The main power source in a Jeep wrangler is the onboard battery in the engine bay. It is used to power every electrical component in your jeep wrangler, from the headlights to the sound system.
The alternator recharges the battery as you drive so that you are ensured of power. Still, it is never enough depending on how you use it. So in this article, we’re going to see how to setup solar panel on jeep wrangler?
You’ll find yourself removing the battery every now and then to recharge it, especially if you had added components such as aftermarket sound systems and winches, which drain the battery charge quicker than when your wrangler was stock with no upgrades.
Most wrangler owners add other batteries in various locations in the cabin, such as the trunk or underneath the seats. To compensate for the added electrical components or upgrade the battery, they have to hold a charge for long, but this is not enough.
This is where solar panels come in. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity that is then stored in batteries. You can use electricity from solar panels for a wide range of uses depending on the number of battery packs you have.
You can install a solar panel to charge the battery in the engine bay. Still, you should have batteries somewhere else in the wrangler to store more electricity. But you can’t just buy a solar panel and fix it on your wrangler. You have to consider many other factors before you do so.
What should you consider when installing a solar panel on your wrangler?
- About How and where you are going to install it?
The point of installation is not that hard to figure out as you need to install the solar panel on surfaces that are in constant contact with the sun and on jeep wranglers. There are only two, on the hood and on the roof.
However, there are soft top and hard top wranglers, and installing solar panels on a soft top wrangler can be an uphill task if you are not prepared. Since both tops are removable, installing a removable solar panel or using a roof to mount the solar panels on is recommended.
This enables you to remove the solar panels if you need to remove the roof of your wrangler. You can also remove the solar panels when you want to use the roof as extra storage or during winter weather when there is no sunlight.
If the solar panel is removable, you can also use it when camping by placing it in an open area if you cannot mount it at the top. Ensure you have a storage facility for storing the solar panel when on the go, and you cannot mount it on the top.
If you install the solar panels on the hood, you can use the foldable solar panels. A foldable solar panel consists of one or multiple solar panels that can be folded for easier installation and removal.
The solar panel is installed over an adhesive pad on the hood. The adhesive pad is installed over a protective film that protects the paint on the hood.
- Type of solar panel
There are three main types of solar panels thin-film panels, mono-crystalline panels, and crystalline poly panels. Thin-film solar panels are the cheapest option you can go for, but cheap is not always a good option.
They have the lowest energy conversion output. You’ll need to install more than one solar panel or one large one almost covering the entire hood or roof to store the required electricity in the batteries.
They also degrade quicker than other solar panels. The main advantage of thin-film solar panels is that they can still function with minimal sunlight.
Mono-crystalline solar panels have existed longer than other solar panels. They have the best energy conversion output combined with other features like heat resistance. They also last longer than other solar panels.
However, they are more expensive than other solar panels, and they are quite fragile. But foldable mono-crystalline solar panels are less expensive than non-foldable ones.
Polycrystalline solar panels are the most common solar panels. They have a good energy conversion output, and they are still quite affordable. They also have heat resistance and last longer than thin-film solar panels.
- Solar panel watts
You should know the power rating of all-electric equipment in your wrangler. How often you use them, you can determine the power usage. When you determine the power usage in watts, you can choose a solar panel and the batteries to store the energy for when there is no sunlight.
You’ll need batteries to store the energy, and there are different types of batteries you can choose from. Still, the best batteries are deep cycle batteries. Deep cycle batteries recharge quicker than the standard car battery when you deplete the charge.
When you do this to the standard wrangler battery, you will flatten it quicker than you expected. The number and power rating of the batteries will depend on the power you need.
After estimating the power, you need you can decide to get multiple batteries with lower power ratings or one battery with a high-power rating
Other equipment that you’ll need
- Solar charge controller
This device measures and controls the power being stored in the battery. It also measures the energy consumed when you use the electrical devices connected to the battery. This helps prevent overloading the battery and knowing when to charge the batteries.
- 12-volt adaptor
You cannot plug devices such as mobile phone chargers into the battery, so you’ll need an adaptor to plug into. The 12-volt adaptor has a positive and negative clamp connected to the battery. You can plug in mobile phone chargers and other smaller devices on the other end.
An inverter is like a 12-volt adaptor, but it is used to power devices that require more power, such as laptops and AC systems. Camping fridges, you can use the 12-volt adaptor as they do not need much power output.
You should choose an inverter according to the power specification of the device. Multiply the power output voltage and Amperes to get the Watts. The figure you’ll get is the minimum power rating of the inverter that you should get.
- Dual battery kit
This is unnecessary, but it can come in handy when there is no sunlight to charge the battery. A dual battery connects the wrangler’s battery to the batteries connected to the solar panels.
It charges them using the charge from the main battery. However, this only happens when the main battery is fully charged to not be damaged.
How to install a solar panel and accessories on your wrangler?
Installing the solar panel:
- Find a suitable spot to mount the solar panel on either a roof rack or the hood. If you install it on the hood, clean it before installing the protective film, then install the adhesive pad and the solar panel pad.
- If installing on a roof rack, ensure you tighten the screws on the clamps that secure the solar panel onto the roof rack.
Installing the accessories and wiring:
- Find a suitable place to install the solar charge controller. You can mount it on the dash to reach it as the driver or in the trunk, where you will most likely place the battery.
- If you install them in the trunk, you might need holding brackets for the batteries to prevent them from moving around when driving. Install them beneath the rear seats. You might not need a holding bracket.
- If you got the dual battery kit, connect the negative and positive terminals to the main battery, then fish the wires through the opening on the firewall located beneath the dashboard on the passenger’s side.
- Connect the negative and positive wires from the main battery to the solar charge controller.
- If you mounted the solar panel on the hood, you’d have to get two harnesses. One harness will have the wire from the solar panel to the grill.
- The other harness will have the wire running from the grill to the solar charge controller through the opening in the firewall.
- Connect the wires from the solar panel to the solar charge controller and connect the wires from the batteries to the solar charge controller.
- Park your wrangler in the sun, then check the solar charge controller and see if there will be any changes. If the batteries start charging, test out the inverter and the 12-volt adaptor after a while.
Depending on where you decide to install the accessories, run the wires underneath something in the wrangler. Suppose you are installing the solar charge controllers on the dashboard.
In that case, you’ll need to remove them to run the wires behind the dashboard and the center console then underneath the floor mats to the batteries.
If you install the solar charge controller in the trunk and have the solar panel on the hood, run the wire from the firewall opening underneath the floormats to the solar charge controller.
If you have the solar panel installed on the roof rack, remove the freedom panel and insert the wire through one corner of the freedom panel you have removed either on the passenger or driver’s side.
Then run the wires through the door or header channels depending on the solar charge controller. You may wonder what the benefits of installing a solar panel and extra batteries are. Still, the following is how you can use the extra charge stored in the batteries.
- Use of solar panels and extra batteries offroad and when camping
You’ll need that extra charge and the adaptor or inverter to power some essential electricals such as electric cookers, floodlights, radios, winches, and other recreational equipment such as cameras and drones.
Using the main battery to power these will drain the charge quickly, and you might not have enough power to even start your wrangler.
You can connect accessories such as winches to the inverter or directly to the battery depending on the power rating of the winch instead of connecting to the main battery.
- Use solar panels and extra batteries on paved roads or at home
Suppose you have a trailer hooked up to your wrangler. In that case, you can connect its electricals to the extra batteries instead of the main batteries, especially if it’s a cooled trailer.
You can also install an AC connected to the extra batteries, which saves you battery charge if you don’t use the wrangler’s AC, and you will also save some fuel.
Apart from the AC, you can use other electricals such as floodlights which are essential when driving on the road at night or in winter weather conditions.
Since the batteries can power different electricals, you can remove them from your wrangler and use them to essential power electricals in your house if the power goes out.
- You can use extra electrical equipment without the fear of the main battery dying on you.
- Installation of the solar panels, accessories, and wiring is easy.
- Does not take much space in your wrangler.
- The solar panels are removable, so you can remove them when the batteries are full if you feel you need the extra storage space.
- You can charge the car battery, provided the volage does not surpass 14 volts.
- Solar panels and batteries add a significant amount of weight to your wrangler. Thus you might notice a slight difference in fuel economy.
- The inconvenience, especially if you have installed the solar panels on the roof rack and you need to use it for extra storage.
- Solar panels cannot work without sunlight.
Solar panels and batteries come in handy when you least expect them. You may be stranded somewhere, and you need to use a winch, but your main battery is low on charge.
If you an offroad, camp, or take road trips often, a little extra power stored in the batteries is better since you never know what can happen. To protect the solar panel. Install a metal mesh guard over the solar pane to prevent damage if something hits it.