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Old 01-12-2010, 06:40 PM   #1
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Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

I park my van in the street alot.
The only usage it's been getting is to move from one side of the street to the other for street cleaning. this is slowly running down my van batteries (for obvious reasons).
I have solar panels but they do not start to charge the van batteries until the house batteries get charged to a certain voltage.
Apparently the house batteries are not getting charged fully because the van batteries keep running down.

Is there some way to get the Separator to switch over earlier so the solar panels can charge the van batteries?

thanks!
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:16 AM   #2
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

Your separator is probably a SurePower 1315 and as such has an electrical tab on it for override. Typical SMB wiring is to run a green wire from the starter/key-on position to this tab, thereby connecting your starter and house batteries every time you crank.

First off, this could be a source of your problem- little do you realize that each move takes a little of the HOUSE batteries since they are joined at cranking. Then the house batteries need to get back to float before the starter batteries are charged.

Second off, hitting this tab with 12v should force the separator closed, which I think is what you're asking. This should be pretty easy with a bit of wire and a switch (if you're planning to do it regularly). Treat either of the battery posts of the separator as a battery terminal: i.e. fuse the wire coming off.



The wisdom of forcing both batteries to charge all the time I am not sure of (I hardly treat mine with kid gloves and do horrible things to them) but you might remedy your problem just by taking off the green wire, which I think is a good idea anyway.
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Old 01-13-2010, 01:46 PM   #3
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

My solar (done by SMB in 05) does not charge the starting batteries unless the ACR separator (Automatic charge relay) is closed, so with the key off nothing is going to the starting batteries from the solar panels. For a few reasons, many RV specialists suggest not to connect a single solar panel/array to both the house and chassis battery systems and prefer a separate controller/array for each battery system. Connecting the batteries together could be a bad move. If your batteries are tied together and something goes wrong there is a possibility to kill all the batteries. Also, if the chassis and house batteries are tied together, after the sun sets, the two systems should be separated from each other because they are generally different types of batteries and that in itself can cause problems. I'm not saying it won't work, just it's not a good idea. I'm actually looking into installing some type of battery tender to take care of my starting batteries and let the solar deal with the House batteries but I will have to be plugged in to shore power. For now my multi stage charger works OK for what I need. If I could swing it, I would have one small panel devoted to keeping the starting batteries up. Maybe one of these days.


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Old 01-13-2010, 07:06 PM   #4
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

thanks to both for the info.
i'll have a look at how my separator is wired and get back to you.
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:09 PM   #5
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

If you aren't getting enough sun to recharge both the house batteries and the starting batteries, maybe you need a bigger panel, more efficient controller or more sun.

How big is your solar panel?

What controller?

How many batteries are you charging?

As a reference, I have two type 27 house batteries and two stock Ford starting batteries and the one 125W solar panels will keep them all charged. But, I don't start my van unless it will be driven 20 miles or more. When not traveling, it is used once a week.

Mike
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:19 PM   #6
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

Curious Mike...does your solar also charge your starting batteries?

SMB said my array would keep my starting batteries up when I purchased the vehicle, but I found that not to be true. After more discussion they said the solar did not charge the starting batteries while the van sat. Any system can be configured different. Only the bridging switch allows me to manually connect the batteries with the key off or if the separator close which it quit doing. It should be working automatically. I wasn't real happy with this.
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:13 PM   #7
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

Yes it will charge the starting batteries once the house batteries are up to the switchover voltage (13.2V?). On sunny days we can hear the battery separator clicking as it switches to charge the starting batteries and again when it clicks off because the solar charger reached its shutdown voltage.

My wife really thought something was wrong with the van.

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Old 01-14-2010, 01:24 PM   #8
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

I wonder if SMB changed how they wired some of the later systems or if I have an issue. Mine closes when I turn on the key after a few seconds. I'm pulling my sure power right now and going with a magnetic Blue Sea version with a control switch. SMB has now changed over to Blue Sea as well but won't install the unit with the manual switch unless you request it. I've had that Sure Power separator stick too many times so I want the be able to have total by-pass control over the new relay if something goes wrong.
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Old 01-15-2010, 07:52 AM   #9
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

I was looking at some old photos of under my bench and realized that the tab I marked is not the "Starter Wire" tab. There is a handy diagram on the front of the SurePower and I updated the photo so there is not confusion in the future.

Dave, my SurePower was closed all the time (broken), so I couldn't test whether power from the Starter closed it immediately or after a few seconds.
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Old 01-15-2010, 01:37 PM   #10
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Re: Can I use the solar panels to charge the van batteries?

Well I'm not going to worry about the sure power now cause it's not even in the vehicle anymore . Blue Sea has a great support staff and they even answer the phone! With the Blue Sea Magnetic relay I ordered, I will at least have full control and will be able to test to actually see if the solar does or doesn't charge the starting batteries. According to SMB...No it doesn't. But I'm sure Mike is correct; when the relay closes, the batteries are tied and the solar will be adding to the starting battery. I just never had the sure power relay close unless the key was on. At least I never heard it operate unless the key was on or my prosine charger was activated.
[edit] For the record the SurePower separator was failing...very happy with the Blue Sea 7622.
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