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Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel truck

Fri Dec 11, 2015 6:00 am

So, I barely drive the F-350 Diesel anymore, and have been starting the truck and letting it run for a while almost every week. Took it last weekend to run long mile errand.
But I want to make sure that the batteries (there are 2 big ones) stay up to snuff in case I forget to keep up with her :(

I bought this 18W solar charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the truck, GREAT I though. It is not a trickle charger so I could use it if I have power outage or something else once in a while.

Was on sale $67 so not a bad price, good reviews as I read reviews on other sites and Walmart was cheapest. I got a Controller for it so it doesn't burn up the batteries. That arrived fine ............. NOT so much for the Solar panel!

WTF Walmart, can even tell you how little cushion there was on this thing. I didn't even get the inner plastic wrap off, I could see the cracks !

SO... they are out of stock, DON'T carry it in the store as now I have to drive (in the truck) to Walmart and return it.
Pisses me off in 2 ways.
What if this was a Present for the Holiday and now they are Out of stock...
I have to waste my time/money/fuel to go and return it. I can't even bitch at the store because it isn't their fault.

SO........... Since I need to find another one. Can someone recommend another (maybe something on Amazon) that I could use?
I should return this controller too while I am at it, unless you think I should keep it. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Schumacher-SP ... r/23326433

[size=85]- Linda
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Re: Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel tru

Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:33 am

try northerntool.com I believe they carry a couple of different panels for this purpose. BTW--I would send the controller back along with the panel so that you get proper credit for the damaged unit.

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Re: Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel tru

Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:38 pm

They were bought separately so I may hold on to the controller.

I will look at Northern Tool. I had forgot about them. But there is not one close here :(

I need to learn much more about Solar anyway
[size=85]- Linda
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Re: Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel tru

Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:23 pm

If you can reach the truck with an extension cord, that may be the better solution. A good plug-in battery maintainer is cheap, and will work harder when the battery needs more help (winter), where a solar panel does the opposite.
Then you also have the option of running an engine heater to reduce wear, substantially improve emissions, and reduce fuel used during engine warmup.
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Re: Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel tru

Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:50 pm

Another problem you're likely to run into is . . . . very few vehicles have an 'active' cigarette lighter connection when the key is off, so plugging in a solar panel there won't work. You're probably going to have to hook the panel directly to the batteries

I think I know why this is - When I was 4 or 5, my Dad went into a store and left me alone in the old Studebaker he drove. While he was gone, I used the cigarette lighter to burn several holes in the seat covers. Somebody later on decided that the ignition switch should disable the cigarette lighters on just about every make/model of car and truck - A good idea I think

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Re: Need help, Solar panel battery charger for my Diesel tru

Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:51 pm

Agree with jray3 that a small (<1A) smart charger is probably preferable if you have 120vac power access by your truck. Besides, its good to have one of these small smart chargers lying around to connect to your i-MiEV 12v battery whenever you take an extended vacation. Examples of brand names are Battery Tender and Battery Minder, but there are many cheaper alternatives if you can believe their specifications (just Google Float Charger). {Darnit, I hate how this website does unwanted links on key words :evil: ]

If you still want to go solar, tigger19687, don't bemoan that solar panel - return it and get your money back!

Very good that you bought that charge controller - what people don't realize is that even a 5W solar panel hooked up directly to a battery can gradually murder it.

With a 7A capability, that charge controller (regulator) can handle much larger (higher wattage) solar panels (not that you need one). The Walmart ad did not provide any meaningful controller specifications - did they come with the unit? For example -
1. What is the maximum input voltage the regulator can tolerate? Need to make sure the solar panel specification has a lower max output voltage than this max regulator input.
2. What is the regulation - is it 'smart' (e.g., bulk, absorption, float modes) or is it simply constant voltage (and what is that voltage?) and does it have any temperature compensation? Now that it's winter, it probably won't matter, especially as you have a couple of batteries that are probably over 100Ah each and have a high leakage current (which is what you're trying to compensate for); nevertheless, in summer it could matter.

Now, about the solar panel - if you are concerned about size then a small panel of, say, 5W-20W will do the job. Looking on Amazon I see kits of both panel and regulator for under $60.

For myself, I picked up some used 100w panels earlier this year for <$50 each (less than 50¢/W), but it's physically much larger than you may want to have lying around. Really cheap surplus or partially-damaged panels might be available in your area - try CraigsList. I've had a panel a friend gave me that had been bonked by a golf ball and still working for five years outdoors despite a fracturing of the entire glass covering and localized hole in the glass. Around here, older solar panel installations are sometimes being replaced using higher-capacity panels, with used ones flooding the market. It just kinda bothers me to see these small consumer-grade solar panels going for $3-$10/W.
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