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Old 09-29-2010, 04:49 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Solar Paneled Sides

I plan on covering each side of my bus (when I get my bus) with solar panels. That might fascinate people that otherwise dislike bus conversions and sure will add more juice to the battery bank. I suggest making the solar panels yourself to save copious amounts of money. Cover them well with another clear sheet of material so they don't get stolen and of course are protected from the elements. Also making them yourself makes it easier to produce the voltage you want, and as it will look less professional (at least in my case) these might be less likely to be stolen.

I think that with a non-conductive rubber backing glued/secured over the side metal, you likely can glue the individual solar cells and circuitry right to the side of the bus, making your solar panels that way, then cover that with a clear sheet of some kind (I forgot what is suggested) to give more support and protection. Those covering sheets of course can be screwed in to the metal. (I am skipping steps such as EVA sheeting etc. to help waterproof the assembly.)

I actually would like instead to make huge swinging panels (with the axles on the outside tops of the sides of the bus) with numerous solar panels built into it, that are about the size of the area of the side of the bus I'm using. It would be securely fitted to the side of the bus for travelling but could be lifted up like wings when the bus is parked and held up by stakes which are attached to the bus or pounded into the ground. (This is to give air circulation under the panels as solar panels lose efficiency when overheated, as well as to make it easier to follow the moving sun.)

This is a quick notation of what I plan on doing so I not may have described it well.

Among my concerns regards the huge flap(s) on each side of the bus (containing the solar panels and that can swing out to follow the sun better), is that even though these will be securely supported at the bottom and sides for when the bus is travelling (so it won't rattle), it might not be considered legal in some states.

You input please.
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Old 09-29-2010, 07:52 PM   #2
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Since you do not have where you are located nor do you say where you will be spending most of your time, here are a few things to keep in mind as you design your system...

I would assume that you are not planning on spending much time in a campground. We are currently in NM. NM campgrounds are well-known for their lack of trees. Our awning is opened into a tree (one of the few in the campground). Somehow it seems to work out that way. In TX, we could not open our awning at the last campground we were in because there was a tree in the way. Unless you keep the panels to where they only require 3 or 4 ft of space from the bus, you will have problems with trees. If too long down the side of the bus (top to bottom) you may not clear the power/water post either. We also have a great deal of wind out here. When we have a rain storm, there is a lot more wind than rain. The wind caught our awning in TX (a storm blew up while we were away from the RV). It broke one of the awing rail mounts in half (cast aluminum?). We kept our awning tied down with the screw-in-the-ground dog tie outs (from DollarTree) and ratcheting cargo straps with a bungee cord as a shock cord. That doesn't work real well when the sand/soil is loose and you can just pull the tie-outs up without much effort. They also don't work too well when the ground is so hard you can't get them started (our current situation). You need to take the wind & storms into account when you design your panel supports.

As for attaching directly to the side of the bus, I think the angle would not be optimal for collecting solar energy. Making them part of a window covering that doubles as an awning would allow you to adjust the angle for the best solar gain.
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Old 09-30-2010, 05:06 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
I would assume that you are not planning on spending much time in a campground.
Thank you for your post lornaschinske. Yes I was planning on spending as little time as possible in RV campgrounds and as always too many trees in the way is to be avoided. Those are real good points you made though.

I understand that if the panels are extended they're vulnerable to the elements such as wind. I guess if I left the vehicle for any significant period I had best pull the panels back up against the bus and lock them in place. Theft is another concern.
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Old 09-30-2010, 05:54 PM   #4
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John
Why not put them on the roof? You will get more sunlight hitting them if they're up there, plus you won't have the potential problem of side clearance. There's less chance of theft or breakage up there as well. What state are you in? You should check the insolation numbers for the area you will be in, and your latitude will be approximately the panels' best angle from horizontal (I think that's right!). There is a character (Arkie) known to some of us here who put them on the side of his bus - who knows how much useful power he's getting out of them?

Tell me more about home-made PV panels. Are you making them from scratch, from kits, from broken remnants, or what? How much per Watt does it cost this way? At this time PV is running anywhere from $3 or less) to $5 per watt, depending on how many you buy. Is it cost-effective to make one's own panels?

John
John, great post. Thank for the info about Arkie. I will investigate. I'm in eastern Washington state but want to use this around the west or possibly the rest of the country.

Hey check out the solar panels on this beauty. http://crowncoach.clanteam.com/
Check out what he has to say about how much energy it gives him: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/sKO ... ssage/7000

I was always planning on putting solar panels on the roof also, as well as a small to medium size solar water heater. Your roof layout sounds great though! Excellent food for thought. I wasn't expecting on putting homemade panels on the roof and actually at this point I was leaning to using Unisolar type roll-on panels on the roof as they would mold better to the curved roof shape, however they're less efficient (as they are amorphous, but at least not solar film). I would need to paint the roof with insulating paint I think (at the least) as heat would be a problem for those panels.) Having two charging circuits is a great idea too in my opinion. I was planning on 2 or possibly 3 (1 for each side extension and one for the roof, which would likely be another type of solar cell, monocrystalline). I read that when you put different wattage panels on one circuit, things don't work out as well though I've forgotten why. I believe something tries to equal eachother out.

As for making the panels homemade,

1) This is so I can get the still undetermined voltage (12, 24 or?), size and wattage requirements of these side "extensions".

2) I am particularly concerned about theft and if I made the panels myself it won't look as good and could turn off some thieves.

3) The tremendous cost savings

3) I would put more bypass diodes on the individual panels that is stock, though the unisolar doesn't have this problem, though as you know it's made of the less efficient Amorphous type (though supposedly better in the shade than monocrystalline and polycrystalline.)

Sadly I doubt if what I make will last as long as a factory unit and I expect It won't be of the same quality but I could save one hell of a lot of money and maybe make the [side] extensions in a manner that lets me change individual panels in the [side] extensions that might get damaged.

As you've seen I imagine, there are good videos on how to make a solar panel on YouTube. I hope to make these solar panels and 2 side extensions in a manner that will save money on waterproofing costs.

I would be making the panels from kits. I would tab and solder it together, etc. (I likely will get solar cell kits that have 2 or more cells already tabbed). I don't know what the price for wattage would be but it would be a lot lower if I didn't have to water proof each panel in the side extensions and instead just needed to water proof the outer edges of the side extensions.
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Old 09-30-2010, 10:18 PM   #5
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
We heard ya John! Seems my posts are loading slowly too (but I resisted the urge to hit the Post button )

I've read many opinions which lend that tilting panels is more of a pain than anything, for the small increase in power

Smitty
I just read a story by a guy that I can't find now but he said he got a 99% increase by tilting his panels. Even if this is an exaggeration, if you could get a 50% increase that would mean a lot especially for a system that is a little heavy on the battery side like yours Smitty. It's certainly worth a test when you get down south. That might keep you from having to get more panels.
Just a thought
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:33 AM   #6
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

I have calculated a spreadsheet of insolation for the northern latitude hear based on the Naval figures, and compared the power with horizontal, vertical, fixed tilt for the latitude & season, and one- and two-axis tracking. Here are some monthly insolation rate averages for 43° north. The numbers are the amount of sunlight per day, averaged into "standard hours" available per day:

Vertical installation:
June low: 2.61, February peak: 3.67, annual average: 2.98

Horizontal (lying flat on the roof):
December low: 1.41, July peak: 6.06, annual average: 3.79

Best year-round fixed tilt, 28° up from horizontal:
December low: 2.10, July peak 5.97, annual average 4.29

Best year-round fixed tilt with one-axis tracker following the sun from east-west daily, 43° up from horizontal:
December low: 2.62, July peak 7.45, annual average 5.37

Two-axis tracker following the azimuth and elevation of the sun every day:
December low: 2.76, July peak 7.88, annual average 5.55

In each case, the engineering and cost and fuss to move up to the next level of complication may negate the amount of extra electricity generated. Vertical panels work almost as well as the other mounting schemes in the winter when the sun is low on the horizon, but have less than half the power in the high summer sun. And with them you have to be sure you park facing east or west to get full benefit. Panels flat on the roof work somewhat poorly in winter, but are 77% as effective as a tracker in summer, and parking is omni-directional. For a summer camping rig, there is little need to go to the trouble of making a tilting mount. For year-round boondocking, swivel and tilt may become a worthwhile investment. Peaking the panels each time you park (or each month if not moving) is almost as good as tracking mechanisms, which can eat up the extra electricity moving the panels.

As in all cases, "You pays your money and you makes your choice," or YMMV.
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Old 10-01-2010, 01:24 PM   #7
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Thanks Redbear for your time and trouble in determining those numbers. Great stuff to know.

I was also thinking that with two swinging side extensions covered with solar panels, and what I can fit on top of the rig, that would increase the square footage of solar panels servicing my rig. Added benefits would be the cooling of the solar cells if the side extensions are away from the bus' sides, the extensions acting to a degree as insulation, the less liklihood of theft (I hope), snow collects less on angled panels than flat panels and the awning effect. If the weather is bad of course I just keep the side extensions fastened to the side of the bus.

I can save on the waterproofing costs by not having to waterproof each panel but instead just the edges of the outside of the side extensions. Also each 36 watt (or whatever) solar panel circuit that make up the side extension, would not need their own aluminum frame so that would cut down costs quite a bit.

YouTube has some good demonstration videoclips on how to build your own solar panels.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:47 PM   #8
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
...Down-side is......no early morning showers, unless you don't mind cold ones
Don't be too sure. Back when we first moved to the Chattanooga area, we were staying part of the time in Harrison Bay State Park. Their showers are solar heated. The girls & I would take showers in the late to early evening. But David always took his showers in the morning before heading out to work. The water was plenty hot. It was a low cost standard Batch water heater but our last stay there was in October and it was cold enough that the leaves were falling. We did have frost on some mornings.

Coming out here to NM, we stopped for a couple nights in Benbrook COE. They had solar heated showers. David took a shower there... or tried... he scalded himself because the water was too hot (July 2009).
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:40 PM   #9
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Well, I was 30 minutes late this morning after polishing the post, but I had put in 150 minutes off the clock on Wednesday, so it's all good. Besides spelling "here" as "hear," I forgot to add two things:

Comment: These figures are for the fringes of the Great White North. In Florida or the Southwest, where you are 10° to 15° further south, the sun is higher, the horizontal mount is more effective, the vertical mount is less effective, and the percentage of difference in power between a horizontal mount and a tilted one is diminished. In Canada and Alaska, the sun will be nearer the horizon (or below it!), and proper aiming becomes more critical than it is here.

Methodology: I had cut and pasted 30 years of observations for the nearest big city into an Excel spreadsheet. I got the data from a website I can't put my finger on right now. I manipulated the raw data to give me monthly averages for each type of mount, and then pasted the averaged results into another blank summary worksheet. I highlighted the best power, and also had it calculate the percentage of improvement for each type to facilitate cost/benefit comparisons.
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Old 10-11-2010, 01:16 AM   #10
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Re: Solar Paneled Sides

Hey Smitty, have you posted photos of the elevator yet? How does it work? Leslie
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