Solar Panels Not Working?

As we prepare to head to the 56th annual Escapade at Essex Junction, VT the end of July, I’ve been checking and double-checking the various systems in the coach to make sure all is well and in good working order.

Over the last month or so we’ve replaced the two front tires, (they werG670RVULTe made in ’04 and had about 50,000 miles on them) and although they were not checked or cracked and had good even wear pattern, when they’re that old I just didn’t want to take a chance on another cross-country trip.

We’ve got a Heliotrop brand solar charge controller.  This job of this controller is to heliotrop solar controllermonitor the voltage level in the coach 12 v batteries and, should there be enough sunlight, then send power from the roof-mounted solar panels to the batteries to keep them charged.

This week I noticed that the display was blank even though I knew we had a good charge on the battery bank.  I started trouble shooting the wiring harness that runs from the controller located inside the coach to the battery bank located in one of the rear curb-side basement compartments.  I had 12 volts at the batteries, but not at the controller.  I couldn’t believe that the wire was “open” (it’s 10 gauge insulated wire) and I knew it wasn’t shorted to ground because we hadn’t blown the inline fuse.  There must be a loose connection.

As I looked more closely, I found that the installer of the after-market solar panels and controller had used large red wire nuts to tie the power harness into the battery bank.  Well, as it turned out the NEUTRAL wire nut was really only connecting two of the three wires together.  I didn’t like this set-up when I first saw it when we bought the coach, but now since it’s presented a problem, I decided to install a terminal strip and attach all the wires using ring terminals for a tight, low resistance connection.

So now we have a good solid connection between the solar power control panel and the battery bank, but still no power coming from the solar panel on the roof to the controller.  Now it’s time to get Stu (our son-in-law) up on the roof to check out the connection up there, since my knees go weak when I get up to about the 6th step on the ladder.  I’ll let you know what we find a little later on.

(Update June 22, 2016) So here’s what we found:

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