 2 x 20 watt panels, hinged the frames together added some legs and put them outside the van when on site, wired through to the control panel with a waterproof plug/socket and from the panel to the battery. I bought the panels on through e-bay, they were posted from China and cost about £110. They make a weekend rally possible without power hook up. Good luck with it.
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Posted: 5 years ago
In reply to johngray
in total you have 40 watts of panels that equates to 2.2amps per hour in brilliant sunshine running at the maximim stated voltage on the panels, which would put aprox 17 amps into your batteries or battery per day, when in this country do we ever get 8 hours or more of non stop brilliant sunshine, I monitored my panel which by the way is 120 watts (3 times the size of yours) and at best was putting about 8-10 amps per day into my true deep cycle batteries (Trojans) this is just about enough to run a tv for a couple of hours toilet flush throughout the day and water pump throught the day and 1 LED light also the pump in the alde heating if it got cold, and also the 12 volt items that cannot be switched off ie tracker etc, any more and my batteries were discharging and the solar panel could not keep up. This was through a teribble solar controller that came with the panel, which by the way did not allow the panel to run at maximim voltage it pulled it down to 12 volts, solar panels are rated in watts as the power output, but only produce the maximum stated amperage if the panel runs at the maximum stated voltage, to get my panels to run at the manufacturers stated voltage I have had to buy what they call an MPPT controller, these enable you to get the best possible amps out of the panels for the amount of sun available and also charge the batteries the best possible way ,multi stage charging and I have never come across a solar panel kit with an MTTP controller in it, they are normally an after market purchase.. Also the majority of solar panels are made in China no matter who sells them even branded panels are Chinese made with the sellers label stuck on them.
Also if you go for mulitple panels you have GOT to uprate the cabling from the controller to the batteries otherwise the original cables can overheat and cause a fire , not very good if you are not in your caravan at that time and you come back to a burnt out van. I now have 3 panels totalling 280 watts to handle our electrical needs with NO hook ups.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Hi Orangutang I have looked up in my many issues of Pc magazine and found the following article March 2013. Truma has 2 new power products on the market on display @ the NEC Brum. A range of solar panel kits called solar sets. these are aimed at the caravaner who does not use hook ups.
23W (3.7Kg)----- £229
65W (6.6Kg) ------£440
100W (8.8Kg) ----£540
1500W (12.2Kg)--£740
All kits include roof mountings an Aerodynamic spoiler, cables and routing and a REGULATOR for battery charging.
There is also a new reverse cycle (RC) version of the Saphir Comfort under-seat system for heating in moderate ambient temps. 2400w cooling and1700W heating as is suitable for vans up to 6.5 m the new unit is smaller than the old AC unit and at 23.5Kg is 0.5 Kg heavier expected to cost £1300. Every thing comes complete connectors sealants etc all you have to do is fit it as per instructions
Total Posts: 88
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Posted: 5 years ago
Thanks for all your good advice , i wll look at all the details given and then decide whether to get one fitted or have a free standing unit. Afterall i am reluctant to damage my new Caravan by drilling holes in it etc. If i am struggling to get what i want i will email you rcpilot to get your thoughts
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Posted: 5 years ago
I have been doing some calculations for those of you who are interested in solar panels other than for trickle charging their battery or batteries. These figures will obviously be different for each individual but are a conservative estimate.
Firstly LED tvs on average are about 30 watts,water pumps are aprox 20 watts, 1 LED light aprox 1.8 watts, and a tracker aprox 0.25 watts these are the basic items that people use in their vans and these figures are for 1 hour.
So say you have the tv on for 4 hours in 24 that is a total of 10 amps, water pump for washing up, washing, showering a total of say 1 hours continious use that is in total 1.5 amps,toilet flush over 24 hours a total of say 0.5 hours continious use that is in total 0.75amps,water pump for heating and hot water (will of course be different for those who have a blown air heatin system but I would imagine higher that the wet heating system) say a total of 2 hours in 24 that would be 3 amps, 1 LED light for 5 hours in 24 (obviously mulitply that by the number of lights you have on) that would be 1 amp, for those of you who have a tracker(which is conected to the alarm and which is not normally switched off) for 24 hours that would use 1 amp, there are other small items that consume power but we will not take those into considertion as I have stated the basics.
In total for a 24 hour period we would use about 17.75 amps now then we will have to replace that otherwise the battery (batteries) will become discharged, a fully charged battery will read 12.7 volts after rest after being charged, a flat battery will read aprox 12.3 volts a battery that is( pardon my french) knackered will read 12 volts or less. so you can appreciate it's not going to take much to reduce your battery to 12.3 from 12.7.
We will have to replace that 17.75 amps in the time the sun or daylight is present which we will say about 10 hours depends on which time of year it is .
Obviously the weather plays a big part and the clouds come and go so you will not get the maximum output from the panels even if you had the best controller money could buy.
So lets say you bought a good MPPT controller it would get the maximum amps possible out of the panels for the given sunlight, so to replace 17.75 amps it would have to put in aprox 2 amps per hour over the 10 hours, obviously sometimes it would put more in and also less depending on the weather and cloud cover, to do that you will need at the least a 100 watt panel. That all told would cost aprox £150 for a good MTTP controlller and aprox £100 for a solar panel (do not buy these branded panels they are made by exactly the same people as the cheaper ones ie (chinese) and also do not buy kits , they contain useless controllers that you do not need. You will obviously have to buy ancillaries like brackets cables etc but take note this is all for 12volt useage if you want to run 240 volt stuff it's going to cost a lot more and I mean a lot more.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Thanks for all your great advice. After reading all your comments i have decided to go for a simpple small unit on a tripod and connect straight to the battery as most of the sites i use we always have a hook up and also during the winter i cover the van so to have a fitted unit is useless. I yhink the only reason i would want a unit is just to keep the battery charged
Total Posts: 127
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Posted: 5 years ago
I use a small 11 watt solar whilst the caravan is in storage to keep the battery topped up as the battery as all batteries natural discharge over a few weeks.
I brought my solar panel from Maplins for £12 which came with cable and clips etc and is simple to use.
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Posted: 5 years ago
thanks for your info bigchris 63 i will have a look at maplins and see if they still have them thats a good price especially as all i want i think is a backup unit
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Posted: 5 years ago
will there be any sun this summer to make themwork???
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Posted: 5 years ago
My caravan stood in storage from end of October until the first week in March and my 3 year old battery was ready to go with the motor mover.
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Posted: 5 years ago
reply to billy1
I would say that if we all got dressed up and danced round the totem pole we might be blessed with some sunshine, on the other hand I would take the inflatable dingy with you just in case
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Posted: 5 years ago
My biggest problem is the Alarm fitted to the caravan. Even if you leave it switched off it drains the battery because it is using the internal sensor. There better be some sunshine this year after forking out for our new caravan lol
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Posted: 5 years ago
Hi Orangutang, just a thought have you had your alarm system checked out to flatten your battery in two weeks is excessive and is not worth having. that means every new van is only protected for two weeks unless inconstant use. there are lots of people who only use their van maybe 3/4 times a year or once a month then the alarm would be doing nothing for them.
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Posted: 5 years ago
I have spoken to the dealer i bought the caravan from about this. Because i took the battery off my previous van ( the battery is only 9 months old ) it supposedly is not really man enough for this 2012 model when used without hook up. It is adequate but really they have advised that i change it for a higher rated battery which should last 6 to 8 weeks with the alarm active. This is apparently normal when you upgrade. I think you should get a FREE battery when you buy a new caravan that is suited to the unit you are buying. Afterall caravans aren't that cheap and a decent battery is less than £200.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Hi Orangutang you say your batt is only 9months old I suppose you have not completely flattened it and what size is it most people use 85ah.I use a 110ah narrow boat batt for quicker deep cycles as I have a mover. Even if I dont use van for a month (which is not often) the batt will still move van and provide other 12 volt services without fail before hook up, a 2012 van should be even more economical on batt use than a older van.You can get batt like mine for£70/£90 delivered free. make denotes price check net for offers you should get a good NUMAX 110 Leasure batt from dealer for that. GOOD HUNTING.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Thanks sandgrounder , the battery i have is a 85ah which is the one recommended for the bailey ranger i had previously by Robinson Caravans at Chesterfield. Kimberley Caravans have told me to get either a 110ah or larger and these will be adequate for my needs . They do the 110ah for £97. i will get one later this year when it goes for its first service.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Does anyone know if there are solar panels available for statics? Pros and cons?
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Posted: 5 years ago
Size depends on what style of caravanning you do. If you pretty much always use sites with electric then a small 10-20 watt will keep your battery topped up whilst in storage. If you rally without electric hookup the the minimum i would use is 50 watt self standing (as you can turn it with the sun). for a roof mounted unit you should go to 90+ as the angle of sun early and late does reduce the input. try selectatech.co.uk Very good prices
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Posted: 5 years ago
Reply to Keg 100 It's not the solar panels that matter, any ridgid solar panel will do, if the static is 240v mains supply then you will require a grid tie inverter, what that does is convert the power coming from the solar panels into 240volts so the static can use it, also the number of panels that you put up will be governed by how much power you want to produce. Look around you at how many panels houses have to produce electricity to make their electricity bills cheaper, some have upwards of 10 panels costing an arm and a leg, I don't know if statics have a 12v system in them (very much doubt it never been in one but will stand corrected if they do) if they do then again how much power you use will determine how many panels you require, you will not require a grid tie inverter, unless you also intend the panels for 240v use, but you will require a good solar controller and I mean a GOOD ONE, if they don't then (if you want to use 12v) you will have to do a rewire for 12v
I reply to CaravanAlan
You say you would recommend a 50 watt panel, at best that would produce 4amps per hour in continious brilliant sunshine with the panel running at max voltage. Please look at my post where I have done some calculations then you will understand how much power is needed to run what and what you need to produce that power.
Total Posts: 28
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Posted: 5 years ago
I have recently fitted solar panels to the roof of my caravan. Perhaps my experiences may be of use in this discussion.
Originally I had an array that was 4 panels on a plastic tubular frame that was meant to be propped up and pointed at the sun, this was external and was 4 x 15w panels plus a controller. Unfortunately the sun moves. I then had a cunning plan (no I am not Baldrick) and mounted the whole array on the roof with an aerofoil front mount. It stayed like that through last season and survived strong winds when driving or parked, no holes were driiled to mount the array and it was quite strong enough. Only one hole was drilled for the cable to route to the caravans battery and this was sealed with a waterproof gland and as an extra precation Sikaflex. The downside of this arrangement was purely the weight and its all up high, plus the drag, but it did work well at 60w output as long as you did not overdo things electrically on output.
This year we tried a new approach. I studied all the kits that seem to be available and having decided to go for a larger wattage I made sure I was sitting down whilst studying the prices. It strikes me that you are paying someone a lot of money to put together a collection of components that you can do just as easily yourself and save a lot of dosh.
I will own up here , I am a great fan of Ebay and whenever I want something I get onto that site and compare prices to what retailers are charging.
On eBay I purchased panels that consist of 2 x 100w semi flexible panels they are approx 2.5 kgs each and are wired in parallel. The controller is a Maplins item with a digital read-out of current battery input. The panels are stuck onto the roof with a bead of Sikaflex allowing for removal at a later date if required.
As a test I ran the battery down by loading it with all the lights, radio, and TV, then watched the recovery rate when normality was restored it was quite impressive. That was a bright but slightly overcast day. I may have gone slightly OTT on the wattage but would rather have the option on rally fields etc of not having to do everything by torchlight.
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Posted: 5 years ago
I am still in two minds what to do, think i will wait till my caravan goes in for its first service and talk to the engineers at the store see what they recommend
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Posted: 5 years ago
I would not talk to an engineer. Talk to an electrician. My storage site neighbour talked to an engineer who was servicing his van. The end result was his panel (100w) was wired up with the wrong polarity, and it damaged the controller.How do do it is available on the internet, You do not need to be a rocket scientist, but that could be an advantage, you just need to own, or borrow, and know how to use a multimeter.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Understand thanks. My only concern is that as the caravan is only a year old i dont want to cause anything that will effect the warranty. My friend has had them fitted at Kimberley Caravans to a 2011 Swift and it cost him £250 fitted i think the unit is either an 80 or a 100w solar panel. They have made a very clean and tidy job of it
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Posted: 5 years ago
I had one fitted last year on my Dales 2000 is it works great.
As I do a lot of no electric with our club meets its ideal.
Money well spent.
C Meiner
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Posted: 5 years ago
well i have had a quote to fit a sterling / swift recommended unit 100w fully wired in and perminently fitted to the roof panel for £295 inc VAT fitted . I think this is really good. I also have found out that i need to upgrade the leisure battery to a 110ah battery as the 85ah one fitted is not big enough.
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