solar panels

Submitted: Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00
ThreadID: 2070 Views:4017 Replies:11 FollowUps:6
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am thinking of buying a solar panel to help with the recharging of a battery to run an engel 60l we camp out mostly and are away from the camp a lot fishing i am a bit concerned about the security of it....the panel we are looking at is the uni-solar...they are unbreakable , but expensive and large...any ideas or experience on this would be greatly appreciated
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Reply By: Member - Nigel - Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00
I guess the bigger than normal size of the Unisolar would make it harder for a theif to hide, but unless your insured I wouldn't recommend leaving a $700 panel alone.

If your in a 4WD club and insured via TCIS then you can get camping equipment cover that will cover unattended campsites.

I'm planning on getting a Unisolar 64w panel myself to make the battery last more than a few days, but for now I can never get sway for more than 3 days at a time, so I'll wait until I need it.
AnswerID: 7051

Reply By: Coops - Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00
You will need a decent battery isolator/management system to supplement solar panels I believe.
AnswerID: 7059

Reply By: Member - Richard- Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00
I have no experience with solar panels, or mind you with real 4x4ing yet, but like you I am asking questions to decide what to do. I saw a neat little portable generator advertised in 4x4 Australia mag. It basically was a 50cc (I think) 2 stroke petrol motor driving a alternator that could be used to charge a battery. I do not know if anyone has had any experience with one of these to be able to comment on their usefulness.
AnswerID: 7060

Follow Up By: Bruce- Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00
Yes i have a very good generator..a honda 10i..but the same situation arises ,( it is worth $1600 ) and i do not leave it in view when out fishing..we have never had our camp interfered with in the 20 or so yrs that we have been camping ...but ..always a first time , but many thanks for the comments..cheers
FollowupID: 3208

Follow Up By: Member - Mal - Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00
Richard, The gnerator you saw was probably a "Lee Christie". It's a small Honda petrol 4 stroke close coupled to an Australian made alternator. Puts out 75 amps from memory. It will charge a battery in about half an hour sufficiently to run fridge etc.. They are available from Honda dealers. They are quite small and weigh about 12 Kg..I can recommend them even at $900.00. Regards Mal.
FollowupID: 3228

Reply By: Eric - Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Sep 30, 2002 at 00:00
I have tried this in practice and found the small generator wins.
The vehicle is best left in the shade to reduce the outside temp of the fridge and this means the solar panel must be away from the vehicle on some sort of frame,which has to be moved every hour or two to get any current out of the panel, the size and weight of the panel and frame compared to the small generator is a big factor. The generator is great for starting yours or other cars.
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Reply By: Peter S - Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00
Well you could write reams on this but here is my input.
A minium for a new 60l engle is an 80 watt panel. you will als need to check if battery isolation unit in car is compatiable with solar as some aren't.
I then use a 12 m lead from solar panel to car. on each end of lead is a low voltage plug ie:32 v. Mounted on panel and inside car are 32 v Socket. The car one runs to aux Battery BUT is Fused near battery.
On the panel junction box is another socket and inside the junction box is a plasmtronics 1210 regulator.

I then have a length of chain that goes from car to panel for security.

If you are thinking of flexilable panels they tend to be expensive per watt than solid panels.
AnswerID: 7079

Follow Up By: Bruce- Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks Peter ..the battery is in a poptop van and the system is compatable ..i am considering 2 uni-sol 64w panels hinged together...expensive...but what the hell , they wont let you take money with you on your last trip ..the engel is 5yrs old and draws 5.5 amps and is in top condition regards
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Reply By: paul - Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00
As a regulator I suggest you have a look at the new Steca series from solar online Australia - i think this is the address - - but if that does not work do a Yahoo "steca solsum Australia" search and you will probably get it as the first website. Far superior than any other regulator as it reduces charge to a trickle so does not just stop when the battery is almost full, and approved by the World Bank for development projects, and costs the same as the old style regulators.
AnswerID: 7085

Reply By: Peter S - Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002 at 00:00
The Regulator solarsum 6 would not come up to the grade. With 2 x 64w panels the current produced in full sun is 10.3 ah. You would be advised to use a 12 ah regulator.
Also running a fridge through a low voltage cutout such as as in solarsun or bp solar regulators could cause problems.
The Engel fridge on commpresser start can use up to 20 ah this is enough to cause long term problems with regulator. You could wire a rely across the low voltage cutout and the fridge through this relay.
It was suggested to me though keep it simple and not use cutout.
I have wired a volt meter across the battery to keep an eye on it.
remember when the voltage gets to 11 volts the battery is discharged and needs a good charge.

AnswerID: 7097

Reply By: paul - Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00
The steca range goes from 4 amps up to 30amp regulators. You just need to get the one that is suitable for whatever your system provides. And i don't sell them just plan to get one soon and they get rave reviews.
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Reply By: tim - Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 02, 2002 at 00:00
Bruce, I know nothing about solar panels however a few years ago I posed the question on how to run camp lights and fridge (39Lt Engel) when we were camping/travelling and wanted to stick to a reasonable budget and went with dual batteries because they were interchangeable from car to car, did'nt take too much room, theft proof and did every thing that we required - the only problem that we thought we may have was running this equipment long term and have proven since that we do not need to start the car for about 3 days and have never been able to sit still for any longer anyrate! - we love battery power and I hope that you enjoy what ever you get - Tim
AnswerID: 7107

Reply By: kend - Saturday, Oct 05, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Oct 05, 2002 at 00:00

I have a good deal of experience with solar panels and also used them extensively for camping.

I see a lot of discussion regards regulators. I don't believe you need a regulator at all for camping.
I have never used one, and have had no problems. Its just an added expense. I run the panels direct into the battery.

If you do a little maths you will realise with a load such as a fridge in circuit it is going to take a very very long time to overcharge a battery, if you ever get to that point at all.
Either that or you've bought a lot of panels.

Solar regulators are tradionally for installations such as communication facilities where the power generated by the solar array greatly exceeds the load in order that batteries are fully charged. This is to allow for continuous operation in the worst case event of lengthy cloud periods.

I use a pair of BP solar hinged in the middle with a leg that comes out the back to hold them up.
Even though they are glass, they are prety robust. When I installed them for Telsra you would be suprised at how well they travelled on the back of a truck.(Top load only)
This said I pack them together with the camp table to offer some protection.
A normal 10 extension cord ( cut the ends off ) is a cheap hard wearing extension cable so the vehicle can be parked in the shade.
If security is of concern stainless wire cable with crimped eyes will keep honest people honest.
Nothing is going to stop people taking something in a remote area if they are serious.

To all who read this ramble and are still awake at the end.
Please please please consider solar and keep the peace.

AnswerID: 7186

Follow Up By: Member - Nigel - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
Good point Ken, as a 64w or smaller panel will never fully charge a battery when a fridge is running off it, but it will certainly extend the number of days before you need to fully recharge the battery.
FollowupID: 3277

Follow Up By: Bruce- Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
thanks Ken..good point about the regulater and you are right about the security angle as the 20yrs or so that we have been camping we have not lost any thing yet ,, but , would like to make sure or try to make sure wo do not in the future....cheers bruce
FollowupID: 3287

Reply By: ken d - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
No problem Bruce

I have been thinking about the security issue, and have an idea.
I don't know how technical you would like to get, but if you use a three core cable, eg, mains extn cord you could use the third core as an earth return for an audible alarm.
Simply connect the third core to the -ve terminal at the solar panel.
At the battery end use the earth path you just created to activate a relay ( via a resistor to limit the current).
You can then use the contacts on the relay to drive a siren / screamer.

If the cable to the panels is cut or unplugged the relay will deactivate
( no longer has an earth ).The relay contacts will change will state and the siren will sound.

A small piezo siren could be heard for a very great distance in the bush.
Certainly if you're fishing down the creek or something the like.
You can then decide whether to investigate, ( whoever is up to no good will probably bolt ), or keep trying to land the huge barra you have on the line.

You could mount the whole thing on a piece of DIN rail and all up it would cost around $40.
It could also be used to protect anything else in the camp, for the extra cost of a little extra wire and and a few plugs

I hope I haven't been too technical.
If you think it's worthwile and would like a little help, drop a reply.


AnswerID: 7209

Follow Up By: Bruce- Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00
no i do not want to get to technical Ken but your ideas are very good...if you would email me will give the full run down on the system that is in place at the momment. and you can comment further regards bruce
FollowupID: 3312

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