Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Conversion Photo Journal 2

Chapter 2: Solar Panel Mounting and the Kitchen

Here are the fruits of this past weekend's labors.
Here is my new power plant, still in the boxes. Two 120 watt solar panels fed into a blue sky MPPT charge controller then into two 130 amp-hour trojan deep cycle batteries.
Opening boxes is always exciting.

Important information!!! When you get a solar panel you need to know its output in volts and amps, all of the maximum ratings, and just about everything else in order to safely use it and also to maximize system efficiency.
Here, I'm "dry fitting" the mounting brackets...
...and measuring to make sure everything will fit on the roof.
Once the measurements were made and everything was how I wanted it, I marked where the mounting brackets needed to be attached to the panels.
Then, I flipped the panels over and started wiring everything up. They needed to be wired before mounting because I wouldn't be able to reach under and wire it up once the panels were right side up.
10 AWG wire is hard to work with.

Panels wired together in parallel.
I used the measurements I made before to drill out the holes to mount the brackets.

I used tamper-resistant bolts that require a special star Allen wrench.

With the tamper resistant bolts, I used a few tamper resistant nuts. The top part breaks off once it is torqued enough and leaves an un-wrench-able smooth surface. This way no one can steal my panels!

Once all the mounting brackets were attached, I covered the panels in the foam they were packaged in and wrapped them up in bubble wrap just in case they were to slip while I was trying to get them up on the roof. Here I used a blanket to help me slide the panels up without scratching up my van.

On top! Unfortunately the mounting brackets scratched the roof up a lot. It's not that big of a deal though because no one can see the roof and it is made out of fiberglass so it won't rust.

I used putty to hold the panels in place while preparing the roof for mounting. The roof is curved and not level, but the panels are ridged and the mounts require a level surface. My solution: fiberglass roof extensions. I stripped the areas where the mounts would go and then made moulds and poured in more fiberglass resin to give a level surface.

Before I could pour the resin, I wanted to make sure that the van was level so that the new mounting surface would be even. First, I parked the van as level as I could get it.

Then I used a lot of heavy crap to get the van perfectly level.

Then I measured, mixed, and poured fiberglass. Here is the first one I did. The fiberglass resin filled the mould, bonded to the roof and leveled the surface perfectly.

This was the only one I got done before it was too dark to do any more. So I went into the garage and started work on my kitchen.

Cutting wood the old fashioned way.

Kitchen: I put the sink and stove top in just to show off how it will look. It's still far from done.

So that's all I got done last weekend. Today I finished bolting the panels to the roof, now I just have to wire them up to the charge controller and batteries. Thursday my brother is bringing over the hardwood flooring and is going to help me install it. I'm trying to get as much done as I can before it starts getting really cold outside. Once the floor is done I can start insulating the walls and getting the wiring in place and hook up all of the kitchen stuff. I'm estimating all of that will take about 2 more weeks.


The Traveler said...

nice! i live in my van and have added you as a link on my page,
.. :) Sonja

The Traveler said...

where did you get your trojan batteries? I was looking a while back and couldn't find one locally. Just wondering if there is a site to look at b/c I couldn't seem to find one

Nick said...

I found them localy, I was unable to find anything online either. I usualy do all of my shopping online but with the batteries I had to whip out the old-school phone book and call different marine supply stores. So if you are anywhere near a lake look for boating stores. It's also cheaper to get them that way because they are so heavy that shipping would cost a small fortune.