Solar The Solar Panel Thread

Boots in Action

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Mar 13, 2017
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Ferny Grove, Queensland
The benefit of connecting load is slowly giving way to the effort of doing it.

My only real benefit would be the ability to track (historically) how much load was used and when - but would I ever actually look at this after the nerd factor wears off???????
Fortunately for you @Macca_75 , you are able to obtain a lot of info from the Drifta panel, so not so great an advantage for you other than the adjustable voltage settings you can make AND also the better LVD and LVR settings, if you for some reason do not keep an eye on your Drifta panel - probably unlikely? Just as @Drover said, sometimes the location of wiring and connecting new lines can be a challenge. The Swan OB I fixed in the field (mentioned in another earlier post) was easy because the fuse panel and Top Ray solar controller were close together. The other one was for my daughter's 2010 Journey where the old Top Ray controller was on the side wall with the fridge behind it. Although the battery was a bit further away, I did not disconnect the battery wires at the battery - only where it connected to the main fuze box, where I terminated and insulated the ends. But after disconnecting and insulating the battery cable at the main fuze box controls, it was easy to run a new set of wires from the Load circuit fuze box to the Load terminals on upgraded solar controller. As the controller only has a capacity of 20A, they do not have to be very heavy - say 30A capacity. However, the wires from solar controller to battery should be as short as possible and capable of easily handling MORE than the max output of panels ie 20A. The only physical part I found was running the extra wires from the solar controller down the inside wall next to the fridge to the nearby fuze box.
Pity to not use the extra settings available on you new MPPT controller though.
 

Macca_75

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Aug 3, 2016
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SE Suburbs, Vic.
As I am replacing the existing PWM controller I was planning on reusing the existing wires (from both the panel and to the battery). If I add another panel than maybe thicker wire will be required, however that would be a job I would defer to someone more qualified than myself. They could look at the wires from the controller to the battery at the time.
 
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I replaced my jayco supplied controller with an ecoworthy mppt. $120 on ebay and the real deal. Adjustable bulk and float and true mppt so long as the panel voltage is over 30ish (so you need 2 panels in series to get max conversion efficiency). The PWM works fine though for a typical 20V panel. I'm much happier with a 13.5 ish float compared to the 14.4V of the jayco (and other cheap) PWM controllers
 

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Mar 13, 2017
747
685
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Ferny Grove, Queensland
I replaced my jayco supplied controller with an ecoworthy mppt. $120 on ebay and the real deal. Adjustable bulk and float and true mppt so long as the panel voltage is over 30ish (so you need 2 panels in series to get max conversion efficiency). The PWM works fine though for a typical 20V panel. I'm much happier with a 13.5 ish float compared to the 14.4V of the jayco (and other cheap) PWM controllers

@jazzeddie1234 , I think you have the wrong figures. The float voltage of the Jayco Setec is set at 13.6 volts and the max charge voltage is 14.0 volts. The max charge voltage is the limit that charger will go to before it starts the "Absorption" phase which maintains the voltage whilst reducing the current. When the current has been reduced to less than 1 amp as the battery is charged to max capacity, (or whatever the algorithm), the charger moves to the Float" stage where a lower voltage is maintained and the occasional small amount of current is applied to cover any battery losses. Most solar controllers (the cheaper ones) are set for 14.4 volts max charge and 13.8 volts float or close to those figures. Have a look at the side of your battery for manufacturers recommendations. Below are some pictures of recommendations for the Gel battery usually found in Jayco vans and also a shot of an AGM battery (which I have) and note the higher max charge rate suggested. I have the settings adjustable on my LD Solar MPPT solar controller, set at 14.6 volts (max charge voltage) and 13.8 volts for Float. For the technically minded, this voltage needs to be adjusted slightly for temperature - slightly lower for hot conditions and slightly higher for colder conditions. My controller has a remote temperature sensor to do this automatically and is taped to the top of my battery. Hope this clears up any misconception you have about battery and solar controller voltages and charging.
 

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Macca_75

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Aug 3, 2016
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SE Suburbs, Vic.
@jazzeddie1234 , I think you have the wrong figures. The float voltage of the Jayco Setec is set at 13.6 volts and the max charge voltage is 14.0 volts. The max charge voltage is the limit that charger will go to before it starts the "Absorption" phase which maintains the voltage whilst reducing the current. When the current has been reduced to less than 1 amp as the battery is charged to max capacity, (or whatever the algorithm), the charger moves to the Float" stage where a lower voltage is maintained and the occasional small amount of current is applied to cover any battery losses. Most solar controllers (the cheaper ones) are set for 14.4 volts max charge and 13.8 volts float or close to those figures. Have a look at the side of your battery for manufacturers recommendations. Below are some pictures of recommendations for the Gel battery usually found in Jayco vans and also a shot of an AGM battery (which I have) and note the higher max charge rate suggested. I have the settings adjustable on my LD Solar MPPT solar controller, set at 14.6 volts (max charge voltage) and 13.8 volts for Float. For the technically minded, this voltage needs to be adjusted slightly for temperature - slightly lower for hot conditions and slightly higher for colder conditions. My controller has a remote temperature sensor to do this automatically and is taped to the top of my battery. Hope this clears up any misconception you have about battery and solar controller voltages and charging.
So which value is which on the side of the battery @Boots in Action
 
Mar 13, 2017
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So which value is which on the side of the battery @Boots in Action
Well @Macca_75 , the first thing we need to know is what type of battery (chemistry) you have. That will give you the recommended ranges for your battery type. As we vanners usually like to use our vans frequently, you should look at the cyclic rate ie. because when we use the battery, we charge it up again straight away for the next outing - or should do!! If you are only using your battery occasionally - say once every 4 or 6 months or perhaps only once a year, one could consider this almost "stand by" usage. This is normally for banks of batteries that are used as back up if the main supply fails like UPS.(uninterrupted power supply)
The other details on the battery refer to Amp hour capacity of stored energy in battery. The Ritar Gel has 100ah whilst the Power Pro has 130ah. The next important bit of info is the Initial max current that the battery can handle while charging without getting hot and being damaged. The AGM wins this one hands down at 32.5 A and the Gel only likes less than 20A. So this only applies if you have a charger capable of these outputs as usually 10 to 15 or even 20 amp chargers are fine. It is a matter of how fast you want to get full power back into the battery for use. Usually not a problem unless stuck out in the bush or you have neglected to keep an eye on the battery and its level.
The stand by voltage is the recommended voltage for Float. That is the voltage you want the battery to be at after it is fully charged (max power has been absorbed into the storage) and it no longer needs any more charging. It is then at a constant fully charged level for when you want to use it. Modern "smart" chargers are so sophisticated that you can leave then connected to your battery indefinitely. The Setec charge system in a lot of Jayco vans is pretty good at looking after your battery as far as float and store voltages are concerned, which prevents build up of sulphation and corrosion of positive plates if left to continually charge at the float setting. It is not so good at charging to the max voltage for various batteries as it only gets to 14.0 volts and is limited to 10A or 15A usually. So IMHO, get the best voltage into your battery with a "smart" charger or good solar controller and when the battery reaches Float status, put it back onto the Setec (240v) to look after the battery.
If you send me a pickie of your battery, I will be able to confirm all the details for you.
 
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@Boots in Action Sorry I was referring to the jayco supplied PWM controller (topray) voltages, not the setec. I don't have the specs for it but my drifter would show about 14.4V with full sun which I think is typical for a cheap PWM. My point was more about being able to source much better controllers for not much more. I now get to set my bulk/absorption and float to whatever without continually over driving (in my opinion) the batteries. I have wired the topray to an external anderson and it still gets used when I plug in my portable panels. I also set my solar controller(s) based on planned usage so they defer to the setec in caravan parks and do their job when freecamping
 

Macca_75

Well-Known Member
Aug 3, 2016
491
449
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44
SE Suburbs, Vic.
Well @Macca_75 , the first thing we need to know is what type of battery (chemistry) you have. That will give you the recommended ranges for your battery type. As we vanners usually like to use our vans frequently, you should look at the cyclic rate ie. because when we use the battery, we charge it up again straight away for the next outing - or should do!! If you are only using your battery occasionally - say once every 4 or 6 months or perhaps only once a year, one could consider this almost "stand by" usage. This is normally for banks of batteries that are used as back up if the main supply fails like UPS.(uninterrupted power supply)
I leave the Drifter panel battery switched "on" so the Solar is always topping the battery off (I don't use a cover). When the van comes home it goes onto Mains 15A for 1 or 2 days min.

The other details on the battery refer to Amp hour capacity of stored energy in battery. The Ritar Gel has 100ah whilst the Power Pro has 130ah. The next important bit of info is the Initial max current that the battery can handle while charging without getting hot and being damaged. The AGM wins this one hands down at 32.5 A and the Gel only likes less than 20A. So this only applies if you have a charger capable of these outputs as usually 10 to 15 or even 20 amp chargers are fine. It is a matter of how fast you want to get full power back into the battery for use. Usually not a problem unless stuck out in the bush or you have neglected to keep an eye on the battery and its level.
The stand by voltage is the recommended voltage for Float. That is the voltage you want the battery to be at after it is fully charged (max power has been absorbed into the storage) and it no longer needs any more charging. It is then at a constant fully charged level for when you want to use it. Modern "smart" chargers are so sophisticated that you can leave then connected to your battery indefinitely. The Setec charge system in a lot of Jayco vans is pretty good at looking after your battery as far as float and store voltages are concerned, which prevents build up of sulphation and corrosion of positive plates if left to continually charge at the float setting. It is not so good at charging to the max voltage for various batteries as it only gets to 14.0 volts and is limited to 10A or 15A usually. So IMHO, get the best voltage into your battery with a "smart" charger or good solar controller and when the battery reaches Float status, put it back onto the Setec (240v) to look after the battery.
If you send me a pickie of your battery, I will be able to confirm all the details for you.
So....

Standby = Float.

I'll have a look at the battery if I can lift it out easily - but it's the Jayco supplied on on a 2016 van.

The reason for my interest is I will be removing the Standard Jayco PWM Solar controller and replacing it with a new Victron Smart Solar 100/20. Just wasn't sure what (if any) settings had to be tweaked and if so, what values I need to set.

Thanks again for taking the time.
 
Mar 13, 2017
747
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Ferny Grove, Queensland
@Boots in Action Sorry I was referring to the jayco supplied PWM controller (topray) voltages, not the setec. I don't have the specs for it but my drifter would show about 14.4V with full sun which I think is typical for a cheap PWM. My point was more about being able to source much better controllers for not much more. I now get to set my bulk/absorption and float to whatever without continually over driving (in my opinion) the batteries. I have wired the topray to an external anderson and it still gets used when I plug in my portable panels. I also set my solar controller(s) based on planned usage so they defer to the setec in caravan parks and do their job when freecamping
Okay @jazzeddie1234 , now I get the picture. The max charge voltage for the Jayco Topray solar controller is 14.5 volts plus or minus 0.4 volts. From memory, the float is around 13.8 volts which is fine. And Top Ray is not so cheap either at around $85.00. It does have of course a display screen (instead of lights etc) and shows amps IN and VOLTAGE, and amps OUT but only IF THE LOAD IS CONNECTED TO THE SOLAR CONTROLLER.
Setting your solar controller to a lower voltage when in a caravan park and on 240 power seems to me to be a bit of a waste. Does the Drifter on 240 volt power charge as high as the solar controller - say 14.4 volts? The Setec in my Penguin only charges to 14.0 volts - too low to get the best capacity into AGM battery. My Daughter has a Jayco Journey with an 80 watt panel on the roof and a Setec power controller. I installed a PowerTech solar controller with user settings, (after throwing out the poor TopRay). I have the max voltage setting for her new AGM set at 14.6 volts and even when in a park and connected to 240 volt power, the Setec does the heavy lifting to 14.0 volts and then the solar power from roof puts in the topping voltage to 14.6 volts if sunny. Very little current is needed to do that. And that keeps battery right up there. If your new MPPT controller has a remote temperature sensor and it is fitted to the battery, the solar controller should compensate for this and slightly adjust the charge voltage and float voltages accordingly. Better to have the battery up near the top than down in the middle somewhere- a position that can never be restored once sulphation sets in on that part of the plates which were never charged fully. Tread your own path.
 
Mar 13, 2017
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Ferny Grove, Queensland
I leave the Drifter panel battery switched "on" so the Solar is always topping the battery off (I don't use a cover). When the van comes home it goes onto Mains 15A for 1 or 2 days min.


So....

Standby = Float.

I'll have a look at the battery if I can lift it out easily - but it's the Jayco supplied on on a 2016 van.

The reason for my interest is I will be removing the Standard Jayco PWM Solar controller and replacing it with a new Victron Smart Solar 100/20. Just wasn't sure what (if any) settings had to be tweaked and if so, what values I need to set.

Thanks again for taking the time.
If you have a Ritar Gel battery, I would have a max voltage setting of 14.4 volts as per the side of battery. If you do not have a remote temperature sensor with the Victron , then I would set it at 14.3 volts. The same with the float - as per the side of battery at 13.8 volts or 0.1 volt less if no remote temp sensor. These voltages will probably be higher than your Drifter charger, but will put more energy into the battery storage. If I just connect my Setec to charge on 240 volt power, the best I can get in stored energy (voltage) is 12.6 volts after a day or two off charge no load. If I use my "smart" charger, set for AGM, the voltage even after a week or more off charge stays at 13 volts - more energy stored because max voltage was used in charging?? Not just 14.0 volts from Setec. Lots of info on battery types/limitations/advantages on computer if you are interested..
 
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Mar 13, 2017
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Ferny Grove, Queensland
@Boots in Action Sorry I was referring to the jayco supplied PWM controller (topray) voltages, not the setec. I don't have the specs for it but my drifter would show about 14.4V with full sun which I think is typical for a cheap PWM. My point was more about being able to source much better controllers for not much more. I now get to set my bulk/absorption and float to whatever without continually over driving (in my opinion) the batteries. I have wired the topray to an external anderson and it still gets used when I plug in my portable panels. I also set my solar controller(s) based on planned usage so they defer to the setec in caravan parks and do their job when freecamping
Hi @jazzeddie1234 , out of interest, I had a look at your Eco-Worthy 20A MPPT controller to see what the specs are. I note that the user adjustable setting for charge voltage is 13.0 to 15.5 volts, so there is plenty of scope to cover any type of battery. The float voltage is adjustable from 12.5 to 14.5 volts. Whilst the over-discharge and Restart voltages are there at 10.2 to 13.5 and 10.3 to 13.5 volts respectively, I do not believe that these settings will be available to you unless LOAD is connected through solar controller. However, as you have a Drifter panel, that is not necessarily a loss. However, if you fall back to the Drifter Low Voltage Disconnect (I do not know what it is), there is virtually no protection for your battery if it is as low as the Setec power distribution I have, which is stated as 10.0 volts plus or minus 0.2 volt. I am not fully familiar with the sophisticated Drifter panel as yet, so am unable to offer any comment. As I have the Load circuit connected to the solar controller, I have been able to have a setting of 11.8 volts and a re-connect of 12.4 volts on my controller. I would be keen to hear how you are thinking about using this very valuable (IMHO) setting.
I was intrigued that you said that the controller needs 30 volts on the input from the solar panel to start operating, which means as you said two panels in series. Is that correct for all start ups or just the initial one on connecting the wires for a 12 volt operation??
 
May 19, 2016
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Sorry 30V was based on my poor memory. The ecoworthy I have has 2 charging modes that it selects automatically. PWM if the solar input is close to, or less than the battery voltage and when in float. MPPT when the solar voltage is above the battery voltage and in bulk charge. I found from trial and error that it works well in low light by putting 2 panels in series so it stays in mppt mode for longer. The newer models are better because they still work in mppt for low light regardless of voltage - my ute dc dc does this but for a much higher cost of course.
I don't use the load terminals much and haven't given much thought to low voltage disconnection.
BTW the ecoworthy is 1 of several similar $100 to $150 units. Some come with remote displays. I use good old youtube to find someone who has checked its mppt capability
 
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I had a look at the setec book. While the low voltage disconnect is 10V I am guessing that it assumes the battery is being drained under load rather than simply drifting down. Under load the voltage is much less than when not. Maybe they assume the flat battery will bounce back to 12 ish volts when tripped? Otherwise it would disconnect too early?
I don't think the drifter adds any smarts to battery protection except display a warning.
 
Mar 13, 2017
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Sorry 30V was based on my poor memory. The ecoworthy I have has 2 charging modes that it selects automatically. PWM if the solar input is close to, or less than the battery voltage and when in float. MPPT when the solar voltage is above the battery voltage and in bulk charge. I found from trial and error that it works well in low light by putting 2 panels in series so it stays in mppt mode for longer. The newer models are better because they still work in mppt for low light regardless of voltage - my ute dc dc does this but for a much higher cost of course.
I don't use the load terminals much and haven't given much thought to low voltage disconnection.
BTW the ecoworthy is 1 of several similar $100 to $150 units. Some come with remote displays. I use good old youtube to find someone who has checked its mppt capability

Thanks for clearing that up @jazzeddie1234 . I can agree with you totally about having two panels in series, especially in low light. You may not have much current being generated in low light conditions (cloudy days and late afternoon), because the irradiance?? on the panels from the light is low, but the voltage still stays fairly high. That extra voltage can be converted into more amps to supplement what the panels are generating. The one thing that puts a MPPT controller ahead of the PWM in the same conditions. I have both my panels 200w and 180w connected in series giving me a total of 38.8 volts when controller is in float mode and little load. 21A is the highest I have see when battery was around 12.3 volts and under 2.4A load. It was not there long before dropping back to 18A and then to a steady 16A for quite a while whilst in MPPT mode. Then it goes to Boost for a max of 2 hours before going back to MPPT if not fully charged or it moves to Float status. I cannot remember what the minimum start voltage was when I first connected it up. I think it was just to detect and set the operating or running voltage ie. 12 volt or 24 volt system . I paid $145.00 when I bought my LD solar two years'ago, (a proper MPPT type) and I see it on special now for approx $123.00. Great value and with a lot more features than the one you have and had a 2 year warranty too, from Foster NSW. Separate display screen not required as all settings can be made on control panel and all displays visible by pushing selected button .
Thanks for your info. It's great conversing with another member who has the same or similar equipment.
 
Mar 13, 2017
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I had a look at the setec book. While the low voltage disconnect is 10V I am guessing that it assumes the battery is being drained under load rather than simply drifting down. Under load the voltage is much less than when not. Maybe they assume the flat battery will bounce back to 12 ish volts when tripped? Otherwise it would disconnect too early?
I don't think the drifter adds any smarts to battery protection except display a warning.
Probably correct @jazzeddie1234 . My Daughter's TopRay was not much help as my Daughter did not keep an eye on voltage and in any case, the load was not connected to the solar controller at that time. However, the Setec did cut off the battery power when they only had a small light and a small battery television running - approx 3A only. Hardly a heavy load! So it must have been drifting down slowly and operating the lights and water pump occasionally for some time before it could no longer handle even a light load. And the battery was really stuffed and could not be recovered even with a "smart" charger and another battery in parallel to kick start it!! If you happen to leave an interior light on or some other light electrical load is forgotten, then over a week or so, your battery is cactus!! That is why I feel that an LVD at a higher voltage is much better.
 
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Thinking about this a bit more... Rerouting the loads through a solar controller would be a fair amount of work. One option would be to install an old school 4wd low voltage relay in the battery feed. This has a problem that the relay will not reconnect without manual intervention as most have the voltage sense on the battery side (because it is assumed the alternator will recharge) but a more elegant idea would be to energise the relay from a solar controller load output. Of course the controller would have to be on the battery side but this allows some recharge before the relay reengages. Thinking even further the relay could be paralleled with manual disconnect on the setec...
 
Mar 13, 2017
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Thinking about this a bit more... Rerouting the loads through a solar controller would be a fair amount of work. One option would be to install an old school 4wd low voltage relay in the battery feed. This has a problem that the relay will not reconnect without manual intervention as most have the voltage sense on the battery side (because it is assumed the alternator will recharge) but a more elegant idea would be to energise the relay from a solar controller load output. Of course the controller would have to be on the battery side but this allows some recharge before the relay reengages. Thinking even further the relay could be paralleled with manual disconnect on the setec...
@jazzeddie1234 , as I do not have a wiring diagram for a van with the drifter controller, it is very hard for me to visualize where the electrical connections and wiring are necessary to incorporate the Loads going through the solar controller. Firstly, any loads going through the solar controller MUST be within the capacity of the controller to deliver. So 30A controller means 30A in and capable of 30A out. No use having a 20A controller and trying to take 30A out to cover any load! In my own situation, my only load output is at the fuse point and has 8 X 10A fuses but the whole lot is covered by a 20A fuse. It is unlikely that I would I would ever get close to 20A total - the highest line at the moment being the electric pump of 3 or 4A which I have a 5A fuse for that circuit. Other loads are for lights and radio, and extra 12 volt sockets for USB charging, and 12 volt TV or for exterior 12 volt LEDs. My controller is rated at 30A. Do you have any items that would draw in excess of 20A or combos that would get close to that level? In my particular case (simple one) , my controller is in fact in parallel with the Setec LVD, but because of the higher voltage setting of 11.8 volts sensed by the controller, it will disconnect the loads well before the Setec even looks like doing it at 10 volts. If it is not SIMPLE , it is not going to help anyone!! Only enthusiasts are going to see the worth of the extra work!!
In any case ALL high power loads should be connected directly across the battery terminals and separately fused. @Drover has mentioned before that it could be that the actual wiring may be a problem because of their positioning in and behind walls but I managed to do it for my Daughter's Jayco Journey, but she did not have a Drifter panel either. Not all the Load/s need to be fed through the controller, just those that are used frequently. As the solar controller gets its power from across the battery terminals (as well as for putting power into the battery), the controller would be able to sense the voltage at that point and disconnect any loads through the load terminals of controller. If that occurred at say 11.8 volts (before the battery gets into the NON full recovery mode?), that would act as an early warning to reduce loads or increase power input. If people keep a close eye on the Drifter voltage, this is all academic, but if you don't, or miss it, the solar controller will protect your battery/ies.
Is it possible to just have some of the Load circuits wired through the solar controller without denigrating the operation of the Drifter and its readings? Maybe a bit of work running the wiring but I am sure it can be done. Very keen to hear what you have to say.
 
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The drifter adds a couple of functions to the setec. The main one is the shunt which the drifter uses to show amps in/out and give an indication of state of charge (which it uses to calculate hours left) and of course the tank levels. The other 2 features are pump on/off (a simple in-line switch) and battery disconnect which is connected to 2 terminals of the setec - so the setec is doing the disconnect. I was wondering if, instead of moving loads from the setec, if it were easier to connect to the battery disconnect terminals (I'm not sure if it is activated by a short or open circuit). I made up a really rough cct to show the idea
 

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Mar 13, 2017
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The drifter adds a couple of functions to the setec. The main one is the shunt which the drifter uses to show amps in/out and give an indication of state of charge (which it uses to calculate hours left) and of course the tank levels. The other 2 features are pump on/off (a simple in-line switch) and battery disconnect which is connected to 2 terminals of the setec - so the setec is doing the disconnect. I was wondering if, instead of moving loads from the setec, if it were easier to connect to the battery disconnect terminals (I'm not sure if it is activated by a short or open circuit). I made up a really rough cct to show the idea
Thanks for the quick response @jazzeddie1234 . For your information, with my solar controller, there is a shut down switch and when I have (accidentally) pushed it whilst looking at logging detais, it not only shuts down the controller output, but has disconnected the battery system to the SETEC as well, so perhaps both are linked. When this happens, it sounds like a relay in the Setec system. So if that is the case, if power is lost (or voltage too low to hold contacts together), the"pull in" coil lets the contacts separate and the MAIN battery power is disconnected. This would mean that there must be some sort of voltage and small current to energise coil to enable contacts to close for current to flow to load circuit, either through the SETEC distribution circuit AND/OR the solar controller as the controller is connected across the battery terminals.
It is too late for me to think about connections tonight when a Drifter panel exists, but have a look at my post on how I have done it when no Drifter panel is in the system. I have a Setec ST20 Series III the same one as in the picture you sent me. I disconnected the Pos and Neg battery terminals coming from battery to the Setec distribution point at the box, and connected two new wires for the van loads from the Setec distribution box directly to the Solar LOAD terminals. Have a look at my post and pictures and see if that helps, because I think you are on to something very simple.
Under Electrical, look for "Ignorance may be bliss, but won't keep your power going". Post # 14 dated Jan 6, 2019.
 
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