Practicing what we preach...
I've owned campervans for a few years now, usually with the traditional arrangement of a leisure battery attached to a split charge relay which is fed via the engine alternator. This has been a bit of a love hate relationship. The battery can only hold a certain amount of "Juice" but the fridge needs constant power, the water pump can be thirsty ( Pun intended :) ), and then add on any entertainment systems, and you can see the problem. Flat leisure battery means no more power until you start the engine and burn some hydrocarbons. Expensive in more than one respect.
I've never been much of a DIY enthusiast, but I kept getting that nagging doubt, "there must be a better way of doing this".
Well, now there is, and it has become mainstream, affordable, and easy to fit, so I bit the bullet, and decided to pull my finger out and work out what system suited me best.
There are a few systems available, but the main choices came down to
1/ Electric Hook Up, connects to a 240 volt supply through a connector on the side of the van
2/ Wind Power, a Pop Up windmill in effect, this is erected outside the van, or bolts on the roof, and will usually automatically turn to face into the wind, so it spins and generates electricity, which is fed into the van
3/ Solar Panels. Either a permanent fit to the roof of the van, with cabling into the cabin, or temporary panels which fold away, and stow inside the van when not needed.
Each system has it's own set of pros and cons, and after a bit of research, and some hasty calculations (i'll do an blog on these later) I decided that the Permanent fit Solar Panels was the best bet for me.
I worked out that my small van would manage with only one 100 watt, 12 volt panel, and that a semi flexible panel, "Glued" to the roof would be the best solution. I picked the "Complete Kit" from our store, and set about deciding where all the bits went.
The placing of all the component parts is really up to the individual, I wanted the charge controller (monitors the output of the solar panels, the battery charge, and any drain from the battery, to ensure nothing gets damaged, and that the battery will last as long as possible) to be in easy reach from the kitchen area, and from the seating area, so the door pillar between the 2 areas was the ideal place.
The solar panel was a bit more involved, the panel was small enough to fit almost anywhere on the roof, apart from over the sunroof. A quick measure of the cables showed that we really needed the panel at the back of the roof, so there was enough cable inside the van to get to the controller. We decided on a transverse fit, so there will be enough room for another panel if we wanted more power later on.
that's the "What and Where" sorted, next time we'll cover the "How" bit
To be continued.....