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Old 07-31-2017, 02:50 PM   #1
mr. buck
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Default Testing Solar Chargers ?

I have some solar chargers on my feeders that are getting up there in age, roughly 8 years old. Some are starting to get clouded over look but really nothing that looks like corrosion. Is there a way to test the solar chargers to see if they remain fully functioning? Or do I basically just put new batteries in alll my feeders then monitor battery life to see if the chargers are doing their job? Thanks in advance for your responses.
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Old 07-31-2017, 03:03 PM   #2
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I believe you can hook them up to a voltage meter on a real sunny day And see if it's puting out 12 volts
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Old 07-31-2017, 03:13 PM   #3
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Yep, hook them up to a voltage meter and see what they are putting out. Also, shade/tree limbs, etc obviously hurt the output of the solar panel.
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Old 07-31-2017, 03:44 PM   #4
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Default As stated above...

I use a volt meter and check mine every year. It should read more than 12 volts if its putting out correctly.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:02 PM   #5
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Testing the voltage will not tell you if they are good. You need to test the amps and that should be done with the sun hitting directly on the solar panel. 12V solar panels for feeders should be putting out between 90 and 150ma.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gonehuntin68 View Post
Testing the voltage will not tell you if they are good. You need to test the amps and that should be done with the sun hitting directly on the solar panel. 12V solar panels for feeders should be putting out between 90 and 150ma.
My 12volt solar chargers usually read around 15volts in full sun on volt meter. I have never checked the ma output.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gonehuntin68 View Post
Testing the voltage will not tell you if they are good. You need to test the amps and that should be done with the sun hitting directly on the solar panel. 12V solar panels for feeders should be putting out between 90 and 150ma.
That sounds like a really good panel. The ones I've tested are putting out 60mA.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:42 PM   #8
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Most deer feeder panels are in the 1-2 watt range. Although, I have seen some higher, but not many.
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:56 PM   #9
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That sounds like a really good panel. The ones I've tested are putting out 60mA.
You probably only have a 1 watt solar panel then. They max out around 65ma. The 1.5 watt panels will max out around 100ma and the 2 watt panels around 150ma.
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kornsqueezer View Post
My 12volt solar chargers usually read around 15volts in full sun on volt meter. I have never checked the ma output.
Just to state it again, just because your voltage is over 12V, it doesn't mean it is working properly. The only way to be sure is to check the amps it's putting out. I've tested many 12V solar panels that would test between 17V-20V yet they were not putting out near the amps they should and thus they were bad. For example in your case, your panel could be putting out 15+ volts but may only be putting out 10ma when it should be putting out 60+ma. That constitutes a bad solar panel.
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gonehuntin68 View Post
You probably only have a 1 watt solar panel then. They max out around 65ma. The 1.5 watt panels will max out around 100ma and the 2 watt panels around 150ma.
You're probably correct but most I've bought don't advertise the mA output. So, what's a good brand or manufacturer of a 1.5 watt panel, if you know?
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Old 07-31-2017, 07:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gonehuntin68 View Post
Just to state it again, just because your voltage is over 12V, it doesn't mean it is working properly. The only way to be sure is to check the amps it's putting out. I've tested many 12V solar panels that would test between 17V-20V yet they were not putting out near the amps they should and thus they were bad. For example in your case, your panel could be putting out 15+ volts but may only be putting out 10ma when it should be putting out 60+ma. That constitutes a bad solar panel.
How are you testing it? Is your battery fully charged or almost dead when testing?
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Old 07-31-2017, 08:01 PM   #13
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I've never thought to test the amperage output. However, I have found voltage output to be a good proxy for whether they work or not. If full, direct sunlight a 6v panel should be putting out about 9 volts while a 12 volt panel should be putting out about 15v. Even in indirect sunlight those numbers should be about 7 and 13 volts. If you aren't getting those numbers, chunk the panel and get a new one.

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Old 07-31-2017, 08:30 PM   #14
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As stated above you have to be putting out enough current to charge the battery. Voltage output is irrelevant.

You need a battery that is a bit drained and then put your meter in series with the + lead of your panel to the + terminal of your battery to test current output.


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Old 07-31-2017, 10:10 PM   #15
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thanks for all the replies guys. this site is very helpful while lowering my self-esteem at the same time...
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Old 07-31-2017, 10:34 PM   #16
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This is a post I saved from last October but, haven't got around to trying it yet. Hope it helps!

Solar panel test
The only real way to test a solar panel is to see how much current (amps) it is putting in the battery. The little digital multimeters from Harbor Freight work well for this. Set the meter to the 200 milliamp scale. Connect the meter as shown below. Most of the feeder solar panels (6"x6") put out between 2 and 10 milliamps depending on which way they are facing, cloud conditions, etc. Larger panels will put out more current. I have one from Northern Tool that puts out around 200 milliamps. Once you complete the test MAKE SURE you switch the meter back to the volts scale. Trying to measure volts with the meter set to current will fry your meter. Don't ask how I know this.
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Old 07-31-2017, 10:38 PM   #17
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Solar panel test
The only real way to test a solar panel is to see how much current (amps) it is putting in the battery. The little digital multimeters from Harbor Freight work well for this. Set the meter to the 200 milliamp scale. Connect the meter as shown below. Most of the feeder solar panels (6"x6") put out between 2 and 10 milliamps depending on which way they are facing, cloud conditions, etc. Larger panels will put out more current. I have one from Northern Tool that puts out around 200 milliamps. Once you complete the test MAKE SURE you switch the meter back to the volts scale. Trying to measure volts with the meter set to current will fry your meter. Don't ask how I know this.
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Old 07-31-2017, 10:49 PM   #18
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Sorry but can't get image to copy
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Old 07-31-2017, 11:02 PM   #19
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Connect your multimeter to the solar panel outputs to test it. You don't want a battery connected to it.

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Old 08-01-2017, 06:44 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LWD View Post
Connect your multimeter to the solar panel outputs to test it. You don't want a battery connected to it.

LWD


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aggie Dad View Post
Solar panel test
The only real way to test a solar panel is to see how much current (amps) it is putting in the battery. The little digital multimeters from Harbor Freight work well for this. Set the meter to the 200 milliamp scale. Connect the meter as shown below. Most of the feeder solar panels (6"x6") put out between 2 and 10 milliamps depending on which way they are facing, cloud conditions, etc. Larger panels will put out more current. I have one from Northern Tool that puts out around 200 milliamps. Once you complete the test MAKE SURE you switch the meter back to the volts scale. Trying to measure volts with the meter set to current will fry your meter. Don't ask how I know this.


Both of these methods only tests for voltage, not current and is not the correct way to test whether the panel is charging properly.

On a DC voltage circuit you have to place the meter in series between the charging source and the load to test for current.

Quote:
Connect the panel to the regulator and battery.
Ensure that the multimeter is set at 10A, at least to start with. You can change the setting later if required.
Disconnect the positive cable between the battery and the regulator
Measure the operating current by connecting the +ve from the multimeter to the positive cable from the regulator, and the -ve from the meter to the positive battery terminal.
This measures the current that the panel (and charge controller) are passed to the battery. If you connect the meter the wrong way round then you will get a negative current showing.
Remember, if the battery is full it may not be accepting current, resulting in a low reading.

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Old 08-01-2017, 09:15 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LWD View Post
I've never thought to test the amperage output. However, I have found voltage output to be a good proxy for whether they work or not. If full, direct sunlight a 6v panel should be putting out about 9 volts while a 12 volt panel should be putting out about 15v. Even in indirect sunlight those numbers should be about 7 and 13 volts. If you aren't getting those numbers, chunk the panel and get a new one.

LWD

I do this first when I have a battery that won't keep a charge.
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Old 08-01-2017, 09:26 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike D View Post
As stated above you have to be putting out enough current to charge the battery. Voltage output is irrelevant.

You need a battery that is a bit drained and then put your meter in series with the + lead of your panel to the + terminal of your battery to test current output.


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x2
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Old 08-01-2017, 12:54 PM   #23
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As stated by others, the only way to evaluate a solar panel is the measure the current (ma) output to the battery. I only wish I could convince several members on our lease of this.

What I find is the feeder solar panels usually only put out a few ma which is sufficient to keep the battery at full charge.

Last edited by kmitchl; 08-01-2017 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 08-01-2017, 01:12 PM   #24
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The real question (to me anyway) is what amperage is sufficient to keep a battery charged? I understand that it depends on usage, age of battery, etc.

Here's another question related to this thread: What brand/style battery works best for a 6 volt feeder in everyone's opinion?
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Old 08-01-2017, 02:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quarterback View Post
The real question (to me anyway) is what amperage is sufficient to keep a battery charged? I understand that it depends on usage, age of battery, etc.

Here's another question related to this thread: What brand/style battery works best for a 6 volt feeder in everyone's opinion?


That depends on how much current you are using. Generally just for a feeder that throws twice a day 60-100ma should
be more than sufficient.

I don't know that any one brand is better than the other.


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Old 08-05-2017, 05:02 PM   #26
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Aha!!! I have been having trouble with a feeder forever. I kept checking like I was told and the solar panel was well over 12 volts. I checked the amps on it today and it showed a whopping 1 ma. Tried a new solar panel and it maxed out at 82 ma.
I am saving the old one for a training tool at the lease. lol.

One question for you who know stuff. Where do you get your spade lug connectors. The ones I. Get at home depot or Auto Zone are not consistent. Some are sloppy loose and some are a struggle to put on or take off.

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Old 08-05-2017, 06:11 PM   #27
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I use the yellow male connectors from any auto parts store
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:39 AM   #28
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Yep, here is my same results testing my Solar panel. Voltage, very little amps. I have pictures in this thread that may help someone else trouble shoot these issues

http://discussions.texasbowhunter.co...d.php?t=158031

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Old 08-09-2017, 05:29 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quarterback View Post
The real question (to me anyway) is what amperage is sufficient to keep a battery charged? I understand that it depends on usage, age of battery, etc.

Here's another question related to this thread: What brand/style battery works best for a 6 volt feeder in everyone's opinion?
To keep the battery fully charged you need to replace the charge that you use plus have a little margin for days the sun does not shine. This is calculated by amp-hours. Charging a battery at 1 amp for one hour puts about 1 amp-hour charge into the battery. Likewise discharging at 1 amp for one hour removes 1 amp-hour of charge from the battery. The larger 12 volt feeder batteries hold 7 or 8 amp-hours of charge.

I doesn't take a lot of amps from a solar panel to keep a battery topped off. Spinning for 10 seconds twice a day at a current of 3 amps would require

Spin time = 10 *2/60/60 = .0055 hours/day
Spin time * Amps per spin = 3*.0055 = 0.0166 amp hours = 16.6 ma-hours.

So a solar panel charging at about 2 ma for 8-9 hours would be enough to keep the battery topped off. This neglects the current required to operate the clock, however, this is usually very small in comparison to that required to run the spinner motor.
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Old 08-10-2017, 08:34 AM   #30
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The pic below and is how you test a solar panel and what a Good solar panel test like (amperage not voltage)

First make sure your meter measures DC mA (Direct Current milli Amperes) usually they go up to 400 ma on one switch setting and 1.0 A on another setting. So make sure your on the correct mA setting on your meter. In this photo the meter is set on mA (max for my meter is 200 mA). A solar panel like we use on our feeders usually max out around 60-70mA but check your panel.

So hook the meter up in Series (inline as shown below) You will need a good battery, not a completely dead one that won't take a charge. So you can see that the solar panel is putting out 69.2 mA. The voltage was 18 Volts I measured but don't show here but will below on the bad one. But as you will see in the next set of pictures / description what a bad solar panel looks like.
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Now what a bad solar panel looks like.

In the picture below I simply measure the voltage and I get 17.69 volts. So you would think it is working. HOWERVER, in the second picture where I measure the current notice that it is not putting out but 0.6 mA. It is bad and will not charge your battery. It should be putting out around 60-70 mA.
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Here is the 0.6 mA. This is not working and is a bad solar panel. Throw it in the trash. You should be getting around 60 mA in FULL SUN. On a cloudy day it might drop down or if your battery is really charged. This test was done at the same time as the good solar panel in the above posting less the 1 minute apart so the sun was basically the same intensity.
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Good Luck, Ranchdog
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Old 08-10-2017, 04:31 PM   #31
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Great info!!
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