Extra down time = perfect opportunity to fit a solar panel up top.
Well I have to say that the lockdown here in Victoria, if nothing else, has provided a chance to spend more time perfecting certain aspects of my vehicle build.
I realise that the large battery system I’ve got in the back is putting a hefty strain on the alternator.
When the vehicle is running, the alternator is powering the 200 Series itself, as well as the battery system under the bonnet and now it’s also responsible for powering an additional rear battery system as well.
In the past I’ve written about my two completely separate auxiliary battery systems.
The under-bonnet system is a Century Dual Force AGM battery that is charged and maintained by a REDARC BCDC1225D, while in the back drawer system, I have two additional Century AGM batteries that are charged and maintained by a REDARC BCDC1240D.
When I type all of that out, it’s pretty obvious that it was only going to be a matter of time before I was going to fit up a solar panel.
The REDARC DCDC battery charger has the ability to choose to either take charge from the alternator (DCDC), or to take charge from the solar panel. They’re set up to if possible always leans towards taking charge from the greener solution.
As I see it, if the sun is out and the panel can pick up enough power, then taking the charge from the panel may ease the pressure on the alternator and, of course depending on the size and efficiency of the panel, it could also keep a battery charged enough while camped to keep up with the fridge that’s always running in the back of the 200 Series.
I have fitted up a REDARC 150W monocrystalline solar panel, which fits perfectly onto my Rhino-Rack roof platform with space to spare.
The panel fits nicely to the passenger front of the roof rack, where I have purposely left space down one side for a gazebo and at the back of the rack for either a swag or some firewood we may pick up along the way.
When we fitted the battery system to the rear drawers, we wired in a Projecta battery monitor, which has a shunt and allows us to see the amperage in and out at any point. This means that checking the amperage input from the solar panel is simple.
Unfortunately, in Melbourne it was winter when I fitted the solar panel, so I could see that at times it was only putting in 1.8Amps. However in perfect conditions REDARC show specs of up to 8.8Amps with the 150W solar panel, so I am keen to see what it can do on a clear summer’s day.
I might even have to shoot up to the Top End at some stage to really test it out. Perhaps I can tell my wife that is a research trip..?
Either way, I can tell you that the more I finish off on my 200 Series build, the happier I am when I look back and appreciate all the work.
The solar setup is a nice touch, which should ease the burden on the alternator on longer trips and should really pay dividends come summer time.