I tested my solar panel out today and I’m pretty happy with its performance, given the somewhat cloudy skies. I have a 250W Renogy monocrystalline solar panel and with only the fridge running and microwave plugged in, it not only maintained the battery voltage, but was able to give a little extra juice in the process. Mind you, this was only for an hour or two while the van was actually in direct sunlight and generated 180W (it may have generated more, but I only looked at it occasionally and that was the highest amount I saw). There’s a number of trees where I live and as the day went on, the van was back in the shade again. When I first plugged it in this morning, the van was completely covered in the shade of a large tree and the panel was only producing about 18W. Once I moved it, it jumped up to the 180W area. Around 1 or 2pm, it was fluctuating between 40W and 80W, depending on the cloud cover. Again, I was also back in the shade of a tree by this point.
I think once I’m out West and there aren’t as many trees around, I’ll average out at least at the 180W I saw today; hopefully closer to the full 250W. Another thing I tested today was charging the batteries via the engine. I had the solar panel already hooked up and running when I tested it and as soon as I started the van, the voltage jumped up to 13.5 volts. I don’t want to risk overcharging the batteries, so I don’t think I’ll ever allow both charging processes to run simultaneously. I’ll probably end up turning the solar panel off while driving for long distances and then turn it back on once I’m done driving.
Anywho, on with the day. Before I hooked up the solar panel, I disconnected my batteries and pulled them out so I could drill a vent hole into the floor. This hole is to allow fresh air in to replace the gases being exhausted through the battery vent. While getting ready to install my battery tie down strap, which was gonna be bolted through the floor, I realized there’s some stuff in the way under the van directly where I needed to drill. So, I had to improvise and made a “strap” out of a 2×3 that’s anchored into the battery box; the box is anchored directly to the wall and floor already.
I also raised the wall around the inverter compartment because I installed the fuse box higher than I had planned so that the rear outlet on it would be accessible. Then I built lids for both compartments.
With the compartments completed, I put together some PVC pipe to extend down and connect to the lids I just made. This pipe connects to the pipe I had already installed awhile ago that vents out through the roof. I’m venting both compartments in case there is any spillover from one to the other. Once I had the pipe ran, I drilled holes in the tops of the lids to extend the pipe through.
Finally, it was time to add the finishing details by carpeting both boxes to match the rest of the storage compartment.
With my storage compartment finally complete and my battery vent done, I should be able to start the trim work around the side door tomorrow. This includes framing around the door, covering the battery vent, and installing the dimmer switch for my LED lighting. If I have enough time, I want to get the cover built for the ceiling vent/skylight.
I’d really like to build interior doors so that I could panel them to match the rest of the van and there would be absolutely no sheet metal showing anymore, but I’m kinda sick of spending money. If nothing else, I’ll at least buy a screening to put over the door area so I can have the doors open but keep bugs out.