Portable Solar Panel Connected to Converter? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 02-17-2017, 09:36 AM   #1
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Portable Solar Panel Connected to Converter?

I'm working on finishing up my build sheet in the next few days for my Escape 21' due in early June. I am not getting the Escape rooftop solar option or their solar controller but I have chosen the option to install a Zamp solar port fitting on the exterior of the trailer.

I had originally thought that they would install the Zamp port but leave it to me to wire it to a controller and then to the battery but when I checked they indicated that they would wire it to the battery. Yesterday, just as a followup with a couple of other build sheet questions, I asked again about wiring the Zamp to the battery. The response this time was that "the Zamp port is wired to the converter, where the battery charger is located".

Since I am very familiar from my own experience with charging a trailer battery using a portable solar panel connected to the battery and had not previously heard of folks connecting the panel to the converter I am somewhat confused by why Escape is doing it this way.

So my questions to the solar savvy folks on the forum are:

Not having ever considered the possibility of wiring a portable solar panel to the converter I was wondering if this a fairly common practice?

Has anyone had Escape install, or have done so themselves, a solar port which is wired to the converter? If so, how well has it worked?

I appreciate any thoughts or advice anyone can offer.

Chuck
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Old 02-17-2017, 09:44 AM   #2
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Okay, so now I'm confused (carry-over from original thread) - I think. Say you have an on-board solar system with roof-mounted solar panel and you want to add a portable solar unit for times when the camper is parked under heavy shade. I was under the impression that if your portable solar panel did NOT have its own controller, then the portable solar panel must be wired through the trailer's on-board solar controller, and you must make sure the on-board controller can handle the added load. However, if your portable solar panel HAS its own controller, then the portable unit can be connected directly to the battery(ies), and the two controllers (on-board and portable) would work independently but somewhat in unison with each other to keep the battery(ies) charged. At any given moment, whichever controller senses a need to send charging power to the battery(ies), and its panel is generating enough power to do so, it will send it (even both at the same time). Job done. Is that not right?
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:49 PM   #3
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Chuck, Have you gotten any further feedback or clarification from ETI (I suppose they might not respond over the weekend) or any other forum members on this? Inquiring minds want to know....
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:11 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by War Eagle View Post
Okay, so now I'm confused (carry-over from original thread) - I think. Say you have an on-board solar system with roof-mounted solar panel and you want to add a portable solar unit for times when the camper is parked under heavy shade. I was under the impression that if your portable solar panel did NOT have its own controller, then the portable solar panel must be wired through the trailer's on-board solar controller, and you must make sure the on-board controller can handle the added load. However, if your portable solar panel HAS its own controller, then the portable unit can be connected directly to the battery(ies), and the two controllers (on-board and portable) would work independently but somewhat in unison with each other to keep the battery(ies) charged. At any given moment, whichever controller senses a need to send charging power to the battery(ies), and its panel is generating enough power to do so, it will send it (even both at the same time). Job done. Is that not right?
I think you are correct but I hadn't paid much attention to that particular combination since I am not getting the Escape roof mounted panel or the
Escape controller. I am only getting the Zamp solar port installed and, for the moment, am confused about how Escape plans to wire this in because of the conflicting information they have provided.
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by War Eagle View Post
Chuck, Have you gotten any further feedback or clarification from ETI (I suppose they might not respond over the weekend) or any other forum members on this? Inquiring minds want to know....
Well late Friday, too late in the day to contact them, Escape told me that actually the Zamp would be wired to the battery, so you would be correct in assuming I'm still confused. I hope to speak with them tomorrow and get this cleared up.

In the meantime I have been unable, after spending time on several RV forums, to find anyone who has connected a solar panel through the onboard converter. Furthermore, after a careful reread of Handy Bob's information, I can't understand why anyone would want to do this since the converter is not usually set up to deliver the needed charging rates that a good solar controller can provide.

I'll see what tomorrow brings.
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:47 AM   #6
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The Zamp port wired directly to the battery is my guess of how ETI was planning to wire it. Most portable panels come with an onboard controller, and the simplest method is then to just plug the output from that into the Zamp, with the controlled current going directly into the batteries.

The downside of this method, as Paul B (fudge_brownie) has explained several times, is that it will not provide the maximum charge available from the solar panel. The upside as Glenn (Baglo) has described, is that it can be simple, easy method.

Everyone has different needs for how much solar charging they will need. Solar can be involved and complex when one wants to go for the optimum charge, or fairly simple if one's needs are modest. We're going with the Escape solar package which should be plenty for our needs, but may be more than some folks need and less than others needs.

Again, in Donna's wise words YMMV.
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:50 AM   #7
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Whether you connect to the positive and negative output on the converter, or directly to the batteries, it is the same thing. I plan to connect all my solar directly to the battery.

Even if I was just going with only a portable panel, I would install the charge controller in the trailer right near the battery for efficiency, and connect to the battery from there. But, even if you leave the controller on the panel, nothing wrong at all with still connecting direct to the battery.

Lots of this stuff is somewhat new to me, so I am quite open to being corrected if someone sees fault in my ramblings on solar. I will be doing up a thread with my own plan to get input on. Still learning.
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Old 02-19-2017, 09:26 AM   #8
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I've been tempted to address this question - but I know very little about the new configuration of the 2017 '21. Placement of WFCO converter, solar controller, switches, etc. So read my comments with a large grain of salt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
Whether you connect to the positive and negative output on the converter, or directly to the batteries, it is the same thing.
That does make sense. There must be some stout wires between the converter and the batteries so *maybe* Escape is using the connections at the converter purely as a convenience. The extra 6+ feet of heavy wire shouldn't have a major impact on the power going from your portable panel to the batteries.

But I can also see a pitfall. If the main battery disconnect switch is between the converter and the batteries - and therefore between your Zamp port/solar panel and the batteries - then there is no way to solar charge the batteries while at the same time disconnecting all electrical loads. To me, that is a problem for winter storage when I want to solar charge but guarantee no electrical drain.

If Escape is still mounting their solar controller near the batteries in the 2017 then I would want my port close by, on the assumption that I can connect an unregulated solar panel to the controller. And it doesn't matter if Escape has installed the roof panel or not if the total solar input is under 350 watts or there abouts.

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Old 02-19-2017, 11:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hollis View Post
I'm working on finishing up my build sheet in the next few days for my Escape 21' due in early June. I am not getting the Escape rooftop solar option or their solar controller but I have chosen the option to install a Zamp solar port fitting on the exterior of the trailer.

I had originally thought that they would install the Zamp port but leave it to me to wire it to a controller and then to the battery but when I checked they indicated that they would wire it to the battery. Yesterday, just as a followup with a couple of other build sheet questions, I asked again about wiring the Zamp to the battery. The response this time was that "the Zamp port is wired to the converter, where the battery charger is located".

Since I am very familiar from my own experience with charging a trailer battery using a portable solar panel connected to the battery and had not previously heard of folks connecting the panel to the converter I am somewhat confused by why Escape is doing it this way.

So my questions to the solar savvy folks on the forum are:

Not having ever considered the possibility of wiring a portable solar panel to the converter I was wondering if this a fairly common practice?

Has anyone had Escape install, or have done so themselves, a solar port which is wired to the converter? If so, how well has it worked?

I appreciate any thoughts or advice anyone can offer.

Chuck
how its wired and whom (you or ETI) might do the wiring the easiest may also depend on where you want the Zamp port installed on the exterior...the 21 has the batteries and the ac convertor in the back and in close proximity to each other.
Best to keep distance between the solar controller (either on the panels or external to the panels) and the battery connection short.....if the Zamp is mounted on the front of a 21 then its probably best that ETI runs the wiring behind the cabinets during production...Zamp in the back of the 21 should not be an issue as the area for the wiring is more accessible after trailer production.
while not the least expensive solution, buying solar panels (without integrated solar controller) and then wiring the zamp solar panel port (mtd in the rear preferably) to a solar controller (provided by ETI or other) mounted inside the trailer would be this campers choice for a 21.
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Old 02-19-2017, 02:41 PM   #10
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Thanks to everyone for the responses. They were extremely helpful in understanding the situation and I hope my discussions with the folks at Escape tomorrow will clear up the confusion and bring this to a close.

Chuck
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