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Solar panels

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Post by Alwaysurfing on Wed Jan 29, 2020 7:31 pm

@ Roopert

Yes, I’m going to do an experiment

I’m not on ehu after we leave here Friday for a week - so being on battery overnights should be enough to see what happens with solar during the following static days etc....

Not withstanding if we move the alternator will take over....

Looking forward to finding out if my solar amps changes and if I get the solar available indicator on the control panel... would love to see the solar kick in so I can eat my hat....
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Post by Caraman on Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:23 pm

Alwaysurfing wrote:..... ah yes quite right

That’s what I really meant to say

Ec700 shutdown.......
I also thought that the solar charge defaulting to the vehicle battery rather than the leisure battery was a good thing but I am not so sure now.  I am discussing this at Willersey on 11 Feb.  If the motorhome is laid up away from an EHU and the vehicle electrics shutdown by pressing the red tag on the ignition as recommended by Peugeot, the vehicle battery will be isolated.  If the vehicle battery was fully charged and healthy to start with, it should survive 3 months without charge when for other reasons the vehicle should be restarted and moved which will recharge it.  Whilst the vehicle electrics are shutdown the solar charge sent to the vehicle battery will not be received by it - in other words it will be wasted.  If the vehicle electrics are not shutdown to allow the solar charge to be received by the vehicle battery, the drain on the vehicle battery will be greater with no certainty that it will be compensated for by a weak winter solar charge.  If as a result the vehicle battery voltage falls to 11.3V no alert will be sent to the owner by AS Monitor.  The vehicle battery, which is not a deep cycle battery, could then become flat without the owner knowing until they return to their motorhome and find they have a damaged vehicle battery that can't restart the engine.  It is perhaps better for the solar charge to go to the leisure battery which needs to stay healthy after the EC700 is shutdown to power the tracker and AS Monitor functions and the alarm if it has been "suitably wired" (see page 5 of the AS Monitor User Guide).  If the weak winter solar charge is unable to maintain the health of the deep cycle leisure battery, AS Monitor will send an alert to the owner when its voltage falls to 11.3V so action can be taken to recharge it.  If the alarm has not been "suitably wired", AS Monitor will not show the alarm status accurately or send the owner an alert if the alarm is triggered.  These are key functions of AS Monitor.
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Post by glyne lock on Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:01 am

caraman
a lot what you have said is not wired how you are saying it is .other people have said when they have turned the vehicle isolator off have got a call for low battery voltage for the tracker .I have removed my leads on my leisure battery when I fitted a second battery and had no call .  
  the main point here is the solar is best to default to the vehicle battery when you turn the sargent system off and was wired like this before on older vans before English vans started using sargent .
as for auto-sleeper manuals are not great and have not been keeping up with the changes in the electrics. one very poor point auto-sleepers should have been ordering the vehicles with the 180 min camper radio spec not the van spec
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Post by Caraman on Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:33 am

glyne lock wrote:caraman
a lot what you have said is not wired how you are saying it is .other people have said when they have turned the vehicle isolator off have got a call for low battery voltage for the tracker .I have removed my leads on my leisure battery when I fitted a second battery and had no call .  
  the main point here is the solar is best to default to the vehicle battery when you turn the sargent system off and was wired like this before on older vans before English vans started using sargent .
as for auto-sleeper manuals are not great and have not been keeping up with the changes in the electrics. one very poor point auto-sleepers should have been ordering the vehicles with the 180 min camper radio spec not the van spec
Thanks glyn lock.  

Sargent has confirmed to me that if the EC700 is turned off using the PSU isolation button, no AS Monitor alert will be sent if the vehicle battery voltage falls below 11.3V which it will do if the vehicle battery is disconnected.  AS Monitor only monitors the vehicle battery voltage when the EC700 is on at the PSU and the vehicle electrics have not been shutdown using the red button on the vehicle ignition which isolates the vehicle battery.  

You have said "the main point here is the solar is best to default to the vehicle battery when you turn the sargent system off ...".  Why?  If the vehicle electrics are shutdown as recommended in the AS motorhome manual and by Peugeot, no charge will reach the vehicle battery because it will be isolated.  Surely it is better to make some use of the solar charge, no matter how small it may be, by defaulting it to the leisure battery which will receive it when the EC700 is shutdown.  The vehicle battery will look after itself for 3 months if it is isolated and was fully charged to start with.  The leisure battery has to remain active because it is powering the tracker, some AS Monitor functions and, if fitted and "suitably wired", the alarm.  If the solar charge is insufficient to keep it charged, noting that the EC700 drain has been removed, AS Monitor will send an alert when the voltage drops to 11.3V and the owner can then take action to recharge the battery.  If no solar charge is sent to the leisure battery, the voltage will drop to 11.3V sooner.
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Post by bolero boy on Thu Jan 30, 2020 4:33 pm

these 'solar' threads do rumble on, with owners not really sure as to what system defaults to where, whether things should be switxhed on or off and what the effect of either might have, etc, etc...

many contributors to this forum have solar systems that are totally stand alone from any sargent PSU, have dual charging regulators that keep all batteries maintained in pretty much any weather with as little as a 100w panel...

my van has this type of system, simple and efficient and not a Sargent PSU in sight...

there is a guy next to us on site at the moment with a Hymer and, despite having a solar input point on his Shaudt Elektroblok (PSU) the dealer didnt route the solar that way....he set it up as standalone, for the same reason as has been identified with the latest resource hungry Sargent boxes....they take too much power away from the solar stream....

knowing this, why would the first course of action not be to unplug the solar system from the Sargent PSU, route it into a simple dual charge regulator and then let it get on with its job unhindered...

who cares about control panel readouts, especially if all they tell ypu is that ypur batteries are flat....arent fully charged batteries more important?

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Post by Suppersready on Thu Jan 30, 2020 5:54 pm

Spot on Chris ....

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Post by Greyhound on Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:33 pm

bolero boy wrote:why would the first course of action not be to unplug the solar system from the Sargent PSU, route it into a simple dual charge regulator and then let it get on with its job unhindered...

We have covered this and it's exactly what a few of us have done. I did it before Christmas and the system is now ticking along in storage with no need for any intervention now.

In terms of your comment a out who cares about displays etc, the Sargent system is actually a alot more than that and a good idea in theory.

When on hook up it sends charge to one battery while the full solar charge is sent to the other, and keeps rotating this so both batteries are being optimised. It's a shame the system can't charge both batteries when shutdown though, it's this missing aspect that causes the problem.
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Post by Suppersready on Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:58 pm

What is the use of a system that’s “ good in theory “... but not in reality ? You, me and a few others have followed the same route to achieve a simple system that works. Chris’s van I believe does this by design... a much simpler and better design it must be, because we have done it !

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Post by bolero boy on Sat Feb 01, 2020 8:31 am

AFAIK, when on EHU, maintaining all batteries isnt an issue...

is clever 'optimisation' (of additional solar power) any real advantage when on EHU as theres incoming power to spare?....surely the Sargent PSU doesnt need to 'optimise' much with any solar input...

the issue for most seems to be when away from EHU and just requiring the SP to maintain all batteries while the van is not in use...IE Sargent unit OFF.

this is when the 'optimisation' (involvement of the Sargent unit) actually hinders use rather than enhances it, as leaving the unit ON (a requirement for 'optimisation') creates more drain than solar input.

to that end, surely the advantage of good off grid charging is what folk (who have no winter time ehu access) require, over some clever electronics when on ehu?

as it happens, some systems are able to do both.

when on ehu, it makes no difference whether we had a SP or not, both batteries will be maintained by the split charging process.

isnt that sufficient given that the reverse is true and that our SP does exactly the same when no ehu is present?
both these processes are managed without checking with, or being affected by, the other.... 

perhaps the Sargent system should be able to leave the internal solar regulator 'active' when the PSU is powered down...?..

then you have 'in theory' the best of both worlds...ie what i described above.

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Post by Caraman on Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:01 pm

Caraman wrote:Sargent don’t know if the winter solar charge will be sufficient to compensate for the vehicle battery's drain when it is not shutdown.  They say this is for AS to answer.  I have sent AS the question today using their on-line contact form.  I suggest others do the same but whether an answer will be forthcoming is another matter.  
I have discussed the matter at Willersey.  All out of use motorhomes should have a good road run and have their water system flushed with fresh water at least every 3 months.  On return to storage, the water system should fully drained and the batteries fully recharged, if necessary by connecting to an EHU.  If the batteries which self-discharge by about 5% per month are not fully recharged at least every 3 months, they risk damage through sulphation.
 
If the motorhome has no alarm and its not connected to an EHU during storage, the batteries should be fine for 3 months if the EC700 PSU (top left button) and vehicle electrics (red ignition button) are shutdown.  No solar charge will reach the vehicle battery as the vehicle electrics are shutdown but none will be required for 3 months as the battery will have no load.  The only load on the leisure battery will be the tracker which I am told is negligible.  The leisure battery should not be removed for any length of time as it will force the tracker to use its built in non-rechargeable battery.  The tracker is not powered from the vehicle battery and its electrics as it is too easy for them to be shutdown.
 
The problem arises when the motorhome has an alarm.  The Vodaphone Cobra Type A5615 alarm supplied by Marquis, when armed and not triggered draws 16mA from the vehicle battery via the vehicle electrics.  As the vehicle electrics can’t be shutdown, they will draw additional current from the vehicle battery.  AS, Sargent and Peugeot UK do not know how much this will be but I have estimated 23mA based on internet research.  When these figures are added to self-discharge, the vehicle battery should need about 100Ah over 3 months to remain full-charged or about 50Ah not to fall below 50% charge.  The late John Wickersham has said that the resting voltage should not fall below 12.4V.  If it does the lifespan of the battery will be reduced ultimately leading to battery damage.  Although all the solar charge from the 80W panel goes to the vehicle battery when the EC700 is shutdown, we don’t know if this is sufficient to keep the battery at or above 12.4V for 3 months over the winter.  For this reason and because battery capacity reduces with age and use, the vehicle battery should be checked during a 3 months out of use winter period.  This cannot be done remotely as the Harmony UMS and AS Monitor only work with the vehicle battery when the EC700 and vehicle electrics are not shutdown.  Increasing the solar panel area will help but not on short overcast winter days when the solar charge is negligible.


Last edited by Caraman on Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:02 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : gobblygook appeared)
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Post by Alwaysurfing on Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:56 pm

That’s excellent info, many thanks for sharing
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Post by bolero boy on Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:31 am

yes it is excellent info, but it is really telling you what the issues of having a van in storage are with regard to battery drain.
whilst Sargent and AS get their story straight about turning this and that off, they admit that the 'problem' is any fitted alarm.
i have an alarm, i have a 100w panel connected to all batteries by simple dual charge low tech (PMW) solar regulator...
this is more than sufficient to maintain all batteries all year round, with the van on the drive, sometimes for a few weeks (but, in fairness not that long very often as we use it regularly)...
i have my control panel (and 12v systems) on at all times and when i enter the van (often two or three times a week, checking stuff, loading/unloading kit etc) i just look at the regulator to ensure both battery lights are flashing for 'full' (they always are) and press the 'battery readout' buttons on the control panel to 'double check' and verify the levels as i want to know if they are slipping down (they never do), even in winter, so there is sufficient charge if it isnt being sucked away by other electronics.
the solar regulator carries out its split charge duties all the time, apart from pulling the fuse there is no power down procedure, so with the regulator being inside the Sargent PSU, why isnt it possible to have a split charge system with the PSU in shutdown?
because the sargent PSU applies a 'more complex' charging algorithm than a 'simple' regulator can do...
however, the simple regulator can keep both batteries fully charged which is more than the 'complex' PSU can do.
IMHO, it is NOT essential to route solar charging via ANY complex PSU (for any brand of MH)...there is such a port on my own van but the installations on both our  Carthagos bypassed this despite being set up by a main dealer.
no doubt a fully 'factory fitted' system (from Carthago, Hymer, AS, Swift or who ever) would go via 'their' PSU...
would it be a 'better' system....?
in some cases, not.

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Post by gassygassy on Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:12 am

I totally agree Chris, I have had three different motorhomes with solar panels and the cheap Chinese £20 regulator that feeds both leisure and engine batteries. As you say even in cloudy months on end a 100W panel will keep both batteries fully charged. Peering into my Sargent cooling vents with a torch I can see the same cheap Chinese £20 twin battery charger inside there but I have no idea how it is wired up, I haven't taken it to bits yet to investigate.
For reasons I won't go into, on my current 2015 Nuevo I had an extra 100W panel added in series with the standard 30W one, together with an expensive lah-de-dah regulator and two expensive Duracell batteries. This was done by a reputable caravan / motorhome workshop. I don't know what they did to the wiring other than they wired the two panels in series. I think they bypassed the Sargent and the result now is that I have full charge on the leisure batteries but the engine battery voltage is reducing as the weeks go by. I'll have to get it sorted, I am confident in electronics so I'm sure I can. I might just run the 30W panel to the engine battery using an old Chinese regulator and leave the 100W panel charging the leisure batteries, or I might just remove the lah-de-dah expensive one-battery regulator and reinstate the cheap Chinese two battery regulator.
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Post by bolero boy on Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:13 am

many of the more expensive MPPT regulators are only single channel, usually charging the leisure batteries and relying on a Battery Master or similar to pass charge to the cab battery.
it may be that this is how they have set it up (without a battery madter?) and youre only getting charge (albeit now 130w worth) to the leisure side.
are you seeing any raised voltage at all at the cab battey to indicate any voltage (from either panel) is getting there?

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Post by marconi on Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:25 am

I think bolero boy has it right

Going back 16 years I fitted 60W solar panel and PWM controller direct to my leisure battery. When we changed vans the dealer swapped it across to the new van. I would have liked a bigger panel but that was the deal. Until last year that set up served us well without any hook up use.

Since the Nuevo, our summer 2019 use was curtailed so we didn't  get a chance to test any proper solar use but I began to think that the 80W fitted panel could not be as inefficient as it seemed.
The real test has come with winter use outside the UK, a few cloudy wet days saw us running to mummy, well a site with hook up, I exceeded the total  number of days on hook up in 16 years on that site in a week.

I think the problem lies with. 1) Long thin cabling from the solar panel. 2) PWM controller. Although my previous controller was PWM and bolero boy has a cheap PWM controller, I have proved the greater efficiency of MPPT. 3) Losses in the Sargent smart charging control switching. 4) The resultant inadequate charging profile. 5) Long thin cables to the Leisure battery.

I don't want to do modifications whilst under Warranty so I have engineered a stand alone 100W panel, it can be angled in azimuth and elevation to the sun which improves efficiency but I think it would be a vast improvement on the roof also. This correctly engineered direct to battery set up brings the level to Float before midday, the AS set up has never acheived a full charge.
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Post by Caraman on Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:08 pm

We can easily measure the output of a solar panel as an ampere snap shot.  What we can't measure as easily is its output over time e.g. how many Ah it has generated over a 3 month UK winter.  In my figures I have suggested that if the 80W panel generates 50Ah over such a period, it might be enough to keep the vehicle battery at or above its 50% charge level but that the battery should be checked.  Bolero boy's figures suggest that his 100W solar panel can easily generate enough power to keep both batteries fully charged with an armed alarm and without shutting down either the vehicle electrics or Sargent power control system.  This suggests his panel over a 3 month out of use UK winter period will generate 115Ah (15Ah self-discharge x2, 50Ah vehicle electrics, 35Ah alarm) plus whatever the Sargent power control system uses.  If bolero boy's figures are anywhere near true, the slightly smaller 80W panel should easily keep the vehicle battery above its 50% charge level when the EC700 PSU is shutdown.
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Post by marconi on Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:39 pm

To be fair bolero boy says he is talking of fairly short periods of winter non use.

The 80W panel Nuevo system problem is that it doesn't even come up to a 60W panel performance, which brings me to the point I forgot. 6) The Nevo can select charging for Leisure or Vehicle battery. The charge profile cannot be right for both the performance fits an AGM battery best, a Sealed Lead Acid charge profile would damage the AGM Vehicle battery.

In practice the terminal Voltage goes no higher than 12.9V then the PWM starts a very short duty cycle of 13.5V pulses, shortly after that it will stop charging completely despite full sun at the peak charging period of the day. Hence neither battery will reach full charge, particularly the Leisure.
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Post by Peter Brown on Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:12 pm

For nothing to do with solar charging, I recently replace my 2011 EC325 with a 2019 (pin compatible) EC328.  Both contain dual channel solar controllers but I've not (and now can't) opened up to find out what make/model.  

The EC325 and my 80W panel kept my vehicle and dual leisure batteries fully charge at home all year round and provided all energy expected whilst camping.

The EC328 does the same but is far more efficient in transferring harvested energy to the batteries.  I guess this is because of a much improved design of solar controller (and being in the Sargent box, I think inexpensive).

A point to note is that with the EC500 system the single channel solar controller is external to the Sargent box.  I've not had my hands on an EC700 yet so would be interested to hear how that is configured?

I have found that whilst camping, the EC500 solar charging is much more effective with the Solar Smart Charging switched off but in that system you have to access the dealer (configuration) menu to do so.


Last edited by Peter Brown on Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by bolero boy on Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:31 pm

just to add a few bits of extra info...
1. i dont have an AS nor a Sargent PSU. all my 'electrics' are CBE.
2. although the van is on the drive for 'shortish' periods, this could be several weeks.
3. i am currently in Spain and, whilst on a hook up site, i have the charger switched off so all lights, water pump, heating fan (not really being used now), SOG fan, TV are coming from the leisure batteries charged from my 100w panel, batteries usually full by mid/late morning, although, some nights, the usage doesnt even take the batteries below 'full' so i dont see anything other than a full battery.....in fact, the only issue i had was when i left the outside awning light on all day, not realising it was on, its the only non LED light on the van, being several non LED lights....and it seemed to be a drag on the battery. this sort of battery drain might take a good chunk of solar to restore it
4. the comment regarding different battery types is a good one. leisure batteries can be gel, wet, AGM whilst starter batteries are generally wet...so getting a mains charger, solar controller or, indeed, an alternator to supply the revevant (potentially) different charging profiles to all batteries is a tricky one. i have 2x92ah Banner Running Bull AGMs (transferred from my previous van) and took advice from AandN regarding the setting on my mains charger...Gel or Wet...they said Gel so thats what its been on...the simple solar controller has no such setting and os probably not good for the AGMs which are 5 yrs old and probably due for replacement...was considering gel but the Varta EFB look good value and performance and would cure any 'battery type' issues as all wpuld be 'wet' ish....
5. we use THS sites in the UK summer and have been managing to charge electric bike batteries via an inverter, although this will take a large chunk from any leisure batteries and has to be managed. 

an interesting thread with some good thoughts and resulting options being considered.

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Post by gassygassy on Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:48 pm

I was surprised when the specialist garage told me my original fitted solar panel was 30Watts (2015 Nuevo). I had thought it was 80W which wouldn't be so bad. My previous experience of 100 Watt panels on 4 different vans is that 100W is fine, with a cheap Chinese regulator. However none of those vans had 'intelligent' alternators and regenerative braking.
I totally agree with the desirability of switches which go click when one piece of metal joins another piece of metal. But they are, at about 0.8p each, more expensive than writing a bit of software into a £1.30 microprocesor by the time you have made 1000 units. Years ago I was manufacturing reversing sensors when they were a novelty. Buying LEDs 1000 at a time from the manufacturer cost 0.8p each instead of 35p from Maplin
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Post by Peter Brown on Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:49 pm

gassygassy wrote: from Maplin

A ghost from the past
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Post by marconi on Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:02 pm

I've not had my hands on an EC700 yet so would be interested to hear how that is configured?


I have only seen the Solar controller in the Nuevo with a camera peering through a total jumble of wires in the box under the OS bunk.
It is a separate unit, how its connected is not visible. As the output is switchable smartly and by the CP of the EC700 it must be plugged in to it. It would seem to be a single output unit or only one output used.

In reply also to the comments elsewhere re real switches and relays, the EC700 uses solid state switching hence conserving power. However there will be losses in the switches which may contribute to some of the inefficiencies in the Solar Charging. Solar chargers should have no loss between their outputs and the battery.
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Post by glyne lock on Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:36 pm

Marconi
if you go on sargent site solar reduced you will see the lovely solar pwr regulator 15220
I have removed this and fitted a epever mppt in its place now gettint for every amp going into the mppt controller 1.4 amp out
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Solar panels  - Page 6 Empty Re: Solar panels

Post by Peter Brown on Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:59 am

Thanks Marconi, so the set up (external to the PSU) is the same as the EC500. On the EC700, when you switch off the solar smart charging you can direct all solar energy to the Leisure battery - can you also do that with the EC700?
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Solar panels  - Page 6 Empty Re: Solar panels

Post by Caraman on Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:35 am

Peter Brown wrote:Thanks Marconi, so the set up (external to the PSU) is the same as the EC500.  On the EC700, when you switch off the solar smart charging you can direct all solar energy to the Leisure battery - can you also do that with the EC700?
On the EC700 you can override the smart charging of both batteries by directing all the solar charge to either the leisure battery or the vehicle battery.  So it sounds as though it's the same as the EC500 in this respect.
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