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Old 10-25-2017, 06:11 PM   #1
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Atkinson Sun Explorer charge controllers

Abner Jenkins from Atkinson Electronics asked me to share this information, as a result of my questions about what I feel performance issues with the Sun Explorer solar system on my AI. I also asked about increasing my panels to 200 watts. Abner responded with this:

200 Watts of solar panel will equal about 14 Amps worth of current. The PVCM25D controller and PVDM4-LC display you have can handle up to 25 Amps worth of current so you will be fine with your current controller and display.

I would recommend coming off red wire on the controller, installing a 15 or 20 Amp blade style fuse, and going directly to the battery with a minimum 12 gauge wire.

Airstream puts a lot of connectors and switches between our controller and the batteries which can prevent the batteries from charging correctly.

I have attached a copy of the manual for Sun Explorer system which has some good drawings in it to show how to hook it up.

Another tip. The way our unit comes wired from Airstream when you turn the battery disconnect switch to storage it disconnects our unit. If you wire it directly to the positive terminal of your battery it should stay charged all winter, if it is stored outside. That is much better for the battery life.

You can reach Atkinson at AbnerJ@AtkinsonEl.com or 1-800-261-3602 ext. 7914 [Thank you Abner for your excellent customer service]
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Old 10-25-2017, 06:20 PM   #2
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Hi

In the real world, mounted flat on a MH or TT, you will be lucky to get much over 12A out of the 200W of panels.

Bob
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Old 10-25-2017, 09:53 PM   #3
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Victron on makes a wonderful solution that eliminates all the issues with the Atkinson controller . It fully charges a battery which the Atkinson doesn't. It also reads correctly which my atkinson didn't. And you can check the charge on your phone via Bluetooth. Well worth the change. Plus you get rid of the space the Atkinson took up on the panel.
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Old 10-25-2017, 09:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mhawke2 View Post
Another tip. The way our unit comes wired from Airstream when you turn the battery disconnect switch to storage it disconnects our unit. If you wire it directly to the positive terminal of your battery it should stay charged all winter, if it is stored outside. That is much better for the battery life.
Ummm....nope, at least not on the newer Interstates. When you switch the house power off, the solar is still connected to the batteries. The red wire from their charge controller is connected to the 12v bus, which in turn is connected to the batteries. You can easily verify this by switching the house power off and if you're lucky enough to have your Atkinson actually DO something, you'll see over 13v on the house batteries at the tank monitor panel. Check out my post on switching from the Atkinson to a MPPT controller and in one of the pics you can clearly see their red wire connected to the bus.

The only thing limiting the Atkinson's performance is the Atkinson.....
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Old 10-26-2017, 09:35 AM   #5
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Mr. Jenkins is just wrong and has likely not looked at an Interstate solar installation or a wiring diagram. Airstream has always connected solar controller output directly to batteries though a fuse. No switches or extra connectors involved. Get rid of the lousy cheap Atkinson controller and get a good MPPT controller. It is by far the best change you can make on any Interstate - can't understand why Airstream keeps using this piece of junk.
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Old 10-26-2017, 09:48 AM   #6
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Attached is wiring diagram of the main 12VDC layout from 2016 owners manual. It is a typical installation. The output of solar controller is red 12ga. wire direct to thermal fuse block then to heavier 2ga cable to BIM and then massive 1/0ga cable to batteries. That is likely less resistance than the 12ga through a blade fuse adapter to batteries. Installing a blade fuse will require at least two chirp connectors that are always problematic if not done right. Click image for larger version

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Old 10-26-2017, 11:14 AM   #7
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Hi

Be very careful of the AS wiring diagrams. It's a "trust but verify" sort of thing. Running changes get made. For whatever reason they don't always get into the manuals. That said, I have yet to run into any AS that did not have solar direct to the batteries.

Bob
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Old 10-26-2017, 03:16 PM   #8
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One word of warning on Sun controllers. If they are connected directly to the battery and the unit is not receiving any sun light the battery will back feed to the batteries as parasitic drain. I am not sure if the controller manufacturer ever changed that short coming.
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Old 06-22-2018, 07:00 PM   #9
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I Just bought a 2017 AS 23D and it seems like the factory installed charge controller (pvcm25d) is not making sense. I am a solar novice so I would appreciate your help. My batteries are “sealed lead acid”. The batteries are reading 12.55 volts at the terminals. The charge controller display kit is reading 12.4 volts and 80%. It has been like this for a week while parked outside. when I look under the front seat at the charge controller it has a red light on indicating that it is “charging” and it has a green light on indicating that it is “full.” The readings seems to be conflicting. Any ideas? Is it true that for sealed batteries 12.55 volts is full? If so, why the 80% reading? If not, why is the controller reading full and charging at the same time?
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Old 06-23-2018, 02:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kc-JE View Post
I Just bought a 2017 AS 23D and it seems like the factory installed charge controller (pvcm25d) is not making sense. I am a solar novice so I would appreciate your help. My batteries are “sealed lead acid”. The batteries are reading 12.55 volts at the terminals. The charge controller display kit is reading 12.4 volts and 80%. It has been like this for a week while parked outside. when I look under the front seat at the charge controller it has a red light on indicating that it is “charging” and it has a green light on indicating that it is “full.” The readings seems to be conflicting. Any ideas? Is it true that for sealed batteries 12.55 volts is full? If so, why the 80% reading? If not, why is the controller reading full and charging at the same time?
Attached is a battery charge level chart that shows voltage and % of charge in your battery.

This was given to me by the dealer this past winter when I added 200 watts of portable solar to our AI.

He said the % read outs on the displays are rarely accurate and the chart is a better indicator of the % left in your batteries.

You should have above 12.7 volts to be fully charged. My 220 amp hour 6 volts usually show 13.1 v!

You might want to take them and have them checked at a battery dealer to see their charge capabilities. Maybe they sat for awhile and drained down to 12.55v!

Good luck!
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Old 06-23-2018, 06:51 PM   #11
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I hope you realize that voltage chart is wrong if you have Lifeline AGM batteries. The must be at 12.8V or above for 100% and is temperature dependent.

Also voltage is not a good measure of charge state unless the batteries are at rest, with no loads applied. That normally requires disconnecting the batteries. Copy of voltage chart page from the Lifeline manual attached for reference.
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Old 06-24-2018, 09:42 AM   #12
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Hi

Worth repeating: It's temperature dependent.

The chart posted is for 77F. Go down real cold or real hot and the voltages are likely to be more than a half volt off from the 77 degree numbers.

Bob
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Old 06-24-2018, 02:31 PM   #13
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Thank you for the help. I am new to understanding electricity and really appreciate the assist.

I DO have Lifeline Sealed Batteries. It has been 90+ degrees here in the midwest. When you say that it is temperature dependent, what is dependent? And, dependent on what?

Any feedback on my other question - "why would the charge controller read "charging" and "full" at the same time.

Lastly, is there a point in the battery draw down which you do permanent damage to the battery? I was under the impression that it is ok to have a deep draw (below 50%) on a deep cycle battery.

Again, thanks for the help.
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Old 06-24-2018, 09:36 PM   #14
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Atkinson Sun Explorer charge controllers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kc-JE View Post
Thank you for the help. I am new to understanding electricity and really appreciate the assist.



I DO have Lifeline Sealed Batteries. It has been 90+ degrees here in the midwest. When you say that it is temperature dependent, what is dependent? And, dependent on what?



Any feedback on my other question - "why would the charge controller read "charging" and "full" at the same time.



Lastly, is there a point in the battery draw down which you do permanent damage to the battery? I was under the impression that it is ok to have a deep draw (below 50%) on a deep cycle battery.



Again, thanks for the help.

Hi Kc-JE,
Temperature dependence means when it's cold the batteries need a higher voltage to get charged and the voltage of a fully charged battery will be higher. The opposite happens when hotter - the charge voltage is lower and the fully charged voltage is lower. At 90 degF your fully charged batteries would show a voltage a couple 10ths less than 12.8. More like 12.5 or so.

I'm attaching the temperature dependence chart from the Lifeline manual, but it is for the basic 2 volt cell so the voltage values need to be multiplied by 6 to get the 12 volt values. That chart is for charging - so it only shows the relative change with temperature. I couldn't find a temperature chart for charge state.

Your solar charge controller reads charging and full at the same time because it is only a voltage reading. If you have read this entire thread you know my opinion of the junk Atkinson solar controller installed by Airstream.

Drawing the batteries down, even below 50% SOC does not damage the batteries. What damaging them is not recharging them very soon after drawing them, like the next day.

It sounds like you are depending on the solar system on your rig to keep your batteries charged. If that is true - your batteries will die an early death from the lack of proper charging by the Atkinson solar charger. The best way to mitigate this problem is to plug your trailer into shore power at least once a week.

What brand of inverter/charger does your trailer have? A Magnum would be best.

Hope this helps.
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