TOTAL GEEK ALERT! I mention brackets, adhesive and solar panels in this post!.
So it’s been 2 years since I purchased my paradise on wheels. What started as an empty cargo van has slowly but surely been transformed into a comfortable living space. After the bed, storage, kitchen set-up, insulation and shelving for a mobile studio, one of the best things I did was to install a solar panel on the top.
The initial warnings I received from other vansters and discussion threads had to do with putting extra holes in the roof of the van. !!!Above all else avoid leaks in The Beautiful Flying Machine!!!
I tossed, I turned, I drew plans, I agonized and played out fabrication scenarios in my mind. Then one day when I was in Colorado, I saw a family of 6 in a similar Transit Van with a luggage rack attached to the top.
I flagged the guy down and asked him, “How the heck did you get that rack up there? Did you drill new holes?
“No!” he shouted form across the parking lot. “There are pre-drilled holes on the roof of all Transit vans. You only have to pop out the plug and you can bolt right in to the hole.”
So I examined the plugs which are nothing more than a few little quarter=sized bumps along the edge of the roof. There were a couple that were oval as well. After further research, it turns out that the round holes are indeed meant for installing a roof rack and the oval holes are for inserting wires. BINGO!
I devised my plan, begged a few favors and began formulation and fabrication.
The Renogy 100 watt panel had been sitting in the carport for 4 months. It came with a controller to regulate the charge from the panel to the battery. Basically it cuts the connection from the panel when the battery is fully charged and has leads for DC power. Pretty handy, actually. The Renogy panel kit comes complete with wires, connectors, controller and mounting brackets.
I made my own mounting brackets, however, for the outer edge of the panel and I used 3 industrial strength magnets to attach the inner edge of the panel. (No new holes in the roof!) I was slightly skeptical at first but 3 cross-country journies later and several storms and high cross-winds have put that fear to rest. The panel holds perfectly.
I ran the cables through one of the little oval shaped holes near the back, ran the wiring to the battery, controller and to the lights. VOILA!
I have run full power for several consecutive non-sunny days with plenty of juice for lights, computer, charging, and fans.
For now, I have one battery but will most likely get another when I install a refrigeration system.