Solar Van

Solarizing this van was our first actual project as the Holobiont Lab, a basic and enjoyable kick off effort. The live in van had just been bought off some hippies and was to be solarized before its new owners fled south for the winter. Previously generator powered, it had already been wired for DC and AC appliances. So we were to build the basic power generation and storage aspect for the living aspect of the van (ie: the van itself still runs on gasoline).

After a bit of a back and forth on parts, F, the van owner opted for a Renogy 200W RV kit and a Weize 100Ah LifePo4 battery. We designed the system to make it simple to upgrade. The charge controller handles 40A, so upgrading batteries (by adding some more in parallel) or upgrading to panels with more wattage should be as straight forward as dropping them in the existing system.

The initial plan looked like this:

A sketch showing the components and wiring.

We later added a big 100A fuse in there to protect the battery.

The initial work here consisted of much more rough set up than expected. We needed to build a little shelf for the inverter, and ended up wasting a bit of time on the right setup. In the end we built a mount attaching to the ceiling of the compartment using some metal from a recycled bed.

Emily glueing down the cable entry gland.

We ran PV cable through the roof and were lucky to find some good wire runs along the side of the van to our battery compartment. Mounting the panels was complicated by the fact that the mounts don't allow space to connect panels to them once they're mounted to the roof. Once we knew that, the process was simple. We attached the mounts to the panels and then screwed those straight to the roof with some RV roof grade caulking/adhesive to make the penetrations watertight.

Next was the process of wiring the charge controller, fuses and inverter. And fastening it all down. Nothing big to report here, except I was enjoying some tool upgrades on the crimping front. Good crimpers are such a pleasure.

The van was done. The van came back a week later to get a plug to connect to the generator strapped to the back of the van and then they were off for sunnier skies down south. A fun first project carried out in unreasonable cold weather.

Halfway through wiring it up
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