Thursday, July 28, 2011

Upgraded Solar System

Time for an upgrade:
The first 36 watt system was an experiment for the mounting hardware and charging components. Now it was time to get serious. 36 watts barely kept up with our usage and the charger never caught up. I moved up to two 50 watt panels.

The mount for the vertical post remains unchanged.  The clamps are machined filter brackets found on EBAY for race cars.  They are exceptionally strong. The two thumb screws are tightened if the wind is blowing.  This setup has been exposed to gail force winds.

 The next few slides show how the parts are assembled.

The pieces are stored in my front storage compartment. Frame and vertical post on the left.


The frames on the panels serve for most of the support.  I was able to get rid of two pieces of angle stock from the last build.  Commercial panels like these have holes pre-punched that accept a standard 10-32 blind nut.  I use 10-32 stainless thumb screws to hold everything together. Assembly time is about 5 minutes



As with the other setup, I can rotate and change the angle of the panels.

I had a light weight PA stand that allows me to move my setup into the sun when the camper is parked in the trees.  I have a separate 50 foot cord that gives me plenty of movement.  The 50 feet has .5 ohms of total resistance.  I have plenty of overhead to deal with the loss.

I once again used 30 amp connectors used in Radio Controlled power systems. The wire is Low voltage two conductor 12 gage direct burial used for outdoor low voltage lighting.
I added a new Morningstar 10 amp charge controller and a Watt's Up power monitor.  The monitor displays energy (Wh), charge (Ah), power (W), current (A) and voltage (V)
The last item is a small 350 watt inverter for those times when I absolutely need AC power.
I have small parts and accessories in a tool bag.

I kept the old charge controller from my last install for a spare.  On occasion, I have a neighbor with a dead camper battery.  With the 50 foot extension the controller and the alligator adaptor I can use my panels to charge their battery without moving my panels.

 50 foot extension.

Small parts bag with extra blind nuts, thumb screws and couplers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adding Solar

These next few photos are my first attempt at adding solar to my Aliner Popup camper.  Most of our camping was done dry with no hookups.  Most of our requirements were met with Propane on three other popup campers.  Check out my Gas Manifold post for more information on that topic.  With the addition of the Aliner, more power was required. Besides Lighting, we have added a water pump, a roof vent fan and a forced air furnace.  Our previous campers only needed power for lights and the car battery sufficed for that need.

 I first started with two 18 watt panels made by ICP and sold under the Coleman name.  I spent many hours browsing other campers methods of mounting solar panels.  Some opt for permanent mounting on the roof, others keep them portable.  With the Aliner, the steep pitch of the roof lends itself well for aiming toward the sun rather than flat mounting.  The problem with this plan is the Aliner needs to be in the sun and aimed in the general direction of the sun.  I liked the portable plan so you could keep them in the sun and easily adjust as the sun moves.
I finally sat in a chair and pondered the options when I came to realize unlike pop-ups that have an overhanging bunk over the tongue, the Aliner does not.  This sturdy frame of steel is perfect mounting spot for an array.

I spent some tome trying to figure out how to mount the vertical post to the crank post.  I thought about welding and using pipe clamps.  A friend that races IMCA modified cars suggested this elegant solution.  They are three aluminum Fuel filter clamps found on racing supply websites and on EBAY.