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Solar Panels - worth it?

Do I need to inform my insurance company once iv installed solar panels?
Worried about my Cali going up in flames
 
Id like to expand this discussion if i may.. Im slowly coming round to solars benefits - free energy using a device I can forget about; while on site, while at home, while driving... (altho recouping initial outlay will take some time).

Power stations (ecoflow) is a harder sell for me. What do I REALLY need one for? ..Toaster? Airfrier? Fan heater? Store more energy ontop of my leisure batteries? I love the off grid concept, but with the 350w Cali inverter and the relative low cost/btu of gas/diesel (which i have in abundance onboard), Im really struggling to justify the outlay, extra weight/strorage space, 'gadget hassle' etc..

Anyone convince me otherwise?

(all a bit of fun :) )
 
Ecoflow = coffee machine + wife's hairdryer/straighteners
 
Id like to expand this discussion if i may.. Im slowly coming round to solars benefits - free energy using a device I can forget about; while on site, while at home, while driving... (altho recouping initial outlay will take some time).

Power stations (ecoflow) is a harder sell for me. What do I REALLY need one for? ..Toaster? Airfrier? Fan heater? Store more energy ontop of my leisure batteries? I love the off grid concept, but with the 350w Cali inverter and the relative low cost/btu of gas/diesel (which i have in abundance onboard), Im really struggling to justify the outlay, extra weight/strorage space, 'gadget hassle' etc..

Anyone convince me otherwise?

(all a bit of fun :) )
Ecoflow or Swarey = 240v electricity
 
Sure, and thanks, but I already have the VW inverter under the driver seat ...
Afraid that's not much good, 300w max.
A decent power pack will boil a kettle, power a hair dryer ect.
 
Anyone any view/experience on Califaktur panels? They're rated at 310w for 2 panels, albeit more expensive (and not sold in the UK from what I can tell). They look a little more elegant design.

No experience, but a good excuse to head to Switzerland for a fitting?
 
Afraid that's not much good, 300w max.
A decent power pack will boil a kettle, power a hair dryer ect.
Yeah,,.. VW say surge up to 450w so I tried the straighteners... naaah heats then trips.
 
Id like to expand this discussion if i may.. Im slowly coming round to solars benefits - free energy using a device I can forget about; while on site, while at home, while driving... (altho recouping initial outlay will take some time).

Power stations (ecoflow) is a harder sell for me. What do I REALLY need one for? ..Toaster? Airfrier? Fan heater? Store more energy ontop of my leisure batteries? I love the off grid concept, but with the 350w Cali inverter and the relative low cost/btu of gas/diesel (which i have in abundance onboard), Im really struggling to justify the outlay, extra weight/strorage space, 'gadget hassle' etc..

Anyone convince me otherwise?

(all a bit of fun :) )
For me, I initially didn't go for an Ecoflow. Was OK mostly but just fridge, lights, phones and internet at one festival (so not actually in the van that much), I was eating through battery faster than the panel could charge each day. I released for longer periods off grid, potentially with the fixed roof panel not getting the sun, I needed more panel(s) and / or more battery. I also needed the ability to charge run two laptops (I work from the van occasionally) which the existing van USB's just couldn't cope with at a decent rate, if it all.

So, given I needed more panel(s) and a better way of charging higher demand USB C devices, the combination of an Ecoflow and portable panel ticked all the boxes. I have no need or desire to run kettles, toasters, air fryers, hair dryers or straighteners, but obviously horses for courses.

Space wise, the panel folds up (in it's bag) and fits inside the folded up downstairs mattress neatly, the Ecoflow unit itself somewhere in the boot area when in use, it's not particularly big or heavy. I don't leave either in the van all the time and occasionally use them elsewhere like the garden at home.
 
For me, I initially didn't go for an Ecoflow. Was OK mostly but just fridge, lights, phones and internet at one festival (so not actually in the van that much), I was eating through battery faster than the panel could charge each day. I released for longer periods off grid, potentially with the fixed roof panel not getting the sun, I needed more panel(s) and / or more battery. I also needed the ability to charge run two laptops (I work from the van occasionally) which the existing van USB's just couldn't cope with at a decent rate, if it all.

So, given I needed more panel(s) and a better way of charging higher demand USB C devices, the combination of an Ecoflow and portable panel ticked all the boxes. I have no need or desire to run kettles, toasters, air fryers, hair dryers or straighteners, but obviously horses for courses.

Space wise, the panel folds up (in it's bag) and fits inside the folded up downstairs mattress neatly, the Ecoflow unit itself somewhere in the boot area when in use, it's not particularly big or heavy. I don't leave either in the van all the time and occasionally use them elsewhere like the garden at home.
Thank you for your insight. Will you please be so kind as to advise us of which Ecoflow and solar panel that you are using?
 
Anyone any view/experience on Califaktur panels? They're rated at 310w for 2 panels, albeit more expensive (and not sold in the UK from what I can tell). They look a little more elegant design.

Agree with this comment - I have Rogers, and they are fine, but a little Heath Robinson with their alu frame and burrs. You can, gleaned from another post, buy all the kit to make these yourself as these made up versions quite expensive. If I get round to replacing with something a bit tighter looking, would be one of these.
 
Ultimately you do need to remember that even with these power packs etc.., there's still a finite amount of energy incoming from solar panels. On a good sunny day with clear skies, no shade and the roof orientated to the south, I'd estimate my 200W setup would average during the summer something like 100-120W between 9am and 6pm (lower figures at each end, higher in the middle of the day). So that's 900Wh-1080Wh. I find my Cali with fridge, lights in the evening, charging phones/iPad etc. typically uses between 350Wh and 450Wh a day. So that leaves you with about 450Wh to 630Wh "spare". If a 2kW kettle takes 3 minutes to boil, that's 100Wh straight away, start adding in other stuff too and presumably some efficiency losses from the charging of the ecoflow and the inverter on it, and I imagine you won't have much spare change unless you have a 300W setup at least. This is all in ideal conditions . . . late August with shorter days, an overcast day etc.. and the amount of viable energy you'll get will drop.

Solar is brilliant and it's easily the best thing I've done to/for my van, but it has limitations.
 
i think we should also remember that in an emergency you can always just run the engine with the 'max charge' engaged for 20/30 minutes. I suspect for most use cases, even without a solar panel, this is only going to be needed once or twice a year. (and if you are really 'off grid' there probably isn't even anyone nearby that will mind. I mean, i keep thinking "oh my god, what if i'm out in the middle of nowhere with my one solar panel and i run out of battery!" and then i think, oh, i can just run the engine for a bit.)
 
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... loving this debate. So much great 'real' insight :)
 
Hmmm... not always unless you really have deep cover. I've noticed my panels on my home still generate reasonably well on cloudy overcast days and right up till sunset when sun it behind trees going down. It does depend on how good the panel and controller are so I can't give any opinion on the ones on a Cali, only my home. Yes I understand fridge works harder when sun out in full in summer but you're also generating more power. For my use I won't be stopping under trees anyway as bad idea in UK with weak branches and in any case hwn we travel it's never that hot.
Hi Jim,
I do agree with the above, even if shaded my 2 x 100w panels do produce 20-30w maybe more, depending on depth of shade. It could be something to do with efficiency or panel construction, I don’t know. If stuck in shade is usually only for a short period for me.
I think I have chosen good panels, Renogy 100s and a Victron mppt. So system is running pretty efficient.
 
Hi Jim,
I do agree with the above, even if shaded my 2 x 100w panels do produce 20-30w maybe more, depending on depth of shade. It could be something to do with efficiency or panel construction, I don’t know. If stuck in shade is usually only for a short period for me.
I think I have chosen good panels, Renogy 100s and a Victron mppt. So system is running pretty efficient.
Yeh - I'm surprised how much my home panels generate on cloudy days compared to sunny days
 
Hi Jim,
I do agree with the above, even if shaded my 2 x 100w panels do produce 20-30w maybe more, depending on depth of shade. It could be something to do with efficiency or panel construction, I don’t know. If stuck in shade is usually only for a short period for me.
I think I have chosen good panels, Renogy 100s and a Victron mppt. So system is running pretty efficient.

It has to do with the panels and how many bypass diodes it has. Good panels have a lot of bypass diodes to prevent shading issues. My BougeRV CIGS panels have 48 bypass diodes per 100w panel and are superb in shading.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Thank you for your insight. Will you please be so kind as to advise us of which Ecoflow and solar panel that you are using?
River 2 Pro (think I said Delta 2 by mistake before) and the 220w bifacial portable panel.

 
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 Jim,
i have pondered the same question myself since getting our Cali New Year. Lots of conflicting priorities and considerarions.
  1. We sometimes have roof bars in place for a roof box (we have 2 teenage daughters and have to take a tent and all their beautification products when we go on a longer holiday)
  2. Orientation and shade on site (wifes priority) conflict with best van placement for roof solar production.
  3. plugging in on the driveway is not a problem where we live.
  4. I sometimes use the Cali for work and like to have 240v (900w air fryer and 1000w kettle) but EHU is not always an option.
After much pondering, my solution is an Anker C1000 Solar generator (£700) that fits perfectly between the front seats and 2 x All Powers 200w folding panels (I actually bought 1 when on sale in January for £180 but they sent me 2 !) the C1000 has an 1800w pure sinwave inverter that powers my kettle or air fryer no problem and charges fully from empty in about 4 hrs on an average sunny day from empty with my 400w of foldable solar that i position optimally regardless of how the van is orientated.

I have a male to male cigarette lighter cable that i use from the regulated 10 Amp socket on the C1000.(not bidirectional) that i connect to one of the rear cigarette lighter sockets in the Cali to trickle charge the leisure batteries when on site- this just ablut keeps up with fridge use once cooled down and not running the compressor all the time.

If the leisure batteries get a bit low after a long time off EHU I can use my 3 pin 13 Amp to EHU tail to connect the C1000 AC to the Cali EHU socket (Cali thinks it is on EHU so charges the leisure batteries). The Anker C1000 will charge from solar at the same time as powering the Cali.

When travelling, I can charge the C1000 from the 12v cigarette lighter socket to get about 120w (slow but ok on a long journey) if i am on a shorter journey i can limit the AC charging on the C1000 to 200w and connect it to the Cali AC inverter (not the most efficient but the Cali alternator has plenty of capacity in hand to charge the leisure batteries whilst discharging via the inverter).

This solution works well for me, provides lots of flexability, and if i dont even consider the 200w pannel i got for free, provides all the flexability for a similar cost to having 200w of permenant solar fitted on my roof.
 
Hi Jim,
i have pondered the same question myself since getting our Cali New Year. Lots of conflicting priorities and considerarions.
  1. We sometimes have roof bars in place for a roof box (we have 2 teenage daughters and have to take a tent and all their beautification products when we go on a longer holiday)
  2. Orientation and shade on site (wifes priority) conflict with best van placement for roof solar production.
  3. plugging in on the driveway is not a problem where we live.
  4. I sometimes use the Cali for work and like to have 240v (900w air fryer and 1000w kettle) but EHU is not always an option.
After much pondering, my solution is an Anker C1000 Solar generator (£700) that fits perfectly between the front seats and 2 x All Powers 200w folding panels (I actually bought 1 when on sale in January for £180 but they sent me 2 !) the C1000 has an 1800w pure sinwave inverter that powers my kettle or air fryer no problem and charges fully from empty in about 4 hrs on an average sunny day from empty with my 400w of foldable solar that i position optimally regardless of how the van is orientated.

I have a male to male cigarette lighter cable that i use from the regulated 10 Amp socket on the C1000.(not bidirectional) that i connect to one of the rear cigarette lighter sockets in the Cali to trickle charge the leisure batteries when on site- this just ablut keeps up with fridge use once cooled down and not running the compressor all the time.

If the leisure batteries get a bit low after a long time off EHU I can use my 3 pin 13 Amp to EHU tail to connect the C1000 AC to the Cali EHU socket (Cali thinks it is on EHU so charges the leisure batteries). The Anker C1000 will charge from solar at the same time as powering the Cali.

When travelling, I can charge the C1000 from the 12v cigarette lighter socket to get about 120w (slow but ok on a long journey) if i am on a shorter journey i can limit the AC charging on the C1000 to 200w and connect it to the Cali AC inverter (not the most efficient but the Cali alternator has plenty of capacity in hand to charge the leisure batteries whilst discharging via the inverter).

This solution works well for me, provides lots of flexability, and if i dont even consider the 200w pannel i got for free, provides all the flexability for a similar cost to having 200w of permenant solar fitted on my roof.
A great insight. Thank you.
 
A great insight. Thank you.
Thanks Benham,
I guess it is all about use case and what works for the individual. I did not mention in my post that having 240v and /or a way of keeping the leisure batteries topped up when working from the van is a priority as i need to power my laptop and external screen so i can work productivly. I am fortunate to have a job that gets me around to lots of coastal spots, having the Cali has been wonderful so far and i am looking forward to a couple of upcoming trips to the Llyn Peninnsular in N Wales and the West Coast of Scotland. Not being reliant on EHU means i can combine work with some "me time" in the Cali. the little air fryer and colapsible 1kw kettle makes the morning cuppa and dinner so much easier.
 
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