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Old 12-09-2016, 04:11 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2005
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Solar Trickle Battery Charger

Hello Everyone:

Could I plug in a 5W solar panel trickle charger onto the trailer wiring system without having to run cables all the way directly to the batteries terminals?
This panel would be installed on the trailer's roof.

I noticed that some of these trickle chargers come with an optional plug for the car's cigarette lighter plug on the dash board. This got me confused; how does the charge flows to the batteries??

Many thanks,

Rupert
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Old 12-10-2016, 05:13 PM   #2
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1977 Argosy 28
Fallon , Nevada
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 45
Hi Rupert,
1. Lighter Socket: Whether or not the panel will charge through the lighter socket depends on whether it's normally connected to the battery or whether it's switched by the ignition switch. Most are switched through the ignition switch so this would do no good. My F-250 is my only vehicle that's not switched; it would work on the F-250.
2. If you have a lighter socket in the AS and it's live, you could plug into that. Otherwise, it would be best to connect directly into the battery. Yes, installation will be painful.
3. Make certain you don't have any loads connected to the battery that will sap its charge.
4. A 5W solar panel will make 1/2W, averaged over the length of a day in absolutely great conditions. The actual output depends on your local weather. It can keep your battery alive against self-discharge and that's about all.
5. Use a charge controller, preferably three-stage. Otherwise, it will try to overcharge your battery and ruin it just as much as if it was stored without a charger. Screwy Louie's Ace Hardware has the DelTran Battery Tender brand that looks like a good one and, at ~$80, the price beat buying new batteries frequently.
6. Also, cheap solar panels rarely have the boost-buck regulators that extract more energy from the panel. What this means is, the 5W rating only applies in a very narrow range of insolation that matches the panel's output to the battery's needs at that particular point in its charging cycle. So a bare 5W solar panel will really put out a lot less unless the battery's voltage and current are precisely matched to the panel's output; a very rare occurrence.

The easiest way I can see to install the panel would be to connect it to the hot wire between the AS and TV. Get a 7-way socket for your Air Stream's 7-way plug and wire the panel between ground and the constant- hot wire. At least that's what I'd do.

So, it sounds like a plan. Just don't expect a whole lot. It will probably save you from purchasing a new battery next spring but little more than that.
Best regards, Dave, the Scourge of the ION
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