#140494  by Jennius
 Mon May 14, 2018 3:39 pm
I am seeking advice on upgrading, or more correctly replacing, the existing solar setup. We recently purchased a 2009 Ford Transit KEA Freedom (ex rental). Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain a wiring diagram. Currently has two unisolar flexible panels on the roof (as per photo one) these are 32 watts each and appear to be directly wired to the dual sensing VSR (via a fuse), as per photo two. So no existing solar controller. The box to the right I think is a 12v smart charger set to provide 13.8v output, I assume this operates when plugged into the mains (sticker on unit to faded to read :geek: ).
one - exsiting panels.jpg
two - VSR.jpg
three- house batteries.jpg
My thoughts to date are:
1. Replace solar on roof with two 150/160 watt solar panels each wired to own 10-15amp MPPT solar controller. Remove existing solar cables, replace with thicker cables as appropriate and bypass VSR. Will mount controllers behind passenger seat – above battery compartment.
2. Install battery monitor with 500amp shunt
3. Replace the two existing 12v “house batteries” with two 6v deep cycle AGM batteries in series.
4. Add fuses, isolating switches, etc. as necessary.
Batteries: Existing so called house batteries are a joke. Probably come standard on rentals where they expect travellers to drive and camp overnight plugged into the mains? They are two 12v Century DIN65ZLMF wired in parallel (as per photo three), my guesstimate is they would have originally provided about a combined 100Ahr. They reside under the passenger’s seat. They are also 7 years old. Interesting enough, after disconnecting from the mains, I ran the fridge for 48 hours, played a DVD for 3 hours and left couple lights on for 4 hours that night. The installed analogue battery gauge dropped from about 13v (7pm) down to 12.6v at 7:00 AM next morning. During next day solar recharged up to 13.6v by 2:00pm, by 9:00 pm was sitting at 12.3v. (yeah I know pretty inaccurate test ;) )
Note, there is plenty of room and height for taller 6v batteries; I will replace existing plastic cover with home built cover for taller batteries.
Should I fix the shunt to the negative black battery wire – battery terminal side, back left, and apply solar controller negative, etc. to other side.
Solar panel fixing: There is plenty of real estate on the roof for the new panels. I was told that if I wanted too, I could leave existing panels and install new on top. However, not sure how I should fix to roof. What are you thoughts concerning the solar panel roof fixing kits? I was thinking of making some plates using aluminium angle. I assume I can stick to roof by using a waterproof industrial bonding agent. Would it be ok to stick brackets to existing solar panels – or should I just remove them? Would the few mm provided by the brackets provide a large enough gap under panels to dissipate heat?
Battery Monitor: Have been looking at Trimetric 2030RV ($235 at AASolar including 500amp shunt). How do the cheaper Voltronic compare? Also an Aussie friend swears by the Mkove MK70 – he has been using his for 5+ years. I am happy to spend the money for piece of mind.
Note, we are looking to camp off-grid as much as possible (limited by water storage). Camper current has 12v Vitrifrigo 90l fridge (Power 42watt), water pump, toilet fan, 12v telsat TV, radio/DVD player, 2 halogen reading lights (will replace with LEDs), 3 small fluorescent lights and external awning lights (again will replace with LEDs). Will be charging phones, iPads and camera batteries via 12v. Don’t plan to run an inverter at this stage. I have a macpro laptop, I don’t think such a thing as 12v charger exists for these, but will leave at home as like to get away from such things when camping :roll: . There is also a microwave and air-conditioning unit; both of which we will never use. In fact, I will probably remove air-conditioning unit as it takes up considerable storage room.

Thanks for your thoughts and advice.

Cheers Wayne and Pauline
 #140505  by Neddy
 Mon May 14, 2018 7:44 pm
Currently has two 32 watt solar panels which appear to be directly wired to the VSR . So no existing solar controller.
Are you sure about this? Kea usually (always?) install a PWM solar controller, commonly mounting this on the van sidewall quite close to the batteries.

The box to the right I think is a 12v smart charger set to provide 13.8v output.
This sounds like a Mains "12 volt" power supply that doubles as a Float charger. An effective charging voltage would be nearly a volt higher than this.

1. Bypass VSR.
The VSR enables the vehicle electrics to (automatically) charge the House batteries. Take care that you do not disable it.

2. Install battery monitor with 500amp shunt
That is a very big shunt. What do you see as the maximum House battery current you stand to draw? From the relatively modest list of devices you are running, it would appear to me that a 100 Amp shunt would be all you need.

3. Replace the two existing 12v “house batteries” (about 7 yeas old) with two 6v deep cycle AGM batteries in series.
It would seem that they still have a bit of life left in them, though. Maybe you could consider leaving them for now, replacing/upgrading a bit later when you have more specific information from a Battery Monitor.

Battery Monitor: Have been looking at Trimetric 2030RV ($235 at AASolar including 500amp shunt).
They are a very good battery monitor (maybe the best) that offers a lot of "background information".
I don't think you need such a big shunt, though.

How do the cheaper Voltronic compare?
Very well indeed. They are simpler to use, easier to set up and have a clearer display. Their one big disadvantage is that their Amp readings are VERY heavily damped (to prevent the displayed figures from jumping around). Incredibly, it takes maybe 10 seconds or so for current readings to creep up or down to their correct level. This makes it totally impossible to measure transient peak loads such as might be incurred when engine starting etc.

An Aussie friend swears by the Mkove MK70 – he has been using his for 5+ years. I am happy to spend the money for piece of mind.
I am unfamiliar with that model but they look to be a really good monitor. The ability to show 4 parameters simultaneously is very useful and a big bonus. For all that, all things considered, I would probably advise you to get a Votronic monitor. Better the devil you know, sort of thing.

Should I fix the shunt to the negative black battery wire – battery terminal side, back left, and apply solar controller negative, etc. to other side.
One side of the shunt connects directly to the battery Negative terminal. Everything else connects to the other end of the shunt. You will get full instructions with the Monitor.

It seems a shame to cover or remove the existing solar panels, but I guess you need to do so to fit the total solar capacity that you want. I presume you have looked at (and rejected) the possibility of adding more (smaller) panels elsewhere on the roof.

 #140507  by Nut17
 Mon May 14, 2018 8:08 pm
Neddy, just a comment on your criticism of the Votronic monitor. Both the monitor fitted to our previous van and our current van respond almost instantly to any change in load or charge current. I regularly use this monitor to check the load when different devices are switched on or off. More like 1 - 2 seconds max.
 #140511  by Jennius
 Mon May 14, 2018 10:04 pm
Hi Neville
Thanks for your reply. If there is a PWM solar controller it is very well hidden.
I was originally thinking of leaving all as is and using a portable solar arrangement. But not sure where I would store panel even if folded. Theres not too much room on roof for extra panels, only on either side of the existing ones. In front is a vent and satellite dish. About 35 cm from existing panel to curved edge of roof and about 2.7 metres long. Could look into some tilting option. Are you able to recommend smaller panel arrangement that maybe suitable.
Would you recommend a 100 or 200ma shunt with voltranic?

Regards Wayne
 #140553  by rawill
 Tue May 15, 2018 8:19 am
It does seem a pity to remove your existing panels, but if that is the only option I guess that is the way it is.
Can you get a panel on the cab?
We need more photos!

I would suggest asking Kea where they put the controller, surely it has to be there somewhere, even if well hidden. However if you have small panels it probably will not have the capacity you need anyway, and you will be replacing it.

Lots of choice these days, but on controllers I think bigger is better re amp capacity, you just never know when you will add more.

But the other opinion which Neddy is really keen on is more than one controller, ideally one controller per panel, and it does make some sense re creating a "failsafe system".
 #140555  by Jennius
 Tue May 15, 2018 8:45 am
Unfortunately there's not much space on roof. Cab area taken up by satellite dish. I have looked at portable folded kits but are dubious of some of the specifications claimed on some models given the number of solar cells they hold and so called MPPT solar controller. If I went down that path I would buy a better MPPT Controller and place it closer to batteries. What open circuit range should I look for, is 18v enough?
I have got in touch with rvsupercentre regarding a wiring diagram, but have not heard anything from them.
Cheers Wayne
 #140560  by myles
 Tue May 15, 2018 10:02 am
Just some comments that might be of some value regarding a portable solar array:
  • First you need to work out where you can store them - this will determine what size you can have.
  • Flexible panels are not necessarily the right choice - I wouldn't buy a PET covered flexible panel - do some research and you'll find they scratch very easily and are prone to delaminating within quite a short period of time - ETFE covered flexible panels are the only choice I would consider, however they are still at a very premium price and it may be too early to say they will last long term.
  • Non-flexible, glass panels are by far the better choice, however they are heavy compared to flexible panels and significantly more bulky - this is my choice and what I've gone with - 6x50W panels each 630mm x 550mm x 30mm at a little over 4kg each.
  • Buying multiple smaller panels is more expensive than bigger panels.
  • When setting up the array, flexible panels can be problematic due to them being flexible, non-flexible panels have a rigid structure so are much easier to setup - 3M dual lock fastener (supercharged velcro) is an awesome product for 'sticking' panels together for a portable array - no hinges etc required.
  • Ensure you consider wiring in the cost - good cable with Anderson Connectors is not cheap and if you use multiple smaller panels due to storage constraints you'll need to consider the MC4 connector requirements to connect the panels in parallel (or series).
  • Significant advantage with portable array is that you can place it in the sun and park in the shade, you can do some manual tracking to improve solar input, you can more than double you solar input (particularly in winter) by angling the panels rather than having panels flat on the roof.
  • Although many suggest that multiple controllers don't cause any problems - this is not always true - controllers not linked can cause some overcharging as one will no doubt start earlier than the other and are often time based, so charge for an extended period of time particularly if one is shaded in the morning - some controllers will go into float early due to the voltage reached by other charges, effectively stopping charge from those panels when batteries are not yet fully charged
  • You have to be prepared to set them up - it does take some time - we have 180W on the roof that, during summer is enough for us, so we only need to set up our panels in winter when we are not on the move (charging from the vehicle on the move)
 #140561  by davcar
 Tue May 15, 2018 10:15 am
Brother in law had a 2006 ex Kea 6 berth and we found the small solar controller behind the six switch panel for lights/fridge/entertainment etc.
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