Solar Panel/Sargent EC328/12V Electrics Fault

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

Michael

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

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

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

John,

I now understand your willingness to do the work yourself.

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

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

Peter

Hi,

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

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

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

Peter

PS I wrote this following a link from an e-mail and had missed the subsequent posts - although my comment would still be the same.
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Post by Peter Brown on Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:31 pm

Wearsider wrote:John,

I now understand your willingness to do the work yourself.

Michael

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

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

Thanks - guessed that I had

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

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

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

Peter - please can you elaborate on the slightly different reasons for the 328? I would like to buy a flexible solar panel before the "solar panel trade wars" kick off (possibly) in a month or so, but it would be good to know if I'm likely to encounter problems (with my 328)...
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Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:25 am

Hi Mojo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, does anyone else share my interest in the MT-1 solar controller display, and whether it's possible to hook one up to an EC328?
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Post by Wearsider on Wed Jul 03, 2013 6:13 am

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

Good Morning Craig,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

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

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

Good Morning Michael,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

Craig Foot
Technical Support Specialist

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

Hi Michael

Been away for a few days.

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

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

Peter

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

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

I will keep you informed of developments.

Michael
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Post by Guest on Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:10 pm

Michael, Peter

I did the test by covering the solar panel and the system did not fail.

Since then I have disconnected the solar panel and there has been no failures in 36 hours.

I'm waiting on a new solar panel controller to arrive. I'll let you know if it does indeed solve the problem.

Fingers crossed.

Regards, John
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Post by brodco on Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:12 pm

Hi wave 

Peter Brown wrote:
As well as Craigs request I would also suggest that, with the panel connected, you cover the panel with a non-metalic cover and monitor. If the fault occurs then, if so it would suggest interference rather than voltage is the culprit. It may be worth you questioning Craig on that possibility.
I’ll second that. Whenever there are weird symptoms that seem to defy explanation it's always worth considering EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility). EMC problems are very common but often over looked because most people just don't consider them as a possible cause.

If (and I stress IF because it’s only a possibility at the moment) interference turns out to be the problem then the installation needs to be looked at closely. One effective way of removing interference is to fit a lump of “ferrite” on the cable.  Ferrite is a material that absorbs the interference.  It’s what’s in the round lumpy thing (to give it the technical term hugegrins ) that you often find in the cable attached to laptop power supplies and many other cables attached to electronic equipment.
Guess what they are there for.scratch head

We can discuss the options further if it proves necessary.

Brod.

PS Just seen John's latest post. He beat be by two minutes. I think my (and Peter's) general comments are still worth keeping in mind for future problems though.


Last edited by brodco on Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:20 pm

Hi Bros

Did you see my post re interference bottom page 1?

Peter

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Post by Guest on Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:01 pm

Hi Brod

When I was first investigating this problem I had interference as a possible cause. In fact I thought it could have been induced into the control panel. However, looking at the system as a whole there are many possible EMC interference possibilities. Including the length of the wiring to the control panel, the proximity of the solar control module to the psu electronics and also how this module is actually mounted, would be high on my list.

However, my hope is that it is the solar control panel itself is at fault........otherwise it could well be a system design issue which may not be so easy to resolve.

Who needs energy from the sun anyway hugegrins 

Best regards, John
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Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:22 pm

On a site at Lake Garda talking to a fellow ASOC member about his tyre valve failure en-route and got on to the subject of Electro Magnetic Interference.......? I said I could write a book on that subject-he said "I have - several" and he had!!!

Peter

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Post by Guest on Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:24 pm

Was his name Faraday hugegrins 
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Post by Peter Brown on Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:34 pm

No and without his consent I would not name him but he is a Professor and celebrated his 80th birthday at the 2009 Rudesheim rally.

Peter

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Post by Wearsider on Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:48 am

Thank you everybody for your recent posts.

I note in particular that Johns problems have disappeared once the solar panel has been disconnected and additionally where the solar panel is covered as per Peters suggestion .

I note the comments on EMC but issues in this area of way beyond my knowledge to comprehend. Let us just hope the solution is a little more simple.

I hope when the new solar panel controller is fitted to Johns van everything works as it should. If that is the case I will probably ask Sargent to replace the one that is fitted on the EC328 exchange unit that they recently provided me with.

However I have to say that my own suspicion is that the solar panel controller is not the source of the problem on its own. I have had 2 different types fitted to my van and similar symptoms with each. I suspect that something else in the electronics within the EC328 is not shutting off the input from the solar panel when it is providing too much juice especially in sunny conditions when the batteries are already well charged.

Anyway I will probably reconnect my solar panel tomorrow (duly covered along the lines of Peter Brown's earlier posting) to see if the symptoms disappear as per Johns experience.

All of this is rather frustrating particularly as we are enjoying ideal solar panel weather.

I will keep you all abreast of developments
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Post by Wearsider on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:20 am

With a fiercely strong sun at present I decided that it would not be prudent to reconnect my solar panel at the moment given the fact that in less severe  conditions it has been malfunctioning when working in conjunction with the Sargeant EC328 system.

I think I will just now wait until John posts whether his similar problems disappear when he fits the new internal dual solar controller that is wending its way from Marquis/Sargent.

Michael
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Post by Guest on Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:20 pm

Hi Michael

Slight delay as Sargent sent the wrong controller. Hope to have the correct one later this week.

I'll let you know when it's installed.

Regards, John
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Post by Wearsider on Thu Jul 11, 2013 3:57 pm

I post below in blue the latest communication that I have received from Craig Foot at Sargent which is really self-explanatory.


Apparently the relevant software is in the control panel that displays all the system values rather than the EC328 box itself.


It would seem John that if you fit the replacement dual solar panel controller that is on its way from Marquis and I fit the new control panel that is coming to me direct from Sargent and we compare the results from both those replacements we are likely to have a good idea as to the source of the mutual problem.


Good Afternoon Michael,
 
We have been looking into this and had our software people look at the control panel for the over-voltage logic.
 
We feel that the control panel may have been picking up slight voltage increases from certain solar panels and forcing the cut out, A modification has been made to the software to increase the delay in cutting out in order to deal with short term voltage spikes.
 
We also noticed a possibility that the pump may remain on during the cut out, which would explain some of your findings, this has also going to be modified.
 
Due to this I think sending out a replacement control panel may overcome your issue.
 
I will despatch one as soon as possible,
 
I hope you are happy with this solution.
 
Regards,
Craig Foot
Technical Support Specialist
Sargent Electrical Services Ltd
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Post by Guest on Thu Jul 11, 2013 4:18 pm

Michael

Coincidently I have just received a call from Marquis explaining exactly the same as shown in your post.

A control panel with the updated software is on it's way to me and hopefully will arrive tomorrow. 

To me this is good news as the control panel is easier to change over. Although they are not 100% certain this will fix the problem it does make sense to me as I had originally had the control panel software as a possible cause.

I'll keep you posted.

Fingers crossed once again.........

Regards, John
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