Solar & Ventilation

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Solar 12-Volt Electrical System

Ok, this one took a lot of research. You have to think about the power you’ll be using and size your system accordingly. Ryan is a residential electrician, so that helped. But engineering a custom 12v system is a little different. After about a dozen crumpled-up sheets of hypothetical system requirements, we did what any sane person would do. We watched 1000 YouTube videos and guess-timated our needs. We secured quality parts and fused everything to protect our investment from any possible ‘wupses’. We’re not solar engineering experts but here’s the guts of a system that has yet to let us down:

  • 2x 150w Renogy Solar Panels (300 watts total)

  • One 255ah 12v Deep-Cycle AGM Battery from Guelph Solar

  • Renogy ‘Commander’ 40amp MPPT Charge Controller

  • AIMS 1500w Inverter/Charger

  • Progressive Dynamics 40amp Converter

  • Isolator Switches, Bus Bars, Fuses, etc from Blue Sea Systems

We’re really satisfied with our system and what it’s capable of. That said, if we did it all again, we would consider a plug-and-play solar generator like those produced by Goal Zero or Inergy. For the same cost or less, you get a portable unit that is lightweight, compact, simple to use, and even simpler to replace. If you don’t want the headache of learning how to wire a house while learning how to build a house, this is a smart option.

Our system regularly powers our 12v fridge, our four LED puck lights, a 12v water pump, 12v MaxxAir Fan, Propex furnace, 12v vacuum, and charges our phones, laptop, and other devices as needed. Occasionally we can plug into our inverter to run items on ac power - but we do this sparingly or if we’re plugged into shore power.

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The MaxxAir Fan Saga

We were all set to install our shiny new MaxxAir Fan over the kitchen area. We made cardboard templates of the solar panels and fan and put them up on the roof and…. realized we couldn’t do that. The solar panels were too big to have the fan directly over the kitchen. Hm.

Rather than send everything back to Amazon, we bought a Ranger rack system to avoid drilling into the metal roof, and mounted them forward. The fan was then able to be placed directly above the bed, perfectly between the metal ribs, far enough back that the panels could fit perfectly up front with a slight overhang. We treated all the the wood inside and installed a vented C.R. Lawrence window (that leaked and needed repair - use Butyl tape for everything, kids!) in the sliding door to help move kitchen ‘magic’ up and out of the van. We feel this was a happy accident - had it not happened, we would have absolutely died in the summer heat with no air movement over the very high platform bed. Yuck.

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