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Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by -mojo- on Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:56 pm

Thanks for the research and useful info. For some reason I had expected Sargent to buy in a solar controller chipset and build it onto their board, not to buy a complete box and build it into their box! However, given that almost the entire Chinese solar industry is state-subsidised, I can understand why they took the route that they did.

It would be interesting to know if any installers of retro-fit panels are aware of the settings that may need to be made on the solar controller. The Chinglish manual says what the default settings are for most things, but not (as far as I could see) what the default battery type is set to.

It also makes me wonder if it is possible (at reasonable cost) to get the optional MT-1 display panel for the EPIPDB-COM so that you could see the status of the controller without having to take the cover off the EC325/328.

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by DuxDeluxe on Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:19 pm

Peter Brown wrote:
With respect to bypassing the Sargent unit with the solar panel, that was ok up to the 325.  However the 325 and 328 chargers are able to generate high voltages for fast charge and would likely damage the external solar regulator.

Peter

Hi,

It is wired through a proper controller, just not the Sargent one. It must be the same on countless other vans... or have I missed the point yet again? winks Thanks

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by silver on Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:20 pm

Peter

I've had similar thoughts.......I wondered if there could be some electrical noise causing interference......

I've just had a call from Marquis. Apparently they have seen this before on one unit at Preston. The problem is that the control board should cut off the solar panel once a certain voltage is reached. If it doesn't cut off the unit (not sure which one, the solar controller or other sensors in the psu, I think the psu) senses the over voltage and cuts off 12v supply to protect the circuitry.

They are going to speak to Sargent and ask for a new solar panel controller to be sent to me which I have offered to fit.

I'll keep you posted.

John

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by -mojo- on Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:18 pm

DuxDeluxe wrote:
Peter Brown wrote:
With respect to bypassing the Sargent unit with the solar panel, that was ok up to the 325.  However the 325 and 328 chargers are able to generate high voltages for fast charge and would likely damage the external solar regulator.

Peter

Hi,

It is wired through a proper controller, just not the Sargent one. It must be the same on countless other vans... or have I missed the point yet again? winks Thanks

The issue is specifically with the EC325, which is unlike any other controller in common use in motorhomes, in that it has an "offline charger", where the leisure battery is disconnect from the habitation 12V while it's being charged. This is fine where the solar controller is built into the EC325, as it can disconnect the solar panel from the leisure battery when it's charging it.

If you use a separate solar controller it has no way of knowing when the EC325 is fast charging, and that stage - which can take the battery voltage up to 17V or more - is outside the voltage range of most, if not all, solar chargers, which never expect to see a battery voltage higher than 15V.

The "offline charger" mode had the advantage of quicker leisure battery charging with the EC325, but it was dropped in its successor, the EC328, which has a normal "online charger". I think this was because it created more problems than Sargent had anticipated, but that's just speculation on my part...

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Wearsider on Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:28 pm

I have read with considerable interest all the postings today on this issue.

John has been informed by Marquis that they know what the problem is and the diagnosis fits with my non-technical suspicion that a protection mechanism was coming into play and turning off the 12v system.

That said it could turn out to be a false dawn as I have recently been supplied with a full replacement EC328 psu in place of an earlier model and instead of solving the problem, problems have increased. My earlier postings set out the full story and are perhaps worth re-reading.

Whilst I have not the slightest doubt that you John have all the technical ability to fit a new solar panel controller if the vehicle is still under guarantee I would in your position insist upon Marquis doing the work so the responsibility is with them to sort out the problem if it persists.

However I will certainly factor in all of Marquis have said in my own quest to solve the problem with Sargent's assistance supplemented with work by my own auto electrician.

Incidentally Sargent have now confirmed to me that when on mains the solar panel continues to also charge the batteries. This would tend to confirm my suspicion that when the 12v system turns off it is the solar panel input that is triggering it rather than the 240 volt energy source.

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by silver on Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:38 pm

Michael

I take your point re warranty....however Marquis are 200 miles away from me.....one of the risks I took when purchasing an Autosleeper, but that was my choice.......if I have the slightest problem with the changeover I will take it to a dealer in Scotland and have the work done with Autosleepers approval.

Having said that the module swap is straightforward enough.....two screws and 5 wires.....fingers crossed it goes ok as opposed to wires crossed hugegrins


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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Wearsider on Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:53 pm

John,

I now understand your willingness to do the work yourself.

Michael

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Peter Brown on Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:21 pm

DuxDeluxe wrote:
Peter Brown wrote:
With respect to bypassing the Sargent unit with the solar panel, that was ok up to the 325.  However the 325 and 328 chargers are able to generate high voltages for fast charge and would likely damage the external solar regulator.

Peter

Hi,

It is wired through a proper controller, just not the Sargent one. It must be the same on countless other vans... or have I missed the point yet again? :winks:Thanks

I'm sorry but for the benefit of others that read this thread I must confirm that you have missed the point.

Even though the Sargent 2005 and 2007 did have a solar panel input I did not use it but used an external regulator connected direct to the Leisure battery terminals.  The Sargent 325 generates a voltage well in excess of 14v in the final stage of charging (whether from the alternator or the mains) and disconnects the leisure apparatus (that is fed from a separate stabilised supply) during charging.  If you connect a solar panel regulator direct to the leisure battery it will be exposed to this high voltage and could be damaged.  So for the 325 (and for slightly different reasons) the 328, any solar panel should be connected via the Sargent PSU and use its integral two battery (leisure and vehicle) regulator.

Peter

PS I wrote this following a link from an e-mail and had missed the subsequent posts - although my comment would still be the same.

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Peter Brown on Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:31 pm

Wearsider wrote:John,

I now understand your willingness to do the work yourself.

Michael

The Dealer from who I bought the van before this asked me how I was getting on with the latest one. I replied, honestly, a lot better now that I've decided to fix minor issues myself rather than insist on dealer attention and incur travel costs.

Peter

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by DuxDeluxe on Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:58 pm

Thanks - guessed that I had

I will contact Rhino Installs and check, but Phil does know his stuff and in 2 years have not experienced any problems

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by -mojo- on Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:41 am

Peter Brown wrote:So for the 325 (and for slightly different reasons) the 328, any solar panel should be connected via the Sargent PSU and use its integral two battery (leisure and vehicle) regulator.

Peter - please can you elaborate on the slightly different reasons for the 328? I would like to buy a flexible solar panel before the "solar panel trade wars" kick off (possibly) in a month or so, but it would be good to know if I'm likely to encounter problems (with my 328)...

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:25 am

Hi Mojo

I'm surprised to find that your van uses such a comprehensive electrical control system as the Sargent 328 but I have no experience other than Auto-sleepers, however as its a fairly basic installation then I expect an external regulator would be ok.

I can't understand though why you would want to buy a regulator when there is one already fitted and not use the two battery charge facility.

Peter

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by DuxDeluxe on Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:51 am

This is my point - Rhino installs advised not to use the Sargent unit but to use a separate controller and combined with the battery master can charge both leisure and vehicle batteries. The reason given was potential reliability issues with the Sargent unit and it didn't cost me any more anyway so I didn't have a problem with it. I'm not a genius at electrical stuff (OK hands up - had to learn everything in electronics for one of my marine tickets by rote) but it seems that Phil's solution is the same as Sargent except using separate kit.scratch head

Thanks for any clarification - you got me a bit concerned about burning things out...... Cheers!

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by -mojo- on Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:35 pm

Peter Brown wrote:I'm surprised to find that your van uses such a comprehensive electrical control system as the Sargent 328 but I have no experience other than Auto-sleepers, however as its a fairly basic installation then I expect an external regulator would be ok.

I can't understand though why you would want to buy a regulator when there is one already fitted and not use the two battery charge facility.

I don't want to buy a separate regulator! I'm just concerned that if two 328 owners are reporting almost identical problems I should think twice before forking out over £200 for a custom size panel to connect to the EC328. I read too much into your comments about "slightly different reasons" and thought you were alluding to ~more~ potential problems with the solar controller in the 328 than just the ones in this thread!

I too was surprised that Bilbos use a relatively sophisticated controller for what is a fairly simple van, but I think that, as A-S have effectively left their market, they have been trying to move themselves a bit up-market to fill the gap and raise themselves above the two-man-and-a-dog small volume panel van converters...

Now, does anyone else share my interest in the MT-1 solar controller display, and whether it's possible to hook one up to an EC328?

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Wearsider on Wed Jul 03, 2013 6:13 am

By way of an update I provide below copy of my latest email to my helpful contact at Sargent which is self-explanatory. Any observations on the contents of this communication would be most welcome.

Good Morning Craig,

Further to my latest email below I have now as promised fully checked out the workings of my motorhome electrics without the solar panel being connected.

I did this over a two-day period on a site which also did not have mains hook up so there was no outside influence from that source.

I can advise that the Sargent system worked perfectly and everything performed exactly as per your guide to the operation of the EC328.

I even took the opportunity to check out various functions such as the alarm and the event time which I had not previously used and again these worked fine.

I did however notice that my control panel did not display the field which indicates the type of battery fitted (Leisure Battery=Lead Acid). You will recall that the solar regulator fitted to my original EC328 did not have the option to change the battery type so I wonder if this field had been disabled or whether it’s absence might be more significant.

I also took the opportunity to check that all the 12v equipment was operational and indeed this was the case.

The only time that the 12v system turned off was before the weekend when I had deliberately run down the leisure battery to check that this switch off “protection system” came into force when the leisure batteries voltage fell below a safe level.

Since I returned home I have checked the Sargent system with mains connected and again no problems are apparent.

I will over the next few days reconnect the solar panel in the expectation that the previously outlined malfunctions return.

However in the meanwhile I leave you to consider the implications of the above "experiment".

In this regard it is perhaps worth highlighting again that the problem I experienced with my original EC328 with a Kemo Electronics #M174 dual solar regulator fitted became more numerous when the replacement EC328 was installed which contained the latest EPIPDB-COM dual solar regulator.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning again that although my solar panel is a 100w the gentleman on the auto-sleepers owners forum who was having identical problems only has a 40w solar panel fitted.

Regards,

Michael

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Wearsider on Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:56 am

Please find below very prompt response from Craig at Sargent's to my earlier email to him. I could only wish that I received the same level of customer service from all the other organisations that I deal with.

Good Morning Michael,

I am pleased to hear that you have not had any problems since the solar panel was removed, In that the fault has been narrowed down to the solar panel or regulator side of the system.

I can confirm that it should not matter that you have a 100W or a 40W or indeed any solar panel up to 120W, Reason being the only difference should be the Amps available to be drawn by the system, The Voltage (Which I'm suspecting is causing on over voltage cut off) would remain constant (up to 14.4V) irrespective of the size of the solar panel.

I can also confirm that the "Battery Type" option was removed from the EC328 and is only present in the older EC325 product, There is however an error with the manual that has left this option shown.

With respect to the control panel, Can I make a suggestion for your next experiment when the solar panel is re-connected to the system, Please can you monitor the "Leisure Battery" voltage screen, In particular could you check if the voltage rises above 14.4V and if at all possible note the voltage at the point the system shuts down.

Could you also provide me with detailed explanation of exactly what happens on the control panel when the cut-out occurs, Any error message, any flashing lights, which lights are on\off, any system functionality that remains?

I look forward to hearing your next update, and I do hope I can help you to a resolution on this

Regards,

Craig Foot
Technical Support Specialist


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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:59 am

Hi Michael

Been away for a few days.

You've established the fault is present only when solar installation connected.

As well as Craigs request I would also suggest that, with the panel connected, you cover the panel with a non-metalic cover and monitor. If the fault occurs then, if so it would suggest interference rather than voltage is the culprit. It may be worth you questioning Craig on that possibility.

Peter

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Re: Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

Post by Wearsider on Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:23 pm

Thank you Peter for your latest posting and your additional suggestion on how to proceed. I will certainly follow your advice.

I will keep you informed of developments.

Michael

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