Solar Panel battery charging

Micky 2 Bel's

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Hi

I've got a 2009 Autotrail Arapaho with a Sargent EC325 and a pre installed solar panel by Autotrail at 85w.

I'm after some help understanding the way this solar panel charges the batteries, the handbook is not very helpful, so after some advice from experienced people such as your good selves.

My understanding is that I have an in built charger that will do both, the vehicle battery, and the Leisure battery. My confusion is how this works, because I believe its part of the Sargent EC325. I keep my motorhome in an outdoor storage site, and the solar panel has been cleaned, and still is. Now I know the winter months are a bit darker so not getting the benefit of the long sunny days, but surely it should still be charging the batteries as my other solar chargers do. I know 85W is not very good but it should still be enough to keep a small trickle charge going in.
My vehicle battery keeps dropping low to the point it wont start the engine, but the leisure battery keeps around 11.2V. I do have a Phantom Tracker system on the vehicle, and that is the only thing that should be drawing any power.

Is it a case the solar panel charger that is part of the Sargent EC325, will only work when it's on an EHU?
As I said, other solar chargers I have will continue to charge batteries providing there is a small amount of light.
Or am I missing something very obvious?

All help greatly appreciated

Mick
 

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Hi

I've got a 2009 Autotrail Arapaho with a Sargent EC325 and a pre installed solar panel by Autotrail at 85w.

I'm after some help understanding the way this solar panel charges the batteries, the handbook is not very helpful, so after some advice from experienced people such as your good selves.

My understanding is that I have an in built charger that will do both, the vehicle battery, and the Leisure battery. My confusion is how this works, because I believe its part of the Sargent EC325. I keep my motorhome in an outdoor storage site, and the solar panel has been cleaned, and still is. Now I know the winter months are a bit darker so not getting the benefit of the long sunny days, but surely it should still be charging the batteries as my other solar chargers do. I know 85W is not very good but it should still be enough to keep a small trickle charge going in.
My vehicle battery keeps dropping low to the point it wont start the engine, but the leisure battery keeps around 11.2V. I do have a Phantom Tracker system on the vehicle, and that is the only thing that should be drawing any power.

Is it a case the solar panel charger that is part of the Sargent EC325, will only work when it's on an EHU?
As I said, other solar chargers I have will continue to charge batteries providing there is a small amount of light.
Or am I missing something very obvious?

All help greatly appreciated

Mick

My vehicle battery keeps dropping low to the point it wont start the engine, but the leisure battery keeps around 11.2V.

upload_2018-1-11_11-47-26.jpeg

At 11.2 volts your l.b. is flatter than a flat thing on a flat day in flatsville.
 
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Micky 2 Bel's

Micky 2 Bel's

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At 11.2 volts your l.b. is flatter than a flat thing on a flat day in flatsville.

I can only go on what the display panel reads, and it says "Fair".

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I have a 2011 Autotrail with a factory fitted EC500 and a 125W solar panel, so not exactly like for like. However I suspect both systems are identical with respect to battery maintenance and with my system it's all automatic, in that the Sargent system send a pulse down to both sets of batteries to measure their state and then diverts any solar power to batteries as required. If the leisure batteries are very low the system will put all available solar panel to these first and will not change over until a sufficient charge has been put into the batteries. (How much this is exactly I'm not sure !).
Your solar panel does not need EHU connected to work! That's the whole point of having it in the first place. Agree 85W is insufficient but you should be getting something going into your batteries unless you have activated the Kill Switch ? On my control panel, the display show how much solar power is going into which set of batteries. If you do not have this feature you can establish what voltage is going to your leisure batteries with a cheap volt meter. (Obviously when sun is shining! if no voltage going in, check your fuses.
 
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Sep 28, 2017
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Mick

I have the very same problem,
I am taking it in to Aintree caravans for some work at the end of the month,will ask them if they can diagnose the problem, i'm sick of Jump starting it over the WINTER,
If you get any answers before me please let me Know

Thanks
Allen
 
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I would recommend you look into fitting a Battery Master..

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Lenny HB

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My neighbour has an Autosleeper with a Sargent unit its either an EC 500 or 300 it's a bit wierd it charges the lesiure battery for 4 hours and then swaps to the starter battery for 4 hours. At this time of year I wouldn't think that was much use as you only get any useable solar for a few hours around midday.
Probably worth fitting a decent solar regulator like the Victron or Votronic.
 
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magicsurfbus

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Having just checked via the modern miracle of Swift Command (TM) I can report that my shiny new 100W solar panel is pumping out a blistering 0.9A into my Sargent battery charging system, it's sunny with light cloud here at present, and that's as good as it's going to get all day.

As I've said in the other battery thread, 12.2v is low enough to make me bring it home and get it on the mains for a 24 hour top up, and that's happening every 2-3 weeks at present, until the sun climbs higher in the sky.
 
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If your allowing your battery to fall to 12.2 then fully charging again this would result in the loss of one full cycle from your battery bank. I think you have nothing to worry about! Typical cycles for lead acid leisure batteries are around 200 cycles at 50% DOD.

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tonka

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My neighbour has an Autosleeper with a Sargent unit its either an EC 500 or 300 it's a bit wierd it charges the lesiure battery for 4 hours and then swaps to the starter battery for 4 hours. At this time of year I wouldn't think that was much use as you only get any useable solar for a few hours around midday.
Probably worth fitting a decent solar regulator like the Victron or Votronic.

This can be overridden on the control panel.. It has a "smart charge" facility both on EHU and solar. They can be set to do Smart, just leisure or just engine battery. All info in the manual on the Sargent website.
In the summer when at a rally i set my solar on just leisure batteries.

ps.. Another note on the EC500 if people dont leave the shutdown switch turned "on" then smart charge does not operate and it only charges the leisure..
 
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This can be overridden on the control panel.. It has a "smart charge" facility both on EHU and solar. They can be set to do Smart, just leisure or just engine battery. All info in the manual on the Sargent website.
In the summer when at a rally i set my solar on just leisure batteries.

ps.. Another note on the EC500 if people dont leave the shutdown switch turned "on" then smart charge does not operate and it only charges the leisure..
The options you are referring to for selective solar panel charging are contained within the EC480 control panel not the EC500. I have the EC500 and a different control panel to the EC480 so do not have this option.
 
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tonka

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The options you are referring to for selective solar panel charging are contained within the EC480 control panel not the EC500. I have the EC500 and a different control panel to the EC480 so do not have this option.

:) The facilty is within the EC500, Of course to access the settings you would need to use the control panel above the door.

AND NOW... YES YOU DO.. You will maybe have the EC300 I suspect like mine..
You enter the advance menu and the settings are in there.. My van is a 2012 .

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Feb 9, 2008
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:) The facilty is within the EC500, Of course to access the settings you would need to use the control panel above the door.

AND NOW... YES YOU DO.. You will maybe have the EC300 I suspect like mine..
You enter the advance menu and the settings are in there.. My van is a 2012 .
??????? I have the EC 300 Version 121. I need to go to the user manual that came with the motorhome as I'm fairly certain this option is not on my version. It's all automatic and has been faultless since 2011. I've tried the Sargent site without success.
 
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I have the same setup but with a 100w solar panel, with the EC500 off it only charges the leisure battery.
With the main switch on it is normally set to smart charge both batteries
But beware, my EC500 with the main switch on, takes 0.24 amp, measured with an a multimeter, this is 5.76 amps per day - probably more than a 100w panel mounted flat is putting back in at this time of year
In short, I have given up trying to smart charge both batteries, and intend to leave the EC500 off and fit a Battery master, which I believe will sort the problem - unless anyone has a better idea
 
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If your allowing your battery to fall to 12.2 then fully charging again this would result in the loss of one full cycle from your battery bank. I think you have nothing to worry about! Typical cycles for lead acid leisure batteries are around 200 cycles at 50% DOD.
Phil, the OP says that the leisure battery keeps at around 11.2V, not 12.2. That is fubar territory.

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pappajohn

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At 11.2 volts your l.b. is flatter than a flat thing on a flat day in flatsville.

I can only go on what the display panel reads, and it says "Fair".
I suggest ignoring the display and use a volt/multimeter on the actual batteries.
Display panels are, at best, a guide.
There no substitute for a meter reading.
 
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DanielFord

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With the weather we've been having of late, the chances of an 85w panel delivering anything higher than two thirds of bugger all are slim. Our 150w panel was delivering a whopping 1amp in bright sunshine the other day!!!
Over the winter, you are going to need to plug in regularly, or take it for a drive to keep the batteries topped up!

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I keep my motorhome in an outdoor storage site, and the solar panel has been cleaned, and still is.
My vehicle battery keeps dropping low to the point it wont start the engine, but the leisure battery keeps around 11.2V.
Let's not get confused with living in the MH and The OP's question about parking it up for storage. 85 watts of solar should be plenty to keep both batteries fully charged, if the controller, switches, fuses and wiring are allowing it to do its job. A panel a tenth the size would probably have a fair chance of that. No, something is wrong, either the design, the settings or a fault.

So, do all other similar MHs have the same problem?

What are the settings required, and how exactly can you check them? Or is it all automatic?

What fuses need to be checked, and where are they?

As others have said, 11.2V means flat. I'd be expecting 13.2 or more. Something's very wrong.
 
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eddievanbitz

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At 11.2 volts your l.b. is flatter than a flat thing on a flat day in flatsville.

I can only go on what the display panel reads, and it says "Fair".
One or the other reading is wrong. "If" it is 11.2 VDC then 55 Funs Flatter than a flat day in Flatsville (loved that BTW) is right

If your battery is genuinely "Fair" it cannot possibly be 11.2VDC
 
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I am another one who thinks 85watts of solar is not enough to keep a modern motorhome's 2 batteries ticking over in a British winter when not being used.

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Lenny HB

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I am another one who thinks 85watts of solar is not enough to keep a modern motorhome's 2 batteries ticking over in a British winter when not being used.
Yep, 200 watts on ours just about copes, another 100w panel waiting to be fitted as soon as I find time.
In fairness our first Hymer I only fitted a 80 watt panel never had a problem but the last few years we have had more rain & less sun.
 
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My experience is that two 2.4 watt panels kept my leisure batteries and starter battery fully topped up in storage in winter in North Germany.

It is commonplace in cities to use these panels for cars, as many people live in flats where mains connection is not possible. Also the good public transport means people commute by car much less, so many cars are not used for weeks on end in winter.

85 watts? How can that fail to trickle charge a cab battery? I bet you could even get enough power at night parked under a street lamp!
 
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My experience is that two 2.4 watt panels kept my leisure batteries and starter battery fully topped up in storage in winter in North Germany.

It is commonplace in cities to use these panels for cars, as many people live in flats where mains connection is not possible. Also the good public transport means people commute by car much less, so many cars are not used for weeks on end in winter.

85 watts? How can that fail to trickle charge a cab battery? I bet you could even get enough power at night parked under a street lamp!
You do realise you only get 85 watts out of an 85 watt panel when the sun is shining exactly overhead in the tropics don't you? In a damp and wet winter's day in the UK with the sun at a low angle even at midday you will be lucky to get 0.2 amps out of that for a few hours a day, and averaging a lot less than 0.1 amps over a 24 hour pe. And 2 x 2.4 watt panels would be measured in milliamps. A relatively modern motorhome like the OP's Autotrail draws more than that by the time you add up the residual current required by the Sergeant control panel, the radio residual to maintain settings, the alarm etc.

I have 250 watts on the roof of my motorhome and this time of year I see no better than 0.5 to 1 amps for a few hours.

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You do realise you only get 85 watts out of an 85 watt panel when the sun is shining exactly overhead in the tropics don't you?
Yes, at sea level too, to be more precise. AM1 sunshine, ie Air Mass 1.0.

Self-discharge of a good lead-acid battery is also measured in the low milliamps. Radio memory retention current is measured in microamps or nanoamps, as is alarm maintenance current and other similar things.

I don't know what the residual current of a Sargent control panel is, but if it's 100 milliamps or more in the storage state then it's not fit for purpose.

If that's par for the course for Autotrails then I'm glad I got a Hymer.
 
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Lenny HB

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If that's par for the course for Autotrails then I'm glad I got a Hymer.
I'm on my 3rd Hymer they have all taken between 50 - 100ma then if you add an alarm & a tracker thats over another 100ma. And if you don't tuirn the panel off on the older Hymers with the LCD display about another 300-400ma newer ones with just LED bars about 50ma, I never bother turning my panel off.
 
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I have 2 new 100w panels and a Votronic MPPT at home waiting to be fitted. The other day I decided it was playtime and set the whole lot up to see what they could do in winter sunlight. When the sun was reasonably bright at mid day the most I got was 4 amps but that was with the panels angled directly towards the sun. As soon as the sun became partialy covered by cloud the figure dropped to 0.2 amps. Laying the panels flat halved the charge. Probably not a very scientific test but the battery I used was not fully charged so should have been capable of accepting as much charge as was available. Earlier when there was very little light, the charge controller managed to maintain it’s charging voltage but there was no discernable charging going on. My conclusion, there is only very limited charging likely to happen in UK winter light, particularly if the panels are lying flat.

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Lenny HB

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Sounds about right, doesn't need to be cloudy just a bit of haze this time of year will drop the output by 50%. Dec & Jan are the worst months once you get into Feb and the days are a bit longer output starts to get more usable.
 
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Micky 2 Bel's

Micky 2 Bel's

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Thanks for the help.
Jump started the battery and went off to a local campsite for the weekend, so according to the panel above the door the leisure battery is now 15.1V and the vehicle battery is 12.8V.
I had a good look at the solar panel charge, and basically it seems at 85W it's a complete waste of time ( as most of you have pointed out ), so much so that I'm not sure why it was ever fitted by Autotrail in the first place. So this year that will be coming off and a lot bigger ones are going back on.
 
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......according to the panel above the door the leisure battery is now 15.1V
That's a remarkable voltage for a 6 cell lead based battery which is normally capable of 2.1v per cell! I guess you checked it immediately after turning off th'engine/charger and it still had residual charging voltage, although this is usually a max of around 14.7v.
However, a Lithium battery will store/deliver 3v per cell.

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