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Old 04-23-2014, 10:04 PM   #1
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Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

I have a solar question about my SMB to ask. I suspect there is some issue with either my solar controller or the wiring SMB did between when wiring my SMB for solar. Or, likely I am doing something wrong.

I wanted to get some opinions on if my solar performance is normal or if I should return to SMB for a diagnosis.

Some background: My SMB was built and delivered right about 1 year ago. I had SMB wire for solar with a 30amp Zamp solar controller. I have an exterior port for connecting a solar panel.

I only recently purchased a 100w solar panel and mounted it myself to my SMB roof on existing Yakima racks. Today I had the solar panel plugged in to the exterior port with my SMB in my driveway here in Texas.

In full sunlight the Zamp panel shows 5.3amps from the solar panel and the Zamp charging light is on. When in morning or evening sun it shows about 3.2amps. The panel has 4 lights to show battery condition. Really low, Low, Partially full, and full. The battery partially full light has been on the whole time.

My 200ah battery started at 80% according to my battery monitor. With the main 12v switch off the monitor show a -0.2amp draw on the battery and with the switch on (and nothing else on) it shows a -0.4 amp draw.

Let me estimate (on the extreme low side) that I got 2 hours of full sunshine and 2 hours of non full sunshine today. The high temp for the day was in the low 80s.
So 5.3 + 5.3 + 3.2 + 3.2 = 17amps from the panel.

Today I had the 12v switch off. So over the 8 or so hours from leaving for work and returning to check the battery there should have been an hourly draw of 0.2amps. So that would be 8 x -0.2 = -1.6amps.

I'm a solar newby, but I think I have read enough to understand that the solar charger is not 100% efficient and depending on battery charge level it will taper off as the battery approaches full capacity.

So over those 8 hours between checking my battery monitor shows the battery went from 80% charge to 79% charge.

This does not seem right to me that I am losing charge. I suppose that having the main 12v switch off could disconnect the battery from the solar controller as well. I plan to turn that 12v switch on tomorrow and see if I get any charge from the solar with the switch on.

In the meantime, can anyone help me understand if there is definitely something wrong with my setup? Or does anyone else suspect the 12v switch needs to be on for the charger to work? It seems that the alternator does charge the battery with the 12v switch off though.

Thank for any info,
Mike
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Old 04-24-2014, 02:14 PM   #2
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Mike how are you determining the percentage of charge? Is it a simple voltmeter or a gauge that shows what accumulates or disperses as a measurement?
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:16 PM   #3
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

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Originally Posted by daveb
Mike how are you determining the percentage of charge? Is it a simple voltmeter or a gauge that shows what accumulates or disperses as a measurement?
Thanks for the response daveb.

So I have the battery monitor that SMB installed. I'm a bit naive of electrical workings, but I believe it uses a shunt for measurement. It has a panel where I can go into measurements and see in real time the voltages and amps in/out. It also has a state of charge (SOC) screen that shows the battery percentage of full charge.

Today my tests show the battery still loosing charge with the main 12v switch in the on position. With the main 12v switch on the amp drain according to the monitor panel is -0.4 amps.

The sun didn't come out until about noon today. Checking the panels at 4pm I see I am showing 4.0 amps on the Zamp controller from the panel.

My battery monitor showed the charge at 77% at 9am this morning.
It now shows 76% at 4pm.

I'm leaning towards thinking there is an issue in the system.
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:33 PM   #4
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Mike,
is the switch you are talking about look something like this . If that is the breaker between battery and distribution, and solar was installed properly would not have anything to do with its charge capabilities. It does sound like they possibly hooked your solar up wrong. When the solar charger is supposed to be working do you see a change in the Voltage on the battery monitor?
It is possible that they wired the charger on the wrong side of the shunt, if so I would expect there to be a voltage change , but not a current change on the monitor. The charge controller also should have a fuse or breaker between the controller and battery connection.

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Old 04-24-2014, 07:48 PM   #5
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Well I wonder if you have a problem. Many of those meters have parameters that must be set up correctly. So what your saying is after a full solar charge the voltage reads 12.8 or higher, then you turn off everything that draws off the battery (except maybe a CO detector/propane detector, radio, separator..etc) and you see that W/I a few hours of no sun the battery voltage drops to about 12.4?
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Old 04-24-2014, 10:42 PM   #6
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalf77
Mike,
is the switch you are talking about look something like this
It looks like this:


As it was described to me it disconnects everything but the CO2 detector. Typically it is turned off when you won't be using the SMB for a while to reduce battery drain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalf77
If that is the breaker between battery and distribution, and solar was installed properly would not have anything to do with its charge capabilities. It does sound like they possibly hooked your solar up wrong. When the solar charger is supposed to be working do you see a change in the Voltage on the battery monitor?
It is possible that they wired the charger on the wrong side of the shunt, if so I would expect there to be a voltage change , but not a current change on the monitor. The charge controller also should have a fuse or breaker between the controller and battery connection.

-greg
Thanks for the info Greg. I've been relying on the crutch of the percentage display on the battery monitor and not looking at the voltages. I need to start paying attention to the voltages. I'm still learning and I appreciate every who takes the time to post and help me learn. There are 3 fuses that I know of and and a hand full of breakers. There is one fuse near the magnum charge controller that I specifically remember SMB having to replace to get the Zamp controller to show voltage at initial pickup. It is a 30amp fuse. The other 2 fuses are close to the breaker panel. One is close to the battery monitor (not the remote monitor display panel). The other I'm not sure what it is.
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Old 04-24-2014, 11:08 PM   #7
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
Well I wonder if you have a problem. Many of those meters have parameters that must be set up correctly. So what your saying is after a full solar charge the voltage reads 12.8 or higher, then you turn off everything that draws off the battery (except maybe a CO detector/propane detector, radio, separator..etc) and you see that W/I a few hours of no sun the battery voltage drops to about 12.4?
The monitor does have a ton of settings. I did sit down with the manual and go through them when I first got the van. I do remember it had a specific setting for Lifeline AGM and a specific setting for Deka AGM (which I have). It was properly set to the correct AH rating and Deka type battery.

Unfortunately I have not been paying attention to the voltages. But what I have seen is that the monitor % of charge readout has been slowly declining despite the solar panel power.

But here is a new development.

Tonight my monitor was showing the battery at 76%. I decided to go ahead and plug in to charge the battery overnight. I plugged in and looked at the monitor readout. It showed that it was absorb charging and was still showing 76%.

While I was out here I decided to poke around and look at the breakers and fuses. I took about 5 minutes looking around and touching (but not removing) the inline fuses. Then before leaving I look at the battery monitor again. It says 100% charge but still shows absorb charging stage!

So now, thanks to learning from you guys I decide to pay attention to voltage. I unplugged to van again and look at the voltage read outs on both the battery monitor and the Zamp controller. Both show 12.9v which seems to indicate a full battery. I went inside and waited a couple of hours and went out to check again. The monitor shows 12.89v and 100% and the Zamp shows 12.8v. Again they both seem to agree it is fully charged.

So now I wonder if it was an issue with the monitor or something was loose and my mild poking changed something.

Tomorrow I plan to pay attention to the voltages throughout the day with the solar panel connected. I'll report back the findings.
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Old 04-24-2014, 11:27 PM   #8
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

looks like your making some progress. Do you have the ZS-30A controller? If so what were the other two LED's on the controller (on) and (lightning bolt)? Happy Hunting.

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Old 04-25-2014, 08:47 AM   #9
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skijunkie
The monitor does have a ton of settings. I did sit down with the manual and go through them when I first got the van. Unfortunately I have not been paying attention to the voltages. But what I have seen is that the monitor % of charge readout has been slowly declining despite the solar panel power.
My Link-10 does similar. What bothers me more is your not seeing voltage like 14.1 or higher while the solar is putting out. I'm guessing you have a shore power charger as well and that should be putting a 14v+ charge as well. Some solar controllers may not change from a bulk voltage to a float voltage though so you might see 13.1+ voltages. Typically the way my percentage part of the gauge works (is even with solar), as the batteries are used, the percentage bar will go down and continue to drop but never returns to full. So by the end of a few week w/o a shore charge, the % bar will fall lower and lower ending up eventually in the yellow or even red. I have to reset it daily after the solar has produced a full charge or I have to put a good shore charge session before it tops off the percentage bar gauge. I did change the peukert exponent and it helped make the gauge more accurate. I planned to further adjust it so it would give a better reading but never did. I just don't use that part of the gauge and follow the voltage for a more useful idea where the batteries stand. The percentage bar is kind of nice when the batteries are under a load and it gives you a basic idea of the batteries state. One way to test your gauge is to compare it to a good CAT III/IV voltmeter or other high end voltmeter. I had one of the fuses corrode one time and between my solar gauge and inverter gauge only the link-10 was off. That pointed me into the right direction.

Tell us what you find...good luck

Dave.
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:25 PM   #10
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Re: Dumb question, are these solar charger result normal?

Here are my readings from today. It appears to me that everything is working properly except the % readout on the monitor does not appear to update from solar charging. A little strange because the battery voltage on the monitor does update. Before plugging in the solar panel the battery was at 98%.

The timings follow this pattern:
Time - Zamp V / Monitor V @ zamp amp. Monitor %.

8:23a - 12.8V/12.75 @ 0 amp. 99%
9:55a - 12.7V/12.75 @ 0 amp. 98%
11:08a - 12.7V/12.75 @ 0 amp. 98%
Now I plug in the solar panel just before noon. First reading is after about 5 min of solar charging.
12:02p - 13.7V/13.57 @ 4.6 amp. 98%
After this I watched it for about 10 more minutes as the volatages went up to about 14.1 until solar panel showed full battery and charge light on the zamp controller went out.
12:12p - 13.9v/13.83 @ 3.3 amp. 98% Seems to have entered a float mode
12:55p - 13.8V/13.77 @ 2.1 amp. 98%
2:27p - 13.9V/13.71 @ 1.9 amp. 98%
3:11p - 13.8v/13.75 @ 1.6 amp. 98%

Notice the charge percentage still shows 98%. Once the solar panel is disconnected the battery voltage drops down to 12.9. So even through the voltage shows a full charge the % readout does not update when charged from solar.
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