#1 2017-05-01 12:09:43

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hi All

Hope you all managed to get away over the weekend in your campers.  We did and was relaxing as usual!

We are having some issues with the solar panel charging setup to our onyx and was wondering if anybody out there has had this issue and if they found a solution?

We have to 2 x Solution X Solar Panel Foldable 100W (bought from BCF 300 bucks each, I guess middle of the road for quality??) plugged in parallel via Anderson plugs which then go into the merit/din plug into the side of the camper which goes to the Redarc BMS.

The trouble we are having is that when we plug the panels in.  The BMS shows the solar input of 21 volts (21 volts for 1 or 2 panels plugged in), with 0 amp flow. 
If I unplug the merit din plug on the side of the camper and plug it back in the BMS will show 21 volts and the amps will begin to flow.  Approx 3-4 amps with one panel and up to 8 or 9 amps with both panels in good sun.
If a cloud comes over and the amps drop off to 0.  Once the sun comes out again, the amps will not flow again, unless I unplug it and plug it back in again.
This means unless I watch the amp flow all day unplug and plug back in again they won’t charge the batteries.  If the sun stays out the amps will flow, charge the batteries and happy days!
I have also noticed that if the panels are plugged in and in full sun.  21 volts with 0 amps with solar input showing on the BMS screen.  If I start the generator, the BMS swaps to AC and the amps start flowing as you would expect.  Shut down the generator and the BMS will switch to solar and the amps will start to flow again.  Until they drop to 0 amps at some stage then we are back to the initial problem.

It is almost like the BMS needs a 'jolt' of amps to get it start working?

I thought maybe the VSR is playing up?  I’m pretty sure I can hear it clicking and it is supposed to turn on when 13.2 volts is inputted, so 21 volts should be more than enough.  Also the VSR doesn’t have a problem when running AC or DC input.

Maybe the panels are dodge?

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers and Beers
Steiny

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#2 2017-05-01 14:44:02

baxterlow
Owner
Registered: 2016-09-26
Posts: 21

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hi Steiny,

Interesting.

We run 2 panels together also, for a total of 300W.  I only show around 19.something volts in full sun versus your 21v but regardless, it's the amps you need to be worried about.  I've never had an issue with mine.

Excuse me for asking the obvious but have you bypassed the regulators on the back of your panels?  I know that proper procedure is to use panels with no regs and let the Redarc BMS do the job for you. If you have the ability to bypass the regulator but still keep it in place so you can charge a stand-alone battery that would be handy.

I was in the fortunate position to have a panel with a blown reg when we bought our Onyx and I partnered it up with a 12v house panel that didn't have a reg on it.  They both work fine plugged straight in either alone or together.

Hope the fix is as simple as that but otherwise sorry to waste your time.

Cheers
Baxterlow

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#3 2017-05-02 02:02:02

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hey Baxterlow

No problem with asking the obvious, as it has surely caught me out before and probably many another camper out there!  Yep, got the regs out, just letting the Redarc BMS do it's thing.

A couple of questions which may help me if you've got the time.

Do your panels charge your batteries up to full charge of 100%?

Do your panels input amps even if your batteries are close to full?  I've heard that if the batteries are at approx. 96% or more the solar panels/redarc bms won't charge/or bring the batteries to 100%, unlike AC/DC charging.  I think maybe I've been too hasty watching the BMS and due to the battery charge sitting at 96% or more the bms hasn't required charge from the solar panels?

What kind of panels did you go for in the end, and for your 300W, what kind of amps are you getting through them?  I am starting to lean towards the panels I bought are second rate.  I would not buy the foldable panels again.  They are too hard to move, manoeuvre and face towards the sun (which they recommend) when you need to use them.  My mate has the solid panels on frame and they are way easier to move and face towards the sun.

  I was talking with Jim and Lynda from Pioneer WA, (an absolute pair of legends for sales and most importantly aftersales service!) and Jim was saying he runs a couple of panels, not sure of wattage, and can pull up to 16 amps at 10 am.  He was saying the amps going in can also be dependent on the load going out of the camper.  Hope that was right Jim, don't want to jumble up what you said, which I probably have.

Jim suggested I test my panels to see if they are working firstly.  So I whipped out my multimeter and tested the panels each of them standalone and then plugged in each cable/connection to see if I had a dodgy connection.  Each panel was running 21 volts and an open circuit current of 4 amps each.  The panels are only rated to put out max open circuit current of 6 amps each and approx. 5 amps under load.  They are running to spec, just not great specs!

The next test I will try will be to let the batteries run down a bit, below 90% charge and see if that makes a difference.

If that doesn't work.  I think maybe some panel research may be in order.

Baxterlow I'm interested in your setup and how it's all connected if you don't mind me asking.

If anybody out there can recommend their setup.  Brand, type, wattage and amps, I'd be very interested to hear what you have.

Take it easy Pioneer peoples.

Steiny

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#4 2017-05-02 20:45:48

baxterlow
Owner
Registered: 2016-09-26
Posts: 21

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hi Steiny,

Hopefully you're on the right track with having to run your batteries down a bit first.  12V is such a hard thing to get your head around.  It's a massive learning curve, one that I'm still on after 12 odd years of running our big ol' 80lt Waeco during camping trips.

I'm still running my big solid panels but find them heavy and cumbersome to use and transport.  I originally thought you had solid folding panels but reading again am I to understand you've got a couple of the "folding blanket" type panels? That type appeals to me because of the weight and compactness but I have indeed thought they looked difficult to set up into the right position.  I had actually toyed with the idea of putting together a lightweight grid-style frame of aluminium angle that could be broken down into separate lengths and either zip-tied or bolted together with wing-nuts etc easily to support the back of the blanket panel when set up at camp.  We tend to stay for a week or two at one spot which would only require setting the frame up once or twice a trip.  I'm sure it could be done well with some considered thinking.  Solar really is after all only required for extended stays.  I find our batteries can easily last two or three days without NEEDING a charge.  For overnight stays or even two nights, the vehicle will charge them next time you make a move. I have heard that the big solid type panels do provide the best return in the sunlight particularly for dollars spent (although the redarc blanket is supposed to be great if you have the money to spend).

I think at the moment solar panels are a lot like other things where there is no "one size fits all" product.  I think it's a matter of trade offs.

My set up is 1 x solid 140W panel and 2 x solid 80W panels (that are hinged together) to make 160W.  In summer I put them together and put them out in full sun for a while for a test to see what the BMS would say.  I have a 10m extension lead with anderson plugs I use to get the panels away from the shade of the camper or trees etc.  I did cover the leads to avoid them heating up and dropping volts (dunno if it does anything but feels like a good practice).  Even though, in theory I have 300W there was only (if i remember correctly) 220 odd showing on the BMS (obviously a panel efficiency thing).  I checked for voltage drop at both ends and there was none to speak of.  The Wattage being sent in was around 15 but it fluctuated constantly.  I'll attach a pic to show the leads and connectors I have made up.  The pic of the Anderson double adaptor looks like there's two red leads heading into a plug instead of red and black but that's just a camera trick, I assure you its red and black into each connector. (it confused me the first time I looked at it).  The other thing I did was use a non fused merrit socket.  They look so cheap and nasty but work great.  It would probably make a 12v sparky cringe but sometimes I think we just have too many fuses.  The plug is also a bit smaller and seems to sit a bit better than the bigger (more expensive) ones with the removable end cap.  I've actually gotten rid of most of those bigger type ones from all of my 12v stuff.  They often don't sit well in the sockets when used as standard cigarette lighter plugs.

I'd love it if the solar input was an anderson plug on the draw bar instead of the merrit socket.  Just seems strange to me but there must be a reason they use the merritt instead.

Probably haven't helped with anything but it's all food for thought.  I wouldn't throw those blankets away just yet.

PS.  I just went down to the shed to take the pics and found the batteries sitting on 98 percent with the fridge running.  Normally it just sits on float because the 240v is connected.  Dunno what that means but I'll look at it again tomorrow and see if it's getting lower.  Might be fate that I had to take those pics for you and check the fridge.....otherwise there'd be warm beer in there next time I looked.....


IMAG3135.jpg

IMAG3136.jpg

IMAG3137.jpg

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#5 2017-05-03 10:37:07

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hi Baxterlow

Yeah hopefully running the batteries down a bit may help, time will tell next time head out.

I was thinking a frame to angle them towards the sun might be on the cards.  Was thinking maybe 20 or 25 mm pvc conduit.  If you don't glue it together you can pull it apart for storage in a pole bag.  Would be lightweight maybe a bit bulky once packed up?  Either that or go for hinged set of 150 watt panels to get to 300 watts.  If I have no success with these blanket panels might look into a hinged set.  Just don't tell the wife!

15 amps is really good for your setup, that would definitely charge your batteries nice and quick.  I really like your extension cable too, will look into making one of those for sure.

I would have preferred an Anderson plug on the camper too, rather than the merritt plug.  When I was talking with Jim from Pioneer WA the other day he did mention why they went with the merritt, but I can't recall what he said.

Until we go camping next time I won't find out much more about my problems.

Hope you don't end up with warm beer!!

Cheers for the chat, info and ideas.
Steiny

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#6 2017-05-03 18:19:00

Ziggy
Owner
From: basecamp
Registered: 2016-04-29
Posts: 40

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Steiny,

Best to think of the battery as sucking rather than the panels pushing.

See the charging algorithm for AGMs in section 9.1.4 here: http://jgdarden.com/batteryfaq/carfaq9.htm

So the amps will vary over a recharge cycle.

Anyway, in your shoes I'd be talking with Redarc.  Their support is good.

A solar controller has a means of isolating the panel when the light drops. This is for night time.  It almost sounds like that's not turning off.

Good luck with it.


Cheers,
Ziggy

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#7 2017-05-03 22:25:01

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hey Ziggy

Your comment of the batteries sucking rather than the panels pushing, may lean towards the fact that I haven't let the batteries drop off enough to start accepting charge? Which has been suggested as an issue, so you all might be on to something.   

Although AC and DC will bring them to 100% and charge all of the time no matter battery level.   Maybe I'm expecting too much from the sun?!!

Jim is going to talk to Redarc and ask a few questions, to see if they can recommend anything.  Will see if BMS is isolating the panels as you say.  I'm not that savvy with the BMS to even contribute to what you have suggested.

Your next level!

Thanks for your time and input.  I've read all your posts and mods.  Sterling job on the mods and input on the forum!


Cheers
Steiny

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#8 2017-05-04 13:39:57

Ziggy
Owner
From: basecamp
Registered: 2016-04-29
Posts: 40

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Thanks for the feedback Steiny.

Yeah, I'm not familiar with the Redarc BMS.  But I run one of their DC chargers which does a way better job than alternator charging.

It seems like your unit isn't checking the battery state of charge again after the panel DC input has dropped.

So are these soft panels?  I have heard reports of them being relatively inefficient at turning light into power.  I'll see a peak of 8 amps from my hard (and heavy!) 150 w panel.

Solar charging isn't as simple as it seems anyway.  There's some good info here from a solar guru:  https://www.exploroz.com/Vehicle/Electrics/Solar.aspx

That article helped me understand why my system wasn't performing as expected (as posted elsewhere).  So to add to the 150w portable panel I'm fitting a removable 200 w panel to the top of the fridge box.


Cheers,
Ziggy

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#9 2017-05-05 22:40:08

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hey Ziggy

That was a good article on solar panels.  I read it last night. I think they recommend 250 watt panels per 100 Amp hour battery.  I might need to up the input!

My panels are not the flexible ones.  They have 8 smaller hard panels on a blanket.  The specs, which I should have studied a bit more before I bought them, aren't great as I mentioned earlier.  Potentially a max of 8-9 amps with both panels connected from 200 watts combined.

I'll be interested to hear how your new panel addition goes.

I added a pic of the panels I have so you can see what I'm talking about.

Steiny









IMG_5293.png

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#10 2017-05-06 05:37:13

Ziggy
Owner
From: basecamp
Registered: 2016-04-29
Posts: 40

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Ok.  You have two 110 A batteries?

Yes, 250 W would perhaps be gold plating the setup.  You really have to draw up an energy budget - expected amps in minus amps out every 24 hours (or every camp).  There are cheap power monitors around now with Anderson connectors both ends that'll record amps over time (up to 24 hours) that are invaluable for this.

Fridges are the biggest draw and the figures published for them by manufacturers don't translate well to the real world.  Mine is on average at least double.


Cheers,
Ziggy

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#11 2017-05-27 12:00:45

Ziggy
Owner
From: basecamp
Registered: 2016-04-29
Posts: 40

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Got a solution Steiny?


Cheers,
Ziggy

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#12 2017-06-28 10:38:37

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hey Ziggy

We haven't been out since we last posted.  Been laying low until our holidays and we head out again to use the Onyx and try out the solar system. 

And that time has arrived ......

Tomorrow we head off across the Nullarbor, to Fraser Island, then up to Cape York.  Yer Ha!

So, will give us a good chance to use the panels in different scenarios to see what the story with the solar system is.  Will post when I find a solution.

Steiny

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#13 2017-06-30 14:10:11

baxterlow
Owner
Registered: 2016-09-26
Posts: 21

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hi Steiny,

Sounds like the trip of a lifetime....

If you get the chance to see this post by the time you hit Queensland feel free to get in touch with me.  We're on the Sunshine Coast and would be glad to put you in touch with the appropriate people if you need work done or anything before you get to Fraser or further north. 

My wife and I have been constant visitors to Fraser for the past 20 years and know it like the backs of our hands.  I'd be more than happy to share some info if you need it. It's great to hear that an Onyx is getting used.  Mine is in the shed pretending to be a storage rack at the moment.....

Mick (Baxterlow)


Steiny76 wrote:

Hey Ziggy

We haven't been out since we last posted.  Been laying low until our holidays and we head out again to use the Onyx and try out the solar system. 

And that time has arrived ......

Tomorrow we head off across the Nullarbor, to Fraser Island, then up to Cape York.  Yer Ha!

So, will give us a good chance to use the panels in different scenarios to see what the story with the solar system is.  Will post when I find a solution.

Steiny

Last edited by baxterlow (2017-08-02 21:40:21)

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#14 2017-08-11 22:24:57

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Hey Baxterlow and Ziggy

Baxterlow missed your post until last week.  I actually replied last week too but the page timed out (my fault) before I could post and I was too cheesed off to give it another crack until now.   Cheers for the offer of help while we were up your neck of the woods.  We ended up doing just over 12000 kms  on our trip and we cheated and put the Defender and the Onyx on a truck and sent it home from Brisvegas and flew home and we didn't encounter any real dramas.  A bit of panel damage to the Onyx due to my poor driving skills and running it past a tree and a couple of bent mudguards and number plate bracket due to the sharp drop-offs we did on the Old Telegraph Track.  Fraser Island was awesome, had a great time checking the island out, your very lucky to have access to such a great place whenever you like.  Hopefully you get a chance to get 'storage rack aka the Onyx' out soon.

Now to my solar panel issues Ziggy.  We ended up using them for the 6 days we were on Fraser Island with mixed success.  They always show voltage on the BMS, but still were very unreliable in providing amp flow, even when the batteries were down to 80 percent and sitting around 12 volts on the panel.   While we were in Punsand Bay up at the cape I had one panel connected to the Onyx through the BMS and one panel connected to the Defenders second battery using the panels regulator.  I found that the panel connected to the Onyx in direct sunlight would not put in amp flow into the batteries and the panel connected to the car was showing charge occurring.  This made me half think the Redarc BMS was playing up, but still not conclusive.

So I went and caught up with Jim a couple of days ago at Pioneer WA to put his panels onto the our camper to try and determine if it's my panels that are the problem or the BMS.  We plugged Jims Redarc 150 Watt blanket panels in and had the same problem I had with volts showing but no current flow.  Jim rang Redarc and their Rep turned up in 1/2 an hr to have a look and help suss out what was going on.  Snappy service from Pioneer and Redarc,  Gotta love that.

They checked a few things out, but ran out of time to do all of the checks required to determine the issue.  Redarc is sending another BMS over, 'just in case' that is the problem, Jim has to check the wiring and the shunt cable from Pioneers side when I drop the camper back in 3 weeks time for a service to make sure that all the wiring is 100 percent.  Bloody great service from Pioneer and Redarc!

Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will have a solution.

In the meantime I'm fitting a Redarc BCDC 1225D to the defender, changing out the smart solenoid, as we found we drained the second battery a couple times while on the trip due to the beer fridge in the tray working overtime and us not driving enough to charge the battery.  Also the beer fridge is a 30 year old engel that is starting to struggle to hold temperature and sometimes runs all night trying to keep temp and flattens the battery.  So with the new BCDC we are going to put the blanket panels I have on top of the Defenders canopy when we are touring to keep the second battery charged.  Buying a new 40 litre Engel.  And looking at getting a 300 watt Kick Ass solar panel (that's the brand name, Kick Ass) to power the Onyx.  Anyone heard of reports of the Kick Ass panels?  Grey Nomad forums seem to rate them?

Another long post from me.  Apologies.  We put some Vids and Pics up on the Pioneer WA website if you are interested.

Keep it real and get amongst it.
Steiny

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#15 2017-09-09 20:14:20

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

As it turns out the Redarc BCDC was faulty and changed out.  All good now.

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#16 2017-09-09 20:18:43

Ziggy
Owner
From: basecamp
Registered: 2016-04-29
Posts: 40

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Good service from Redarc.  Glad to hear you got it sorted.


Cheers,
Ziggy

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#17 2017-09-10 13:08:39

baxterlow
Owner
Registered: 2016-09-26
Posts: 21

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

That's great news.

Let us know how the Kick Ass panels work in the field.  I've had my eye on them for a while and have decided to shout myself some for my birthday this year......Looks like they offer the best compromise for weight/ease of use/size etc. I love the idea of having 300W available (that's what I've got with my solid panels) but the Kick Ass set up is really long at 300W.  It's about 3mt long when set up i think.  I'm gonna opt for 2x 150W sets and it might provide a bit better flexibility on some sites.

cheers

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#18 2017-09-18 22:23:03

Steiny76
Owner
From: Perth WA
Registered: 2017-01-16
Posts: 14

Re: Solar Panel Charging Issues

Yeah Redarc and Jim from Piioneer were great.  Sorted the problem out easy as once we had determined the issue.

Haven't bought the kickass 300 watter just yet.  Going to see if the panels I have (now that the BMS is working) will be sufficient.  The 300 watt solid panel is quiet big for sure.  I do like your idea of getting two 150 watters.  Definitely something to think about.

So many options.

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