Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Powered by sunshine

To give ourselves extra power on the road and make the most out of the Mediterranean sunshine, we fitted a solar panel on the roof of our camper.

We chose an 80 watt semi flexible panel from eBay, from a seller in Hong Kong.  This cost £280.25 with free shipping.  In the UK the prices tend to be upwards of £550, so if you can afford to wait a little longer for delivery it's well worth it. We went for semi flexible so that the panel could be stuck flat to the roof of the van and be relatively hidden from view.  The glue renders it virtually impossible to steal and the design makes it so sturdy you can apparently walk on it (although for the price I wouldn't want to give it a try!)

We stuck the solar panel down using the mighty powerful Sikaflex 252 (eBay £16.50 plus P&P) and then sealed around the edges with standard kitchen sealant.  We chose an anti bacterial version as we also needed to use it in the bathroom (Wicks £6.19).  We drilled a hole in the roof to feed the wires through and again sealed this up with lots of waterproof sealant.

<--- The wires come into the van via a neat join in the carpeted roof and fit in tightly alongside our Zig unit control panel, making it as inconspicuous as red and black wires can be!

---> They feed into our 20amp dual battery solar regulator which prevents any power surges.  Again this came from Hong Kong via eBay and cost £63.49 with free postage.  The cables from the regulator are then pinned to the wall and neatly hidden behind the cushions all the way down to one of the storage boxes where the batteries live.  We have 3 fully sealed L100 deep cycle leisure batteries.  This way we can always have one attached to the van and two to the solar panel.  The batteries were again an eBay find and cost £65 each plus P&P from a UK seller.

<--- We then have this meter which attaches to the solar control panel.  It tells us what power we are getting in through the solar panel and how much charge is in the two batteries attached.

---> The last point in the chain is then the inverters, these take the power from the batteries and convert them to 240v sockets so we can plug in and use our electronics.  We have two 300 Watt inverters we picked up on sale in Maplins for £29.99 each.  Underneath the socket they also have a handy USB port for charging phones and the camera.  We have chosen low wattage consumption electronics wherever possible but this set up gives us a good few hours of TV watching per battery, more than enough for a cosy DVD before bed.

Please note, we are by no means experts at this and I wouldn't like to suggest this is the best set up for everyone to follow but it seems to work for us :-)

So how much does it cost to fit a solar panel to a campervan?





Solar panel80 Watt semi flexibleeBay £280.25
Solar regulator 20amp dual batteryeBay £63.49
AdhesiveSikaflex 252eBay£16.50
SealantAnti-bacterial waterproofWicks£6.19
3 x leisure batteries12v 100ah 750 CCAeBay£65.00
2 x Inverters   300 watt - DC12v to AC 230v  Maplin  £29.99 each
10 metres of cabling   40 amp 4mm cable    eBay    £15.00    
3 pairs of battery clamps Quick release fitting    Halfords   £8.99 each



This may sound like a large amount but it gives us the complete freedom of not needing to use paid aires and campsites and being entirely self sufficient.  It will also all add to the value of the van should we come to sell down the line.

1 comment:

  1. Great info. I am looking into building a solar powered air heater, it seems that most eco solutions rely on diy.