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Solar Panel not working?

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Solar Panel not working? Empty Solar Panel not working?

Post by StevieG on Thu May 28, 2020 5:23 pm

I suspect that our solar panel is not charging either the vehicle or leisure battery.
Both batteries drop below 12v if the mains charger is left off, and the Sargent panel shows zero amps being output from the solar panel.
Given how sunny the weather is at the moment, and the fact that no 12v is being used (except by the Sargent panel itself), I would have expected the solar panel to show a charge being produced, and the batteries to be well above 12v.  
I cannot find any manual reference to solar panel specific fuses, etc.
Is there anything else I can check which might confirm or resolve the above issue?
(I have emailed the dealer as the m/h is only a few months old but they are furloughed ufn due to Covid-19) 
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Post by Dbvwt on Thu May 28, 2020 5:36 pm

Don’t take me as any kind of expert and there will be many who know much more than me on soon.

When I traced the solar feed on my EC500 (I’m guessing you have an EC700 so may be different) it went direct to the Sergeant unit without fuses etc..

To begin with, have you tried resetting the main Sergeant unit? Just turn off the main black button and 30 seconds later turn it on again.
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Post by Mids on Thu May 28, 2020 5:59 pm

Hi have you read the other posts on here regarding  faults with the ec700 on 2019 models. Seems  to be  a lot of problems
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Post by Roopert on Thu May 28, 2020 7:21 pm

It's not unusual to have no fuses in the cabling between solar panel and controller - in general a solar panel (of the size typically fitted to a camper van) can operate into a short circuit without harm to itself, and they cannot produce a high enough current to damage the wiring, so in electrical terms there is no need.

In practical terms they can be useful for fault diagnosis, but an inline connector can serve the same purpose.

So, it's quite likely there are no fuses to check. If you can get to the wiring and can test voltages then you should be seeing well over 20 Volts from the panel in full sunshine.

In my experience, it's not unusual to find panel failures at the start of the year - probably because of thermal stresses when temperatures go from (occasionally) subzero to 50 or more degrees in full sun. Fortunately yours should be covered by warranty, so it should only be a relatively minor inconvenience if it turns out it has failed. Have some sympathy for a friend of mine who is going through the process of "unsticking" his panel, which is stuck down to his van's roof with CT-1!
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Post by Caraman on Thu May 28, 2020 7:40 pm

It sounds like an electrical fault which your dealer should sort out.  They should be returning to work from Mon 1 Jun.  I am not aware of a solar panel fuse to check.  The only time my solar charge shows nil current in the sun is when the voltage of the battery being charged reaches 13.8 V at which point the solar panel's controller/regulator tuns off the solar charge even though the battery isn't fully charged.  This is because Sargent has fitted a very poor and inefficient first generation controller/regulator.
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Post by Relaxez-Vous on Thu May 28, 2020 7:45 pm

StevieG, as far as you know has solar every worked?

On my 2019 Kemerton XL the solar panel cable is connected to a white box solar controller which is behind the EC700 PSU. When I unscrew the EC700 PSU and carefully lift it out, I see the white box solar controller screwed to a side wall. I think the solar controllers now are not part of the PSU unit as found with the EC500 PSU units.

There are a couple of LEDs on the white box of the Sargent solar controller which could give you some indication if it's Sargent's solar controller or the EC700 PSU which is faulty.

Frankly you just want it to work, so you have my sympathy. Welcome to the world of A-S outsourcing the electrical side of things to some third party.
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Post by IanH on Thu May 28, 2020 8:26 pm

My new, to me, MH is being fitted with a 100w solar panel by the dealer I am buying it from. I specifically asked for the solar panel NOT to be connected via the Sargent box but via a dual battery solar controller directly hard wired (via 10A inline fuses) to each battery.
To my surprise they said that's what they always do having had so many Sargent issues.
If you can disconnect the solar panel output from the unit, or get into the wiring connectors, if there are any, then the panel will be open circuit, this won't harm it. Measure the panel voltage across these two wires, for a 100w panel you should see circa 20 to 22 v.
As you're under warranty I'd leave it to the dealer though.
Good Luck
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Post by StevieG on Thu May 28, 2020 10:18 pm

Many thanks to everyone who has replied to my question.
The consensus appears to be that there is no fuse, so it looks like a visit back to the dealer when they reopen.
I had to take the m/h back for an EC700 replacement because the panel failed after just 4 weeks.
Perhaps the techie dislodged something when he swapped the panel, or perhaps it has never worked.
Any way, thanks again to everyone - as a relative newcomer to the forum I am very impressed with the speed and help provided. Regards to all.
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Post by Roopert on Thu May 28, 2020 10:53 pm

Personally, I would want to do some more checks, rather than rely on a dealer to do something. The absolute simplest check is to get a blanket and cover the solar panel, with electric hookup disconnected and engine off.

Go and check battery voltages on the EC700. Assuming no charging has been happening for the preceding half hour or more, both batteries should be at 12.x Volts. You would hope somewhere in the range 12.6-12.8 Volts if the batteries are good.

Now remove the blanket and check the battery voltage. Assuming a reasonable level of sunlight you will see an immediate change in voltage. It depends on how the EC700 is configured, but one should increase significantly and the other should stay roughly the same.

If neither changes then there is definitely an issue with the solar charging!

I should add that swapping the control panel is unlikely to have disturbed the solar connection, as that wiring goes back to the main unit and not the panel.

[Edit: Actually, if I had remembered the original post properly, this isn''t really necessary - the original post makes it clear that the batteries are both staying in the 12V range in sunlight - which is conclusive enough, if solar charging is enabled.]
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Post by marconi on Thu May 28, 2020 11:18 pm

There is another thing you can can check without having to get access to see the Solar Controller. The 'Solar Charging'  little sunshine on the top row of the Control Panel display which I assume is parallel'd with the similar indicator on the Solar Controller. It should indicate when there is 0.1 Amp or more Current.

If that doesn't indicate in sunshine then it would seem that the fault lies with Controller or Solar Panel. If it does indicate then any of the connections or the EC700 come into the equation.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

If you do want to do some checks. The Solar panel plug goes to a flying socket that goes to the Solar Controller it is reasonably easy to spot, you could disconnect it and measure the voltage from the panel as suggested.
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Post by gpilky on Sat May 30, 2020 11:46 am

I had a similar problem with my EC500 controller. When I removed the panel, it started working again, but when I put the panel back in, it went off! Eventually identified a loose connector on the EC500 panel where the solar regulator output plugs in.

I think that when the panel was put back in the wiring loom was somehow pulling down on the connection and causing it to fail. I cured the problem by extending the wiring by just putting a few inches of extra wire in, and also tightening the connection up. Since then there has been no problems and the solar works fine.
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Post by StevieG on Sat May 30, 2020 12:22 pm

gpilky wrote:I had a similar problem with my EC500 controller. When I removed the panel, it started working again, but when I put the panel back in, it went off! Eventually identified a loose connector on the EC500 panel where the solar regulator output plugs in.

I think that when the panel was put back in the wiring loom was somehow pulling down on the connection and causing it to fail. I cured the problem by extending the wiring by just putting a few inches of extra wire in, and also tightening the connection up. Since then there has been no problems and the solar works fine.
Thanks for that - I suspect that is the problem, as the original panel was faulty and replaced under warranty, and the wiring was possibly disturbed during that. However, since I can not see how to remove the panel and the m/h is only a few months old, I think I had best leave it to the dealer to fix.
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Post by Richard G on Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:04 am

It amazes me that there are so many different systems fitted to various autosleepers, and most owners have issues or don't understand them and their functions,

My 328 system is not working properly, Sargent are very helpful and sent me all the information (I am an electrician)(retired)  but I cannot resolve it, and Sargent have only just reopened and cannot do repairs. Don't stand much chance really of getting it sorted.
(control panel shows Vehicle Battery at zero volts although fully functional, and panel wont switch on only by starting engine first. Problem started with leisure battery ., new, not charging and often dropping down to 3 volts.
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Post by Roopert on Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:33 am

Richard G wrote:most owners have issues or don't understand them and their functions,

I'm not sure that's an accurate assessment of the situation. One of things about a forum (any forum, not just this one) is that it exaggerates the extent to which there are problems. That's because people start threads when they have a problem with a system, and sometimes a small number of people can be very vocal. Owners don't tend to start threads when the system behaves normally.

So you will always see a high proportion of threads about problems, and few about "no problems" or "I understand how this works".

I doubt I am particularly unusual - my experience of Sargent based power systems (one PSU2006, one EC328) is that they both work very well. I don't have issues, and I do understand them. So I've not had any great need to start threads about problems with either - they just do what they are supposed to do.

I can't recall now whether you've already started your own thread about the problems you're having with your EC328. If not, we may be able to make some suggestions as to what to check?

I don't claim to have enough info to work on, from the info you've given here, but is it fair to assume that you've found and checked the fuse adjacent to the leisure battery? This is a fuse which should be external to the EC328, in the positive wire leading from the leisure battery. Apologies if this sounds simplistic, but I don't know from what you've posted so far what has and has not been checked.
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Post by Peter Brown on Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:48 am

The vehicle battery is from a fused output from the Peugeot wiring (no idea where), then in the EM50 and also on the EC328.  As well as the fuse at the battery, the leisure battery is also fused on the EC328.  The control panel can be reset by removing the plug from the back and reconnecting.
EM50 fuses listed below.

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Post by Richard G on Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:22 pm

Roopert wrote:
Richard G wrote:most owners have issues or don't understand them and their functions,

I'm not sure that's an accurate assessment of the situation. One of things about a forum (any forum, not just this one) is that it exaggerates the extent to which there are problems. That's because people start threads when they have a problem with a system, and sometimes a small number of people can be very vocal. Owners don't tend to start threads when the system behaves normally.

So you will always see a high proportion of threads about problems, and few about "no problems" or "I understand how this works".

I doubt I am particularly unusual - my experience of Sargent based power systems (one PSU2006, one EC328) is that they both work very well. I don't have issues, and I do understand them. So I've not had any great need to start threads about problems with either - they just do what they are supposed to do.

I can't recall now whether you've already started your own thread about the problems you're having with your EC328. If not, we may be able to make some suggestions as to what to check?

I don't claim to have enough info to work on, from the info you've given here, but is it fair to assume that you've found and checked the fuse adjacent to the leisure battery? This is a fuse which should be external to the EC328, in the positive wire leading from the leisure battery. Apologies if this sounds simplistic, but I don't know from what you've posted so far what has and has not been checked.
Yes point taken, does seem a lot discussed re the Sargent system.

At the end of the day.....Where is the Vehicle Battery fuse?????????

Nobody seems to know. Its not at battery, or under bonnet, and all fuses in EC are good...……….Yes I have the leisure battery fuses adjacent to battery.
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Post by Roopert on Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:46 pm

Richard G wrote:At the end of the day.....Where is the Vehicle Battery fuse?

This is one of the unfortunate facts with an A/S build (or any similar make). They are hand-built and no two seem to be the same.

I've looked at several different examples of another A/S model, and in one, the vehicle battery fuse was inside a Ford-supplied e-box in the engine compartment, and in another it was an inline fuse, dropped in the space behind the vehicle battery (and therefore invisible to a casual look).

Realistically, the best thing to do is to try to follow the wiring. We know that for crash fire safety there must be one in the supply from vehicle battery to the Sargent system, and that it should be located close to the battery, so all you can do is look for it.

If it's any consolation, the battery fuses on my (non A/S converted) T5.1 based camper are in a ridiculously non-obvious location, and that location is not documented by the converter.
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Post by StevieG on Fri Jun 19, 2020 6:31 pm

A quick update to the original problem - it has now been fixed by the dealer!!
Apologies if I don't use the correct terminology, but as I understand it the solar panel itself was working correctly (i.e. providing power), as was the regulator and PSU, but there was a problem with a Sargent box under the front bunk. Apparently it needs to communicate with the battery, and as it was unable to do so, the solar power was going nowhere.
The problem was solved by replacing the Sargent unit (under warranty).
Rather than having to return to the dealer (again!) after a spare had been ordered and delivered, I suggested they save me another 140 mile round trip and rob a replacement unit from one of the vans they had onsite. This would also prove if their diagnosis was correct, or if there was a different fault. 
To their credit the dealer agreed to my suggestion, and 30 minutes later the new unit was in and solar power was showing on the EC700 control panel.
I have a suspicion that when the original EC700 failed, it somehow caused a failure in the box under the bunk. The techie said they have replaced lots of EC700 panels, and this is the first time they have had to replace the other box as well, so who knows.
Anyway, I thought it worth updating the forum on the result - it may prove useful to someone else in the future, which I guess is the point of the forum.
Many thanks to all who replied to my original question.
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Post by marconi on Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:59 pm

StevieG wrote:A quick update to the original problem - it has now been fixed by the dealer!!
Apologies if I don't use the correct terminology, but as I understand it the solar panel itself was working correctly (i.e. providing power), as was the regulator and PSU, but there was a problem with a Sargent box under the front bunk. Apparently it needs to communicate with the battery, and as it was unable to do so, the solar power was going nowhere.
That's interesting thanks for updating.
Your understanding of the story told sounds OK, glad the problem is solved.

The box under the front bunk is that the EM40 ? Maybe not on the Broadway.

The story does sound a bit odd if the set up is the same as the Nuevo. There is no 'communication' from the EM40 with the Leisure Battery or the Solar Regulator. 

Coincidentally the EM40 is the last bit I am working on finding out the full circuitry and functions of.
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Post by glyne lock on Fri Jun 19, 2020 11:03 pm

would be nice to here the name of the part they are talking about.
stevieG 
this would be very useful to help others as you have said if they had told you the name of the part but with out that is even more confusing
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Post by StevieG on Fri Jun 19, 2020 11:23 pm

glyne lock wrote:would be nice to here the name of the part they are talking about.
stevieG 
this would be very useful to help others as you have said if they had told you the name of the part but with out that is even more confusing
Hi Glyne - I agree! I'll email the dealer tomorrow and ask for the name of the part they replaced. If I get a sensible answer I'll post it on the forum. Hope that helps.
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Post by glyne lock on Fri Jun 19, 2020 11:43 pm

that would be great like you said if you get a sensible answer  .that will put my mind at rest as I cant work out what they are talking about.
if they have not told you the truth will now hit them hard . lets see what they say first
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