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Old 04-22-2016, 11:32 AM   #1
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Trying to understand my solar charger

I have a solar panel on the roof of my 2000 Newmar for charging the batteries. How can I test if it's working or not? I installed a digital meter in the dash and that tells me the voltage it's putting out, which is 12-14. After that where do the wires go? Do they go directly to the house batteries? Is it charging both the chassis and house batteries?
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Old 04-22-2016, 11:56 AM   #2
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5-10 watt panel that goes through dash panel indicator to chassis battery. Not meant to charge chassis battery more of a battery maintainer.

Here is the PDF extract dated 2007 from Newmar. Suspect nothing has changed since your year.

Good Luck!
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File Type: pdf Newmar Small Solar Panel Info.pdf (100.6 KB, 164 views)
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Old 04-22-2016, 02:02 PM   #3
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Right now my coach is sitting out in full sun. When I press the battery meter, it says about 3/4. When I press the voltage reader switch, it says 12V. The solar panel light is totally dark.

The switch pushes up and down with a reading each way. Is one way reading the house batteries and the other way reading the chassis batteries?

If the intention of the solar panel is to not charge but simply maintain 12V, is it as simply as changing the solar panel to make it charge? What else needs to be done? And can it charge both the house and chassis batteries?
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Old 04-22-2016, 02:15 PM   #4
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Solar panels designed to charge 12 Volt batteries have an open circuit output voltage of about 17 volts but when tied across batteries this drops to the battery voltage. The sure way to tell if it's working would be to use your meter in DC current mode and insert the meter in the positive wire coming from the solar panel and see if there is current flow. Note solar panel output falls with age and it perhaps 80% of when new and maybe worse than that if the panel covering was plastic and has gotten cloudy with age.

For every 10 watts of solar panel size going straight to batteries without any charge controller you should see about 0.5 amps current flow (solar panels put out less than their maximum watts rating unless you use a fancy MPPT charge controller).

Note that your always on loads ( propane detector, non-residential refrigerator, etc. ) are going to pull at least 1 amp so hopefully it is at least a 20 watt panel, 10 watts likely won't cut it if the goal is to keep the battery fully charged during storage in a spot where the panel gets sunlight. Actually 20 Watts might not even cut it for keeping batteries charged given that the always on loads are 24 hours a day and it gets dark, LOL.
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Old 04-22-2016, 04:04 PM   #5
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Hi Pexring,
Lets try to keep this simple. The post by shaman52 has the information you need. To answer some of the questions from the latest post:
1. When you press the battery meter on the factory installed panel you are looking at the coach batteries. Does not matter which way you press the meter.
2. The solar panel maintains the chassis batteries. There is no reading for the chassis batteries from the factory installed battery meter.
3. To make a solar charger for all your batteries, you will need much more solar power. There are kits available to make this happen.

Do not know about your digital meter. Don't know what wires you connected it to.
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Old 04-22-2016, 07:14 PM   #6
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I am sure appreciating the feedback. My 16-year-old solar panel seems to have died. What is the replacement?

Since my coach sits outside 365 days a year, I might as well make the sun work for me. I am considering buying this solar-powered batterminder for the coach/house batteries. Will it play nice with the coach's built-in charger?

12 Volt 15 Watt Solar Charger Maintainer with Panel | SCC-015
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pexring View Post
I am sure appreciating the feedback. My 16-year-old solar panel seems to have died. What is the replacement?



Since my coach sits outside 365 days a year, I might as well make the sun work for me. I am considering buying this solar-powered batterminder for the coach/house batteries. Will it play nice with the coach's built-in charger?



12 Volt 15 Watt Solar Charger Maintainer with Panel | SCC-015

As others have said, 15 watts is not enough to overcome the constant drains on the batteries from smoke alarms, engine computer, etc.

I would consider a minimum of 25 watts, and 50 would be better.
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Old 04-24-2016, 10:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shaman52 View Post
5-10 watt panel that goes through dash panel indicator to chassis battery. Not meant to charge chassis battery more of a battery maintainer.

Here is the PDF extract dated 2007 from Newmar. Suspect nothing has changed since your year.

Good Luck!
In reading this PDF, it says that the light on the dash will stop glowing when the battery is charged. Does that mean there is some sort of charge controller built into the circuit? Mine is a 2000 although the pdf file was taken from a 2007.
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:40 AM   #9
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There is no solar controller. When sufficient current flows thru the LED, it lights up. As the current decreases, the LED dimms and eventually turns off.
A word of caution, on some coaches built before 2016 Newmar wired the solar charger on the coach side of the chassis battery switch, so when the battery is disconnected it will not get charged. The LED may stay lit due to parasitic loads.


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Old 04-25-2016, 07:44 AM   #10
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Discovered my 5 watt panel is dead dead dead. So I am replacing it with a 6 watt panel. During the winter my coach sits outside and doesn't move for months. Is there ever a danger the panel would overcharge the chassis batteries during this time? Does anyone ever add a controller to this panel?
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Old 04-25-2016, 07:49 AM   #11
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with a small panel like anything below 25W there is no need for a charge controller. it can not overcharge your battery.
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Old 04-25-2016, 07:59 AM   #12
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Something I noticed on my 2002 MADP small solar panel.
Light on dash did not work.
Disconnect fuse going to panel and my panel was reading 15-17 volts. Checking it at the fuse panel. Fuse back in and pulls the voltage back down to what ever level the batteries are at.
So even though light was not working, panels still putting out a small amount.
But like others have said only really maintains not enough watts to actually charge the batteries.
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:26 PM   #13
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Got the 5-watt panel replaced. No solar charger added. Where in my fuse box (or at the chassis batteries?) should I be able to test that power is trickling in from the solar panel? My red light shines bright, along with the digital meter I added per a nice tip I found last year on this forum. Below are a few pics of my handywork. I replaced the 5-watt panel with a Coleman 6 Watt.

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Old 5-watt panel that is dead.

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Underneath old panel. Was a 2-pin molex plug that I removed and added one to match the new solar panel.

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Added 2 aluminum bars with appropriately drilled holes to mount the new panel.

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New panel mounted in place. Not too thrilled with the cheesy plastic mounting brackets, but it is what it is.

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The red light on my dash and the green digital meter above it that shows the watts (although the reading doesn't show up in the pic).
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