Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Hey! The Whining Stopped!

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Originally posted 11/28/2012

Yep, those over-photographed solar panels are now all generating free* energy! All four! I installed the smaller Morningstar controller for the CPAP’s battery first, simply because that system is stone-simple and the unit is more forgiving of a wiring error. Went like a charm. The battery was actually nearly fully charged already, so there wasn’t much action once the system came up late in the afternoon.

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There was one really odd thing about it, though. I hooked up an extension cord last night and played the movie RED (one of my all-time favorites on earth) twice in a row (love the soundtrack music) on the CPAP battery to cause some stress on it and see what the amount of discharge would be. It’s one of Concorde’s Sun Xtender 104Ah true deep cycle AGM cells, one of the backbreaking $300 ones. Doing that to the two house batteries, new 104Ah auto parts store marine batteries, usually takes them down to their limit of 50% charge. The single Sun Xtender battery never flinched. It went down less than
20%. In other words, that one CPAP battery appeared to be much stronger than two similarly-rated marine batteries. A 104 amp-hour rating is just that – they are supposed to have the same power output, and the “house” system has twice the capacity, going by the numbers, and both systems use identical solar controllers/chargers and identical solar panels. Weird. Granted, it’s a good problem, but it has me stumped.

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So today, I tackled the “big” Morningstar 45 amp controller. This was more challenging because I’m linking two solar panels together in series, and charging four Sun Xtender batteries wired together in parallel. (Isn’t that fascinating?!?) Had to bicycle to the hardware store in town for that one, for additional wire, fuseholders, and specialty connectors. Because this charger is capable of handling up to three of my panels at once, that’s a heap of power, and it can’t have the same built-in safeguards to protect it against bonehead installers like myself. So, I was careful, ya, you betcha.

The installation was complicated by the fact that it needs really hefty wire – 6 or 8-gage – to go between it and the batteries, and that was not available. So, I did the hillbilly install – I connected the two with twin lengths of 10-gauge wire. Finished it just before sunset and fired it up. It seems happy enough. No smoke, sparks, or dead electronics. Just LEDs telling me that it’s charging, and that the batteries aren’t that thrilled with not being touched for two months. Tomorrow will tell the tale as far as real charging goes. My goal will be to check every connection for heat during the day, and not have anything actually catch fire. That would be nice. If the controller can get the cells all the way through a full charge by the end of the day, I’m golden! In the meantime, I’m considering that the office desktop computer will soon be open for business, and life is good, oh yes!

*Some limitations and exclusions apply. See prior blog posts for details.

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