Thursday, November 27, 2014

Solar electric van install

Nothing like racing a snowstorm to install a solar panel on the van. The top of the van wasn't going to remain snow free for very long, so it was now or never.

That's a 105 watt solar panel. It's attached to the roof with 90 degree aluminum angle stock and stainless steel screws. Everything is secured with locktite and silicone. The wires feed directly through the roof and are heavily sealed. The trick was to find a place to drill through the roof without disturbing any of the existing wiring.

The wires feed a 10 amp charge controller, seen here at the top part of the photo with a blue indicator light. The battery is the largest marine deep discharge battery available from Walmart. For now power is taken off the battery with a simple female cigarette lighter plug on jumper clamps. Currently it's plugged into a 200 watter inverter.

Since the van was originally an ambulance, this compartment once held O2 bottles. You can see the clamp for that in the center of the photo. It wasn't in my way so I just left it there. My veggie fuel tank is located in it's own section of the compartment just to left of what you see here.

There's a 1000 watt inverter wired to the van batteries. On top of that I've a 400 watt inverter with battery clamps that could tie into either the van or the new auxiliary system.

The solar electric system will make it easier to camp in places without any facilities. There will be enough power for my modest needs without ever having to run the van to charge the batteries.



  1. I enjoyed reading your blog posting twice.

  2. ever dream of running your van completely off of solar panels instead of liquid fuels?


    1. Yep . . . but the math just doesn't work out. Not enough square footage on the vehicle for panels to do the job.

      However, it worked fine on the sailboat with just a small panel. Only used the electric motor occasionally and the sun recharged the battery just fine.

  3. Today's post made me think about another blog I enjoy reading daily from a man who lives in his van who has
    the entire area of his roof covered in solar panels and
    lives full time in his van. He gives detailed photos and
    instructions on how he did it.
    His blog:

    1. Thanks! I bookmarked it and will check it out in more detail later.

  4. I am waiting for the weather to dry up a bit to climb onto the garage roof, I have a 80w solar panel, two batteries, a solar regulator and a few bits and pieces waiting to be fitted together! I am doing this small solar system to learn how it all works before I go spend more on a bigger job for the boat. Hopefully this week end!

    1. Nice! Good luck. The best way to learn is to do it. Small systems are useful in big ways.