Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “solar power”

A Punch in the Solar Nexus

My thought diversion for today is an update on the Intrepid’s solar system. I mention it because, it now being January, the sun arcs low enough in the sky to starve the flat-mounted 360-watt roof panels. This is not a surprise to me nor too many other people. Since these panels are trying to recharge some 420 amp-hours of battery capacity while a 12VDC compressor fridge is running for unusually long periods of time in hot weather, this power drain and poor panel aiming tends to prevent the pack from reaching and holding its 14.4V peak for its intended 3-hour span. So, the 200-watt ground panels were deployed everywhere I camped, when practical, and re-aimed throughout the day. In a cloudless sky, this combination can get the pack fully charged by 2 PM. Partly cloudy skies slow or prevent that, obviously. The main culprit is the inability to aim the roof panels toward the sun, but a close second is the unusually long runtime of the Dometic compressor fridge. In a marginal charging situation, it pulls enough power and runs long enough to prevent a full charge, and that can be a battery killer. Combine that with clouds, and you have an undesirable situation, even with the ground panels deployed. These were my thoughts as of last fall, anyway.

None of this is a problem over the winter months in Yuma, since the fridge is off and nothing else is pulling power, either. However badly oriented, the roof panels alone can easily recharge the pack then. Were I to have to keep the camper in service over the winter, some changes would be needed because that fridge would be on. The first impulse was of course to increase panel wattage, but this is not a practical option for me. There’s no more space on the roof for additional panels. While I could theoretically add another 100W ground panel or two to pump 300 or 400 watts through the separate Morningstar 200-watt charge controller (a good way to increase charging in poor sun conditions), my storage rack is maxed out and, as far as space in the truck cab and camper goes, there’s no room at the inn. I’m already panel-heavy. Enough with more panels, already! Important note: Don’t try this at home. Don’t exceed your own controller’s 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…

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