Published: 30 June 2019
“Fitting an XTM 160w Solar Panel” How I put a 160w XTM Solar Panel onto the roof rack
Fitting a 160watt XTM Solar Panel from BCF to my Toyota Landcruiser with a Rhino Pioneer Roof Rack.
On my old Nissan Patrol I had two 40w permanently mounted solar pannels on top of the cab and I loved this setup for several reasons. The first was that it helped keep the fridge running 24/7 without killing the batteries, but even if the fridge was not there it offered a way to keep the batteries constantly charged.
But now I have a wagon again, and a bigger fridge upgrading from the CF60 to a CFX95 I decided I needed more power out of my solar setup than I had before. I purchased the XTM 160w solar panel and PWM charger from BCF for just over $200. In comparison to Ebay, this is quite expensive, but I also didn't have to wait for it and new that even though it would still be a Chinese made product that at least the quality would be reasonable. Something that I have learned over the years with solar is that the quality of the products can vary greatly and there is really know way to tell buying online if you are getting a good product or a rubbish one.
Pulling the panel out of the box I found that it was packaged really well and everything was in good condition. The solar controller was typical of a cheap Ebay style PWM controller and came with no instructions. This wasn't too much of an issue as it was a pretty basic design and was labeled clearly on the wires that were poking out of it. The only downsides where that there was a button on the controller that when pressed would changed the LED display to different numbers from 1 through to about 6. But without instructions I had no idea what this was doing. The other thing that was not very well thought out was that the wires were just terminated with bare stripped ends and there was nothing included to crimp or connect them to your panel. For me this wasn't a problem as I was planning on permanently mounting it to the vehicle and I had all of my own gear to wire it up, but if you didn't have much knowledge about solar panels and bought this to use with your caravan or camper you might have been disappointed in that you could not simply plug and play.
To mount the panel I ended up getting a length of 25mmx25mm aluminum angle from my local Bunnings hardware store and cut it up with my angle grinder into 4 short lengths. I then cleaned up the edges and drilled a whole in each bracket. I purchased some 'T nuts' for the Rhino roof rack and used some stainless steel bolts to bolt the brackets to the roof rack via the 'T nuts'. I then placed them tightly around the solar panel on the roof rack in the position I wanted it and drilled another whole on the other side of the angle through the bracket and into the frame of the solar panel.
I then took the panel back off the car and inserted some Nut Inserts into the holes that I had drilled into the frame. This allowed me to then put the panel back onto the roof rack, loosely line up and bolt the brackets to the rack, then slide them up to the panel, put the bolts through into the nut inserts and then tighten everything up. This makes the process of removing and or re-installing the solar panel super easy with use of an impact driver
I then mounted the solar control under the roofrack, underneath the solar panel and connected it to the car via Anderson plugs so that it can be removed at any time. I ran the cabling down via the windscreen trim and along the rubber seal of the bonnet to the battery. I ended up connecting the solar panel to the start battery so that it charges this battery first. This is due to me having a voltage sensing dual battery solenoid. Once the starter battery is charged to a certain point, the solenoid kicks in and joins the two batteries together. This means that when the car is parked up the starter is always fully charged and once the car has been out in the sun all day I have two batteries for running the fridge and lights at night until the voltage drops low enough to cut out the starter.
I've had this solar panel running for about 6 months at the time of writing this article and am very happy with how it is performing. I did however change the cheap PWM controller over to a cheap MPPT controller (About $100AU) and that has improved the performance to the point that even in winter I very rarely worry about the condition of either battery even with the 95L fridge running 24/7.
If you want to see how I did all of this in more detail, feel free to watch my YouTube video above.