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Post by Alwaysurfing on Tue 10 Dec 2019 - 12:46

oh ok, I assumed people would have complained directly to them.  I certainly am going to regarding the storage battery charging issues - once I actually do store over winter.  

I complain to the dealer about items needing repair and they repair them straight away without issue and with a smile (55 items raised on our new van so far some, niggles some more serious).  

I even moaned about my TV being fitted on the bulkhead next to the microwave oven and the proximity of the sockets for the 12v power and satelite socket (both in the door entrance)  They added new sockets at the top behind the TV FOC and the install now looks great.

I complained to sergeant that their comms unit failed twice in 3 months and they gave me £45.00 to compensate my visits to the dealer to get it fixed. 

I'm not a person who likes to make a fuss but I feel if its not right it should be raised and sorted out....
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Post by Caraman on Tue 10 Dec 2019 - 17:48

Peter Brown wrote:Its a well known and documented (on this forum) problem with the Sargent EC500 and EC700 units.  To solar charge both batteries the EC700 has to be left switched on, in which case the power consumed by the smart charging circuitry is more than the solar panel can harvest at this time of year an you end up with two flat batteries.

The manufacturers advice for storage is to switch off the EC700 - in which case all of the available solar energy goes to charging the leisure battery - and disconnect the vehicle battery.

Switching off the solar smart charging, installing a battery master and when not using the van switch off the EC700 will allow both batteries to receive an adequate solar charge.

Peter - I have the EC700 and the only handbook for it is for the Harmony Utility Management System which you may not have.  All the Handbook states is:




Power Level Screen


The power levels screen shows the voltage of leisure and vehicle batteries, the current of the active battery, the mains current draw and the solar current.


Power Setting Screen


Smart battery charging - the smart charging monitors the leisure and vehicle battery voltages and automatically changes the battery being charged to ensure both batteries are optimally charged.  When selected the button is back lit blue, when not selected the button is back lit grey.


Active battery select - The battery highlighted in blue is the active battery, this is the battery being charged by mains (when plugged in) and the battery that is being used by the system.  Pressing the while on.


Solar battery select - the battery highlighted in blue is the battery that the solar charging is being directed too.  Pressing the smart battery charging button switches the solar smart charging on and off, the button is lit blue while on.


Solar Charge Management


The EC700 PSU incorporates a built-in solar charge management feature, which will monitor the input from a separate solar panel and regulator.  The Solar Active symbol will be displayed on the control panel when there is an amount of energy available to charge the battery.  In a motorhome, depending on the charge state of the batteries, the solar power will be directed to the required battery and continuously monitored to ensure optimum operation.


Mains Charging 


The EC700 PSU incorporates a smart charge feature, which monitors both leisure and vehicle batteries and automatically adjusts and directs the charger power (and solar power if a solar panel is installed) to maintain the leisure and vehicle batteries at an optimal level. 

When you say - the EC700 has to be left switched on - do you mean the EC700 PSU or the EC700 CP?  I habitually switch off the CP but not the PSU.  In fact the dealer told me to leave the PSU well alone.  If the PSU is still switched on but the CP is off, will the solar and mains (if connected) smart charging still work?  It doesn't say anything in the handbook about what happens if the PSU is switched off but you seem to be saying that regardless of the settings on the CP, solar charging defaults to the leisure battery only.  Is this right?
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Post by Peter Brown on Wed 11 Dec 2019 - 8:54

Please see below exert from Harmony Page 7.  Your Peugeot handbook will advise you to disconnect the vehicle battery when the vehicle is stored, on your model this should be adble to be done with the ignition switch.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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Post by Greyhound on Wed 11 Dec 2019 - 9:19

I could be wrong (as I don't own one), but does't the EC700 default to the vehicle battery for solar charging when the system is shut down?

That's my problem with the EC500 as it defaults to the leisure battery, which is a bit silly as with the system shut down you're most likely storing it and then only need the vehicle battery maintained to keep systems like the alarm etc from draining the battery.  I'm presuming they realised this and changed it in the newer system.

I have noticed you can isolate the vehicle battery from the ignition switch (red button on the edge of the switch you push as you turn it).  Does this just isolate some functions but keep the alarm active then?
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Post by Alwaysurfing on Wed 11 Dec 2019 - 13:04

The default is leisure battery.
The vehicle battery gets nothing from solar when ec700 switched off.
Hence two flat batteries in the winter....
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Post by Greyhound on Wed 11 Dec 2019 - 13:50

Ah, so they kept that the same.  That's a shame as you could have disconnected the leisure and had the vehicle topped up without having to do anything more.

Anyway, I've ordered another 80W panel which will give me 160W total (the max for the controller I'm getting - although I'll probably never hit that level in the UK) and will wire it in this weekend.  On the back of the Symbol there's actually enough room for a 100W panel.

With the system completely off and then the controller pushing around an 80/20 charge to the vehicle/leisure I reckon it should keep everything pretty healthy.
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Post by Caraman on Wed 11 Dec 2019 - 19:03

Thanks Peter Brown, Alwaysurfing and Greyhound.  

I had missed the bit on Activating The System on page 7 of the Handbook. 

My deduction is that if solar charging is set to SMART on the EC700 CP and the EC700 CP is then switched off but the PSU remains on, SMART charging will continue.  But if the PSU is switched off the SMART charging will stop.  Although it is not in any EC700 document I have read, when the PSU is switched off all of the solar charge then goes to the leisure battery.  There may be logic in this if the leisure battery continues to power the tracker and alarm after the PSU has been switched off.  I guess there will be back-up batteries because if not it would be too easy to disable the tracker and alarm by disconnecting the leisure battery.  I am unclear on the role of the vehicle battery in this respect and the impact if any on the tracker or alarm if it is disconnected or put into standby mode using the red button on the ignition.

I am in the fortunate position of being able to store my Nuevo whilst connected to the mains (with SMART charging and the PSU on) which I would normally do when there is less solar gain.
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Post by Greyhound on Sun 15 Dec 2019 - 18:52

I've just finishing fitting a second 80W panel to my Symbol, and I've replaced the useless solar controller with a 2 battery controller from photonic universe and bypassed the EC500 completely.  This is my finding from recent testing.

With the system on to enable smart charging, during the winter months the system is very inefficient and ends up with 2 drained batteries very quickly, since the drain from the system is higher than the solar can replace at this time of year.  IMO a really bad setup.

With the basic 80W panel and system completely shutdown (button off on the main control unit) this allows all solar into the leisure battery and maintains it ok, even at this time of year.  After a week like this the leisure battery was still topped up and the vehicle battery had just lost around 0.2V from the usual drain from alarm etc.

Since I want to put the van in storage, I want both batteries to be stable throughout winter, so a second 80W panels gives me a total of 160W (max, although that would be almost impossible in the UK).

I pulled the EC500 unit out and removed the plug from the solar panel to the PCB.  There are two connectors to both batteries, one called "LBAT" and one "VBAT", leisure and vehicle respectively.  I stripped a short amount of insulation from each live and neutral so I could solder a wire to each to the new controller.  Connect each to the new controller so it determines the battery size (12V) and carries out it's 'startup'.  The new controller has an optional display unit (which I got) which I fitted under the bench seat where I can change the percentage charge to each battery and check on the voltages/amps being sent.

I then connected the solar wires which straight away started pushing the voltage in a 50/50 ratio to both batteries.  When either battery is fully charged it will also switch to 100% to the other one before going back to 50.50 float level.

Just after one day with set up, still on the original 80W panel I could see the benefit as both batteries were getting a nice trickle charge even at this time of year.

Today I fitted the second 80W panel at the back of the van and wired in parallel to the first*

Checked the controller display and with a nice clear sky I was getting around 21V and 2As which is about right for this time of year with the low sun.

At that level and with the EC500 completely switched off I should get a nice amount of charge maintaining the batteries while in storage with no issues of both being drained.  I turned the system on just to check the status and it shows the battery voltages as before, but now doesn't indicate any solar charge of course.  The rest of the functions are unaffected.

Really happy with the setup and now have some confidence in being able to leave it in storage without issue.  Much better than the original setup which IMO is too complex for it's own good and ends up actually being detrimental at this time of year.

* I chose parallel since both panels are 80W and kick out similar voltages and the controller has a 30V max.  This allows the amps to be added and maintain the voltage at around 21V.  Series would effectively double the voltages past the 30V limit.  I'm not getting into the parallel or series discussion.
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Post by Kemerton-bath on Sun 15 Dec 2019 - 22:31

Good to read Greyhound’s excellent account of engineering a solar charging system that’s finally fit for purpose.  Well done, but it’s very disappointing that such action is necessary. Sadly it’s another example of designers failing to understand how their products will be used in service.  In this particular case, one wonders if they even appreciate that vans often have to sit in storage compounds over the winter without the benefit of EHU.

So much for progress.  The solar charging system Greyhound has had to retrofit to his 2017 Symbol is almost exactly what our 2015 Kemerton has.  We have a 100W panel and a dual battery solar regulator with the same functionality he describes, all of which operates independently of the simple EC155 power supply.  We’re fortunate not to have to put the van in storage but even so, the solar maintains the vehicle battery and two leisure batteries during the winter without a problem.  

One wonders why Sargent have made their power supplies progressively more complex since 2015, particularly in accommodating solar.  We appear to be going backwards, with technology being introduced at the expense of overall effectiveness for the user.  During a visit to a local MH service centre this week I talked about this trend with the manager.  He was withering in his criticism of Sargent’s recent generations of power supply and concluded that they have become far more complex than they need to be, requiring a lot of support to address problems.

Keeping batteries adequately charged throughout a range of conditions is a key requirement of the habitation power supply, yet this seems to have been overlooked in favour of making it more whizzy. Digitisation and smart screens are marvellous advances, but not if it means we have to retrofit our vans with older technology just to keep the batteries alive during winter layup.

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Post by Suppersready on Sun 15 Dec 2019 - 23:02

Indeed ... Basically add more solar to meet your power usage. Chanel this via a good quality controller, isolated from the EC500/700 and you will have a system that works.
You can never have enough solar ...
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Post by Roopert on Mon 16 Dec 2019 - 1:01

Greyhound wrote:The new controller has an optional display unit (which I got) which I fitted under the bench seat where I can change the percentage charge to each battery and check on the voltages/amps being sent.

Apologies if this has already been stated elsewhere, but what controller did you get, Greyhound?

Until last year I had been using the (built-in on a Sargent EC328) EPsolar EPIPDB-COM controller and that worked Ok in the EC328 setup - but the annoying thing on that one was that the remote display would show you the proportions that it was set to distribute to the batteries, but would not let you set it!

I've now got a Votronic controller, but that has a fixed priority for the leisure battery (which suits my circumstances fine as my van can always be on hookup when in storage anyway). But for a situation where you need solar for storage, it would be great to be able to change the proportions simply, just before putting it into storage.
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Post by Greyhound on Mon 16 Dec 2019 - 8:40

Roopert wrote:
Greyhound wrote:The new controller has an optional display unit (which I got) which I fitted under the bench seat where I can change the percentage charge to each battery and check on the voltages/amps being sent.

Apologies if this has already been stated elsewhere, but what controller did you get, Greyhound?

I bought the photonic universe 2 battery PWN controller with additional control display:
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

I know MPPT is technically more efficient but this is the 4th time I've done a solar install using these controllers and they have worked faultlessly for me and are a very good affordable controller, especially with the useful display so you can change the ratio's etc.  For small setups like this I feel PWM is perfectly fine, but that's just my opinion and have no issues either way.  If I was fitting a lot of high power panels to really go for it, I'd definitely choose MPPT.

As mentioned, the wiring is already all in place, and it's a simple task to tap into the existing battery connections and move the solar wires from the Sargent board to the new controller.  Definitely pleased with the result.
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Post by Roopert on Mon 16 Dec 2019 - 11:03

Thanks - essentially I think that's a minor update to the EPIPDB-COM that Sargent use. Good to see that they've updated the remote panel so that you can change the ratio - on the original one it was still done via rather convoluted button-presses on the front of the controller itself (which was typically hidden inside the PSU box!).

I'm also not that taken with the marketing hype surrounding MPPT, which has even led to some cheap Chinese controllers being rebranded as MPPT though they don't actually implement it!

As some might have seen from a thread a while back, I changed my EPIPDB-COM controller (which is of course PWM-based) for a Votronic MPPT one, and I haven't seen any colossal increase in charging levels. As you say, in more complex systems it may give worthwhile gains, but in my simple single 100W panel system the gain seems negligible.
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Post by Peter Brown on Mon 16 Dec 2019 - 11:52

I recently replaced my faulty EC325 with a new EC328. I was perfectly happy with the 80W panel and solar charging through the EC325 but have found two improvements with the EC328.

I immediately noticed a marked improvement in solar harvesting with the new box so expect that the solar controller in it is much more efficient than the one in the (eight year old) EC325. With the 325, when the mains charger was switched on the batteries were disconnected form the habitation circuitry and from the solar controller, the charge could be manually switched to either the leisure or vehicle battery but not both and the solar charge was disconnected. On the 328, mains charger, solar controller and batteries are all permanently connected to each other so any energy from the solar panel is summed with the output of the charger if it is on and at the same time that battery that is not selected on the control panel still gets solar charge.

Both of these improvements were unexpected but are very welcome, Sargent certainly peaked with the EC328 design.
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Post by MelB on Mon 16 Dec 2019 - 12:34

Kemerton-bath wrote:...We have a 100W panel and a dual battery solar regulator...all of which operates independently of the simple EC155 power supply.  We’re fortunate not to have to put the van in storage but even so, the solar maintains the vehicle battery and two leisure batteries during the winter without a problem.
Same here Tim. Last year I fitted a 100w panel with dual battery solar regulator, installed independently of the EC155 PSU. Of course excluding a solar power supply to the EC155 was a necessity for my van because, according to Sergent, the EC155 does not have a solar input. Therefore the solar power system had to be installed independent of the EC155 PSU. Hoping this year, in the winter months, I will receive the same results as last year. Both batteries fully, or almost fully charged, when in storage.
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Post by Caraman on Tue 17 Dec 2019 - 19:51

Caraman wrote:My deduction is that if solar charging is set to SMART on the EC700 CP and the EC700 CP is then switched off but the PSU remains on, SMART charging will continue.  But if the PSU is switched off the SMART charging will stop.  Although it is not in any EC700 document I have read, when the PSU is switched off all of the solar charge then goes to the leisure battery.  There may be logic in this if the leisure battery continues to power the tracker and alarm after the PSU has been switched off.  I guess there will be back-up batteries because if not it would be too easy to disable the tracker and alarm by disconnecting the leisure battery.  I am unclear on the role of the vehicle battery in this respect and the impact if any on the tracker or alarm if it is disconnected or put into standby mode using the red button on the ignition.
  

After posting the above, I took advice from Sargent who sent me a two-page document titled “EC400/450/500 Smart Charging”.  I believe the EC700’s smart charging is the same as the EC500.  All of the systems smart charge by default unless manual overrides are set on the CP.  The CP does not have to be left on for the overrides to work.  When mains smart charging, the leisure battery is charged whilst the vehicle battery is monitored.  If the vehicle battery drops below 12.4V the charger will divert to the vehicle battery for a four-hour period before returning to the leisure battery.  The solar panel charge diverts to the battery not being charged by the mains charger when the mains power is on.  When the mains power is not on, the solar charge defaults to the vehicle battery for the EC400/450 and the leisure battery for the EC500 and I believe the EC700.  Under both protocols the other battery is monitored until it drops below 12.4V at which point it will divert its charge to that battery.  If the EC PSU is switched off by pressing the system shutdown button, the smart charge relay is disabled, the leisure battery becomes isolated and all the solar charge goes to the vehicle battery (not the leisure battery as stated above).  The Harmony Manual states that pressing the system shutdown button does not affect the tracker or alarm (if fitted).  I now assume that this is because the vehicle battery rather than the leisure battery is their primary source of power and of course they may have stand-by batteries.  If the vehicle battery is being charged by the solar panel during storage periods, it may be unnecessary to press the red ignition battery standby button as advised in the Boxer’s on-line manual.  Sargent has not commented on the likelihood of the daily solar charge during winter storage/out of use periods being less than the drain on the leisure battery caused by leaving the EC PSU on to allow the smart solar charging.  If I receive any more information from Sargent I will post it.


Last edited by Caraman on Tue 17 Dec 2019 - 19:52; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : gobblygook appeared)
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Post by PLOUGHLIN on Tue 17 Dec 2019 - 20:10

The Smart Charging guide you mention can be downloaded here.

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Post by Caraman on Tue 17 Dec 2019 - 20:23

That's the one.  It's titled EC400/EC450 System Smart Charging Guide but includes the EC500.  It was clearly written before the EC700.  If my synopsis of it is wrong, please say so.  Sargent in their e-mail told me that the solar charge goes to the vehicle battery when the system shutdown button is pressed.  It is not covered in the Guide or the Harmony Manual.
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Post by Greyhound on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 8:37

Caraman wrote:

  If the EC PSU is switched off by pressing the system shutdown button, the smart charge relay is disabled, the leisure battery becomes isolated and all the solar charge goes to the vehicle battery (not the leisure battery as stated above).

This isn't the case for the EC500, when the system is shutdown the solar is directed to the leisure only.  This is the problem I have had as the vehicle battery will just run down and die if left for long periods in storage.

Page 8, section 3.6 of the EC500 manual (downloaded from the link above):

The EC500 PSU incorporates a built-in solar charge management feature, which will control the input
from a solar panel (when fitted, maximum rating 120W). Depending on the charge state of the
batteries, the solar power will be directed to the required battery, and continuously monitored to ensure
optimum operation. For this system to operate intelligently, the shutdown button should be left
switched on. If the shutdown button is turned off then the solar panel will charge the leisure battery
only.
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Post by Caraman on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 10:03

Thanks Greyhound,  
This is what Cristian Lazar from Sargent actually said in his e-mail:

If you press the system shutdown button you are disabling the smart charge relay, the leisure battery becomes isolated and all the solar charge is going to your vehicle battery. If you want to charge both batteries, the leisure and the vehicle one off your solar panel then you have got to leave the Sargent unit on. Please see the attached file which explains how the smart charge works, it is identical throughout all the Sargent systems.
 
He may only have been referring to the EC700 when it is shutdown.  The attached file was the EC400/EC450 System Charging Guide which includes the EC500 but doesn't say where the solar charge goes when the PSU is shutdown.  I am waiting for another response from Sargent which might give greater clarity.
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Post by bolero boy on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 10:26

no wonder owners are confused.com...
on a separate solar system with its own controller (like ours) it makes no difference whether the control panel is on or off. it charges all batteries.
we dont have a 'PSU' as in the sargent systems, merely a mains charger and distribution box in the garage thats only activated when EHU is present.
when off EHU the 12v runs as long as the control panel (and 12v button) is on.
none of the above affects the multi battery solar charging.
as previous posts, all simple independent systems as is the heating which can be controlled by iNet but only via the Truma system itself, not an overarching 'extra layer' of complexity.

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Post by Peter Brown on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 11:18

Caraman wrote:Thanks Greyhound,  
This is what Cristian Lazar from Sargent actually said in his e-mail:

If you press the system shutdown button you are disabling the smart charge relay, the leisure battery becomes isolated and all the solar charge is going to your vehicle battery. If you want to charge both batteries, the leisure and the vehicle one off your solar panel then you have got to leave the Sargent unit on. Please see the attached file which explains how the smart charge works, it is identical throughout all the Sargent systems.
 
He may only have been referring to the EC700 when it is shutdown.  The attached file was the EC400/EC450 System Charging Guide which includes the EC500 but doesn't say where the solar charge goes when the PSU is shutdown.  I am waiting for another response from Sargent which might give greater clarity.

In section 3.6 'Solar Charge Management' of the Sargent user instructions for the EC500, the last sentence specifically states that if the system shutdown button is operated all solar charge goes to the leisure battery.  In the same paragraph for the EC600, 700 and 800 that last sentence is omitted and there is no mention anywhere of where the solar charge goes when the system shutdown is operated.

I've spoken to Cristian several times, he is (relatively) new to Sargent and was totally ignorant of the EC325 I used to have, assuming incorrectly it to be similar to the EC328, but I think he is a bright guy and I expect he is correct in what he is saying about the EC700 that I have no personal hands on experience with yet.

This means that previous assumptions I have made about solar charge operation of the EC700 are incorrect.
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Post by Greyhound on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 11:24

I can't remember where I got the information, but I do seem remember seeing somewhere that they changed it to charge just the vehicle battery in the EC700 (because I thought that would make things so much better as I could have simply disconnected the leisure battery to prevent it draining when in storage), so you could well be right, but as you say, annoying they omitted that information in the manual.
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Post by Sally on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 13:09

In my Sussex Duo I'm having some problems keeping the battery charged during winter storage.  At the previous place it faced the sun all day, but its now in a different position, so the temporary AA solar panel for the dash that fits into the OBD port isn't as efficient.

Two questions to get me going please.....

1) If I decide to go for a roof mounted solar panel, there isn't a lot of space, so i may be restricted to 80W or 100W maximum.  Would this be enough to keep the vehicle battery topped up at all times.  I would see the leisure battery as an added bonus, its less of an issue.  This isn't a job I could do, I would need to get a man in, so I would like to be forewarned.  Without being too facetious, money is not the deciding factor here, its more about the best option.  My van is 2011 and has a sargent EC50/51 control panel if that means anything.

2) a friend said that they simply unhook the battery.  When I asked about insurance he said that if it was stolen he wouldn't tell them and how would they know!  So if I decided to do that, can I simply unclip the negative cable, as that is an easy connection.  The positive is much more complicated.  So can I just undo the negative to save the battery, and will it cause any problems other than the alarm not working.

I appreciate that these are really basic questions and will probably get laughed at by some technical people, but I'm really not clued up on solar power and/or engine batteries.

thanks for any help
Sally
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Solar panels  - Page 2 Empty Re: Solar panels

Post by Peter Brown on Wed 18 Dec 2019 - 13:17

A fixed 80W panel and dual channel controller connected to both leisure and vehicle batteries has maintained all of my batteries in good condition each year for many years and I'm sure would be good for yours.

If you want to disconnect the battery, always do it at the negative terminal first as that is the safest method with the terminal being at the same voltage as the chassis.
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