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Old 07-16-2018, 05:55 PM   #1
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Roof Solar Panels

We recently purchased a 2004 35' Alpine. I was checking the roof (looking at various components) up there, when I noticed three solar panels. How can I determine if they're working?? I have the original invoice and noticed they were listed and are OEM.

Thanks Dave
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Old 07-16-2018, 06:17 PM   #2
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Get a voltmeter that also measures current up to 10 Amps. Measure the voltage between the panel leads without connecting to anything else. That is the open circuit voltage. Using the Ampere meter as the load, measure the short circuit current. Those two measurements can be compared with the panel’s ratings on the back of the panel. The amount of current will vary based upon the angle of incidence of sunlight. It has to arrive perpendicular to the surface of the panel to produce maximum current. Bright sunlight with not a hint of haze is required for maximum output. On cloudy days you will still produce useful current.

You can short the panel leads together without damaging the panel. That is what you are doing with the Ampere meter. If you are able to get close to the rated current in bright perpendicular sunlight, the panel is good. Since these are used panels, look for metal migration on the surface of each panel. Silver will travel from one conductor to another, possibly shorting a portion of the panel out. I have a 28yr old panel with noticeable silver migration. It produces lower open circuit voltage and less current. Yet, it still produces useful current.

I bet they will work.
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Old 07-16-2018, 07:42 PM   #3
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Find the controller. It will likely have a display or indicators as to system status.
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:30 AM   #4
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My 2005 has a small controller next to the breakers and fuses in the bathroom. It lights up red when it is working. This is for 2 each 50 watt panels that were original equipment.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:46 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Mo View Post
We recently purchased a 2004 35' Alpine. I was checking the roof (looking at various components) up there, when I noticed three solar panels. How can I determine if they're working?? I have the original invoice and noticed they were listed and are OEM.

Thanks Dave

The OEM solar option from WRV included a 10w panel to trickle charge the chassis batteries. This panel typically turned into a potato chip within a year or two. Most likely it is no longer functional. The other 2 panels were 50w each for a total of 100w, to charge the house batteries. There is a good chance that these panels still function, however 100w will only provide a small amount of charging capacity to the house bank.
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:18 AM   #6
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….think RVPioneer nailed it...haven't gone to the library to verify, but thought the common OEM config. for that era of Alpines was two 50 watt panels for house and on occasion, a 10 watt for the chassis bats. As stated, the 10 watt panel was too small to be of any real use and the two 50s might of helped while in storage to over come some phantom draws on the coach--but not that useful for dry camping off the grid.....typical location for controller is beside the 12v fuse panel in the bedroom area, often under the sink cabinet....
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Old 07-17-2018, 01:43 PM   #7
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Ours only have one solar panel on top and have no idea how much of a charge it puts out
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Old 07-17-2018, 02:12 PM   #8
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….interesting only one panel?????.... then probably not OEM ....but based on only one panel [unless its really big]….probably doesn't matter that much whether it is working or not…its output isn't that significant ....
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:03 PM   #9
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Our 2006 came with WRV's, standard for that year, 100 watt panel. I added 5 more Kyocera 130 watt panels along with a Xantrex 50 amp three-stage solid state regulator and it has been a perfect combination.
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Old 07-17-2018, 05:01 PM   #10
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….OK....two 50 watt panels on the early years or one 100 watt panel later on--that makes sense....
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Old 07-17-2018, 05:13 PM   #11
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….interesting only one panel?????.... then probably not OEM ....but based on only one panel [unless its really big]….probably doesn't matter that much whether it is working or not…its output isn't that significant ....

One panel may be the 10w option. I did not specify, but the 2 solar options were sold separately. Ours only came with the 10w. I installed a Zamp 20w panel and controller which will maintain the chassis batteries provided the disconnect switch is in the "off" position. The 20w panel is not adequate to maintain the batteries with the VMM's powered up. Probably need at least 50w for that, and good sun exposure.
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Old 07-19-2018, 09:58 AM   #12
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MSRP sheet for our '07 34' shows both options:
10W Solar panel- $252;
100W Solar panel- $1093


I'll look for the controller and ponder an upgrade, having Kyoceras on the house.
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Old 10-19-2018, 11:28 AM   #13
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My 2005 has a small controller next to the breakers and fuses in the bathroom. It lights up red when it is working.
Our '07's charge controller is on the hallway panel, aft of the toilet door.

While amperage tells the charge rate, it's easier (slightly safer) to measure the voltage output from the array at 4 screw connections; two each: BATT and ARRAY, (+) and (-).

Charging current (amps) will flow from the solar array when its potential (voltage) is higher than the battery voltage. The manual's rated amperage for the 100w panel is slightly above 8A; (100W/12v= 8.125A). A 10W panel truly trickles at 1/10th that.

My 11 yr old panel measured only 1.4vdc, demanding further inspection; not charging anything.

New solar panels, warranted for 90% rated performance for 20 years, have evolved technology.


My question is, what is the power rating of stock charger, if the current (no pun) is ineffective for its purpose.
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