Off Grid Camper Solar Panel Installation – Long Term Touring


g’day Brett here in this video I’m going
to show you my solar panel installation on my Land Rover Defender for long term
off-the-grid living as well as touring throughout Australia I’ll go through
each of the components you need and tell you about the reasons why I’ve chosen
what I have for the solar panels I’ve chosen 2 155 watt Giant Power
monocrystalline panels with A grade Kyocera Japanese cells now these are a
cheaper branded panel but thus far I’ve been very happy with the quality I
already have a 130 watt panel on my roof which have had their mounted for three
years and it survived a thirty thousand kilometer ten month trip around
Australia without any issues so they appear to be very well made so these are
155 watt panels outputting a maximum of 8.3 amps per hour but that’s only if the
panels are oriented at the Sun there’s no shade on the panels the temperature
is correct there’s no dirt and dust and grime on top and there’s no inefficiency’s through the cabling or the regulator so I’ve overrated my system just a
little just to make sure I take into account the fact they are flat mounted
and I won’t be getting the full 8.35 amps The next part of
the system is the regulator or charge controller this regulates the amount of
voltage and amps going into the battery from the solar panels a solar panel can
output between 12 to 21 volts so you do not want that going directly into your
battery as that would massively over charge the battery causing the
acid to boil in the battery be destroyed so there are two types PWM or MPPT
MPPT is the newest better version which is more efficient at converting solar
into usable amperage for the battery but I’ve chosen for a PWM unit the reason
for that is cost there are lots of cheap chinese crap coming onto the market now
like MPPT regulators for a couple hundred bucks but the way I see it
they’re probably not really that great that not that reliable
I’ve chosen a Morningstar Prostar 30 this is a very high quality unit it cost me 275
Australian dollars whereas if I bought an MPPT of a same quality and build it
would cost at least 2.5 times that much so around 650 to 700 dollars onwards
just for the regulator so I’ve chosen this just due to cost maybe in the
future I can upgrade but if you’re comparing this to one of the
cheaper units you’re just not going to get the same amount of features and
build reliability let’s just take a quick look at what the features are on
this that you get when you buy a quality unit so this has both automatic 12 and
24 volt switching so it can be used for both 12 and 24 volt electric vehicles it
comes with a short circuit solar and load protection overload protection for
solar and load reverse polarity reverse current at night protection high voltage
disconnect high temperature disconnect lightning and transient surge protection
loads protected from voltage spikes and automatic recovery with all protections
and it has an estimated 15 year life and comes with a 5 year warranty so you’re
getting all this in a simple unit it’s reliable it’s not gonna basically burn
down melt and cause a fire in your car like some cheap $50 unit or something
you might buy so I’ve chosen a good quality reliable brand for my vehicle so
what else we need the battery for this I’ve gone with a giant power 130 amp hour
AGM battery that’s approximately 30 kilograms so it’s quite a bit of weight
now for this at a 50 percent depth of discharge I can get 65 useable amps out
of the battery before it should be topped up 50 percent is generally the most
you’d want to take the battery down to but if we look at the number of cycles
we get or the lifespan we get out of a battery if you skim off the top 30
percent depth of discharge using 39 amps we have about 1,650 cycles you can
basically turn that into a day 1650 days basically of taking it down and
recharging taken down recharging if it took down to 50% we’d only get about 700
cycles so we’ve just dramatically reduced the lifespan of the battery if
we take it all the way down to 100% and use all 130 amps available in the
battery we’d only get 300 cycles out of it before the battery is dead so it’s
less than a year so it’s ideal to just take off the top 30 to 50 percent other
components you’ll need is the solar cable I’ve chosen six millimeter square
with mc4 connectors there’s both four and six millimeter square cable but just
to just to reduce voltage drop and ensure I get the most efficiency out of
my system I’ve gone with six millimeter square and then as I have two panels I
need to combine the two panels down into one cable now for my system
I’ve calculated the amperage maximum so everything’s okay with the cabling and
the connections I’m currently using but if I had more power more panels then I
have to reconsider some of the cabling and connections because these are I
think are only rated to 30 amps and the cable maybe 30 to 50 amps
or something at least let’s look now at the calculations and the reasons why
I’ve chosen this particular system for my personal needs your needs will be
very different most likely I’m running 2 155 watt panels giving me 310 watts
of solar equalling around 16 amps maximum per hour there are five to seven solar
hours in a day in Australia which equals around 80 to 112 amps per day output now
I need to take into account inefficiencies in the system so I’m minusing
20% which is a fairly realistic reduction that’s due to the panels being
mounted flat instead of upright facing the Sun there’s also voltage drop in the
cables and then the losses in the regulator due to inefficiencies so I’m
minusing 20% which gives me a real-world likely output of 64 to 90
amps a day so why do I need so much power well I run a laptop pretty much
every day when I’m on the road I use that for editing videos like this for
editing photographs updating my travel blog writing articles and just
conducting personal business banking so the laptop draws eight amps per hour I
might use that around five to eight hours a day particularly at night once
the light goes down I’m on the computer that uses around forty to sixty four
amps a day I’ve got an inverter which I run as well just for charging small
batteries for cameras and video cameras I’m not sure exactly how much but all
just say four amps for that and I have lighting for night which is around 2
amps an hour by 4 hours which is 8 amps Meaning I have a total of 52 to 76
amps a day which I must put back into the battery so with a system producing
64 to 90 amps and my consumables requiring 52 to 76 amps I’m easily putting enough juice back into the batteries to keep them topped up and
having some excess because there will be days when I won’t be on the computer
I’ll be out hiking or camping so I think at this point in time the system is
sufficiently rated for the power requirements that I need so let’s begin
with the installation for mounting the panels on the roof of my defender I’ve
made my own solar panel roof rack this is a modular system which fits in
between my two roof bars which I already have on the roof so when I don’t
need the extra power for when I’m traveling I can disconnect this section
take it off and still have roof bars for transporting a kayak or whatever else I
want I just made this out of angle iron and some flat plate steel and knocked up
some little clamps which fit onto the rain gutter so I’m hoping this will be
plenty strong to support the weight of my two panels as the panels themselves
do have a strong frame around the edge which will help give it this extra
strength and rigidity while traveling on corrugations but
allow for some flexibility and movement for the battery I’ve mounted it between
the two axles in the middle of the vehicle to help distribute weight better
as it is 30 kilograms it’s quite a bit of lead to have somewhere in the back
end now I’ve made up my own bracket this comes integrated with the circuit
breaker which protects all the cabling on this side so if there is a fault your
trip and it’s easily accessible from the drivers seat if I need a break it I can
just reach across and push it and break the circuit for whatever reason it comes
also with an anderson plug so I can charge my batteries through an inverter
straight from this battery now a battery box would be better for extra protection
but after I purchased one I found I could not fit 4 jerrycans across for
my water and any additional fuel supplies I got only fit 3 so I got rid
of the battery box and instead I’m using a thick piece of rubber that just bolts
down underneath like this so that protects
the terminals as well as having the rubber terminal protectors on to
underneath and this little bracket here that’s additional in the event that this
battery can slide either side it can’t slide across and the metal bracket arc
across the terminals so I think it’s pretty safe the way I have it set up and
it clamps down very nice and tightly pulling in so I’m quite happy with this
way it is for now so the battery positive or negative are wired up and
another thing to notice with a more quality regulator is this has a
selectable switch for flooded sealed and gel batteries which is something you
probably won’t get for with the cheaper knockoff unit so I’ve set it up to
sealed for my AGM sealed battery so that gives it the proper voltage it needs to
charge correctly now the most important thing that you must have between your
battery and regulator is either a fuse or a circuit breaker this protects the
cable in the event that it shorts somewhere between the battery and
regulator so it cuts off the power also if your regulator develops a fault for
some reason it helps protect it from melting down and starting a fire so I’ve
happened to rate my my cables as well for the current coming in as well as
minimising voltage drop to less than 3% hence my heavier duty cable you may also
need to add fuses or circuit breakers to your solar inputs that’s something
you’ll have to decide on depending on the amount of panels and the output of
amps that your system creates it’s a very important do not miss out
adding one of these when running cables on the outside of the vehicle I always
like to add split tubing to protect the cables from UV damage and also from Bush
rats or mice which might come gnawing on the cables during the night just one
extra layer of protection just to protect from short circuits to run the
wire down along the chassis I have to drill a hole in the panel and add
a grommet. Now I’m adding some self adhesive foam strip as an absorption for
vibration along the edge of the solar panels this is to help up take up any
movement between the panel’s in the frame hopefully the solar rack is
installed and the final connections made I took it away camping for a week to
test the system and I’m very happy with the results with
the battery under load and in full peak midday Sun I was getting 13.6 amps into the battery even in the campgrounds on a cloudy day I was still
getting between two to six amps in the shade the absolute peak I saw was
16.8 amps which is about the maximum the panel’s would put out
the amount of amps the regulator will put into the battery though is dependent
upon how discharged the battery is it will not overcharge the battery with
excess amps so my defender is well set up for long term off-grid touring the
system cost around fourteen hundred and seventy six Australian dollars if I were
to spend one year traveling and a third at that time staying in powered caravan
sites which in Australia typically charge at least ten to fifteen dollars
extra per night for a powered site it would cost me twelve hundred dollars
that year just for power so the system easily pays for itself within a year of
traveling did you enjoy this video then please click subscribe and share it on
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Thanks

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