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Friday, February 20, 2015

Camper van solar electric

The last major improvement done to the van before the snow started falling last fall was the installation of a 105 watt solar electric panel on the roof. It's connected to the largest 12 volt deep discharge battery Walmart had. As I was making the final electrical connections the snow started to fall -barely got the job done in time.

We've put the system to a fair test. It allows us to camp on non-electric campsites. Our big power hog is a large 12 volt cooler. Good quality DC refrigerators are more efficient, but cost 5 to 10 times as much as the cooler. As it was, the cooler was given to me. One good thing about the cooler is that it's well insulated so we can often can turn the power off at night and it's still cold in the morning.

Besides the cooler we charge cell phones and power a 200 watt inverter. The AC from the inverter runs my c-pap device that I use for my sleep apnea. My laptop is a tiny netbook computer and the small inverter charges it up just fine.

The system has worked well enough that we've booked 5 more nights in campsites without electric power.

That's not to say there aren't a few things I'd like to improve. The cigarette lighter type 12 volt plugs are horrible. They can get loose, fall out, and are easily broken. The plan is to replace some with 2 wire trailer plugs. Unfortunately the local stores are out.

Another improvement would be installing a switch that would allow the solar electric system to charge the van starting battery or the van to charge up the solar battery. In the short term I suppose I could just carry a long set of heavy duty jumper cables. The van should have a good set on board anyway.

Right now the system is good enough, and that's what really matters..



  1. Sounds good Sixbears. I've been using ten double cigarette lighter plugs on TFT for nearly nine years, they get quite a work out and I love them, wouldn't have any other system. Each one has it's own inline fuse. Perhaps they are more robust than the ones you're using...
    After charging my starter battery up to 13.8, my alternator automatically kicks in and charges my two house batteries using a VSR, a voltage sensitive relay, easy to install and well worth the effort...
    Thought of putting your cooler into a DIY polystyrene box with say two inch thick walls and base?

    1. We call a VSR a battery isolator. Same same. I've had them on other vehicles. Good idea.

      Our cigarette connectors are built in China junk -at least the ones I've been able to find.

      An insulated box would stretch the non power use time. I've got the materials at home so it will probably wait for another day.

  2. check out marine supply and trucker rest stop stores as many boaters and truckers have to live independent of local utility power


    1. Marine supply is always so darn pricey but sometimes has exactly what's needed. Trucker stores have temped me a time or two with their products.

      Good advice

  3. Six a radio shack should have the 2 wire connectors.On the cooler, wrap it in a quilt or comforter when power is tight. At harbor freight they sell a male cigar plug with 10 cable alligator clamps for a battery for 5$ you just plug in as driving to charge your second battery.

    1. I'll keep an eye out for a Radio Shack -and a Harbor Freight.

  4. Sounds like a pretty good system to me.