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Old 09-19-2016, 08:27 AM   #1
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Measuring Solar Panel Charging Rate

When we left on our most recent trip without hookups, our single 12v battery was at 14.2v. After we set up, we ran the Max Fan for about 7 hours which brought the battery down to 12.2v. After a full day of unobstructed sunshine the next day, and no electrical draw on the battery, the 95w panel brought the battery to only 12.6v. I have nothing to base my expectations on; is there any way to measure the panel's charging rate and any performance standards to compare it against? (And, for what it's worth, the battery charge level topped-out at 13.4v over the next 48 hours with little to no draw, e.g., one overhead light on for less than 30 minutes.)
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Old 09-19-2016, 08:38 AM   #2
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That's about the same as I see on a camping trip in September in the PNW (low sun angle). And that's why I bought an additional 90-watt portable unit to supplement the fixed-roof panel. I haven't been out camping since I bought this so cannot report yet on its efficacy.

You can check your charge rate buy clicking through the "menu" on the Go Power panel inside your trailer.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:08 AM   #3
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I suspect the 14.2v you saw was actually the charger voltage as opposed to the batterys charge level. To get a good battery reading, the battery has to sit for a while after charging. If hooked up to AC unplug from AC and let it sit for a day, or as close to that as practical. If only on solar, take your reading in the am before the sun starts it's charging. Either way It should be about 12.7vdc.

To get an accurate voltage reading during a trip, you have to have any load OFF. Did you have the fan OFF when you noticed the 12.2vdc? any draw on the battery/s while reading the voltage will give a reading that is lower then it really is.
12.2vdc is about 60%.
12.6-12.7vdc is 100% charged.

Here's a chart
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarenH View Post
That's about the same as I see on a camping trip in September in the PNW (low sun angle). And that's why I bought an additional 90-watt portable unit to supplement the fixed-roof panel. I haven't been out camping since I bought this so cannot report yet on its efficacy.

You can check your charge rate buy clicking through the "menu" on the Go Power panel inside your trailer.

A year or so ago I posted some actual measurements I made comparing sun angles (simulated by tilting the solar panels) and posted here: Experiments with solar panels

The bottom line was that any tilt away from overhead was detrimental. Its just the laws of physics (or perhaps the laws of Winter) - lower sun = less charging. A second portable panel of the same wattage can double or triple what the fixed panel on the roof can produce late in the season.

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Old 09-19-2016, 09:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarenH View Post
That's about the same as I see on a camping trip in September in the PNW (low sun angle). And that's why I bought an additional 90-watt portable unit to supplement the fixed-roof panel. I haven't been out camping since I bought this so cannot report yet on its efficacy.

You can check your charge rate buy clicking through the "menu" on the Go Power panel inside your trailer.
Thanks, Karen. I did switch the GoPower buttons "A" & "B" and "B" gave me a percentage, but I thought that was the current state of charge of the battery. Are you saying that the percentage shown is how efficiently the panel is operating? Thanks again!
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padlin View Post
I suspect the 14.2v you saw was actually the charger voltage as opposed to the batterys charge level. To get a good battery reading, the battery has to sit for a while after charging. If hooked up to AC unplug from AC and let it sit for a day, or as close to that as practical. If only on solar, take your reading in the am before the sun starts it's charging. Either way It should be about 12.7vdc.

To get an accurate voltage reading during a trip, you have to have any load OFF. Did you have the fan OFF when you noticed the 12.2vdc? any draw on the battery/s while reading the voltage will give a reading that is lower then it really is.
12.2vdc is about 60%.
12.6-12.7vdc is 100% charged.

Here's a chart
Great information, Bob; thanks! So, to make sure I understand, the "drop" to 12.6v is the "real" charge level of the battery? I could (conceivably) operate 12v power down until the charge read 12.0v before needing to shut everything down and recharge back to 12.6v. Is this correct?
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:35 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanmalk View Post
A year or so ago I posted some actual measurements I made comparing sun angles (simulated by tilting the solar panels) and posted here: Experiments with solar panels

The bottom line was that any tilt away from overhead was detrimental. Its just the laws of physics (or perhaps the laws of Winter) - lower sun = less charging. A second portable panel of the same wattage can double or triple what the fixed panel on the roof can produce late in the season.

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I recall this thread you started Alan, and searched for it but couldn't find it. GOOD STUFF, thanks. I'm going to read through the entire thread this morning. Kind of makes me think that I should really consider a portable panel rather than the fixed one when I submit my build sheet for the 5.0TA(?). Lots more to learn I suppose. Thanks once again.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:42 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Zardoz View Post
I recall this thread you started, Alan and searched for it but couldn't find it. GOOD STUFF, thanks. I'm going to read through the entire thread this morning. Kind of makes me think that I should really consider a portable panel rather than the fixed one when I submit my build sheet for the 5.0TA(?). Lots more to learn I suppose. Thanks once again.
You are most welcome.

But if I may offer some advice. Get the fixed panel. You probably won't want to be bothered with a portable panel for 80% of your normal camping. In spring & summer (when the sun is high in the sky) the portable panel just becomes extra baggage. (Don't ask me how I know this. )

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Old 09-19-2016, 09:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zardoz View Post
Thanks, Karen. I did switch the GoPower buttons "A" & "B" and "B" gave me a percentage, but I thought that was the current state of charge of the battery. Are you saying that the percentage shown is how efficiently the panel is operating? Thanks again!
No, not how efficiently the panel is operating but you can toggle through the state of charge, the battery voltage, and the charging current. See here (http://gpelectric.com/files/gpelectr..._GP-PWM-30.pdf), page 13.

And I agree with Alan (and thank him for that forgotten thread!). If I did it again, I would stick with a fixed panel and add the supplemental one only for my late fall and winter camping. Why drag it around when it's not needed?

Edited: Plus the newer panels that ETI installs are 150 watts, I believe, whereas the ones you and I have in the 2013 models are 95 watts.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:58 AM   #10
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We love our fixed panel for those summer trips with the sun high in the sky, but also carry a portable panel for the times when you have a shady site or late season camping when the sun is at lower angles.
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