It’s been a struggle, building electricity off the grid, but I finally got power to the Magic Bus. For the full effect, we must go back to the solar panels.
As I had them laying out in the sun, testing them for their power, I noticed how hot they were getting. That’s when I had the idea that I should have had a long time ago. I blame the trying times that I am currently experiencing on not thinking of it until now. Things could be better… but I digress. Here is the “slap your forehead moment”.
I do foam work for a living. Now granted, most of the time it’s foamed rubber, but I do have foam plastic. Matter of fact, I have had some that is just going bad because I rarely use it. The actual product is this, Foam-it 5. I had the idea that I could use it as insulation on the underside section of my solar panels, and since it’s foam, it wouldn’t add very much weight. That’s when I realized, duh, that would also fix the problem I had with the plastic board warping in the sun. So if and when I make another solar panel, I will use thin wood frame, corrugated plastic board, and fill the frame with plastic foam. And yes, it does help with keeping the heat off the roof of the van.
I also broke down and bought a solar panel. I found a 30 watt panel for $70 on Amazon. I bought it at the same time as I bought the battery, which was also from Amazon. Both of them had free shipping, so I went for it. I got a 35 amp hour deep cycle battery, Chrome brand, for $75. My purchased solar panel was very different than the ones I built. Mine max out at 15 volts at 8 amps. Where this panel is like 21 volts at 1.5 amps. I decided to wire them up, each with their own diode, coming in parallel to the battery. I’m hoping this will give me enough of a voltage, over 14 volts as I hear, to peak charge my battery. And get me enough amps to recharge rather quickly. Only time will tell if I did it efficiently.
To install the solar panels on the roof, I decided to embed bolts into the roof for general mounting purposes. Since I was already using the expanding foam, I went ahead and used it here as well. I decided on carriage bolts for the smooth head, as I didn’t want to make it look as though it could be turned. I drilled holes in the roof that fit the bolt. On the roof side, up top, I drilled out the hole bigger to a half of an inch. Inside the fiberglass shell of the van, there is a plastic foam already in there. So I scooped it out around the inside of the holes. I then taped the bolts sticking up through the roof and poured the expanding foam-it 5 into the holes and let it go off. I used tape to protect the threads of the bolts. The roof had a thin layer of dirt on it that was enough to keep it from sticking. The excess just popped off.
Once the foam went off, those bolts were in there, and still are. They are also water tight, I did add some silicone to the opening just in case, but it is insulated back the way it was before I installed them. I then used them to bolt down pieces of aluminum angle brackets. Then I just used long wood screws and screwed the aluminum brackets to the solar panels. Then it was just soldering the panels together and running the wire through the roof. There, I just used silicone, I didn’t bother using foam to fill the small hole for the wire.
So from there, the solar panel wire comes into the van and goes towards my voltage regulator, which you can see here. I changed the LEDs that I used on the circuit, and I just so happened to have found an old car battery tester while cleaning out an old garage. A little pocket size tester that says “overcharged”, “normal”, “alternator”, and “low battery”. Now the the alternator LED has so far done nothing, but the rest of the LEDs are important. So I added that little jewel to the mix. Then after fishing from storage an old project box that I had, and a repaint job, it is now my battery charger controller unit connecting my battery to my solar panels.
Once there was renewable power, I ran wire the perimeter of the van with electricity. I then pulled off and installed a switch to power one of the strips of white LEDs. I installed another switch for the other LED strip. I installed a switch for my fan, and last but not least, I installed my 300 watt inverter that gives me two 120 AC outlets, and two USB charging outlets. I have the most part of the wiring hidden, but when all the wiring is complete, the wires will need to be addressed.
I have a water pump coming for the sink and shower, but before that, something else will be finished. It’s about half way done right now. I am just waiting on some parts and a final put together. I won’t tell you what it is, but let me just say, it will be real shitty.