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Old 07-30-2016, 12:14 PM   #1
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Gen draw and Three Switches

Okay team, many of you are much better electricians than I am. I can do basic wiring and replace something if it is already there. but when it comes to trouble shooting I struggle if I have to do something other than test leads with my multi-meter. Towards that something is draining my battery. I installed a 6w solar panel to keep it charged in storage. installed it according to the instructions and still had a dead battery. (I am open to suggestions on how to test that and what to set my multimeter to) I engage the cut-off every time. I noticed that the cut-off doe not cut power to the generator. Could the generator being keeping a slight draw on my battery? My multimeter isn't picking up enough of a draw to raise any red flags.

Additionally, there are three unlabeled switches next to my in-command display. Are those for my tank heaters? Worst PDI walk-through ever, which is mostly my fault for not asking more questions. If they are for the tank heaters which way is off? I tried to take a pic but it didn't come out clear. I can take one in the daylight if you need one.
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Old 07-30-2016, 03:48 PM   #2
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Bob,

I don't think your 6w solar panel is going to keep up with the parasitic draw. If you have been getting the crazy weather that we've been getting in Southern BC, with the clouds and rain every few days a 6w panel just won't cut it. If the camper is shaded for part of the day that reduces the output further.

If you can pop those switches, that you think are for the tank heaters, you can check them for continuity. Your multi-meter will give you an alert when the switch is closed and nothing when the opened.

I'm by no means an electrician, but as an old biker who's best before date has long since passed, I learned to love my multi-meter, the more you use it, the more usefull it becomes.
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Old 07-30-2016, 05:14 PM   #3
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Even when the tank heater switched are on, they are SUPPOSED to be on unless the temperature drops to whatever their threshold temp is. There are other parasitic draws as well on mine at least - the WiFi Ranger is always on, the backup camera is always on, and my external remote for the garage stereo as always on until I installed a switch in line with it.
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Old 07-30-2016, 10:33 PM   #4
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LP detectors, antenna amplifiers, stereos, fridge control board, etc. All can be a parasitic draw EVEN with the battery disconnect in the off position. Best bet is to pull a battery cable.

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Old 07-30-2016, 10:36 PM   #5
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LP detectors, antenna amplifiers, stereos, fridge control board, etc. All can be a parasitic draw EVEN with the battery disconnect in the off position. Best bet is to pull a battery cable.
Er, how does that work? Maybe your RV is miswired?
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Old 07-31-2016, 01:25 AM   #6
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6w is maybe enough to keep the batteries topped off with NO draw, i.e. otherwise disconnected completely from the coach. Rather than hunt down power vampires, put up 100+ watts of panels and just leave it on. I put up 4x100, which is overkill for just always on & ready to go, but recovers nicely during the day when you are boondocking at night. I would say go up to 50-100w and try that.
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Old 07-31-2016, 01:32 AM   #7
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Er, how does that work? Maybe your RV is miswired?
Quite a few things are wired directly to the battery, LP detectors because they are considered Life Safety, that one may be required by code. The other stuff because they are lazy and can't wire things properly. I know that on many units they wire the slide motors direct too.

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Old 08-02-2016, 04:21 PM   #8
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Just checked mine: battery disconnect disconnects EVERYTHING inside the rig.

It doesn't disconnect the generator starter.
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Old 08-02-2016, 09:42 PM   #9
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Just checked mine: battery disconnect disconnects EVERYTHING inside the rig.

It doesn't disconnect the generator starter.
That is what the wiring on mine looks like, but I didn't think that would draw any just sitting in the lot. I will disconnect the positive terminal this time and see how that does.
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Old 08-02-2016, 09:45 PM   #10
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Bob,

I don't think your 6w solar panel is going to keep up with the parasitic draw. If you have been getting the crazy weather that we've been getting in Southern BC, with the clouds and rain every few days a 6w panel just won't cut it. If the camper is shaded for part of the day that reduces the output further.

If you can pop those switches, that you think are for the tank heaters, you can check them for continuity. Your multi-meter will give you an alert when the switch is closed and nothing when the opened.

I'm by no means an electrician, but as an old biker who's best before date has long since passed, I learned to love my multi-meter, the more you use it, the more usefull it becomes.
Jim, We have actually had quite a bit of sun since I installed the panel on Memorial Day weekend. My wife was upset at the price of the 6w panel, I am not sure I can get her to upgrade me to a 100w panel.
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Old 08-02-2016, 09:46 PM   #11
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Home depot sells grape solar panels quite reasonable price

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Old 08-03-2016, 03:56 PM   #12
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A 6 watt panel can output maybe 0.5A under ideal conditions. As pointed out already, this probably isn't even going to keep up with parasitic draws. Although I see that you engage a battery disconnect that disconnects everything 12V except generator starter. I don't have a generator so I have no idea what happens there, but an electric remote start sounds to me like it would have a continuous parasitic draw as it waits for a "turn on generator" signal. Also, if everything 12V is disconnected does that mean your solar panel is disconnected as well?

I have no idea what a 6 watt panel costs, but shopping online will show that 100+ watts of solar is not all that expensive. I have 2 of these Cynergy 12V 140 watt panels that are now on sale for $112 each. You'll also need a controller and wiring and mounting hardware, so add another $100 in stuff plus shipping costs. So for roughly $250 you can have a 140 watt system that not only maintains but actually recharges as well. I would spec one panel per battery which would obviously impact the overall cost of project if you've got multiple batteries.
https://www.solarblvd.com/product_in...bbe90c65b8e75b
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Old 08-03-2016, 04:35 PM   #13
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That is what the wiring on mine looks like, but I didn't think that would draw any just sitting in the lot. I will disconnect the positive terminal this time and see how that does.
I can't see how the generator starter would draw anything unless you have some power management system with generator auto start (I don't).

Is your solar wired directly to the battery? If not, it's not going to do any good if you engage your battery disconnect.
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Old 08-03-2016, 04:36 PM   #14
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Home depot sells grape solar panels
Are they purple?
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Old 08-03-2016, 06:36 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by joebedford View Post
I can't see how the generator starter would draw anything unless you have some power management system with generator auto start (I don't).

Is your solar wired directly to the battery? If not, it's not going to do any good if you engage your battery disconnect.
Depends on the type of remote start system. Mine is manual so no draw.

If solar is wired correctly is should bypass the disconnect. All units I have ever had with any type of solar connection it has done just that. My current unit has a plug on the outside for connecting portable solar panels, they will charge battery even with the switch off.

FWIW I use the Renogy 100 watt suitcase system, it will give me close to 6 amps in full sun. It is enough to top my batteries up after a night of furnace use.

Solar ain't cheap, but neither are generators...

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Old 08-04-2016, 02:44 PM   #16
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Thanks for all of the advice and replies. I was slightly off on my stats, I installed a 10 watt 6 amp kit from Zamp, link below:

Zamp KICKER 10 Watt 6 Amp Solar Battery Maintainer

I installed the panel on the front AC cover, ran the power cable through the sewer vent for the washer and dryer, into the basement, then into the battery/generator compartment. The control box is mounted to the wall and it is wired directly into the battery. My positive terminal has the leg for the unit (into the cut off), the positive solar leg, and the generator leg. The same is mirrored on the negative terminal with a unit ground, negative solar leg, and generator ground line.

I am not sure how the generator works. I can turn it on from my phone or inCommand system when the unit is powered up. I typically end up jumping it off of my wife's car to get power to the unit out of storage.

Sounds like I need a bigger panel. I will figure out what my control box will handle. We do have quite a few overcast days up here. It may be that whatever is drawing down my battery is also directly drawing off of the panel.
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Old 08-04-2016, 03:28 PM   #17
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The panel can produce 10 watts max, the controller can handle 6 amps. But 10 watts / 18 V = 0.6 A which is the most amps your battery will ever see out of that panel. 18V is about what typical 12V nominal panels run at, the controller then clips it so that your batteries don't overcharge (Pulse Width Modulation, or PWM). I'm guessing the 6 amp controller is whatever was cheapest for Zamp to acquire and include with the panel. But it does mean you could add more panels in parallel and stay within the controller max rating. Or ditch the 10 watt zamp panel and replace it with one bigger 12V panel. No data that I can see on the controller specs, but you could estimate that it can handle about 80-100 watts of input power (6 A * 18 V = 108 watts, you want to leave some safety margin though). Maxing out that controller capacity would match up well for a single battery setup. I have not read how many batteries you are trying to charge/maintain. See if you can dig up some specs or a manual for that controller to see how it operates. If it isn't a smart charger with 3 or 4 stage charging, then it isn't worth building around. Stages are usually bulk, absorption, float, and equalize. At this small of a controller, I doubt there is an equalize feature though.

Solar Blvd 12V panels.
https://www.solarblvd.com/index.php?cPath=1_269

80 watt panel
https://www.solarblvd.com/product_in...oducts_id=2676

100 watt panel
https://www.solarblvd.com/product_in...oducts_id=2666
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Old 08-04-2016, 03:37 PM   #18
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HD has 100W panels for $109 & free shipping to home or store as well

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Old 08-04-2016, 04:39 PM   #19
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6 Amp PWM Waterproof Solar Charge Controller - ZS-6AW
http://zampsolar.com/newsite/wp-cont...10/ZS-6-AW.pdf
Found a manual. It calls it a 3 stage, but the manual does not discuss a float stage. Looks more like a 2 stage with bulk and absorption stage. Bulk stage means the controller lets current flow unimpeded from the panel to the battery until the battery voltage reaches the setpoint. The 14.8V setpoint is pretty good for wet batteries, lots of small controllers fix that at too low at like 14.4V. After bulk stage comes absorption stage where the controller tapers the current so that the battery voltage stays at 14.8V. Ideally it would drop to a float stage (13.2-ish V) after completing an absorption stage, but based on what I see in the manual it just continues with absorption stage until you run out of daylight or put a load on the battery.
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Old 08-04-2016, 06:33 PM   #20
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Bob,

The question is revolving around the solar, but what about the battery. Have you checked on it's health. If there is a bad cell or two, you can charge it for a month and it'll still be dead.
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