A lot of people are wising up to the power of solar energy, especially for campervans, so this post is to be a rough guide to installing a solar panel, regulator and leisure battery.
I wanted to be in a position to go off-grid but still run my laptop, the lights and charge phones, iPods, etc, so a solar generator system made perfect sense to me.
After seeing a few people talking about solar panels for their vans I decided it was the best way forward and started making enquiries about requirements, fitting and maintenance. It seemed the best results were coming from panels of 120w or more so I made that the minimum basis for my installation.
There are three components required for a safe solar generator:
- Solar Panel (120w minimum for decent power output)
- A Regulator
- Leisure Battery
There are other components you’ll need later, but these three form the basis of the solar generator system.
The solar panel connects to the input of the regulator (mine can handle two solar panels) and then an output lead feeds the leisure battery. The job of the regulator is to make sure you don’t cook your battery by overcharging it, so once it’s at full power the regulator stops charge trickling through. It also contains a fuse in case of shorts or surges.
I installed a 120w solar panel to start with but at some point in the future I will add a second so that I can run some bigger appliances such as my juicer or blender.
You should install your leisure battery somewhere cool, dry and out of direct sunlight in order to maintain longevity.
To run normal appliances or laptop chargers you’ll need a cigarette lighter socket (you can buy them with crocodile clips on the end which grip the battery terminals) and an inverter which converts 12v to 230v. Bear in mind you’ll use a lot of charge running TVs, audio systems, etc so think carefully about your priorities and you’ll also need to figure out the required wattage of the gadgets you want to run – a huge factor in buying the right inverter.
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