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Old 07-27-2017, 02:59 PM   #1
503evan
 
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Default Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

First of all forgive me if I don't have all of the terminology correct as I am a complete novice when it comes to this.

A little background on our van:[LIST][*]We have a 14amp solar set up in our Sprinter conversion van.[*]2 deep gel cell batteries that were just installed last year[*]Dometic 2 way fridge that is the only item pulling power from the batteries full time.[*]We don't have a readout out on what the solar is producing in the van


We hit road about 3 months ago and pretty immediately we noticed that the batteries were floating lower than we anticipated - about 1280 or so and it isn't uncommon for us to turn on the inverter in the morning and the alarm goes off due to low power.
We've had the batteries replaced and it's still the same issue.
We traveled all of last year with zero issues and the old system never had this issues.

It has been suggested that the solar isn't getting enough power to the batteries due to the cross bar (see picture attached) as it's shutting the solar down and only allowing 15-20% of the charge capacity as the bars shadow is breaking the system - could that be possible?

We're trying to chase down the root of the problem - the dealer who installed the fridge and batteries is more a less telling us it's our problem and I'm not quite sure where to go to chase it down.

Any suggestions on what we should do to start to eliminate variables or what we should expect with a system like this?
Happy to take additional pictures if that helps.
Appreciate any help...

Last edited by 503evan; 07-27-2017 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 07-27-2017, 03:28 PM   #2
GeorgeRa
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 503evan View Post
First of all forgive me if I don't have all of the terminology correct as I am a complete novice when it comes to this.

A little background on our van:[LIST][*]We have a 14amp solar you meant 200W set up in our Sprinter conversion van.[*]2 deep gel cell batteries that were just installed last year[*]Dometic 2 way fridge 12VDC/120VAaC or LPG/120VAC that is the only item pulling power from the batteries full time.[*]We don't have a readout out on what the solar is producing in the van


We hit road about 3 months ago and pretty immediately we noticed that the batteries were floating lower than we anticipated - about 1280 bushels??? or so and it isn't uncommon for us to turn on the inverter in the morning and the alarm goes off due to low power.
We've had the batteries replaced and it's still the same issue.
We traveled all of last year with zero issues and the old system never had this issues.

It has been suggested that the solar isn't getting enough power to the batteries due to the cross bar?????? (see picture attached) as it's shutting the solar down and only allowing 15-20% of the charge capacity as the bars shadow is breaking the system - could that be possible?

We're trying to chase down the root of the problem - the dealer who installed the fridge and batteries is more a less telling us it's our problem and I'm not quite sure where to go to chase it down.

Any suggestions on what we should do to start to eliminate variables or what we should expect with a system like this?
Happy to take additional pictures if that helps.
Appreciate any help...
I appreciate you are admitting questionable units but these are difficult to digest.

George.
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Old 07-27-2017, 04:22 PM   #3
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

There was also no picture attached (if you're having problems doing that, feel free to mail it to me (rseymour (at) wolfenet.com ) and i'll post it
(please mention the thread's title, too)

Adding a battery/charge monitor will tell you what's happening. Shy of that a clamp=on DC ammeter lets you see if/when current is flowing

--dick
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Old 07-28-2017, 05:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

Hi, if you can, just add a list of a few items:
- Which specific batteries do you have?
- Which inverter
- Charge controller

In general though, if there are any shadows on the panels at all, even very small ones, output is essentially negligible. If the two panels are wired in series and there is a small shadow on either one, again, essentially negligible output.

If you are driving routinely, you can at least partially charge up the battery pack by using a battery to battery charger. Essentially this pulls power from the alternator to help top off the house battery.
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Old 07-28-2017, 07:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

I'm making a assumptions here, but If your batteries are being charged exclusively via a ~200 watt solar setup, and you have a fridge drawing ~4 amps for ~10 hours a day mid summer, and you also use lights, roof fans for the heat, a power inverter, etc, then it sounds reasonable that a ~200 amp bank would be consistently drained.

I have the Sterling battery to battery that Harry mentioned, and it's awesome! For Gel batteries I wonder if it's more economical but similar performance to go with an automatic charge relay/isolator for bulk charge, as gel have a lower charge rate. I could be wrong.

If you have a charge relay/isolator and you are driving a fair amount each day then you'll want to look into the mentioned ammeter. I picked up this and it's great.

As mentioned, any shade on your solar panels is no bueno.

You have some really excellent help here in the thread. These guys really know their stuff and can definitely get your issue sorted with a bit more info.
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Old 07-31-2017, 04:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

Thanks for the great replies and sorry for the late response - we were on the road over the weekend.
The two batteries that we have are FullRiver DC22
Inverter: Cobra CPI 1575
Charge Controller: SunForce

I've tried to upload pictures a couple of times of the panel set up with the bar going directly across and leaving a shadow which sounds like it is causing an issue. However, the loss of power is only recent and it wasn't unusual to float around 13.85 whether we were driving or not.
Now it's low 12.85 maybe overnight and that's just with the draw of a fridge - the lights are all LED and we rarely if ever use the roof fan.

Thanks again for all the great advise which helps me zero in on how we address.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:27 PM   #7
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

What were the previous batteries? (i.e. were they also Gel Cels?)
Different technologies have different float levels.

Lots of data can be found in the FAQ pages of http://batteryfaq.org/
... on the "Charging" pages there are voltage curves for the various lead acid (as AGMs and Gel Cels are) technlogies.

--dick
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

Dick,
I'm not sure what the other battery was but it was just one and was likely 3-4 years old. It was suggested when we were switching the fridge out that they were a better solution and with the lower draw of the new fridge we'd have lots of power all the time.
When we started to use the new set up in May we started to see issues and the inverter wouldn't have enough power especially in the morning or when we haven't been driving for a few days.
I will check out the link to try to get a better understanding about the batteries and what we should be seeing - just odd that with the seemingly new set up and improved technology we're seeing more limited power and not more consistent.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vantastic adventure View Post
I'm making a assumptions here, but If your batteries are being charged exclusively via a ~200 watt solar setup, and you have a fridge drawing ~4 amps for ~10 hours a day mid summer, and you also use lights, roof fans for the heat, a power inverter, etc, then it sounds reasonable that a ~200 amp bank would be consistently drained.
Not true for some of us. Of course it depends on your climate and power usage.

I had a 205 watt solar panel on my sold Sprinter. It almost always got me back to 100% SOC each day. My battery was a 255 amp-hr 8D AGM. Had the normal 40 watt refrigerator draw, 1000 watt house inverter, LED lights, water pump, device charging and occasional use of a 600 watt microwave. No audio/visual loads. Did have a 600 watt vehicle powered inverter to supply 120 volt AC power as I drove. Powering the shore power charger with vehicle inverter is my backup charging if solar weather conditions force its use. Seldom required. Had a Maxxair but seldom powered it because I had a 4" square hole in the van floor to create a natural draft up and out the open Maxxair. Did not have a heater because I keep warm with a 12 volt heating pad in a cold van. The refrigerator runs less in a cold van to offset the heating pad electrical usage. Did buy the remote start in the Transit so I can warm the van in the morning before getting out of bed. It is also OK to idle the gas engine Transit if I need to.


The new Transit conversion has the same electrical with a couple of improvements. Changed to a 1000 watt vehicle powered inverter to allow simple shower water heating or air heating in addition to charging. Bought the same physical size high voltage single solar panel. New panel is rated at 300 watts. Same 15 amp Morningstar MPPT solar controller.

Have no difficulty getting back to 100% SOC each day. Even in overcast weather the panel covers my electrical usage.
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Old 08-04-2017, 01:13 AM   #10
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Default Re: Solar/battery issues - any suggestions?

I am having trouble with seeing how your system is setup. Where in the country are you. Can you post pictures?

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