Recommended PV setup for weekend usage in DYI conversion Sprinter RV?

Hi - I'm new here and I am trying to figure out what kind of PV setup I need (can afford) for my daily driver sprinter van - that also doubles as a weekend camper.

My planned usage needs are:
- Lighting (2-3 LEDs) ? Ah for 2 hours/day (max)
- Espar heater which uses 1 Amp/hour for night time for 8-10 hours/day (max)
- Small water pump (for backdoor shower/small sink)  ? Ah for 0.3 hours/day (max)
- Inverter for charging phone and laptop for ? Ah for 1-2 hours/day (max)
- Dometic CF-025DC - which is pretty small - 30 Ah/day?

My current house battery is a new full river DC-115-12:
Nominal Voltage: 12V
Amp Hour Capacity @ 20 hr rate: 115 a/h
Reserve Capacity @ 25 amp discharge rate: 200 mins
BCI Group Size: 31

I am currently charging house battery it off of the sprinter alternator via this charger.
PV System Questions
I am limited on my rooftop real estate because my van has the factory rear ac (which is huge) AND I would like to put a thule box up there as well.

I would like to do this cost effectively - and I understand that my battery is not super large - but I'm realistic about my needs.  Worst case is I am sleeping for 2 nights at a backcountry ski location and I need the heater for 20 hours.

Here is what I *think* I need (but I really have no clue):
1. Battery monitor - I have been looking at the victron BMV-700.
2. MPPT charger - recommendations?  there seem to be a million out there  - victron???
3. Solar panel(s) - monocrystaline - 40" - x1 or x2 100w panels renogy???  
4. inverter?  Xantrex prowatt 2000W ???  Do I really need something this big?

Ok - so you add all this up and it gets expensive - but maybe that's the way it is.  Is there a better option here? - is there a cheaper AND better option here?  Am I missing something?




  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,132 ✭✭✭✭
    OK a few numbers   ...2000W = 12V and ~ 166A you will need to calculate the wire size for the Peak  surge , probably 3000 or 4000W...  ie it's going to be very large, look at using a smallere inverter
    you need to have about 14A name plate Amps to get a decent charge back into that battery, if you don't kill it in one or 2 days.... ie about 2 of those panels,  you need to put back ~ 110% of what you use per day
    You could use a PWM MidNite Brat or the MidNite KID MPPT...
    Drop the AC. You will need a seriously large battery to use it...  consider fans.
    consider using golf Cart batteries @ 6V, way more storage  capacity...


    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • corburycorbury Registered Users Posts: 2
    Hi - thanks for the feedback -  I will look in to these options.  

    On the inverter - I agree - I'm not running a microwave or anything like that - maybe a 1000W - or even a 300W inverter?

    On the AC - I hardly ever run the rear factory AC (while driving) - and it's absolutely not in the mix to be run when not driving. I only mentioned the rear AC because it takes up a bunch of the roof real estate - thus limiting the number of panels.  One scenario I am considering is mounting the panels on a roof rack bars - over the ac unit.  but that makes the whole roof combo even larger.  I will have to test it out.

    Thanks again,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,778 admin
    What is the battery bank? A single 12 volt @ 115 AH battery bank would, at best, reliably supply:
    • 115 AH * 1/5 hour discharge rate = 23 Amps
    • 23 amps * 12 volts * 0.85 AC inverter eff = 235 Watts AC max continuous
    And even that is a pretty high current--Probably good for minutes or 1 hour at a time. You would be much better with 1/8 to 1/20 discharge rate for long term average discharge rate.

    So--A good inverter for a smaller 12 VDC system would be this MorningStar 300 Watt TSW inverter or similar.

    It is possible to have a much larger inverter with AGM or LiFePO4 batteries--But even then, would 3 kWatts for 15 minutes (to dead battery bank) be very useful.

    You need to review your loads and battery bank sizing... You probably would be much happier with 6 volt at ~200-220 AH "golf cart" batteries. Either two in series (12 volt at 200 AH) or four in series/parallel (12 volt @ 400 AH) for the loads you have listed.

    Of course, this means more solar panels for charging (i.e., the system grow$).

    Could you remove the read A/C system and then have more/easier space for mounting panels?

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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