Sprinter Van Conversion: Solar power

Last few weeks has been a crash course in solar power and DC current in general. Studied a lot on what others have done and kinda added my needs for power and came up with a pretty good system I think.

Ordered a complete solar panel kit from Windy Nation, except for the inverter, bought that separate, still from Windy Nation though. 300 watt kit that includes (3) 100 watt panels, charge controller, and all wires and connectors needed to get power to controller. Inverter is a pure swine wave 1500 watt machine that has three AC outlets. Charge controller is a TrakMax 30 L MPPT controller. 

By stacking the brackets, I was able to keep panels rearward about 3 inches

I wanted to mount the panels on the roof as far back as I could get them, without interfering with the Fantastic Vent. I had just enough room with stacking the brackets on two of the panels. See photo. I had to lay out panels and enlarge the existing holes because they didn't line up. No big deal, one extra step. I mounted the panels to the roof for the lowest possible profile. Used plenty of caulk and lock washer. I did this by myself which was pretty tough, I would suggest two people for sure. 

I did have to drill into center of a roof support beam/bar for the rear brackets of the rear most panel. Problem with that is no easy access to secure a washer or bolt. You can cut a larger hole from the inside to gain access or just use a brass expansion nut. I chose to use the expansion nut. You can get them at Home Depot here.

I researched all over the place to find a way to get the panel wires into and through the roof of the van. There are a million ways to do this. I ended up going with a simple PCV electrical fitting. I was limited in where I could penetrate roof, because of space for wires and wanted a small hole through the roof. I plan to have a roof basket on the rear section of the roof and it will hide the fitting well. Mounting the panels and roof penetration took a couple of hours on a Sunday. I spent the next several days studying how to wire and hook up the components. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the install...

 

Sprinter Van Conversion: Wireless backup camera...

Backing this van up is pretty easy, except for the last five or six feet before hitting an object. You lose the object your trying to back up to somewhere in the 5-6 feet range. The answer is a backup camera.

I bought a 4ucam wireless model. I will use my cell phone as a monitor. You can use any device that can download the app though.

First thing you do is take out the original 3rd brake light. There is one connection to remove. Real simple.

You will want to clean the area pretty good, so that the new gasket will be water tight. This took a little bit of work. I used a hard plastic edge and some general cleaner to get it clean. 

Taking the actual LED light fixture out of the shell (what you see from the outside) was a pain. I ended up using two flat pieces of thin metal to keep the tabs from closing back on to themselves. Once I did that, taking the fixture out was easy. 

Put the LED fixture into the new shell, fit new gasket onto shell, feed the wires for powering camera to desired location, connect the power for the light (First photo above). Secure the light back into the opening and fasten with same screws that came out. This model has a 2.4 Mhz wireless transmitter that sends a signal to the monitor/cell phone. Transmitter requires power as well. I powered both camera and transmitter to my solar system.

Update: Screenshot of my backup camera

Sprinter Van Conversion: Insulation

Insulating this rig is a huge job, I looked into the cost of a 600 board ft kit of spray on foam, which would be enough to do the job. That kit cost $575.00 and then you figure the time and materials to prep the areas you didn't want insulation to get and the cost would be about $600.00-$700.00. I got a price from a local insulation company for $1400.00.

So I decided to save some cash and do what others have done. I figure I'll save just in materials $300.00 vs Foam. Like I said "Huge Job..." I put reflectix down against all exterior sheet metal. I used the best adhesive I could find to secure the reflectix to the sheet metal. I could not get to some areas, so I bought cans of Great Stuff and foamed them. There are some areas I did not want to foam, like near lights and wire connections. I'll have to figure something out in those spots

Next, I cut to fit R-15 faced insulation and put them everywhere I could get to. This along with the Reflectix was a pain in the rear because of all the custom cutting and fitting. The foil tape worked great and one large roll did entire project. There are some spots that did not get insulation, areas in between pillars with no access holes, just get everything you can short of cutting metal to get to an area.

Sprinter Van Conversion: Fantastic Vent install

I will have to say, after watching a lot of videos on YouTube about installing these fans, it was pretty easy. With a little planning on top of the van, I was able to position the vent so that I did not have to deal with any of the raised sheet metal parts of the roof.

I made a template out of the cardboard box that the fan shipped in 13 7/8 x 13 7/8. I eyeballed the position to make sure it was straight and then traced it with a sharpie. Yes, I did check it with a tape and it was right on. Drilled four holes at the corners and then cut out the opening with a jigsaw. 

Made sure to cover bottom of the jigsaw base with blue tape as not to scratch the paint. Cleaned the edges up and wiped down the area with a cleaner.

The gasket that comes with the fan is just a white piece of what looks like packing foam. Directions stated to tighten down the screws and wait about 10 minutes before applying caulk. I pre-drilled all the holes and then secured the fan to the roof.

Caulked the screw heads and the flange. I also caulked the inside opening as well Took about an hour from start to finish. 

New project in the works Sprinter Van Conversion

Picked up a really nice 2010 Mercedes 3500 Sprinter Cargo Van yesterday. I have been researching these vans for over a year. Price, fuel mileage, cost, reliability and ability to convert to camping and using as a home base are all pluses with these vans. There is a treasure trove of information online about these vans and I have researched and studied what others have done.

 

I have a rough idea on my layout but will remain flexible on what works and doesn't and will adjust accordingly. I have three areas that are a must. 1. Must have queen size bed. 2. Large enough storage under bed area (I'll call that area the garage) for two road bikes, two sets of scuba gear, tanks and metal detecting gear. 3. A wet closet for wet suits. I'll incorporate plenty of other storage areas, counter space with room for a refrigerator. 

I plan on wiring for solar power as well as shore power. Powered roof vent, roof rack and back up camera. Micheal and I got started today on stripping the panels off the walls. Up next, we will insulate walls, ceiling and floor. Install roof vent and start the wiring. Stay tuned for more post on this project...

Civil War Preservation Project of Ohio (CWPPO)

On October 7th-9th, 2016 the CWPPO will be holding an event in Morgan County, Ohio to help recover relics related to Civil War activities in that area. If you would like to participate in this event or order a T-shirt and window sticker to support us, please register by filling out the form below.

This event is partially funded by the registration fees collected by the CWPPO from people who want to help recover relics. You must be registered to be permitted on the property where the relic recovery effort will take place.

I'll be attending this year and maybe doing some diving on the Muskingum River. Full report to come...

Full website here

JC JOHNSON