Van solar system - does this make sense?

smoothJoey

Hoop Dee Doo!
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Nov 30, 2019
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Stupid question... You connect to the domestic power and where does that power entry your system? WIth an inverter charger?
The power entry for the system is either an inlet(reverse of an outlet) or an extension cord.
RV users typically have one or more adapters(dogbones) to accommodate different form factors.

In North America the most commonly supported hookup is 30 amps@120 VAC@60hz using a tt-30 interface.
Second and third are nema 14-50 and nema 5-15.
Nema 5-20 which is compatible with 5-15 is gaining traction.
 

josequesado

New Member
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Nov 18, 2021
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The power entry for the system is either an inlet(reverse of an outlet) or an extension cord.
RV users typically have one or more adapters(dogbones) to accommodate different form factors.

In North America the most commonly supported hookup is 30 amps@120 VAC@60hz using a tt-30 interface.
Second and third are nema 14-50 and nema 5-15.
Nema 5-20 which is compatible with 5-15 is gaining traction.


Would any of these serve as an AC worldwide charger?
Apparently it can accept a wide range of voltage and 50/60 Hz and can charge up to 2 battery banks (leisure and vehicle battery).

And I mean a domestic charger, not camping plugs.

Our route includes Europe, traversing Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to get to Vladivostok and then go down the American continent on the Pacific side.
 

josequesado

New Member
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Nov 18, 2021
Messages
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The power entry for the system is either an inlet(reverse of an outlet) or an extension cord.
RV users typically have one or more adapters(dogbones) to accommodate different form factors.

In North America the most commonly supported hookup is 30 amps@120 VAC@60hz using a tt-30 interface.
Second and third are nema 14-50 and nema 5-15.
Nema 5-20 which is compatible with 5-15 is gaining traction.
And so this just powers your system from the outside? I'm not getting where the electricity enters your system... Do you charge your batteries this way?
 

smoothJoey

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Nov 30, 2019
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And so this just powers your system from the outside? I'm not getting where the electricity enters your system... Do you charge your batteries this way?
The power enters your system through an inlet.
Typically after the inlet you have either and automatic transfer switch and an ac2dc charger in parallel or an inverter/charger which includes inverter, charger and automatic transfer switch.

Here is an example of the ac topology for a system with an inverter/charger.
24v_mobile_inverter_charger-ac.png
Here is an example of the ac topology for a system with discrete, inverter, charger and automatic transfer switch.
12v_mobile_inverter_battery_protect_battery_subsystem_non_isolated_charger-ac.drawio.png
 

smoothJoey

Hoop Dee Doo!
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Nov 30, 2019
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9,824


Would any of these serve as an AC worldwide charger?
Apparently it can accept a wide range of voltage and 50/60 Hz and can charge up to 2 battery banks (leisure and vehicle battery).

And I mean a domestic charger, not camping plugs.

Our route includes Europe, traversing Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to get to Vladivostok and then go down the American continent on the Pacific side.

That is a lot of different power standards to research.
Is a small ac generator an option?
I'm not sure what is available in spain but in North America.
This generator is a popular choice.
The have a good reputation for "clean power", reliable operation and relatively low noise.
When I say "clean power" I mean clean sine wave not clean air :).
 

DJSmiley

Solar Addict
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Aug 13, 2020
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469
Do you require 2000W? At 12V that's a huge current. Not all BMSses provide enough amps.

As for the inverter, Victron is basicly the best you can get. If your budget is limited, you can have a look at eg Ective. They also offer charger/inverter combo units, but I personally prefer seperate charger and inverter unless it's a multiplus


I recently bought a Magira from them. Simple and cheap, but they work fine so far (1500W pure sine wave for 160 euro)

For the US people: In Europe it's common to have a CEE connector (16A blue one) on campsites. Most RV's do have this plug.
Current depends on the campsite, generally 4, 6 or 10A, single phase 220-240V.

With a multiplus you can use powerassist. Some campsites charge additional fees if you want to upgrade from 4 to 10A. A Multiplus with power assist is great if you require more power without having to pay 2-3 euro/night for the 10A which you only need occasionally. (eg if the wife wants to dry hair)

They are pretty big, but solid. On my van I use a DEFA connector. Those are pretty common in scandinavia (used for engine block heaters) and on service-vans (at least here in NL).
But with a DC-DC and 315W of solar... i used it once so far (to test....)

If you're on a budget you can have a look at Neutrik Powercon. Primary used in PA audio world, but would work just as fine on a van.

Seperate charger: Victron has nice ones, but I also have very good experiences with Meanwell. They have reliable chargers (and its a well-known brand for industrial power supplies)
 

ianganderton

Auckland, NZ
Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
534
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
Mains electricity has lots of problems. In many countries you will need a certificate and standards vary around the world.

If you don’t plug your van in to a mains socket you won’t need a certificate.

It’s easy enough to run an extension cord through a window if you need to

Mains is mostly used to run high power appliances like electric heaters or aircon. For the trip you are going to be doing you will be mostly away from mains electricity so will need a plan for those appliance needs that works off grid

So that makes a mains connection largely defunct anyway

2000W is the tipping point for 12V to 24V or even 48V

I have a 2000W inverter but have kept the 12V plan because of the convenience of availability of 12V camper van appliances plus I plan to be off grid all the time. If I needed mains (e.g. charger) I’d run an extension lead through a window
 

josequesado

New Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2021
Messages
19
Do you require 2000W? At 12V that's a huge current. Not all BMSses provide enough amps.

As for the inverter, Victron is basicly the best you can get. If your budget is limited, you can have a look at eg Ective. They also offer charger/inverter combo units, but I personally prefer seperate charger and inverter unless it's a multiplus


I recently bought a Magira from them. Simple and cheap, but they work fine so far (1500W pure sine wave for 160 euro)

For the US people: In Europe it's common to have a CEE connector (16A blue one) on campsites. Most RV's do have this plug.
Current depends on the campsite, generally 4, 6 or 10A, single phase 220-240V.

With a multiplus you can use powerassist. Some campsites charge additional fees if you want to upgrade from 4 to 10A. A Multiplus with power assist is great if you require more power without having to pay 2-3 euro/night for the 10A which you only need occasionally. (eg if the wife wants to dry hair)

They are pretty big, but solid. On my van I use a DEFA connector. Those are pretty common in scandinavia (used for engine block heaters) and on service-vans (at least here in NL).
But with a DC-DC and 315W of solar... i used it once so far (to test....)

If you're on a budget you can have a look at Neutrik Powercon. Primary used in PA audio world, but would work just as fine on a van.

Seperate charger: Victron has nice ones, but I also have very good experiences with Meanwell. They have reliable chargers (and its a well-known brand for industrial power supplies)
2000W to have some room for not using it at it's maximum wattage, as I have a kitchen appliance that uses 1700W that I plan on using almost everyday even if for a couple of minutes...

For what I read with the 2 100Ah batteries you can power a 2000W inverter, and I'm even considering a 3rd battery now...

I'll be lookng for separate components also I think as it is easier to replace and less costier on the long run.
Thanks a lot!
 

josequesado

New Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2021
Messages
19
Mains electricity has lots of problems. In many countries you will need a certificate and standards vary around the world.

If you don’t plug your van in to a mains socket you won’t need a certificate.

It’s easy enough to run an extension cord through a window if you need to

Mains is mostly used to run high power appliances like electric heaters or aircon. For the trip you are going to be doing you will be mostly away from mains electricity so will need a plan for those appliance needs that works off grid

So that makes a mains connection largely defunct anyway

2000W is the tipping point for 12V to 24V or even 48V

I have a 2000W inverter but have kept the 12V plan because of the convenience of availability of 12V camper van appliances plus I plan to be off grid all the time. If I needed mains (e.g. charger) I’d run an extension lead through a window
When you say you'll need a certificate, what do you mean? To cross the border with the vehicle? Or in what occasion?

The thing with the extension is that I can't charge my battery bank with an extension without an AC-DC charger which was what I was looking for. Is this correct?

I'll put an updated plan here soon enough!

Thanks a lot!
 

mikefitz

Solar Addict
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
887
My suggestions.

Don't buy anything from Renogy (apart from the batteries)
Don't use an inverter charger, have separate units.
Fit two smaller solar panels around 300 watts, 600 watts total , mounting will be easier, less stress on the panels and if one fails you still have solar available.
MPPT solar controller rating, solar watts/12, for example with 600 watts of solar, the controller should be rated at 600/12 = 50 amps. Recommend Victron Smart 100/50.
Shore power, this will be infrequent and will vary from 100 to 240 volts 50 or 60 Hz. You will find all kinds of crazy connections at the supply point, no earth, live interposed with earth and so on. Have some means of checking before connecting up. In mainland Europe the 230 v supply may be limited to a few amps with a maximin of 16 amps.
Between the connection point on the van and appliances fit a RCD and MCB for protection.

AC battery charger, any voltage any frequency, charge current from 20 amps.

Inverter, Victron Phoenix 2000VA

Batteries.
You need the batteries to deliver around 180 amps for the appliance. Ensure the batteries can deliver this.

consider building the battery, I am based in Europe, UK and Portugal, I obtained cells from ,
and BMS from , ( air freight),
Delivered to UK and Portugal within a week.

Mike
 

Bvillebob

Solar Addict
Joined
Oct 21, 2021
Messages
143
Just speaking from my experience, which is living and traveling in my van for 3 months a year through extremely rural Mexico and Central America, I have 400 watts of solar on the roof and 280 ah of lithium battery. I don't have any kind of shore power connector or charger and never needed or wanted one. The power arrangements you find in out of the way places are pretty scare at times, I would not want to expose my electronics to whatever was coming out of that wire, I'd much rather be self contained. There's been a handful of times where I've been camped at one site for a week or more and it rained the whole time where my battery got low enough for me to start the rig to charge the battery, but it's pretty rare.

You might want to do some shakedown trips and see if you really want or need that connection with all the added cost, weight and complexity. The biggest mistake I've seen so many travelers make is to load down their rig with every toy they think they need. Every added pound is more load for the poor engine to haul around and every wire and connection is another thing to break on that 50 mile long washboard road. 99 percent of the time a person's second rig is smaller than their first, from what I've seen (real travelers, not the folks staying in RV parks).
 

ianganderton

Auckland, NZ
Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
534
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
When you say you'll need a certificate, what do you mean? To cross the border with the vehicle? Or in what occasion?

The thing with the extension is that I can't charge my battery bank with an extension without an AC-DC charger which was what I was looking for. Is this correct?

I'll put an updated plan here soon enough!

Thanks a lot!
You might need a certificate saying the system confirms to local standards for crossing the border in some highly regulated countries.

No permenant mains electricity = no problem
 

12VoltInstalls

Photon Sorcerer
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Jan 18, 2021
Messages
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Location
Vermont
Granted I’m “stationary” with only a few new locations in 3+ years…
Last year I mounted my panels vertically to the side and front of the camper. Is vertical a compromise option for you? (depending on situation this may be too much of a negative hit)

I did the vertical for a few reasons. I wanted to experiment with seeing the output as at my latitude vertical is ‘closer’ to optimal at vertical than at flat/horizontal would be. What made it more attractive at that time was avoiding snow accumulation- even at 75* angle snow and ice builds up on the panels.
At my latitude vertical proved good enough that (still knowing it’s not most efficient) I left them that way all summer with excess output.
At this point I’ve decided to incorporate vertical more permanently with a small amount of adjustability to go up to 20* tilt from vertical in summer or otherwise stationary. I currently have one array East-SE and the other S-SW. This time of year - for me- on sunny days I get plenty of solar charge. But with weather like today after three days of clouds I’ve got jumper cables on my jeep and I’m about boosted to 13.4 after 40 mins at idle.

Anyways, use the calculators and see if two arrays 90* apart at vertical will function for you. It may not as you’ll always have to park just so to make it useful.

As far as 120V or other grid input:
I wouldn’t bother.
Have a lot of solar panels- they’re inexpensive. And either that honda2200 or a ~5hp horizontal shaft with a belt and a GM-style one-wire alternator. 85A at 14.5V charging is possible with that. The Honda probably would store better but 12V charging without an additional 120VAC>12V charger from the Honda is dismal at best.
 
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josequesado

New Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2021
Messages
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Granted I’m “stationary” with only a few new locations in 3+ years…
Last year I mounted my panels vertically to the side and front of the camper. Is vertical a compromise option for you? (depending on situation this may be too much of a negative hit)

I did the vertical for a few reasons. I wanted to experiment with seeing the output as at my latitude vertical is ‘closer’ to optimal at vertical than at flat/horizontal would be. What made it more attractive at that time was avoiding snow accumulation- even at 75* angle snow and ice builds up on the panels.
At my latitude vertical proved good enough that (still knowing it’s not most efficient) I left them that way all summer with excess output.
At this point I’ve decided to incorporate vertical more permanently with a small amount of adjustability to go up to 20* tilt from vertical in summer or otherwise stationary. I currently have one array East-SE and the other S-SW. This time of year - for me- on sunny days I get plenty of solar charge. But with weather like today after three days of clouds I’ve got jumper cables on my jeep and I’m about boosted to 13.4 after 40 mins at idle.

Anyways, use the calculators and see if two arrays 90* apart at vertical will function for you. It may not as you’ll always have to park just so to make it useful.

As far as 120V or other grid input:
I wouldn’t bother.
Have a lot of solar panels- they’re inexpensive. And either that honda2200 or a ~5hp horizontal shaft with a belt and a GM-style one-wire alternator. 85A at 14.5V charging is possible with that. The Honda probably would store better but 12V charging without an additional 120VAC>12V charger from the Honda is dismal at best.
I have too many windows in the van as to go vertical with the panels. But I've never seen a camper like that I think!
 

josequesado

New Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2021
Messages
19
So, a huge thanks to all the feedback!

After much thinking and doubts, we have came up with a different set of components and would much appreciate if some of you could give as a "go" as you are clearly more knowledgable.
So, after your feedback we decided to ditch the AC-DC charger. In fact you pointed out things we didn't consider in our mental planification.

Our system would then be:
- 3x180W solar panels (540W) - the biggest amount of solar with multiple panels as we have a 1.30X2.10 meter space on the roof (51x83 inches more or less);
- Victron MPPT 100/50
- 2x Renogy 100Ah 12V - I've read don't have great costumer support but my other option was buying them from a chinese manufacturer and that would take 3 months and roughlly the same price. Wish for the best. We're starting with 2, testing and leaving open the possibility of adding a third one.
- Giandel 2000W 12V inverter (link / manual) - the most reasonably priced with apparently enough quality.
- DC-DC Victron Orion charger. I see most of the peple use the 30A model, so I guess that would be our way to go also. I see there are isolated and non-isolated models. I suppose I should go with an isolated model. Is this correct?


Thank you so much for your help!
 

HRTKD

Boondocker
Joined
Apr 24, 2020
Messages
6,476
Location
Somewhere South of Denver
Looks like a good plan. Since you have a van, the distance from the engine battery to the house battery bank shouldn't be that much. A 30 amp DC-DC charger should work. For an RV, a long distance between the two batteries means the positive and negative cables have to be fairly stout to handle the amps. Still, be sure to use the right gauge of cable to handle upwards of 40 amps on the input side of the charger.
 

DJSmiley

Solar Addict
Joined
Aug 13, 2020
Messages
469
30A DC-DC is fine for you. Only reason for the 18A version is either a very small battery, or a limited alternator (generally on older vans). Your 2017 sprinter has no issues providing 30A.

Isolated vs non-isolated: for a 12V setup in a van, you're generally running a shared GND. So both starter battery and auxilary battery are connected to the chassis. There is no benefits having the isolated version in this case, since it will work as a non-isolated in that case anyway (but at a higher price)

As for the inverter: I don't know the Giandel. You migth look into Carrybatt as well. Seem to be the same OEM. It lacks the display, but imho that's useless anyway.
Or go for a Renogy: Doesn't seem too bad for 230 euro at the moment:

I would rather spend the money on a decent shunt (Smartshunt or BMV) for accurate readings.

Also take into consideration adding some thick wires. Majority of the inverters are provided with thin wires, i would always upgrade them

For the batteries: For 560 euro (current price of the Renogy) you can give them a try. A chinese will be cheaper, but not by much, and it will take some time to arrive. And even with the worse support of Renogy (Not sure if that applies to Europe as well)... still better than an average Chinese seller probably.
 

Rocketman

Solar Addict
Joined
Sep 27, 2020
Messages
579
Just some food for thought…

I highly recommend the Victron BMV712 or Smartshunt. You need to keep an eye on how full your batteries are.

With three panels - on RV’s you probably will want to hook them up in parallel (that way any shade doesn’t affect the others). Because of three in parallel - You will need fuses in each string. Although depending on the Voc you could probably could hook them up in series. Also, look for other panels in that same size. I think there are some 200watt and 210watt in the same size as the 180’s. In RV’s the more watts the better!

This next section might cost more than you want to spend… (but I always look at the better featured stuff before deciding if I need it or not - besides I am really good at spending other people’s money…lol).
If you upgraded to a Victron inverter and got the Smartshunt then all the major stuff would be Victron. Look at the Victron Cerbo and touch screen (pull up a YouTube video on them) it displays the info that is going on in the electrical system very nicely! It is expensive but it gives you info (at a glance) on what is going on.

Good luck with your project.
 
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