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morribm

Caravan Covers

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I know this topic has been touched on in previous posts but thought I would resurrect it given concerns about climate change and all :o.

 

Our van is parked off site when not in use and we do not have access to an external power source at that time.  All user accessible power consumers are switched off.  In the past, we never bothered about a cover but instead had a sail track fitted so that we could use a 90% shade cloth on the exposed aspect.  Before our next trip, it would take us a few days to clean the van and most notably, the mould build-up on the roof was, if nothing else, particularly unsightly.  Of course, everything else (including the tyres) was exposed to our harsh UV radiation.  We decided to try a caravan cover (Unearth from BCF) and undoubtedly, the van is vastly cleaner prior to being used than before but whereas I thought the solar panels were charging despite being covered, I find I was probably deluded! The battery (3 x 130 Ah) was fully charged prior to parking it most recently; after 3 weeks the monitor was showing SOC 97% @ 13.7V (we had endured a particularly cloudy period prior to this); and after 6 weeks SOC is 93% @ 13.7V.

 

So, there has been some decay in the battery but not enough for be to become terribly despondent at this stage although I am seeking methods of preventing this progressing further because it seems that there is potential for the battery to be damaged in due course.  

 

As I see it, there are several options to consider and I would appreciate input from KOG on which way to go:

1. Firstly, I know others have modified covers to insert transparent panels over the solar panels but I anticipate our cover will be used for a limited time considering it will deteriorate naturally and the cost of having panels inserted may not justify the process.

2. I have a generator but if I use it, I would have to monitor it while running (hours) which would be most inconvenient.  I know that a generator running out of fuels starts 'pulsing' and the battery charger disapproves of this so much that it can frazz.

3. Use a separate, portable solar panel - possibly 10 W - mounted somewhere on top of the cover with the feed lines either plugged into the Anderson Plug or perhaps directly onto the solar controller.  I suspect this will be enough to keep the battery topped up as the only thing using any power as far as I'm aware is the monitor.

4. Disconnect the battery when not being used. I don't see a downside to this.  Perhaps there is one?

5. Use the van more often.  No cover.  No worries about keeping the batteries' heart beating.

 

Cheers

 

Brian

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Well, on second thoughts and after due consideration, I think I may have the answer to my own question! 

 

This is my dumbed-down version.  The SOC is a calculated representation of battery status basically adding up what has gone into the battery and what has come out (simply speaking).  There are inbuilt errors in this calculation and there is even a name given to this (maybe Peutz Factor?) which I can't remember just now but the fact is that that it exists.  This is very likely why the monitor will ask you to 'synchronise' from time to time although there is, I believe, a certain amount of 'auto-synchronisation' taking place in the background but somehow this doesn't seem to keep up with what is actually happening.

 

In any case, in my situation, I think the 13.7V is the more important number.  And the monitor is asking me to Synchronise. If I had synchronised, the SOC would show 100% at 13.7V.  Again, simply speaking, I think what happens is that the monitoring system has a look at the SOC and compares it to what the actual battery voltage is and if there is a discrepancy which happens from time to time, the it asks you to 'synchronise' so that the SOC and the voltage can agree.

 

So, my reasoning is this: Since the only power load/drain on the battery at present is that being used to manage the solar controller and the monitor (minimal), as long as the battery can maintain a voltage of 13.7V, it would suggest that as small as the amount of input from the covered solar panels is, it is enough to maintain the battery at a very healthy charge.

 

I'm very happy to be corrected in my thinking...

 

Cheers

Brian

 

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Hi Brian

 

I like your option 5 the best. LOL

 

Cheers

 

Pete

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Hi Brian

We had the same issue during the time that the van was covered. We had had a cover custom-made and requested that there be clear panels fitted to correspond with the solar panels. The makers would not do this and advised it is a common problem and so also sold small portable panels to keep the batteries topped up. We had two small panels from our camping life and wired these up to run into the Andersen plug. With a bit of trouble the panels were manoeuvred onto the top of the van where they happily sat, supplying enough juice to keep the batteries topped up.

Cheers, Bas    

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Don't forget to keep an eye on your Break Safe Battery charge when the van is sitting for a while, it can run down.   We leave the 12v switch "on"  to keep it charged.

 

Cheers

 

Merv

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Good point, Merv.

 

Generally, I leave the 240v/12v switch in the middle i.e. neither on 12v or on 240v when parked up between trips.  I do always check that the Break Safe Battery is charged (the red LED is glowing) when getting ready to travel.  So far, so good.

 

Bas, I'll keep monitoring the battery charge but if it remains at 13.7v, I'll hold off on the ancillary solar panel for the time being.

 

Cheers

Brian

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Checked the battery yesterday.  Almost eight weeks sitting idle under the cover.  Synchronised the battery as per the monitor request.  Battery 'Full' @ 13.8v.

Monitor on the solar controller is static glowing green (Float Mode) and the Break Safe is on charge - red lamp glowing, Test button shows 'normal'.

 

So, all in all, things look good and I expect there is at least some input from the solar panels despite the cover.  I would imagine that if there was no input at all from the panels, the battery would slowly discharge over this time period because of the continual, albeit small, load on the system.

 

Cheers

Brian

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I got a cover from aussie caravan covers at what i though was a good price of $300 for a 22 foot cover. Found them by accident as it flashed up on my facebook feed. Very well made with axcess door sewn into it be it front or rear door.

I too have noticed that my solar panels are operating through the cover as my Redarc bcdc is on float mode in the day  and turns off when cloudy and batteries are fully charged. Happy days here 

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