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  #11  
Old 03-07-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Stu-
I've got to disagree with your advice not to use dielectric grease. Yes, logically, you would be right. But in practice? B&H and some instrument companies actually SHIP the stuff and instruct customers to use it when making connections in their wiring.
In practice what happens is that you make a metal-to-metal contact when you make the connection, even with a screw terminal. The dielectric grease simply keeps water and air from penetrating to attack that metal to metal contact.
It works, and works so well that I won't make a connection without it, and have seen zero failures with it. Heck, if you look at "Gen-you-whine" Western Electric telco splices, the little "button" splaces that they use to connect 24G individual telephone wires? Those button splices are all SILICON FILLED for this purpose. MaBell didn't like doing remakes. (G)

Unlike the old standby of Vaseline, which conducts a little and migrates as it melts in the heat, the silicon dielectric grease (aka brake grease, light bulb grease, vacuum grease, ignition point grease) does a good job of staying put. Sold as "brake grease" for about $6/6oz tube that's usually not quite as thick but way cheaper than buying Ancor brand at the same price for a half ounce.

Copa-
With just a voltmeter...you actually can check amperage, you just need to run the numbers for Ohm's low and use one carefully cut foot of cable or something similar as your measurement base. Basically, you insert the cable in the circuit you want to measure, and then carefully measure the voltage drop across that one foot of cable. If you know what the cable type is (copper, aluminum, gauge) you can look up the resistance, and the voltage drop will give you a good idea of the amperage going through it. That's actually the way ammeters work, except they'll use a "shunt" instead of the foot of cable.

But two 65W panels probably can be safely tested with a $20 multimeter if you find one (Walmart, Target) that has a 10A DC scale on it. Many do.

And if you've just got a 2A scale, there are ways to kludge that too.

Or you may get lucky and find the problem with what you've got.
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  #12  
Old 03-12-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
dialectric grease is an INSULATOR. Don't use it.
I agree and dissagree.

The grease IS an insulator. I know many people put it on the rubber sleeve of spark plugs and other rubber items for a lubricant that won't pass electricity. This also makes the use of it (in my opinion) on items like your raymarine cords or other data cords or low voltage item a poor choice.

However, when used where there is a strong mechanical connection, it is awesome. I think the leading cause for failure in marine electrical items is corrosion. By using the dielctric, you will reduce the potential for corrosion. I have used it for many years and will say that on items I use them on, I keep a good connection without corrosion failure. On the items I do not, I eventually get corrosion if exposed to the elements.

My experience,

Brian
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  #13  
Old 03-12-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

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Originally Posted by copacabana View Post
I have been noticing that my two 65w solar panels have been increasingly unable to charge my batteries. The batteries seem to charge fine with the alternator and hold a charge well (they are less than 2 years old). I am thinking that perhaps there is a corroded connection somewhere between the panels and the batteries. Before I start looking at every possible culprit, perhaps someone with more experience might know where to start looking first. I'm not exactly a McGyver with things electrical ...

Thanks in advance!
Well... how did it turn out?
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  #14  
Old 03-23-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
Well... how did it turn out?
Sorry for not getting back sooner. I spent 10 days aboard, sailing around the Paraty and Ilha Grande region of Rio and was having such a good time that I didn't bother looking into the problem! I'm going to take a day off in a week or so and go over every connection to check for corrosion. I have a good local electrician that I will bring along to keep me from frying things.

I will get back with the results soon.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Well, on Saturday I went down to the boat to see about the charging problem and after a few hours of testing and checking things and troubleshooting I discovered a loose connection from the controller to the positive bus (from where it would go to the battery). I cleaned and tightened the connection and it seems to have fixed the problem. I also cleaned up the negative connection as well. I will be certain all is working again when I next go to the boat. I expect to find the main battery bursting with 12.8 volts. If not, something could be still wrong, including the battery itself.

From this experience I realize that I really should have some sort of battery monitor to measure amps in and out (not just voltage). Is there a simple, reliable (and inexpensive) battery monitor you can recommend? FYI, my battery bank has one 180amp main house battery and a 70amp starter battery on its own battery switch. I may upgrade to two 180amp house batteries in the future. I would need a battery monitor that could handle two banks (starter / house). Any suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Not sure it's necessary to monitor the start bank.. as long as it gets charged, should be not an issue.

We're still using an old Link10 on the house bank, but there must be better/smarter stuff out there now. Have just installed an ACR (Blue seas) to look after charging start bank, and do not monitor its in-and-out.

On the house bank its really nice to know how much is 'in the tank'. Are you running refrig? 180A is pretty slim for that, but I guess your sunshine is more reliable than ours.
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  #17  
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Faster, I don't run the fridge off the batteries so it's just LED lights, radios and sometimes the tiller pilot hooked up to the windvane (when motoring). I mention adding another 180amp battery in the future as I will likely go to a 12v fridge when my propane one dies. I would also increase my solar array at that time. I agree about not needing to monitor the starter battery. I normally charge it up, isolate it and forget about it. I would like to keep a tab, however, on the "in and out" of the house bank. I don't need anything sophisticated though. I believe Mainesail mentioned a few options he thought were good value, but I can't remember the thread.
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Don't think we're permitted propane fridges around here... (insurance reasons)

The link below is the newest version of our old Link 10, and I've heard good things about the Victron one as well.

Battery Chargers | LinkPRO Battery Monitor | Xantrex

BMV-600S and BMV-602S - Victron Energy
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

Thanks Ron, I'll look into both of them.
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Old 04-12-2013
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Re: solar charging problem - troubleshooting help please!

On behalf of MS

Wiring & Installing A Battery Monitor - SailboatOwners.com

Couldn't be simpler.

Use voltage to check your reserve bank, buy a monitor to take care of your house bank.
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