Solar Panels on Roof of Tow Vehicle - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-19-2011, 03:40 PM   #15
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if you want to put batteries inside your vehicle, you should use sealed AGM (glass-mat) batteries, hydrogen fumes from regular batteries are VERY Flammable, explosive, even ... of course, you can place your batteries in boxes which are vented to the outside, but as you can see, decisions, decisions ! ... if going with AGM batteries, they also charge at different rates, or something like that (I didn't research all the AGM info, as I didn't choose to run them, anyway) ... good luck
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Old 10-19-2011, 04:58 PM   #16
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
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Originally Posted by Jimmy M. View Post
if you want to put batteries inside your vehicle, you should use sealed AGM (glass-mat) batteries, hydrogen fumes from regular batteries are VERY Flammable, explosive, even ... of course, you can place your batteries in boxes which are vented to the outside, but as you can see, decisions, decisions ! ... if going with AGM batteries, they also charge at different rates, or something like that (I didn't research all the AGM info, as I didn't choose to run them, anyway) ... good luck
Thanks, Jimmy. This whole topic makes my head spin!
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Old 10-19-2011, 05:18 PM   #17
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Trailer: former Boler, now 1980 Trillium 4500
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Thanks for the detailed reply, Rick! I've been looking for you! I remember being impressed with your van-mounted solar when I first read about it.

Your last paragraph (above) brings up the question . . . Do you think it is a good decision, given I'm towing a Casita (fiberglass shell, curved roof), to put the panels on the van roof and the batteries inside the van?
Hi Sue,

Thanks for your kind thoughts. Regarding the battery(s), if it was me (and I have done this) I would put them in the standard location on the front of the trailer frame at the hitch, outside the trailer, in vented plastic battery boxes. Besides the very valid point about fumes posted by an earlier poster, the convenience of having the battery on the trailer is, in my respectful opinion, overwhelming. If your batteries are in the van, then you must always have a connection to the trailer if you want to run your trailer electricity while camping. Having the battery always attached to the trailer means that it does not matter whether the van is connected or not, you can still run electrics for many hours. In addition, once you have an installed setup on the trailer, you never have to adjust it or worry about taking up room, or wonder about whether the wiring is connected well, etc.

I have had a concern about someone stealing my battery, but I have never had that happen, nor have any of my friends or other campers I hang out with. I expect it happens, but not enough to worry about.

The other thing is, having the solar controller mounted in the battery box with the battery has proven to be extremely convenient. What I have done for monitoring the battery is to get a 12VDC meter from China on eBay (about $2 including shipping), and then mount it on the kitchen wall inside the trailer with an off/on pushbutton switch so that I can check the battery voltage whenever I want. It just has a wire that runs behind the walls to the nearest 12V battery receptacle. The switch is so that it does not use any power except when I am actually monitoring voltage. I also switched all my lights to soft white LEDs, which worked great and use very little power.

I note a poster elsewhere mentioned that he had to use very large wires (8 gauge I think he said) between his solar panel and the trailer. However, I used a standard 16 gauge outdoor extension cord and this worked fine (and still does with my current solar setup). If your wiring run is less than 30 feet or so, there is very little voltage drop, and almost no current drop, in such a length of wire. Standard 16 gauge wire is (conservatively) rated for 15 amps of current, so any solar panel at 12V up to about 150 watts would be no problem. I use 40 watt panels, so even with 2 panels it is less than 8 amps at the maximum, which the wire is easily able to handle. The claims of high-fi shops notwithstanding, there is nothing magic about wiring for this application.

For me, I love convenience in camping. The fewer things I have to set up or adjust at a campsite, the happier I am.

Rick G.
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:02 PM   #18
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
Georgia
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UPDATE ON PUTTING SOLAR PANEL ON THE ROOF OF MY TOW VEHICLE

Since much time has passed since I started this thread, and since some suggested that it wasn't a good idea to put my panel on my tow vehicle, I'm here to report . . .

I put a 200 watt panel on the roof of my van hooked up to 2 AGM batteries inside the van... After a year of use, I can say.... I LOVE IT!!!!!

The panel is mounted on a roof rack. It is set-up with a tilting mechanism. It takes me less than 30 seconds to lift the panel or to bring down the panel when I want to drive somewhere (which I do about every other day). More details and photos are at my blog, if you're interested.
rvsue and her canine crew | Living on less and enjoying life more
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