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Votronic Mppt Solar Controller


Basil

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Does anyone have, or have knowledge of, the Votronic 165 MPPT controller and visual Computer?

 

I have just installed one of these along with a 155watt panel (lockdown job been meaning to do for ages) and not having had any experience of the operation of solar in the motorhome, I have a couple of questions which for me are not clearly covered by the instructions paperwork.

 

Firstly I am guessing that the apparent lack of charging, very small amounts on the sunny days we are having, is due to the batteries being well charged as indicated by the flashing sun and a constant 13.5 V. I surmise this from the accompanying paperwork.

 

Second, in some of the descriptions in adverts on the net the pictures show a segmented bar on the left side of the visual panel, which I can see in the background though not 'lit up' on my installation, though there is no mention of this in the covering instruction leaflet. Should the bar be displaying or have I got a faulty panel?

 

Thirdly, it has occurred to me, and this may be a silly question, that as the batteries (leisure and vehicle) are being kept at a full capacity by the solar equipment at all times in sunlight, will this have any affect on the operation of the 'Smart' alternator that is cut off automatically by the vehicle ECU when no charge is required by the battery? The reason I ask this is because the fridge relay is a voltage sensing unit and at times I have noticed that it will drop out for no apparent reason but I suspect it is when the alternator is deemed not required by the vehicle ECU as no other reason can be found, so could become more of a problem if the alternator is cut out for longer periods.

 

As we are unable to go out at the moment I am unable to carry out a reasonable test but don't want to be in a correction position at short notice if ever we get to go away this year!

 

Basil

 

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Basil - 2020-04-19 12:36 PM

 

Firstly I am guessing that the apparent lack of charging, very small amounts on the sunny days we are having, is due to the batteries being well charged as indicated by the flashing sun and a constant 13.5 V. I surmise this from the accompanying paperwork.

 

Basil

 

Assuming you have a reasonable load like a 12 VDC TV, then the above question is readily resolved by putting the TV on after dark for a few hours, then see what charge current you get come the first hour after dawn. You don't even need to watch the TV.

If you can't get up early throw a blanket over the panel and remove when you are ready to monitor the performance.

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Can't answer all your questions Basil but, if the sun indicator is flashing then yes it is now float charging as the batteries are full. Similarly, no bars will be showing as the charge has been cut back but when it does start charging again (on solar) you should see the bars go up. You have to set the bar graph initially. This is best done on a sunny day with your batteries needing charge. You should be able to read the ah going in and when it is at its highest you set the bar graph to 100%. After that it will fluctuate up and down as the sun comes out or goes behind cloud.

 

David

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david lloyd - 2020-04-19 5:05 PM

 

Can't answer all your questions Basil but, if the sun indicator is flashing then yes it is now float charging as the batteries are full. Similarly, no bars will be showing as the charge has been cut back but when it does start charging again (on solar) you should see the bars go up. You have to set the bar graph initially. This is best done on a sunny day with your batteries needing charge. You should be able to read the ah going in and when it is at its highest you set the bar graph to 100%. After that it will fluctuate up and down as the sun comes out or goes behind cloud.

 

David

 

On the MPP controllers the flashing sun symbol indicates that it is charging to the maximum power point, not that it is float charging. If the batteries are full or nearly so, the controller won't attempt to overcharge them, so the current being generated will be minimal.

 

I understand from the owners of newer vans from the converter of my van, who fit the Votronic solar computer as standard, that Votronic have deleted the bar graph from the display on more recent versions of the computer. Why, I have no idea.

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Thanks for all your replies so far, much appreciated. I guess that until we use it properly we won't see the proper benefit, may well be some time away this year! I will try running the battery down a bit but it is, to the solars credit, proving a difficult task!

 

Strange they don't use the bar graph any more as it is clearly there in the background of the display, wonder why.

 

Just still unsure about the 'Smart' alternator query I have as this, if what I suspect is correct, could have implications for Euro5 and 6 vehicles. I know that most things I have read suggest that using a relay to split charge both batteries on the move is now a no go with this type of alternator and it appears necessitates a B2B charger, so I'm still wondering about my fridge implications.

 

Many thanks again all.

 

Basil

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As has been said, its easy to test even without going anywhere. Turn on some lights, TV... at night and see what happens the next day. As far as alternator charging, if the batteries are full they are full. I have a schaudt B2B and it doesn't care how batteries got there, it will treat them as full and won't be pushing a charge in for no reason. If you had a load that will drain the batteries while driving (fridge) it will switch back to charging mode. It won't be much different without as the alternator will see a demand and probably keep going.
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Regarding the flashing sun symbol on the Solar Computer, the instruction leaflet for my version which has the bar display, states that the sun symbol indicates that the controller is limiting current to avoid overcharging because the batteries are full, or nearly full. However it also states that, when connected to one of the MPP controllers, the flashing sun symbol instead indicates that the controller is operating to its maximum power point. Mine certainly flashes when the controller is generating several amps and the batteries are not fully charged, in conditions with a good amount of sunlight available, and as I replaced the original SR seriers controller withan MPP version a couple of years ago, I noticed the difference in behaviour of the symbol straight away.

 

However the current instruction leaflet, which makes no mention of the bar graphic, also only states that the flashing sun symbol indicates that the controller is limiting current to avoid overcharging. The section on its alternate behaviour when connected to one of the Votronic MPP series controllers has also been removed.

 

It might be that the whole operation of the display has been dumbed down to avoid confusing customers?

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Thanks everyone for your replies, I can see some light in the darkness now, literally!

 

I have tried, as suggested, taking some power from the battery and it does indeed make the sun symbol go solid and then after a while return to flashing symbol and 13.5Volt, float charge I guess. Seems then it is functioning as it should, still no bar graph, so as has been said it looks as if they have now stopped using it, seems a shame as it is there and would give some indication of whatever it was supposed to indicate!

 

If the system works as well as it appears on the small trial I have used it for I think it will be a worthwhile days work.

 

I do think that the manufacturer provided information could be better explained, the two differing explanations to the flashing sun symbol suggests that to me, but then perhaps it is me being dense.

 

Many thanks all.

 

basil

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I doubt you have a "Smart" alternator. Most MH converters order the base vehicle with a standard alternator OR the manufacturer of the base vehicle provides a standard alternator when supplying to a MH converter.

 

You could always contact Vantage and ask them. Most Vantage vans these days seem to be provided with 12v compressor fridges, so even more reason for them to use a standard alternator.

 

Mercedes is the only manufacturer at the moment who seem to insist on installing Smart alternators to comply fully with the emission standards. Expect other manufacturers will soon be obliged to follow suit. In which case, converters will need to install B2B devices to overcome the problem.

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Thanks for your reply Robbo, the vehicle is fitted with a Smart alternator, just not sure of the implication of now having the Solar panel.

 

I had not realised the possible conflicts until I came to install the Solar panel and read up about the installation and wiring on various sites but mainly A&N's site that alerted me to the possible problem.

 

Basil

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