Faulty motorhome solar regulators can be deadly

With the desire to improve public safety, a reader sent us this informative and cautionary tale about solar panels releasing poisonous gases in a motorhome.

Failure of the two solar panels’ regulator in our motorhome led to over-charging of the motorhome’s lead acid batteries, producing hydrogen sulphide gas.

The gas is colourless and possibly mildly rotten eggs smelling, very poisonous, and caused me to experience hallucinations, nausea, light headedness, dizziness, left side headaches and sore eye/s, tinnitus, plus mild but irritating rash left side of forehead, giving me constant pain and discomfort. This went on for about six to seven weeks. Even my GP didn’t pick it up after three visits. All this from sleeping in the motorhome among the escaping gases.

I understand the gases can cause cerebral haemorrhage; rupture brain vessels; cause nausea, and ear and eye pain; and may even lead to death.

In our case, this occurred during a period of between eight and 11 weeks and the problem was accentuated by the bright cloudless days which pushed the charging rates from the solar panels to, in my opinion, destroy and bypass the low and under rated 2.5amp regulator, which turned out to be faulty or destroyed.

During charging, (especially in the event of overcharging which had been occurring due to faulty regulator), lead acid batteries produce oxygen and hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide. These gases are produced by the electrolysis of water from the aqueous solution of sulfuric acid. Since the water is lost, the electrolyte can be depleted.

This is why you need to add water to non-sealed lead acid batteries, but to also regularly check charging rates from solar panels, vehicle or AC mains. The best outcome is to replace batteries with fully sealed types. Our house batteries, while in a very well ventilated box under the entrance steps, could still allow excess gases to escape into the MH house area, as was occurring.

The in-house five gas detector alarm system installed in our motorhome had triggered three or four times and reset automatically over the eight- to 11-week timeframe, but thankfully the alarm finally stayed on, thus alerting me to investigate more fully the cause of the alarm alert. Yes we should have investigated more fully earlier but for many reasons it didn’t happen. Stupid!

The two unsealed overcharged batteries have now been replaced with two fully sealed GEL 104 AH units together with a new 20 amp fully automatic solar panel regulator with monitor to allow readings of the system.

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