Energy Anybody know anything about solar systems?

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Lilikoian, Aug 24, 2017.

  1. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    I've got a one-panel solar system that I've had for a year or so that's losing power. I need to trouble-shoot the problem and wonder if someone here can help.
    chelloveck likes this.
  2. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++

    Do you mean it's not putting out as many amps as it use to? Is it dirty? Did a tree grow up and is now shading it part of the time? Are all the connections still solid, nuts tight with no corrosion?
    techsar and chelloveck like this.
  3. azrancher

    azrancher Monkey +++

    Do you mean it's not collecting as much? To lose power you must collect it first.

    How about a description of your system with a photo or 2.

    chelloveck likes this.
  4. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    If you haven't cleaned your panels in that year or so, you need to address that first. Panels may look clean but have a film on them that will make a major difference.
  5. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    It's not providing as much power as it used to. Panel is clean. It's on the ground, and I move it depending on trees etc.

    It's either old batteries or panel placement, I think.
  6. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    How old is the panel?? Solar panels don't last indefinitely, and they do progressively degrade in performance over time.

    The Real Lifespan of Solar Panels - Energy Informative

    also check for corrosion of connectors between the supply cable to the batteries. As with motor vehicle batteries, corroded connections can affect system performance.

    Solar panels don't last forever and degradation varies wildly, study says
    sec_monkey and Lilikoian like this.
  7. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Battery is probably going dead. The little pre-packaged 1 to 3 panel systems are only made to last about a year before the battery dies or the junk charge controller craps out.

    We kind of need to know the details of the system.
    What kind of panel and how big.
    What kind of charge controller.
    What type and size is the battery.
    What does it power.
  8. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    My "kit" came with 2 car batteries and a $20 charge controller. I'm still upset with the company for selling me crap. I was able to get them to give me a better charge controller after I threw a fit in their warehouse.

    Anyway...I replaced the 2 car batteries with 2 golf cart/deep cell batteries about a year ago. However, THAT business closed about a month after I bought them. It made me wonder if they weren't good batteries to begin with. Is there a way to test their remaining life? I'm wondering if daily use has degraded them.

    Tomorrow when there is light I will take pix of all the components or provide info about each of them. I will also check the connections for corrosion, as Chelloveck has recommended.
    Motomom34 and chelloveck like this.
  9. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Have you added water and checked specific gravity of the electrolyte?
  10. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Do you have a voltmeter independent of the charge controller? And what brand is the controller? Some are notorious for issues, especially if they are a simple on/off switch type setup. With the brand name/model, I can do a deep-dive search for possible controller related issues. Since the controller appears to be the only active device in your system, that is where I suggest we look first....

    It might be instructive to see what the voltage is going into the controller from the collector panel and what voltage is applied to the batteries from the controller.. It might be instructive to also check the voltage at point of use (lights, heater IIRC)

    As noted by others, corrosion, especially in a wet climate, can be problematic

    If the golf cart batteries were new, I doubt that is the problem.

    Unless you routinely discharge the batteries well below 50% of capacity, and fail to keep the batteries topped off -- they should still be good at only a year old. Abused batteries, however, can go bad quickly.

    May I also assume the system is 12VDC?

    Also - This link takes you to a comprehensive site (with multiple 'lessons" covering the care and feeding of most common batteries - well worth the time to read.
    If sulfation has impacted your batteries, this particular section covers that area nicely.

    Finally, since Alaska is a actually slightly less expensive place to live than HI, your $20 charge controller most likely really was a POS.


    BatteryMINDer® Model SCC-180: 12V 180 Watt (12V 180W) Solar Charger-Maintainer-Desulfator
    This controller (an example, not a recommendation) offers "Patented high-frequency pulse desulfation is designed to reverse and eliminate battery sulfation, the #1 cause of early battery failure"
    This listed feature "desulfation" is key to extended battery life. Please note the example controller is priced at $120 USD.

    GE 50952 14-range 6-function Analog Multimeter
    WalMArt SKU 552944646 lists for just under $10. This should be fine for basic troubleshooting...

    A digital meter (ETEKWalmart #: 554137735) sells for under $13. You will need a meter to do any kind of real troubleshooting....
  11. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Good on ya. I would have as well. Some "solar" company! They shouldn't even have "car" batteries in their warehouse!
    chelloveck likes this.
  12. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0279.JPG Thanks all for so much help. I'm going to upload pix of all components.
    "Kit" inverter with upgraded charge controller on top. "Stasis" on my inverter is 12.2.
    Dunerunner likes this.
  13. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0280.JPG Charge controller top view:
    "Batt" light is red, PV light is green (taken when inverter was at 11.9, so battery still charging. Approx. 2 hrs after sunrise.
    chelloveck and Dunerunner like this.
  14. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    They had a sign in the window advertising their Interstate batteries, and sold them as "better" than your typical car battery. I tell ya, I've been ripped off so many times throughout this process, I think cuz I'm a single woman. You guys helping are the best.
    Asia-Off-Grid and chelloveck like this.
  15. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0281.JPG IMG_0281.JPG Specs of charge controller
    chelloveck and Dunerunner like this.
  16. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0286.JPG Solar panel specs:
    chelloveck and Dunerunner like this.
  17. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0284.JPG Batteries and connections - best pic I could get due to their location. The connections look great - I don't see any corrosion. The white wire goes to my water pump.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2017
    chelloveck and Dunerunner like this.
  18. Lilikoian

    Lilikoian Monkey

    IMG_0288.JPG Panel. I'm at latitude 19, and I've been told the panel should therefore be at a 19 degree angle. I should reduce the angle probably. It is facing due south.

    If anybody wants to come by and weedwhack, I'll bake you a banana cream pie :)
  19. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    Quick question... Is that water or sap on your solar panel... If sap you may want o clean it off as it will also cut down on the power produces... ( I only ask due to the closeness of trees to your panel....)
    chelloveck likes this.
  20. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Good news, the controller is Chinese, but is not a POS. SInce it has a computer port, I'll see what it can tell you if you hook it up....
    Tracer is an advanced Maximum Power Point Tracking MPPT controller for off-grid photovoltaic (PV) systems. The controller provides higher efficiency up to 97% with lower power loss.

    ·MPPT technology
    ·Peak conversion efficiency of 97%
    ·High Tracking efficiency of 99%
    ·Several seconds tracking speed
    ·4-Stage charge with PWM output
    ·Nature convection cooling
    ·Full power output in ambient temperature up to 45 ℃
    ·Temperature compensation
    ·Sealed, Gel and Flooded battery option
    ·Widely used, automatically recognize day/night
    ·Diversified load control
    ·RJ45 interface &optional meter
    ·2 years warranty
    ·CE certificate

    Electronic Protections:
    ·PV short circuit protection
    ·PV reverse polarity protection
    ·PV overvoltage alarm protection
    ·PV over current protection
    ·Battery overcharge protection
    ·Battery over discharge protection
    ·Battery reverse polarity protection
    ·Load short circuit protection
    ·Load overload protection

    Model Tracer-3215RN
    Rated system voltage 12/24V auto work
    Rated battery current 30A
    Rated load current 20A
    Max.battery voltage 32V
    Max.PV open circuit voltage 150VDC
    Max.PV input power 12V 390W, 24V 780W
    Self-consumption <10mA(24V)
    Charge Circuit Voltage Drop ≤0.26V
    Discharge Circuit Voltage Drop ≤0.15V
    Communication TTL232 / 8 pin RJ45
    Temp.compensation -5mV/℃/2V
    Working temperature -35℃~+55℃
    Dimension 242mm x 169mm x 91mm
    Terminal 25mm2
    Weight 2kg

    More to follow
    Asia-Off-Grid and chelloveck like this.
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