Now that I had my Aux battery installed the next step was to install a solar panel for charging. I decided to install solar before I hooked it up to the alternator mainly because I figured it was easier than pulling all the trim and running a decent cable through the firewall. I will eventually hook it up before we head off to Uluru in June / July.
Issues I had to consider when putting solar on the roof were not taking up all my storage space and how am I going to get the leads into the vehicle without drilling a hole into the body.
I started off with a 20w panel and it appeared to be doing the job. I was charging and holding float charge using the Ctek D250S DC to DC charger. However, once I started using the battery (running my fridge) I quickly learnt the the little 25w could not charge the battery quickly enough and if I were to get a few overcast days in a row then it would be no good.
I started looking around for panels which range from cheap to very expensive. Supercheap had a sale on for a 100w panel for $100.00. I went and had a look at it and determined that the size was too big and would effectively take up 1/2 to 3/4’s of my pioneer rack.
I went from shop to shop and it seemed that the smaller the panel (in size) the more expensive they were. The 4wd Supacentre had their folding 160w panel for about $180 however the 2 panels, when opened, were also quite large. I decided half of that would be sufficient. I headed online to my favourite bargain site.. Gumtree.
After a few days I ended up buying 3 x 25w panels for $15 each. So 75w for a big total of $45.00. I did this so it wold give me flexibility when mounting them. I didn’t have to mount them in a row, I could mount them in an array. After setting them up on the roof I ended up mounting them in a row.. go figure.
I wired them up and riveted them together to make one panel. I mounted them on the passenger side of the roof as I have plans to mount an awning on that side also. For mounting I made up some 90 deg angle brackets out of aluminium. I riveted them to the panels and bolted them to the channels in the pioneer rack.
Next I set upon finding a path for the wires to the rear of the Pajero, where my DC charger was located. I removed some trim above the left tail light and found a direct path into the vehicle. Under the trip was a locator tab with a rubber washer to stop water getting in.
I cut off the locating tab off and removed the rubber washer. I ran the wire down the left hand side, under the trim and into the vehicle. Since I removed the tab and seal I decided to sikaflex the hole once the wire was through to ensure no water could get in.
From there I wired it up to DC charger which is quite as simple as positive to the solar input and the negative to the negative input. Sun out and we have lights on the charger, which is normally a good thing.
So in summary, for $45 I was able to put a 75w panel on my pioneer rack. I was also happy with the size which I thought was not too big and allowed me enough room for storage of other equipment and goods. When I need extra room on the roof I mount the Maxtrax on the side of the rack allowing me quite a large space still.