Installing a solar system in a camper

Hi Folks

Been looking at the threads for regulators etc, and getting a little info overload, so thought I'd post a new one to see if that would help.

Basically I'm getting a Hi-ace Camper and want to run a standard camper fridge, car radio and some 12v lights of a 2nd battery - I'm thinking around a 100ah size - I'm intending on getting a single fold-up panel, around the 100-180w range, and a cheapish regulator under $100.

I've been looking at something like this which gives me space to upgrade amp wise:

Ideally I'm after a reg with a LCD which gives me info whats going on the system, and deals with the issue of overcharging etc. I'm a complete novice when it comes to such things, so please feel free to treat me like an idiot.
Any ideas, info, product recommends would be much appreciated.

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 16:24

Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 16:24

As you're a "complete novice when it comes......etc" why don't you contact Derek, from ABR, who is a Business Member on this site.

He will have everything you say you need, and will give good, honest advice. Probably turn you into a guru overnight???

And you'd be supporting a business in Australia too.


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Can't remember most of it.

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AnswerID: 496719

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 19:14

Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 19:14
Hi Luke,
Just wired up the third setup the other day on the nephews caravan.

Get the biggest Monocrystaline panel you can afford, given the space you have to put it.
A good regulator prefferably an MPPT or a good PWM.

The wires from the panel to the regulator should be 6mm and the same or larger from your regulator to the battery/batteries.

We used a weather proof junction box on the top of the vehicle to make the entry in through the roof. Make sure you seal it down well with sikaflex. We fitted the box to the roof in the chosen position by measuring inside and out to see where the best location was for the junction box, sealed it and screwed it down, the drilled a hole through the roof inside the junction box so that there is no way water can get in.

Mount the regulator inside so that it is as close to the battery as you can get it but considering that it should be mounted. Drawing included.

in an accessible position.

Dereck Bester at ABR has all the cabling you need and is very quick with his deliveries.

Ebay has some good regulators and panels at the right price. Check there first for pricing so that you will have an idea of what is available and at what price.

Hope this helps,
Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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AnswerID: 496728

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 19:58

Monday, Oct 15, 2012 at 19:58

When you say you want to run "a standard camper fridge", etc. off a 2nd battery, there is one thing you should be made aware of.

A "standard camper fridge" is usually a three way fridge that runs on 240 volt, LPG, or 12 volts.
BUT the 12 volt operation should only be while the vehicle is in motion, or for very short stops, otherwise you will need a lot more than a 100Ah battery.
These fridges are very hungry operating on 12 volts.

A better fridge is a 240 volt/12 volt compressor fridge which are available in an upright configuration if that is your desiire. Both Engel and Waeco have upright models and are very effective and efficient running on 12 volts from a battery of 100Ah plus and supported by a solar panel array.

If the fridge doesn't have a built-in low voltage protector, you should also consider a "stand-alone" device that can be added to the circuit to protect the battery from excessive current draw. These are available for under $30.

Forget a cheap regulator too. Only an MPPT type solar regulator will give the efficiency required to get the most out of a solar panel charging system.

The 2nd battery should also be able to be charged from the vehicle alternator and be kept separated from your starting battery by an isolator to protect the starting battery.

The best solution is a dc-dc charger with dual alternator and solar panel input.
A unit such as the Ctek D250S Dual dc-dc charger will provide everything you need in the one "box". It is a multi-stage charger that will keep your battery in optimum condition.

Unfortunately, there are no "cheap" solutions if you want a dual battery system that works effectively to maintain the auxiliary (2nd) battery in optimum condition.

Many years ago, I owned a Hi-Ace camper which had a 3 way fridge in it. I won't say the brand but it was the most useless bloody fridge I have experienced.
Bite the bullet and invest in a compressor fridge which will give you years of practical and effective cold storage for your food and liquids.


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AnswerID: 496731

Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 08:36

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 08:36
Agree with all of Bill's points, but especially re the fridge. While I sympathise about information overload, you might find Electricity for Camping helpful.

As Bill says, an MPPT solar controller is the way to go and they do cost more than the minimum. Avoid the second source you suggest - their "MPPT" stuff isn't MPPT.


J and V
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Reply By: Luke G2 - Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 10:09

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 10:09
Many thanks guys.

I got the fridge setup slightly wrong. The intention is to to run the fridge of mains if at a campsite, gas when camping for any extended periods of time, and 12v when moving or any other times when necessary.

I was originally thinking about the isolator, but was looking at something and it said the two batteries should be fused and all this kind of stuff.
If wiring in an isolator, is it just literally main battery or alternator into switch then 2nd battery into switch?

AnswerID: 496774

Reply By: Member - Wozikev - Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 15:17

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 15:17
Hi Luke - I suggest you have a really good look at the Redarc BMS 1215. They are not cheap at ~$1200 but are a brilliant bit of gear. I installed one in my caravan about four years ago and I have peace of mind and well maintained batteries whether on 240v, solar or travelling on 12v. As always, use the heaviest wire you can possibly get into a 50 amp Anderson plug.

All the best ........................ KP.
AnswerID: 496795

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