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Old 12-27-2015, 01:12 PM   #1
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Solar Panel

I am seeking some information concerning one of those small roof top solar panels. We have one that is mounted to the cover of our rear AC unit. I suspect it is there to provide a charge to our house batteries. My questions are :

1.) How do I test it to be sure it is actually providing power?

2.) If we should feel the need to replace it what are a few good brands?

3.) What wattage size should we be looking for ? I've seen anything from 15 to 100 watts.

4.) Is there a way to determine if it is there JUST to charge the house batteries of which there are two 6 volt batteries ?

We very seldom dry camp so I have no idea how important this is to us. Just for informational purposes the current panel seems to show signs of where moisture has gotten between the top glass and actual solar panel.

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 12-27-2015, 01:54 PM   #2
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In that time frame, Fleetwood on the Bounder used a Coleman roof top AC with solar panel built into the shroud. It was to maintain charge on the house batteries when everything was turned off and coach had no shore power, such as during long term storage. This is not able to provide power for dry camping it is about 50 times too small for that.

To test the panel you can disconnect one of the leads to the solar panel and measure DC volts from the disconnected lead to the panel to the other lead to/from the panel, with panel in sun. If you measure over 14 volts then the panel is still good and producing enough voltage output to float charge house battery when in sun.

Coleman still sells the AC shroud mounted solar panel if yours fails the output test and you wanted to replace it (note the current one may not be a like for like mounting holes match replacement given 14 years have passed). I found it for sale at PPL. If it is failed I don't think it's important to replace it. There are other ways to maintain the batteries during storage without power such as disconnecting them.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:04 PM   #3
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Do you have a controller for the solar panel, it usually allows you to look at charging amps and battery voltage. If the panel was installed from the factory you'd probably have a controller built into a cabinet along with other components.

If not it may be an after market install.

Do you have a wiring schematic for your coach, if so does it show solar? If it shows the wiring then it was probably factory install and would have the routing of the wires and where it connects to your system.

To test you could find the wiring, hopefully at an existing splice or connections and check the to see if it is putting out any voltage. Or you could take it off the top of the AC unit and then check the voltage.

As far as if you can add a larger panels or more panels, it will depend on current wiring size. If you start from scratch and add large enough wire and controller you can pretty much do what you want but you would also have to expand your current battery bank.

In my case my coach originally had a 85 watt panel which was suppose to be enough to maintain the batteries, which it would probably do but not provide any additional charging if you are trying to boon dock. The 85 wat panel will get me about 3-4 amps of charging capacity in full sun. The previous owner installed 2 Kyoceria 125 watt panels, for a total of 335 watt. Combined on a I can now get ~15 amps of charging in full sun, which will do a good job of recharging batteries. My controller could handle up to 30 amps of charging but when it was installed at the factory they did not run a large enough line to the battery compartment so I'm hesitant about adding more solar panels.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:12 PM   #4
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No .... no controller so I will assume then that it is an after thought for the previous owner. There is a small light in one of the interior AC vents that, I suspect, should be on if it is creating power. At this point in Vermont sun is not something we see a lot of plus we are under a cover until April or May. Right now I am just looking for info to determine whether or not it is working, compatible replacements if I need one and a recommended wattage size needed for to 6V house batteries.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSC9901 View Post
No .... no controller so I will assume then that it is an after thought for the previous owner. There is a small light in one of the interior AC vents that, I suspect, should be on if it is creating power. At this point in Vermont sun is not something we see a lot of plus we are under a cover until April or May. Right now I am just looking for info to determine whether or not it is working, compatible replacements if I need one and a recommended wattage size needed for to 6V house batteries.
If you are under a cover then you will never get any output from the solar panel. There is no way to determine if it is working until you can put light on the panel's surface.
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Old 12-27-2015, 05:12 PM   #6
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If you are under a cover then you will never get any output from the solar panel. There is no way to determine if it is working until you can put light on the panel's surface.
Yup !!!! I am very aware of that. As I noted in an earlier post I am looking for information concerning the questions I asked.
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Old 12-29-2015, 10:36 AM   #7
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No .... no controller so I will assume then that it is an after thought for the previous owner. There is a small light in one of the interior AC vents that, I suspect, should be on if it is creating power. At this point in Vermont sun is not something we see a lot of plus we are under a cover until April or May. Right now I am just looking for info to determine whether or not it is working, compatible replacements if I need one and a recommended wattage size needed for to 6V house batteries.

I have a 2012 expedition also with a small solar panel on one of the AC shrouds. Came from the factory that way. Absolutely no controller (they must be thinking basic trickle charge). For the life of me I have never been able to discover how the thing is wired in to the house batteries. I guess I can check the wiring drawings ... But have not done so for this purpose. Original batteries always needed recharging in about 4 weeks of storage, so in not sure if the thing did any good. Those batteries I suspect were damaged anyway, and replaced with AGM's ... Which seem to hold their charge a long time. Not sure though whether that is just the batteries or that charger finally being able to do its job...
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:02 PM   #8
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I have two solar units on top, and two monitors inside. Probably from one of the cheap tool places. I can switch them on or off and they show how much charge is going through. It has plugs to charge cell phones.
To answer your question, wondering if while in the sun, you could remove the positive battery terminal and check it for 12 volt power?
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:29 AM   #9
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OK, this might seem dumb but I want to install a 20 watt panel just for trickle charging. I have a controller. Now, here's the question. Can I split the output from the controller to both the battery banks (chassis and house) knowing this will screw up the controller's readings?(it's 8.5 amp rating). Or just purchase a second controller and split the output from the panel ?
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:53 PM   #10
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OK, this might seem dumb but I want to install a 20 watt panel just for trickle charging. I have a controller. Now, here's the question. Can I split the output from the controller to both the battery banks (chassis and house) knowing this will screw up the controller's readings?(it's 8.5 amp rating). Or just purchase a second controller and split the output from the panel ?
With that small of a solar panel I don't think you even need to run a controller and you could probably run wires to both batteries for a small charge. You may want to consider larger panel to do this charging for your needs.
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Old 01-05-2016, 02:41 PM   #11
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A 20 watt panel isn't going to put enough current out. Here's an example: 20W panel putting ~ 14 volts out = 1.4 amps. So if you put it across both packs, effectively each battery will be around a floating charge rate. Of course this calculation to based on best output and only during sunlight hours. No controller should be needed for this light of a trickle charge. Just my .02
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Old 01-13-2016, 03:47 AM   #12
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I have the same panel. It is a ICP solar technologies trickle charger. The red LED in the air return is to let you know that the panel is charging. It is wired inside the air return to a control box. The power is then fed to your inverter/converter then sent to your house batteries. It's only a battery maintainer not an actual battery charger. Hope this helps



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Old 01-13-2016, 03:55 AM   #13
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If you wire it to both battery banks, you are defeating any battery isolation, your system has.

If you leave something on, both battery banks will be drawn down thru the wiring, leaving you with dead batteries.
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Old 01-14-2016, 08:40 AM   #14
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I took the cowards' way out. Put battery clamps on the controller and will manually switch from bank to bank as needed. I'm getting a good trickle charge from the 20 watt panel. Routed the wiring down the access ladder, through the exhaust vents in the rear, under the rig to the battery compartment. total wire length 21'.

Thanks to everyone for their advice.
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