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Azbuilt

Anyone doing a Solar system?

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I've delved into solar a bit... I have a Harbor Fright unit on my greenhouse (used that as a starting/learner kit), then set up a 400 watt off grid system with 5kW battery storage for emergency power (it also runs the fridge and freezer in my garage), I have small 40 watt panels on my kayak (40lb thrust trolling motor) that I have removed and started to make a folding/portable array for camping/emergencies with.  I'm not saying I know all things solar, but I am familiar with small systems.

 

If I were to make a roof mount set up for a Pathy, I'd probably use these 100W semi-flex solar panels, 1 or 2 of these sealed AGM deep cycle batteries into a power inverter with a "cigarette lighter" aka "power port" adapter for 12v power.

A 100W, 35Ahr 12v port system would be under $250 and a 200W, 70Ahr system with a 400 watt inverter would be under $500.

I'd mount the panels on a wooden base with a provision to be able to prop it up to catch the sun, or even be easily removable so you can better track the sun when stationary.

*I used the dimensions from a 1999 R50 roof rack (40"x50" usable space).

 

B

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I could have made my own custom set up, and saved money, like you're saying. But I wanted a system that's more neatly packaged, and easier to remove, and take out and put in a camp site, or go to an event. So being portable and modular is key. The only thing semi permanent in my Pathfinder is that I routed a 15' extension cable from my roof, through my sunroof, inside the ceiling panel, down the side trim, up the wheel well, then under the rear seat, and down to my "Power Station", the Goal Zero Yeti 400. it's the non-lithium version, and it has a 33ah battery, which works pretty well for me. However I'm now running a 12 volt fridge, so I ordered more batteries and cables so I can chain this to 2 other batteries for a total of about 100ah. That should give me enough capacity to run the fridge 24/7 and also a laptop when I need it.


With the way I have my panel mounted, I can easily dismount it, and set up the stand, and point it where I need to - when I need more power. But once I get that extra capacity connected, I don't think I'll ever have to do that again. 

 

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Got it, and sorry, I somehow missed that the Yeti 100 was a "stand alone" system that you mounted, rather than just a solar panel.

I also forgot to mention the cost of a solar charge controller in my previous post, but that's the cheapest component... around $50-100, depending.

 

Yes, the batteries will help, but systems are a balance of input and output, I've found. Rarely have I ever set up a system and discovered that I had too much solar wattage... ;)

Especially since conditions are so often not ideal, I've found overspecing the panels pays off in the long run, especially with lead acid batteries. They don't like deep discharges, and have memories so a complete charge every use cycle is important of you want them to last. And of course the batteries are the easiest component to add to the system, but you know all this.

 

It's amazing to me that more people don't utilize solar power, both stationary and mobile platforms. With a little bit of planning, it can replace a generator for casual use at least.

I had emergency power at home when fires/PGE cut the power locally. People couldn't easily get gas for their generators, but my fridge/freezer kept running and I had plenty extra for lights and charging electronics from just a 400W system.

 

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Previously, I've had a radio shack 350W inverter. Still do. I kept a few older car batteries in the garage, with the inverter. So this was my emergency power back up. It's just enough to boot up a cable modem and wifi, and run a TV, so it worked great. I had also been using it for years for portable power for an event. Like doing a huge cookout at a park, I'm lugging this car battery, and an inverter, and a power strip, and a radio, and cell phone chargers. Quite a hassle. Now it's all contained in this nice little unit. And it's in my truck at all times, so it's super convenient. 

My original, original plan, was to mount a secondary battery under my hood, and have it charge from the alternator also. Keep that separate from the main power. And have that for AC power in my truck for running laptops, and have USB power ports tapped off of that... Even have an external AC outlet somewhere on my pathfinder, for camping or whatever. But the reality is that we're getting muddy, or crossing creeks, or going through snow, so I didn't like that. And with doing reenactment events, and movie shoots, I want AC power for lights and to charge cameras... but I don't want to have to bring my truck everywhere we need power. So having a commercial "power station" (battery) like this is a godsend. I can move AC power wherever I need it. And even pack a solar panel to charge it in place on a film set or camping trip. Or more correctly, the solar panel is already on my roof rack, so it's "always packed".

Again, I really need to just make a video of my setup.

 

 

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I've been curious about doing a solar roof install - but figure it can wait until I can afford my first home van.  

Edited by Harbinger

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3 hours ago, Harbinger said:

I've been curious about doing a solar roof install - but figure it can wait until I can afford my first home van.  


Why would you wait? Is it because you want a more permanent installation? 
I specifically went with "off the shelf" products that are self-contained, so I can take them off/out, and use them anywhere else, or on another vehicle if needed. 

I made brackets that hold the solar panel to the roof rack. So (other than making the brackets themselves), there's no drilling, no cutting, no glue... It's all modular and can be mounted and dismounted by hand. 

Here's a quick video: 
 

 

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2 minutes ago, AaronHorrocks said:


Why would you wait? Is it because you want a more permanent installation? 
I specifically went with "off the shelf" products that are self-contained, so I can take them off/out, and use them anywhere else, or on another vehicle if needed. 

I made brackets that hold the solar panel to the roof rack. So (other than making the brackets themselves), there's no drilling, no cutting, no glue... It's all modular and can be mounted and dismounted by hand. 

Here's a quick video: 
 

 

 

It was a joke, obviously a poor one. :)   Was saying I'd wait until I have a van to live in before worrying about solar.   I don't trust my pathfinder outside of city limits so solar would be overkill when I'd be better served by other things. 

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Well I guess you could always buy one of my Solar Sunroof Shades, as an entry-level solar starter! XD

I have two different solar systems right now. I have one on my sunroof shade that powers USB banks...
And then I have a goal zero system that I put in my truck, the 100 watt panel on stop with a Goal Zero Yeti 400 behind my seat, powering a 12v Fridge, and two power strips, etc.
 

 

 

Topic is over here: 

 

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