How many solar panels do I need for a camper?
Hi guys welcome to the next episode in this Mercedes Sprinter van conversion series in today’s. Video we’re, going to be looking at the solar panel installation I’ve got a confession to make. I did say in my previous solar panel video that I’m, going to engineer some way to tilt the panel’s.
You know so they’re facing the Sun. I’ve. Looked at this in some great lengths – and I will come up with a workable solution for this, but at the moment I can’t find anything that’s sturdy enough that I’m happy with to support the frames When they’re in the upright position, you know, if I get a bit of wind on there, I need something quite strong, so they’re not going to blow about.
I mean I purchased some aluminium straps that I thought I could use. You know to hold them in the upright position and then realize that these are going to be nowhere near strong enough. You know so I & # 39.
Ve got to go back to the drawing board on that one, far short of building a complete, rigid frame and then bolting them to there and in elevate in there. You know that might add a lot of weight to the roof as well.
So and I don’t want it to look massive on the roof there and it’s. Gon na be a complete eyesore. When you’re driving around, I want to keep it as low-key, as I possibly can so for the moment, because obviously we want to get off on our trip and want to enjoy the van.
What I’ve done is I’ve taken some of this slotted uni strap, which I use in industry for making brackets as support pieces of equipment, and I’ve used this as my roof rails. You can purchase a set of roof rails from Mercedes.
I think they’re about five or six hundred pounds just for two rails. It’s, a lot of money just for two bits of aluminium channel. So I’m gonna use this. I’m gonna bolt this down to the roof, using those fixing points where you would normally bolt the roof rails to anyway, I’m gonna make sure I put plenty of Sikaflex in there, so it’s.
All nice and waterproof, and then we’re, going to use these two rails to secure our solar panels too. You know I’m, just going to use some little angle brackets some bolts with channel nuts and literally just bolt all three down onto the roof, and that will do for the moment for these first couple of months, where we’re Touring around France and Spain, I’m, going to use in like see how I’ll get on, and then during that period I’m gonna get me pen and paper out and see if I can’t design something that’s gonna be a bit more suitable.
I’ve, been looking at those bed lifting systems. You know where you & # 39. Ve got like an ottoman type thing underneath your bed and the brackets have gas struts and they lift the whole bed up. I mean they can lift the fair bit away sort of maybe nineteen hundred kilos.
I mean my panels actually only weigh about ten kilos each, so we’re talking about thirty kilos total, so I haven’t got to lift anything like that, but something like that with a couple of gas struts. That may be the answer, so I’m.
Definitely gonna work a little bit more on this, because I do want to make the most of these solar panels, and I do want to engineer some way. I can elevate them towards the Sun because I know I’m gonna get probably thirty to forty percent more use out of them, but for now I’m, just going to bog them to the roof and then run the cables Down to the solar charge, controller [, Music ], how we’re, going to fix these solar panels to a roof.
I’ve got this aluminium angle, which I’m, going to fix to the channel on the roof and then with this little m8 nob that will go through the channel and then it will go into the solar panel and then what I’m.
Going to use. Is these aluminium roof nuts? I’ve drilled, a small hole. Now I’m, going to widen that out to suit these aluminium nuts, and then we’re going to put one of these in and then that teammate will knob or bolt into there.
It’s, always a nerve-wracking bit when you’re drilling a hole into a 150 pound solar panel. So I & # 39. Ve got the Rif nut laying on to the end of the roof nuts. All about this little wheel, nobs! Just nipped up nice and tight push this into the hole, and then we’ll, pull that up.
It act exactly the same as a rivet squeeze these two handles together that’s in there nice and tight. Now that’s, giving us an m8 thread in our solar panel, so now that knob just whined in there nicely.
So we’ve enlarged the hole on the solar panel to 11 millimeters that’s exactly the same size as this riff nut place. The riff nut on the tool open the handles right out wind that on until it’s on there, nice and snug so place the weave not inside the hole and insert it right up until it bottoms out and then close up.
The handles make sure that it’s, nipped up nice and tight. I said and then just back out the thread and there we go today. We’ve got a solar panel with the roof nuts in and then we’ve got an iminium angle, corresponding hole.
We’ll, go onto the side of our solar panel and then the wheel, nut, [, Music, ] and the wheel nut will just do up nice and tight. They’ll, hold that so dependent nice and secure just want to talk you through how we’re, going to bolt these solar panels to the roof.
I’ve, got this uni strut, slotted rail galvanized, steel, rail, which we’ve fixed into the gutters on the roof. With this slotted rail, you get these channel nuts, they & # 39. Ve got little teeth along here that when it & # 39, s tightened up, they’ll bite into this edge, and that will lock them in place and you can slide them along to wherever you need them.
Then wind. Your bolt in from above tighten it up and then that will lock it sandwich it on these rails. So we’ll drill, some holes in our aluminium angles. We’ll, put the channel nut underneath aluminium angle on top a nice FD square plate washer, and then we can bolt through the whole lot into the channel nut and then once that’s done up that’ll, be Really nice and secure, and then just to finish it off.
I put a plastic end cap in just to give it that nice neat finish. Look I & # 39. Ve got some of these self drilling roofing bolts, I’m gonna put them together with a large penny washer, and then we’re gonna drill through the roof of the van and fix this channel down.
I’ve, run some beads of Sikaflex underneath there, and I’m, actually gonna drill through those Sikaflex beads, and that will help to keep the screws waterproof. I said I should hold it nice and tight get a few of those.
In help me a plenty strong enough. I’m gonna want the cables from the solar panels to come in to the roof of the van in this rear quarter. So I & # 39. Ve got this cable entry here. What we’re gonna do is just gonna Sikaflex this to the roof of the van.
I’m gonna drill, a very small hole just for the cables to go through. We’ll, put a rubber grommet in that, and then we’ll, just clean off the van roof clean all this dirt off. We’ll, give it a wipe over with some primer and then all the Sikaflex that to the roof, and then, by the time the Sikaflex is cured, there’ll, be sufficient to hold a in place.
I’m, not going to put any additional screws in this all right, so we’ve cut the hole with the stock cutter. It’s left a little bit of a raw edge. So, with this little round file, I’m. Just gonna file these edges and then we’ll, come back and paint it with some hammerite before I paint this raw metal edge with the hammer.
I I’m. Just gonna wipe down this whole area with this sicker primer, and then this will make sure there is absolutely spotlessly clean. When we come to use the Sikaflex silicon, that’s. Gon na really have a good bond to the roof of the van.
A decent bead of Sikaflex around the bottom of the connector before I stuck it on the roof, I’ve, just pushed it down just so. There’s, an even squeeze out all the way around. I’m gonna completely leave that now, until it’s gone off before I start putting any wires through it, it’s, got the solar panels just laid out in the workshop here.
Each of these panels comes with about five meters of cable, but we don’t need all of that. So I & # 39. Ve got some spare connectors because these ones have been crimped on. So I’ll, be struggling to salvage these.
To be honest, I might as well just cut them off and use these other ones and then what we want to do. We’re gonna wire these in series. So I’m, going to connect the positive from this panel to the negative on this panel and then the positive on this panel.
So the negative on this panel and then I’m just going to take a single, positive and negative down to the vein. So all we need to do really is just shorten these cables. So we connect these panels together and then just have the new clips in between each set of panels.
The cables on the solar panel conveniently labeled up with a little plus and minus. So now we’ve shortened, positive one and put a male lead on it. The males tend to be positive and the females tend to be negative.
No pun intended and I’ve, just shortened the male, a positive and shorten the negative. So these two will get joined together and then we’ll, do the same more now short on this positive and short on the negative on the next panel, and I’ll.
Show you how to put these connectors on the first thing. You have to do is remove this gland and the little waterproof bit thread down onto the cable first, don’t forget to do this. I’ve done it in the past, get them on.
There first put this bit down and then we’ll put the crimp on here and in this part the larger one of these goes in the male fitting and the one that’s. A smaller pin goes in the female fitting. So just insert your cable and then what we do with the crimp tool.
We’ll, just crimp these two little tongs down here, crimp, that onto the cable and then we can insert it in there right. We’ve crimped that onto the end of the cable I’ve, also put a little bit of solder on there just to make sure I don’t want that to come off, and I want it to be a Good electrical connection: there’s, some little barbs around here.
You now just insert it into the fitting until you hear it, click all that is in there. Now that’s on there quite solid, and then you just need to put this little weatherproof gland back in the end of the fitting line up these little wavy lines here and then just tighten the gland nut and what that will do is that Will pull that waterproof seal in nice and tight and squash it around the cable so that no water can get in there? There is a tool for doing this, but can do it by hand if you & # 39.
Ve got a vice-like grip there you go and there’s, snug, nice and tight now, so that’s on there really nice and tight totally waterproof, so that’s, all the cables prepped for the solar panels. These two clips will get joined together and then again these two clips will get joined together and then at the end there we & # 39.
Ve got one positive and then I & # 39. Ve got a long lead here, which is the corresponding negative. We & # 39, ll start fixing them from that end and work our way through, and then that’d, be the last two that connects onto the box.
That goes downstairs into the lane and we’ve shortened. Those cables up nicely there’s. A big bundle of spare that we’ve got left over it’s, probably about 20 meters. A cable I’ve cut off there, so that & # 39.
Ll. Save us quite a bit of voltage drop all right. We’re gonna start at the cab end gonna fix that panel up first and then work our way back to the back of the van right. So on the front here I’ve got a piece of angle, so that will give a bit of protection to that front edge.
Obviously, that’s leading into the wind, so that’s. Gon na give a bit of strength to that front edge and just give us like a windbreak and then behind that I’ve just got these angle brackets and they’re all bolted to the Union strut.
So that’s, the first panel bolted up – you can see now those angle brackets bolted into the rib nuts in a solar panel. That long bracket in the front has given that front edge plenty of support, and then we & # 39.
Ve got the same brackets here and then I’m. Just gonna continue with the next solar panel coming back, one of the more interesting places to set up a soldiering station on the end. Emiru fear just got these last couple of connections to make on the cables that go down into the van.
We’re just putting these last couple of crimps on. I’m, not going to connect these together because, obviously in the daylight, these panels will be producing power. So i’m, going to leave these unplugged and then I’ll, put some bags on them just to Weber program just for a day and then once I’ve connected the cables.
The other end of this cable into the solar charge controller. Then I’ll plug these in so there we go guys system installed. I think 480 watts is going to be loads of solar power. I think that’s, going to give us plenty for what we needed for.
Obviously, I probably use a little bit more than most with the YouTube channel. I am going to be doing a lot of video editing and also a lot of time on the internet. Answering people’s, questions and uploading videos, etc.
So we will be using it quite heavily, which is why we put such a big system in if you’re just holidaying, and you just need it for maybe occasional light, laptop use, charging, mobile phones and so forth.
You probably don’t need anywhere near the setup that I’ve got here. I must say I’m, really pleased how well those solar panels fit on the roof, so those 36 cells are absolutely ideal to fit. The width of the van they only overhang, probably by about two inches either side and from the ground.
You can hardly see them at all. So I’m, really pleased how well that fits in there and the distance between the two roof fans front and back, which is perfect to get those free panels in so it couldn’t have worked out better.
I’m, definitely going to come up with a solution to elevate those panels and when we get back in the UK just before summer, just before my grandson’s due to be born, maybe I’ll have some time Then to engineer a solution for there, I hope you found some useful tips in that video for doing your own solar installation.
Please do share the videos on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Please do give the video a thumbs up, because that really helps boost the channel and thanks very much for watching guys Cheers