Trooper solar panel

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Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:42 pm

I've searched the forum and there don't seem to be any past posts describing actual solutions so, the question:

Has anyone actually fitted a full-sized solar panel to their Trooper's roof?

I'm not so interested in the theory of how it might be done - I've already fitted one myself to the Celex so I've a good idea of what could be done - but what I was interested in hearing was how people had actually laid out the wiring, and where they have put the control panel - plus of course the old question of whether to use a rigid or flexible panel.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:52 am

No Troopers with solar? I'm a bit surprised.

Never actually seen one with a panel fitted, but that in itself isn't surprising as it's not common to see the top of a Trooper's roof from the ground!
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Jaytee on Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:50 pm

Can't help with the Trooper bit but the flexi panel technology seems to be progressing quite quickly and is imho a better option.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:37 pm

The flexi panel on the Celex has now been on over two years and (touch wood) it's still going well. I checked while i was parked up in the sun earlier today in Brighton and it was putting out 1 amp, which isn't bad considering the roof was down and the sun is very low still.

I suspect that a lot of Trooper owners keep it simple and have few power-hungry gadgets on board. I was forced into fitting one on the Celex as it has a compressor fridge which won't run on gas and takes a lot of power in warm weather. Obviously a Trooper owner won't have that problem, as they all have a three-way fridge.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:24 am

Update: we did eventually fit a 150W flexible panel (bought from Bimble Solar near Brighton), and replaced the standard-fit split charge relay with a VSR so that the solar panel can charge both leisure and vehicle batteries.

The issue of removing the panel if it fails was (we hope) solved by first sticking a "patch" of automotive clear vinyl onto the roof a little bigger than the panel, and then sticking the panel on to the vinyl - the theory being that the vinyl can be peeled off the roof relatively easy, while the Sikaflex-like adhesive can't. Hopefully we will never need to find out...

Cable routing on the folding pop-top roof was not particularly difficult, though getting the VW original B-pillar trim panels off a T5 and back on again was not as easy as we had hoped.

Total budget for the panel, controller, cabling, fuse holder, clip-on battery terminals and misc bits was around £260, or around £290 including the split charge -> VSR upgrade, which also allows both batteries to charge when on EHU. Time spent was around 3 working days - but that included a lot of "thinking time".
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:57 pm

-mojo- wrote:Update: we did eventually fit a 150W flexible panel (bought from Bimble Solar near Brighton), and replaced the standard-fit split charge relay with a VSR so that the solar panel can charge both leisure and vehicle batteries.

The issue of removing the panel if it fails was (we hope) solved by first sticking a "patch" of automotive clear vinyl onto the roof a little bigger than the panel, and then sticking the panel on to the vinyl - the theory being that the vinyl can be peeled off the roof relatively easy, while the Sikaflex-like adhesive can't. Hopefully we will never need to find out...

Cable routing on the folding pop-top roof was not particularly difficult, though getting the VW original B-pillar trim panels off a T5 and back on again was not as easy as we had hoped.

Total budget for the panel, controller, cabling, fuse holder, clip-on battery terminals and misc bits was around £260, or around £290 including the split charge -> VSR upgrade, which also allows both batteries to charge when on EHU. Time spent was around 3 working days - but that included a lot of "thinking time".
Hi Mojo I am contemplating fitting a solar panel to our Trooper did intend using a Flexible panel as I thought a raised up panel to create wind noise but there seems to be a line of thought that the flexible panels are not reliable. I would be interested in more detail of your installation. Why did you fit a VSR.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by daisy mae on Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:03 pm

I was told that the flexi panels were not a good idea as they can overheat, no air underneath, this by a solar panel installer, who does both. I am not in the market for either so I personally  wouldn`t know ,just trying to help.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:36 pm

Unfortunately the "can overheat" thing appears to be something of a myth/"internet myth". I've never seen anyone explain why solar panels can operate on the Equator in temperatures that exceed anything we are ever likely to see in the UK, and yet they are somehow prone to "overheat" if you stick them down - bearing in mind that they do not generate any heat of their own?

I ~think~ the misunderstanding may have originated from the fact that they become less efficient - temporarily - the hotter they get - but the effect is not a particularly large one (one third of a percent per degree C?).
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:43 pm

Alf - as I've said elsewhere, I was prepared for possible issues when I fitted the flexi panel to the Celex 3 years ago, but no trouble so far (touching wood).

We have prepared better for possible failure this time - firstly by using the clear vinyl substrate, and second by buying from a UK-based supplier - so if it fails we stand a better chance of getting it replaced. I had little faith that the Chinese supplier of the panel on the Celex would want to know, but as it turns out that's not been relevant!

I fitted the VSR to make the "split charge" circuit 2-way (as fitted by A/S it only works one way - alternator to leisure battery), so that the solar panel can charge the vehicle battery as well as the leisure battery (though the leisure battery will get priority if its state of charge is low).
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:06 pm

-mojo- wrote:Alf - as I've said elsewhere, I was prepared for possible issues when I fitted the flexi panel to the Celex 3 years ago, but no trouble so far (touching wood).

We have prepared better for possible failure this time - firstly by using the clear vinyl substrate, and second by buying from a UK-based supplier - so if it fails we stand a better chance of getting it replaced. I had little faith that the Chinese supplier of the panel on the Celex would want to know, but as it turns out that's not been relevant!

I fitted the VSR to make the "split charge" circuit 2-way (as fitted by A/S it only works one way - alternator to leisure battery), so that the solar panel can charge the vehicle battery as well as the leisure battery (though the leisure battery will get priority if its state of charge is low).
Mojo so did you only fit a single battery controller instead of a dual battery one, is that why you fitted the VSR. I was thinking of using a dual MPPT.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:11 pm

Alf wrote:
Mojo so did you only fit a single battery controller instead of a dual battery one, is that why you fitted the VSR. I was thinking of using a dual MPPT.

 Alf

Alf - yes. On the Celex I have a PWM dual battery controller (because it's built into the Sargent EC328) and it works very well. But I chose not to do that on the Trooper, because it would mean running extra wire from the cab to the engine bay. Making the split charge circuit 2-way obviates the need for the extra wiring to the engine bay.

It's also better, in that the Sargent controller (a PSU2006, I think) automatically charges the vehicle battery as well when on EHU. This is better than on the Celex, where I have to actively select which battery is charged when on EHU, and it can only charge one battery or the other, not both.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:19 am

-mojo- wrote:
Alf wrote:
Mojo so did you only fit a single battery controller instead of a dual battery one, is that why you fitted the VSR. I was thinking of using a dual MPPT.

 Alf

Alf - yes. On the Celex I have a PWM dual battery controller (because it's built into the Sargent EC328) and it works very well. But I chose not to do that on the Trooper, because it would mean running extra wire from the cab to the engine bay. Making the split charge circuit 2-way obviates the need for the extra wiring to the engine bay.

It's also better, in that the Sargent controller (a PSU2006, I think) automatically charges the vehicle battery as well when on EHU. This is better than on the Celex, where I have to actively select which battery is charged when on EHU, and it can only charge one battery or the other, not both.
Our 2006 Trooper has the Sargent 2005 Power Supply this does not charge the Vehicle battery automatically,   in order to charge the Vehicle  Battery when on ECU  you must have the control panel switch set to Car and set to Caravan to charge the Leisure Battery.

As there is a good size cables to the Vehicle Battery and Leisure Battery at this position and only using a 100w panel. I had thought of using a MPPT controller and connecting this to the cables behind the control panel. To bring the Solar Panel cables through the roof outside in the overhang and through the rear hinged roof support and fit the MPPT somewhere in the rear over the back top shelf,  if this had to be in a position where it was not visible then use a remote meter in a position near the eberspacher thermostat, this would save running cables to both batteries. This way you can use the MPPT to give whatever percentage of charge to whichever battery you choose without having to select a switch on the control panel. What did you stick the Automotive vinyl to the roof with,

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:31 am

Alf wrote:
Our 2006 Trooper has the Sargent 2005 Power Supply this does not charge the Vehicle battery automatically,   in order to charge the Vehicle  Battery when on ECU  you must have the control panel switch set to Car and set to Caravan to charge the Leisure Battery.

Agreed - same on ours, but I wanted something fully automatic.

Alf wrote:
As there is a good size cables to the Vehicle Battery and Leisure Battery at this position and only using a 100w panel. I had thought of using a MPPT controller and connecting this to the cables behind the control panel. To bring the Solar Panel cables through the roof outside in the overhang and through the rear hinged roof support and fit the MPPT somewhere in the rear over the back top shelf,  if this had to be in a position where it was not visible then use a remote meter in a position near the eberspacher thermostat, this would save running cables to both batteries. This way you can use the MPPT to give whatever percentage of charge to whichever battery you choose without having to select a switch on the control panel. What did you stick the Automotive vinyl to the roof with,

Alf

We chose the front, because it's easier to route the cabling neatly down the inside of the front pop-top end panel, unlike the rear end panel with the roof latching rod on it.

The clear vinyl is self-adhesive. I had concerns about whether it would be sticky enough, but it's actually very sticky indeed. I still have doubts about how well the exposed edges will stand up to constant sunlight exposure, but I'll keep an eye on that and run a sealant/adhesive bead around it if it shows any signs of lifting.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:45 am

Mojo If I follow your post correctly you have just wired the Solar Panel direct to the Leisure Battery and replaced the Split Charge Relay with a VSR,  so this chargers the Vehicle battery from the Solar panel when stood and The Leisure battery is charged from the Alternator when the engine running. The connection to the alternator to the relay not being used.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:19 pm

That's correct. The VSR is a drop-in replacement for the split charge relay that A/S fit in front of the vehicle battery. It simply converts the split charge circuit from being one-way, under the control of the alternator output, to being two-way, triggered by its own voltage sensing function.

So any event that causes one battery to be charged and results in the battery terminal voltage rising above the trigger voltage of the VSR will cause the batteries to be connected so that both batteries are charged. Hence alternator can charge leisure battery, and solar and/or EHU can charge vehicle battery.

If the output from the solar panel is low (or the leisure battery charge state is low) the rise in battery voltage is too small to trigger the VSR, so the leisure battery gets priority, until its terminal voltage rises enough for the VSR to be triggered, after which the output is shared between the two batteries.

[Edit - I should add that another factor in choosing the front is that on ours the ginger "carpet" on the inside of the roof front panel was filthy and lifting away in places, so we did not mind having to remove it to install a panel to cover the cables. We thought that as it was lifting in places it would be easy to remove. We were wrong about that!]
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:43 pm

Yes the carpet is a problem. We steam cleaned our internal roof last year carpets included what a difference it made, I re-glued  the carpet edges then. Since fitting the brush sealing trim to the lift up sides this made a big difference to draughts which tend cause the dark patches on the roof lining.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:17 pm

I think we may steal that idea from you (brush strip). The older version of that roof (as fitted to our Mk2 Transit) had vastly better draught proofing than the one fitted to the T5 - though the later roof is superior in other ways.

I may have mentioned this before, but one of the reasons (I think) why ours got so dirty inside the front roof panel is because the adjustment of the roof holding-down catches was very poor when we got it, with a quarter inch gap at the front edge on one side - so when driving on the motorway in the rain, road spray was getting blown inside! I looked carefully and could see no evidence that the catch had moved, so we reckon it had been like it from the factory...
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:48 pm

-mojo- wrote:I think we may steal that idea from you (brush strip). The older version of that roof (as fitted to our Mk2 Transit) had vastly better draught proofing than the one fitted to the T5 - though the later roof is superior in other ways.

I may have mentioned this before, but one of the reasons (I think) why ours got so dirty inside the front roof panel is because the adjustment of the roof holding-down catches was very poor when we got it, with a quarter inch gap at the front edge on one side - so when driving on the motorway in the rain, road spray was getting blown inside! I looked carefully and could see no evidence that the catch had moved, so we reckon it had been like it from the factory...
Mojo I used 2 lengths of Garage Door sealing strips from B & Q the have about a 3/4" brush and overall about 2" wide these seal around the locking bars and are UN noticed when the roof is up. I have a couple of short ends 6" or so I could send a sample if you wish. We use our van all year round and visit the far North Yorkshire moors in the depth of winter No droughts since fitting the brush strips.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:22 pm

Thanks for the detail Alf - I'm not the main user of the Trooper, but I will see if it's considered important or not (the main user of the van does not place any priority on filling in the "midge door", as I like to call A/S's laughable fixed ventilation on that roof, so I suspect it will be low priority too!).
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:54 am

Mojo where did you fit the Solar Controller on the Trooper

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:13 pm

I'm not sure if the battery location is exactly the same on all T5 Troopers, but on ours there is enough space to the rear of the leisure battery. We removed the battery and installed a vertical wood panel, which the controller could be mounted on so that it sticks out of a hole cut in the carpeted panel on the back of the seat base (so the cabling is hidden but the display and control buttons can be seen).

In theory this was a good idea, but in practice it's not so great with our controller (a cheapish PWM controller with status display on the front) because, unknown to us at the design stage, the contrast on the display is very poor when viewed from above. So you have to lie on the floor to be able to read it properly! This is not really much of an issue as it's something that's designed to be connected up and forgotten about - but it's annoying nevertheless. If I had known about the display, I probably would have paid more and got one with a remote display, and mounted the display at the left hand end of the curved moulding that the Sargent control panel is fitted in - though that would have been quite difficult to do neatly.

I also mounted a 2-way fuse block on the top of the wood panel to replace the inline one that served the split charge connection, adding a second fuse between solar controller and battery. I did not fuse the solar panel connection because its max output into 4mm2 cable is not high enough to represent any sort of fire risk.

If you choose to locate your controller there - be warned, it took us more time to cut out a hole in the carpeted panel in the rear of the seat base than almost anything else! I probably would have saved time taking out the whole seat base if I had known before I started - it's just an awkward location.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by Alf on Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:41 pm

Mojo thanks for your reply I assume you are talking about the drivers seat, this is where our leisure battery is fitted the rear of the seat base is a black plastic trim and would be difficult to remove and cut. I have thought of fitting at the front of the battery you would only be able to see it when stood at the opened drivers door and going for a remote unit on the front bulkhead above the hob unit.
I still think I will fit the panel towards the rear and bring the cables from the panel through the roof outside and then through the rear roof hinged support although slightly longer cable run there will be no holes through the habitation roof. I have just the van battery route to finalise.

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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:48 pm

Alf wrote:Mojo thanks for your reply I assume you are talking about the drivers seat, this is where our leisure battery is fitted the rear of the seat base is a black plastic trim and would be difficult to remove and cut. I have thought of fitting at the front of the battery you would only be able to see it when stood at the opened drivers door and going for a remote unit on the front bulkhead above the hob unit.
I still think I will fit the panel towards the rear and bring the cables from the panel through the roof outside and then through the rear roof hinged support although slightly longer cable run there will be no holes through the habitation roof. I have just the van battery route to finalise.

Yes, driver's seat. I did think about doing what (I think) you suggest and having it mounted in the door side of the seat base, but it's angled and ribbed and I thought the back panel would be better. In front of the battery you should have the VW Central Convenience module and wiring to contend with - but there's a fair bit of space around that.

We did similar to your plan, but at the front - the wire holes are drilled through into the overhang in front, so the holes do not come through into the habitation space. Then the wires loop down slightly (so water cannot track down them if the sealant around the holes fails) and back up and through the frame above the front panel, where it is well protected by the front overhang.

We put a fair bit of thought into making allowance for cable movement as the roof is lowered and raised - only time will tell if we got that right, but at least proper "solar" cable is double-wall insulated, so it should be quite robust and able to take the repeated flexing.

Provided you're using 4mm2 cable, I doubt that a longer cable run from the back will be an issue. I did look at this in some detail, but be aware that it's not ~quite~ as easy at it first appears to access the curved plastic moulding that the Sargent control panel is mounted in - I had expected that taking the top trim panel off would expose the space inside, but it doesn't.
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by IanH on Tue Oct 03, 2017 12:21 pm

Time to cure some misconceptions I feel!!
Flex solar panels, glued to the roof are a near perfect solution. Forget any misconceptions re heating, lack of cooling etc
Glue is vital, I used BOSTIK, see my post re this installation
This is so strong that I am convinced that you could lift my 3.5Tonne van with suckers and it wouldn't worry the glue at all
ALL solar panels need to be connected to either battery by a solar controller, I can see no possible reason to use a single battery one, dual battery is the only way to go
Use appropriate cables from panel to controller, big is good.
Fuses at the +ve terminals to each battery, 30A or so will be fine for most installations
WEIGHT is everything. My 140w installation, incl wiring, cable gland, dual battery controller and remote display is under 6Kg, remember half of that is on the roof!

I may sound biased, but this is my 3rd installation , they have all worked perfectly, year round, and we virtually NEVER use EHU!! up!
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Re: Trooper solar panel

Post by -mojo- on Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:01 pm

I won't disagree with much of what you said Ian. As I stated earlier, I've got a dual battery controller on one van, but on the trooper it's just too inconvenient to have to run a new wire from under the driver's seat to the engine bay - which is why I've chosen a single battery controller + VSR in this instance.

There is also no way that I would stick a semi-flexi panel down with a contact adhesive - because they are known to fail completely, and if that happens to one of mine I do not want to have to fight with a contact adhesive to get it off (along with half the paint on the roof!). Hence the current system on the Trooper where it is mounted onto clear vinyl, "glued" down with CT1, which is closer to the consistency of silicon sealant, but a fair bit tougher.

With a bit of luck I'll never need to find out, but this will hopefully save a lot of effort and "making good" if I ever do need to remove & replace due to a panel fault.
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