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Old 08-10-2015, 05:11 PM   #1
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2014 Interstate Ext. Coach
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No current from Interstate factory solar

My solar panel rarely produces any current. Most days, nothing. Every time I am in the van, I check the output. Literally 99% of the time, no current.

I have a 2014.5 Interstate van. It includes a factory solar system, with Ameresco 50W solar panel 50J and Sunexplorer PVCM25D/PVDM4-LC charge controller and display.

From time to time, every now and then, I'll see some current on the display. I've used the van 50 days in the past 6 months, and I think I've seen it produce current twice.

In bright sunlight, with sun directly overhead, no current.
With battery above or below 12.75V, no current.
With battery quite low, no current.
And then, one day, it will be producing. Then back to nothing the next 50 times (days) I look at it.

Since it works from time to time, it's not a fuse. For the past 12 months, the total output of the 50W panel, parked outside all day, is 120 AH. Total.

Does anyone think there is a way I might fix this myself? I am so tired of taking this Interstate back to the dealer.
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Old 08-10-2015, 05:45 PM   #2
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Are you plugged into shore power? It sounds like your solar controller has gone Tango Uniform. Call Robert Kendall at Atkinson Electronics 800-261-3602 and describe what you see. He is very helpful and after determining that mine was bad, sent me a new one free, no questions asked. Just wanted me to return the old one to him for failure analysis. YMMV

BTW it is easy to replace. It resides under the lounge on curbside near the BIM.
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Old 08-10-2015, 05:53 PM   #3
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Warranty time!
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Old 08-10-2015, 05:54 PM   #4
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P.S. The van spends most of its time NOT plugged in. I have to go out to the storage lot every ten days or so to plug it in for a couple of hours to keep the batteries up, which it what makes the missing solar power so annoying.
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Old 08-10-2015, 06:43 PM   #5
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Don't waste your time with the horrible electronics AS installed.
Replace the factory charge controller with a Morningstar. I replaced mine with a Prostar 30. What a difference. Bought in on Amazon. You can actually leave the old charge controller connected to the power so that the voltage readout on side will still work. Disconnect the Yellow wire coming into the old charge controller and the Green wire on the ground terminal and then feed them into the new one. Attach the output wires to ground and plus and its up and running. On my unit I moved the old charge controller to the bottom and used the old location for the new Prostar 30. I bought the one with the built in meter only so I could see the charge current, but its not necessary. I also set the setting to flooded even though I have AGMs. Now I actually have the right voltage and the batteries are always charged.

Good luck.
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Old 08-10-2015, 06:58 PM   #6
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There are many ways to upgrade your inefficient 50 watt solar charging system. Initially, you have a single stage charge controller (just like the trailers that have a single stage, constant voltage converter) that will NEVER charge your batteries properly, regardless of how many watts of solar you have on your roof. A digital, 3 stage solar charge controller will go a long way toward extending your battery life.

Next. with a small array, you certainly don't want to waste ANY of the voltage coming from that array. The way Airstream routes the charging wires has too much length for the wire gauge used to not show voltage drop, and there are far too many connections between the solar panels, charge controller and batteries to be really effective!

Finally, even 50 watts will, at best, give you a couple of amps (basically a trickle charge) into your batteries. Airstream uses Lifeline AGM batteries from the factory in the solar option. These batteries demand proper voltage and 3-stage charging for maximum longevity, which is 14.2-14.4VDC for the Bulk and Absorption charge and 13.2 VDC for the float charge. BTW, this is NOT THE SAME as using a liquid lead acid battery setting on a Morningstar controller!! That's why the AGM setting is available on the Morningstar controllers.

Any other voltages charging the Lifelines are not optimal, and will noticeably shorten their useful life.

If someone thinks that they have more knowledge or empirical data on better charge set points for use with Lifeline AGM batteries, perhaps they should offer their services to the factory!!
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Old 08-11-2015, 07:28 AM   #7
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When Lewster did a solar upgrade for me, it was discovered that my solar controller was not even properly connected. It was obvious that something was wrong, because my house batteries would not charge. Very similar to the issue you seem to be having. My suggestion is to get it looked at by a RV solar specialist


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Old 08-11-2015, 07:56 AM   #8
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Lew, what would a ball park low budget figure be for a 200 watt system be installed by you on a 2006 Safari 23? No commitment just a number to start thinking about.
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Old 08-30-2015, 10:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
There are many ways to upgrade your inefficient 50 watt solar charging system. Initially, you have a single stage charge controller (just like the trailers that have a single stage, constant voltage converter) that will NEVER charge your batteries properly, regardless of how many watts of solar you have on your roof. A digital, 3 stage solar charge controller will go a long way toward extending your battery life.

Next. with a small array, you certainly don't want to waste ANY of the voltage coming from that array. The way Airstream routes the charging wires has too much length for the wire gauge used to not show voltage drop, and there are far too many connections between the solar panels, charge controller and batteries to be really effective!

Finally, even 50 watts will, at best, give you a couple of amps (basically a trickle charge) into your batteries. Airstream uses Lifeline AGM batteries from the factory in the solar option. These batteries demand proper voltage and 3-stage charging for maximum longevity, which is 14.2-14.4VDC for the Bulk and Absorption charge and 13.2 VDC for the float charge. BTW, this is NOT THE SAME as using a liquid lead acid battery setting on a Morningstar controller!! That's why the AGM setting is available on the Morningstar controllers.

Any other voltages charging the Lifelines are not optimal, and will noticeably shorten their useful life.

If someone thinks that they have more knowledge or empirical data on better charge set points for use with Lifeline AGM batteries, perhaps they should offer their services to the factory!!
As a result of reading through many of these battery posts, I'm thinking of upgrading the solar controller /charger to a 3 stage. I won't be able to do it myself, so need to figure out 1)what kind specifically (e.g. is MPPT worth considering?); 2) which brand; 3) what type of dealer to look for to do it ... presumably NOT my local Airstream dealer.

Here's one link that I've been reading to get a better handle on the issues.

Solar Charge Controller Basics

Any other inputs Lew? You're obviously very knowledgeable about this topic, and get quite a few endorsements from the other posters.

Thanks for any info you can provide

Mark
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Old 08-30-2015, 01:40 PM   #10
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No current from Interstate factory solar

The basic problem is the small size of the 50 watt solar panel. An MPPT controller will not provide any benefit with lower wattage ( 100 watts or less) solar arrays over and above a basic PWM controller with adjustable charging output.

I would look at the lower end solar controllers from Morningstar for a better solution if you intend to keep your solar capacity at 50 watts.

OTOH, if you want to upgrade the solar charging system including enlarging the solar array, that presents a different scenario.




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Old 08-30-2015, 01:47 PM   #11
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I have the 100w solar, but it seems your advice would be the same

Any idea what kind of dealers / servicers I should look for? (e.g. RV service? Or solar companies?)

THANKS for your response
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Old 08-30-2015, 01:53 PM   #12
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Where are you located?


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Lifeline Batteries**Magnum Inverters
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Old 08-30-2015, 03:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
Where are you located?


Lew Farber
RVIA/RVDA Nationally Certified Master Tech
Master Tech Energy Systems, Inc.
AM Solar Certified Installation Center
Lifeline Batteries**Magnum Inverters
541-490-6357
Chicago My AI dealer is in Joliet, which is just 45-50 miles, but not sure they would be a good solar controller installer
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Old 08-30-2015, 04:35 PM   #14
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Give AM Solar a call to see if they have any experienced installers in your area. 1-541-726-1491


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Lifeline Batteries**Magnum Inverters
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