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Old 08-16-2014, 07:05 PM   #1
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Solar panel charger

I have a new 19 ft trailer ordered, due for delivery in November, and am trying the finalize the options list. Will be doing a significant amount of off-grid camping, have the solar panel with dual 6v batteries ordered. I have extensively read through the forum discussions (as well as a few other outside threads) and it sounds as though to optimally charge your batteries requires a 3 stage charger, and to optimally determine their charge state, requires a digital voltmeter. Can anyone tell me about the charger ETI is installing currently with the solar panel (or the 120v charger/converter for that matter). Also what type of battery monitor comes standard? Should I ask Reace about running wires for a digital voltmeter? Or for a 3 stage charger? Do I even need to be concerned about this? Thanks in advance. I am real impressed with the amount of info contained in these forums.
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Old 08-16-2014, 07:14 PM   #2
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The factory stock charger/converter is a 3 way charger and all you need for a voltmeter is a 12v socket to plug one of these in DROK Universal Cigarette Lighter Car USB Port Cell-Phone Charger Digital LED Display Voltmeter Thermometer Auto Gauge 3in1 12 V 24 Volt Battery Voltage Tester Temperature Monitor Meter (Red) - - Amazon.com
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Old 08-16-2014, 07:33 PM   #3
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wish I had ordered a trimetric battery monitor

One of the things I didn't have on our build sheet that I regret is a trimetric battery monitor. It seems it is the best way to tell the state of one' s batteries. But I will be adding it later. And, as Lindy says, we have managed to survive so far without a good battery monitor....
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Old 08-16-2014, 08:36 PM   #4
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Jim is correct that the Go Power Solar Charger and an after market battery monitor is adequate for running, using and monitoring the solar system that Escape provides.

I realize you may have read some of these threads but let me reference them just incase.

Portable Solar and Monitoring

Interstate 6 Volt Charging
with sub topics mentioned in posting.

Is Your Battery Really Charged?

I have chosen to take a different route, mostly because I am frequently boon docking for up to two weeks without power, limited sunshine and inconsistent sunshine. We are not big electrical users and I think we could last about five days in warm weather with just the dual 6 volt batteries, but change the temperatures, add usage, give us three days of rain and we could be in electrical trouble.

I chose my own controller, mostly because of the low charge voltages of the Go Power provided by Escape. Below is a table of the recommended charge rates with the Interstate batteries that Escape provides.

To accomplish what I wanted in solar I did not order the Escape solar but I asked for the unit to be solar ready. This puts the wiring for a panel near the roof. I added an outside receptacle for plugging in a portable panel, only because I did not want to drill the hole. And I provided Escape with the wiring harness for a Trimetric 2025 RV battery monitor to install during their build process. They only installed these components, they did not connecting any wiring associated with these devices.

Other options would be to have Escape install their roof top panels and add your own solar controller. Skip the battery monitor and install your solar controller in a conspicuous and easy to view area and relay on the information it provides.

In the weeks awaiting the final build, I constructed a small module containing my selected solar controller, circuit breakers and kill switches with the associated wiring. Here I was able to increase wire gauge to the size giving better performance. Upon taking delivery of the new trailer it took me about an hour to install the module and use solar immediately and for the next three weeks of our pickup tour. At the same time I installed the Trimetric battery monitor using the preinstalled wiring.
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Old 08-16-2014, 08:45 PM   #5
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Paul, any pictures of your work?
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonW View Post
One of the things I didn't have on our build sheet that I regret is a trimetric battery monitor. It seems it is the best way to tell the state of one' s batteries. But I will be adding it later. And, as Lindy says, we have managed to survive so far without a good battery monitor....
I had one in another unit which I installed myself. But after using it a couple of times I realized it was too complicated, I had to jump thru all these screens to reprogram it and every time I unhooked or turned off the battery switch it became too much information overload. I'm happy with a simple plug in volt meter and once a year I check my electrolyte levels and add distilled water if needed. I also disconnect from the house and operate off solar for a couple of weeks to allow it to maintain the battery, I feel it may be better for the battery vs the converter, but the jury is still out on that one.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:56 AM   #7
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One can easily and rapidly reach the point of diminishing returns.
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Old 08-17-2014, 08:02 AM   #8
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Thumbs up

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One can easily and rapidly reach the point of diminishing returns.
totally agree
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Old 08-17-2014, 10:02 AM   #9
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I was hoping to hear something along those lines (and figured that was the case). I really just want to go camp (and fish), and not worry excessively about the details. Of course, I do want to take good care of the trailer. Thanks for the info.
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Old 08-17-2014, 12:35 PM   #10
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http://gpelectric.com/files/gpelectr...ler2-FINAL.pdf
If you have the gopower solar controller installed by ETI, your batteries are depleted, you are relying on solar gain to recharge, and there are two hours of sunlight left in the day with good exposure.
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Old 08-17-2014, 02:05 PM   #11
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Steve

The attached .pdf is a photo with descriptions of the solar module I created for my Escape 21. It was a bit tricky not having the trailer to design and fit but it installed in about 60 minutes in the parking lot at Sumas WA. I still had my 19 for part of the design process so I could measure cabinets for fit.

Once home I made a few changes, mostly shortening cable runs and in one case using a heavier gauge wire. I think I had the most trouble installing the Trimetric. I just could not get the wiring right to the shunt. Mostly it was pilot error.

One tool I purchased for this process was a hydraulic crimper, it was less than $30 but assured me of solid crimps on my custom lengths of cable.
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File Type: pdf Escape 21 Solar Controller.pdf (161.3 KB, 86 views)
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Old 08-17-2014, 02:25 PM   #12
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Nice setup Paul! That controller looks about the same size as the GoPower unit. Can it be installed in the same location?
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Old 08-17-2014, 02:56 PM   #13
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Not positive where the Go Power is installed, I thought low and perhaps on a bench seat. I choose to surface mount it with some nylon stand offs and the unit is not readable without lifting the bench seat. If you have a Trimetric the information on the Blue Sky is redundant and it is not necessary to read it.

If you cut a hole (approx. 4.6 x 3.6) it can be flush mounted. They also sell some sort of mounting bracket, I am not clear on the need or purpose of that.

There is a dilemma here, the controller should be close to the battery or you need to use some big time cable and I like to be able to read it easily. The controller is limited to 8 gauge (if you get 8 gauge to work let me know) I had to cut some strands off my 8 gauge wire to get it to fit into the wire holder. From what I have read this is common to most controllers. Solid wire might work but it is hard to find. Or use 10 gauge and immediately switch to 6 or 8. One funny thing I had to call them about, getting those wire holders to keep the wire held in place. Use a slotted screw driver instead of a Phillips and provide plenty of strain relief.

Trying to vision where I would have mounted it on my 19. Not a lot of choices if you flush mount as you have to get behind it. If you temperature compensate there are three pair of wires, a lot to manage. I like the driver side dinette seat, you can get a quick look at it every time you step in the Escape.
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Old 08-17-2014, 05:03 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
Not positive where the Go Power is installed, I thought low and perhaps on a bench seat. I choose to surface mount it with some nylon stand offs and the unit is not readable without lifting the bench seat. If you have a Trimetric the information on the Blue Sky is redundant and it is not necessary to read it.
.............................
Trying to vision where I would have mounted it on my 19. Not a lot of choices if you flush mount as you have to get behind it. If you temperature compensate there are three pair of wires, a lot to manage. I like the driver side dinette seat, you can get a quick look at it every time you step in the Escape.
Lots of talk about batteries and solar chargers lately. It got me thinking about solar controllers and I've been looking at the Blue Sky 30. The Blue Sky 30 face is slightly smaller than the GoPower, 6.35"x4.60" versus 7.5"x4.25". The Blue Sky may fit but leave screw holes where the GoPower mounted. It could be easily mounted if a face plate was made to go between the Blue Sky and the holes for the GoPower. It looks possible.

We recently had ETI install a solar panel on our 19'. They put the controller in the cabinet above the sink. It's a ways from the panel to the battery. I'm not convinced the wiring run from the controller to the battery is more important than from the panel to the controller? With the placement ETI used the run from the controller to the battery is "long". I think heavier wiring may help, although ETI's installation is quite good. This wiring run is quite accessible and could be replaced, or followed with a temp. sensor.

I had convinced myself the Trimetric and the solar controller are giving different information. I think the Trimetric measures Ah into and out of the battery in total. That it includes all charging and load Ah, thus keeping a good measure of battery state. The solar controller measures Ah delivered from the PV panel to the battery. If I'm mistaken please let me know.

Mounting in the cabinet above the kitchen is a nice location. Trade off between long PV panel wires versus battery wires. But you are right, a temperature sensor would have a long run to the battery.

After studying the GoPower and Blue Sky 30 literature I would opt for the Blue Sky (or similar). Likely go with the Blue Sky over a more sophisticated MPPT changer but am not as sure here. However, since we have the GoPower installed (no added cost) we'll likely use it and get a feel for the system before making any changes.

Thanks.
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Old 08-17-2014, 05:17 PM   #15
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One tool I purchased for this process was a hydraulic crimper, it was less than $30 but assured me of solid crimps on my custom lengths of cable.
Paul:

Do you have a link to this, or similar, tool? It sounds like it could be very useful for power wiring.

Thanks.
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Old 08-17-2014, 05:30 PM   #16
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As I said, Blue Sky mentions on their website, a mounting bracket. Perhaps that would be of value in reducing screw holes.

You are correct, that is quite a long run from the Go Power controller to the batteries. This is that dilemma of having the display easy to read or the solar controller close to the batteries. What is the route of the cable going from the controller to the batteries? I am guessing that may be 20 ft long? I would suspect that Escape used 10 gauge wire.

By far, the wiring run from the controller to the battery is most important, you will want little or not loss of current due to wire size. I used a combination of 10, 8 and 6 gauge wires on this run. It is acceptable to do this, always trying to minimize the length of the lighter gauge wire.

I think you have figured out the Trimetric very well. Nice job.
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Old 08-17-2014, 06:36 PM   #17
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Hydraulic Crimp Tool

From Amazon and it does the job very nicely. Someone, in their review of the tool, gave a table converting the die sizes to wire gauges.

Crimp Tool
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Old 08-17-2014, 08:22 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jubal View Post
http://gpelectric.com/files/gpelectr...ler2-FINAL.pdf
If you have the gopower solar controller installed by ETI, your batteries are depleted, you are relying on solar gain to recharge, and there are two hours of sunlight left in the day with good exposure.
The ability to do a boost is certainly useful but there still is a big difference between the GoPower applying 14.4 volts for 30 minutes and the Interstate Batteries recommendation of 15.3 volts for 2 hours.

A nice improvement from GoPower.
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Old 08-17-2014, 09:52 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
What is the route of the cable going from the controller to the batteries? I am guessing that may be 20 ft long? I would suspect that Escape used 10 gauge wire.
Ours is routed from the upper kitchen cabinet forward, through the upper door jam, through the front upper cabinet, then down behind the corner padded molding. Through the curb side dinette, behind the lower front panel piece at the front of the dinette and into the street side lower dinette. Wait, I'm not done. Finally through the floor, forward to the front storage box and to the battery in the middle of the box. 20-25' would be a good guess. I don't know wire well enough to tell the gauge by looking at it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
The ability to do a boost is certainly useful but there still is a big difference between the GoPower applying 14.4 volts for 30 minutes and the Interstate Batteries recommendation of 15.3 volts for 2 hours.
I think the GoPower is quite a ways from optimum. It only "bulk" changes for 1 hour in the morning unless the battery is below some 60%, then it does 2 hours. But it holds the voltage to 14.4v, which is more an absorption charge than bulk. Then goes to float. GoPower's Maximum Power Boost will force an additional 30 minutes of absorption change. This will help but one needs to know what state the batteries are in to effectively push the button. The Trimetric will tell this, but you still have to be at the trailer (paying attention) to push the button. I really want a system that takes care of itself, at least under normal circumstances.

The Blue Sky does a true bulk change, fixed current and adjusts the voltage to maintain that current. It uses all the current the PV panel can supply. It maintains this until the battery is about 70% charged. Then it goes to an absorption charge at fixed voltage (default 14.4v) for two hours. (I think this is right, but it's not overly clear from the manual.) Both voltage and time are user adjustable. Then goes to float. I think this is much closer to ideal.

I would have expected the Blue Sky to hold the absorption charge until the current dropped to a specified value. I think that would be better.

I don't know how important or critical the differences are. I need to do more travelling and get to know the GoPower system better. With the readout of the GoPower and the Trimetric I should be able to get a handle on how it functions for us. If the battery is changed by noon, I'm happy. If we have to go to an RV park to change the battery, I won't be as happy.

Stay tuned, this will be an ongoing saga.

Thanks.

P.S. If I end up re-wiring any of this I'll order one of those crimpers. I think it'd do a better job than I can any other way. Thanks for the tip.
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