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Old 03-02-2010, 11:32   #1
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Solar Panel Not Charging

My solar panel doesn’t seem to be charging my batteries. I checked the meter that is at the navigation table and it also is showing nothing going to the batteries. I have turned everything off and still no charge.

I am going to clean all of the electrical connections starting at the panel and come forward. Any other ideas that might help this situation other than new panels?
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:53   #2
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Remind the Admiral that the Solar Panels are not a suitable drying rack for sheets & towels etc.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:59   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Remind the Admiral that the Solar Panels are not a suitable drying rack for sheets & towels etc.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:47   #4
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check the easy stuff first...

If you could, first check the blocking diodes where the wires come out of the panels, I had a diode go bad for some reason and the panels quit outputting and it took me a day to find the issue.
Just a thought.
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Old 03-02-2010, 13:01   #5
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I had a similar problem and this is what I did....After checking your wiring, at the solar panel, check to see if your panel is putting out juice. It should range to about 17 vdc, depending on how much sun light is on it. If you have voltage, then check the in coming wires from the panel where they connect the charge controller. If you have juice, then connect your meter to the outgoing terminal that connects wires that lead to batteries. (note you would need to temporarily disconnect these wires from the charge controller, otherwise you would be reading voltage from the batteries instead of the output of the charge controller. This test should tell you if either your panel or controller is working, if both are showing juice, then I would check again all your wiring, including your meter.
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Old 03-02-2010, 13:21   #6
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New panels won't help if the problem is not in the panels. Before you even clean anything, start with a multimeter and check for voltage at the panels, and then every connection forward of them. It is possible, especially if your panels are not intended for marine use, that the contacts on the panels themselves have failed. That's usually not repairable, but some makers have warranties as long as 25 years, so if the panel has failed, check your warranty.
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:20   #7
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I mads some tests and am confused. But that is easy to do. I am not good at all with electrical problems so I have made a lot of tests and hope someone will be able to help.

I noticed that it was not charging my batteries and in two instances had trouble starting the engine.

Observation:
I tested the battery and it shows +12.22 volts when touching the battery terminals

When I test the disconnected wire leaving the battery that goes to the panel, about a foot from the battery I get -12.22 volts. This one is still attached to the battery but not to the panel.

I test the wire going to the panel, while it is disconnected from the battery and I get -16.90

Still with the wire going to the panel I disconnect it by the panel and of course it shows no reading. Disconnected from both the battery and panel.

I test the wire while disconnected from the battery that goes to the panel, about a distance of a foot from the panel at the stern of the boat and it reads -16.90.

I tested a circuit on the boat where there is a plug like the car type connection for a cigarette lighter, I get +12.22 reading on the house circuit.

When I test I am connecting the red and black wires on the meter to the wires I am testing only. Is it that the meter is not grounded causing the negative readings?

Also I am assuming that it is the panel that is bad, could it be that my batteries are not holding a charge and the panel is working properly?

When I was running the engine, the volt meter on the boat read +7.8 volts. When the motor was not running it was negative, something small. this was before I disconnected the solar panel. I was generally able to have some + volts before when the panel was charging.

Thanks
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:42   #8
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" Is it that the meter is not grounded causing the negative readings?" No, a multimeter is never grounded per se. The only thing that matters is that BOTH leads are connected properly.

If you could restate a few of the tests above, indicating where BOTH of the leads were placed...I don't want to make any assumptions on them.

But my first assumption is that you've just got the polarity of something wired up backwards, or there's something connected up wrong in your wiring, because it sounds like the battery, versus the solar panels, has somehow been wired up so the panels are putting reverse polarity into the system. Which would prevent them from charging, and reduce system voltage at the same time. And, possibly, damage electronics if it continued.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:43   #9
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Please be sure to disconnect ALL shore power before you start digging around just to be sure you don't touch the wrong wire and cook yourself. It's a good idea to remove your jewelry too. Even 12 volt can make that stuff very hot if you short something through yourself.

12.22 is battery voltage. 16.90 is what the panel is putting out. If your volt meter is showing a discharge when everything is off you have a leakage somewhere in your system. Connections are the usual culprit for no power getting from point A to point B. When you show a - or a + on your meter it just means you have reversed the probes red probe on black wire. I would suggest you disconnect the wires from the charge controller going to the battery at the battery and test to see if the panel is getting juice through the controller. If not check at the controller out side to rule out the wires from controller to battery and so forth back to the panel.

I think you panel is ok since you read 16.90 at some point which is about right.

The negative reading at the voltmeter worries me. It might be something simple like a light left on in some out of the way place or a bilge pump switch that stuck in the on position. Check everything you can reach and if possible disconnect each thing and check the voltmeter with every disconnection to see if the - goes away.

Have fun, be careful............m
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:52   #10
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cantx mentions bilge pump...which jogs a memory. Has the bilge pump or bilge pump switch been rewired at some point? Since a bilge pump often is hooked up directly, bypassing the master power switches, and the wiring from battery to switch (with dual modes, manual and auto) to pump is often deceptively simple...That's a point where is would be easy to get some connections crossed without noticing them.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:02   #11
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Panel voltage output does not mean much. It is possible for there to be a high impedence connection inside your panel and it will still produce voltage in a no load condition. This is kind of like a battery that has a poor connection between cells. It will show 12+ volts when measured with a voltmeter but as soon as you turn the key the voltage drops to almost nothing. There are two ratings on a panel. Open circuit voltage and short circuit current(sometimes stated as short circuit amperage). These should be shown on the panel somewhere. You will need an ammeter that is rated at the short circuit current or above to measure the current. Do this with the panel disconnected from everything and with the panel as close to perpendicular to the sun as possible. At this time of year in Grenada you won't get 100% of the rated voltage or current, but it should be within 10% on the voltageand 20% of the amperage rating. Don't worry about shorting the panel for a short period of time, these are not batteries and will not blow up if you do this. If you get the proper voltage and amperage then the panel is ok and the problem is elsewhere. If the Voltage is ok and the amperage is low, you have a high impedence connection inside the panel and it's time to see what you get with the warranty. I had a friend who just had this problem and he got a full replacement because his panels were lass that 10 years old. He did have to send his panels back to the manufacturer at his expense and pay for shipping of the new panels. If he had gone beyond 10 years on his 25 year warranty he would have recieved a prorated discount on the new panels. In that case it might heve been cheaper just to buy new panels considering the cost of shipping. The whole warranty process took about 3 months to resolve.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:02   #12
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Observation:
I tested the battery and it shows +12.22 volts when touching the battery terminals

When I test the disconnected wire leaving the battery that goes to the panel, about a foot from the battery I get -12.22 volts. This one is still attached to the battery but not to the panel.

The leads of the meter were contacting the wire coming off of the neg and positive terminals of the battery. I may have had the leads backwards as stated as a solution in the previous message. I will have to retest and switch. This wire is only foot from the storage batteries.

I test the wire going to the panel, while it is disconnected from the battery and I get -16.90

I then tested the wire that I had just disconnected from the battery and test the side going to the panel and it reads -16.9. Again maybe if I reverse the leads it will read 16.9. This is below deck.

Still with the wire going to the panel I disconnect it by the panel and of course it shows no reading. Disconnected from both the battery and panel.

I test the wire while disconnected from the battery that goes to the panel, about a distance of a foot from the panel at the stern of the boat and it reads -16.90.

To try and test the output of the panel I disconnect the wire about a foot before the panel and before the charge controller and test the wire. Again I get -16.9 but did not reverse the leads on the meter to see if it would change anything. This is up on deck next to the panel.

Is it possible that the panel is working but the batteries are not holding the charge? If that were the case, any idea why when I have the system charging I do not see on my volt meter on the nav table showing a positive charge going in like when I am charging wiht the engine? This is also when I have turned off the refrig.


Thanks for all of the help on this.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:09   #13
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Leave the negative lead from the solar panel connected to the battery.

Leave the negative lead from the meter connected to the negative terminal of the battery.

Measure the battery voltage It should be + 12 and change.

Measure the DISCONNECTED solar panel wire; it should be PLUS value NOT minus.

If it's indeed a minus voltage, you have the solar panel wired backwards.
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:15   #14
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Great way to bottom line it, Steve!
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Old 09-02-2010, 18:29   #15
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Just to add a little clarity. The black Negative probe from your meter should stay attached to the negative terminal on the battery. only disconnect the + wire of the solar panel from the battery. put the red lead from your meter to that + wire from the solar panel and see what reading you get.
Hope that helps a little.

Doug
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