OK, I finally got the solar
system mounted last week and it worked really well. We went out for a short trip last weekend to a provincial park in Alberta, camping without shore power. We used propane
for the fridge
, and the 12V battery
needs, including watching part of a movie at night (this was just to test out the new TV/DVD player, we didn't really want to watch a movie at that point).
As described in the previous posts, I mounted the 40 watt solar panel
to the roof rack on my minivan, and ran the wiring down to the 7 pin trailer connector on the tow vehicle. I was able to hide the wires inside the rubber door seal on the rear door, for the most part, so you can't really see it there. I snugged the solar panel
in between two of the roof rack crossbars at the back of the van, so you can't really see that something is mounted on the roof either at first glance, although it is obvious if you take a good look. I have figured out a way to lock the solar panel
in place and still make it de-mountable, by attaching an L shaped bracket to each side of the solar
panel that goes across the roof. These go under the roof rack crossbars, then drill a hole through the roof rack crossbar and the L bracket and use a padlock to lock it in place. Because of the lock, the roof rack crossbar cannot be moved to release the solar
panel. I will post a picture when I actually get it done, hopefully this weekend.
I connected the +ve output from the solar panel to the battery
charge terminal of the 7 pin trailer connector, and the -ve wire to the centre unused terminal. I don't have electric brakes
, so the brake terminal on the trailer connector is still left blank.
On the trailer side, I ran wires from the same two terminals up to the battery using the same wiring harness as before, so it looks exactly the same. The charge controller is mounted(vertically) on the side of the battery box, where it just fits in. Having read the manual and knowing that the previous company that owned this thing mounted the controller with a battery in a marine buoy, I am confident that sparks are not a problem.
Also as previously described, I made a 15 foot or so extension cord using an outdoor extension cord and two more 7 pin trailer connectors, but with only the 2 solar panel wires connected up. That way I could plug in the solar panel when the minivan was at the camp site but not actually connected to the trailer.
Anyway, it all worked well. We had a stress free weekend knowing that the battery was constantly being charged, and I even ran the fridge
on 12V for a couple of hours to boost the gas performance when the gas was not doing the job (that is the next thing to tackle, it seems that after I took the fridge
out this past winter to work on the 12V, that the gas is no longer working well enough). I wasn't worried about running down the battery at night, because it started to charge again in the morning even before we woke up, and without me having to do anything . Awesome! I only had to remember to disconnect the wires before moving the car. This wasn't an issue since we didn't actually go anywhere once we were at the campsite.
I still have another trickle solar panel charger that I can use for maintenance if desired, but this system gives me peace of mind. Also, for those times when we can't use gas, such as on the ferry, I can run the 12V knowing that it will recharge fairly quickly. All in all, a highly satisfactory experience.