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Old 10-07-2016, 08:03 AM   #11
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I am intrigued by this, I like thinking outside of the box, but.

There are a lot of hidden pitfalls that you can get sucked into going down this route, Ralph clued you into one of the first ones being his charge algorithm, It is very possible that he expects the charger to be down during the night and waking up with some drain. All kinds of unintended consequences. This might throw you back into absorption mode.

Secondly, my system is not all that complicated, other than the fact I monitor more data than most and have it integrated into my computer system.

I have, a Magnum MS 2000 Inverter/charger- The bulk/absorption and float rates are fully programmable, if you’re battery does not match one of the canned specs they have to choose. This is new, prior to that I had a Tripp-lite inverter/charger that was installed by sportsmobile in initial build. The Tripp-lite did not even have an AGM setting, basically wet cell and gel if I remember. I had it set to wet, and got 9 to 10 years out my last battery, first one was damaged with a shorted cable It did have temperature compensation.

I have a Morningstar Tristar MPPT controller, yes I know you “new solarbob disciples”, might be aghast. But, I got a really good deal on it, for one thing, and panel voltage has been increasing with technology, this gives me more options with larger grid tie panels. It is also fully programmable and temperature feedback.

Standard Ford 130? Amp alternator, now with a Bluesea 7622 ACR, prior to that Surepower 1315

I now have Pentametric battery monitor, but prior to that I had a Xantrex XBM, I do have the capability to monitor that while driving and do, but other than that I would say my system is pretty standard and not unlike many members on the forum

Thirdly,
I would challenge your first assumption that you cannot find a good standalone 4 stage charger ( I really consider these 3 stages, as equalization is not part of the normal charge process). Converters are not chargers, there intended purpose is to provide power to your onboard 12 volt appliances. They were very common in many early RV’s, I am not sure why they still have an audience, sure some have put switches to run multiple voltages and other add-ons to make it look like a robust charger, but they really only provide a bulk charge. So I think you should be able to find a reasonable charger.

Now back to your topic, the next drawback is that it is highly inefficient, you are going to need a high enough voltage to cover the head room for the SC30 across the temperature range. You could limit that by having that output track with battery temperature, which would have to be custom most likely. Even then the multiple conversions are making it inefficient from the get go.
Using SC30, is that it is relatively small for a shore power charger, if you use the 25% rule of charging amps to battery capacity, this would be sized for about a 120 AH battery. Not necessarily a deal killer, but something to think about.

Making it work off an alternator (or van battery) would be a different challenge.The CTEK D-250S-Dual is interesting, hard to find a lot of technical details on it, but CTEK reputation as a battery charger manufacturer is pretty good. The KISAE DMT1230 Abso 30A DC-DC Battery Charger is also an interesting dual charger. (they supposedly make a 50 Amp version, just haven’t found it for sale) http://pdf.donrowe.com/dmt1230_dmt1250_spec_sheet.pdf

Both of these are already dual source chargers, that eliminates a whole set of issues right from the get go.

Just my 2 cents

-greg
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Old 10-07-2016, 01:44 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Scalf77 View Post
I am intrigued by this, I like thinking outside of the box, but.

There are a lot of hidden pitfalls that you can get sucked into going down this route, Ralph clued you into one of the first ones being his charge algorithm, It is very possible that he expects the charger to be down during the night and waking up with some drain. All kinds of unintended consequences. This might throw you back into absorption mode.
Thanks for lending your expertise here greg!!! (And for being cool with what must appear to be some "Solarbob disciples" as you put it (love that, by the way!) perhaps going off the deep end (as Flux put it) into a hornets nest of "I know just enough to ask really dumb questions".)

Ralph was very positive when he spoke about HandyBob (BobSolar / Solarbob as we're alternately calling him) but did concur that he and HandyBob did not agree on all things. He did not elaborate but it sounded as if even with HandyBob's praise for Ralph's products, they had some philosophical finer points that they weren't necessarily 100% on with each other.

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Originally Posted by Scalf77 View Post
I have a Morningstar Tristar MPPT controller, yes I know you “new solarbob disciples”, might be aghast. But, I got a really good deal on it, for one thing, and panel voltage has been increasing with technology, this gives me more options with larger grid tie panels. It is also fully programmable and temperature feedback.
Hey, sorry if I've (we've!) given any indication that we are sworn "Solarbob disciples" again....I think honestly a lot of us around here don't know enough yet to follow anyone's theories and ascribe to them fully, heh.

So no hating on the MPPT controllers here, I don't think. It just sounded like perhaps they weren't 100% necessary for all setups? Especially for the smaller ones? It doesn't sound like they carry any real downsides, only perhaps pricing at this point. But again, I'm still pretty naive to a lot of this. I'm following only the tenets of "keep it simple....keep it cost efficient.....don't buy into marketing hype....look at what seems to actually work and has the numbers to back it up." But that's tough for me to do, it's a sea of information out there.

If a MPPT makes better sense these days (and is worth the extra cost) in your opinion for *all setups*, I think a lot of us are definitely eager to understand the inherent advantages.

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Thirdly,
I would challenge your first assumption that you cannot find a good standalone 4 stage charger ( I really consider these 3 stages, as equalization is not part of the normal charge process). Converters are not chargers, there intended purpose is to provide power to your onboard 12 volt appliances. They were very common in many early RV’s, I am not sure why they still have an audience, sure some have put switches to run multiple voltages and other add-ons to make it look like a robust charger, but they really only provide a bulk charge. So I think you should be able to find a reasonable charger.

Making it work off an alternator (or van battery) would be a different challenge.The CTEK D-250S-Dual is interesting, hard to find a lot of technical details on it, but CTEK reputation as a battery charger manufacturer is pretty good. The KISAE DMT1230 Abso 30A DC-DC Battery Charger is also an interesting dual charger. (they supposedly make a 50 Amp version, just haven’t found it for sale) http://pdf.donrowe.com/dmt1230_dmt1250_spec_sheet.pdf

Both of these are already dual source chargers, that eliminates a whole set of issues right from the get go.
I realize I may have jumped the gun on announcing I couldn't find a decent standalone 4-stage (or 3-stage as you designate them) charger. (Although I did mention I was still hunting.) A buddy was mentioning (after I had posted) that Xantrex had some pretty good options in chargers, notably the "Truecharge 2" models, and I'm definitely intrigued with the KISAE models that you mentioned above.

I spent some time this morning looking at the KISAE charge controller that you indicated was a dual-source charger --- that's pretty darn cool! (Taking DC current from either the alternator OR solar and doing "smart charging" using both.)



The literature indicate that it works (on solar input) utilizing an MPPT solar controller....what I don't quite understand about it yet, however: is that MPPT solar controller they speak of a separate item, or does that KISAE incorporate that feature/function into this same unit?



Time to do some more homework. (And possibly calling/pestering representatives (and owners/inventors) of various Battery-charging/Solar Controller equipment companies with more naive questions )

Thanks again Greg, btw!!!
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Old 10-08-2016, 10:12 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by MountainBikeRoamer View Post
Thanks for lending your expertise here greg!!! (And for being cool with what must appear to be some "Solarbob disciples" as you put it (love that, by the way!) perhaps going off the deep end (as Flux put it) into a hornets nest of "I know just enough to ask really dumb questions".)


Mike,

Hoping you take the Solarbob comment as it was intended, in jest. I have enjoyed reading Handybob's Blog, and I agree with the basic statement about MPPT controllers, I think Ralph's products are great, designed by a engineer for a engineer. The fact is if you put a bunch of engineers in a room, they will most likely disagree on a bunch of things. It doesn't make one right or wrong.

Like I said I am intrigued by the idea,

-greg
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Old 10-08-2016, 11:43 AM   #14
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Mike,

Hoping you take the Solarbob comment as it was intended, in jest. I have enjoyed reading Handybob's Blog, and I agree with the basic statement about MPPT controllers, I think Ralph's products are great, designed by a engineer for a engineer. The fact is if you put a bunch of engineers in a room, they will most likely disagree on a bunch of things. It doesn't make one right or wrong.

Like I said I am intrigued by the idea,

-greg
Greg absolutely!! All good here. I'm truly enjoying this conversation/learning exchange/opportunity to kick ideas around....and I think I completely got the upbeat/kidding spirit in which you intended the Solarbob comments.

I'm still driven by the idea of finding an "only what you need," all-in-one smart charger solution, and it doesn't seem to be something that exists necessarily yet.

Those KISAE DC-DC dual-source chargers are really interesting! And so are those CTEK multi-source chargers! I'm still trying to figure out if any one of them could happily also oblige a steady-state DC source that came from an AC-DC converter. (And thus solve the "charge from any of the three sources (Solar, Alternator, or Shore Line) with one smart charger" goal.)

Your comments about it being inefficient to charge from a converter (I believe?) haven't been lost on me, I'm still trying to absorb/understand that and rectify it against the fact that any other shore-line-powered battery charger (Progressive Dynamics, Xantrex, etc....) must incorporate some sort of AC-DC converter internally to do the same thing...no?

In any event, again --- all good
Your replies have been nothing but encouraging, informative, and inspiring.

I'm still chasing the "dream charger" holy grail....
(And I get the sense Flux is too )
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Old 10-08-2016, 11:52 AM   #15
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I've got a simple system that seems to be working quite well (so far). My power needs aren't as substantial as many of you guys (I use a Yeti instead of a fridge). At the heart of my system is the CTEK D-250S-Dual charging a 105 A-H Lifeline AGM. It's an amazing little unit: basically a DC to DC smart charger, isolator, MPPT solar controller and it monitors house battery temp. CTEK is highly regarded among premium auto marques, so I think the engineering is pretty solid. So far my results have been excellent. I have a 100W Renogy panel that easily plugs in and even feeds charge back to the vehicle battery. I looked at the isolator/separator solutions but didn't like dumping the house in parallel with the vehicle and having to run super-thick cable to the back of the van. I'm using 8 AWG which is pretty manageable. It uses the multi smart charge stages which is hard to find in a 12V to 12V environment. However, I don't know if it has Handy Bob's blessing. You can significantly scale the current capability (shorten charge time) by using their companion Smartpass unit which does a lot of heavy lifting but utilizes the smarts in the 250.

CTEK D250S DUAL - CTEK Battery ChargersCTEK Battery Chargers

CTEK SMARTPASS - CTEK Battery ChargersCTEK Battery Chargers
Econoliner! Great forum name!!

Hey somehow I missed your reply yesterday. This is good stuff.
I've gotta soak on this a bit too. You're clearly appreciating the CTEK device so far it seems.

Thanks for sharing your setup details and experience. Very cool.
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Old 10-08-2016, 12:43 PM   #16
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Thanks, I like what you're trying to do here. The CTEK is a 5-step smart charger and I think with the addition of a Smartpass unit the system could scale pretty well if the load increases. In the end, it will be the Lifeline battery that will tell me how well it is all working.
In a previous life I was a software developer so I sort of assign version numbers to all my projects... this is a version 1.0, so I'm watching and waiting. I wish there was a way to better quantify what was going on with the electro-chemical solution in the battery. Maybe that will be the next thing... a smart battery.
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Old 10-09-2016, 11:44 PM   #17
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I got a response back from Ralph over at Bogart.

Here were my questions:

This might sound a little out there, so I apologize in advance.

Some folks and I over at sportsmobileforum.com were discussing the SolarBob blog and your products came highly recommended. One person just installed your PentaMetric and is very happy with it. A few others, like myself, are on our way to putting together some solar systems and I know that I will be purchasing a complete setup as soon as my van is ready for it. Our discussion came around to the fact that we have three charging sources, Solar, 120V shore power, and alternator. The goal is always to keep the battery charged as best we can. But the alternator is a dumb charger, but useful if the battery is drained. So the thought was to limit exposure to the alternator and rely on the "smart" solar charger.

Long story short: A thought was to use an AC to DC power supply to feed a smart charger (like your SC-2030) and be able to charge the battery when plugged into shore power or when in the garage, etc. So the first question would be:

Could an AC to DC power supply with sufficient voltage be passed through an SC-2030 to provide smart charging to a battery??

Could two SC-2030's be paralleled to one TM-2030-RV with one charger having solar through it and the other the AC to DC power supply?? If so, if one of these units had no charge would the other work fine?? Like in the case that the van was in the garage and plugged in or there was no RV power hookup ??

I did read through the parallel instructions and it called for the power through each one to be equivalent.

Again, sorry if these questions are a little strange. We may be overthinking this entirely, but it seemed worth an email.

Here is his response:

Hello Tim,This MIGHT be possible-- but I'm a little concerned about whether it would be OK for the charger. (It might be.) But usually you get good results with a simpler situation. Just connect the other sources up (as shown in the TM2030 instructions--putting them on the load side of the shunt of course.) Then the TM2030 will take them into account. Typically these source are mainly used for the earlier bulk charging, so they don't need the finer control when you are getting your batteries close to full charge. The SC2030 can then complete the job with solar where the charging is more critical. And it will be taking your other chargers in to account because the TM2030 is keeping track of their charging. Just turn off these extra chargers when you start to get the voltage higher, say above 14.0 volts, or so. (Or earlier if your solar has plenty of capability to complete the charge.
Yours truly
Ralph


My conclusions:

Keep it simple for now, but get to know the system. He hints at a good thing to do is letting the alternator bulk the battery and then cut it off and let the solar system take care of the rest. So a couple of switches and some knowledge about when to throw them and maybe that's all that is needed from a practical and simple standpoint.

So I think my money is best spent on quality oversized wiring, a high end battery, monocrystalline panels, and perhaps an upgraded alternator. And then see how that goes.
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Old 10-09-2016, 11:46 PM   #18
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Thanks, I like what you're trying to do here. The CTEK is a 5-step smart charger and I think with the addition of a Smartpass unit the system could scale pretty well if the load increases. In the end, it will be the Lifeline battery that will tell me how well it is all working.
In a previous life I was a software developer so I sort of assign version numbers to all my projects... this is a version 1.0, so I'm watching and waiting. I wish there was a way to better quantify what was going on with the electro-chemical solution in the battery. Maybe that will be the next thing... a smart battery.
The more I read about this CTEK system, the more I feel like it is (more or less), just about....quite possibly.....the "holy grail" all-in-one charger system......

CTEK D250S DUAL 12-Volt Battery Charger with SmartPass Enhancement - Multiple 12V DC Power Sources



This description sure sounds encouraging:

"These chargers coordinate input power from as many as two 12V sources, allowing your alternator and another source, such as a solar panel, to provide power at the same time. These CTEK chargers will automatically select the best input source for charging your batteries. And with maximum power point tracking, a built-in feature, they make the most efficient use of solar panels. If AC power is available, you can add an AC/DC charger to these two chargers for even greater versatility and charging power."

That last bold-typed sentence (previous paragraph) is ringing like sweet music in my ears! Advertised ability to coordinate two separate DC sources including alternator, as well as add an AC/DC input to the mix. Sounds pretty darn cool.

So I've gotta ask:
SMB Forum electrical wizards and warriors.....does this CTEK charger/SmartPass combo (plus an AC-DC converter) quite possibly, at last, herald the much-fabled arrival of:


?

Other basic specs:
Battery types supported: wet, MF, AGM and most gel batteries
Battery capacity range: 40 Ah - 800 Ah
Charge cycle: 5-step, fully automatic charger with pulse maintenance
Input voltage range: 10V DC - 22V DC
Output ratings:
Maximum voltage: 14.4V DC, temperature compensated
Maximum amperage: 80A

*** And there lies my only concern: ***
>> at 14.4V DC max voltage, is it reaching a high enough voltage to do proper bulk charging?

(when battery manufacturers specify 14.8volts?)

--------------------------------------------

Full device description and tech details here on etrailer's website (along with most of the other CTEK chargers.) Decent Q&A with the etrailer reps (who consult with the CTEK reps on a number of the queries.)

CTEK D250S DUAL 12-Volt Battery Charger with SmartPass Enhancement - Multiple 12V DC Power Sources CTEK Power Inc Battery Chargers CTEKD250S-56676
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Old 10-10-2016, 12:22 AM   #19
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Okay, I may have jumped the gun again...
...it looks as if while this CTEK charging setup might *allow* the introduction of AC-DC power source into the mix, it might do so without any smart-charging benefits.

From the instruction manual for the CTEK D250S DUAL 12-Volt Battery Charger with SmartPass:
( https://smartercharger.com/wp-conten...0S-DUAL_EN.pdf )

CONNECTING AC/DC CHARGERS
SITUATION
230/110*V charger for the Service and
Starter battery.
PROBLEM
The 230/110*V charger should charge
both the Service and the Starter battery, and be synchronized with all other
energy sources.

SOLUTION
The single output 230/110V charger is
connected directly to the Service battery.
The Starter battery is pulse charged
through SMARTPASS.

The solar panel will also maintaince
charge the Starter battery through
SMARTPASS.
TIP 6
See Tip 1, Tip 2, Tip 4 and Tip 5
The battery cables of the 230/110*V
charger are connected directly to the
Service battery.


("M300" device shown below is representative of an added "single output 230/110V" AC-DC charger)


So, long and short....it sounds as if this CTEK arrangement does indeed step in and act as a sophisticated "smart charging broker" using AC/DC input for the *starter battery* under the hood, but does nothing to create a shore-power (AC-DC) smart-charging arrangement for the service (house/coach) battery (which has the dumb AC-DC charger's cables attached directly to it.)

Back to the "holy grail charger" solution search, it seems :-/
Or am I misreading this?
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Old 10-10-2016, 08:31 AM   #20
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Alternator -> Solar switchover

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He hints at a good thing to do is letting the alternator bulk the battery and then cut it off and let the solar system take care of the rest. So a couple of switches and some knowledge about when to throw them and maybe that's all that is needed from a practical and simple standpoint.
This feels like the ideal solution, if only the switches were thrown automatically to be more idiot-proof. Not only do I not trust myself to remember to switch back and forth appropriately, I'm guessing wiring these switches would be roughly as expensive / complicated as inserting a voltage-driven relay at the right location. But I'm no electrical engineer, this is pure speculation.

Details are sketchy, but I've read that fresh-built SMBs charge only from the alternator when it's running, disconnecting the solar. This series of threads really has me wondering how to get around that, under the assumption that we'll mostly be camping in the shade, but driving between camps will be mostly on open road. Originally, I was even hoping the solar and the alternator would be additive, so a quick jaunt to a trailhead would be enough to recharge to max, but that seems like a holy grail with cherries on top at this point!
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