Plasmatronics PL20 Solar Panel Regulator - help

Advice needed.

I'm trying to help a mate with the install of a battery monitor/solar regulator in his caravan. He has:
- 300AH of battery storage
- 15 amp 3 stage battery charger - installed in van
- no solar panels at this stage - but will probably install approx 200watt in future.

Is the Plasmatronics PL20 Solar Panel Regulator (or its competitor the Steca 2020) capable of being used as a battery monitor - without solar panels connected at this stage? That is, can it be set up to indicate the state of discharge or charge of the battery bank - plus or minus Amp Hours?

The other alternative is to install a cheaper solar regulator along with a Xantrex battery monitor

Many thanks
Brian

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Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 21:16

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 21:16
not a problem..The PL20 will monitor all that your require and when you add the panels it will continue to do so but also manage the panel input

Just make sure that all external charging sources (other than the panels added later) go through a bi directional shunt...

further explanation......any discharge in excess of 20 amps and all charge (other than the panels) go through the shunt...any discharge less than 20 amps goes through the PL 20 and make sure you use the low voltage cut out facility by using that output

The PL 20 is a very good piece of gear I run two of these set ups...foolproff and simple to use

cheers
Life is a journey, it is not how we fall down, it is how we get up.
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Follow Up By: Member - Brian A (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 21:31

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 21:31
thanks bungarra.

When it displays the SOC, does it give a figure eg, -25AH?

Brian
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Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 22:03

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 22:03
SOC reads as a % of charge

other screens show amps in ...amps out....charging amps...load amps...solar voltage...battery voltage min and max......time it went into float charge etc....all as separate screens....also histroy for 30 days
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Follow Up By: Member - Brian A (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 22:13

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 22:13
thanks again bungarra.

Sounds like it's a good bit of gear.

Brian
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Reply By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 23:05

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 23:05
As you suggest, also look at the Steca Information LINK:

I believe they are possibly easier to use for the average person in a hurry
with just the one button to press for all the information you will ever needImage Could Not Be FoundMainey . . .
AnswerID: 354220

Follow Up By: Member - Brian A (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 23:25

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 23:25
thanks Mainey.

Shall consider the Steca. Does it indicate current draw - discharge - in amps?

Brian
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 00:32

Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 00:32
In one word . . . "yes"Image Could Not Be Found

Image Could Not Be Found

The LCD numbers are large and easy to read from at least 2 Mtrs away.

various other pictures are on my "member profile" showing anything you may need to know and will save me putting more pics on here.

Mainey . . .
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Follow Up By: Member - Brian A (NSW) - Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 10:59

Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 10:59
Thanks Mainey.

Appreciate your assistance.

Brian
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Follow Up By: Russ n Sue - Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 11:54

Monday, Mar 16, 2009 at 11:54
G'day Mainey,

I read your profile and details of your setup. I was wondering why you dont leave the Steca set-up permanently with some sort of shunt to measure the charge from the vehicle while travelling?

I know you state that the Steca is only used once you are camping but surely the SOC it gives, if based purely on the voltage of the batteries, cannot be considered to be very accurate? The only info the Steca would have is the charge in, out and battery voltage from when it is connected. It has no prior knowledge of the battery condition.

When I had the Kimberley Kamper I used a PL-20, 15A Projecta 3-stage charger, 2 x 123W Sharp panels, 305 AH of AGM batteries and a shunt. When the Kamper was not in use, the charge coming in via the Projector charger was measured by the shunt and taken into account by the PL-20.

Once the panels were in use, it also measured the same things that you do, but instead it still had the overall view of the battery state in its memory.

I've followed the same principle with the caravan, with the only difference being that I have 520Watts of panels and 480 AH battery capacity with a PL-60 and a 60 Amp battery charger. The principle remains the same, just the sizes are different.

When I worked in Communications we had several Solar installations using wet cells. It was pretty obvious that battery voltage alone, when used to estimate State of Charge, was horribly innacurate. This was easily confirmed by testing with a hydrometer.

So if we are using the SOC as an "electronic hydrometer" (as you can't really test sealed cells any other way), then ALL of the current going into and out of the cells needs to be accounted for for accurate readings.

I don't know anything about the Steca units. Can shunts be fitted to them?

Cheers

Russ.
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 13:08

Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 13:08
Russ,
You ask: "I was wondering why you dont leave the Steca set-up permanently with some sort of shunt to measure the charge from the vehicle while travelling"

When driving the vehicle alternator charges the AGM's via the dual battery isolator system !!

The Steca (or any other "solar regulator" I'm aware of) can't handle the combined charging output of both the Alternator & also Solar panels "simultaneously"

I leave the Steca regulator set-up permanently, it monitors the charge both going 'in' and 'out' of the AGM's, via the Solar system, it tells me the AGM's State Of Charge when camping.

However, because the vehicle Alternator current is NOT run directly to the AGM's through the Solar regulator, the AGM's SOC will be inaccurate anyway for the first few days.

Mainey . . .

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Follow Up By: Russ n Sue - Sunday, Mar 29, 2009 at 23:04

Sunday, Mar 29, 2009 at 23:04
G'day Mainey.

Sorry for the delay in responding....been travelling (Yay!!!)

That's what I was talking about with the shunt. With Plasmatronics PL-20, PL-60, and maybe the PL-40 (although I tend to avoid them because of the silly 7 Amps output connection) you can put a resistive shunt in series with the charge connection from the alternator. They can handle up to 200 Amps. The shunt has a pair of wires connected to the PL controller.

The volt drop across the known resistance of the shunt tells the PL controller how much current is flowing through the shunt. This way you can tell the amount of current charging the batteries from ALL sources.

That is why I asked about whether the Steca unit has the ability to have a shunt connected. I have had a couple of customers with simple setups using Steca units ask me about the monitoring system and I haven't had the time (or inclination) to check any further. I guess I really should.

Cheers

Russ.
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FollowupID: 625038

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