The Minimalist on a budget Solar Package
This setup works well if you:
- Plan to install in a minivan/car/off-road truck/cargo van with limited roof space
- Want a lightweight setup that is aerodynamic
- Plan to run a laptop, USB charger, and some LED lights (but do not plan to run any large motors/microwaves or large appliances)
- 100 amp hour deep cycle battery
- 100-200 watt solar panel
- 20 amp MPPT charge controller (PWM controller if on a tight budget)
- 750-1000 watt inverter
- $130-$260 for Solar Panels
- $30-$125 for Solar Charge Controller
- $160-$269 for Cheap Lead Acid Batteries
- $40-$84 for Inverter
- $100 for Branch Connectors/Cable Entry Gland/Wire/Crimp Connectors/Fuses
- $50-$150 for Tools (Cheap tools are available, but you are better off buying high quality tools)
- Complete System with Cheapest Components: $510.00
- Complete System with MPPT/1000 watt Inverter/VMax Battery: $938.00
Major Components of this system mounted to a wooden board
If you are using in-line fuses, an inverter with a wiring kit (recommended), you do not need to mount the components to a wooden board. It is ideal, but not required. This system is so small, and cooling is not that big of an issue, so you can mount the components near the battery, to a wall or bed frame. Picture below is to give you an idea of how everything connects together.
What I recommend
Buy this battery:
If you want a higher quality battery, buy this one instead:
Buy 100- 200 watts of Glass Solar Panels:
Weight: 16.5 pounds
Click here to buy a high quality 100 watt glass solar panel
Choose a Solar Charge Controller:
If you are on a budget, a cheap PWM controller will work... but I highly recommend buying an MPPT charge controller. The increased efficiency of an MPPT charge controller makes it worth the money. The MPPT will take care of your batteries better in the long run (it has temperature compensation and other battery maintenance features). The MPPT controller below will also let you know how much power your solar panels is producing (if you buy the MT-50 with it). There are more reasons that I could list, but buying a MPPT is a no-brainer. Spend the extra money and buy it (unless you absolutely cannot afford to do so).
MPPT Charge Controller (recommended if you can afford it)
Max. Solar Input Power:
260 watts of solar panels
This charger has over-current protection which means that the figures above can be doubled!
20 amp MPPT charge controller (98% efficiency)
Recommended MPPT Accessories:
Temperature Compensation Module (click here)
MT-50 Control Display and Interface (click here)
Buy This 1100 watt Modified sine wave inverter:
High-Quality Copper Wire for DC appliance hookup
(most wire on amazon is "copper clad aluminum", which is cheaper but lower in quality)
You can use this gauge of wire to connect your solar charge controller to your battery as well, just make sure the distance between the battery and the controller is under 13 feet. If its farther, then you will need to use 10 gauge wire:
50 feet 10 gauge Blue/Black
Solar Panel Cable Entry Gland
When your solar panel array wires enter your vehicle, you will need to drill two holes. Use this cover to prevent roof leaks from developing.
Fuses Required for this system:
Solar Panel Mounts:
Every vehicle is different, so check out my book or this page (click here) to figure out how to mount your solar panels
Precision Wire Stripper
Only tool you will ever need to strip normal and small size wires.
8-22 gauge wire
Hammer Type Crimper
Can crimp up to 4/0 gauge wire, and it is much cheaper than other large wire crimpers. If you plan to build only one system, this is the tool for you.
If you are buying an inverter kit with cables and fuse, you do not need to buy this tool!
Crimp Connector set
There are cheaper crimp connector sets available, but they are junk! Spend the extra money and buy a high quality set of connectors. The cheap chinese ones will fail and I have had it happen before. This is what I currently use:
When connecting fans or lights or pretty much anything, use these quick connectors that are rated to 60 amps! I have used them for years for my rc airplanes and helicopters, but they are insanely useful for living in a rv.