Best size solar panel for a 100 amp 2014 outback

Hi all, first post. New at this game, I have just swapped from a tent to an outback, was wondering what size solar panel I should get for my van?
Also I was after a cover for it, any ideas on what brand & location to get it from.
Happy to accept any other new ideas I may need to assist in my first few outings.
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Reply By: Member - peterdre - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 20:01

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 20:01
More info. needed....what do you wish to run off your battery?
AnswerID: 593090

Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 21:24

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 21:24
Just all the standard gear in them, lights etc.what is it best to run the fridge off? Gas or the battery?
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:03

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:03
Jason, when you are stationary and camped, you would be better to run your fridge off gas.

If you are new to the game, there are a few things you need to understand and learn about DC power and it's a little more complicated than simply buying a panel and hooking it up (not too much but it would be clever to know what your needs are in the power consumption stakes, what type (AGM for example) and size battery you have (100 A/H etc)). Could I recommend that you have a read of this blog. It will be a great start on your path to DC guru-ship.

Electricity for camping

For solar panels have a look at Bitdeals on Ebay. Good product at reasonable prices.


''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:15

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:15
Awesome , thanks for your help, appreciate it. Will have a look.
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Reply By: Jason F 71 - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 20:47

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 20:47
It would just be standard stuff, lights, fridge charging stuff & any other ideas people may recommend to have in the van. As I say only new at this, only pick it up next weekend.
AnswerID: 593094

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 23:20

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 23:20
What kind of fridge, Jason? Compressor, two or three way (impractical on 12V except when driving), and how cold? IE, are you using it as a fridge or freezer? That affects power consumption hugely.

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Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:27

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:27
It is a 3 way fridge, 94L. The problem is I haven't got the van yet I don't pick it up till next Friday.
It has the small freezer in it as well I believe, it is like a bar fridge set up I believe.
LED lighting in the van. I saw on another reply I need to do a total on amps going to be used with lights, fridge, chargers, Ipods etc.
It has a 12 pin set up as well, so I am getting my car sorted for that. it has the 100amp deep cycle battery in it.
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 09:14

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 09:14

A three way fridge that runs on 12V, 240V or gas, right? If so forget about running it on 12V while camped - it draws too much current and there is no practical solar setup that will keep up. Run it on gas.

The 12V side, properly set up, can be used while driving. The fridge probably draws about 15 amps on 12V, so it need good cabling from the power source (start battery), back through an Anderson plug to the fridge itself. The cabling must be big enough to cause only a minimal voltage drop under the 15 amp load.

You need at least 12 full volts under load AT THE FRIDGE.

When I did mine I used 6 B&S all the way and I'd recommend that for you. Some people suggest 8B&S (smaller) cable, but IMO that is marginal, especially on a long cable run in a big van.

That leaves the rest of your van electrics to be accounted for. As other replies and follow-ups have suggested, work out your power consumption and from there we and you can work out how much solar is advisable.


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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:13

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:13

"It has a 12 pin set up as well, so I am getting my car sorted for that. it has the 100amp deep cycle battery in it."

What is your car? IE, does it have a steady 14 point something volt alternator output, or is it one of the newer ones with a low voltage charging system, down to as low as 12 point something.

If the latter IMO you will need a dc-dc charger in the van, which will boost the low voltage from the car up to a suitable level to charge you van battery. In fact, I would do that anyway because you get a charge tailored to suit your deep cycle van battery. I'm sure you will read contrary opinions here, so I'm just saying what I would do.

The average retail sparky will run undersized wire to the 12V auxiliary pin(s) on the socket. Ditto the van manufacturer will likely provide undersized wiring from the 12 pin plug to the van battery.

To run a 12V charging system in your van I would use minimum 8B&S from vehicle battery to 12 pin socket and from the van's plug back to its battery or dc-dc charger.

Also the 12 pin flat connector won't take the big cable you need for the fridge. That's why I mentioned the Anderson - it needs to be on a separate circuit, IMO.

If you haven't already done so, you should consider an isolator so that Auxiliary power to the two sockets (12 pin and Anderson) is switched off when you switch the key off. Without it, if you park your car and van and go shopping the fridge and the dc-dc charger will continue to be powered from your car battery and you'll likely return to a flat battery.


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Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:30

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:30
I have a Kia Sorento 2013 model, yeah my parents told me to get an isolator as they got stuck with that exact situation. I am getting the socket put in next Friday so I will make sure I get the 8B&S, so I should get the Anderson plug to then to run the Fridge while driving?
FollowupID: 861311

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 11:04

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 11:04
I had a Sorento some years ago - a great little vehicle and quite under-rated by the 4WD cognoscenti. I towed a CT with it on some pretty awesome tracks. I set it up just as I have posted above.

Power from Battery to isolator. From the output side of the isolator, two runs of cable, one being 8B&S to the aux pin(s) of the 12 pin flat. The other, 6B&S to the Anderson. The negative of the Anderson should go to a good chassis earth. The chassis earth should be bolted, not just a terminal screwed with a self-tapper to some sheet metal. And polish the metal before connecting, then when you're finished cover the connection with anti-rust gunk.

"so I should get the Anderson plug to then to run the Fridge while driving?"

Yes, exactly. If you follow this plan you will have to run 6B&S on the van to where you can access the 12V supply to the fridge and join up there. Same thing with the van's negative - 6B&S from the Anderson to a bolted chassis connection and sprayed with gunk.

The 12 pin flat on the van should have matching 8B&S from the aux pin to the battery or dc-dc charger. I THINK your Sorento has a fairly high alternator output (you'll have to check), so you MIGHT get away with no dc-dc charger, but I prefer to put one in. If you choose the right brand it can double up as a solar regulator, which you will need when you get your solar requirements worked out.


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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:31

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:31

Sorry to be doing this in bits and pieces, but Swampy made a good point in his reply...

If you run 6B&S from an Anderson back into the caravan for the fridge you can branch the battery charging off that and you won't need to run the 8B&S from the 12 pin flat plug.

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Reply By: TerraFirma - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 21:05

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 21:05
For the money a decent 120W puts out around 6amps so should cover your stipulated use. They are around $249 at Aldi or you can spend more and go with what other people on these forums care to recommend.
AnswerID: 593096

Reply By: Malcom M - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 07:04

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 07:04
The first step you need to take is to add up the power consumption numbers for all the gear you want to run.

Fridge amps = xx
Led lighting = xx
Inverter amps = xx
Phone chargers
Radio / TV
etc etc etc

Once you have a total amperage draw for your batteries you can match that to a solar panel.
This of course opens another can of worms with how you want to connect the panel to the battery or batteries. Thats step #2
AnswerID: 593104

Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:17

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:17
So is that as simple as looking at the fridge & it giving you the amps usage or do I need to power test it while it is running?
FollowupID: 861298

Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:29

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:29
It has a 100amp deep cycle battery in it at the moment.
FollowupID: 861300

Follow Up By: Malcom M - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 09:09

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 09:09
Pretty much yes. The labels on the gear will give you the info you need. The fridge label may tell you it draws say something like 4 amps or 48 watts but thats only when the compressor kicks in so is worst case.

Once you know your max power consumption, you need to allow extra capacity for future gear, panel inefficiency plus weather. Clouds etc will drop the generating ability of the panel significantly.
Its all about what you can afford but I allow 50%-100% extra in the panel. If your wattage comes out at say 100 watts then try for a 200 watt panel. 200 is a very common size and due to the demand, pricing is pretty good.

You then need to get that power into the battery.
Most decent panels have a built in MMPT controller. You cab google these but essentially its a smart controller and optimises the panel output so as to provide the best charge to the battery. Its a 'must have' so make sure one is one the panel otherwise you will have to buy one.

The whole 12v battery / solar thing is going to screw with your brain a bit as you learn all this stuff :)
Not all batteries are created equal. Just because you have a 100A deep cycle does not mean you will pull that current for long. Some batteries (Optima Yellow Top for example) will let you flatten the battery a whole lot more before losing output. Depending on how you want to use the vehicle determines the quality level of the battery. ie spending 3 weeks in the middle of the Simpson dictates an Optima whereas a weekend away will likely only need a cheap Chinese thing.

Ok, so far you built yourself a solar charging system for your camper battery.
Now to complicate things even further, what about charging when you are driving. Have you thought about getting your trucks alternator to charge the camper battery?
Everything mentioned above still applies and your camper should remain a 'stand alone' system but you can add other gear to connect this to the truck power as funds permit.
This will start off a bleep contest with makes & models but you'll need to do your own research to cut away owner emotion from reality.
What I have is a big fat (6BA at least, bigger the better) cable running from the truck battery (the Aux one if you have two) to the tow bar where you terminate it into an Anderson (see Ebay) connector. The camper plugs into this and that cable runs back to your battery(s).
There will be a voltage drop down all that cable which will prevent the alternator ever charging the camper battery correctly (the bigger the cable the less drop). You need a DC-DC converter / smart charger to boost that voltage and charge the battery correctly.
Also, depending on your hardware choice, the DC-DC charger should be able to take the output of the solar panel and automatically switch between them as conditions permit. For this I use a Ctek D250s-Dual. Its an awesome piece of kit but you will be bombarded with opinions on other gear as well. If you use the Ctek, it has its own MMPT controller built in so if your solar panel has one, you'll have to bypass it (dead easy).

So now you have a system that can charge the camper whilst you drive and a stand alone camper that charges via solar.

Hope that helps a bit :)
FollowupID: 861301

Reply By: skulldug - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:35

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 08:35
Jason, here is a link to a solar requirements calculator that should estimate everything for you. Phil from Solar4rvs is great to deal with.

AnswerID: 593105

Reply By: swampy - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 12:33

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 12:33
1st there are many articles on this sites " MY swag" "explore oz " about solar/batteries.
There are wiring diagrams for single/double battery vehicles systems feeding a camper/van battery system
The 3way on 12volt is only good if its wired to the vehicles charging system 10-17 amps draw via an isolater .
Fit the largest single battery u can ,for most its 120-150 there are 200 a/hr .That way u have some growing space within 1 batteries capacity . Many people then eventually buy a second .
2 x 120 ahr seems fairly common .
Most 120 ahr fit in a 100 ahr space See your dealer if u can upgrade.
You need to do an electrical consumption assessment
generally a couple led lights and a up to 40 ltr compressor fridge 160w trifold solar
Above 40 to 80ltr compressor fridge couple led lights 200watt trifold .
The trifold ,fold up smaller and are therefore easier to carry
please refer to own notes for your consumption and sizing .
There are many many variables in solar and most of these are only negative . These effects all try to increase your usage of amps and this includes the reduction in performance/output of solar panels . It is best to be on the fatter side of performance than have to little.
6th many with campers/vans have a portable set of panels and a set fixed to the roof.
Having more than 200 watts is more common than u think.
8th This also depends on how much "free camping " u do
9th hardware
cable sizing . The best I have found is to by a roll of 6 B&s twin core sheathed
Around 250 $ for 30 mtrs
If u use smaller cable voltage drop WILL murder the performance of the charging/fridge supply at the van end . Many people run 2 pos cables of no 6b&s on the vehicle side .
10 to protect your batteries fit a LVD [low voltage disconnect] . Set this at 11.9 or 12.0 volts for an AGM battery [approx 50%capacity ].
240 volt charger 25 amp or 20-30 % of amp capacity [agm]
Hard wire charger/permanent install so its just a matter of flicking switch on a monthly basis
Fit an isolater to prevent battery going flat when stored

Hope all this helps
Just a few ideas I picked up when doing my camper

AnswerID: 593107

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:36

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:36
Good post swampy. Covers all the bases.

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Follow Up By: GREG T11 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 21:49

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 21:49
Hi Jason, I am in the same boat as you so this is an interesting post .
I have a camper with a 90 AH battery that is fairly old, it powers a series of LEDS inside, a waterpump and a led strip light for the annexe . This setup came with the camper and works well for what it is . I don't have a fridge in the camper and never will so it will be fine.for a week or so as long as we take it easy on it .
Here is what I don't understand, Here is the crunch question for those recommending a big amp charger for 240 volt home top up ? I have been monitoring it while in use and while sitting at home with no load with a multimeter and only thru leaving a light on inside for 3 days straight by mistake it hit 12 volts ( only had it a month at that point so was checking regularly ).. In this time I have only used a Ctek 4 amp to recharge only cause I had one sitting here. Seems to work fine gets it up to around 13.8 volts on bulk and when finished in 12 or so hours goes to float mode .
Went away last weekend 2 nights and came home with 12.59 volts .
Prior to this I purchased a Arkpak and 120 AH battery which is sitting in the shed from a specialist 12 volt shop, in the course of the conversation I asked whether my puissant 4 amp charger was a suitable tool for recharging an AGM battery. You will have to buy a big dollar you beaut 300-400 dollar one was the answer .
I may be stuffing my battery up by doing this but being a unknown quantity to begin with I thought I would try it out anyway !
I have also purchased a Aldi 120 watt panel with a basic regulator and have not taken it away yet .
Testing at home on said battery has revealed it works ok but the jury is out still.
Having said all this we don't venture all that far from civilisation but like to stay in national parks which only last up to a week or two. If I was relying on a 12 volt system to keep the beer cold in far flung areas I would invest a heap more I suppose .
My point ? Do you really need to outlay all that dosh when you have gas on tap for stationery use ?
P.s the advice about hard wiring is spot on, that area is never a place to skimp on .
FollowupID: 861329

Reply By: Tony H15 - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:41

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 at 14:41
As an example, I have a 100AH fed by an 80 watt semi flexible mounted on the roof. This feeds LEDs, TV, fan and electric pump. Previously I had a similar system comprised of 200AH fed by an 80 watt portable panel for a camper trailer, it ran an Engel MT45, TV and LEDs.
AnswerID: 593114

Reply By: 2517. - Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 10:35

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 10:35
I have 2 90 Amp battery's in a caravan with 250 watts of solar ,thou I have a dc charger on Toyota I never plug it in as the solar keep up no worries,I run tv light pump etc not a problem.
AnswerID: 593137

Reply By: swampy - Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 11:22

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 11:22
Hi Jason
Bitdeals ,Sunyee, Aussie Batteries and Solar seem to be popular on explor oz
The cost of warranty return should be included but u need to check .
Some sellers do not deliver all areas.
Solar regulators- - not all are waterproof
Many Chinese regulators that are marked MPPT are not !!!!
Majority of Chinese panels come with undersize cable

Aussie batteries allow u to select your own cable size and length
Generally portable solar set cable size 6b&s for 200watts and up and around 7-8mtrs long Anderson plugs both ends

Aussie batteries 195 watt set comes in a cheap rubbish case
They offer transit bags on the smaller models
The impression I get of most solar transit bags is many are only average at best .Best idea is to get an auto trim shop to make one up.

AnswerID: 593141

Follow Up By: Jason F 71 - Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 11:56

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 11:56
A mate at work got the German made 160W solar panels from Bitdeals & rates them highly, has the MPPT built in & guarantee waterproof, has the fold out legs, he said the bag they came in is quite protected, so was going to check them out & do a bit of research on them. Know of anyone that has had any issues with them? If you look at items sold they are way above everyone else with items sold.
FollowupID: 861340

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 12:21

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 12:21

It is better to have the regulator close to the battery with short leads to the battery. You can then have long and smaller gauge leads from the regulator to the panels.

Panels that have the regulator built into the back are convenient, but the long lead length to the battery is a real compromise unless you decide on heavy gauge (like 6B&S) which is bulky and heavy.

Additionally, with a separate reg you have a wider choice of REAL MPPT (swampy alludes to false marketing by cheap Chinese products), you can permanently install it in your van so weather proofness is not an issue.

My recommendation is to shop around/seek advice for quality panels with no inbuilt reg and do the same re a separate MPPT regulator.

And just a reminder - I said in another reply or follow-up here that if you choose to use a dc-dc charger, (which I think you should) then consider one that has inbuilt MPPT as well.Redarc make a good one. You can get these much cheaper on eBay. Ctek has one, but a number of people have reported poor solar performance with them.

The Redarc will have sufficient capacity to address your needs and also allow for expansion if you choose more battery capacity and more solar at a later date.


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Follow Up By: swampy - Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 16:28

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 at 16:28
hi Jason f71
Bit deals on special 180watt trifold $260 same as 160watt double fold wow
Check out Sunyee also.

The only issues I have read on the net ,catches not working ,zips in bags not working ,cable lucky to be 6mm sq. in size .Warranty claims from bit deals seemed an easy process .
If u run large long cable to panels have a connector at each end [disconnect completely] so u can roll it up like a domestic cord. Cable should be around the length of camper 6-8mtrs .
These are the panels i would have if they would have delivered to the far north.
I have 1x 195 portable with a pwm controller that can be used or bypassed
1x 195 soon to be fixed to roof
both panels connect at drawbar
wired to mppt [e tracer 30 amp ]charge controller mount in the front boot of camper

FollowupID: 861345

Reply By: dublediff - Friday, Nov 27, 2015 at 23:29

Friday, Nov 27, 2015 at 23:29
You have. 3 way fridge.,it runs best on 240 volts. Get the fridge cold by running it off 240v before you leave home. 24 hours before. Fill, and i mean fill your fridge and then connect to car. The 12v connection will maintain the temperature at best while you travel. Whenyou get to your camp site run it on gas. Dont freeze your These fridges run very well on gas, and will fo so for 14 days on a 9 kg gas bottle. Check your temperature setting for overnight,,turn it down a bit overnight and then turn it up for the daytime higher temps.

Now your battery/ solar panel set up.

If you have a 100 amp hour battery, this will run all of your lights, some radio/ tv for 7 days without recharge. Your lights in the van are led, your tv should be led as well. I ran this set up for many years without issue. Very simple, very cheap.

I have just mounted a 200 watt panel on my brothers Jayco and that will charge his battery for everything he needs. No cover, no issues. Just let the sunshine.
AnswerID: 593213

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