Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From One Camp to the Next With Minor RV Solar Tribulations

The night before last, after a week, we were treated to a fairly nice Arizona sunset as we were shutting down tram operations at Phoenix International Raceway.

*Arizona Sunset over the PIR Tram Operations Office*

It was kind of an Off week. Part of it got off to a bad start when in the first two days they found two NASCAR fans dead in their rigs from apparent heart attacks... kind of a downer and to tell the truth crew, fans seemed a step off the whole week... even poor lil' Danica went from bein' in the front row in Daytona to crashing out in Phoenix. ;)

Then it really started looking up close and personal like a;  "Pick up boot... thump on head... repeat as needed" sort of a week! When our Solar Power system went down.

Juuuust a lil' "ooops!" in the middle of the night when I slid down the bed to shut off the inverter I'd forgotten to switch off. Sliding across the bed I collected enough static charge to zap things when I touched the panel... Dang!

That xantrex 60 amp charge controller and monitor had been doing great work for us for a long time! It was installed with the intention of adding two and possibly three more panels. Life has got in the way and those haven't been put on yet. The thing is, with all the computer time I spend... we've been living full time, with little generator time, on only TWO Kyocera 130watt panels controlled by that xantrex/trace engineering controller.

...and now I was fearful I'd totally fried it with a tiny lil' static spark... arrrrrggggghhhh.

I got  RV Solar Electric on the phone first thing Monday morning. They're the outfit that sold me the hardware for our RV Solar Power system 6 and a half years ago. You know what? A crooked or even just incompetent outfit, after talking to me and hearing my description of the difficulty would have said; "Bummer, that sure sounds fried to me. You need to order a new one. Just $180 bucks!"

I want to blow their horn a bit, 'cause that's not what they did. They asked me a couple of questions and sent me off to run another procedure on the jammed up system. His last words were; With any luck I'm pretty confident we won't be hearing from you again!"  That to me is Customer Service, trying hard to Not have to sell you more equipment ... customer service and honesty. They were in no danger of any "warranty" work, yet were more interested in taking care of their customer than squeezing out another sale.

I couldn't do that "reset Procedure" right then since we needed to get moved out of the track. I didn't want to get things taken apart and then have something leave me twisting... So I waited till we got set up in a new RV boondock camp to go to work.

*Boondocked near Cottonwood Arizona*

We pulled into a decent enough camp up near Cottonwood that we were pointed to by friends from the tram crew. This should be a pretty fair base to snoop around this country for a short while, before we roll for Death Valley.

Soon as we got set up... I went to work.

What I needed to do was completely disconnect the solar charge controller from any power. That meant both the input and output sides.

What it was doing was; it was frozen in a state that said the batteries were fully charged, so it wouldn't let any power pass from the solar panels to the batteries. I'd tried the "Reset" button on the controller in several different ways... but no go.

It's kind of like when your laptop freezes up and nothing but "crashing" it (turning the power off) will break it loose. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me to pop those wires. DOH!

Now the way this thing is wired in... and where... breaking the panels loose from the controller was a bigger pain than I wanted to subject my tired and cranky but to. SO... for the panels I just covered 'em with the heavy wool blanket you can see in the picture above. Result? No sun on the panels means Zero watts/volts/amps to the controller, same as disconnecting the wires.

From the other side I disconnected the positive wire that runs from the charge controller to the batteries at the batteries where I have plenty of room to work. So... zero power flowing back to the controller from the RV solar power battery bank.

Then... the thing that I didn't know was to leave that all dormant for at least an hour. I figured since he said at least... I'd leave it two. Ha! That made plenty of time to sit and chill with a sweet bottle of Land Shark Beer! ;)

When I got into the battery box I did find something unexpected. I hadn't seen it in six years... Corrosion! Yuck! At least it was only on that one single post. The crud really bloomed! It wasn't there at all just a few weeks ago last time I checked things...

*Uh Oh! Battery Connection gone ugly!*

... the rest look pretty near as clean as the day I installed 'em.

*Clean and Stout 6 1/2 years old RV Battery Bank cables*

Today I'll go through and clean the contacts with soda and reseal. To tell the truth, even though we plan on replacing the battery bank in a couple weeks; There's a part of me urging me to wait it out to see just how long these Trojan T-105 batteries will perform. At six and a half years, they're still doing the job. We barely go below 12.4 volts, with pretty much Zero generator use between about this time in March and November... and very little use really, three or four hours a week maybe through the winter.

That's with making my coffee every morning and a few hours of charging laptops and such on top of that nearly every day. Pretty awesome performance of a solar power system if you ask me.

Ha! You're still wondering about that controller aren't you? :)

SuhWheet! It did just exactly what my guys at RV Solar electric said it would do. It reset! I hooked it all back up in the dark and it seemed to be back to normal. Couldn't get the final GOOD TO GO until the sun came up this morning... She's convertin' sunshine and running like she always has. No New Controller Needed! HooYa!

If you read the comments yesterday you'll see that others recommend other controllers and companies. A couple speak highly of the Blue Sky controller unit. Also the Northern Arizona Wind and Sun Outfit up in Flagstaff. (I've heard good about them before) I can't recommend those only because I haven't used 'em. BUT... the experience of readers here is as worthy as mine, so that gives you a selection to choose from! ;)

Powered Back Up and Converting Sunshine

***Sorry, but the spam is getting out of control. I have turned on "Registered Users" to comment. I've been getting 200+ spams a week and lately, far too many have been sifting through bloggers filter. Hopefully this will take care of it and I won't have to turn the "Verification Word" gadget back on***


Cindy Kingma said...

WOO HOO!! So happy that the 'reboot' worked!! :)

KarenInTheWoods said...

Wheeeheee that is so good to know that you were able to reset it that way. Good idea on the blankets too!!!

Love that Customer Service agent who says he hopes he won't be hearing back from you! LOL LOL

Karen and Steve
RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard

Blars said...

The web page on my Morningstar controller stopped working, (showed headers but not values) and reset didn't fix it. When I pulled the fuse to the battery and left it overnight, it started working again. Disconnecting the battery sense cable fixed the overvoltage problem I was having.

Brian said...

Thanks Cindy and Karen!
Blars; folks coming here to share the different ways they fixed "issues" is a good thing! ;)Sometimes the Usual way just doesn't get it done. It's nice to Have some options.

I'm finding the "Reset" button on electronics OFTEN doesn't work. You have to kill all power to the offending unit somehow and leave it for a an hour or more... not just a few minutes.

Sharlotte said...

Glad you are back up and runningl

gypsycowboy said...

Batteries all cleaned up, sealed up, watered up and only one ZAPPIN', sparkin', aluminum smokin' oops I shoudn't 'o done that! ;) I'm gonna go take a joy ride!

gypsycowboy said...

well damn... Google has my "stuff" so cornfuzzled with it's multiple accounts over the years that Ya'll are probably gonna have to try and guess which "Me" is replyin' to comments! ... until I can get the mess cleaned up! ;)

bill said...

Hi Brian,
I have use Northern Arizaona Wind and Sun and I'll just say they were great to deal with when I bought my 2 panels and controller.

pondputz said...

Don't ya love it when you can kick Murphy's a$$ sometimes :)

Cindy Kingma said...

OK, I've reset my Google password so hopefully this will make me eligible to leave comments.

Cindy Kingma said...

Yay! It worked. Have a great day, Brian. :)

Brian said...

Now... If I can only get MY Own System to let ME comment by a name folks might recognize we'll be good! ;)

Brian said...

Hey Pondputz? does that make two whuppins for Ol' Murph? ;)

Whatsnewell said...

Good news about your unit Brian!

We have the Blue Sky monitor/controller and are very happy. Our two 150 watt panels work well for our needs.