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Old 12-11-2013, 11:19 AM   #1
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Does the solar panel provide power without any switching?

My coach has an aftermarket solar panel that appears to be connected thru a 'solar panel prep' connection in the roof (there was some sort of label indicating this). I assume this connection was from the factory but I can't find any documentation confirming this. Is there anything that I need to do to 'switch' on or off, the solar panel or is this always on? Do they typically run thru the inverter?
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Old 12-11-2013, 12:31 PM   #2
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I'm sure that others will chime in here but, from my experience, my solar panel was at first hooked directly to my RV house battery. I soon found that the battery would get drained at night. So I installed an inexpensive controller inline between the battery and the solar panel. That worked well and now my RV house battery stays charged.
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Old 12-11-2013, 12:38 PM   #3
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To answer your thread title, yes. A solar panel will produce power, providing there is sun light on the panel. That power though is unfiltered, unregulated and not really suitable for much of anything. That is why you must install a charge controller. This single device will allow the battery bank to get charged and not overcharged. To adequately utilize solar panels you really need a properly matched battery bank to store that power.
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Old 12-11-2013, 01:08 PM   #4
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if you install a solar controller, everything is automatic, you don't need to switch or not. there are two types of solar controllers in the market - regular charge controller and mppt controller. morningstar is a well known brand, but very pricy. there are other non name brands out there working just as good. do some homework and check ebay.
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Old 12-11-2013, 01:29 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone!...I need to see if I can locate the controller to see if I have one or not. If not, I will definitely install one!
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Old 12-11-2013, 01:56 PM   #6
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You didn't mention how large your panel(s) are. If you're talking about a 120-140w or more input, you definitely need a controller. If you're talking about a 5-15w mini on one of the roof air conditioners, you won't need anything. In some basic setups from manufacturers they use a very small 4"x6" potted controller that doesn't look like anything. Look close to your house batteries if there isn't an obvious controller in the living area.
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Old 12-11-2013, 06:09 PM   #7
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I was going to say we have the small solar panel on the AC and we don't have a controller for it. There's not enough wattage to warrant it.
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Old 12-11-2013, 06:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pigman1 View Post
You didn't mention how large your panel(s) are. If you're talking about a 120-140w or more input, you definitely need a controller. If you're talking about a 5-15w mini on one of the roof air conditioners, you won't need anything. In some basic setups from manufacturers they use a very small 4"x6" potted controller that doesn't look like anything. Look close to your house batteries if there isn't an obvious controller in the living area.
I don't know the wattage but it is mounted on the roof itself and is about 2'X3' or so.
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Old 12-11-2013, 08:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
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I don't know the wattage but it is mounted on the roof itself and is about 2'X3' or so.
Thats about 50-70w
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Old 12-11-2013, 11:04 PM   #10
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Does anybody use a multi-input charge controller, so the solar and the charger can be managed together (through one charge controller) to maintain/charge the battery bank? /ken
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Old 12-12-2013, 07:46 PM   #11
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Does anybody use a multi-input charge controller, so the solar and the charger can be managed together (through one charge controller) to maintain/charge the battery bank? /ken
I just leave the converter turned off and let my MorningStar solar controller do all the charging. Even when at a CG with hookups. It's a better charger than the converter and being green is a good thing.
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Old 12-13-2013, 01:17 PM   #12
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That would work. Was hoping for something "smart" and automatic, tho, so that on a cloudy day, or at night, if the battery bank demanded charging that the charge controller would know to start pulling power from the converter.

In searching this on the Internet, it is interesting that a lot of people are asking for a solution like this, but that there seem to be no [affordable and reliable] options available off-the-shelf. At the high-end ($3500+) there are some products that will do this, but I've not found anything in my price range.

Thanks for your quick response,

\ken
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Old 12-13-2013, 04:28 PM   #13
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Ken:

Assuming you have a combination Inverter/Charger, it is usually configured to manage the charge provided to your batteries particularly if it is a multi stage unit. Likewise, the Solar charge controllers can generally be configured for multi stage charging so the correct voltage to be provided to your batteries. This capability is important as there are different requirements for the different stages and for flooded vs AGM batteries.
Your solar cells are not connected to the inverter or charger but rather to the charge controller which then connects to the batteries. If a float charger was connected directly to the batteries, it would effectively disable the solar controller as the solar controller would see a voltage indicating fully charged batteries and shut off the solar supply.
Generally, if you are away from the RV and not using any power or an amount equal to or less than the solar panels can provide, then the solar panels alone should be able to easily keep your batteries fully charged. I have three 100 watt panels on my Journey and the panels are sufficient to run the propane fridge while keeping the batteries fully charged. They have made me a great believer in Solar as there is no other power available at the storage lot and a they do an excellent job of keeping the batteries charged.
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Old 12-14-2013, 01:31 PM   #14
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If a float charger was connected directly to the batteries, it would effectively disable the solar controller as the solar controller would see a voltage indicating fully charged batteries and shut off the solar supply.
My set-up is a 3000w PSW inverter and a 4-stage battery charger. They are independent units but both connected to the coach battery bank. Am now adding solar (6X100w) with a MPPT charge controller. The CC will connect to the same two lugs on the battery bank. In-the-end, I will have two separate 4-stage "charging systems" connected to the same batteries. If your quote (above) is accurate, then I am good-to-go without adding anything else to the system. Am confused how the charge controller would know to "shut off the solar supply, versus the battery charger knowing to go to float? How do you manage current backflow? Seems like one system would need to be primary and one would need to be secondary. Would make me really happy in the pocketbook if your description is correct, however. Please confirm to alleviate my concerns. Thanks! \ken
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