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Instructions: Install the solar panel and connect it correctly
The installation of a solar panel (solar module) and the required solar charging controller is actually not that difficult and easier than you probably imagine.
In this article, we will show you step by step how to do it.
The following four basic steps are necessary for this:
- Precise planning of where the solar panel should best be installed on the roof so that the two solar cables can be brought from the roof to the inside of the camper in the best possible place. And you don't have to lay and attach too much extra cable length on the roof and in the interior.
- Attach the solar panel or bracket to the roof.
- Find a suitable place for the solar charging controller and attach it.
- Laying and connecting the cables on the roof and in the interior.
Below you will find our detailed step-by-step instructions.
The longer the cable length the charging current has to flow through to the solar charging controller and then from there to the supply battery, the lower the charging capacity of the solar panels.
In general, the longer the cable, the higher the resistance and the worse the efficiency (charging capacity). This is not a serious factor or difference, but it does make a bit of a difference in charging performance.
So plan the space for the solar module and for the solar charging controller accordingly close to your supply battery in order to have as little unnecessary cable length as possible.
Step by Step Instructions – Install Solar Panel and Solar Charge Controller
If you follow these instructions, you should be able to install the solar module and the charging controller yourself without any problems.
Find a suitable place for the solar module
Correct planning is actually the most important step when installing the solar panel and the solar charging controller.
First of all, take a close look at where you can best get the solar panel cables inside the vehicle. Sometimes you're lucky and you can go somewhere between the seals on the sliding door. But in most cases, you have to drill a hole through the vehicle roof and then feed the solar cables inside here.
So that it doesn't get damp inside and can rain in, there are simple cable roof ducts for caravans, which you can simply stick over the hole with a good bodywork adhesive and then run the cables through there. (You can also find this special cable roof duct in the overview of the required products)
Also, choose the place for the solar module so that you have the shortest possible distances with the cables on the roof. So keep the distance from the connection to the solar panel to the roof duct as short as possible.
Installation of the solar panel or the bracket
Once you have decided on the right place for the solar module, the attachment is actually very easy.
If you have decided on one of the new wafer-thin Flex solar panels (approx. 2-3mm thick), then this is simply glued to the roof with a body adhesive such as Petec or Sikaflex. You should definitely wear disposable gloves to avoid getting extremely stubborn glue on your skin. That stuff doesn't come off! Make sure to stick the entire side edges tightly to the car roof with the adhesive so that it sits securely and securely and secondly no water can penetrate underneath. But you should also draw at least a couple of thick lines with the adhesive on the full surface of the panel so that the panel is also firmly glued to the car roof in the middle.
If you have decided on one of the thicker standard solar modules (approx. 5-8cm thick), then you will definitely need a solar panel bracket on which the panel is then attached. First, this bracket is then also simply glued to the car roof with the body adhesive at the right distance from each other and in the right place. It is best to mark the exact location of the bracket beforehand so that nothing can go wrong. The solar panel is then simply screwed to the bracket using the screws provided.
Find a suitable place for the solar charging controller and mount it
The next step is to find a suitable place for the solar charge controller inside and screw it there. You may first have to attach a small board or a small box as a substructure at the point so that you can then screw the charging controller tight.
When choosing the right place, make sure that the charging controller is as close as possible between the solar panel and the supply battery so that you don't have to cover unnecessarily long distances inside the vehicle with the cables.
Lay and fasten all cables neatly
The first thing to do is run the solar cables on the roof from the solar module through the roof duct into the vehicle interior. In order to lay the cables on the roof in a visually more attractive way, you can also use a small piece of a normal cable duct from the hardware store and simply glue it back in place with the body adhesive.
Of course, the cables on the roof should not flap around while driving, but should also be firmly attached. So don't leave any play with the cables on the roof either, but lay them nice and taut.
Then run the two solar cables (red and black) inside the vehicle to the connection/power input of your solar charging controller. Depending on your needs, you can also fasten the cables inside either with cable ducts or with cable holders.
Now you also have the two other thick power cables from the charging controller to the supply battery ready and look for the right way to lay them as inconspicuously as possible to your supply battery. Use a red (+ pole) and black (- pole) power cable for this with at least 10mm² cross-section).
If you have now laid all the cables correctly and the required length is clear and sufficient, then you can now cut the cables to the right length. It is better to leave a few centimeters more play here so that the cables are not too short in the end.
Connecting and connecting the cables
So now it's on to the most exciting part of the whole thing, namely the wiring/connecting of the solar and power cables.
In the previous step, you already cut the cables to the right length and preferred to add a few cm more play. Now take a normal wire stripper and use it to remove at least 1 cm of insulation from all ends of the cable.
First, you have to connect the power cable between the supply battery and the solar charge controller. So first connect the red power cable to the PLUS pole of the power charging output of the solar charge controller and then the black power cable to the MINUS pole of the power charge output of the solar charge controller.
Now you do the same with the cable ends to the supply battery. Now connect the end of the red power cable to the POSITIVE pole of the supply battery using a battery cable clamp and then the black power cable to the MINUS pole of the supply battery, also using a battery cable clamp. Make sure that all cables are secure and tight and that the screws are properly tightened.
Only now, in the second step, do you connect the solar cable coming from the solar module to the solar charge controller. To do this, connect the red solar cable to the positive pole of the solar power input on the charging controller and then the black solar cable to the negative pole of the solar power input on the charging controller.
If you have done everything correctly, the solar panel should now effortlessly recharge your supply battery when the weather is good and there is a lot of sunshine and always supply you with fresh, self-generated electricity.
And how do I now connect my devices to the supply battery?
In order to never completely discharge your supply battery and thereby possibly even destroy it, you should also connect a so-called battery monitor between the consumers and the supply battery. This switches off the power supply automatically before the supply battery is discharged too much.
You can now connect your 12V power consumers (devices) directly to the second battery/supply battery or to the battery monitor using a 12V distributor plug. To be on the safe side, you should also connect a suitable fuse or even a small fuse box between your consumers and the second battery.
In order to be able to operate your 110V power consumers (devices such as laptops, coffee machines, etc.), you also need a so-called 12V voltage converter. This converts the 12V power from the supply battery into normal 110V power.
The voltage converter is also simply connected directly to the supply battery or fuse box, or to the battery monitor according to the instructions. You can now, for example, also connect a normal, commercially available 3-way socket to the voltage converter in order to operate your 110V devices.