It has been hard to peel away from parenting duties to work on the Sportsmobile. Parts have piled up over the past few weeks, but we are slowly making our way to getting them onto the camper.
After looking through our existing solar set up, we realized we had a cheap generic solar charge controller and a heavy aging panel (about 40 lbs for the panel). While it works, we were looking at upgrading our solar set up to a higher quality set up that will protect our house battery (proper charge profiles, temperature shut off). Our goals were to: 1) add a panel to the roof of the van using our existing square bars, 2) make the set up light enough so the penthouse top would not be difficult to lift, 3) make it easily removable (so we can carry our paddle boards), and 4) make it expandable.
Lowes was clearing out all their Zamp products (hand assembled, US made!). We picked up a 100 watt panel, a few 60 watt panels, an inverter, and a charge controller kit with roof cap for about $300. Retail costs on everything would probably be closer to the $1,000!
We measured, drilled, and bolted one 100 watt panel onto the bracket that we built, and snapped it onto the bars. We did not want to drill into the top and instead zip tied the lines to the bars and ran it under the side of the top. We ran the wires over the fabric, down the wiring loom to the rear and plugged it into the Zamp ZS-30A charge controller.
The rooftop set up with the single 100 watt is just shy of 40 lbs. We have space for one more panel on the roof and enough capacity for a remote panel. The set up meets all our goals. It was easy to set up and wire and the Zamp instructions and kit made everything fool proof.
- Zamp uses SAE 2 pin connectors in REVERSE polarity, forcing you to use their panels or use an adapter. There is a risk mismatching panels and polarity and I suggest anyone thinking of using a solar PV set up do a lot of research.
- I wish Zamp used MC4 connectors. MC4 connectors are common on PV set ups. They are weather proof, safe, and UV rated.
- Zamp’s top cap is massive and really ruins the profile of the Sportsmobile top. We will be remote mounting it under our rear dinette seat or in a closet instead. It will require that we run more wires, but we can’t stand the way it looks on top of our van.
Note: We did not write the post to be a guide on how to install a system, there are plenty out there. There is a lot of science regarding solar PV set ups that we suggest researching on before tackling a solar project.