In order to help recharge the leisure battery when we are not on site, we decided on a solar panel install. We liked the idea of a roof mounted panel, but these rely on the van orientation being correct, and no shadows like buildings or trees, so we looked at the foldable panels that can be moved.
Eventually we decided to have both, a fixed panel on the roof and portable one, that we can move around. Travelvolts supplied us with a solar controller and some cables, which we ran from under the drivers seat following the same path as the electrical hook up, These now sit next to the electrical hook up plug, with dummy plugs in them, ready to connect to the portable solar panel.
We then ran some cables from under the drivers seat up the B pillar and along the roof under the side and back soffit ready for the panel to be fitted from the roof. A lot of investigation went into the choice of panel, we wanted 150w on the roof and 150w portable, we also wanted one with a low profile junction box so as not to spoil the look of the roof.
Photonic Universe had both panels that we required, so we ordered a 140w semi-flexible solar panel for the roof, to be honest we were not to keen on drilling holes in our HiLo roof, so I called Matt from Blackberry conversions, who fitted our roof, for some advice on where to run the cables.
Not only did Matt provide advise on where to run the cables, he gave up a Saturday afternoon and came round and helped us install it. Mat suggested we drilled the holes down through the aluminium frame outside of the tent. Firstly we marked out roughly where the panel would go by applying masking tape to the roof, once this was done, Matt drilled up through the frame of the roof, and we fed the cables down through the roof, and then moved the masking tape to the final position.
Then we roughed up the paintwork on the roof to ensure a good bond with the adhesive.
After a good degrease we were ready to apply the adhesive, we used four beads of adhesive, Matt had a battery operated adhesive gun which made the application a lot quicker, once the adhesive was on we carefully lowered the panel on and levelled it up.
We then fed the cables down through the holes in the roof, through the frame.
Matt then drilled two holes, through the back of the steel frame that is bonded into the van when the roof is fitted, these exited about an inch above the bottom of the gutter of the frame. the cables were tucked behind the elastic strap around the roof and through the newly drilled holes.
Matt, then watched as I lifted the roof up and down to check the way the cables moved with the roof canvas, they folded very neatly into the canvas as the roof went down. Matt then sealed the all the holes with a black mastic and we allowed this to go off, before we connected them up to the pre run cables.
Here is the finished result, we saw 70 watts on a cool sunny day in November, with the roof elevated.
We also fitted our awning rail at the same time, this will allow us to fit a drive away awning, when we are on site. The awning rail we used is basically an aluminium extrusion.
We offered this up and Matt knew exactly how long to cut this, to ensure any holes drilled would not encroach on any of the wiring running under the roof of the van. We cut it to length and then drilled six holes for the rivets, placed it in position and drilled through into the frame.
The holes were then filled with mastic and the awning rail was riveted on, the awning rail sits under the roof and cannot be seen until the roof is in the raised position.
A lot of thanks needs to go to Matt at Blackberry Conversions for his knowledge, advice and assistance fitting these.