SOLAR PANEL advice needed - in general, brands, converter, controler, battery


Hi guys, my boyfriend and me are going to install a solar panel and we have no clue at all.
So we would appreciate any advice on which solar panel in general, brand, what else we do need (controller, converter, battery, etc. …) and if we can drill into the top of our van or if we better go with a panel we can glue onto the roof ???

** in general:
We will just run our fridge independently from the engine battery - and we would like to be able to charge our laptops and phones as well - but there is nothing more to charge.

FRIDGE (DC@5/32°C: 0.69 kWh/24h || Input voltage (DC): 12/24 V || Rated input current (DC): 7.8 A || Input frequency: 50/60 Hz)

2 X LAPTOP (Input voltage: 100 VAC–240 VAC || Output current (continuous): 6.67 A || Rated output voltage: 19.50 VDC || Input frequency: 50 Hz–60 Hz || Input current (maximum): 1.80 A)

2 X SMARTPHONE (accu capacity each 2620 mAh)

** which BRAND would you recommend

** what ELSE do we need (controller, converter, battery, etc)

** is it better to buy a KIT OR is it better to buy everything INDIVIDUALLY

** how to INSTALL (can we easily drill into the roof?? or is it better to glue it onto??)


cheers from Vancouver, Canada


Myself I would drill holes and bolt them on. I don’t trust glue to hold them on at highway speeds. When i installed mine I just drill 4 holes and bolted them on. It not a big deal, just make sure you use rv putty tape and sealant, you shouldnt have any leaks. In 5 years never had any leaks from those 4 holes I drilled, but I had leaks from some of the roof vents I installed.

But you need to make sure about what is under the roof before you drill, in some areas there are support beams, that will be in the way, some areas have wires.

As far as panels get the largest panel that will fit on your roof, the first panel I had was 120 watts, that was very underpower (only got 6 amps out of it), now I have a larger 240 watt panel ( I get over 12 amps out of it). With the fridge and laptops, you need at least 12 amps. If you can fit a 280 watt or bigger thats what I recommend. You can sometimes find good deals on craiglist on panels, I payed 200 dollars for my 240 watt panel.

Charge controller for a small 21 volt panel get pwm controller, for a larger 36 volt panel get mppt controller. I use the ecoworthy 20 amp mppt (cost 100 dollars) on my 240 watt panel.

All you really need is the panel/controller/wires/connectors and I highly recommend you get a 90 volt 30 amp combo meter (about 20 dollar on ebay) and connect between the controller and the battery, Its a bright LED that will tell you how much amps your panel is putting out and tells you battery voltage all the time. If you know the voltage/amps you can tell if your system is working to its maximum efficiency.

Panel on roof

90 volt 30 amp combo meter

xt60 connectors, is all I use to connect everything in my van, they can handle up to 60 amps. In this picture you see the combo meter, and the ecoworthy mppt controller is to the right. Just by looking at the voltage 14.1 volts, the controller is bulk charging and the battery is not fully charge yet (max 14.4 volts/ float would be 13.7 volts or less) and the amps of 4 amps tells me its probably cloudy or sun going down, at noon on sunny day the amps would be almost 12 amps. Combo meter tells you alot.


@bizness thanks a lot for your advice, that’s way much more than we’ve received from a well-known company and their so-called advisor. now it’s weekend and we will have more time to figure out something. i’ll get back to you, if we have additional questions. thanks again.



How much driving are you planning on doing? When it comes to solar, most places are less than ideal, and the PNW is even worse. Solar is the most expensive, least reliable, and least efficient way to charge batteries. For desert dwellers maybe it’s acceptable, but for most people it’s really just a waste of money.

99% of the people who claim to like solar ( a tiny fraction of the number of people who have wasted a fortune on it ) are also using other charging methods too, and crediting their solar when it isn’t their solar keeping them in power.

A perfect example was a guy I ran into who was bragging about his solar, and how it cut down his generator usage from 24 hours a day to only 10 hours a day. But he had also added a battery bank with the solar, and was charging through a converter instead of thorough a legitimate battery charger. We disconnected his solar, added a battery charger, and cut his generator run time down to an hour a day unless he needed to run his air conditioning. His roof full of solar wasn’t capable of charging his battery bank on the longest sunniest summer day, let alone the rest of the year.

I dumped solar altogether. I don’t drive much, but I drive enough to keep my house battery charged better than solar ever did, then I have a backup generator if I ever need it. The most disposable part of any power system is always the solar. I tried solar multiple times, and every time was a failure. My whole power system, battery, generator, battery charger, and isolator cost under $200. 5 gallons of gas for my generator will last me over a year on the rare occasions I use it.

If I were you, I wouldn’t even mess with solar until after I already had a reliably working system without it. My house battery, isolator, and full installation was under $75 at a battery recycling shop. I added another $20ish worth of accessories to that to create my very convenient system. Under $100 gave me a totally reliable power system for 99% of the time. A $99 no name cheap generator covers that other 1% if I’m boondocking for a long time. I don’t even need the generator more than half a dozen times a year. I could get away without it, and just run my engine instead if I wanted to. I could add solar if I wanted it, but I don’t need it, so for under $200, I have a totally reliable power system that doesn’t rely on the weather. Truth be told, even with solar, I would still need both my isolator and my generator to have a good reliable system. I didn’t lose anything but headaches by skipping solar this time around.

It isn’t about the money, it’s about the reliability of always having plenty of power. The fact that my current system cost less than solar was just an added bonus. If my current system cost would have cost twice as much as solar, I would have still paid it, and been happy. I’m comfortable and worry free, no sunshine for a week or more, no problem, I still have reliable power.