12v Portable Solar System Advice

Javelinadave

Adventurer
I want to build a portable 12v solar system and could use a little advice. I will be using the system to run some LED light strips, recharge an IPhone and Sat phone and run an ARB fridge. I'm looking at the following:
RENOGY 100w Monocrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel
VicTec Intelligent LCD 30A 12V 360W PWM Solar Panel Controller
Blue Sea fuse/distribution panel and blue sea USB and 12v outlets.
I plan on putting the electronics and the battery in a plastic battery box. I need help with the battery.
What size amp hour wise?
What type of battery? I do want something sealed.
 
Last edited:

AndrewP

Explorer
Never heard of VicTec. It sounds like more than you need. A 100 watt panel is 6 amps @ 12 volts at best. That's a good panel, pair it with a Morningstar 10 amp controller and call it good.

Regarding the battery, for sealed, look at a good AGM deep cycle A group 31 or 27 will be about the biggest you can practically fit in a pre-made box. 100 amp hour is about the minimum I would look at.
 

V85562A

New member
Just about to finish something like this but with 200watts worth of panels for cloudy/hot days.

105ah lifeline AGM in a DeWalt ds400 box with mppt charge controller inside, blue sea master, terminal fuse and 6 circuit, usb, 12v, voltmeter, power consumption (watts up clone), 1x 80mm case fan and 1x40mm fan on MPPT heatsink and 2k inverter fit in there.

Louvered 1" plastic vents on the way. Will post pics when done
 
Last edited:
B

BPD53

Guest
Renogy 100 watt panel + Morningstar controller = call it good!

I use this exact setup and it works great. On the cloudy days I still get enough to power my fridge. WV isn't known for great solar either.
 

LandCruiserPhil

Expedition Leader
I like to size 1 AH battery to every 1watts of solar

100 W panel = 100AH / group 31 battery

I have used this design formula on several setup on the west coast with great success

Picture 100W .12" thick 2.89lb panel with 110AH of battery and will provide you 29° beverages for ever without starting your vehicle:sombrero:
 

Attachments

Javelinadave

Adventurer
I like to size 1 AH battery to every 1watts of solar

100 W panel = 100AH / group 31 battery

I have used this design formula on several setup on the west coast with great success

Picture 100W .12" thick 2.89lb panel with 110AH of battery and will provide you 29° beverages for ever without starting your vehicle:sombrero:
Thanks Phil,
That's exactly what I am looking for!
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
Never heard of VicTec. It sounds like more than you need. A 100 watt panel is 6 amps @ 12 volts at best. That's a good panel, pair it with a Morningstar 10 amp controller and call it good.

Regarding the battery, for sealed, look at a good AGM deep cycle A group 31 or 27 will be about the biggest you can practically fit in a pre-made box. 100 amp hour is about the minimum I would look at.
Good advice.

I have the Renogy 100w folding suitcase and use it on two Walmart boat batteries ---- their label says 122AH each but they're closer to 100.
I run a fridge off that, LED lighting, charge my HAM radio/cel/laptop.
If you have enough sun, 5 or 6 amps can keep 200AH of battery nicely topped for a long time. My batteries have never gone below 12.5v.

 

228B

Observer
.
I like the Renogy stuff. I started with their 100W monocrystalline panel starter kit, but am now using only the panel. It's a good one. I'm using a different charge controller, but will stash the inexpensive PWM controller unit from the kit for use as an emergency spare.
.
The battery topic is a hot one. You'll get various opinions. You want sealed... I suggest a product with a good reputation; something like Lifeline AGM. Be sure you also learn how these like to be charged. It may be that some of the less-expensive charge controllers charging voltage set points are too low. We want 14.7 volts at the battery when charging with solar power with 14.4 being the absolute minimum charging voltage. If the wire size from the charge controller to the battery is too small, the battery will not see the necessary voltage, and then it will not fully charge. Mount the charge controller as close to the battery as possible and use at least 8AWG stranded copper wire, if not, go bigger. Fully-charging the battery is absolutely necessary not only for battery reliability but also to ensure enough power between sunset and sunrise because as a rule we don't want to discharge our batteries beyond 50% (a common recommendation of manufacturers and battery experts).
.
Sealed AGM batteries in my opinion are worth the extra cost. Because of where the battery is installed, I need a battery that does not outgas when charging. AGM batteries do not need added water because they're a "recombinant" technology; they make their own water when charging and this is one of the reasons we want to pay very close attention to the battery manufacturer's charging recommendations, so that we may enjoy the battery's long and trouble-free service life.
.
You mentioned you'd like to have the electronics and the battery in a box... remember the controller requires ventilation for cooling, and sealed AGM batteries do not require a vented container. Of course you may still install everything in one area, just be sure the controller has at least 6" space on five sides to guard against overheating.
.
Part of the portability issue is the PV panel connections to the vehicle or trailer. A good substitute for that particular interface is instead of the solar standard MC4 connector (which as far as I am aware is not offered in a bulkhead fitting/pass-through connector) to use a marine trolling motor 12V connector. These are water-resistant connections designed for low-volts but high amperage and seem to work well enough for our needs. Here's a pic or two of what I'm talking about:
.

.

.
The solar panel (PV) cable extension I made from 10AWG stranded copper landscape cable. It just fits within the strain-relief in the back of the marine connector plug.
.

.
.
This is my first post here. Thanks for having me. Some time soon I'll post a thread of my developing solar set up. Good luck!
.
.
:)
 

Rockhounder

Explorer
Make SURE, SURE, SURE, you use the absolutely fattest electrical wiring you can get away with. DC sucks power, the longer the wire run, as there is something about the electrons running through the wire resistance, and next to the return wires that causes them to lose amperage at many times the rate of AC wiring.

For example, I used the original thin 14 gauge (approx) wiring that my roof mounted solar panels came with(15 watt x 9 panels), and got about 7 amps under direct sunlight. Changed to 10 gauge, and the charge controller now goes up to about 10.5 amps under direct sun.

As to the design, to run a fridge, I have a 42 quart ARB clone type freezer (keep it at 12 degrees F) I run it off of two 6 volt marine/Rv deep cycle batteries. As long as every day has moderate sun, it keeps working indefinitely. In the winter months, with less sun, it doesn't need as much electricity, as the interior of the Suburban is really cold, so it is kind of like a win win. The worst thing to do is leave it running with all windows up in the summer.... then it can't shed the excess hear from the unit and it just gets all melty and warm (the frozen food)..... yes, learn from our mistakes :)

20140729_165754.jpg
 

cruxarche

Observer
One vote here for the Renogy 100 watt solar panel suitcase setup. It is my first panel, so I cannot compare it to anything. That said, it completely met my needs on my initial trip. I have a 93 FZJ80 Land Cruiser and run the starter battery only (Group27). Loads while parked consist of intermittent use of ham radio (50 watts), and an Engel MT-45. The Engel draws about 2.6 amps when the compressor is running.

I camped for three days. One was completely sunny, and two were hazy to clear. The voltage provided by the panel/controller varied significantly depending on the position of the sun/temperature, and level of clouds. Highest voltage I saw was 17V@ 1 amp. When totally sunny it hovered around 13.5 volts and 5 amps. Morning of the third day my starter battery voltage was 12.6V. Rig started right up. Beer was always 37 degrees!

IMG_4321.jpg
 

hour

Observer
105ah lifeline AGM in a DeWalt ds400 box with mppt charge controller inside, blue sea master, terminal fuse and 6 circuit, usb, 12v, voltmeter, power consumption (watts up clone), 1x 80mm case fan and 1x40mm fan on MPPT heatsink and 2k inverter fit in there.
Did something similar with speakers and 18ah battery. Has/HAD cig lighter ports, Lepai 2 channel mini amp, speakers, 120w inverter, voltmeter, and switches to turn on the voltmeter and the inverter. Music lasts all day and night even at rather loud volumes (little amp could do more than you'd think)... better than bluetooth little 'jambox' things that are the craze lately. Then of course the ability to charge phones, jump cars, and blow up air mattresses.

This is version one (coworker convinced me to buy 6.5" speakers, doh)







Unfortunately, a week after I built this little thing, I charged it inside using a black and decker wall charger. Somehow even with the amp off, it fried. That lead me to go with a car CD deck, because they're more tolerant of voltage fluctuations, and I was able to get integrated bluetooth. Previous version above had a USB->Headphone jack bluetooth adapter which had a nasty ground loop interference.

Bring on version 2, DS400 box like you mentioned, same battery/speakers/inverter, nice bluetooth head unit with rear channels that you can configure to be a real subwoofer out (70w max I think - called Pioneer's 'Direct Sub Drive'), and an 8" sub! Thing booms, still lasts all day and night, and is super handy to have. All of it is marine grade/waterproof/watertight minus the head unit, but I might add a little head unit face cover that boats use later. Had this camping for 3 days in cloudy/rainy/awful weather, 100w panel leaning against a fence and never re-oriented to match what little sun there was kept this thing right around floating voltage the whole time. Leaving it on the entire night at a decent volume yielded 12.4 volts in the morning, topped off via solar by mid morning. I often snag the satellite radio out of my 4runner and have a separate dc adapter and antenna for it, then plug that in to the boom box, and don't have to worry about draining phone batteries to play music. Oh yeah, there's a fuse panel inside with appropriate fuses for head unit, each cig adapter, and inverter. All of that wiring is 10 gauge, all connections had shrink tubing applied, and battery + to fuse panel and - to grounding block are 8 gauge

Version 2 in background on another camping trip, panel on roof rack of truck:



Testing version 2:



TL;DR the DS400 is a great choice for portable solar setup. It's extremely sturdy and the latches are great, top handle is sturdy, side handles are super sturdy. It does have a weight limit of 110lb, so keep that in mind for batteries... which you'll also want to center or counter balance inside so it's easier to carry.


 

V85562A

New member
Very nice execution Hour! Mines is pretty much stuffed to the gills but I did buy another one that latches on top to store plates/cups/one side and non perishable food on the other.

No exterior pictures of mine yet. But the inside is pretty much done. Missing 2 nuts for the inverter and velcro down the fuse block. Not visible are the 6 x 1" louvered vents and Anderson plug to parallel with starter battery/alternator


 

228B

Observer
.
Very well executed, sirs.
.
V85, I recognize the half-logo visible on that inverter, but being only mildly proficient with PV-to-battery and not much beyond that (save for a Blue Sea fuse panel 12V run to which my Engel is connected), I cannot place the manufacturer in whole. Who is it?
.
Too, what amp-hour rating is your Lifeline? Thanks in advance, and, again: very well done!
 

Forum statistics

Threads
179,187
Messages
2,793,057
Members
214,174
Latest member
Sprock
Top