When camping and exploring, you won’t always finish the day near an electricity source. So, it can be essential to attach a flexible solar panel to your Caravan. Knowing you have a renewable energy source can give you peace of mind as you explore.
Mounting flexible solar panels on your Caravan requires researching the one that meets your needs, gathering the tools and adhesives, and following the instructions. The proper installation powers your appliances, lights, and more.
While attaching flexible solar panels might feel daunting, you can do it if you follow the instructions. Keep reading for a helpful guide to choosing a flexible solar panel for your Caravan, mounting the panels on the Caravan roof, and ensuring all parts are secure.
1. Choose a Solar Panel Mount for a Caravan
You can choose a portable solar panel that lets you chase the sun, or a mounted panel that requires parking in full sun to charge.
The portable panels allow you to set out the panel in the sun while you park in the shade. Plus, they don’t require drilling any holes in the caravan roof.
On the other hand, mounted solar panels tend to be better for people who spend a lot of time camping and exploring off-grid. These panels are always charging. Plus, you don’t have to take them out back to charge like portable solar panels.
Solar Panel Requirements
The solar panel requires the following to operate correctly.
- The solar device that captures light and converts it to energy.
- A battery to store that energy for when you need it.
- The hardware and equipment to deliver the electricity to appliances and other areas.
Portable solar panels let you test the waters of solar energy when camping, while mounted solar panels can be more cost-effective for long-term use.
2. Learn How a Solar Panel Harnesses Power for Your Caravan
Solar panels are photovoltaic and covered with a thin layer of silicon. When mounted on the roof of your caravan, the panel absorbs photons from the sunlight.
The electrons begin moving when the panel receives the photons, creating a DC current. The controller collects and delivers the current to the battery. An average charge for a flexible solar panel is around 17 volts.
You can attach a flexible solar panel to the roof with minimal effort. It is waterproof, lightweight, and low-profile. Many have a self-healing finish that will fill in surface abrasions and scratches.
3. Locate the Placement of the Solar Panel on the Roof
When choosing the best spot for the solar panels on the caravan roof, use a permanent marker to mark the set-up. This includes finding where the cables should enter the van.
- Drill the hole where the solar panel cable will feed through the roof.
- Fit the proper rubber grommet size into the hole, allowing the cable to fit through and reach the charge controller with plenty of slack.
- Apply a polyurethane sealant to all the holes to prevent leaking.
It helps to position the entire solar panel combination on the ground before transferring it to the caravan roof. Be sure to check for proper wiring connections.
4. Mount the Flexible Solar Panels on the Caravan Roof
When mounting the flexible solar panels, use stainless steel hardware since it won’t rust if exposed to the elements. Also, ensure air can flow through the panels without pulling them from the roof. Finally, be careful when bending the solar panels as this can negatively affect the solar cell absorption.
Mount the flexible solar panels like this:
- Wash the top of the caravan with soap and water, then dry.
- Clean the roof with rubbing alcohol to remove all residue.
- Clean the back of the solar panels with alcohol.
- Cut a piece of polycarbonate (a high-density plastic) panel to fit and protect the solar panels, insulating them from overheating.
- Use a high-strength spray adhesive to connect the solar panels with the polycarbonate.
- Spray with adhesive or glue the solar panels into place (some people also use 3M VHB tape to tape them in place).
- Connect the cables to the solar panels and secure them with heavy-duty mounting tape.
- Press down on the panels to ensure they are secure.
5. Connecting the Solar Panels to the Charge Controller
It is easy to connect the solar panel wires to the charge controller. Before securing the cable leads to the controller, complete the following steps.
- Connect the cables to a voltmeter to ensure the system is working.
- Affix the cables with heavy-duty mounting tape to the roof so they are secure.
- Drop the cables through the grommet hole and connect them to the charge controller.
- Seal the underside of the hole with moldable putty to prevent leaks.
6. Connect the Charge Controller to the Battery
A necessary precaution is to connect the battery to the charge controller first and then connect the controller to the solar panels. Connect the positive lead on the battery to the positive controller cable. Do the same for the negative ends.
This Youtube video will help you connect the cables in the correct order.
7. Finish All Other Tasks for Solar Panel Installation
Give the flexible solar panels a once-over to ensure the connections are tight and all the components are in the correct position. Look over the installation instructions from your solar panel kit a final time to determine if you followed them thoroughly.
While some people prefer rigid solar panels, flexible solar panels offer unique benefits. They can bend to curves, giving you more options to harness solar power. Another benefit is the lightweight design that adds little weight to your Caravan.
Since the panels glue onto the Caravan roof, there are fewer drilled holes and less chance of water leakage into the vehicle’s interior. Flexible solar panels last up to twenty years, so you get a lot of use from these thin, lightweight energy producers.
- Camping and Caravanning Club: SOLAR POWER AND SOLAR PANELS FOR CAMPING AND CARAVANNING
- Practical Caravan: Guide to caravan solar panels
- Hi-Van: Best Adhesives for Flexible Solar Panels
- Hi-Van: Attaching flexible solar panels to van roof, full guide
- Foot Print Hero: Connect Solar Panel to Charge Controller: 3 Steps (w/ Videos)
- Drivin & Vibin: How to Install Flexible Solar Panels
- Ride with Tito: How to Install a Flexible Solar Panel on an RV
- Camper Van Traveler: Are Flexible Solar Panels Any Good?
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