Wiring for portable solar - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-05-2020, 06:26 AM   #1
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Wiring for portable solar

Iíve got a Renogy suitcase solar panel and separate controller I brought over from our teardrop. Iíd like to wire our Scamp 16 for its use. It looks like mounting the controller on the front wall is a popular choice. That would give us access to the nose of the camper and our battery. I plan to go with SAE jacks for the battery and panel hookups on the outside. Am I better of going through the floor or through the fiberglass? Or one of each...the battery will be a more or less permanent connection so Iím thinking of putting that jack on the underside. And then the solar jack through the fiberglass, down low near the electrical cable penetration. One concern I have is telling the two jacks apart, hence physically separating them. Thoughts?
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Old 06-05-2020, 12:54 PM   #2
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Hi there,
I carry around a 120w portable 'suitcase' panel with a built in controller (wired behind a panel) and have went with the SAE port on the front of the trailer next to the tongue box.
The wiring goes directly to the battery located on the inside of the trailer. I'll see if I can post some photos soon
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Old 06-05-2020, 02:00 PM   #3
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Front of trailer with solar port next to shore power port
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Old 06-06-2020, 07:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fofobraselio View Post
Front of trailer with solar port next to shore power port
We also have a Zamp SAE port. For some reason Zamp wires it backwards (red ground, black hot). I know of someone who pulled the Zamp port out using screws on his fiberglass. I installed mine with bolts, using washers on the inside to spread the load.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 06-06-2020, 01:56 PM   #5
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My solution was simple. I mounted the controller on the back of the panel using velcro and connect to the battery using clamps. No holes in the trailer and the controller is protected.


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Old 06-10-2020, 10:32 AM   #6
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[QUOTE=Raz;780682]My solution was simple. I mounted the controller on the back of the panel using velcro and connect to the battery using clamps. No holes in the trailer and the controller is protected.

I'm back to looking at this approach. I noticed my Renogy suitcase is equipped with the hinged mount for a controller, even though I ordered my panels without. I think I'll just install the controller there and run an SAE jack out of my battery case. But a question about the sequence of connecting when at a campsite.

I have the 20A Voyager controller and those instructions clearly state:

"NEVER connect the solar panel array to the controller without a battery. Battery must be connected first. This may cause a dangerous occurrence where the controller would experience a high open circuit voltage at the terminals."

But with the same solar suitcase sold WITH the Voyager controller, the instructions show connecting the leads using MC4 connectors to the controller first, then connecting to the battery. And every Youtube video I watched for this combination showed the same thing - controller first, then battery. What gives?
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Old 06-10-2020, 11:50 AM   #7
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Best guess: connectting to the battery first, then to the controller avoids sparks near the battery. I have an AGM battery so thats not an issue.
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Old 06-10-2020, 12:17 PM   #8
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I'm just repeating things I read on the internet, but I've heard that some controllers require this, others don't. If the controller says to never connect the panel without first connecting the battery (like the one I have), I would follow that advice, unless someone here knows for sure the reason why you can ignore it.

I have heard that it may well fry the controller if there's no battery hooked up. If there's a way to build these which doesn't cause this, I have no idea why they aren't all built that way...but apparently they aren't. Seems like an accident waiting to happen. I disconnect my battery a lot. Would be really easy to forget to disconnect the panels first.
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Old 06-10-2020, 12:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perryb67 View Post
We also have a Zamp SAE port. For some reason Zamp wires it backwards (red ground, black hot). I know of someone who pulled the Zamp port out using screws on his fiberglass. I installed mine with bolts, using washers on the inside to spread the load.

Enjoy,

Perry
Zamp wires them backwards so that the positive wire coming from the panel is a female connector and the negative is a male (protruding pin). Think of one of the truest statement ever made: ďYou canít fix stupid.Ē Zamp wires the way they do to protect stupid people from setting the panel in the sun, and then grabbing the connector to plug it in. If the positive side were a protruding male connector, the aforementioned stupid person could be seriously shocked. Itís electricity, people, and if the panel is in the sun, the SAE connector Is likely a live wire. Use caution when handling any assembly that is carrying voltage. The down side of Zampís polarity reversal is that the input receptacle is connected to the battery and the male side is hot. Any child ďexploringĒ where he or she shouldnít be could get shocked. From a safety standpoint, it is better not to expose a solar panel to sunlight until all connections are made. And I am NOT implying that anyone here is stupid; Iím just explaining Zampís reasoning.
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Old 06-10-2020, 02:16 PM   #10
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First consider that the controller is probably not waterproof.

Second, consider that the ideal situation is to mount the controller near the battery. Thats not critical, just best practice.

Lastly, I went back and forth a few times with Renogy Tech Support about connecting the battery first. I asked how long it had to be connected, and if even just a few milliseconds before was OK (as might occur with a relay). The less than convincing answer was that there was no minimum time from connecting the battery to connecting the panel.
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Old 06-10-2020, 07:43 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=rpassmore;781183]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raz View Post
My solution was simple. I mounted the controller on the back of the panel using velcro and connect to the battery using clamps. No holes in the trailer and the controller is protected.

I'm back to looking at this approach. I noticed my Renogy suitcase is equipped with the hinged mount for a controller, even though I ordered my panels without. I think I'll just install the controller there and run an SAE jack out of my battery case. But a question about the sequence of connecting when at a campsite.

I have the 20A Voyager controller and those instructions clearly state:

"NEVER connect the solar panel array to the controller without a battery. Battery must be connected first. This may cause a dangerous occurrence where the controller would experience a high open circuit voltage at the terminals."

But with the same solar suitcase sold WITH the Voyager controller, the instructions show connecting the leads using MC4 connectors to the controller first, then connecting to the battery. And every Youtube video I watched for this combination showed the same thing - controller first, then battery. What gives?
I have a 180 Watt Zamp portable solar panel. It is 2 90 Watt panels that are permanently mounted to a 15A waterproof controller which is connected to a Zamp style plug. It came with a cable that has a Zamp connector on one side and clamps to connect to the battery. The controller is always connected to the panels whether the battery is connected or not. Maybe it depends on the type of controller. When I moved my batteries inside, I ran 2 6awg cables and added an Anderson connector. I built an adapter cable with an Anderson connector on one end and a Zamp connector on the other.
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Old 06-11-2020, 08:05 AM   #12
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My portable panel was the same way. The controller was mounted on the back of the panel, always connected. But it didn't start charging until it sensed a battery. In fact there had to be a certain level of charge, not just a battery. My friends batteries were dead so we hooked my panel to them. It wouldn't turn on.

Whereas my Renogy controller specifically says do not connect the panels before the battery. So it must depend on the controller. I still don't understand why anyone would make a controller with this "flaw", but oh well.
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Old 06-11-2020, 11:16 PM   #13
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If you install a Zamp port (or any other port) the battery is always connected to the port when connecting the portable panel. So the battery is always connected first.

We have the Zamp port connected to the controller in the camper that is always connected to the battery. The controller should always be as close to the battery as possible to eliminate line losses.

Enjoy,

Perry
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