The Minimalist 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 usable deep cycle battery
- 100-200 watt solar panel
- 20 amp MPPT charge controller (PWM controller if on a tight budget)
- 750 watt inverter
- $130-$260 for Solar Panels
- $125 for Solar Charge Controller
- $280 for Lead Acid Batteries or $950 for Lithium Batteries
- $170 for Inverter
- $140 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 Lead Acid Batteries: $1075.00
- Complete System with Lithium Batteries: $1,745.00
(Lithium is still cheaper option because it will last 4-8 times longer than the lead acid system)
Major Components of this system mounted to a wooden board
What I recommend
Buy this battery:
The Battle Born 100 amp hour Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery.
This battery will last 3,000 to 5,000+ cycles. It is small and light weight. This battery is much cheaper than a lead acid battery, if you take its longevity into account.
Click Here to buy it on Amazon.com
Click Here to buy it directly from Battle Born
To learn more about this battery, click here
If you plan to use your system for less than 3 years, and weight is not an issue, you can buy this battery instead:
Buy 100- 200 watts of Solar Panels:
Glass solar panel:
Flexible Solar Panel:
41.8 x 21.7 x 1.3 inches
Click Here for a high quality 100 watt flexible 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)
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 1000 watt pure 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):
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
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.
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.