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Solar panels

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Post by Paulmold on Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:36 am

I was on a CS with no hook up. Another motorhome came and got into conversation. His first question was have you got solar and how much. I replied I had 80w. He then bragged that he'd got 225w. I asked why so much. He answered that they watched TV every night for 2 hours. I replied that we did also. He couldn't think of any other reason why he needed so much. I can't see why anyone needs that much either.

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Post by Greyhound on Fri Dec 20, 2019 10:09 am

Yeah you get to a point where it gets silly.  The only reason to have a lot of panels is if you go off grid a lot during the winter months, or have multiple leisure batteries and your usage is high, so you need a large solar input during the day to get that power back in. 

Personally I think anywhere between 80 - 150 is a sweet spot and manageable on a standard MH roof, but 80 is fine for normal use in summer.
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Post by Peter Brown on Fri Dec 20, 2019 10:50 am

Greyhound wrote: but 80 is fine for normal use in summer.

and for keeping the batteries in good condition whilst stored in the winter.
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Post by spanner on Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:12 pm

I removed our factory fitted 80w panel and replaced it with a 160w panel which is the largest panel I could fit due to the roof layout, replaced the original basic controller with a Victron Mppt solar controller plus a CBE CSB2 battery master type device.
I fitted a switch after the solar controller to bypass the EC500 and direct the solar charge to the batteries or via the original route.
I also fitted a Sterling B2B charger.
We have two 105ah habitation batteries, all the batteries are new.

From April to October we never need to use a hookup but as we don’t use the van in the winter the solar just can’t keep up, even with the EC500 turned off, so to prevent the batteries falling below 12.2 Volts
I need to switch on the mains for 24 hours once every 10 days to allow the Sargent battery charger to fully charge all three batteries.

If I did the job again I’d use a dual Mppt controller with a display and bypass the EC500.

A “Battery Master” is a brand name and works differently and I think better than the CBE version.

You can’t have too much solar energy !
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Post by Suppersready on Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:37 pm

Absolutely  Spanner .... I hope your post helps those that struggle to understand 🙄

I have bypassed the EC500 and have the dual mppt controller ... all is sweet even at this time of the year
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Post by George Collings on Sun Dec 22, 2019 9:06 am

I fiited  and forgot a 150 w panel about 6 years ago.  Store in drive but very rarely HU . Mostly when  I want hot  water for cleaning. Tour on continent a couple of months in spring/Autumn most years . Use Sites once every ten days or so for laundry. Electrical demand is low - No TV.

The amount of energy a battery can store is tiny compared with gas. Use gas  for cooking and heating and frige. Also have refillabe cylinder plumbed in. Usage summer about 1 litre a day.

Suggest you consult the A/S handbook re weights on roof.. Mine is monococque and I can walk on areas with textured  surface .  I mounted my panels on the standard roof rails should be able to remove if ever swap van.
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Post by Alwaysurfing on Wed Dec 25, 2019 1:33 pm

So my control panel says solar amps 0.1 amps day and night - does this mean my batteries are fully charged?  So therefore while sat here in full suns with solar showing as available the ec700 has decided no charging required...... so nothing more than 0.1 amps being drawn?

Currently at Aranjuez Spain full sunshine...... (merry Xmas)
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Post by Caraman on Wed Dec 25, 2019 2:06 pm

My CP says solar charge 0.3 amps, leisure battery drain 0.2 amps.  Currently in Salisbury UK full sunshine.... merry Xmas to all!
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Post by naki585 on Wed Dec 25, 2019 6:47 pm

Hi.
We threw out our original 80 watt panel along with the original controller and fitted a B2B charger with a solar input. We also fitted a second Votronic dual output solar controller which also charges the start battery. We have 2 x 100amp batteries. This works very well. We rarely use EHU when camping.

Cheers
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Post by inspiredron on Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:41 pm

I have the EC328. Under my rooflight I have a 10 (TEN) watt solar panel. Peak output is 0.2A but generally the 328 CP shows between 0 and .1A.  Over winter I need to switch EHU on about once every 2 months overnight for each of the batteries. Still on OE batteries despite letting them once drop to about 5V.
They call EC500 and 700 progress?

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Post by Wightman on Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:55 pm

Peter Brown wrote:All was fine until the Sargent EC500 began to appear in 2013.

So with all the problems we are having my main question is:

How can these later motorhomes fitted with (EC500/EC700) "be fit for purpose"? 

We've had m/h's fitted with both (2013 A/S Broadway EC500 and 2018 A/T Tracker EC700) which we've subsequently sold (at great financial cost loss to us) due to not being able to wild camp and use as we like or should be able to use in our opinion

Best wishes to all and happy camping
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Post by Alwaysurfing on Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:48 pm

Whenever you switch the EC700 off, you are switching off the solar smart charge relay and all the charge will be defaulted to the vehicle battery to keep it topped up so you do not end up stranded

I received this from Sargent today.
so I’m happy that my vehicle is priority in storage for solar


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Post by Alwaysurfing on Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:49 pm

Whenever you switch the EC700 off, you are switching off the solar smart charge relay and all the charge will be defaulted to the vehicle battery to keep it topped up so you do not end up stranded

I received this from Sargent today.
so I’m happy that my vehicle is priority in storage for solar




Last edited by Alwaysurfing on Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:57 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Duplicate)
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Post by Greyhound on Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:42 pm

A little update on my bypassed controller.

I went to check the van at the storage location at the weekend. It's been there since before Christmas, so at least 2 weeks over the shortest days of the year with low winter sun, and I'm pleased to say both batteries were topped up nicely.

So I'm confident now my dual battery controller with the 2 panels on the roof are fine throughout the year at keeping everything topped up.

In summer I should hopefully have no problem off grid too at least for a week at a time, especially being able to prioritise  the charge to a specific battery now e.g. 80/20 leisure/vehicle in use and then 50/50 for storage.
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Post by Caraman on Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:25 pm

I have received more information from Sargent and the company that fitted my Cobra alarm for Marquis.  Although it is not stated anywhere for the EC700, we know during the winter months when the days are short and light less intense, the EC power control system PSU should be switched off if the vehicle is out of use and not connected to an EHU.  For the EC500 and below all the solar charge will then go to the leisure battery.  No advice is given for the leisure battery so it is assumed that the winter solar power alone will be sufficient to keep it fully charged as the battery’s only output, which Sargent say is very small indeed, will be to the tracker.  If the tracker stops receiving this input it will trigger but a built-in battery allows it to continue pinging its location every 6 hours for 3 to 4 years.   AS advise that the vehicle battery is fully charged, shutdown using the red button on the vehicle ignition and then recharged every 3 months.  The alarm takes its power from the vehicle battery which it will be denied when the vehicle battery is shutdown but the siren unit has a standby battery.  The alarm is normally activated and deactivated via the central locking which will stop working when the vehicle battery is shutdown.  Although it is not stated anywhere, we know that when the EC700 is shutdown all the solar charge goes to the vehicle battery but if the vehicle battery is also shutdown Sargent has said it will not be able to receive it.  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.  As no solar power will go to the leisure battery it will require re-charging presumably every 3 months as for the vehicle battery for the EC500 and below.  AS give no advice on how the batteries should be recharged.  However, the C&MC and others advise that out of use vehicles that are not jacked up should be moved regularly to prevent tyre damage.  Having experienced a nasty sidewall blowout after I hadn't been storing my caravan on axle stands, I would do this every month.  For heavy motorhomes this can only be done by restarting the engine.  Once restarted the engine will need to be run for sufficient time to warm it up and for the alternator to replace the energy used by the starter motor (winter solar power alone is unlikely do this).  This is best done on the open road rather than idling as it warms up the engine more quickly and provides a more assured alternator charge.  The latter can also recharge the leisure battery and the opportunity can be taken to connect the motorhome temporarily to an EHU.  If this advice is followed, both batteries will be fine with or without solar power.


Last edited by Caraman on Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:25 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : gobblygook appeared)
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Post by marbarsymbol on Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:16 pm

Because EC700 when shutdown, defaults solar power to thr Vehicle battery instead of the Leisure battery(as was the case with the previous EC500) , Vanbitz have confirmed to me that  their "battery master" would not be a viable option for the EC700. 
Not everyone who stores their van remote from where they live has access to EHU or are able to visit every few weeks to give the vehicle a run. The current situation needs resolving by Sargent and Autosleeper as both batteries need to be kept topped up to the correct voltage during lay up periods and EC700 users deserve to get a retrofit solution.
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Post by Peter Brown on Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:34 pm

Just do what's needed in those circumstances and disconnect the batteries. People have been storing vehicles for 100 years and that was always one of the requirements.
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Post by marbarsymbol on Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:39 pm

Peter
How do you keep the Tracker required by my insurance powered then?
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Post by Peter Brown on Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:54 pm

You cant. It stops working when the battery goes flat. All motorhome specs are optimised for living in them. For storage, switch off and disconnect all electrics. Security should be provided by the storage service provider.
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Post by marbarsymbol on Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:23 pm

Just trying to get progress on a common problem, but "if things don't change they stay as they are" and that is not progress.
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Post by Roopert on Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:53 am

marbarsymbol wrote:Just trying to get progress on a common problem, but "if things don't change they stay as they are" and that is not progress.

I agree that the current situation is far from ideal, but the problem is that - on the base vehicle side - customers demand more and more complex features, and almost all of them consume more power. The customer that matters to the manufacturer of the base vehicle is "white van man", whether we like it or not. So what we as motorhome buyers want is not likely to be high on their priorities.

On the habitation side, Sargent are faced with more complexity too. Two relevant examples are the need to integrate with CANbus so that their systems can detect what the base vehicle's status is, and another is the change to smart alternators, which requires more complex charging systems. And then of course there is pressure from the marketing dept. to make the system more "feature rich" to stop them losing custom to other manufacturers such as CBE.

I suspect that Sargent could be pressurised to do more to implement low-power standby modes. I don't think you can expect base vehicle manufacturers to make any useful changes at all - they will (IMO) never implement changes to accommodate a van being laid up for months at a time, because users that want this are an insignificant proportion of their market.
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Post by Caraman on Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:37 am

marbarsymbol wrote:Not everyone who stores their van remote from where they live has access to EHU or are able to visit every few weeks to give the vehicle a run. 

I don't keep my motorhome in a storage compound away from an EHU but if I did and I couldn't visit it every few weeks to give it a run I would aim to do so every 3 months which might be just enough for the batteries.  If even that was not possible I would have kept my caravan which, with a little preparation, I frequently stored for long winter periods in a storage compound without visiting it.
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Post by Caraman on Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:44 am

Peter Brown wrote:You cant. It stops working when the battery goes flat. All motorhome specs are optimised for living in them. For storage, switch off and disconnect all electrics. Security should be provided by the storage service provider.

Sargent said that even if the leisure battery is discharged there may still be enough voltage left for it not to trigger the tracker.  The tracker consumes very little power but if it needs more it has its own built in battery which will keep it working for 3 to 4 years.
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Post by Caraman on Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:35 am

Peter Brown wrote:Just do what's needed in those circumstances and disconnect the batteries. People have been storing vehicles for 100 years and that was always one of the requirements.
In effect the batteries are being disconnected when the EC power control system is shutdown and vehicle battery placed into standby mode.  That said the tracker will continue to receive power from the leisure battery and for the EC500 and below the leisure battery will receive some solar power.  All lead acid batteries self discharge which results in a build up of lead sulphate on their electrodes.  This is perfectly normal and is normally removed when the battery is recharged.  However, if the lead sulphate is left there too long it starts to harden making it more difficult to remove and therefore for the battery to recharge.  This reduces the capacity of the battery and shortens its life especially if it is a vehicle starter battery which is not designed to be discharged.  It follows that batteries should not be just disconnected and left for month on end with no charge.  The AS advice for the vehicle battery in standby mode is that it is recharged every 3 months.
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Post by Peter Brown on Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:47 am

Caraman wrote:
Peter Brown wrote: It follows that batteries should not be just disconnected and left for month on end with no charge. 

Although that is exactly what the battery manufacturer does, he builds the battery, charges it and then sends to distributors who store for months without charge before sale.
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