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Solar on the roof

December 9, 2018

Way back in 2005 or so, we bought a 30 watt solar panel and controller to feed our 2nd battery in our VW Westfalia. I did ‘engineer’ an aluminum mount so that we could point it towards the sun. It worked, very well, and life continued.

We sold the Westfalia in 2013, but we wanted to continue camping and bought a Nissan Xterra. We acquired a Koolatron Kool Wheeler 12VDC cooler, and a 100 watt Grape solar panel from Home Despot, with controller. We discovered that, after adding gizmos to allow us to point the panel at the sun, we could keep that cooler cool, all day long.

Then we bought the Lance trailer in late 2013 and we’ve been using these two panels in various ways to keep its ‘house’ battery up to snuff. We also bought a flexible 100 watt panel to aid in this, as the Grape 100 watt solar panel was kind of heavy to deploy.

Latest addition is a Nissan NV van, and a second ‘house’ battery in it. The collection of ‘portable’ solar panels was building up, and what we had was all tactics and no strategy.

Blinding flash – put some solar on the roof of the trailer. Yep, without being able to angle it towards the sun, it wouldn’t be as efficient, but solar panels are getting relatively cheap, so we could add, as necessary.

So, that’s what I completed today. The original 30 watt panel from 2005, the Grape solar 100 watt monocrystalline panel from 2013 and a polycrystalline 100 watt Grape solar panel are now on the roof of the Lance trailer, combined in parallel, feeding a 20 amp PWM solar controller, which, in turn, feeds our Group 29 (110 amp hour) ‘house’ battery.

Experience from our last trip, when we had no power connection (and without the second Grape 100 watt panel), has led us to believe that this 230 watt solar configuration will be more than we will need. In the trailer, the fridge and furnace will run on propane, you just can’t run the a/c or microwave without 120VAC/generator, so most of the needed 12 VDC current requirement is pretty limited.

Here they are:


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