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Solar Battery Chargers


Jemstone

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We travel six months of the year, returning home to Glendale, Arizona from November to the end of April. Our home side yard has enough room to back our Volvo 730 behind a large, locking gate. I would like to use solar chargers to maintain the batteries, though the four batteries may require too much power. The truck's back deck is large enough to lay out some solar panels, which could be channeled to the batteries.

 

My electronic skills consist of not having electrocuted myself, yet, so I appreciate any suggestions about specific chargers or what amount of power is needed. If it's a poor idea it's better to know now than many dollars later.

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If it's a poor idea it's better to know now than many dollars later.

 

It's a great idea!

 

How much solar you would need, and subsequent charger, would depend on application and the size and capacity of your batteries. Ie., if you only want to 'maintain' a fully charged battery while in storage, then you won't need much.. vs.. if you want the solar charger to be able to 're-charge' the batteries, you would be looking at a much more substantial investment.

 

Most critical either way though would be knowing the type and capacity of your batteries.

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John,

 

We had the same need with almost the same truck. Was using my WalMart battery charger and that's not good for the batteries on a regular basis. We installed a 50W Renogy solar panel on the truck roof and a VicTec controller in the driver's side cabinet. Painted the solar panel frame same color as the truck. When you stand far enough back you can barely see it if you know what you're looking for. So far, works well at keeping the batteries up to charge, balancing the parasitic loads of the various Volvo systems.

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John,

 

Faced the same issues at my previous storage facility. Had parasitic draw I tried to isolate and no electricity available for charger. My solution was a Blue Seas battery cut off switch on the main cables (~$45) and a 15 watt solar powered BatteryMinder that I sat on dash. ($160 ). Panel was easy to store when not in use. Seemed to work for me as my batteries maintained charge. Don't think 15 watts would be adequate if you don't isolate some of the parasites but I could be wrong. Like you, I can barely keep from electrocuting myself.

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For a turnkey charging system that meets your needs look at the Battery Minder Solar charger. I highly recommend the BatteryMinder. It will put a good charge on your batteries and routinely desulfate them.

 

If you look at the specs of their charger/maintainer you will see you can use a higher watt solar panel. If you want to proceed that way, or custom build your own system, let me know and I can answer your questions.

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We have a 30 watt panel mounted on our Volvo and it maintains the batteries. In fact the cheap controller had to be changed because it was keeping the voltage to high. Even this time of year in AZ the batteries are always charged. By noon the new controller has reduced the voltage to a maintenance level. Shading and angle of the panels can make a big difference. In AZ our parking area leaves the panel tilted slightly west and flat. In the winter the panels would gather more sun if tilted south.

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For a turnkey charging system that meets your needs look at the Battery Minder Solar charger. I highly recommend the BatteryMinder. It will put a good charge on your batteries and routinely desulfate them.

 

If you look at the specs of their charger/maintainer you will see you can use a higher watt solar panel. If you want to proceed that way, or custom build your own system, let me know and I can answer your questions.

I have the battery minder that Jack references with a set of 45 watt panels from Harbor Freight and it has maintained my bank of 4 batteries with no problems for the past 3 years. I bought the panels on sale cheap.

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For a turnkey charging system that meets your needs look at the Battery Minder Solar charger. I highly recommend the BatteryMinder. It will put a good charge on your batteries and routinely desulfate them.

 

If you look at the specs of their charger/maintainer you will see you can use a higher watt solar panel. If you want to proceed that way, or custom build your own system, let me know and I can answer your questions.

Thanks Jack, for this info and the website link. I have a few Battery Minders, but all hooked to shore power when used. One question I have. Is it OK to put load on batteries when connected to Battery Minder? So far, I have not done this. Thanks for any help?

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Thanks Jack, for this info and the website link. I have a few Battery Minders, but all hooked to shore power when used. One question I have. Is it OK to put load on batteries when connected to Battery Minder? So far, I have not done this. Thanks for any help?

I don't see any reason why you could not. Just bear in mind that the Battery Minder does not put a lot of charge on the batteries. So your load size would have to account for that. If you are going to heavily load the batteries - say running a refrigerator all the time - than I'd be looking at a small conventional solar setup - with a PWM charger that will give you more output than the very small system that BatteryMinder sells. If you want me to spec a DIY system for you I can do that. But it will require that YOU install it. And it will be far more costly than the small Battery Minder system.

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I don't see any reason why you could not. Just bear in mind that the Battery Minder does not put a lot of charge on the batteries. So your load size would have to account for that. If you are going to heavily load the batteries - say running a refrigerator all the time - than I'd be looking at a small conventional solar setup - with a PWM charger that will give you more output than the very small system that Battery Minder sells. If you want me to spec a DIY system for you I can do that. But it will require that YOU install it. And it will be far more costly than the small Battery Minder system.

 

Thanks again Jack. I was just wondering if I could start a vehicle without disconnecting the battery minder. Sounds like I can. Don't need a system spec'd yet, but thanks for the offer.

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I was just wondering if I could start a vehicle without disconnecting the battery minder. Sounds like I can.

 

You probably wouldn't want to do that. Running a load off of the batteries while connected is just fine (lights, small 12v devices, etc.), but turning the engine over will likely fry (or fuse if in-line) your battery minder from the current coming from your rigs alternator.

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You probably wouldn't want to do that. Running a load off of the batteries while connected is just fine (lights, small 12v devices, etc.), but turning the engine over will likely fry (or fuse if in-line) your battery minder from the current coming from your rigs alternator.

I agree - I would not run it with the batteryminder active. I HAVE done that with the 120V plu-in one, though, with no ill effect, but I don't think it is a good habit.

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John, I would get the larger charger that allows for a larger panel. I think it takes up to a 175 watt panel, but don't quote me on that...it may only be 150 watts.

 

I'll quote you on it.. and agree. With 4 cells I would go with the larger panel and 75-100 watts. For the cost it makes the most sense (aka. bang for your buck).

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