115V and solar chargers active at same time?? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-25-2017, 04:54 PM   #1
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115V and solar chargers active at same time??

In my 17.5 ft Bigfoot trailer, I have the usual shore power charger that charges the coach battery when plugged into shore power. I also have a rooftop solar panel and electronic controller.

Both the shore power charger and the solar panel have their own - and different - battery conditioning algorithms built into them. I'm wondering about the combined effects of having both active at the same time.

Should I put in a switch to deactivate the solar panel system when connected to shore power?

I just don't want to shorten my battery life by having both devices working "against each other" trying to condition the battery.......
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Old 06-25-2017, 05:24 PM   #2
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No bigfoot but I have the same situation, two chargers each with its own brain.

My solution was to figure out which charger was better, and use it exclusively when possible. In my case the solar charger is better. One reason is that it has temperature compensation that the shore power one does not. So I use the solar for battery maintenance, and leave the shore powered converter off. But that is when the camper is not being used. When occupied I want the shore power for my on-board power use.

Another variable is the effectiveness of the solar. With shore power you know the battery will shortly get a full charge, even if you are using the camper. With solar you need better battery and power use monitoring to know when and if the battery gets fully charged.
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Old 06-25-2017, 05:26 PM   #3
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I'm not an expert in this area, but the common sense tells me to install a solar panel (more precisely, the solar charge controller) disconnect switch. It will not hurt.
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Old 06-26-2017, 07:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
No bigfoot but I have the same situation, two chargers each with its own brain.

My solution was to figure out which charger was better, and use it exclusively when possible. In my case the solar charger is better. One reason is that it has temperature compensation that the shore power one does not. So I use the solar for battery maintenance, and leave the shore powered converter off. But that is when the camper is not being used. When occupied I want the shore power for my on-board power use.

Another variable is the effectiveness of the solar. With shore power you know the battery will shortly get a full charge, even if you are using the camper. With solar you need better battery and power use monitoring to know when and if the battery gets fully charged.
Agreed! Having looked at the manuals, it looks like the solar control panel is the more sophisticated of the two. A simple marine battery switch will do the trick to interrupt the duplicate charge path...
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Old 06-26-2017, 07:57 AM   #5
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Having two or more charging sources is NOT uncommon. Nothing bad will happen.
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Old 06-26-2017, 08:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sokhapkin View Post
I'm not an expert in this area, but the common sense tells me to install a solar panel (more precisely, the solar charge controller) disconnect switch. It will not hurt.
Having two or more charging sources for the batteries is not a problem. If you want to add a disconnect switch for the solar, be careful where you put it. Some controllers will be damaged if the panels are left connected while the batteries are disconnected...
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Old 06-26-2017, 10:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by sokhapkin View Post
I'm not an expert in this area, but the common sense tells me to install a solar panel (more precisely, the solar charge controller) disconnect switch. It will not hurt.
: George is right u need a charge controller when using solar it stops charging the battery when it hits the G-spot.
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Old 06-26-2017, 10:47 AM   #8
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This is a good question. I wish I had the time to go into all the details of why more than 1 charging source isn't a problem. People with solar mounted on the their trailer often will have at least two sources. One being the tow vehicle and the other the solar. I've use both solar and the converter at the same time.
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Old 06-26-2017, 12:03 PM   #9
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I can't say that it is good, but I have three sources to the battery,
1. the TV charging cable when towing and the engine running
2. The PD4045 power control system,
3. the 100 watt solar panel with the genuine $9.00 charge controller. Alleged to be MPPT.
So far there have been no problems, but I would guess that the PD4045 with the Charge Wizard would be better than either of the other two.
Better would an automatic disconnect it the PD4045 was on.
I haven't spent any time thinking about it yet, but perhaps if the 120 VAC were on a disconnect relay would break the 12 V from the others, but the solar wants a battery connected before the panels so that would be a problem for that device.
I think I will ignore the problem and just leave everything connected
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Old 06-26-2017, 02:12 PM   #10
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Multiple charge sourcez.

Lived on a boat for years. Had multiple charge sources, worked fine 9yrs. Just don't hit the batteries with more amps than 25% or their total amp hour rating. We had alternator, solar and two 40amp smart chargers. If at anchor and in a hurry i ran the engine, solar and fired up the generator to run a charger. The engine and electric elements made enough hot water in 15 min for two showers and by the times we were dressed the batteries were topped off and we were ready to go to touring. Our frig was run by a 1 up elec motor we depended on batteries almost exclusively for our power.
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Old 06-26-2017, 03:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
This is a good question. I wish I had the time to go into all the details of why more than 1 charging source isn't a problem. ...
What many seem to be forgetting is that not all chargers (controllers) are created equal. Some do a better job at charging a battery and extending its life than others. Inexpensive converters can and often do overcharge and shorten the life of a battery, especially if you don't or can't carefully monitor the electrolyte level. As I mentioned above, temperature compensation is one thing that sets a better quality charger apart from a cheaper one and in my case, the solar charger has that feature but the on board converter does not. And the converter I got in my Scamp will overcharge the battery (but not so much if one adds the famous "Charge Wizard").

So in sum, its not a problem to have multiple chargers. That much is true. But for best performance and longest battery life, you might want to use the better charger alone, all other things being equal.
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Old 06-26-2017, 03:40 PM   #12
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Byron is right, it's not a problem. We have a factory GoPower PWM (wish it was MPPT but that's another matter) solar charge controller along with the stock WFCO. When connected to shore power, the solar controller won't continue to charge batteries which are fully charged. Having said that, we changed out the charger portion on our WFCO to a true 4 stage smart charger. Not because we can't have two charging sources operating simultaneously, but because WFCOs are 3 stage controllers that have a tendency to overcharge, and that don't have a desulfation cycle. An additional benefit was no more flickering lights.
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Old 06-26-2017, 04:01 PM   #13
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great info in this thread

Some great info in this thread. Thank you.

Concensus is that the solar charger is probably better at preserving the life of my battery than the converter built into the shore power unit. The solar unit has temperature compensation, anti sulfation cycles, etc. When plugged into shore power my solar charger pretty much shuts down as the battery voltage sits at 13.9V

I spend about one third of camping days at powered sites and 2/3 at non powered. At home, when parked, unit is on solar only in the summer and in the winter the battery is in a shed on a decent conditioner anyways.

Think I can safely leave things the way they are. THANKS for the input. Most helpful.
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Old 06-27-2017, 11:23 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
This is a good question. I wish I had the time to go into all the details of why more than 1 charging source isn't a problem. People with solar mounted on the their trailer often will have at least two sources. One being the tow vehicle and the other the solar. I've use both solar and the converter at the same time.
:I'm sorry but we use our 200W solar panel to keep the House batteries charged which a charge controller will shut down when it reaches the charge required, if We plug into shore power we have a switch that shuts of the Solar System wired into the unit, We us the TV to charge the Tow'd so when we get to location we can jump into the Tow'd and go for a drive to see the area as it is way better than a AWD it goes many places and at high speeds and is a great rock climber.
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Old 06-28-2017, 09:45 AM   #15
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Doesn't anyone sell some type of charge controller that takes multiple inputs and combines them or decides which one is best? Solar, shore and from the vehicle when hooked up.
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Old 06-28-2017, 10:17 AM   #16
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Doesn't anyone sell some type of charge controller that takes multiple inputs and combines them or decides which one is best? Solar, shore and from the vehicle when hooked up.
On a somewhat related note, I did look into feeding the RV converter output to the solar controller input, so that the converter would look like an additional panel to the solar controller, wired in parallel. The idea was that the solar controller then would "be in charge" of charging the battery, and it would have the power from the panels when it was available (in sun), and also the power from the converter when on shore power. But in all cases, the solar controller would be charging the battery and not the converter.

On the face of it this seemed like a good idea, but for reasons that got quite technical, I concluded it was a bad idea (at least with PWM converter and/or controller). Also you would probably want to bump up the voltage above what the converter (or tow vehicle) typically outputs since the "12 volt" solar controllers are designed to work with voltages up to about 21 VDC and must have a voltage high enough at the input to fully charge the battery. So I have left my converter wired as original, and if it is on, it charges the battery along with the solar controller.
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Old 06-28-2017, 11:15 AM   #17
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yeah, what Gord said....

I too would have thought that wiring the converter to/through the charge controller would have been a good idea...for a while...then I remembered Murphy's Law....so without any further research (like yours) I opted to keep the two seperate... another reason is I wanted to play with / measure understand a little better the performance of my sytem in every day use...

So I wired in a switch between the panels and the controller (so I can cut the solar off at the source...I too worried that lots of input and no output might not be good for the controller (rightly or wrongly I dunno)

I agree that one could just leave everything on all the time....with no AC input the controller just runs normal and sends power to the batteries from the panels....as soon as the trailer is plugged in the system voltage would rise above the controller's cut off point (with my charger anyway) and the controller would stop sending power from the panels...."automatically"

I'm typing this plugged in at a CG...been plugged in all night and my system voltage is 14.55 (the charger is still topping up the batteries)....this after a couple of days in the bush on solar....system voltage never dropping below 12.55.....so IME and IMT (in my trailer) solar will maintain plenty enough power for me to "live" normally if the sun is out....sort of indefinitely.....BUT only plugging in will get the batteries FULLY topped up (the last 10-20%) and "properly maintained" to extract the maximum number of charge/discharge cycles from my batteries.......might just be me, but that is the way it seems to be in this trailer

(no converter, stand alone battery charger, 70W of panel on the roof, 40W deployable, cheap controller, dual 6V batteries)
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Old 06-28-2017, 12:41 PM   #18
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I have my Trillium 4500 wired similar to Francois' camper. I used the KISS principle as follows:

- I replaced the very old transformer with a modern power supply that supplies 12vdc power to the camper when I have shore power.
- The original SPDT switch selects between 12vdc battery power and 12vdc modern power supply power.
- When I have shore power (at camp site or at home), I use my smart charger to charge and condition my battery per the battery manufacturer's recommendation.
- When boondocking, my solar panel / solar charge controller charges my battery. The solar charge controller doesn't do a perfect job of charging the battery, but sufficient to provide power indefinitely while boondocking.
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Old 06-28-2017, 02:19 PM   #19
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I had thought about using the solar controller and actually talked with the engineer at Bogart about it and he said "I think that might work, but we haven't tried it"
In my case I don't have a Bogart, but rather a $9.00 Chinacrap controller and I like the buss and fuses in the PD4045 too much to give that up along with the charge wizard.
By the way the source with the highest voltage wins and even if the Wizard wants less voltage the solar charges to ~14.5 volts.
In the night the charge wizard controls the voltage.
I don't think it is worth worrying about for my 100 watt system.
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Old 06-29-2017, 12:01 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stude View Post
:I'm sorry but we use our 200W solar panel to keep the House batteries charged which a charge controller will shut down when it reaches the charge required, if We plug into shore power we have a switch that shuts of the Solar System wired into the unit, We us the TV to charge the Tow'd so when we get to location we can jump into the Tow'd and go for a drive to see the area as it is way better than a AWD it goes many places and at high speeds and is a great rock climber.
Stude
What you're doing doesn't need to be done. You take the risk of forgetting the change switch positions.
Of course it doesn't hurt the system one way or the other.
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