The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity around the Prairie Schooner! The Solar System is finally taking shape. Rock has addressed the ventilation issues with his installation of the reversible Fan-Tastic Fan… he will be posting his write-up and pictures in another post! The “shower” has been assembled, and we will post up the info on that soon. Outlets and lights have been installed, too!

Parts list is at the bottom for those of you who wish to skip the chit-chat and troubleshooting.

Spring Break also surprised us and we had a visit from my college-aged daughter for a number of days. My birthday came and went during her visit, and she just left on Thursday, so we are going back at it!

Solar System

After researching and analyzing all the parts and components for the solar solution for the Prairie Schooner, we had a pretty good handle on what we needed to do and how to do it. Mostly. Kinda.Sorta.

This is one of the MOST FUN projects on which I have worked in a long time… 😀

We had bought a pretty little sheet of paneling from Home Depot that was beautiful birch wood. And cut it to the 60″ that is the height of the back wall. (We are still debating what we are going to do with the remaining 30″ of beautiful birch paneling. Waste not; want not!)

Onto the saw horses the partial sheet went! And the assembly began. We tested out our preferences on where to place which items to keep them convenient and usable. Our layout might not be suitable for your situation, but it is what will work best for us. And that’s the beauty of DIY is that you can D it how Y like it!  😀

We figured out what was convenient heights (eye level for things we need to see without having to crawl around on the floor) for the DC Fuse Box, Charge Controller, and AC Inverter. We lined them up in a sorta-column while considering how hard it will be to bend the wires. Since we only have a 12′ span along the back of a Ford Transit Cargo Van 148, we are using 10 ga wire (as dictated in our previous discussion regarding wire gauge/amperage, in Solar System, Part 2a) for the runs and 4 ga wire for the heavy feeder lines.

Schematic Solar
This is what we ended up with for our Solar Solution.

There have been numerous delays! Waiting for parts and pieces and shipment from China and miscalculations on things… I will share not only the wonderfulness of things that I got right, but also the things I got wrong and why.

I had concern with the flimsy buss bar that I was finding at Home Depot. I posted a question in the Ford Transit USA Forum, to clarify where exactly (and which one) I needed. They promptly and efficiently clarified my need — even sharing their setup!

Amazon to the rescue! We secured two Blue Sea Systems Common BusBars (100A-250A) and one cover for the positive side. One of the delays was that we received an incorrect cover and had to return it.

We fiddled and futzed and cussed and finally got it all assembled… or so we thought.

Attempt #1,

This is the setup that the team of seasoned Van Campers With Solar found an error with: (Hint: The CC doesn’t feed the house lights.)

  • DC Distribution Fuse Box (85 amp max) – this will feed the
    Error! Error!
    There is an ERROR in this wiring. The Charge Controller does not feed the DC Distribution Fuse Box!
    lights and outlets throughout the van with 12v power.
  • Renogy Charge Controller – this will control the power from the solar panels to the batteries. Maintenance and charging.
  • SunForce 1000W Inverter – changes 12v to 120v to run common household type appliances.
  • Neg & Pos Buss Bars – distribution of ground and power from the batteries, themselves.
  • Shunt for a diagnostic monitor that shares lots of information.
  • Cardboard template of batteries – this portion is what will sit in front of the wall.

So we went back to the drawing board and worked with it a bit more…

We also discovered that we needed some more breakers to isolate the batteries and solar panels from the components for when we need to work on things. And that the distribution panel or fuse box for the lights and outlets needed wired directly to the buss bars. OK, we can do that!

Attempt #2

This has the breakers and correctly routed load wires for the Distribution panel installed.
This is what we ended up with on the second go-’round!

  • Distribution has a 40 amp breaker in-line.
  • Charge Controller has built-in fuses.
  • Inverter has built-in fuses.
  • Buss bars and shunt are in place with a 100 amp breaker below the positive feed, above the batteries.
  • Batteries are wired in parallel with cross-connected leads. (Battery 1 feeds the negative buss bar, and Battery 2 feeds the positive buss bar, with the pos-pos and neg-neg doubling the Amperage and leaving the Voltage at 12.)

We still have yet to set the solar on top of the van, but we have been having rainy days. The solar input positive will also have a 40 amp breaker to isolate the panels from the equipment when needed.

If you look closely at the DC Fuse Box (distribution panel), you can see that it has room for 6 circuits. We currently have five:  three individual circuits for the outlet sets (each contain two cigarette lighter type outlets and one dual USB ports), plus the fan, plus the three switched lights. We installed switches for the outlet sets because each of the USB inserts has a blue LED to indicate power. We do not want this “vampire draw” of current to nibble away at our judiciously policed power storage, so we can turn off the circuits completely to save energy!

We Have LIGHT!
Even without the solar panels installed on the top, we have tested out the system and  (drumroll, please)

IT WORKS!

I cannot quite put into words just how happy we are that all this research, calculating, planning, purchasing, installing, and all the accompanying blood, sweat, tears, and anxiety… has been a success!

Grocery List, with links and prices

Plus the three outlets that were discussed in Solar System, Part 2a!

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We would love to hear from you – drop us a comment below.

Tali

JUsT Us

2 thoughts on “Solar System, Part 2b”

  1. It looks to be coming along great! I know you are pleased that it is working well. Question. I am not that good on solar equipment and such, but are your batteries going to be boxed and maybe vented outside some way for any gases generated in charging? Or is that needed on your setup.
    I think your wiring and installation looks really neat and clean. Looking forward to following you on this.

    1. We are still considering/reconsidering a battery box… but the SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries have very limited/negligible off-gas from what I have read and heard. Being a ‘fraidy cat, I am hoping that we decide to do a box of some sort with an exhaust fan (think little PC fan vented outside). We usually err on the side of caution, so I bet Rock invents something to resolve my fears. <3 He is so good to me!

      Thanks for following along with us... and many thanks for the comment!

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