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Solar Panels - worth it?

Norfolk Jim

Norfolk Jim

Trying to retire but there's always one last job..
Lifetime VIP Member
Messages
592
Location
Norfolk
Vehicle
T6.1 Ocean 204
Hi All.

Wife and I were having a discussion yesterday about solar power and of all things 'wonder how long before someone invents solar power lawn mower'.........(you can see we have interesting chats lol!!! Is there one yet.....................................this lead onto a general chit chat about solar. We're used to it, as have both Solar PV and Thermal panels which are great - I have a thermal store full of hot water at moment thanks to solar and last year got back some £800 from generation of PV so discussion turned to is it a good idea on a Cali and what will it cost.

We have a 22 Reg Ocean 204 which appears to have literally all VW options bar heated screen and 4motion on it!!. When not in use it sits on our drive in front of garage and I simply plug plug into garage to keep batteries charged.

Our hols consist of mainly Scotland, normally early May or late Sept typically on small CL with EHU but ocassionally we've used large sites such as Big Sand at Gairloch or the large Dornoch site where we find quiet spots but without hook up. I'm due to retire anytime soon (but there's always one last job lol) so these adventure will increase and may well go further afield - I know Ireland is planned for next year so would having solar panel/s fitted be a good idea and worth the cost, bearing in mind we'll probs keep Cali for at least 6 years (we had our last T5 conversion for 9).

Have many of you gone down this route and if so what are the optimum number of panels needed and who is the best company to use to get professional fitting - I'm near Norwich? Any ideas on cost.............

All advice gratefully received :)
 
Hi All.

Wife and I were having a discussion yesterday about solar power and of all things 'wonder how long before someone invents solar power lawn mower'.........(you can see we have interesting chats lol!!! Is there one yet.....................................this lead onto a general chit chat about solar. We're used to it, as have both Solar PV and Thermal panels which are great - I have a thermal store full of hot water at moment thanks to solar and last year got back some £800 from generation of PV so discussion turned to is it a good idea on a Cali and what will it cost.

We have a 22 Reg Ocean 204 which appears to have literally all VW options bar heated screen and 4motion on it!!. When not in use it sits on our drive in front of garage and I simply plug plug into garage to keep batteries charged.

Our hols consist of mainly Scotland, normally early May or late Sept typically on small CL with EHU but ocassionally we've used large sites such as Big Sand at Gairloch or the large Dornoch site where we find quiet spots but without hook up. I'm due to retire anytime soon (but there's always one last job lol) so these adventure will increase and may well go further afield - I know Ireland is planned for next year so would having solar panel/s fitted be a good idea and worth the cost, bearing in mind we'll probs keep Cali for at least 6 years (we had our last T5 conversion for 9).

Have many of you gone down this route and if so what are the optimum number of panels needed and who is the best company to use to get professional fitting - I'm near Norwich? Any ideas on cost.............

All advice gratefully received :)
All depends how you use the van.
Summer - 1 panel will do.
Spring and or Autumn- 2 panels
All year round - 3 panels.
Roger Donahugh is a forum member and owns this company. If you can wire a plug then you can fit this system

 
We have had 1x100w panel kit (from Solar Camper Solutions) for 2 years and have never plugged in at home since I installed it. We have done 4 days off grid in Spring with no issues at all - We only use it for fridge, lights and charging phones
 
All depends how you use the van.
Summer - 1 panel will do.
Spring and or Autumn- 2 panels
All year round - 3 panels.
Roger Donahugh is a forum member and owns this company. If you can wire a plug then you can fit this system

Hmmm... wire a plug?? I'll be honest and embarrased to say I still have to think about that - worrying after nearly 50 years in architecture telling everyone else what to do!! I do though know a very good Aut electrician !!
 
As WG says. Depends on how you use.

If you use EHU on sites, you won’t get much use. See note.

If not, helps extend 3 days to about 5 off power, sun permitting.

Note. We always use EHU and only rarely use off EHU for festivals but what we have found, because we keep it parked on the drive when not using, that the panel avoid us needing to plug in at home once a month.

100W Roger setup with starter battery trickle charge.

I’ve written an install guide on here. Easy to do.
 
As WG says. Depends on how you use.

If you use EHU on sites, you won’t get much use. See note.

If not, helps extend 3 days to about 5 off power, sun permitting.

Note. We always use EHU and only rarely use off EHU for festivals but what we have found, because we keep it parked on the drive when not using, that the panel avoid us needing to plug in at home once a month.

100W Roger setup with starter battery trickle charge.

I’ve written an install guide on here. Easy to do.
Sunds a bit like my use (except festivals). Normally early May or mid to late Sept we go away and happy to park away from everyone in quiet spot on bigger sites or even off grid?? We'd normally only have fridge running and perhaps charge phones (2) and ocassionally my Garmin watch but nothing else - we never take laptops and rarley have music on when on a site. I can always use phone through wonderboom speaker anyway so basically low battaery usage. Our last camper was T5 converison which had 3 way firdge so gas when off grid; this lasted ages and which was good as van only had one large output battery (fridge didn't run off it) and we'd survive 3 days easy just worried van would start, which of course it always did! It'd be nice to not have to worry about plugging in at home all the while to keep leisure batteries good; obviously fridge would be off anyway.
 
As WG says. Depends on how you use.

If you use EHU on sites, you won’t get much use. See note.

If not, helps extend 3 days to about 5 off power, sun permitting.

Note. We always use EHU and only rarely use off EHU for festivals but what we have found, because we keep it parked on the drive when not using, that the panel avoid us needing to plug in at home once a month.

100W Roger setup with starter battery trickle charge.

I’ve written an install guide on here. Easy to do.
Where do I find your guide please??
 
As above, Roger's kits are easy to use. We started with 100W but decided to up to 200W to give some headroom for shady sites / shoulder season use. Well worth it.
 
We had 3 of @Roger Donoghue panels on our previous Beach. Had a Dometic CFX fridge running 24/7 for 4 years even when parked up for long periods on the drive never needed EHU. The Bluetooth app stores data, and showed on most days the battery was on float (fully charged) by lunchtime.

2 panels are probably sufficient for south UK, we had 3 as it compensated for shadow from the roof bars and it looked better as it filled the full roof, and helps conceal the roof corrosion / bubbling!

Also gives you a wider choice of spots in campsites as you are not restricted by EHU. So if you end up with noisy neighbours you just drive up the field a little bit.
 
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Hmmm... wire a plug?? I'll be honest and embarrased to say I still have to think about that - worrying after nearly 50 years in architecture telling everyone else what to do!! I do though know a very good Aut electrician !!
If you buy from the link above you get very good instructions, or you could make a trip to Roger, by appointment, and he can fit while you wait. Lots of campsites down his way.
 
Way back in November 2020 Roger fitted our 2 x 100w panels while I waited. Great service and they continue to perform well. Ours also trickle charge the starter battery.
 
I have 3 panels from Roger. Very much worth it, I never had any problems with electricity since, I never plug in anywhere. I charge phones, laptops and use fridge.

The only thing to consider and I have not solved it yet is the aerodynamics of the car. The wind goes below the panels and people in the back can definitely hear it (my hearing is not so good and I usually listen to podcast or audiobook anyway). Maybe something to block the air from the front would help.
 
Hi All.

Wife and I were having a discussion yesterday about solar power and of all things 'wonder how long before someone invents solar power lawn mower'.........(you can see we have interesting chats lol!!! Is there one yet.....................................this lead onto a general chit chat about solar. We're used to it, as have both Solar PV and Thermal panels which are great - I have a thermal store full of hot water at moment thanks to solar and last year got back some £800 from generation of PV so discussion turned to is it a good idea on a Cali and what will it cost.

We have a 22 Reg Ocean 204 which appears to have literally all VW options bar heated screen and 4motion on it!!. When not in use it sits on our drive in front of garage and I simply plug plug into garage to keep batteries charged.

Our hols consist of mainly Scotland, normally early May or late Sept typically on small CL with EHU but ocassionally we've used large sites such as Big Sand at Gairloch or the large Dornoch site where we find quiet spots but without hook up. I'm due to retire anytime soon (but there's always one last job lol) so these adventure will increase and may well go further afield - I know Ireland is planned for next year so would having solar panel/s fitted be a good idea and worth the cost, bearing in mind we'll probs keep Cali for at least 6 years (we had our last T5 conversion for 9).

Have many of you gone down this route and if so what are the optimum number of panels needed and who is the best company to use to get professional fitting - I'm near Norwich? Any ideas on cost.............

All advice gratefully received :)
Hi
Solar panels - I am trying to figure this out. I am a somewhat aged female solo traveller. Right now I am sitting in VW garage outside Glasgow having driven from my base in France - sunshine! to zero sunshine on Loch Lomand. My leisure battery is running down despite hookup and I am baffled. Why is it charging up while driving and reducing, while hooked up, while stationary? All fuses good, hookup feed good - so what is going on? The solar panels are supposed to trickle charge both batteries. No sun = no trickle. So hookup and or driving will keep both batteries topped up. This is happening but I do not want to be driving every single day.
I have a small charger which itself has to be charged by hookup. I have bought a small solar panel but haven't used because there is no sun and I don't really know how it all connects and no-one seems able to advise me.
I have a brilliant brother who knows all things electrical but I just don't understand a thing he is saying. I guess, fundamentally, I need to know what I need to ensure power while hooked up and when off-grid - like a battery that doesn't die. I do not want to end up on the NC500 in the wild wastes of Scotland, sans energie.
 
Hi
Solar panels - I am trying to figure this out. I am a somewhat aged female solo traveller. Right now I am sitting in VW garage outside Glasgow having driven from my base in France - sunshine! to zero sunshine on Loch Lomand. My leisure battery is running down despite hookup and I am baffled. Why is it charging up while driving and reducing, while hooked up, while stationary? All fuses good, hookup feed good - so what is going on? The solar panels are supposed to trickle charge both batteries. No sun = no trickle. So hookup and or driving will keep both batteries topped up. This is happening but I do not want to be driving every single day.
I have a small charger which itself has to be charged by hookup. I have bought a small solar panel but haven't used because there is no sun and I don't really know how it all connects and no-one seems able to advise me.
I have a brilliant brother who knows all things electrical but I just don't understand a thing he is saying. I guess, fundamentally, I need to know what I need to ensure power while hooked up and when off-grid - like a battery that doesn't die. I do not want to end up on the NC500 in the wild wastes of Scotland, sans energie.
You say your leisure battery charges while driving but not when on EHU/Hookup.
How do you know the Mains power is working?
 
Hi All.

Wife and I were having a discussion yesterday about solar power and of all things 'wonder how long before someone invents solar power lawn mower'.........(you can see we have interesting chats lol!!! Is there one yet.....................................this lead onto a general chit chat about solar. We're used to it, as have both Solar PV and Thermal panels which are great - I have a thermal store full of hot water at moment thanks to solar and last year got back some £800 from generation of PV so discussion turned to is it a good idea on a Cali and what will it cost.

We have a 22 Reg Ocean 204 which appears to have literally all VW options bar heated screen and 4motion on it!!. When not in use it sits on our drive in front of garage and I simply plug plug into garage to keep batteries charged.

Our hols consist of mainly Scotland, normally early May or late Sept typically on small CL with EHU but ocassionally we've used large sites such as Big Sand at Gairloch or the large Dornoch site where we find quiet spots but without hook up. I'm due to retire anytime soon (but there's always one last job lol) so these adventure will increase and may well go further afield - I know Ireland is planned for next year so would having solar panel/s fitted be a good idea and worth the cost, bearing in mind we'll probs keep Cali for at least 6 years (we had our last T5 conversion for 9).

Have many of you gone down this route and if so what are the optimum number of panels needed and who is the best company to use to get professional fitting - I'm near Norwich? Any ideas on cost.............

All advice gratefully received :)
I went for two. The fridge has been on for nearly a month now. I haven't used EHU once since. I bought from Roger too as I wanted the simplicity of a kit. I went for the Victron with Bluetooth and coiled lead as it looks good. Can't recommend it enough.
 
Newbie beach owner here. We were about to add solar panels but we ended up adding just a lithium battery.

What does not convince us is that, we usually search for a spot under the shade so the vehicle does not get hot. In places like Greece it is a must. We do not know how well a solar panel works in the shade but in a sunny place like Greece.

External panels are an option, but also more work and they take some storage space.

I will probably have an better answer after more time using our Cali.
 
on my T6.1 I have around 360w of solar using 2 100w panels from Roger and then i remade the wiring loom to be more low profile and add a 3rd solar panel. I now use to charge my ecoflow Delta 2 using the output from the mppt controller (you can set the mppt to only turn on output when battery v is in optimal range and turn off when lowish). So now i do not need hookup and can run pretty much anything offgrid (air fryer / kettle etc) and charge both leisure and ecoflow from solar (or at a pinch / winter use the Alternator charger from engine)

I do show some on my channel below but best bet is to check what you want to use and then work backwards in terms power draw and then build best solar/mmpt combo to then suit your needs.

 
Having chatted with Roger we reckon for my usage a single 100W will work fine so looks like that's the way I'm going and I have an excellent auto leccy who will fit them - he's incredibly fussy I'll feel happier than me doing it - it'd also be quicker!!
 
Newbie beach owner here. We were about to add solar panels but we ended up adding just a lithium battery.

What does not convince us is that, we usually search for a spot under the shade so the vehicle does not get hot. In places like Greece it is a must. We do not know how well a solar panel works in the shade but in a sunny place like Greece.

External panels are an option, but also more work and they take some storage space.

I will probably have an better answer after more time using our Cali.
I didn't think you needed direct sunlight but more daylight for them to work. They don't like getting too hot. I know that from my home one's which seem to generate the most first thing in mornings before it gets to hto at moment
 
I have 3 panels from Roger. Very much worth it, I never had any problems with electricity since, I never plug in anywhere. I charge phones, laptops and use fridge.

The only thing to consider and I have not solved it yet is the aerodynamics of the car. The wind goes below the panels and people in the back can definitely hear it (my hearing is not so good and I usually listen to podcast or audiobook anyway). Maybe something to block the air from the front would help.
I don't think it'll be a problem with one. Perhaps having 3 closes all the possible gaps air would normally circulate. Also as one of your's will be very close to the front I'd expect the vans aerodynamic wold be affected.
 
I don't think it'll be a problem with one. Perhaps having 3 closes all the possible gaps air would normally circulate. Also as one of your's will be very close to the front I'd expect the vans aerodynamic wold be affected.
Yes,.. my 'overtly fussy' concern too. Love how quiet my van is at the moment (notwithstanding the noise sliding windows, ggrrrr) and the amazing mpg I can get on long journeys. Cant help but throw this into the pros/cons equation...
 
I occasionally read stuff about solar panels and think, should we get them? I like the idea of those overland, go-anywhere, self-sufficient vans. BUT...
...in twelve years of Cali ownership, we almost never get a hook-up (unless it's included), have never plugged in at home (not feasible anyway), and have never had a problem managing on the leisure battery.
Our travelling style is touring - we rarely stay anywhere more than a couple of days, so the battery recharges sufficiently while driving.
We run the fridge, charge phones, & have the lights on in the evening. The only time we absolutely needed a hook-up was during a week sitting on a hot Spanish campsite, to keep the fridge running. But I managed five days in Norfolk on the leisure battery.
All-in-all, I don't really understand why lots of people seem to get a hook-up every time - what are they using it for?
 
I occasionally read stuff about solar panels and think, should we get them? I like the idea of those overland, go-anywhere, self-sufficient vans. BUT...
...in twelve years of Cali ownership, we almost never get a hook-up (unless it's included), have never plugged in at home (not feasible anyway), and have never had a problem managing on the leisure battery.
Our travelling style is touring - we rarely stay anywhere more than a couple of days, so the battery recharges sufficiently while driving.
We run the fridge, charge phones, & have the lights on in the evening. The only time we absolutely needed a hook-up was during a week sitting on a hot Spanish campsite, to keep the fridge running. But I managed five days in Norfolk on the leisure battery.
All-in-all, I don't really understand why lots of people seem to get a hook-up every time - what are they using it for?
such a good point. Me too, but I always trip up when i ask the question 'how am i gonna make my toast!' lol
 
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