A few gallons of hot water for a shower or just to clean up. It’s solar, so no electricity needed and you can pressurize it too.
The tube-like structure is attached to a roof rack and features a short hose with sprayer. The sun heats the water inside during the day. From roadshower.com
THERE ARE MANY REASONS TO HAVE A CONVERSION VAN. MOST FOLKS WILL USE IT FOR AFFORDABLE TRAVEL, AND SOME DOING THE MORE EXTREME BOONDOCKING AND EVEN LESS LIVING IN IT PERMANENTLY.
Some use it as their mobile office, while traveling around the country, others have made it part of the Tiny House Movement.
For me it is all about mobility and extended stays, while preserving functionality and comfort.
Generators have been a source of irritation for many RV’rs for a long time, but their time has come, unless you have an air-conditioner to run. Solar panels have come a long way and even the smaller RVs can support multiple panels with ease. Especially the new high efficiency flexible solar panels that can be fit and hidden on top of the roofs of most cargo vans.
New approaches for small RV’s.
After I introduced Semi Flexible Solar Panels in my previous post, questions remain about the performance of these new semi flexible modules.
|SOLAR PANEL TYPES|
|Amorphous Thin Film||Semi Flexible|
|average cost per watt 1||$ 0.80-2.00||$ 1.50||$ 2.00-7.00|
|low light performance||average||good||good 2|
|high heat performance||average||good||good 2|
|efficiency||15 watt/sf||5.5 watt/sf||15 watt/sf|
|weight||40 oz/sf||11 oz/sf||7.5 oz/sf|
|warranty||20-25 yrs||20 yrs||10 yrs 3|
2 Several unconfirmed user tests indicate low light and high heat performance are less than rigid panels.
3 Misuse of the limited flexibility is often given as a reason for the shorter warranty period. Product life maybe similar to rigid panels.
As a general indication, prices for these panels are double that of regular rigid modules. For that, you’ll get a substantial weight reduction and a more aesthetically pleasing finish and maybe even some improved fuel mileage.
High heat performance is probably the biggest drawback, where some users indicate a considerable performance drop during the hottest part of the day. Under low light circumstances, they seem to under perform too, however no significant amount of energy is produced those times of the day anyway.
New approaches for small RV’s.
THIS DECADE HAS SEEN MANY ADVANCES IN SOLAR PANEL RESEARCH, WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF A WIDE ARRAY OF NEW MATERIALS, WHICH IS CHANGING RV LIFE.
Less important to the big rigs, that have large, flat roofs to support a large numbers of panels, the smaller Class B RV’s and Cargo Van Conversions tend to have preciously little room for sufficient solar power generating equipment. And those with curved roofs (p.e. converted vans or Airstreams) are even less fortunate. Another concern for smaller vehicles is overall weight, as their restricted payloads limit installation of an extensive photovoltaic system.
Most often the rigid residential solar modules have been adapted for use by RV’s, but flexible panels started to make inroads a few years ago. These low-efficiency panels offered no solution for the Class B traveler, as they came in clumsy sizes and needed more, lacking, roof space.
Recently a fan was installed to cool the solar components, like controller, battery charger, etc. As it is not necessary to run the fan continuously, a switch can regulate its use.
Radio Shack sells this 12V switch with a ground (+), a power (-) and a accessory spade.
Right now there is a wire running to the batteries, a 12V socket, the fan and the switch that have to be interconnected.
First the red (-) fan wire gets a connector.
After adding all the required plugs to the different wires, we move from the workshop to the van to make the final connections.
The van is internally a 12V system fed by solar panels, with some 110V outlets powered by an inverter. Only the battery charger needs access to an exterior power source. For this, a 15A power inlet is installed next to the rear door, on the passenger side of the van.
The area directly below the brake light is ideal, weren’t it for the fact that inside, that space is occupied by one of the rear speakers. The best location will be left of the bottom of the brake light.
The instructions for the inlet indicated a 1-7/8” opening which required me to buy a new bi-metal holesaw. With all the tools at hand, I could start by marking the exact location of the hole.
With a starting point established, the holesaw went through the metal like butter.
A few minutes with a file, followed by my trusted sandpaper create a perfect finish.
Now the exterior fitting.
Since everything is a perfect fit, it’s time to put everything together.
While the paint dries, I pull out the battery charger wire and prepare the components of the socket.
The wire is guided through the hole to the outside. I almost forgot a piece of heat shrink, but that is added before attaching the socket to the wire. The power inlet has a blank, black and green wire opening, as well as a silver, black and green connection screw, which makes it a foolproof installation.
The heat shrink is slid in place and heated for a perfect fit.
The finished 110V power inlet.
The compartment under the bed that will hold the charger, controller, inverter, etc. is a small enclosure and needs some form of cooling. I choose a 5” computer fan with thermal control, that automatically adjusts its speed as the temperature rises. Other considerations were low noise level (<18dB), high airflow volume (up to 42cfm) and low current (<0.2A).
Installation will be as high as possible, because that’s where the hot air is. I make a simple paper pattern of the opening of the fan and glue it with some spray adhesive, on the outside of the compartment.
With a Dremel tool, a rough opening is created and later sanded smooth. At the same time the screw holes are predrilled.
Now we need an outside cover.
A solid, but thin piece of cherry will function as the base for the fan cover. A small piece of window screening material is applied to both sides of the cover and fastened with a few staples. Two screws hold it in place.
The toilet is still visible under the pull-out shelf; next to it are the 12V power socket and the new fan with cover. At the end of the bed, at the rear doors, is an entry light and a 110V outlet. The flooring is Trafficmaster Allure Ultra.
Having batteries, doesn’t automatically mean access to 12V. Thus, two access points are planned in the van. One 12V socket is located at the solar components (controller, charger, inverter, etc.) compartment, under the bed. It’s immediately next to the pull-out shelf and serves to power my laptop.
12V Power Socket
It’s a standard 12V power socket, that includes a faceplate and wires.
First a hole, the size of the socket, is drilled with a Forstner bit in the ¼” plywood. The hole sits at the top, right under the bed overhang and is largely out-of-sight.
The 12V socket is held in place by the round rear cover, which is screwed onto the main body. The thickness of the plywood prevented that, so I shortened the cover by removing a short length with a metal saw.
I recently pulled the 12V wire from the battery compartment, but for now, I hold off connecting it to the socket, as I also plan to install a 12V fan at the same location and connect it to the same 12V wire. The fan should supply some needed cooling to the solar components.
Another post on wiring of the van. Two heavier wire gauges will support the appliances to be installed on the driver’s side.
Most of the wiring has now been done on the passenger side, except for the #4. The focus is now on the appliances that will be featured in the row of cabinets on the driver’s side of the van.
For a while now, I decided to go with a small electric pump to power the faucet in the kitchen sink and the 12V NovaKool R4500 fridge for my supplies. As an option I would like to add a Propex propane heater for those cool nights. I will take a small risk by calculating the wire sizes based on these appliances, as I might go with different brands or better options. In addition, another 12V outlet will be fitted in the kitchen area.
As the fridge is the largest, continuous electrical consumer, a proprietary cable is chosen consisting of two individual 8 AWG wires, as recommended for distances up to 32ft (the actual length is approx. 25′).
The remaining pump, heater (1.4A continuous running), 12V outlet and some lights are to be connected to a separate 12/2 AWG run of wire.
All the wires are labeled; they’ll be tied in place at a later time.
Only the #4 welding wire remains to be done; that is used between the batteries and the solar components, like controller, charger and inverter.