Renogy kit, includes:
- 2 Renogy 100-watt solar
- Renogy charge controller (MPPT)
- External meter for charge controller
- Wire cover for rooftop hole
Other stuff we added:
- Windy Nation AGM battery
- Atwood battery box
- Microsolar sine wave inverter
- 2 in-line fuses
- Butyl putty tape
- Self-leveling lap sealant
- Wire conduit
- Coat hanger
- Various screws and washers
After two entirely too short weeks in England, we flew to the US via Lisbon where we stopped to see my friend Esther and her boyfriend Stefano. Edd got to see the red-roofed town for the first time as we breathed in the Mediterranean weather, wine, coffee and crustaceans. Esther and Stefano took us around between working and it was really a treat to see them again.
My dad picked us up from the airport, as he usually does, and two days later he drove us to pick up our van from storage! Happy days!
Funnily enough, the weather in Michigan this February was similar to the balmy winter weather in Lisbon. So we immediately started on the biggest outside job: installing the solar panels.
We took off the AC unit and the big ol’ TV aerial last summer, so we had a little extra space on the roof to fit two 100-watt panels. They are made by a Californian company called Renogy. Edd had researched them last year and said they made some of the best.
We ordered a Windy Nation battery online, and as we waited for it to come, we started the most difficult part of the installation, the wiring.
The B-190 is actually pre-wired for solar panels. There is a little box on the roof which contains wires running to the fuse box inside three van. Unfortunately, being designed for 1993, the wires are too small for today’s more powerful panels. Boo. And apparently it’s very difficult to use the old wires to pull the new thick ones through.
However, since we had removed many of the van’s former luxuries (AC, TV aerial, microwave…) there were lots of holes in the van. That meant we had lots of little opportunities to tuck away the wiring.
We brought down the wires through the hole where the aerial once was.
Then, using the old-fashioned coat hanger and string method, we twisted, pushed and pulled the wire back up and towards the hole in the middle of the van where the AC once was (there’s now a fan which we removed temporarily ).
Then across to the other side of the van…
Then down through the cabinetry (this was the emotionally difficult part)…
Then down behind the paneling in the side of the van…
and finally under the bench seat, to meet the final resting place of the battery, charge controller and sine wave inverter.
We have a charge controller (the solar pros call it the MPPT) which controls the amount of power going into the battery. This was going to be installed under the seat next to the battery.
The charge controller needs to have a steady air flow. We thought it best to add some vents to the bench seat compartment. So we cut holes into the seat, and covered them with vent covers that we bought from an online marine shop.
I also cut a home in the paneling for the meter, just above the speaker.
We bought a battery box, a sturdy plastic box with a lid which is supposed to keep the battery in place. We put the battery inside it and Edd packed some foam around it so it wouldn’t slide around.
Edd connected the battery to both the charge controller and to the fuse box (the latter being under the other bench seat).
After that, we secured the sine wave inverter to the bottom of the compartment, and Edd connected that to the battery, too.
And then I attached the sine wave on/off switch next to the seat.
Below you can see the internal components all together!
The battery itself allows us to use 12v power (fans, lights, cell phone) while the addition of the sine wave inverter allows us to use the 120v plugs (laptop, toothbrush, food processor…).
And voila! The van is slowly getting reassembled. Before and after:
So that’s how we made our van boondock-ready. Edd researched a lot and wired everything together. I played project supervisor and improved my drilling and sawing skills 😉 and even used the circular saw!
We also discovered that the hair dryer in the van can run of the sine wave inverter! (Score!) I am loving our van more and more every day.