ALL ABOUT SOLAR
Firstly, if you are only planning on camping in caravan parks and paying for a powered site you will not need solar power for your trip. (if you have access to 240 volt to plug into you do not need solar power).
If you love National Park and free camping (like us) you can stand with your van parked for between 1 and 3 days without using solar power or starting your van (and with no access to 240 volt power). The factors that will decide how long you can stand are as follows:
– The outside temperature: the hotter it is, the harder the fridge has to work and the shorter the time frame you will be able to run your fridge and lights without a connection to power or solar.
– How full your fridge is, how it is stacked and how often you open it: if your fridge is full it will stay cooler longer.
– How often you charge your appliances ie laptop and phone: charging these items sucks a lot of juice and will quickly run down your leisure battery.
When using solar it must obviously be placed in the sun. How quickly it will recharge your leisure battery will depend on the weather (how sunny it is) and how flat your battery is. If you wake up in the morning and your leisure battery is completely flat we’d recommend idling your van for 20-30 minutes to get the battery up to a good charge. You can then plug in your solar and let it do the rest.
I think I need solar, which one should I get?
The 180 watt slimline solar panel fitted permanently to the pop top roof is super handy as it will recharge your battery while you are parked in the sun or going on short trips to explore an area (lots of driving and parking in different spots).
– If you plan on doing trips where you drive short distances to one spot where you’ll stay a while and are wanting to park in the shade then maybe solar on the roof isn’t right for you.
– If you are a surfer and will be carrying your boards on roof racks this will mean your solar will be covered. You can always take the boards down and put them somewhere else (ie underneath the van).
– If you want to park in the shade and keep the van cool the solar on the roof won’t work.
The 150 watt solar blanket is great as it is portable so you can always place it in the sun if you want to park in the shade and keep your van cool.
– You have to get it out, lay it out and plug it in (not a lot of time but still another job to do as opposed to doing nothing if the solar is on the roof).
– You might be worried about someone stealing it (although we’ve never heard of this happening).
– You have to make sure you move it often as the sun changes so that it stays in sunlight.
Do I need that Battery Management System thing?
No. You don’t NEED it. But if you are planning on doing mainly free camping/national park camping without 240 volt power then this system gives you piece of mind as it tells you exactly how much power you have left in hours if you continue doing exactly what you are doing at that point in time. So if you are running a fridge and have a laptop plugged in it might for example say 4 hours. But then you plug in your solar blanket and it recalculates to 8 hours. Then your laptop battery is full and you unplug the charger and the system recalculates to 12 hours.
There are also other more simple options such as volt readers that you can plug into a 12 volt outlet and will tell you how many volts are left in your leisure battery.
For more information on the leisure battery and 240 volt in your van see the following blog: