Gentleman Jack shows how he's upgrading his Bailey Advance motorhome with a solar panel.

It's like magic, isn't it? All that solar-generated electricity for free - except, of course, that there is an initial installation cost, and power generation is weather-dependent.

In common with many accessories, saving money (although welcome) shouldn't be the sole criterion when deciding whether to fit a solar panel to your motorhome.

The main reason to fit a solar panel is to increase the amount of time you can live in your 'van without hook-up or going for a drive to recharge the leisure battery.

We enjoy club weekend rallies and holiday meets, and frequently stay on aires and at functions such as music festivals, all without hook-up. So this is a good investment for us.

On the other hand, our neighbours stay exclusively on commercial sites with hook-up, so for them, it probably isn't worthwhile; especially because an increasing number of sites charge automatically for 230V, whether it is being used or not.

The panel we had fitted wasn't the one I really lusted after, but is the most suitable for us within our budget! As is frequently the case, if £500 buys you X amount of value, £1000 rarely doubles X, but usually adds a bit.

Talking to suppliers/installers, we discovered that a rigid 100W panel is in the sweet spot between value for money, output and usefulness.

Of course, specific requirements require individual solutions, but for most of us, a rigid 100W monocrystalline panel is a sensible choice.

Jack's Hacks

  • Set your budget and stick to it.
  • Choose a supplier and fitter who is experienced and will only use top-quality sealants and adhesives.
  • Don't over specify the output or number of panels. When your leisure battery is replenished, it is full and can't absorb any more.
  • The charge controller is as important as the solar panel itself.
  • Consider upgrading your current leisure battery or adding another one, to maximise your storage capacity for solar-generated power.
  • Maximum power point tracker (MPPT) controllers are quick to react to fluctuating voltages with minimal power loss.
  • Flexible panels can be mounted on a radius, but are less efficient than a rigid monocrystalline panel.
  • Opting for a location near the side edge of the roof facilitates easier cleaning of the solar panel.
  • Keep wiring runs as short as possible.
  • A device such as a Battery Master will divert current to the engine battery when the leisure battery is full; important if you have no hook-up where your 'van is stored. Battery Master supply and fitting are included in the Van Bitz price for a solar panel.

FURTHER INFORMATION

100W monocrystalline solar panel, Victron Energy MPPT 70/15 charge control and Battery Master battery balancer supplied and fitted for £549.oo inc VAT. One night free at adjacent award-winning Cornish Farm Touring Park.

Van Bitz, Cornish Farm, Shoreditch, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 7BS

Tel 01823 321 992 / 353 235

Web www.vanbitz.com