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Old 06-07-2020, 02:46 PM   #1
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Chassis solar upgrade

The new Dutch Star I bought has as standard a small solar panel mounted on the rear roof over the bath. My reading of the vague and misleading information on the Newmar site caused me as an electrical engineer to question the design and usefulness of this feature. First thing I did was to check performance. My measurements found the following: Voltage on chassis batteries remains too low to prevent long term chemical deterioration of the two gel cell batteries. There is always some draw on our chassis batteries even when everything is turned off. Keep alive circuits are abundant on our Newmars. Though implied, there is no regulation as the panel is directly connected to the battery through a 7.5 Amp fuse. An inadequate amount of current is no excuse for elimination of proper regulation. Measurements show the open circuit Voltage of around 21V out of the panel. While connected to the batteries the actual current measured was only 150MA or 0.15 Amperes on a day when my coach solar was doing 50%. So doubling output to equate to a peak day we can expect a maximum of only .3 Amps into the battery. This is hardly enough to maintain those two chassis batteries as implied by the Newmar brochure. The only workable solution to being able to park your coach while not having access to plug in power is to change out the OEM solar arrangement to one that provides enough current to maintain our batteries when the coach is not plugged in. I chose a replacement 50 Watt Renolgy panel and because Newmar used only 16AWG wire I opted for a MPPT charge controller. I found a 10 Amp weatherproof one on eBay for $23 but upgraded to their option of 20 Watts for only a couple dollars more. Not necessary but why not? Without getting too technical the MPPT units sends a higher Voltage and require lower current for power transmission which should help overcome the resistance of Newmar’s 16 AWG wire from the panel to the batteries. I intend to mount the solar panel in the same place as the OEM one with required mounting modifications. The outdoor rated MPPT controller will go on the left side wall below the chassis battery compartment. I will reuse the same fuse connection to the battery out of the regulator. The output ground from the controller will connect to the screw previously used for panel grounding. I will extend the two leads that came from the panel to the input of the controller. The negative lead from the panel will no longer be grounded. That screw will remain battery ground but be connected instead io the negative output of the controller. The revised upgrade should provide 3 Amps into the batteries or 10X of the OEM arrangement. Those of us with experience will tell you that maintaining the battery float Voltage to about 13.7 volts pays off in longer life of the starting system as well as the batteries. Anticipating a question that I might receive to this post. I am more worried about buying new chassis batteries after the one year factory warranty runs out than I am about a charging system that I know is not working for me. I love my Newmar but somebody at Newmar got mislead on charging chassis batteries with the OEM setup.
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Old 06-07-2020, 08:15 PM   #2
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Very interested in this upgrade can you post pictures and part list any tips and tricks you learned along the way.

Ted.
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Old 06-07-2020, 09:24 PM   #3
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That's a heck of a paragraph.
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Old 06-07-2020, 09:34 PM   #4
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Ok. Parts ordered so far are one Renogy 50 Watt mono-panel ordered from eBay or Amazon. The 10 Watt or 20 Watt MPPT waterproof controller was ordered from eBay and will provide details and pictures in a week provided there are no weather delays. I all ready completed 400 Watts of solar to the coach batteries last week and that is working well.
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Old 06-11-2020, 11:32 AM   #5
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I have asked the administrator to delete the post because my measurements were in error. When I went back and checked the reading on the factory installation I saw almost 0.5 Amperes of charging on a sunny day. While I disagree with Newmar for not providing Regulation my reasons for changing out the chassis solar is muted. Sorry if I mislead anyone
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Old 07-15-2020, 08:49 PM   #6
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So is it your conclusion that the factory setup is sufficient to float charge the batteries as a stand alone unit?

Thanks
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Old 07-16-2020, 08:20 AM   #7
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Definitely not. The company that makes the panel advises against the use of their panel for charging these size batteries. All Newmar has accomplished with a 10 Watt panel and no controller is that the batteries will never overcharge even with no current draw by our chassis. Our chassis always has some draw so this condition does not apply. The use of a proper size panel like a 50 Watt unit and a controller would allow the batteries adequate charge to maintain them for maximum longevity. The controller insures that the batteries are kept at the optimum Voltage assuming a panel can supply sufficient current. My experience has lead me to use at least a 50 Watt panel for this application. Hope this helps and may your batteries have a long and happy life.
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Old 07-16-2020, 09:42 AM   #8
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I have a 50 Watt panel ready for installation but first must remove the 10 Watt Zamp unit installed by Newmar. To remove I must scrape off the Dicor and remove the Newmar screws. After removal of the panel I will reinstall the screws and apply Dicor for a permanent Repair. I don’t like screws in fiberglass but that is a personal preference. My Four 100 watt coach batteries are mounted with VHB tape. A well known Oregon RV solar company has used this method for 13 years and report that they have never lost a panel. Then using aluminum L channel and VHB tape I will mount the 50 Watt panel in place of the removed panel. The panel has the usual solar connectors so I chose to use a short transition from a mating connector with short wires to butt splice to the factory down leads. The small weatherproof controller will be mounted on the lower shelf below the batteries. The controller is the usual + and - input connection from the panel using the butt spliced and extended leads. I will remove the negative down lead from its original grounding Point before extending this lead to the controller. The controller negative out will run back to this ground. The factory fused lead will now be the positive out from the controller.

Notes: You may choose to avoid using the connector at the panel that I opted for and just butt splice instead. If you are ok with screws in fiberglass you may also choose to use that mounting method instead of the VHB tape.
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Old 07-16-2020, 10:00 AM   #9
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given your installation method, why not leave the factory 10w panel in place and put your 50w panel over the top mounted on alum angle with vhb tape? That way you don’t disturb the roof at all. Just a thought given the situation and your preferences.

When I improve systems and abandon factory components and wiring, I like to leave the original stuff in place if I can. As an example on my Bay Star the original 600w inverter is now serving as a junction box, but when I remove my solar stuff and sell it, it will be the coach inverter again.
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Old 07-16-2020, 10:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dav L View Post
That's a heck of a paragraph.
How bout this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ronboatplane View Post
The new Dutch Star I bought has as standard a small solar panel mounted on the rear roof over the bath. My reading of the vague and misleading information on the Newmar site caused me as an electrical engineer to question the design and usefulness of this feature.

First thing I did was to check performance. My measurements found the following: Voltage on chassis batteries remains too low to prevent long term chemical deterioration of the two gel cell batteries. There is always some draw on our chassis batteries even when everything is turned off. Keep alive circuits are abundant on our Newmars. Though implied, there is no regulation as the panel is directly connected to the battery through a 7.5 Amp fuse.

An inadequate amount of current is no excuse for elimination of proper regulation. Measurements show the open circuit Voltage of around 21V out of the panel. While connected to the batteries the actual current measured was only 150MA or 0.15 Amperes on a day when my coach solar was doing 50%. So doubling output to equate to a peak day we can expect a maximum of only .3 Amps into the battery.

This is hardly enough to maintain those two chassis batteries as implied by the Newmar brochure. The only workable solution to being able to park your coach while not having access to plug in power is to change out the OEM solar arrangement to one that provides enough current to maintain our batteries when the coach is not plugged in. I chose a replacement 50 Watt Renolgy panel and because Newmar used only 16AWG wire I opted for a MPPT charge controller. I found a 10 Amp weatherproof one on eBay for $23 but upgraded to their option of 20 Watts for only a couple dollars more. Not necessary but why not?

Without getting too technical the MPPT units sends a higher Voltage and require lower current for power transmission which should help overcome the resistance of Newmar’s 16 AWG wire from the panel to the batteries. I intend to mount the solar panel in the same place as the OEM one with required mounting modifications. The outdoor rated MPPT controller will go on the left side wall below the chassis battery compartment. I will reuse the same fuse connection to the battery out of the regulator. The output ground from the controller will connect to the screw previously used for panel grounding. I will extend the two leads that came from the panel to the input of the controller. The negative lead from the panel will no longer be grounded. That screw will remain battery ground but be connected instead io the negative output of the controller.

The revised upgrade should provide 3 Amps into the batteries or 10X of the OEM arrangement. Those of us with experience will tell you that maintaining the battery float Voltage to about 13.7 volts pays off in longer life of the starting system as well as the batteries.

Anticipating a question that I might receive to this post. I am more worried about buying new chassis batteries after the one year factory warranty runs out than I am about a charging system that I know is not working for me. I love my Newmar but somebody at Newmar got mislead on charging chassis batteries with the OEM setup.
:
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Old 07-16-2020, 02:38 PM   #11
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The reason I will remove the small Zamp 10 Watt panel is I need to get underneath to get to the down leads and I want to keep the top of the panel as low as possible to reduce the overall height of the coach. This area is fiberglass and is of raised height in order to provide a higher ceiling in the bath. I will keep it as low as possible while allowing a small amount of ventilation space under the 50 Watt panel. My estimate is the top of the panel will only be a half inch higher than the old panel. Finally I want to reserve as much space as I can as I may want to add to the 400 Watts now working well through my Victron smart controller and keeping my coach batteries full.
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Old 07-16-2020, 02:58 PM   #12
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yes we’ll that’s the other thing - why bother with it at all of you have a more functional solar set up in place? I just abandon them but leave them in place and let the inverter/charger take care of business.
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