Starcraft Jayco Outback Starcraft Solar

Tiery

New Member
Aug 29, 2021
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Burpengary East
Hello
Chasing some help regarding "Drilling concern" for adding extra solar panel to top of Jayco, currently roof has two 150w panels that were installed before I brought the van, would like to add another towards the front of the van, run wire direct from panel to battery mounted in the tunnel boot, my concern is the drilling into the roof that might have wire running between the roof panel sheets plus any main roof support frames, don't want to drill into any wire or roof supports, do Jayco offer a wire diagram for the roof of there 21.6ft Jayco caravans
 

Drover

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I would see how the extra weight would effect lifting the roof, put a bag of sand or water can on top same weight as new panel and see how it all lifts...... thats if its a pop top....

To fix it to the roof I would use some large alloy angle at least 75mm as you need 50mm or more clearance of panel off roof and a large footprint for the bracket on roof, do a good clean of roof and give the bracket a clean and scutch, drill 2 small holes in bracket where it will attach to roof and rivett the panel onto bracket, each bracket needs to be a minimum of 200mm long.
Using a Sikaflex marine adhesive stick it to the roof and use 2 small SS screws to position and hold it to roof, do not apply a lot of pressure to screws, need to leave a mm or 2 of adhesive netween roof and bracket... You don't want to try and use screws to hold brackets to roof, they will come away in time unless you manage to have backing, originally when built they would add support underneath the skin for mounting panels etc, like the TV mounts...
I would be tapping into the panels there already, an easy enough job to do...... any miss match between panels doesn't make all that much of a difference in the big scheme of things I have found and even if your controller says it can handle 400w of solar that means an actual 400w you could have 500w on the roof but will never see all of that online ever, so adding more doesn't mean much.....

Fitting brackets to panel first means it won't stress the brackets when fitted to roof.
 

Boots in Action

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Mar 13, 2017
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I would see how the extra weight would effect lifting the roof, put a bag of sand or water can on top same weight as new panel and see how it all lifts...... thats if its a pop top....

To fix it to the roof I would use some large alloy angle at least 75mm as you need 50mm or more clearance of panel off roof and a large footprint for the bracket on roof, do a good clean of roof and give the bracket a clean and scutch, drill 2 small holes in bracket where it will attach to roof and rivett the panel onto bracket, each bracket needs to be a minimum of 200mm long.
Using a Sikaflex marine adhesive stick it to the roof and use 2 small SS screws to position and hold it to roof, do not apply a lot of pressure to screws, need to leave a mm or 2 of adhesive netween roof and bracket... You don't want to try and use screws to hold brackets to roof, they will come away in time unless you manage to have backing, originally when built they would add support underneath the skin for mounting panels etc, like the TV mounts...
I would be tapping into the panels there already, an easy enough job to do...... any miss match between panels doesn't make all that much of a difference in the big scheme of things I have found and even if your controller says it can handle 400w of solar that means an actual 400w you could have 500w on the roof but will never see all of that online ever, so adding more doesn't mean much.....

Fitting brackets to panel first means it won't stress the brackets when fitted to roof.
Hi @Tiery, ever thought of just using a folding portable panel instead of having the issues of where and how to attach on roof, not to mention the extra weight as brought up by @Drover? The portable panel gives you the flexibility to place portable in sun while van (and roof panels) are possibly shaded. Remember, the roof top solar panels only produce their max power between approx 11.00am and say 2.30pm, need to be kept clean and are subject to losses by heat unless sufficient air gap is provided. An Anderson plug at the side of van connected to your solar controller inside is an easy option for connection of a portable panel, and @Drover can vouch for this method. Yes, I understand the issue of having to store portable panel when on the move and having to move/carry around 12kg panel to follow sun. But with a 10 metre solar cable, you can get a lot more solar input when you need it. Something to consider???
 

jazzeddie1234

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May 19, 2016
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My starcraft has full height cupboards either side of the bed so I drilled a hole as close to the door and bed corner as possible. Not an ideal location as the termination box is visible on the curved front surface outside, but it is ok and it let me run the cable down the back of the cupboard and into the tunnel.
I also used a strong magnet loosely wrapped in cling wrap to glide over the roof and locate where the joists were
 

Boots in Action

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Mar 13, 2017
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My starcraft has full height cupboards either side of the bed so I drilled a hole as close to the door and bed corner as possible. Not an ideal location as the termination box is visible on the curved front surface outside, but it is ok and it let me run the cable down the back of the cupboard and into the tunnel.
I also used a strong magnet loosely wrapped in cling wrap to glide over the roof and locate where the joists were
@jazzeddie1234 , don't the latest Jaycos boast about an all aluminium frame. If that is the case, then magnetic attraction would not apply. My little Penguin 2013 model states it has an all aluminium frame. I guess the earlier models may have had a different construction, but I thought all the later vans followed on the all aluminium frame system. Or do the larger vans have a partial or full steel frame?
 
Jan 14, 2022
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I added an external Anderson plug to my Jayco Journey Outback a couple of weeks ago so I can add external portable panels if I want to. (Jayco now has fitted an external Anderson plug for solar input to their vans...took them long enough!)
My van has capacity apparently for 320w of solar through the BMPRO BMS that was standard fitment, but it only came with a single solar panel on the roof...I think it is a 160w panel...no specs so don't really know for sure. It means though i should be able to add at least another 160w to the roof feeding the existing BMS which I will very likely do.

In my Jayco the batteries are under the dinette along with the BMS. I have filled that space now with 2 x 140amp batteries and those along with the BMS has left very little space being the mudguard for the dual wheels is there too.
So I had to mount the new MPPT regulator in the back of the nearby drawer under the dinette seating, I can conveniently pull the drawer open to read the MPPT though. I ran some decent cabling down through the floor up to the front of the van where the I attached the Anderson plug to a tool box on the draw bar.

The MPPT I have connected directly to the Batteries via a fused cable and another Anderson plug so it can be unplugged from the batteries. It means there are now two solar regulators feeding the same batteries, but that does work providing they are set up to "see" each other and don't stop charging due to the alternate incoming voltage readings. (I may try connecting the negative incoming power lead via the existing BMS and see if it will read the total input on the display)

The new MPPT will take up to 500w of panels or up to 80 volts input. Being I usually operate my solar panels in series the input will never exceed 500w, I have 2 x 200w folding panels and if I choose I can add a 200w solar blanket I also have, and still likely be under 500 real watts with a voltage input of maybe 60 volts tops.
I guess the upside of having the electrical system under the dinette is it leaves reasonable space under the double bed to store the solar panels when not in use.

I am going to fit an inverter too...not sure where it will go yet as a decent inverter has some physical size about it, and it needs to be near the batteries. I want to hard wire in to the 240 volt system in the van so it can take over when away from an external power source.

I am pretty happy with the set up so far, and will be very happy once I fit the inverter...
 

Boots in Action

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Mar 13, 2017
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I added an external Anderson plug to my Jayco Journey Outback a couple of weeks ago so I can add external portable panels if I want to. (Jayco now has fitted an external Anderson plug for solar input to their vans...took them long enough!)
My van has capacity apparently for 320w of solar through the BMPRO BMS that was standard fitment, but it only came with a single solar panel on the roof...I think it is a 160w panel...no specs so don't really know for sure. It means though i should be able to add at least another 160w to the roof feeding the existing BMS which I will very likely do.

In my Jayco the batteries are under the dinette along with the BMS. I have filled that space now with 2 x 140amp batteries and those along with the BMS has left very little space being the mudguard for the dual wheels is there too.
So I had to mount the new MPPT regulator in the back of the nearby drawer under the dinette seating, I can conveniently pull the drawer open to read the MPPT though. I ran some decent cabling down through the floor up to the front of the van where the I attached the Anderson plug to a tool box on the draw bar.

The MPPT I have connected directly to the Batteries via a fused cable and another Anderson plug so it can be unplugged from the batteries. It means there are now two solar regulators feeding the same batteries, but that does work providing they are set up to "see" each other and don't stop charging due to the alternate incoming voltage readings. (I may try connecting the negative incoming power lead via the existing BMS and see if it will read the total input on the display)

The new MPPT will take up to 500w of panels or up to 80 volts input. Being I usually operate my solar panels in series the input will never exceed 500w, I have 2 x 200w folding panels and if I choose I can add a 200w solar blanket I also have, and still likely be under 500 real watts with a voltage input of maybe 60 volts tops.
I guess the upside of having the electrical system under the dinette is it leaves reasonable space under the double bed to store the solar panels when not in use.

I am going to fit an inverter too...not sure where it will go yet as a decent inverter has some physical size about it, and it needs to be near the batteries. I want to hard wire in to the 240 volt system in the van so it can take over when away from an external power source.

I am pretty happy with the set up so far, and will be very happy once I fit the inverter...
Well @Hitting the road, you really have got on with the electrical work. Looks like you are all over it with huge generating and storage capacity. I have no panels on the roof of my Penguin, but do store the panels under the bed when travelling, similar to your idea. Just one thing that has me thinking is the operation of a MPPT controller working on the same set of batteries which is also being charged by your BMPro which I believe is a PWM controller. As you are no doubt aware, the PWM type drags down the panel voltage to the battery voltage, whilst the MPPT controller uses the extra panel voltage above battery voltage to provide more amps.. Never tried it to really see what happens and document it!! And yes, connecting 3 X 200 watt panels in series is never going to exceed your max rated voltage input of 80 volts. Even with the Schottky bypass diodes I have fitted, perfect clear sunny atmosphere and panel temps around 15C, I have only seen 59.6 volts into my MPPT controller when in float mode (13.7 volts) and with only 2.4 amp load. Will be keen to hear of your observations when operating.
 
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Drover

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You will have heaps of power for sure, I'm always interested though at the need off grid for heaps of 240,.............originally my needs were simple and as times progress I add a little more in panels and strorage but other than a small 400w invertor to charge up the laptop the other 240v job is the washing machine and the red power station sorts that out but rarely used anyway, TV, STBs and other stuff all 12v, coffee is old school plunger ................... of course @Hitting the road no pics is it real ????
 
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Jan 14, 2022
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Well @Hitting the road, you really have got on with the electrical work. Looks like you are all over it with huge generating and storage capacity. I have no panels on the roof of my Penguin, but do store the panels under the bed when travelling, similar to your idea. Just one thing that has me thinking is the operation of a MPPT controller working on the same set of batteries which is also being charged by your BMPro which I believe is a PWM controller. As you are no doubt aware, the PWM type drags down the panel voltage to the battery voltage, whilst the MPPT controller uses the extra panel voltage above battery voltage to provide more amps.. Never tried it to really see what happens and document it!! And yes, connecting 3 X 200 watt panels in series is never going to exceed your max rated voltage input of 80 volts. Even with the Schottky bypass diodes I have fitted, perfect clear sunny atmosphere and panel temps around 15C, I have only seen 59.6 volts into my MPPT controller when in float mode (13.7 volts) and with only 2.4 amp load. Will be keen to hear of your observations when operating.

I had all the panels and cables sitting around after I sold my camper trailer hence retro fitting all to the van. The BMPRO, unit I have is the J35B unit which is solar compatible to 320w...allegedly. It appears to be a fairly basic unit but certainly functional for the standard setup. (I think Jayco may have moved away from BMPRO now for the BMS's they use?)

I have researched everywhere but could never find info whether it is PWM or MPPT type built in regulator, doesn't say in the user manual or on their own web page or anywhere else. I'd say too it is a basic PWM type. They may have moved to an MPPT type controller with the later J35D BMS (also doesn't say) as that one is lithium battery compatible where as the J35B that I have is not.

I am hoping it will make no difference to the charging if there are two different regulators as the only common connection between the two is at the battery bank. The PWM is only connected to the roof panel so hopefully shouldn't matter much if it controls the one roof panel voltage, being it will send some charge accordingly to the battery bank, while the MPPT looks back to the portable panels assessing their input looking for that "sweet" spot.
I'll only really find out when set up and monitoring...

I had done some research and found that when using two separate regulators, that should the regulators begin to taper off the charge rate early by "seeing" the incoming voltage from the other, which i can monitor individually anyway, then by removing the solar input from both regulators with regulator's still connected to the batteries, they apparently will see only the batteries and not each other's input, and set themselves to the battery type and needs. I can manually set the parameters for the MPPT, though the J35B has all factory preset "algorithms"...

In the past i have maintained a daily log recording battery levels and solar inputs so will be doing the same with this setup. I won't always need to add the additional portable panels as the basic setup will often suffice...

You will have heaps of power for sure, I'm always interested though at the need off grid for heaps of 240,.............originally my needs were simple and as times progress I add a little more in panels and strorage but other than a small 400w invertor to charge up the laptop the other 240v job is the washing machine and the red power station sorts that out but rarely used anyway, TV, STBs and other stuff all 12v, coffee is old school plunger ................... of course @Hitting the road no pics is it real ????

Yeah, lol...it's real. I don't have the van here at home here as we live in a Townhouse, so no space, have to keep it at a mate's place on his acreage under cover. Frustrating at times having to drive 45 minutes each way to do any upgrades or updates to the van! Be very handy to be in our back yard so I could tinker away to my heart's content...

Next time we are out in the van I will take some photos when set up...As far as 240v, I sadly still need to work sometimes when away, so the 240v is needed for keeping the laptop charged. I currently have a little 400w inverter same as you which I clip on to the battery terminals when I need 240v.

The bride does like her morning coffee via her coffee machine, (and me), and a hair dryer is a must. Plus I guess on the odd occasion could use the microwave oven for a few minutes to heat a pie...:) Going forward I have considered possibly upgrading to a compressor type fridge, but as the van is still new to us not sure yet how well the 3 way type fridge will cope with our needs. It has worked fine to date on all 3 inputs, it is an upgraded two door type unit, but I have read that they can struggle a fair bit in hot weather. Plus I want to be able to take a portable freezer at times and plug it in to the external van 12v outlet.

Ultimately I'd like to do a progressive upgrade on the whole electrical system to lithium, and add a couple more panels to the roof. That means replacing the existing BMS totally. as it is not lithium compatible....all takes $$$$$$. The only proviso with extra panels is being a pop top type van to be very mindful of the overall lifting weight of the roof...it already has a solar panel, TV Arial and air conditioner.
 

Drover

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I don't know if I could handle Big Mal parked elsewhere, I'd be lost when inspiration hits..................
I have my MPPT running the roof but have my connections set up so portable can plug in as well or I can just plug portable in using its own PWM unit, in all honesty I haven't seen any conflict or great variations in output when the various bits are unplugged, I have observed when batteries are all charged up and sun is low, the unit with the most sun on will keep going and the other will shut down, the portable has my batteries charged up well before the roof tops get going so in the end it doesn't matter and in the middle of the day the power coming in is enough to keep batteries at 100% while charging phones, laptop, camera and drill batteries, the more I plug in the more juice is pulled form the panels...... My PWM unit is probably one of the better ones around so that may make a difference,... I think the thing to aim for is your storage is charged up by 0900 otherwise you end up chasing it all day, my 120w portable I believe supplies more juice during the day than the roof jobs..................

I did a good bit of research into Lithium upgrade earlier this year or maybe it was late last year, either way I decided to upgrade to AGM from GEL instead, "Oils ain't Oils Sol ", applies to lithiums as well I have found, things taken as a given for Lithiums by many isn't the case, while the actual storage unit is pretty much the ssame all round its the BMS used in the battery that makes them a winner or not, in the end storage set up, cost and actual versatility they didn't make a cost effective solution in my situation even though they would get months of use a year.........................

I would like a compressor fridge but the price for the fridge also needs to include a bit more storage required and I have had a few traveller friends not all that happy with them for various reasons usually to do with power supply....... My 3 way since the big refit has shown really good operation but it was just under 30 deg but results were good enough to dial it down some, be interesting to see how it goes in summer, mine is a big 2 door......... I have plugged in the Engel to an anderson as a freezer but not often as the freezer in van is huge....... 3 ways do need a fan or 2 at the back to draw an air flow over the gear, makes a huge difference, better to draw the air than a fan pushing it as a lot of makers do, I have also set up a CPU fan hanging from a shelf inside it comes on and stays on soon as fridge in On, no frozen eggs or lettuce now, it draws power from the light, no need to bugga around with a switch as the cold air falls out when you open the door......
Waffling on somewhat, crap weather here and I suppose at your place as well, this weather do regular van checks to air things out and try to keep any mould at bay..... I fire up the diesel heater every so often to help it out ............ even stuff in my shed is going mouldy........
 
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Thanks drover for the tips...Absolutely agree, my Camper batteries were always full by 9 ish in the morning. same set up as I have now - 2 x 140 amp AGM and 400w of portable panels, and that was after running both a fridge and freezer all night with some lights, water pump phones etc. I did have to move the solar panels the night before to catch the first rays of sun though...

There are various management systems in Lithiums it seems, some good, some not so good, the Chinese stuff can often be quite cheap, maybe there is a reason for that? I'd be very unhappy to spend even $600 bucks on a single Lithium to find it didn't perform as it should...as you wrote "Oils aint Oils Sol", so until it all becomes a bit clearer to this bloke too I'll also stick to the AGM's.
The new MPPT I have fitted to my van is Lithium compatible too so that's a start...

I have also fitted fly screen behind the fridge inside the 2 external vents, which has been pointed out as being an easy place for bugs to come in and make their home. You had I think mentioned that a couple of times too.
I reckon the fly screen could affect the air flow a bit too being the cooling is totally reliant on passive air movement. So I'll have to fit a fan as you suggest at the top vent to draw hot air upward and out to assist the fins to cool...

Weathers pretty cool and crappy down here in Brissy as well,..if the van was nearby I'd likely be fooling around with that. i have a new Sirocco fan I need to wire up...
 

Boots in Action

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Thanks drover for the tips...Absolutely agree, my Camper batteries were always full by 9 ish in the morning. same set up as I have now - 2 x 140 amp AGM and 400w of portable panels, and that was after running both a fridge and freezer all night with some lights, water pump phones etc. I did have to move the solar panels the night before to catch the first rays of sun though...

There are various management systems in Lithiums it seems, some good, some not so good, the Chinese stuff can often be quite cheap, maybe there is a reason for that? I'd be very unhappy to spend even $600 bucks on a single Lithium to find it didn't perform as it should...as you wrote "Oils aint Oils Sol", so until it all becomes a bit clearer to this bloke too I'll also stick to the AGM's.
The new MPPT I have fitted to my van is Lithium compatible too so that's a start...

I have also fitted fly screen behind the fridge inside the 2 external vents, which has been pointed out as being an easy place for bugs to come in and make their home. You had I think mentioned that a couple of times too.
I reckon the fly screen could affect the air flow a bit too being the cooling is totally reliant on passive air movement. So I'll have to fit a fan as you suggest at the top vent to draw hot air upward and out to assist the fins to cool...

Weathers pretty cool and crappy down here in Brissy as well,..if the van was nearby I'd likely be fooling around with that. i have a new Sirocco fan I need to wire up...
@Hitting the road , the idea of having fly screening behind the upper and lower air vents for your fridge is not a good idea I believe, and fraught with danger if not closely maintained. They get blocked up very easily and this definitely reduces the flow of air over the back of the fridge, the heat exchanger and condenser especially. As you said, the flow of air is normally passive and depends on the free flow of hot air rising being replaced by cooler less dense air at the bottom. This can definitely be improved with the provision of computer fans attached to the vents. I have 2 X 120mm fans, one at the bottom sucking cool air in and the other at the top pushing the hot air out. Very effective indeed. However, at @Drover's suggestion when I first fitted these, I also fitted a thermostat onto the pipe close to the radiating fins. Did a bit of experimenting with different heat settings - tried 45C, 50C, 55C and 60C - found that 45C is best for my positioning, as it only comes on when the ambient temp is over 25C, ( I guess air temp at back of fridge to be around 55C?) and as each fan moves 93 cubic feet a minute, they are only on for 30 seconds or so before cutting out. Tried other fans which were quieter, but tended to run longer. Can't have it both ways I suppose. Fan lines are switched also. (See attached)
In all the years I have had this setup, I have never had any problems with unwanted insect life in the back of fridge area. Perhaps the mesh in the plastic vents is sufficient??? However on a stay at 1770, met a couple who had purchased a used van from a traveller who spent a lot of time out west in the dusty conditions. He had a sophisticated arrangement of filters on the vents and thermostatically controlled fans on the back of fridge. Unfortunately, new owners knew nothing about this and their 3 way fridge was not working at all. After I inspected vents, removed blocked filter mesh, and cleaned off thick dust over the back of fridge, the fridge was cold the next morning, much to the relief of new owners who were struggling with a small portable Engel in the back of their tug.
 

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@Hitting the road , the idea of having fly screening behind the upper and lower air vents for your fridge is not a good idea I believe, and fraught with danger if not closely maintained. They get blocked up very easily and this definitely reduces the flow of air over the back of the fridge, the heat exchanger and condenser especially. As you said, the flow of air is normally passive and depends on the free flow of hot air rising being replaced by cooler less dense air at the bottom. This can definitely be improved with the provision of computer fans attached to the vents. I have 2 X 120mm fans, one at the bottom sucking cool air in and the other at the top pushing the hot air out. Very effective indeed. However, at @Drover's suggestion when I first fitted these, I also fitted a thermostat onto the pipe close to the radiating fins. Did a bit of experimenting with different heat settings - tried 45C, 50C, 55C and 60C - found that 45C is best for my positioning, as it only comes on when the ambient temp is over 25C, ( I guess air temp at back of fridge to be around 55C?) and as each fan moves 93 cubic feet a minute, they are only on for 30 seconds or so before cutting out. Tried other fans which were quieter, but tended to run longer. Can't have it both ways I suppose. Fan lines are switched also. (See attached)
In all the years I have had this setup, I have never had any problems with unwanted insect life in the back of fridge area. Perhaps the mesh in the plastic vents is sufficient??? However on a stay at 1770, met a couple who had purchased a used van from a traveller who spent a lot of time out west in the dusty conditions. He had a sophisticated arrangement of filters on the vents and thermostatically controlled fans on the back of fridge. Unfortunately, new owners knew nothing about this and their 3 way fridge was not working at all. After I inspected vents, removed blocked filter mesh, and cleaned off thick dust over the back of fridge, the fridge was cold the next morning, much to the relief of new owners who were struggling with a small portable Engel in the back of their tug.

Thanks heaps for that Boots in Action, I did think of the slowing of air movement by fitting the fly screen, but will see how it pans out. I thought the screening might help to keep the dust entry down a bit too.
I'll be monitoring the fridge temps anyway. Regular maintenance for me would include removing those external vents and blowing out or hosing off the fly screen. If I find the fridge struggling the screening may have to come out. though I had planned to fit a couple of fans to assist air movement as I had read about this easy mod to assist air flow.

I like your idea of the thermostat arrangement to control the fans, as they can also alter the speed they run at, same as a computer will speed CPU fans up as the processor works harder and gets hotter, as will the case fans when the case temp increases. Where did you source your thermostat?
I am looking forward to mucking around with this stuff, and fortunately I have been building my own computers for a while so at least have a bit of understanding of how all these things work. i even have a couple of 120mm case fans in a cupboard here...(without red or blue colours)

At the end of the day i just want the whole thing to be robust and reliable...
 

Boots in Action

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Thanks heaps for that Boots in Action, I did think of the slowing of air movement by fitting the fly screen, but will see how it pans out. I thought the screening might help to keep the dust entry down a bit too.
I'll be monitoring the fridge temps anyway. Regular maintenance for me would include removing those external vents and blowing out or hosing off the fly screen. If I find the fridge struggling the screening may have to come out. though I had planned to fit a couple of fans to assist air movement as I had read about this easy mod to assist air flow.

I like your idea of the thermostat arrangement to control the fans, as they can also alter the speed they run at, same as a computer will speed CPU fans up as the processor works harder and gets hotter, as will the case fans when the case temp increases. Where did you source your thermostat?
I am looking forward to mucking around with this stuff, and fortunately I have been building my own computers for a while so at least have a bit of understanding of how all these things work. i even have a couple of 120mm case fans in a cupboard here...(without red or blue colours)

At the end of the day i just want the whole thing to be robust and reliable...
@Hitting the road , the fans I have run at a constant speed (3000 rpm) and the thermostats are normally open circuit (N.O.) There are some very sophisticated setups available, but Ii was just looking for a simple and cheap way of doing it - it only cost me around $15.00 for everything including connectors and wiring. I purchased the thermostats on Ebay for $1.00 each when i bought them some time ago. Link below. You can also get them at Jaycar for about $5.00 each. Modification to hold thermos was provided by @Drover again to use riveted style, but I liked the idea of bolt and nut so that i could change the thermo in the field if required. The brackets are actually broom handle supports which i bought at Bunnings so that they could fit tightly in position on roung pipes or on condenser fins.

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/263548944717
 

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Drover

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I've had the fly mesh fitted inside my fridge vents for many years now, they don't seem to get clogged going by the amount of red dust that was in the back, if I have been out amongst the dust I give the back a blast with air to blow any dirt out, originally I fitted it as the old place had heaps of mud wasps and I would find the odd mud house started against the mesh in the old 14 and Big Mal so it does it's job, had a mud wasp nest jam my bench grinder once so you do not want one in the back of your fridge, when the fridge struggles, removing a vent doesn't seem to change things so I don't think the mesh interupts air flow that much, its more the air temp outside, with the wall being very hot even under a shade screen, a few buckets of water from the creek does wonders when its giving 38deg a nudge......, the air coming out by the fans is always very warm indeed and I fit a full size awning screen along the wall to keep the sun off fridge and van does a far better job than those fridge screens.............. Have seen some folks who cover the vents for dirt roads, stupid idea fridge wil stop working and if dust is getting inside van then its not fitted properly, done a few good dusty tracks and never closed the vents up and bugga all dirt was inside really.

I did start out with a thermo switch like @Boots in Action described, clipped onto the condensor fins or pipe with a micro switch on panel inside but the latest thermo has failed and didn't see a need to replace it with the spare, on hot days I just switch them on and away they go, tests showed that the fins on the back are always 60deg plus anyway, 2 old computer power unit fans zip tied to upper screen on a foam pad to absorb any vibration, found its the simplest and most robust way, no need to over complicate things, small inline fuse with a micro switch on the control panel inside with power for fans from the main12v supply to fridge ......................... the smaller fridge in the 14 the fans would come on and go off but this fridge being a big job fans would just stay on, even using various thermo's, work harder I suspect......... can't see any real need for any fans speed adjustment though well not on this large fridge anyway been even thinking of fitting a third fan or a big 7" job ..... Outside temp gets near 30 I flick them on....... The CPU fan inside fridge runs all the time while away so has run non stop for near 3 months, would have to be 10 years old easily and the I think I swapped out one of the outside fans once when it started growling, other than the odd replacement of zip ties nothing else needed .....

I always do mods by the KiSS principle, when I'm camped by the Cooper a simple repair is far better than some complicated repair job on something that should be simple.... something that is more so now with all this rubbish they fit to vans now...
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
1,785
1,533
113
Ferny Grove, Queensland
I've had the fly mesh fitted inside my fridge vents for many years now, they don't seem to get clogged going by the amount of red dust that was in the back, if I have been out amongst the dust I give the back a blast with air to blow any dirt out, originally I fitted it as the old place had heaps of mud wasps and I would find the odd mud house started against the mesh in the old 14 and Big Mal so it does it's job, had a mud wasp nest jam my bench grinder once so you do not want one in the back of your fridge, when the fridge struggles, removing a vent doesn't seem to change things so I don't think the mesh interupts air flow that much, its more the air temp outside, with the wall being very hot even under a shade screen, a few buckets of water from the creek does wonders when its giving 38deg a nudge......, the air coming out by the fans is always very warm indeed and I fit a full size awning screen along the wall to keep the sun off fridge and van does a far better job than those fridge screens.............. Have seen some folks who cover the vents for dirt roads, stupid idea fridge wil stop working and if dust is getting inside van then its not fitted properly, done a few good dusty tracks and never closed the vents up and bugga all dirt was inside really.

I did start out with a thermo switch like @Boots in Action described, clipped onto the condensor fins or pipe with a micro switch on panel inside but the latest thermo has failed and didn't see a need to replace it with the spare, on hot days I just switch them on and away they go, tests showed that the fins on the back are always 60deg plus anyway, 2 old computer power unit fans zip tied to upper screen on a foam pad to absorb any vibration, found its the simplest and most robust way, no need to over complicate things, small inline fuse with a micro switch on the control panel inside with power for fans from the main12v supply to fridge ......................... the smaller fridge in the 14 the fans would come on and go off but this fridge being a big job fans would just stay on, even using various thermo's, work harder I suspect......... can't see any real need for any fans speed adjustment though well not on this large fridge anyway been even thinking of fitting a third fan or a big 7" job ..... Outside temp gets near 30 I flick them on....... The CPU fan inside fridge runs all the time while away so has run non stop for near 3 months, would have to be 10 years old easily and the I think I swapped out one of the outside fans once when it started growling, other than the odd replacement of zip ties nothing else needed .....

I always do mods by the KiSS principle, when I'm camped by the Cooper a simple repair is far better than some complicated repair job on something that should be simple.... something that is more so now with all this rubbish they fit to vans now...
@Drover, as you are aware, the 3-way fridge installation needs to be done properly. The most important thing is to ensure that the baffle at the back of the fridge diverts all the air entering at the bottom vent through the condenser fins, and directed out the top vent. I have found that a lot of van fridge installations done by caravan builders do not abide by the fridge manufacturers' installation directions with the resultant under performance problems. The issue of number of fans and their placement is irrelevant if installation not done properly.
 
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Drover

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Nov 7, 2013
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QLD
www.expandasdownunder.com
@Drover, as you are aware, the 3-way fridge installation needs to be done properly. The most important thing is to ensure that the baffle at the back of the fridge diverts all the air entering at the bottom vent through the condenser fins, and directed out the top vent. I have found that a lot of van fridge installations done by caravan builders do not abide by the fridge manufacturers' installation directions with the resultant under performance problems. The issue of number of fans and their placement is irrelevant if installation not done properly.
Would think folk would be aware of that by now as we have both mentioned it numerous times, even when a baffle has been fitted it can be just slapped in place and doesn't do a great job and you reminded me that the biggest fails are the set ups which vent on the roof, often poor openings or loose parts........ I think we are wandering again though.................. washing machine sare anpother dodgy fit out...........
 
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Jan 14, 2022
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Brisbane
Great info guys, thank you. As I wrote i will be adding fans to assist the poor ole fridge in hotter weather. This van has the upgraded 2 door fridge freezer fitted, which has stacks of room inside, it also has a small 2 speed fan that runs inside to circulate cooler air and keep the condensation down arouind the internal fins.

The van already came with guides fitted to the RH side of the roof and a shade tarp for the right side when parked up and with the western sun beating on it, It even has one for the back as well...:)

The previous owner did have plenty of shades he left with the van...but never really did anything with actual van improvements. Though he did fit some comfy swiveling recliners in place of the original dinette arrangement...being a lanky bloke he found it quite uncomfortable after a day on the road sitting bolt upright at the table or on the quite narrow original seating.... Kick back on these, swing the TV around and relax.

I took this photo when buying it, and I have since taken out all the baskets that he had around the seating as they were a bit of an over kill. I have further plans to modify the setup a bit going forward...whether i retain this arrangement or have a neat "L" shaped lounge custom made to fit not sure yet. We have only had a dozen nights in the van since buying it so need to settle in...

.Inside2.jpg