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Old 17-07-2013, 13:02   #1
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Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

This is a strange one:
I have 300 watts in solar panels running thru a Flexcharger NC25A with a 12 volt system. In the circuit I have an Amp Gauge to monitor the output of the panels. I also have another for monitoring my wind generator. They worked when first installed. Now I don't see a reading on either. I have tried connecting the meters both, before the voltage regulator & after. I can see voltage passing thru the gauges... but it doesn't read amps. As far as I know they quit at the same time as the boat was in storage for a couple of years.
I installed new gauges, but the problem is still there.
I admit, I'm not real savvy with solar or wind... But I don't understand where to look or what to do here... Any suggestions?
Thanks, Cal
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:12   #2
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Not totally clear on the situation so if I may, a few questions.

Have you ever been able to see amps in and out on the gauges?

Are you getting a charge from the solar panels but just unable to see the amps on the gauge?

Do you know how to set up a meter or gauge to read amps vs reading volts?

What kind of gauge do you have? Is this a battery monitor that shows battery voltage, amps in and out etc?
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:21   #3
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Yes... When I first installed the system everything worked fine. The amps would register very well.

Using a separate volt meter I see 16 to 17 volts from the solar panels.

The amp gauges are Blue Seas & only read amps. The voltage I get is with a multi-meter,
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:50   #4
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Some additional comments. Might be easier for you to diagnose your problem with a clearer understanding of how this works.

First voltage doesn't flow through a meter but amps do flow through the meter. Like measuring water in a plumbing system. Water does not flow through a water pressure gauge but pushes on the gauge. This is like voltage in an electrical system. Think of voltage as electrical pressure.

Measuring water flow like how many gallons per minute are going through a pipe, the water does go through the flow meter. This is like amps in an electrical system so you can think of amps as electrical flow.

So to read amps you have to make electricity flow through a meter or gauge. In simple terms that means you have to cut the wire and make the electricity go through the meter. In practical terms the amps are too much for most meters so you have to split the current, most through a shunt and just a little through the meter so you don't burn it up. The meter will be calibrated to adjust for the shunt.
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:53   #5
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

sounds to me like a current sensor circuit issue, you should send a note to the manufacturer to ask about "fixes"
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:57   #6
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoCoKnots View Post
Yes... When I first installed the system everything worked fine. The amps would register very well.

Using a separate volt meter I see 16 to 17 volts from the solar panels.

The amp gauges are Blue Seas & only read amps. The voltage I get is with a multi-meter,
I added some explanation in the previous post but to address this information specifically. Putting multi-meter leads on a system to show volts will not show amps. To read amps you have to make the electricity flow through the meter which means you have to disconnect a wire and hook the meter in the middle. Most meters read a max of 10 amps so don't do this unless you have a shunt.

Where in the system are you reading 16-17 volts? At the output of the solar panels? What do you read at the battery? Test this with the panels connected and disconnected to see if the voltage increases at the battery.

My first guess is your panels are not connected somewhere. Maybe a broken or loose wire, corroded connection, a switch turned off?

What you need to do is follow the wires from the solar panel all the way to the battery checking for good connections all the way.

Another thought, if you are seeing 16-17 Volts at the solar panel that also indicates to me that they aren't connected to the battery. The load of the battery on the solar panels would pull the volts down to around 13 Volts. Do you have the specs for the panels? What is the open circuit voltage or no load voltage of the panels, may be listed as Voc.

One more question, I assume you have a solar charge controller. Have you checked voltage in and out of the controller?
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:59   #7
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Ignore the question about the controller. I reread your OP and see you mention the Flexcharger.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:07   #8
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Alsi... I do Not know how to set the multi-meter to read amps.
Actually, I wasn't aware that you could do that. Do all hand held meters do that function ? I will need to check that out.
Thanks
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:24   #9
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

The 16-17 volts are confirmed at the connection at the solar panel. I chased the wires to the controller & the voltage is the same there too. I have not connected the wires to the controller yet. Wanted to make sure everything was ok before doing that.
Both the old gauges & the new replacements do not indicate amps when volts are passed thru the circuit. Originally, I placed the amp gauges between the controller & the solar panel. I thought that would be a true indicator of the panel performance.
Is this incorrect ?
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:24   #10
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

I'm thinking like skip: Pilot error. If these are self-contained amp meters that don't use an external shunt, are you hooking them up inline, in series with the circuit? Or hooking them up "across" the lines, the same as a voltmeter?

It would be odd for two to both fail at the same time, easy to forget how to reinstall them.

Analog meters? digital? Details might help.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:27   #11
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Hello Sailor,
The meters are Analog and placed inline (interrupt the pos. lead) for the current to flow thru them.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:28   #12
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

I originally thought they had both fail due to an electrical short or lightning strike while the boat was in storage.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:34   #13
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoCoKnots View Post
Alsi... I do Not know how to set the multi-meter to read amps.
Actually, I wasn't aware that you could do that. Do all hand held meters do that function ? I will need to check that out.
Thanks
I don't think all multi-meters will read amps and some will only read very low amps. Typical good quality meters read max of 10 amps. If you need to check more than that you need to add a shunt.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:37   #14
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

skip-
You can buy an inline analog ammeter that reads up to 60A, maybe 70A. I've met them. On multi-meters...yes, 2A is the common limit and 10A the common max. While some will go higher, most will very quickly blow an internal fuse (that can't be replaced locally) under any real load. Probably cheaper simpler to buy the new inline analog ammeter.

Coco-
Well, at least the simple inline analog ones are simple to troubleshoot and cheap to replace. Could be there are spidernests or other critter stuff inside jamming them (or rust) and they just need a judicious bang to get unstuck. But it sounds like you know how they should be installed, and they've just gone belly-up while in storage. May be quicker and simpler to just replace them.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:41   #15
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Re: Solar Panels w/Amp Gauges

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoCoKnots View Post
The 16-17 volts are confirmed at the connection at the solar panel. I chased the wires to the controller & the voltage is the same there too. I have not connected the wires to the controller yet. Wanted to make sure everything was ok before doing that.
Both the old gauges & the new replacements do not indicate amps when volts are passed thru the circuit. Originally, I placed the amp gauges between the controller & the solar panel. I thought that would be a true indicator of the panel performance.
Is this incorrect ?
Sorry but I'm still confused. Very important for trouble shooting for you to understand volts and amps. Volts are electrical pressure. You can have volts with no amps. Like a sealed bottle of soda water. There is a lot of pressure in that bottle but no water is flowing anywhere. This is like a battery sitting disconnected on a table. You can get a meter and see lots of volts but there is no current until you have wires connected to the battery.

Current/amps is electricity flow. Like water flow. You must have a complete circuit to get electric flow. You say you haven't connected the wires to the controller? If I understand this then you cannot get any amps (current flow) until you connect the controller. You can see volts all day long but all the wires have to be hooked up to get amps.
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