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Old 11-16-2011, 06:41 PM   #1
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Solar connection question

I want to connect 45 watts of solar panels to the house battery charging system. They'll be detachable, i.e. not mounted on the SMB. I'm wondering how to wire them in.

They'll of course go to a charge regulator, but where best from there? I have a Link power meter, and as I recall it has to be the last in line before the batteries because it's measuring the flow there. I guess I could theoretically link it anywhere there'd be wire running to the batteries (obviously without an intervening switch, but I'm also wondering if it would affect my Intellipower converter as well. In my year SMB (2001) AC runs into that, is converted to DC, and charges the batteries. It has a Charge Wizard that smart charges, but all of that is no use if I'm adding DC. I ask because space-wise a convenient and logical place to wire up power is the wires coming out of that converter.

But although the output from the solar controller could just go into the DC system as such (regulated to 12v, of course), it seems that this may not be that efficient. Right now my alternator just pumps the 13.6ish volts into the DC wiring to charge the battery; it's regulated, but not like a real intelligent charging system. Some of the solar charge controllers I could buy do smart charging, and these would seem to be a much better idea than just a solar especially when the van is just sitting. And since these aren't mounted, they won't be adding power when the engine's running.

But if I do add a smart solar charger, how would affect the rest of the 12v system? Right now I now everything (fridge, lights, inverters, etc) can handle up to the 13.7 or so max I get from the alternator spitting in power, but don't some of these solar regulator/charger thingees put out as high as 14+ volts? Is that gonna make a difference?

I'd love to know how others handled this.

thanks,
Rob
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Old 11-16-2011, 06:51 PM   #2
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Re: Solar connection question

45W is a fairly small solar panel and you probably won't get more than 3 amps out of it. For that, I wouldn't bother with a smart charger, but would put a simple solar controller and then straight in the house DC system - maybe even through a 12V outlet (if you have one) so you can unplug it and store it when not in use.

Mike
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Old 11-16-2011, 08:28 PM   #3
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Re: Solar connection question

Rob, SMB added a plug (for a solara 65W portable panel I carry carry under my bed) at the tail light and wired it into the Blue Sky solar controller. They have done similar plugs for others on all sides or front and back so you can move to where the light is.

The controller will not affect any of your charging system, so you can shore power charge even with the panel plugged in. I'm fairly sure that SMB wired directly to a lug where all my solar comes in to the controller (I also have 2 135W panels on top) and was told it then goes to the house side of the seperator. But I've got some sketchy info from them before and I haven't looked at the wire diagram.

Some panels are regulated for straight 12v use and some are not. If the panel is not regulated, you'll need a controller. If you plug in a non regulated panel into a 12v outlet, it can do damage by introducing high voltages. Cheap regulated panels control the voltage but can overcharge, although like Mike posted, 45 watts is fairly low amperage. It really depends on the size of the house battery as well as the numbers of batteries you have in the system.

Hope this helps.

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Old 11-17-2011, 07:46 PM   #4
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Re: Solar connection question

Sounds great guys; I was probably being overly cautious. Some of the cheaper solar controllers have automatic features built in like something that will kill power if below a certain voltage, smart charging, etc. I think those would sorta get in the way since they rely on feedback FROM the battery and adjust voltage accordingly. I'll just look for something that regulates the voltage coming in and doesn't have the other bells and whistles.

Rob
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:00 PM   #5
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Re: Solar connection question

On the charge controller, there are a few things you should look for in a vehicle setup that get's unplugged like you describe.
1) Not to discharge the batteries at night, a solar panel will pull voltage out of the batteries when there is no daylight, a cheap charge controller (actually some good ones as well) use a diode for this, a diode will rob power going to the batteries.
2) Not to over charge the batteries, when the batteries get up to voltage a good charge controller will go into a "trickle" or "maintenance mode", over charging the batteries is obviously not good if you keep doing it.

You can get some very decent charge controllers that would be perfect for your application for about $30~$40.

BTW, Personally I'd run the charge controller directly to the batteries, and forget all the electrical gubbins inside the vehicle, it'll just create more problems for you.
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Old 11-18-2011, 09:51 PM   #6
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Re: Solar connection question

I'll try to run it just near the regular DC converter; it's a pain to go into the battery compartment and it has to be on the other side of the Link 10 shunt. A logical place since it's near switches for shore power, etc. I'll run a pigtail through the floor for the panels.

I've noticed virtually all the low power solar controllers have various charging schemes; some do DC disconnect when they sense voltage at 11.xx for example. I'll not install those features since I monitor my batteries and don't need it (it's not gonna discharge when I'm not there). The PWM feature would be nice especially if I leave the van parked.

thanks,
Rob
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:29 AM   #7
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Re: Solar connection question

Quote:
Originally Posted by rob_gendreau
I'll try to run it just near the regular DC converter; it's a pain to go into the battery compartment and it has to be on the other side of the Link 10 shunt. A logical place since it's near switches for shore power, etc. I'll run a pigtail through the floor for the panels.

I've noticed virtually all the low power solar controllers have various charging schemes; some do DC disconnect when they sense voltage at 11.xx for example. I'll not install those features since I monitor my batteries and don't need it (it's not gonna discharge when I'm not there). The PWM feature would be nice especially if I leave the van parked.

thanks,
Rob
Be aware if you hook in a charge controller that when they are connected they will draw varying amounts of current. Since you are using a small panel, if you use a controller, consider in line fusing the controller (or switching) so that when not in use there is no battery draw.

My scheme is a direct to battery simple controller fused, then with a 10g pigtail to the propane hatch area with a power cord plug. The panel is pigtailed with a power plug. That way a heavy duty extension, such as your shore power cord, can be used to allow placement/connection of the panel.

If you use it only during daytime camping, then don't bother with a controller, but as stated earlier panels can drain the battery during evening if not diode or controller isolated. Even controllers are lossy/rob power.......
My system for baja, for instance, is to attach the panel to the roof for those trips, extension cord plugged and tipped, otherwise the panel is in the garage
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