Renogy Solar Power Panel Setup + Dual Battery Install + Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner
In preparation for a trip to Lincoln Nation Forest for 9 days, I wanted to install some sort of solar setup on my 4Runner.
My normal trips were just weekend trips where small battery packs were enough to keep devices charged. With this 9-day trip planned, I needed more than just a few battery packs.
I went with Renogy solar panel system because of the simplicity of the system and the low cost. Also, the wiring and installation of the solar panel system on the roof rack is easy for anyone looking for a quick DIY upgrade. Although there are many different solar panel brands out there, Renogy solar panels have been around for quite some time and have been proven to work for many off-grid situations and modern-day truck builds.
For me, the solar setup will be used to power the following devices on or in the 4Runner: phone, tablets, Baofeng batteries, cameras, GoPros, compressors, and other small devices.
How The Setup Works
Here’s how my setup shakes down:
- Solar Panel is running to the controller
- Controller is running to a secondary battery
- Auxiliary power unit is running from the battery to the back of the rig
The setup is pretty straight forward. The first thing you want to do is mount the Renogy 100-watt solar panel on your roof. Then run the 100w mono solar panel to the Renogy Adventurer-30A PWM Charge Controller, which is mounted on the Rago Fabrication Molle panel. Next, run the charge controller to your secondary battery. Then finally run your auxiliary power unit to the secondary battery as well.
Parts for install
- 100w Renogy Solar Panel Kit: Check Price
- Blue Sea Systems Voltmeter: Check Price
- Dual Battery Tray or Switch Tray: Check Price
- For more switch tray options: Read This Post
Tools & Materials
I fabbed up some aluminum that I got a Lowes along with some door hinges u-bolts and latches. The aluminum was cut to match the short side of the solar panel so it would have a place to mount once attached to the rack.
On one side, I mounted the door hinges to the factory holes on the underside of the 100w panel and then drilled 2 holes on the aluminum plate to mount the other side. From there, I drilled 2 more additional holes in the center to allow the u-bolt to run through in order to mount the aluminum plate to the round bars of the rack.
On the opposite side, I used the factory mounting brackets provided by Renogy that mount to the solar panel.
I used this bracket to mount latches that would secure the panel to the aluminum plate. I used pop rivets to secure the latches, but you can use the provided hardware or self-tapping screws.
The latching aluminum plate I used 2 u-bolts to secure it to the roof rack to prevent the mounting plate moving/ leaning forward or back.
With these latches on one side, I am able to quickly deploy the solar panel and prop it up when at camp to get maximum sunlight.
Propping It Up With a Small Tripod
After the solar panel was installed, we needed to run the wires to the controller.
Note: Make sure to label the wires you are running.
I labeled my wires with a black zip tie on the negative wire to the controller. I ran the wire down on the underside of the rack, and into the back hatch rubber boot, sealed with 90min sealer. Once inside, I pulled back the roof headliner to run the wires to the passenger side near the taillight.
Because I have the Rago Molly Panels in the rear, I decided to Dremel the plastic where the aluminum spacer is to accommodate 4 wires running to the controller. This kept us from making ugly holes elsewhere.
Now that we had the wires inside the 4Runner, it was time to run the aux power unit and the + and – power from the battery to the solar controller. I followed these steps provided here.
I ran the exact same aux unit and mounted it in the same location as shown in the link above, the only additional steps that I did was run 2 extra wires that power the solar controller.
Pro tip: One tip is that I ran the wires up and over the cubby. Behind the grey and black plastic just below the rear window to the rear passenger’s taillight. Unlike in Step 5C where he runs it down and under.
Alt Route Over Wheel Well
Renogy states to plug the Battery (+,-) to the controller first before plugging in the panels (+,-).
I attached the + and – to the controller and then attached the wires to the battery powering the unit. After that, I plugged in the + and – wires to the Solar Panel.
Following the Renogy instructions, you will see a battery signal charging when all systems are nominal.
My controller came with a Bluetooth unit that you can plug into the back of the controller to see outputs on your phone as well as more detailed information about your consumption. The setting for an AGM battery is GEL. An AGM battery cannot be equalized.
Applying a periodic equalizing charge brings all cells to similar levels by increasing the voltage to 2.50V/cell, or 10 percent higher than the recommended charge voltage. An equalizing charge is nothing more than a deliberate overcharge to remove sulfate crystals that build up on the plates over time. – Battery University
OGE Aux Power Unit
Now that the solar panel was charging the battery, we can now utilize the aux power unit. Connecting the + and – terminals to the battery we can then power on our aux unit and begin charging phones and devices.
What’s the Verdict?
Having this setup was vital to my trip, the system worked flawlessly and charged up quickly.
I used the battery to power my compressor to air up all 4 tires for the entire trip as well as charge cellphones and cameras overnight. The lowest I have seen the battery get was to a 78% charge before going to bed, but by 10 am the next day, the battery was at a full charge, and that was in the shade.
This system was carefree for the whole trip. I would prop it up and forget about it. I had no need to reposition the vehicle to get maximum sunlight, it charged in shade better than I expected because, for 5 nights, we were surrounded by trees with only brief spats of direct sunlight around 11 am. Granted I wasn’t running a fridge for the trip but the system performed greater than I had expected.
I’m super impressed with the Renogy Panel and OGE Aux Unit. Maybe one day I’ll get a fridge and see what it taxes on the system but, until then, this panel is amazing.
My setup keeps the secondary battery independent of the starter battery. At the moment, I have no plans to run a DC to DC charger from the primary starter battery to the secondary battery.