Solar on a Van!

This lovely outdoorsy family had purchased a Sprinter van and was retrofitting it as a campervan.

They knew they wanted a solar-powered heater for those cold mountain nights, a solar-powered fridge for cold post-hike beverages, and solar-powered outlets to charge devices after snapping a bajillion photo memories of their children – but how much solar, and how to put it all together safely and effectively?!?

Questions that are right up Sungineer Dave’s alley! (Especially since he’s done a bit of #vanlife in his day!)

sungineer dave before he was sungineer dave, new zealand, 2010 #babyfaces

For this project, space to performance ratio was paramount. The family needed to preserve as much interior space as possible, while still ensuring they had enough power generation and storage capacity to support their off-grid adventures.

Sungineer Dave worked with the family to identify the best products to meet their needs. They selected a single LG Neon R 395 watt panel to maximize power and minimize roof footprint. Two lithium battery provide 200 Ah of energy storage for only 70 total pounds of weight. Dave also recommended a load center to safely tie the system together, providing ground-fault protection for the module, overcurrent protection, and the ability to selectively isolate components of the PV system if needed/desired.

a different type of roof mount from what we usually do!

The family planned to use mostly DC appliances and devices, but they also needed to charge cell phones and laptops with AC. So how does the system work? The solar module on the roof feeds power through a charge controller to charge the battery bank. DC loads, like the heater and fridge, run directly off the batteries. AC loads are powered from the batteries via the inverter.

van interior PV system components. clockwise from bottom left: 2 lithium batteries, inverter, load center, DC fuse panel, charge controller

We had a blast working through this project with the van owners and appreciate their engagement and excitement. We wish them so very many happy trails in their future adventures!