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The Norfolk Broads Forum / Broads Boat Owners Q & A / solar panel battery charging
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Posted By Discussion Topic: solar panel battery charging

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Stick
Nov-28-2017 @ 7:28 PM                           Permalink
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Fens Fatale
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For my 2 pence worth.
I have 3 batteries. 1 dedicated engine battery and two domestic batteries of the leisure traction variety from Boulter Marine. Charging them I have one 85ah alternator that goes  via the engine ( starting) selector switch (position 1 being dedicated engine battery. Position 2 being the two domestic batteries only and a ALL being all 3 batteries. Obviously I have off too that disconnects all batteries from the starter circuit) when engine is running the charge goes to the main engine battery. If my domestic batteries are low I have a split charge relay that will operate when main engine battery reaches 13.5v and then will " click" over to direct power to domestic batteries. I say click because it is a real relay with an electro magnetic coil operating the switch over. I chose this method because it allows me via a switch on the relay's negative side to be able to disable it. The relay is a 70amp relay. I also have a mains powered Sterling Battery charger that is connected to the engine battery and two domestic batteries and has an extra port that I don't use. When on shore power I disable the relay with the seperate switch as I don't want the relay to activate as the battery charger gets confused! The battery charger gives a boost conditioning charge if it senses the batteries need it then wallops a load of power in to clean the cells up then charges all three batteries before switching to supply mode where it gives you whatever power you need if you are staging on shore power so the batteries stay at a constant 13.5v. In addition to this I have two 20w solar panels on the roof that are wired into a solar panel regulator ( I found one that had big terminals for the wires as most regulators have small terminals that are smaller than the cables on the solar panels so you end up wiring in thinner wire so they will fit the terminals- basically choking and good amps you may be getting from the panels) all the power from the panels go to the domestic batteries. In the summer in full sunlight I can run my Weaco fridge all day with no drain on the batteries. Don't use the fridge in the winter but I can either watch TV ( LED to 12v bought from a truck company but I only watch DVDs on it as I have no tv reception) be on my laptop all day or play stereo while charging phone all day, with no drain on batteries. I do have a generator for shore power should I need the washing machine. The solar panels are the hard variety as I found the flexible ones didn't like being joined to the hard type and didn't produce much in the way of power. I keep them clean as a bit of dust can really cut the power down. I have found in the summer that with the sun on the panels I can get 14.5 volts into the batteries before the regulator goes open circuit and cuts the power.... 14.5 volts ain't to good for batteries so I just leave the fridge on and if I'm going out I will always put the radio on too to waste some of the power. So for me 40w is sufficient. All my lights are LED and I can also run mains equip via the inverter. But, in my opinion, make sure the cables from the solar panels stay as thick as you can get on the regulator. Plus I would advise fitting a regulator to all solar panels unless it's the little trickle charger panels that are designed to be crocodile clipped to batteries ( think they are called " battman" chargers) if you go the whole hog and get a wind powered generator you can get regulators that will deal with them as well as the solar panels. I'm in the process of upgrading to wind power so shall be seeing how that goes. But my rig is fine for me. I do have twin voltmeters so I can see how my batteries are doing and a third digital volt meter that is more accurate on the domestic side. The domestic batteries are wired together so the mains powered sterling ( intelligent) battery charger and the split charge relay only "see" the domestic side as one battery that takes some time to charge! On an addendum to this, be aware that if you hammer your domestic side a lot it can take a while for an alternator to charge them back up, even with a big amps alternator like mine. In general terms in a 2 litre diesel car it takes 9 miles to put back the charge that you used to start it. That's a cold engine start. You ain't using the same revs in a boat as you will in a car so it may take quite a while to put the start charge back in, which is why I like the manual split relay with the seperate switch so i can make sure my main engine battery gets fully charged before the domestic gets any! Hope that is a help to anyone out there.

On one other thing. I have three isolation switches.... The main engine one which selects from which bank of batteries the engine is started from- when I finish cruising and I've turned engine off it gets switched to "off" if you do like my Dad does ( when he forgets how things are wired) he leaves his on " all" which means he is flattening all his batteries while watching TV! So I switch that switch off and my domestic side also has a switch which as I'm on the boat all the time stays "on" the extra battery is also wired with another isolator switch so I can isolate all my batteries should one develope a fault like a dead cell, so I don't kill the entire bank. Probably over kill but I do like being in control and having ways to isolate problems.

Nuff said from me I think.

Stay warm.

Ex-military! Not a civilian!

annville
Nov-28-2017 @ 8:05 PM                           Permalink
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Hi Stick Do you have a advanced regulator? on/to your 85 amp alternator,if not, if you fit one,(Sterling do a good one.) it will charge your batteries so much quicker with less engine  wear/diesel, John

Stick
Nov-28-2017 @ 8:27 PM                           Permalink
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Fens Fatale
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John, no I don't but have been thinking about one.... That's the thing that boosts the power? Always wondered how it can put out more power and amps than its getting.... Magic? While I'm on the subject of magic, have you seen those battery boosters that are all capacitors inside them? It's not like a booster start that has a lump of battery in it so you are basically lugging a battery round with you. Sealey make them and they will charge their capacitors up from a basically flat battery and then you can use it to give your battery a boost to start it! It works! It's not a con! They ain't cheap though as the baby one is over £80. I saw the ice cream men start their Freeman the other day with one and their engine battery was flatter than a flat thing as the engine don't have a working alternator on it. Just thought I'd mention it. It's called a Sealey Electro Start. Theirs was a 400ah one. Goiogle it. And I will see about getting a charge booster... Take the strain of my alternator and save me some fuel.... Just got to find somewhere to put it.......

Thanks for the tip.



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Stick
Nov-28-2017 @ 8:49 PM                           Permalink
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Hey John,

I've just thought of something re my alternator.... If my domestic batteries are well drained, according to my voltmeters both analogue and the digital, my alternator puts out 14.8 volts and slowly the volts drop back down to 13.5 with the engine still running obviously... My alternator was built by Rotating Electrics in Yarmouth who are aware that it is my sole form of charging my boat batteries from the engine. They are also aware that my engine was an elderly  Bukh that either started or flattened the battery! My " new" Bukh is 5 yrs newer and starts much better. I have a spare alternator that is 45ah and it doesn't put out lots of volts when my domestic is down.... Yes I know it's amps that charge the battery but if I'm getting more volts then I'm getting more amps. I'm wondering if my alternator has had a diode added to it to make it think it's not putting out enough of a charge. In general when I ain't moving, I can start engine and activate split charge relay and my domestic side is charged up In half an hour.... My fault for parking under trees so the solar panels don't get much!
If I fit a booster would that not put more strain on the alternator? I have to say my alternator gets rather hot and you can hear the engine slow if my batteries are down.... As its always worked ok I've never got a booster... But will look into it anyway. Thanks again for the tip.

Ex-military! Not a civilian!

annville
Nov-29-2017 @ 6:30 PM                           Permalink
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Hi Stick If you fit a advanced regulator it fools the alternator into charging its max output,(where as the built in reg starts at 60ish in your case then slowly drops to 10 amps) until it notices that battery temp(it has a sensor wire to pos term) is rising above a predetermined temp it then cuts back charging until temp lowers then tells alternator to max charge or at a lower charge.to fit requires a wire soldered to field brush carrier this is before the inbuilt regulator,ie bypassing it,you cant do this to all alternators as some are brushless.If this is the case Sterling do a stand alone one( costs more of course  ) that doesn't need you to remove alternator therefore you may be invalidating warranty, You just extend the feed wire from alternator to battery,userly connection on starter solenoid then back to battery,it can also combine two alternators ie engine and auxiliary to double output,increase it,it charges the starter batt first then switches all available currant to domestic bank,I have one of these works brilliantly ie 180 amps + 60 amps + 240 amps into four 110 amp batteries one hour to charge from 0/flat to max. it also does a four step charging regime. John

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Nov-29-2017 @ 7:26 PM                           Permalink
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We have recently ahd fitted a Blue Solar PWM light charge controller fitted along with a rigid solar panel.  HAs anyone else got this controller and if so which of the many settings do you use it on.  Lots to choose from but the "manual" doesn't help

Andy

Stick
Nov-29-2017 @ 8:13 PM                           Permalink
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John, my alternator charging lead is already going to the starter lead on the starter motor. The lead from the alternator is a nice big thick one and is connected by proper chunky ring terminals. I think I will save for the stand alone sterling charge booster ( priced around £300 on e bay may get one cheaper when I delve into it some more) as I don't like soldering wires onto the phases although I will be ringing Rotationg electrics to see if they have already done this.... I will also fit an ameter to see what it's doing when it's wellying out 14.4 v..... as you can do the job yourself with a couple of diodes before the regulator part of the alternator.... I looked it up online ( I do like the net for this) but once again thanks for your tip and explanation...

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Stick
Nov-29-2017 @ 8:58 PM                           Permalink
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Fens Fatale
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Ok. Just been on an American web site about alternators. I like the American web sites because they explain things better and simpler! A good alternator should be putting out around 14.4v like mine does. I'm not having flat battery problems and generally if I've only dropped my domestic down to 11.5 v I can recharge them in half an hour. So I shall save for the intelligent sterling booster to halve my time in charging so saving fuel. Once again I thank you. Now I know how they work I'll get one.

Ex-military! Not a civilian!

Stick
Nov-29-2017 @ 9:14 PM                           Permalink
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No idea on a PWM controller as I didn't use the one that came with my panels due to small terminals. I have a CWP one that you just connect and off you go. You do connect it to the battery 1st then the solar panel. Don't know why but it's what it says to do.... On a little further note, everything I've read about solar panels and charging batteries all are basically along the lines that what I have isn't enough to charge my batteries and I don't know why it seems to be working fine... All day my digital meter has sat at 12.4 volts.... The regulator has 3 red lights and 3 green lights... The three red lights are for battery level.... Generally I have two on and all three on hot sunny days or the engine running. The green lights are, the first one says I have a battery connected and it's wired correctly, the second says its charging and the third comes on when battery is charged and the circuit goes open and I have nothing connected to the load terminals. As I understood it ( my instructions were in Chinese!) the loaf light could go to an inverter so if I had enough panels I could run things directly from this but only when the batteries were fully charged. I may be wrong but the way I've done it, it seems to work and my batteries are fine. As I remember the PWM regulator it had settings 1 to 16 and 16 was general charging and the one I would use....1 was for having batteries charged for one hour then it would switch over to all the energy going to load ie running a house with lots of panels..... I may be wrong but if you google it there is a video on how to set one of these regulators. Sorry I can't be more of a help. You had the question and I got an answer for a problem I didn't even realise I had! Cool!

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annville
Nov-30-2017 @ 2:50 PM                           Permalink
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Hi Andy Is this a Victron ? as i understand them they are not for battery charging but a programmable unit that switches lights on/of ie security lights that run of solar,they do control a battery charging during the day which then switch lights on at night.The various buttons/controls will be for  what type of battery, when to switch lights on/of, what sequence ect. the PWM is just type of control, ie pulse width modulation as against a MPPT for a more expensive type that has better control in certain circumstances.John

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