Battery and Solar Set-up
2nd Habitation Battery
We wanted to be sure that we never run out of battery power when we’re “off grid”, i.e. not plugged into the mains. The first step in achieving this was to have a second 110A habitation battery installed which then gave us double the available battery power.
Because our van was new, we asked for the second battery to be identical to the first, factory supplied battery. This was (very) expensive but we knew that we had a matched pair of batteries that would share the load equally, without having a master/slave situation – with one battery drawing power from the other.
To ensure the load across the batteries was balanced absolutely, with an identical draw from each battery, we connected the two batteries in parallel, then connected the load for the habitation area to the positive terminal of battery A, and the negative terminal of battery B.
We knew that when we’re travelling we’d be doing a fair share of wild camps and being “off-grid”. While the habitation batteries charge up while we’re driving, we wanted to make sure we could park up for a few days, without electric, and not have to worry about the habitation battery voltage running low.
We had a single 120W solar panel installed. After 18 months travelling, it’s proved more than sufficient to do the job.
We had a couple requirements when it came to the solar controls. We wanted to have a dual system that would
- charge both the main vehicle battery, and the habitation batteries
- give us a way of managing the settings, and to see what voltage we have across the habitation batteries
The solar controller we selected was the EPIPDB-COM, coupled with a Remote Meter MT-1 to provide us with a visual display of the system settings and voltages.
The Solar Controller was fitted inside one of the high level cupboards, and the Remote Meter was installed up on the control panel area above the habitation door. We’ve never had to touch the Solar controller, everything is done from the Remote Meter. (See pictures below)
With this set up we have the ability to control how much of the charge is sent to the vehicle battery, and how much to the habitation battery. We have ours set to 80% Habitation, 20% Vehicle. When the vehicle battery is fully charged all of the charge goes to the habitation battery. The beauty of this is that if we’re playing the vehicle radio (on the main vehicle battery), or parked up for an extended period of time, the vehicle battery’s never in danger of running low.
With the Remote Meter, we can switch views to show voltage on the Habitation battery, voltage on the Vehicle battery, or voltage being supplied from the solar panel. There’s a myriad of other measurements that you can look at, (current flows, peak rates, minimum rates etc), but really all we want to do is make sure the voltage from our Habitation batteries doesn’t drop too low. If it does (when we’re “off-grid”), we turn off some lights, unplug things that we don’t need – or go to bed!