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Old 07-25-2015, 04:04 PM   #1
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Solar help please?

I have an old solar portable setup left over from by Boler 13 days, I'm wanting to press into service on my 17B (it'll be a while before an ETI rooftop solar add-on is in my budget).
It's a 3-panel Coleman CL-1200 setup, each panel 18 watt/14.4 volt/1.2 amp, can be used singly or hooked up in series. Yes I know it's low power, but it's available now at minimal incremental cost . . .
I long since lost the controller, but have gone out and bought a new Coleman controller with a supposed 127-watt capacity which I was told is sufficient for current purposes.
Single panel used to be good for keeping Boler's single 12V topped up when boondocked for a few days, but I suspect I may end up using multiple panels on the 17B especially on a longer trip?
My specific questions I'm asking for help & advice on are:
1) The 17B has dual 6V batteries. Does it matter whether the solar panel is hooked up (alligator clips) to battery 1 negative & battery 2 positive, or to battery 2 negative & battery 1 positive? I don't want to damage something by connecting wrong, if it makes a difference.
2) the leads from the panel aren't long enough to reach the battery terminals with the dual-6 setup, and I have to lengthen them by a few feet. Is 14-gauge wire sufficient (i4-gauge is the existing lead wiring)?
3) How can I tell which are the negative and the positive leads from the panel? There is no indication of +/- on the leads, just a double wire terminating in a flat-two plug with one side male/one side female. I have a multimeter but very limited understanding of how to use it (yes I've watched the tutorial, but I'm not much wiser, needs more studying to sink in!).
Thanks for any help. Happy travels.
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Old 07-25-2015, 04:36 PM   #2
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I have one of those Coleman three-panel sets, and used 2 of the 3 panels back when I had a pop-up trailer. It kept the battery charged, but isn't a good long term solution to solar power. The set came with a bunch of different wiring configurations, one of which had two alligator clips at one end, red for positive and black for negative, and the flat connector on the other. If you still have that, you can figure out which is the positive lead from the panel. You'll want to connect the alligator clips to the final output posts on the batteries, so one clip (positive) will be on one battery's positive, and the other clip will be on the other battery's negative. The set also came with about 25 feet of wiring.
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:20 PM   #3
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the panels are fine for helping top up the batteries.
your fine hooking them up the way you describe and 14 gauge is good, that is probably what the solar panels came with.

The only thing you need help with is the multimeter. When you hook it up to the solar panel you will know right away which wire is positive.

The multi meter tutorial should help you but generally you want the red lead of the meter plugged into the jack with the V beside it and the black lead plugged into the COMM, or common jack or the GND for Ground jack or the NEG for negative jack. if there is a knob to set the scale, set it to 20. you want to set it so that a full scale reading would be 20 volts anything higher than that up to about 100 is fine as well. Be sure it is set to Volts.

Now be careful, but put the black meter (negative) on the negative ( - ) terminal of the 6 volt trailer battery and put the red, positive on the positive terminal ( + ) of the same trailer battery and see if you can't find a meter reading that shows 6 volts. if you can find that reading you have the meter set right and can connect to the solar panel now. If you can't get the meter to read 6 volts, the meter may be old, broke or in need of a new battery. So unless it just needs a new battery itself, try and pick up a new one. it should be easy to find a new simple digital meter for less than 14 bucks. and Voltage is the simplest thing to do with a meter so you don't need an expensive one.

With a bit of sun the solar panel should show about 15 to 17 volts. if the meter or the digits jump up to this you will know which lead is positive. Be very careful if it is a digital meter that a negative sign is not showing on the meter. It may be telling you it is negative 16 volts, and you can reverse the connection and the negative sign on the meter will disappear.
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Old 07-25-2015, 06:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maurerl View Post
It's a 3-panel Coleman CL-1200 setup, each panel 18 watt/14.4 volt/1.2 amp, can be used singly or hooked up in series.
That would be singly or in parallel. Series would add up the voltages, while parallel adds up the current.

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Originally Posted by maurerl View Post
1) The 17B has dual 6V batteries. Does it matter whether the solar panel is hooked up (alligator clips) to battery 1 negative & battery 2 positive, or to battery 2 negative & battery 1 positive? I don't want to damage something by connecting wrong, if it makes a difference.
Yes. One way is the correct 12-volt connection, the other way is just connecting your panel to the ends of the wire which connects the two 6V batteries - that's zero volts of battery, and a short circuit for your panel.

Check with a voltmeter: the combination of battery terminals which reads about 12 volts is the right one. And put a fuse in the positive wire - you don't want an accidental connection of the positive wire to ground to melt wires and cause fires.
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Old 07-25-2015, 07:06 PM   #5
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Good previous advice.

To find which is your positive output from the solar panel touch the pos. probe to one wire and the neg. probe to the other.

If you've guessed correctly it will give you a reading, probably in the 20s so you should have the range set for a higher value.

If you guess wrong about which is the positive output wire from the panel, no worries. All that will happen is the display will show a " - " ahead of the numbers.

Reverse leads and whatever wire the pos. probe is on is your " + " from the panel.

Ron
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:20 PM   #6
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By Jove, I think I might have it . . . Or at least this small part of it! As someone else posted on the forum, I too am an electrical pre-schooler!

Thanks for all the help. I have correctly determined the pos/neg leads, and am indeed getting 17.8 +/- volts from each panel. Panels facing an overcast sky. Interesting. Expected less than that not in direct sunlight?

Haven't tried yet, but what would I expect if I hooked up 2 in, yes, PARALLEL!, still ~ 18 volt but at 2.4 instead of 1.2 amps?

I haven't figured out how to test the amps output? But if each panel is rated at 1.2 amps, even hooking up 3 of them, would only be 3.6 amps, am I right?

Self-test: fully-charged dual 6v are 232 amps, right? So if they're say discharged down to say 80%, they've "lost" 46 amps, which at 3.6 amps would take around 10 hrs to top up?

If that is indeed the case, I can see why this setup is really just a short-term solution -- but it'll help for now.

PS yes I still have the original wiring configuration with the alligator clips, but it' only long enough to reach from the + to the - terminal on a single battery, not across the pair of 6V on the back bumper, hence the need for "extension" leads.

Thanks for your patience with the electric newbie.
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Old 07-25-2015, 10:08 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by maurerl View Post
... am indeed getting 17.8 +/- volts from each panel. Panels facing an overcast sky. Interesting. Expected less than that not in direct sunlight?
If the panel is connected to anything, so that there is no current flow, the voltage in full sunlight is commonly about 20 volts... so 17.8V isn't surprising. The more current is allowed to flow, the lower the voltage goes.

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Haven't tried yet, but what would I expect if I hooked up 2 in, yes, PARALLEL!, still ~ 18 volt but at 2.4 instead of 1.2 amps?
Yes.

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Originally Posted by maurerl View Post
I haven't figured out how to test the amps output?
Hook up the meter so that the connection of one panel lead is through the meter... and set the meter to a suitable scale of amps (high enough that you definitely won't exceed it, but no higher than necessary).

Quote:
Originally Posted by maurerl View Post
But if each panel is rated at 1.2 amps, even hooking up 3 of them, would only be 3.6 amps, am I right?

Self-test: fully-charged dual 6v are 232 amps, right? So if they're say discharged down to say 80%, they've "lost" 46 amps, which at 3.6 amps would take around 10 hrs to top up?

If that is indeed the case...
Yes, that's right... and the 1.2 amps per panel is only under ideal conditions.
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Old 07-25-2015, 10:16 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by maurerl View Post

If that is indeed the case, I can see why this setup is really just a short-term solution -- but it'll help for now.
.
The way I think of any solar panel, no matter what the output is "every bit is useful" and it's an easy way to keep your battery topped up between uses.

Ron
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