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Old 06-03-2016, 01:20 AM   #1
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Too much information

Moved from the rally to Harmon Lake where the temps fell ( 3,600 feet elev. ) and the wind has howled for the past two days. Huddled in the trailer with the furnace running.
I was concerned about running out of battery so this morning I hooked up my two 40 watt solar panels. The monitor in the trailer flickered "good" when I checked it before hooking up.
Day was all clouds and overcast with a brief 30 second sun beam. Checking my Innova volt meter from time to time, I got readings of 12.41 to (once ) 12.81 (I think that's when the sunbeam hit the panels ) and back down to 12.4.
Imagine my surprise then, when the darkness fell and the Innova read 12.30. The monitor in the trailer faintly flickers green or good.
I've got lots of information, but no confidence in the information I've got.
I've shut down the furnace, turned off most lights and disconnected the solar panels. I'm holding at 12.31 and the trailer monitor reads green ( or good ).
Going to bed and will review in the morning, after checking this thread.
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Old 06-03-2016, 02:00 AM   #2
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Not sure what the concern is here? My batteries are almost always down to 12.2 or 12.3 by the time I go to bed and will recover the next day even with cloud cover (at this time of year with a high sun angle).

Maybe just like a pilot, you should trust your instrumentation?
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Old 06-03-2016, 02:06 AM   #3
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I'd say that the info you have is probably reasonable for your circumstances.

If the battery is already down a bit, and there's very little sun for relatively small output panels not too much is going to happen charging wise.

12.3 in those circumstances at the end of the day seems reasonable. There's probably no need to disconnect the solar panels though. Most have a blocking diode that prevents them from draining the battery.

Hang on, sunny weather's coming.

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Old 06-03-2016, 02:17 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
Day was all clouds and overcast with a brief 30 second sun beam. Checking my Innova volt meter from time to time, I got readings of 12.41 to (once ) 12.81 (I think that's when the sunbeam hit the panels ) and back down to 12.4.
Imagine my surprise then, when the darkness fell and the Innova read 12.30. The monitor in the trailer faintly flickers green or good.
Why were you surprised? The voltage while charging will always be higher than the voltage after you turn off the charger (with a switch, or a sunset). If the solar charger was turned off (or lost sun) after a whole day of charging without using power and the batteries were "empty", then that would be surprising.

The Innova volt meter just has set voltage levels to determine which light is on. 12.3V is "good", because that's a sufficiently well-charged battery.

Instruments are good, if you know what the readings mean.


As flying students, we were always told to "keep our heads out of the cockpit", meaning to pay attention to the outside world and the aircraft's situation, rather than just watching the dials... although you do need to keep track of the information from the instrumentation. To make sense, voltages need context, such as baglo's notes about the solar condition.
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Old 06-03-2016, 04:02 AM   #5
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12.3 volts is somewhere around a 50% to 60% state of charge depending on what kind of batteries you have. Wet-cell deep-cycle batteries can withstand repeated discharge to 20% without damage, but it's better to go no less than 40% for longest life. I don't like to go below 12.2 v.

Your daytime measured voltages with solar panels hooked up will vary with sunlight of course. Those low voltages would indicate cloudy conditions which will barely raise the voltage but would only be a slight trickle charge . With my previous RV and 100W solar, it would charge at 13.X v + pretty efficiently.

Any load on the batteries will lower the measured voltages unless it is being charged, so you don't really know what the % charged state of the battery is unless you disconnect it from all load and solar panels and hook a meter up to it.

Yes, there are a lot of factors to consider, but you get used to it and learn to estimate your battery condition based on available info pretty easily after a while.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:47 AM   #6
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From what I've seen any electrical load temporarily drops the voltage level. If you want the real voltage of the batteries, turn everything off.

This is the chart I've always used, from "the 12 volt side of life" site.
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File Type: gif voltchart1.gif (6.4 KB, 10 views)
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:12 AM   #7
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There's also always that "rest" problem with batteries. Immediately after charging, the surface charge will cause voltage to show up higher than it really is, and immediately after any drain it will show up lower than it is until it has had a chance to recover. Combined, they sure make it hard to precisely know the actual charge left in the battery at an exact time.
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:36 AM   #8
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I think you should turn the heat back on.
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:10 AM   #9
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Thanks all.
Had a three pound sleeping back zipped to a two pound with a five pound on top and a woman on the side, so not cold at all.
Heat is back on this morning and sun is out.
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:27 AM   #10
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Hope you can find your way out.....
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