Strolling Amok

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Archive for the tag “solar controllers”

Gags, Humor, and Solar Power

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

I recently managed to replace the misbehaving Outback SmartHarvest 20A MPPT solar charge controller with a proper Morningstar controller, and now all is right with the world. The Outback was exceptionally naughty right out of the box, and its replacement was no better. The USA office of Outback appeared to be manned only with sales types and customer service reps, with no technical staff on board. The sole solution seemed to be trying another unit. So I did, but opted for the Sunsaver. Since I could not in good conscience sell or even give the SmartHarvest away, it is now residing in the local landfill, where it belongs.

With Morningstar’s remote temperature sender attached to one of my batteries, the Sunsaver now operates in tandem with their TriStar MPPT 45A. The Tristar handles everything coming in from the 360W roof panels, while the Sunsaver serves to feed power in from the 200W ground panels via the external rear wall plug that comes standard with the Four Wheel camper. (A simple internal wiring harness change was needed to feed both of these units to the same battery pack for my installation.) Four Wheel uses the less expensive Read more…

Not So Smart Harvest

The Outback Smart Harvest 20A.

The Outback Smart Harvest 20A.

Building is one thing, and testing is another. With the Intrepid’s solar installation complete, I moved onto running it to see how it fared. The rooftop system, some 360 watts of panel powering a Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45A solar controller, ran like a refrigerator from the get-go. The Outback Smart Harvest MPPT 20A ran fine for a day, but then combining the two controllers to run simultaneously for a total of 560 watts seemed to freak out the Smart Harvest. Voltage at the battery sailed from 13.4-16 volts, throwing the unit into a momentary over-voltage stop before resuming its roller coaster ride. Okay. So I tried it solo again. It ran fine for a day or two, and then suffered the same symptoms and series of warning lights all by itself.

As I wrote in Intrepid Solar, Part 1, I’d already been disappointed that Outback offers no remote temperature sender for this new series of controller, even though the unit itself has the capability. A call to Outback Tech netted a replacement shipment, my controller’s serial number apparently being within a bad batch. That was slow Read more…

Intrepid Solar, Part 1

Roof beams marked in pen, the first solar panel is taped to protect paint, and placed about where it is planned to go.

Roof beams marked in pen, the first solar panel is taped to protect paint, and placed about where it is planned to go.

Technically, the Intrepid’s solar system is fully up and rolling. I’m calling this post “Part 1″ because there’s still no place to stow the two Renogy 100-watt ground panels.

This is a long post. The executive summary is that three Aleko 100-watt solar panels and one 60W panel are now roof-mounted on the Four Wheel Grandby, using four pairs of 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 31″ aluminum L-angles that each span three structural roof beams. #8 x 1/2” self-tapping stainless steel screws were used as the fasteners. The roof panels feed a Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45A charge controller liberated from the Defiant, while the ground panels supply an Outback Smart Harvest MPPT 20A controller. A Battery Life Saver desulfator is wired in as well, controlled by an LED-lighted toggle switch. Four 104Ah Sun Extender AGM batteries have been stuffed into the Grandby’s bench seats. A rather complex wiring scheme has been used to minimize unequal draw and charging among the four batteries, with equally elaborate fusing to protect all positive and some negative cables running between the two benches. A 150-watt Samlex pure-sine inverter handles all AC power needs. There you go.

For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, here’s the nitty gritty. I was originally going to install one of Read more…

Solar Demystified

These are 195-watt solar panels, and where you put them is up to you or your rig's limitations.

These are 195-watt solar panels, and where you put them is up to you or your rig’s limitations.

I’m no expert on solar systems, but that of course doesn’t stop me from having opinions and expressing my ignorance. Since I’m currently having to engineer a simple solar system for another camper, I thought it timely to write this epistle on what to consider before it’s time to cough up your hard-earned dough.

I know that I’m supposed to break this up into smaller, frequent posts, but I find the loss in continuity disruptive, and kind of a gimmick to boost readership numbers. I have no sponsors, so there’s no point in artificially pumping up visits to impress commercial interests enough to give me money. Yeah, I’d like to have something for you every day just for its own sake, but that ain’t gonna happen. I almost have a life. This blog is based on providing complete and useful information or references, as well as inane trivia, in single packages that don’t force you to wait for the next installment. But at some 7,800 words, it does require tolerance on your part for unending tomes of ignorance. Enjoy.

For the purposes of this article, I’m sticking with simple, almost-affordable systems that you can easily design and build yourself. More costly and sophisticated systems, no. I’m electronically-challenged, and bottom feeder systems are my realm. They are relatively easy to design, install, and wire up.

Where to begin

It’s tempting to assume that the first order of the day is to wonder how many solar panels you’ll need, because that’s what Read more…

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