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Hello. Just started cruising on my refurbished 45 boat but there is a problem with charging the batteries, I'm sure. It has had a new alternator fitted but I think maybe only the solar panel is doing the charging. For starters can anyone link me the instructions for this solar control panel because I'm finding it difficult to understand what it is telling me. The photo attached doesn't look happy. Many thanks, Chris.

 

20210613_121309.jpg

Ps. The chap who fitted it has misplaced the instructions.

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If the voltage shown is the battery voltage, then nothing has been charging the batteries and the batteries are now dead.

 

Do you have a multimeter ?

Test the voltage at the actual batteries and see what it reads.

 

You only look to have 3 wire going into/out of the controller.

 

You would normally need 4 wires as you need :

Both + and - from the panels to the controller, and

Both + and - from the controller to the batteries,

 

If the person needed instruction then I take it he was not a boat electrician, and / or had never installed panels before ?

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Having looked at the photo in another program:

 

1. Remember that the battery must always be connected to the controller BEFORE the panels. So disconnect and insulate one of the panel cables until the battery is connected, then connect it again.

 

Working from left to right on the photo

 

terminal 1 = panel pos

terminal 2 = panel neg

terminal 3 = battery pos

terminal 4 = battery neg

 

I would suggest you ignore the next pair for now but typically they will be:

terminal 5 = solar load pos

terminal 6 = solar load neg

 

The buttons normally allow you to cycle through display options and maybe zero cumulative counts of Ah etc. It should still charge however you set them.

 

Also, I suspect this is a PWM controller, so in time think about swapping it for a genuine MPPT one that will give more charge for the same panel size.

Edited by Tony Brooks
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2 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

Having looked at the photo in another program:

 

1. Remember that the battery must always be connected to the controller BEFORE the panels. So disconnect and insulate one of the panel cables until the battery is connected, then connect it again.

 

Working from left to right on the photo

 

terminal 1 = battery pos

terminal 2 = battery neg

terminal 3 = panel pos

terminal 4 = panel neg

 

I would suggest you ignore the next pair for now but typically they will be:

terminal 5 = solar load pos

terminal 6 = solar load neg

 

 

 

 

Looking at the photo, and struggling to make out the pictograms, it looks to me, like it is the central two terminals that are 'battery'

 

 

 

 

Screenshot (398).png

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31 minutes ago, Chris Debois said:

Hello. Just started cruising on my refurbished 45 boat but there is a problem with charging the batteries, I'm sure. It has had a new alternator fitted but I think maybe only the solar panel is doing the charging. For starters can anyone link me the instructions for this solar control panel because I'm finding it difficult to understand what it is telling me. The photo attached doesn't look happy. Many thanks, Chris.

 

Ps. The chap who fitted it has misplaced the instructions.

 

The red bit needs resolving.

 

If its alternator singular then you should have some form of charge splitting do one alternator can charger the engine and domestic batteries unless its  a very old boat where you may have only one bank. If it is a single bank, hard luck, you can't start the engine with an electric starter now the batteries are flat.

 

We will probably need photos of the back of the alternator, plus any "boxes" mounted in the engine bay unless you know if/how the charge is split and want help.

5 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

 

Looking at the photo, and struggling to make out the pictograms, it looks to me, like it is the central two terminals that are 'battery'

 

 

Absolutely correct, now edited. Came from a small laptop screen and having to swap between program screens during writing.

 

Thanks

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In the usual order: It would be - Positive solar, Negative solar, Positive battery, Negative battery, Positive load, Negative load. These are the positions being displayed in the photo. You can make out the solar panel image, battery, and light bulb-type symbol of the load input and output positions. 

 

 

Edited by Higgs
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Thank you all for the advice. I will read and answer when I have had time to digest all of the information you have kindly offered.

29 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

The red bit needs resolving.

 

If its alternator singular then you should have some form of charge splitting do one alternator can charger the engine and domestic batteries unless its  a very old boat where you may have only one bank. If it is a single bank, hard luck, you can't start the engine with an electric starter now the batteries are flat.

 

We will probably need photos of the back of the alternator, plus any "boxes" mounted in the engine bay unless you know if/how the charge is split and want help.

 

Absolutely correct, now edited. Came from a small laptop screen and having to swap between program screens during writing.

 

Thanks

Yes, I do know they have fitted a charging splitter which charges the starter battery first. That was also replaced when I first found there was this problem. 

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1 hour ago, Chris Debois said:

Hello. Just started cruising on my refurbished 45 boat but there is a problem with charging the batteries, I'm sure. It has had a new alternator fitted but I think maybe only the solar panel is doing the charging. For starters can anyone link me the instructions for this solar control panel because I'm finding it difficult to understand what it is telling me. The photo attached doesn't look happy. Many thanks, Chris.

 

20210613_121309.jpg

Ps. The chap who fitted it has misplaced the instructions.

 

This is not an MPPT charge controller, although those initials are on the face of the gadget. "MPPT SOLAR" it's only a name given to the unit. Misleading, but that's shopping on the internet for you. You will find a good source of info in youtube videos and reviews. 

 

 

 

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No, they are not boat electricians but have refurbished the boat for me. I am very happy with the rest of the work but the electrics can't be their expertise. I would like to understand the electrics myself so will read your replies, investigate with a multimeter myself (without actually physically changing anything) and then get an experienced electrician to sort this out.

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11 minutes ago, Chris Debois said:

Thank you all for the advice. I will read and answer when I have had time to digest all of the information you have kindly offered.

Yes, I do know they have fitted a charging splitter which charges the starter battery first. That was also replaced when I first found there was this problem. 

 

If you are interested in pursuing this, the charge splitter will need to be identified. It could be a big 1, 2, both, off switch or a so-called "zero volt drop" diode if it really does as you say. Otherwise, it could be a passive diode (bad news with most alternators) split charge relay, or a voltage sensitive relay but those would charge both batteries at the same time but apportion charge so the flatter battery gets more of the charge. There is a chance its a Sterling A to B unit but they are expensive.

 

You will learn very little by paying others to do it for you but if you have the time and inclination to at least start sorting things out with our guidance you are likely tolearn a lot.

Edited by Tony Brooks
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3 minutes ago, Chris Debois said:

No, they are not boat electricians but have refurbished the boat for me. I am very happy with the rest of the work but the electrics can't be their expertise. I would like to understand the electrics myself so will read your replies, investigate with a multimeter myself (without actually physically changing anything) and then get an experienced electrician to sort this out.

 

It would be advantageous to you to learn and understand your systems, when it breaks down next time (and it will) and you are in the middle of nowhere if you can fix it yourself, even "if just a get you going bodge" it could help you move to somewhere more convenient.

 

Answer Tony's questions and lets see if we can help you become self sufficient.

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I would suggest you swap out the charge controller you have, replace with a real MPPT unit. The one you have will drag the panel voltage down to something near the value of the battery, it's a simple regulator. An MPPT will do more work, to charge the batteries. 

 

 

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Hi, back again. I have measured voltage at batteries and it's reading -

 

Engine not running

12.75v starter battery

11.99v leisures

 

Engine running

12.77v starter battery

12.77v leisure.

 

It has a new alternator and new splitter which I will try to upload an image of.

Chris.

20210620_142643.jpg

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You should be getting much higher charge voltages when the engine is running (somewhere between 13.4 to 14.6)

 

It looks as if your leisure batteries are 'goosed', I bet they get charged very quickly but get discharged quickly as well and they will have virtually no capacity left.

 

 

 

2 minutes ago, Chris Debois said:

Clearly not charging properly because it should read 14v + with engine running?

 

Have you actually measured the alternator output voltage (at the alternator) ?

 

What make / type / brand is the splitter - you can get as much as a 1 volt  drop thru certain splitters, so there could be 13.7 going in and only 12.7 coming out to the batteries.

 

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From the Sterling details about that splitter :

 

 

  1. Split charge diodes: By using a set of diodes on a heat sink, one can ensure no back feed through the diode, thus ensuring that high currents from other battery banks do not flow up the charge lines and cause a fire. This is the most common method by far employed round the world and is the standard in the USA, for 3 reasons, safety, safety and safety, by the way did I say safety? However, all is far from perfect. The big down side with a split diode system is the voltage drop across the diode (in the order of 0.8-1.2V). This dramatically reduces the charge rate of the alternator on average by about 70%, however, this can easily be over come using products such as the Advanced Alternator regulator in conjunction with the Split Diode. 

 

Have you also installed the "Advanced Alternator Regulator" to compensate for this splitter.

 

If possible you would be way, way, way better off to send the sterling splitter back and use a VSR instead (and its a similar price)

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3 minutes ago, Chris Debois said:

OK, 13.26v from the alternator.

 

 

There you go  thats 0.5 volts 'wasted' - get rid of the Sterling splitter and install a VSR

 

 

Even at 13.5 volts input (to the splitter) unless your batteries are fully charged, there is something wrong with your alternator.

 

When you are putting 13.5 volts into the splitter, what is the actual output voltage ?

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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Assuming it is correct to use the battery negative to take the readings, these are the numbers.

 

13.5v at alternator. (Input to splitter)

 

12.5v (output from both splitter connections)

 

So have I been unlucky to have two splitter units fitted that are not working properly?

 

I am learning, so thank you for your patience.

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