Something Wonky Going On

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Headache

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I'm not positive but to me something isn't right.  Please have patience with me as I'm not good with the technical details. 

What I have:

150 watts solar suitcase
10 amp charge controller
That 12 volt meter that plugs into the cig plug
That battery Wal-Mart sells and from the looks of it is the 2 year one and I've had my van for a year. 

I noticed about mid-February that occasionally my 12 volt dash fan would pick up speed.  Nothing appeared out of the ordinary on the meter so I chalked it up to my ignorance of charge cycles.  However, over time its occuring more often and today I saw the meter I have plugged into a 12 volt receptacle spike up over 15 a few times.  I remember people talking about 15 being bad so I unplugged my panels and things settled down. 

I noticed that the charge controller stays on all the time.  For some reason I thought when the panels were unplugged it wouldn't be on anymore.   The gauge on my dash never acts weird and when I'm driving nothing strange occurs. 

Numbers on the charge controller:

21 Celsius 
15 (Don't have my manual handy and forgot what this was)
E0 - No error codes
12.4  this is interesting because the meter plugged into the 12 volt which is wired to the battery shows 12.6.

Those are the numbers with panels unplugged.  The weirdness seems to occur AFTER all my stuff is charged.  My fan is plugged in and blowing and I may have my phone plugged in still but otherwise there is no heavy draw going on. 

Oh yeah I forgot about this until just now!  Another weird thing that happened and this only happened once; I was charging my phone but instead of going up it was going DOWN!  Like the juice was being sucked out of it.  The meter showed something weird too but I can't remember what it showed.  As soon as I unplugged the phone everything settled down.  I've charged it several times since without issues. 

That's about all I can give for info. 

Please be kind and dumb it down for me and please don't post if it isn't topical or relevant. Thank you.
 

safarivan

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12v fans alerted me to voltage problems too

what specific charge controller are you using? you should get a decent voltmeter kit for mounting in the dash or somewhere easy to keep check of and wire it directly to the battery. then double check it together with as many handheld voltmeters and the ones your using now. not all are accurate.

Im pretty sure the 12vdc system cant suck power from the phone but smartphone have their on wonky stuff going on so it may seem that way.
 

safarivan

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didnt know there even was a SCC available for $15 and it has a digital readout too. it will stay on as long as it has power from battery or sun. you could place on/off switches inline to turn it off completely without pulling wires out.

if your battery is a wet cell (hold water) then 15v is not fatal. thats equalizing voltage. If it goes to +16v then you have a faulty SCC for sure.

keep an eye on it (or ear with the fan on) and when it happens, let it go and see how long it peaks into 15v

a few seconds would be OK even a few minutes (on a wet cell) but anything more than a few minutes you will have to start replacing the water in the battery.

if it goes above 17v at all, definitely unplug it immediately and get a new controller (SCC) and preferably something with some sort of reputation outside amazon.

go ahead and check the water level in your battery anyway though since it may have been going high while you were not watching it.
 

Canine

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The core problem is you are using craptastic equipment. Yes, that is a hard comment, but when you use the cheapest, worst stuff on the planet, of course you are going to have problems. Guaranteed.
 

Weight

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The dash gauge will not see the panel input. I doubt the small solar panel can put enough amps to harm a lead acid battery. It is normal to find 15 volts from a panel. The controller you have is not very good. Can you check the water level in your battery. "Cooking" off the water is the main problem with high charging rates.
You need to learn about multi-meters and how they can be used.
 

DLTooley

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What you are seeing is voltage change. The changes you are seeing should only happen when the panels are connected and the light is varying, on a partly cloudy day.

I have a previous generation of controller in that class, it has worked well, but not optimally, for many years. The attempt to put a display on it at this price point may have led to quality problems in other areas.

Things like this are a great way to begin to educate yourself in detail about your system. Give the voltmeter a try, and you can use van speed to estimate voltage!
 

Headache

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I need education not ridicule so if you're only going to invalidate the hours I spent trying to decide what to buy please post elsewhere.  Would you have been more impressed if I had posted this link?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F5WFK5C/

I was told numerous times don't buy a $6 dollar controller so I bought what I could afford that had decent reviews.  I looked for hours until pulling the trigger on one but if you want to buy me better that would be more productive than reminding me how broke I am.

Not only that I posted that I thought that was it and couldn't check for sure at the time. 

I already stated I don't understand meters.  Isn't that good enough? Why do I have to justify this?   I don't "have" to learn what I don't comprehend but I'll adjust my sig so I don't have to repeat myself. 

I didn't post about the dash gauge regarding the panels.  It was in regard to the vehicle charging system in general. 

Thank you safarivan.  It's only at 15 for not even a second at most.   I just found it strange it would do that after all my stuff was charged. And yes my battery is lead acid. I know its not designed for this so I watch and listen like a hawk. I'm not sure roadside assistance will bring me a fairly priced deep cycle!

I had assumed once it kicked down into the low 13s it was in float.   I've watched it do that before and would take about 3 days before it stayed still if I didn't plug anything in to be charged.   I'm the kind of person that notices subtle changes and if they progressively continue and/or escalate I assume something is wrong.
 

safarivan

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it may also have those very brief fluctuations when its fully charged up and then you turn something on. then it might go back into charging mode again.

see if you can download the manufacturers specs somewhere. thats one of the reasons I hesitate to buy stuff off amazon, very often the tru manufacturer brand name is omitted and so if the specs are not in the ad, you cant really find them unless you buy first and sometimes it turns out you wouldnt have had you had more info to go on.
 

John61CT

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You don't seem unintelligent, when you can afford to get a $30 meter, you'll be able to learn how to use it very easily.

That skill really isn't optional taking care of solar and DC gear, and will pay off economically in a short time.

Best of luck!
 

Canine

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If all you can afford is stuff that is fundamentally flawed as it comes out of the factory, that is what you can afford. That isn't ridicule. That doesn't mean you are stupid. What that means is when you buy fantastically cheap stuff, you are going to have problems- that is a verifiable fact. If you want to spend your money trying to fix what probably can't be fixed, that's your choice. If you want to truly fix the fundamental problem, purchase equipment that will work. Frankly, I'm not going to invest my time in trying to fix your mess that you want to treat symptomatically. Focus on the core issue, and I'll be one of the most giving people you will meet. I won't enable this mess you created for yourself. You mean well and I don't think you are stupid, but you made a poor choice. We have all done that. Heck, I still do it from time to time.

Try not to beat yourself up or other people. We are here for you with real answers and real solutions. Solar that works ain't cheap. It doesn't have to be exorbitant, but it isn't cheap.
 

Trebor English

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Headache, I too have a cheap solar system. This is www.CHEAPrvliving.com so this is a good place to ask for assistance. My system is a single 100 watt panel and a cheap PWM controller. I don't have a separate battery. The 75 amp hour starter battery is it. I don't have a jump start battery pack and haven't been stuck with a dead battery.

My opinion is that making a low cost system work requires paying attention because things will go wrong. Oh, expensive systems have things go wrong too but I don't know about that. So you have to notice that something changed, figure out what's wrong, and then make it right. Step1, you noticed.

Is your Walmart battery wired to the car electric system for charging? Sometimes they are, sometimes not.

If you send me PM questions I can answer and you can avoid responses like fundamentally craptastic. With the right questions and answers I think your 15 volts can be figured out.
 

safarivan

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Canine said:
If all you can afford is stuff that is fundamentally flawed as it comes out of the factory, that is what you can afford.

these issues are not limited to cheap equipment. I bought two of the most recommended SCControllers for RVs by Morningstar corporation, one of the biggest names in this field, that are much worse than his $15 special.

I wrote a fairly well detailed report on here: https://vanlivingforum.com/showthread.php?tid=30113


that 'poor choice' he made is probably safer on batteries than this $200 (at the time) highly regarded morningstar controller https://www.amazon.com/MorningStar-SunSaver-SSD-25RM-Remote-Meter/dp/B002MR2NO0

just sayin'
 

Canine

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safarivan, My statement about cheap equipment wasn't meant to be an absolute statement. Yes, some expensive equipment will fail when it shouldn't and customer service will jerk you around. Conversely, there is cheap equipment that will work far beyond it's life expectancy. I had a novelty flashlight that last for over 30 years, but that doesn't mean that all novelty flashlights will keep working for decades. You're lucky if they work for a year. Mine was literally probably the only flashlight of it's kind that was still functioning. Just because you can find anomalies in performance doesn't mean that entire line is definitively defective or definitively superior.

That being said, good equipment will far and away out perform cheap equipment.
 

highdesertranger

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first off headache is a she not a he. second anymore disparaging post towards her will be deleted and the poster will get warning points. highdesertranger
 

Headache

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safarivan said:
it may also have those very brief fluctuations when its fully charged up and then you turn something on. then it might go back into charging mode again.

Nope, just with my phone and/or the fan already plugged in.  Nothing else.  It's doing it while the fan is running and my phone is at 100%.
 

Headache

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Weight said:
I tried to give you advice. What you see with the solar is not abnormal. Your reaction to advice is.

Your "advice" that I up and learn meters after I clearly stated I could not isn't helpful.  It's invalidating.  Your reaction to my standing up for myself is insulting however, I did change my sig so that those such as yourself might cut me some slack since my simply stating that I can't understand them isn't good enough for you.  I'll stop there before HDR spanks me and he will because he's done it before...he also knows me too well.
 

Headache

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Trebor English said:
So you have to notice that something changed, figure out what's wrong, and then make it right.  Step1, you noticed.

Is your Walmart battery wired to the car electric system for charging?  Sometimes they are, sometimes not.  

If you send me PM questions I can answer and you can avoid responses like fundamentally craptastic.  With the right questions and answers I think your 15 volts can be figured out.

Naw Trebor lets keep this out here because it may help someone else.  I can handle the....err, better not.  At any rate I was a truck driver for 15 years.  I can handle it.  One thing I do is stand up for myself.  Some people don't know how to cope with that.

Yep, I'm playing roulette with my vehicle charging battery.  I didn't have issues with my previous van but it had the bigger alternator and a good deep cycle.  Nothing ever happened with that and I played on my laptop for sometimes 5-10 hours and I didn't have solar.  This one doesn't have the nice upgrades but does have solar so when I noticed things were different I want to know what they are.

I'm assuming that for now I charge my crap then unplug the panels until I know what's wrong.  Or come to the library like I did now to charge. I'll go get an oil change soon and make sure they check the battery. At least it starts easily. Nothing in the way it performs leads me to believe anything is wrong until after I'm done charging my stuff and it appears it's in float. Then the mayhem kicks up.
 

cyndi

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Headache, I am so sorry for some of these responses. I memorized my solar handbook. Didn't understand a thing, but I could recite it cover to cover.

I hope someone can help.
 

Canine

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Well, you are where you are, so let's work with that. I'm not well versed on lithium, but perhaps if the battery is worn out and needs to go, would a small lithium battery with a BMS be a suitable replacement? The BMS would keep the battery from being overcharged- or does it not work that way with her setup?
 
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