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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems > Solar charge controller question
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Topic Review (Newest First)
09-23-2013 02:00 PM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Sorry, I didn't mean literally "bursting", I meant fully charged. The battery seems to be fine. Anyhow, my next step is to add a cheap amp meter to monitor how many amps are flowing into the battery from the panels. For the time being I'm using battery voltage to determine the charge state.
09-23-2013 01:50 PM
hellosailor
Re: Solar charge controller question

Copa-
If the battery was bursting at 12.9v, it might have been "cooked" by a bad controller and then burst. Or, it might have been dried out resulting in a burst from "normal" and proper charging. At least in my understanding, what you saw doesn't give you a definite cause and effect, it could have gone either way.
09-23-2013 08:40 AM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Final results: I found the battery bursting with 12.9v and sitting on float charge. I believe the problem was solved by replacing the controller. Thanks for all the advice.
09-09-2013 11:11 AM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Thanks Mainesail. I hope I've nailed it. As I mentioned, I'll know for sure when I get back to the boat after two weeks of charging in the sun. If I find the battery on float charge, I'll be happy. Funny that the old controller didn't fail altogether though. I thought they either worked or didn't work.

I'll report back with the final results!
09-09-2013 09:01 AM
Maine Sail
Re: Solar charge controller question

Quote:
Originally Posted by copacabana View Post
Another update:

I went to the boat yesterday to install the new controller. Following the advice Mainesail gave me, I checked the amp and volt output of the panels with the old controller before I removed it. it wasn't a very sunny day and the angle was getting low, but the old controller was putting out 1.3 amps and only 12.8 volts. We put in the new controller and saw a jump to 2 amps and 13.1 volts. It looks like the old controller might have been the problem after all. I left the panels charging my 160a house battery and will return in 2 weeks to see the charge state. If all is well, I hope the see the little blinking light that indicates a full battery on float charge.

Glad you found the issue. There are a LOT of suspect solar controllers out there and the market is akin to Snake Oil sales from the early days of pharmaceuticals........
09-08-2013 07:55 AM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Another update:

I went to the boat yesterday to install the new controller. Following the advice Mainesail gave me, I checked the amp and volt output of the panels with the old controller before I removed it. it wasn't a very sunny day and the angle was getting low, but the old controller was putting out 1.3 amps and only 12.8 volts. We put in the new controller and saw a jump to 2 amps and 13.1 volts. It looks like the old controller might have been the problem after all. I left the panels charging my 160a house battery and will return in 2 weeks to see the charge state. If all is well, I hope the see the little blinking light that indicates a full battery on float charge.
09-01-2013 09:21 AM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Another detail I should mention: according to the panel literature, each panel should put out a maximum of 3.5a/18v per hour under optimum sun conditions. Should I expect something like 2a/hour during the sunny hours from each panel? It seems that I should be putting more into the battery than I consume if that's the case.

And yet another detail ... I measured 16v coming into the controller from the panels in the late afternoon sun. Can I assume the panels are working fine?
09-01-2013 09:12 AM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

Thanks for your reply and video Mainesail. I really appreciate your informative posts and your "how-to" site. Now, when are you coming to Brazil to help me kill the gremlins on my boat?

If I understood your post and video correctly, I will only see 14+ volts when the battery is charged and in float state. I always assumed I would see higher volts going in as it charged and the voltage dropping as it reached float state. Now I'm more confused ...

Perhaps I should just state the facts about my charging system and maybe you can tell me what's going on.

When I bought the boat it came with the current two 43w panels and controller and about 450a of cheap batteries all in one bank (and all of different sizes). One by one, the batteries failed and I removed them. At this time I changed everything to LED aboard and, after the last original battery died, I bought a quality 160a deep-cycle battery for my house battery and a 70a starter battery. The new batteries are a bit less than 2 years old now. They are on separate circuits (I charge them separately). After these changes I always saw high 13's or 14+ volts from the controller to the batteries on my voltmeter during the sunny hours. At sunset I would see 12.7 or usually 12.8 volts on my battery and a bed time maybe 12.5 or 12.6 volts. My electricity use is the LED lights and maybe an hour or two of stereo. Some months ago I started to notice the volts during the day were always under 13v and the battery didn't seem to be getting up to full charge. After a good motoring though, the battery would be bursting with charge and would hold the charge fine. When I close the boat I leave the panels charging the 160a battery and it usually sits for 2 weeks like that. Still, when I get back to the boat after 2 or 3 weeks I find the charger putting out 12.8 or 12.9 volts. As a test I tried leaving the 70a battery on the charger for 2 weeks and I also saw only 12.8v going to the battery from the controller. Now, my doubts:

I don't have an amp meter unfortunately. How can I find out if the battery is being charged?

Shouldn't the 86w of panels bring a 160a battery up to full charge over a few weeks?

Why did the charger always send 14+ volts during the day to the battery in the past and now only send 12+ volts?

Since I've already bought the new controller I might as well go ahead and install it on Saturday. I'll let you know what happens.
08-31-2013 02:00 PM
Maine Sail
Re: Solar charge controller question

Quote:
Originally Posted by copacabana View Post
I just thought I'd provide an update on the situation.

I've been back to the boat a few times with my electrician since my original post and this is what we've discovered. The solar panels, which I thought were 65w each are, in fact, 43w each (the Seimens model number is 65, hence my assumption they were 65w). This discovery has lowered my expectations in terms of power charging. It turns out I have a total of 86w of panels. We were able to test them and they were putting out more than 16v in a late afternoon winter sun, so it seems they are functioning fine. The current solar charger, however, is only sending 12.8v to the batteries- and that seems to be the problem. I now believe the charge controller is confused about the battery state and is withholding charge thinking the batteries are full. I've bought a cheap Chinese 30a controller to replace the current controller and will install it next weekend. I'm certain the controller is the problem, but I'll know for sure on Saturday. I am already thinking about buying one big 140w panel to supplement my charging capacity (I have plenty of room for panels). This raises another question: can I hook up two 43w panels with a 140w panel on the same controller or do all the panels have to be of the same model or wattage? I actually think the two 43w panels will provide enough power for my current needs, but as I'd like to add an electric fridge later to replace my propane one, I think I could use the extra power. I'l get a good MPPT controller later on my next trip abroad.

With only 80W of panel it will take you days to get to absorption voltage. You will probably not come up to 14.XX until 95% +/- SOC... The available current in this case dictates how long it will take you to get to an absorption voltage. You will be stuck in bulk for a long while and the batteries are dictating the voltage based on the available current, or lack there of, to raise the voltage...

Your electrician should understand this and should have clamped the output to confirm current. Your controller is working but don't expect 14.XX for a couple of days or more even with all DC loads off....

If you had 150A of current you'd see 14.XX fairly quickly but you have essentially a trickle charger for a quarter to a third of a 24 hour period, thus it takes time....

This video may help to explain the relationship between current & voltage...

08-31-2013 12:43 PM
copacabana
Re: Solar charge controller question

I just thought I'd provide an update on the situation.

I've been back to the boat a few times with my electrician since my original post and this is what we've discovered. The solar panels, which I thought were 65w each are, in fact, 43w each (the Seimens model number is 65, hence my assumption they were 65w). This discovery has lowered my expectations in terms of power charging. It turns out I have a total of 86w of panels. We were able to test them and they were putting out more than 16v in a late afternoon winter sun, so it seems they are functioning fine. The current solar charger, however, is only sending 12.8v to the batteries- and that seems to be the problem. I now believe the charge controller is confused about the battery state and is withholding charge thinking the batteries are full. I've bought a cheap Chinese 30a controller to replace the current controller and will install it next weekend. I'm certain the controller is the problem, but I'll know for sure on Saturday. I am already thinking about buying one big 140w panel to supplement my charging capacity (I have plenty of room for panels). This raises another question: can I hook up two 43w panels with a 140w panel on the same controller or do all the panels have to be of the same model or wattage? I actually think the two 43w panels will provide enough power for my current needs, but as I'd like to add an electric fridge later to replace my propane one, I think I could use the extra power. I'l get a good MPPT controller later on my next trip abroad.
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