Author Topic: Hello, from Conway, NH!  (Read 5486 times)

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DanMc

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Hello, from Conway, NH!
« on: June 19, 2015, 05:01:40 AM »
Hello!!
Over the past year I purchased a hillside 28 acre parcel with an off-grid cabin in Conway, NH.  Currently the cabin has a 500 gallon rainwater harvesting system and is powered by generators with 4 Trojan T105 batteries for backup.  All power originates from generators.

The generators consist of a small Honda 1000 watt unit for lights and charging the batteries.  A larger 7500 watt Troy-bilt generator has to be run when the shallow well pump is run to charge up 3 large bladder tanks for the water system.

Everything works quite nicely.  I need to add some solar/wind generation to keep the batteries topped off when we are not there.  I'm looking at the 45 watt Harbor Freight solar panel kit as a starting point.  I'm not sure how well this panel will get along with these batteries.  The HF panel includes a small charge controller, but I'm not quite sure whether it will be able to handle 4 big batteries, especially if they are low on charge. 

Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated as I am new to the off-grid scene.  I'm loving it, but have a lot to learn.  Although I can design and build just about anything, time availability forces me to use off-the-shelf components as much as possible. 

Blessings,
Dan


Bruce S

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2015, 06:54:02 AM »
Welcome to the Forum!!

The HF kit will be hard pressed to keep up, BUT if they start out mostly charged it will at least keep the voltages up.
The kit is a 45watt unit, the panels are "OK" for output. You'll find that open voltages on them will be around 22Vdc, loaded onto a battery system they will be held down by the battery voltages.
The box that came with them isn't really a charge controller per se , it merely has diodes in it to keep the charge from going back from the batteries into the panels.
Having said that, I find the voltage distribution outlets very very handy, the display I turn off for most of the time and I have a morningstar solar controller between it and the panels. The Morningstar I have is a ss-6-12v , and has been a set it and forget it device, only thing I did was to set the unit from solid to wetcell .

I'm in the city (St Louis) so I do not have to have a larger unit, but would purchase from them pronto.
I also have GHURD's diversion controllers making sure I get all my specialized batteries charged as well.

Cheers
Bruce S
 
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DanMc

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2015, 08:24:29 AM »
Hi Bruce,

Thanks for the quick response!!  I will pick up this panel today and will install it on the roof this weeked.  I'll tuck the panel in between the two roof lines.  The cabin faces southwest, so I'll have to see whether I can get it mounted to face south as it should.

Isn't there more than diodes in there?  They say that it cuts off the charging when the batteries are above 14.5 volts.  The first thing I will do once I get this is open up that little box and get a pic of what's inside. 

Looks like I need to bone up on solar panel charge controllers!!

Dan
« Last Edit: June 19, 2015, 08:31:23 AM by DanMc »

Bruce S

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2015, 11:48:32 AM »
A pic of the controller that comes with the HF setup will be best.
There have been two different types and I have both.
The better ones has the standard cig-light plugin and a USB along with a voltage readout.
Neither one of Mine had anything to shut off the voltage going to the batteries.
 Pics do wonders :)!
 
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thirteen

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2015, 05:35:46 PM »
Welcome. How old are the batteries? I have a set of Harbor solar panels just like you are maybe getting. Mine did charge my two big (D) batteries but they were new at the time. I would be gone for 1 1/2 - 2 months at a time. But it will not give a deep charge on them if it is needed. I suggest you take a readings on the batteries and make a chart to keep notes on them.They might already have a chart upkeep somewhere.   Batteries will last a long time if taken care of properly. A trickle charge on your batteries is a good idea. Esp in the winter.13
 
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OperaHouse

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2015, 11:47:22 AM »
Those HF panels are a poor choice, very high dollar per watt.  I just arrived at my camp in upstate NY and I live there for months on solar with just a single battery.  That powers my refrigeration, lights, pump and gives me hot water.  As you know, we have had a week of rain and clouds and  I still get my hot showers.  It is a smart system and power is always going someplace useful.  Most systems are just plane dumb and enormous amounts of potential energy are just wasted.  You can do a lor with very little.

Mary B

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2015, 06:05:12 PM »
Could have gotten better panels for less money at www.solarblvd.com

dnix71

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2015, 08:05:51 PM »
HF panels used to be an okay choice but the price hasn't come down like other panel have. I have also had a couple delaminate and fail within 5 years. But it's a long boat ride from China so I don't know how well they were handled.

They fade badly in hot weather. Since you are in New Hampshire, that shouldn't be a problem. I like the power distribution unit that comes with the kit.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/100-Watt-12V-Mono-Solar-Panel-Bundle-Kit-Off-Grid-for-RV-Boat-/281322049660 Same price as the HF kit but has twice the panel output. Direct from the manufacturer in the US.

DanMc

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2015, 03:07:37 PM »
Thanks to everybody for your feedback. 

Yeah, the HF panels may be a poor choice, but it's all part of the learning experience. 

The batteries are Trojan T105's.  There are 4 batteries with two series pairs in parallel to get 12 volts.  I think that the batteries are about 3 years old.  I'm going through the learning process to assess their health. 

I have only owned this place for a few months now, so I'm getting acquainted with everything.  The only energy sources up to now has been a 1000 watt Honda generator, which has the difficult task of charging these batteries, and then a big 7500 watt generator to run a shallow well pump as needed.  Getting the batteries up to a full charge means running the generator for a huge number of hours to get it through bulk and absorption charge phases.  This seems ridiculous to me since the last phase is low current and seems to be a big waste of fuel.

This weekend I installed this whopping 45 watt HF panel with the included "charge controller" and left it connected to the batteries, hopefully as a sufficient float charger.  I'm hopeful that over two weeks I'll at least find that the batteries have not lost any charge from sitting idle.

I have photos of the internals of the HF charge controllers that I'll post later...

Thanks,
Dan






Frank S

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2015, 06:07:44 PM »
Are you trying to use the on-board 12v as your battery charger? If so you should really think about getting a real battery charger.like a Schumacher SE 60/30  it
 will give you up to 60 amps @ 12v on the high setting or 30 on the low, also 30 Amps @ 6v  Plus 300 @ 12v for a few seconds.
 I have mine hardwired to my bank and to my 120 vac If my generator is running it is charging my bank of 12 GC@ s plus 2 4D s on days when my 1100 w array doesn't get any sun the Shumacher can take my bank from 12.2v into absorb in about @ 15v in about 4 and a half hours. we've had it since April 2013 it now has close to 1500 hours on it
  The best $290.00 spent on our system
I live so far outside of the box, when I die they will stretch my carcass over the coffin

DanMc

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2015, 05:23:36 AM »
Hi Frank,
The current setup uses a Xantrex Truecharge 20+ for charging, with an Aims Power 1250 watt inverter. 

Just for kicks, I have attached interior photos of the HF charge controllers.  The controller that is included with the 45 watt panel kit is a total rats-nest of wires.  The 500 watt unit is much neater.  I think I'll be returning the 500 watt unit while I do my homework to pick up the best stuff with advice from those more experienced (that's you guys!).

OperaHouse - I'd like to hear some details about what kind of system you have, and what that single battery is. 
Dan 

OperaHouse

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2015, 10:16:17 AM »
The battery is only s car battery out of my pickup that I don't take with me to the camp and that is only used for the surge starting the fridge.  I have a secondary battery for running everything else, the boat battery.  The fridge is a 5CF chest freezer that only runs during the day, it stores cold for night in about 40 cans of drinks. Two water heaters in series, 10 & 20 gallon, the 10 hears first.  900W in a 36V string giving me about a 50V buss with some random 12V panels.   Everything rubs on a $6 UNO which controls the water heating, two MPPT controllers, fridge, pump. All the electronics cost less than $20 if you don't include the power meters.  Don't like batteries as they run about 12 cents a KWH of use.  Most everything runs real time seamlessly sending power to where it is needed.  Most RE installations waste enormous amounts of potential power. Even relatively good controllers like the Midnight are pretty shabby when it comes to diversion.  My code is quite simple and child like, but quite effective at getting the most from the panels.  The converters are pretty simple, using only about five parts. 

DanMc

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2015, 10:12:03 AM »
Just got back from a nice visit to the cabin.  I learned a great deal.

1.  The Harbor Freight 45 watt solar panels did an excellent job keeping the batteries up to charge while I was gone.  When I arrived, after having been gone for 2 weeks, the batteries were sitting at around 13.5 volts.  Other times when I return I find them down in the low 12's.  I was actually surprised by this since I kind of expected that the panels would have no noticable impact being only 45 watts, and I only get about 4 hours of direct sunshine with all the trees around.

2.  I spent some time investigating why the batteries tend to be depleted when I wake up in the morning even though I only used about 20 watts of LED lighting for a few hours in the evening.  The AIMS 1250 watt inverter is sucking down a full amp of 12 volt power continuously at no-load.  So my batteries are having to supply about 100 WH just to power the inverter all night.  I happened to have a cheap HF 80 watt inverter laying around, so I wired that in and found that this tiny 80 watt inverter pulls .2 amp no-load and has enough power to run my lights as long as I don't turn on too many at once.  I used that for the remaining stay and found the batteries in much better condition in the morning.   I need to find a better inverter that goes into standby (near 0 amps) when there's no load, or at least get a switch installed in the kitchen to shut off the inverter when we go to bed, and during the day when we don't need lights.  The AIMS 1250 unit has a rocker switch to turn it on, so I could open it up and extend those wires up to the kitchen.

3.  I tested the batteries with a hydrometer.  All of them when "fully charged" are either in the high range of "fair" or in the low range of "good".  So they are all on their way out.

It is tempting to go out and buy a big new deep cycle 12 volt battery.  I bet that a single new 12 v battery will have as much capacity as all 4 of these 3 year old Trojian T105's. 



DanMc

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2016, 11:19:29 AM »
Adding a final update to this thread.  I just finished installing a 500 watt solar system with a Midnite Classic 150 charge controller.  I also rewired the batteries to get rid of the crappy #8 AWG wire, replacing it with shorter lengths of 1/0 cables.  It's like I have new batteries!!

On any day with sun, the charge controller will make it to float in the early afternoon and with the heavy wire I can run anything I want to without issue. 

I don't think that I was ever getting a full charge on these batteries, and when there was some charge in them, the wires were consuming a large portion of my power. 

DamonHD

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Re: Hello, from Conway, NH!
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2016, 09:35:47 AM »
Thanks for the update!

I also have recently vastly improved the wiring to my battery bank, and while I may already have ruined the batteries, what's left of them seems to be behaving better...

Rgds

Damon