Solar Power and Batteries

I’ve chosen to list a couple of great options for solar power. In addition to solar power I’ve listed a few good choices for sealed AGM deep cycle batteries. These batteries can be used in conjunction with a solar power system or they can be connected to your vans alternator with a relay solenoid which will charge them while driving.

In my own van I have a very small solar charger that maintains the starting battery during the day and then I have an auxiliary battery that charges from the engine. I use the auxiliary battery to run my thermo-electric cooler and a power inverter for charging laptops and other devices.

I will be including more information on this site that will explain the basic set up involved in these different systems.

Solar Power 

Unisolar 128 Watt Flexible Solar Panel PV Laminate – Simple & Easy Installation – Peel & Stick

This simple yet effective solar panel easily adheres to your vans roof for ultra simple installation. At 128 watts it is powerful enough to keep an auxiliary battery charged easily. I’m looking at this for my own van.
Sunforce 50048 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit

This is a full system in a box. Easy to install and easy to use. It comes with everything you need for 60 watts of clean, free solar power. Not a bad deal and it keeps it simple for those of us that are less mechanically inclined.
Instapark® NEW All Black 130W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel, 130 watt

A good quality 130 watt solar panel that should fulfill the electricity and charging needs of most people living in their van.
Instapark® NEW All Black 30W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel With a 12V solar charge controller

This small system is great for maintaining your starting battery as well as providing a trickle charge to your auxiliary battery during the daytime. Cheap and simple to set up.

Sunforce Digital Charge Controller

Every solar system needs a charge controller. Charge controllers protect your batteries from being overcharged and damaged. Charge controllers come in a variety of different ratings. You’ll need to find out how many Amps your solar panels require. If your not sure, check with the manufacturer and get their recommendation.

Solar Powered Roof Vents

An often under considered aspect of van living is how hot it can get inside your van in the summer.  Consider that if it is 80 degrees outside and your van is poorly insulated, you can expect it to be 10-20 degrees hotter inside.  That’s 90-100 degrees!!!  I don’t know about you but that’s not my idea of relaxing.  One way to mitigate this problem is by adding vents to the roof of your van.  While you can purchase vents that require hard wiring and battery power, they make great solar powered vents as well.  Solar powered roof vents make a lot of sense because when it’s hot the sun is out and the vent will thus have power.  A good ventilation system can make the difference between a comfortable day and an unbearably hot one.  The best part is that they’re easy to install and cheap to buy.

 

 

Batteries 

When shopping for batteries for your camper van, it is important to select the right kind.  If your batteries are going to be inside your van, you need to get a sealed AGM battery.  Sealed batteries are safe for inside installation because they do not put of any vapors or fumes.  Regular batteries emit hydrogen gas when they are charging.  Hydrogen gas is extremely flammable so without proper ventilation it can be very dangerous.

If you’re mounting your batteries outside or in the engine compartment it isn’t necessary to use a sealed battery. If this is an option it can save money because sealed batteries are generally more expensive.

You also want to make sure that you purchase a deep cycle battery.  Deep cycle batteries are able to be run down and recharged over and over again without loosing their ability to hold charge.  Conventional batteries, like those used to start your van, will quickly become useless after being run dead a few times.

Make sure that the batteries you choose have enough amp hours to support whatever you’re planning to run off of them.  I will post some basic equations on here that will help you determine your amp hour needs.

Exide MC-31 MEGACYCLE AGM-200 Sealed Maintenance Free (AGM) Marine Battery

Exide makes quality batteries. They have an excellent, no hassle warranty as well.

12V 35AH Group U1 Deep Cycle Sealed Battery – 4 Pack

This 4 pack of 35 amp hour batteries will give you 140 total amp hours. That’s a lot of juice! You can find single batteries that put out 140 amp hours or more as well. I have a 135 amp hour battery as my auxiliary set up and it works great.

Vmaxtanks Vmaxslr125 AGM Deep Cycle 12v 125ah Battery for Use with Pv Solar Panels

A battery like this, hooked up to a 100 watt solar panel should fill all of your electricity needs.

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