Solar Panels on Roof of Tow Vehicle - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-12-2011, 11:38 AM   #1
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
Georgia
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Question Solar Panels on Roof of Tow Vehicle

I'm looking for info posted on a forum by a guy who put solar panels on his van to supply power to his travel trailer. He gave detailed instructions and photos. I have a Chevy Express van towing a Casita LD and I want to put the panels on the van.

I've run searches on this forum with no luck.

Do you know who this person is or where I could find that post? Thanks so much.

rvsue
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Old 10-12-2011, 01:01 PM   #2
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British Columbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvsue View Post
I'm looking for info posted on a forum by a guy who put solar panels on his van to supply power to his travel trailer. He gave detailed instructions and photos. I have a Chevy Express van towing a Casita LD and I want to put the panels on the van.

I've run searches on this forum with no luck.

Do you know who this person is or where I could find that post? Thanks so much.

rvsue
I guess I'd have to ask "why do that"?

If your tug is set up to charge the battery while towing, then you don't need 'em on the road.

If they are for use while set up in a campsite, then you would be "stuck" having to leave the tug and trailer connected while camping

If you are going solar, then a setup that does not require the tug to be connected at all times may be a bit more flexible in use.

Just my opinion
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Old 10-12-2011, 01:31 PM   #3
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
Georgia
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Originally Posted by BCDave View Post
I guess I'd have to ask "why do that"?

If your tug is set up to charge the battery while towing, then you don't need 'em on the road.

If they are for use while set up in a campsite, then you would be "stuck" having to leave the tug and trailer connected while camping

If you are going solar, then a setup that does not require the tug to be connected at all times may be a bit more flexible in use.

Just my opinion
The two biggest reasons for putting the panels on the van are:

1) there isn't enough room on my Casita's roof for the panels I want because of vents, fan, a/c, the curve of the roof . . . I don't want holes drilled into the roof (I realize there's ways to do this using special tape, etc. but I don't want to use tape).

2) I want to be able to tilt the panels toward the sun. If they are on the roof of the Casita it will be nearly impossible for me to get up there (not to mention a pain) to tilt the panels. Whereas my van has double doors on both sides that allow me to stand up on the "step" and reach the panels more easily.

I don't go away from camp much so the unhooking part is not a big deterrent.
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Old 10-12-2011, 02:28 PM   #4
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OK - I see.

Different priorities I guess.

When I arrive, I unhitch, set up (level etc), light fridge and water heater
and then jump back into the truck and leave, returning at bedtime. Next morning, after coffee it's back into local exploring, returning at bedtime again.
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Old 10-12-2011, 03:09 PM   #5
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Trailer: 2005 Casita Spirit Deluxe
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Sue, the guy who mounted the solar panels to his TV roof is roadcam. Here are pictures of his install on the Casita Club forum.

Solar Panels - The Casita Club Forums
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Old 10-12-2011, 06:07 PM   #6
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I thought about that. A couple of problems have already been pointed out, another is you have to move the panels when you replace the tow vehicle. I simply made a stand that is attached to mine. Then I can set it on the ground and point it towards the sun. I've also greatly reduced my need for power. I replace all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs and I have a couple Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lights. With all the lights on including the porch light I draw about the same amount of current as a single incandescent light.
Now all that draws power is the lights and when needed the furnace fan. Before the change to LEDs I was in Texas when the temps hit 5F for two nights and into the teens two other nights. I went for 3 days before I run the battery down. Under the same conditions I can probably go 5 days, forever using the Solar panel every couple of days. The days the solar panel isn't in use it's safely stored away in it's little padded place.
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Old 10-13-2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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Here's one:

camperize.com

Bruce
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Old 10-17-2011, 04:52 PM   #8
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Trailer: former Boler, now 1980 Trillium 4500
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvsue View Post
I'm looking for info posted on a forum by a guy who put solar panels on his van to supply power to his travel trailer. He gave detailed instructions and photos. I have a Chevy Express van towing a Casita LD and I want to put the panels on the van.

I've run searches on this forum with no luck.

Do you know who this person is or where I could find that post? Thanks so much.

rvsue
Yes, I did that with my Aerostar minivan. I ran the solar panel wire down to my 7 pin connector on the van, using two unused terminals in it then ran those two wires to my solar controller which was built into my trailer battery box with the battery. My panel was mounted using an L-shaped bracket on the front and back that screwed into the cross members of my van roof rack. It was very secure, and could easily be removed in the winter or when I sold my van.

I also made a 20 foot extension cord using a standard outdoor extension with a 7 pin connector on each end. This attached the solar panel to the trailer when we were camping and the van was removed from the trailer hitch.

It worked very well for me. I could park my van in the sun while parking my trailer in the shade. The obvious advantage is that I always drive in direct light when towing on the road, so the battery charges up every time I tow as well as when camping.

My post about that is here: http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f55/solar-controller-mounting-for-boler-40869.html

The only drawback was that I had to have the van attached to the trailer by the umbilical cord in order to charge while camping. However, there was only one occasion where I had to park so far away from the trailer that I was unable to hook it up, and then it was only for a day or so, so the battery recharged when I drove home.

At the time there were different points of view regarding the desirability of permanent mounting, which were expressed in various ways. However, it worked very well for me. When I got my new trailer last year, I mounted the same solar panel on the trailer roof using VHB tape, which has also worked flawlessly. For me, convenience is far more important than being able to maximize the solar output by portability, although other people have different priorities. Whatever works for you is what would be best.

Good luck.
Rick G
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:05 PM   #9
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trip 1 011 (Small).jpgextra 006.jpgBorrego Springs Desert State Park 024.jpg

My tow vehicle is not a van, but the solar panel on the back end of my truck has been very useful for us.

On our winter camping trips to the South and Southwest) the panel is easily tilted (8 holes in the brackets allow a wide range of tilt angles) and the truck is aimed toward the sun.

And in the summer I have been pretty successful at locating sites where the truck can be parked in the sun and the trailer in the shade to keep it cooler. I have two sets of cables (one at about 14 ft and one at 18 ft, both 6 gauge wire) that allow me to locate the truck up to 32 ft from the trailer.

I have seen others who take the solar panel off the vehicle when it is being driven away from the trailer. We have never done that and try to make our trips away from the trailer on cloudy days or perhaps early or late in the day.

But even when we are away in the truck it is not a problem because besides the 12 volt on the trailer tongue we also have two 6 volt deep cycle batteries in the bed of the truck that are being charged even though the panel is usually lowered to flat when we drive the truck.

Cheers John
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Borrego Springs Desert State Park 024.jpg  
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:34 PM   #10
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Cool solar panels

I used to have a small solar panel that had battery clamps on the ends of the cables that when attached to the trailer battery maintained the charge in the battery when parked and not attached to the trailer. When I parked the trailer for an extender period of time and aimed the panel toward the sun it would charge the battery the next day when the sun was at the right angle. I just clamped the battery clamps to the battery and the battery was always charged when needed for the next trip or when used as a guest house in the back yard when no electricity was available for hook-up to the trailer. This solar panel lasted for quite a few years until (and don't tell anyone this) I ran over it and broke the panel. Always intended to purchase another but have never found a "rounttoit. One of these days, because it was really handy. Marg in NW California
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:38 PM   #11
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Trailer: 2005 13 ft Scamp
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Cool solar panels

I used to have a small solar panel that had battery clamps on the ends of the cables that when attached to the trailer battery maintained the charge in the battery when parked and not attached to the tow vehicle. When I parked the trailer for an extender period of time and aimed the panel toward the sun it would charge the battery the next day when the sun was at the right angle. I just clamped the battery clamps to the battery and the battery was always charged when needed for the next trip or when used as a guest house in the back yard when no electricity was available for hook-up to the trailer. This solar panel lasted for quite a few years until (and don't tell anyone this) I ran over it and broke the panel. Always intended to purchase another but have never found a "rounttoit. One of these days, because it was really handy. Marg in NW California
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Old 10-18-2011, 01:43 PM   #12
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here's a pic of roadcam's (me) van mounted solar panel ... the tiltable-panel stays in the bright sun, while my Casita stays shaded all day ... that's my reasoning for mounting it on the van (Fulltimer, so I don't have to move things around too often) ... the only negative aspect, is the HUGE wire gauges you require if you want to get a long ways from the trailer ... my 130-watt, 7-amp panel required #8 gauge wire, just to get to my maximum distance, shown in the photo, and wire is real pricey these days ... (maybe I should get a price quote from one of those wire thieves, we hear about on the news !)
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:36 AM   #13
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
Georgia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick G View Post

When I got my new trailer last year, I mounted the same solar panel on the trailer roof using VHB tape, which has also worked flawlessly. For me, convenience is far more important than being able to maximize the solar output by portability, although other people have different priorities. Whatever works for you is what would be best.

Good luck.
Rick G

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?
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:41 AM   #14
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Name: Sue
Trailer: 2011 Casita Liberty Deluxe with 2005 Chevy Express tow vehicle
Georgia
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Thanks to everyone for your replies! I still haven't made a final decision. I'm absorbing all your information and experiences to try to come up with what will suit me!
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