Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

Hi everyone,
I have a weird problem with my XW mppt 60 (Xantrex / Schneider) solar charger. Yesterday I noticed that the batteries were not charging ( LOW LIGHT) , it was cloudy but not that cloudy. The history told me that he stopped charging the day before and I started checking what the problem was.

I measured 120 Volt coming from my solar panels so that was OK.

I thought it might help to un-plug the batteries to let the unit reset itself.
When I disconnected the + battery terminal, the unit started flashing and sparking. Flashes of light came from the unit and it scared me to death and after five or six flashes it finally stopped.

I took the unit down to see if a mouse or an insect made short current in the unit but it was clean. So I figured to connect the unit again to see what the damage was. I connected the battery terminals, and when I connected the solar panels I heard one loud spark again and found out that the unit was working again.

I have no idea why the unit stopped working in the first place and what caused the flashes. For some reason the condensers discharged, perhaps the humidity had something to do with it, I don't know but it was a scary experience.
My question is can someone explain to me what might have caused this problem and what is wrong.
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Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    I don't know what's wrong with it, but I can see a couple of mistakes you made.

    Voltage of 120 from the array doesn't really mean anything. How much current is coming from it? Panels are a current source and can produce lots of Voltage (Voc) without putting out any current. At that point batteries don't charge. All it takes is a corroded connection somewhere.

    Second, it sounds like you disconnected the controller output without disconnecting the input first. This is not a good idea at all. When you take the array off first and then the batteries the only thing the charge controller should do is go silent.

    I think you should check all your connections, current protection, and disconnects for signs of failure.
  • Down2easyDown2easy Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Thank you for your reply Caribocoot.

    I know what you mean, that was my first thought too. I checked the connectors and the wiring but it was all nice and clean.

    About the second point you make me doubt a little. I don't think so but it just might that I did not disconnect the panels first.

    When I disconnected the battery, the charger could not relate to the battery voltage anymore, and the voltage goes up (like what happens when you disconnect the battery from your car when the engine is running).

    The voltage is to high and the sparks start flying. That could be a good explanation.

    Leaves me with two things, I am quite sure I disconnected the panels first but might be to hasty and the condensers still contained the high voltage, is that possible?

    Second, why was the charger not charging before this all happened and what can I do when this happens again ?
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    Leaves me with two things, I am quite sure I disconnected the panels first but might be to hasty and the condensers still contained the high voltage, is that possible?

    Possible in that if the PV is connected and the battery isn't the Voltage in the controller can be pushed up to whatever the PV is putting out. In some cases that can be a dangerous level for the controller. Attache the (lower Voltage) battery and the higher Voltage stored in any caps in the controller (or even available directly from the PV) can create an arc due to the Voltage differential.
    Second, why was the charger not charging before this all happened and what can I do when this happens again ?

    That is a very good question. Normally when something stops working the cause can be determined with some inspection and a few tests. When the darn thing starts working again all on its own just because you've powered down and up ... it is frustrating. This is why I suggested connection faults; they are the most common cause of this sort of behaviour.

    If I read your first post right you had the LOW LIGHT warning, which should show if the panels are not putting enough power to the controller. But it can also occur if something goes wrong with the 'front end' of the controller and it 'thinks' there's no input.

    I know you checked for bugs inside but even moisture can cause a problem. What's the environment like there?

    You will now become slightly paranoid and keep a close eye on it every day to see if it happens again. If it does, try disconnecting and reconnecting the panels only to see if that clears the problem. If that doesn't help, disconnect panels then battery and reconnect in reverse order. And of course you can always check to see if the panels are functioning by bypassing the controller completely and checking for current flow (you'll need a clamp-on DC Ammeter for that).
  • Down2easyDown2easy Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    I checked this afternoon to see if it was still working and I found it in "ground fault" error code. The ground fault protection fuse is blown and this is not good.

    Tomorrow I will take it down and check it again for bugs, and check all the connections. I let you know how this will go.

    Thanks for your responds.
  • vtmapsvtmaps Solar Expert Posts: 3,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    The ground fault protection fuse is blown and this is not good.

    It might be good... if the fuse blew it may have protected the electronics. DC Ground faults can occur anywhere in the DC wiring. It doesn't have to be in the inverter. For example: a chaffed wire in a solar array may short to ground, which creates a ground fault.

    --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • zonebluezoneblue Solar Expert Posts: 1,218 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Ground faults are 'fun'. When i suspected i had one, i found this article helpful:

    http://solarprofessional.com/articles/operations-maintenance/pv-system-ground-faults?v=disable_pagination
    1.8kWp CSUN, 10kWh AGM, Midnite Classic 150, Outback VFX3024E,
    http://zoneblue.org/cms/page.php?view=off-grid-solar


  • Down2easyDown2easy Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    I finally found where the ground fault was taking place. It was in the charger.

    This must be some kind of factory error, otherwise I can not explain this.

    Summarizing:

    First I find the charger is not working, I check the panels to see if there is a problem there, take off the battery cables, suspecting the charger to reset it self, and when I do the whole thing starts flashing and spattering.

    After I check it for insects by shaking it an looking inside as far as I can see, I decide to put it back again, the display comes on, saying it is charging.

    Next day I find a ground fault error and a blown fuse.

    Yesterday I took the whole charger apart and found what you can see in the picture.

    Now what? Is this happening more often with these chargers? Is there a chance Schneider will cover this? When I have to buy a new one, should I stick with the same one or go for Outback or some other brand?

    Attachment not found.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 3,257 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    QUOTE]How old is your installation? None of my customers have had any failures like this other than Lightning direct hits. Have surge protection ?

    Did you look at the system control panel for fault and warning logs? This is under the View device info screen on the XW mppt-60 home screen.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail offgridsolar@sti.net

  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,811 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Hi Down2easy,

    Sorry to hear of your dramatic event.

    In reading an earlier Thread of yours, I do wonder;

    Do you have a circuit breaker on both the PV input and on the output of the CC to the battery?

    I DO realize that circuit breakers are NOT there to protect equipment, and that they are slow acting and so on, but, seems that some your issues might have arisen because there might not be circuit breakers on either the PV input or the Output to the battery of this Charge Controller.

    If you do not have both of these breakers, please try very hard to get them installed. They should be sized based on the size of each of these cables.

    Just an guess and some opinion. Good Luck with this unit. And, you just might be in a lightning-prone area, so some protection on the PV in and AC output (and any AC in as well if you have it). Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH X2@48V, 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    QUOTE]How old is your installation? None of my customers have had any failures like this other than Lightning direct hits. Have surge protection ?

    Did you look at the system control panel for fault and warning logs? This is under the View device info screen on the XW mppt-60 home screen.

    Dave;

    Is this post as you left it edited with a tag end of a 'QUOTE' in it? Or has the content been hacked up by another unknown glitch we need to report?
  • Down2easyDown2easy Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Hi Vic,

    The biggest problem now is 'why', aside the broken charger.
    - The circuit breakers, in my case fuses (because they were available here and they are faster than circuit breakers and I thought it was a good idea), were not blown.
    - There is no ground fault outside the charger (measured it with an Ohm meter).
    - There has been no lightning in the last few moths in this area.

    I am afraid this will happen again with a new or repaired charger. What do you think, would a set of new power transistors fix it?
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    Hi Vic,

    The biggest problem now is 'why', aside the broken charger.
    - The circuit breakers, in my case fuses (because they were available here and they are faster than circuit breakers and I thought it was a good idea), were not blown.
    - There is no ground fault outside the charger (measured it with an Ohm meter).
    - There has been no lightning in the last few moths in this area.

    I am afraid this will happen again with a new or repaired charger. What do you think, would a set of new power transistors fix it?

    Circuit breakers and fuses only blow due to over-current. High Voltage will not cause them to trip. You can have very high Voltage introduced to a charge controller and not pop a fuse but it will blow internal components and send arcs across the circuit board. Ground fault will not protect against this either, nor will arc fault. A surge arrestor might, providing the Voltage involved is above its trip limit.

    And there's the rub; under just the right (or wrong) conditions the controller may be hit with Voltage too high for its components but too low to trigger surge arresting.
  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,811 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Down2easy,

    OK on the fuses, realize that sourcing parts like DC Circuit Breakers on an island must be difficult.

    However, I was wondering if some or perhaps all of the issues that you have been seeing with this Charge Controller might revolve around the input and output of this CC having no disconnects. A circuit breaker is very convenient, as it protects the wiring and is a disconnect, all in one package.

    In reading a previous Thread of yours, seems that perhaps having no disconnect MIGHT have caused a previous problem, or perhaps made a problem worse:
    http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?12280-Muphry-s-law-on-Xantrex-MPPT60-150

    I do not want to beat up on you too much, but even if the PV input wire was disconnected from the CC first (for this incident), if that wire happened to touch ground or the battery negative, this could blow up the CC (at least this is the case for most MPPT CCs). Needing to disconnect wires to remove the CC, or other electronics that are operating, from a circuit can be dangerous to you, and at times to these electronics.

    Fuses are fine circuit protection devices, and often, they are much faster-acting than a circuit breaker. But since the main function of these protection devices is to protect wiring/cables, a circuit breaker is fast enough for this purpose, AND the CB acts as the all-important disconnect, IMHO.

    Enough on this, it is not possible for most of us here to really guess what happened to make this CC spark, but just wondered if you would be better served by locating correctly-sized, DC rated circuit breakers for both the CC input and output, allowing protection and a disconnect at the same time. Good Luck! Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH X2@48V, 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 3,257 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Dave;

    Is this post as you left it edited with a tag end of a 'QUOTE' in it? Or has the content been hacked up by another unknown glitch we need to report?

    No, I think I did it when I deleted the picture.

    The OP here, not having surge protection does not always save you when the lightning is present, it can save you from mysterious failures that show up later. This is called latent damage and it is the really the main reason to have an SPD on any lines coming in from outside your home as well as the battery.

    The removal of the source PV before the battery should not of caused this failure. If your PV was reading over 120V with the battery, removing the battery first could have exceeded the 150v limit. The service people will be able to tell you that as the maximum PV voltage is logged. If you could power up the CC you also could read the max PV voltage.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail offgridsolar@sti.net

  • boBboB Solar Expert Posts: 940 ✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    Now what? Is this happening more often with these chargers? Is there a chance Schneider will cover this?

    They might. But if there was no circuit breaker in at least the battery side, they may not cover it because of the damage to the board.
    Not sure if they care about it being taken apart either, but if you still have warranty time left on this charger, it doesn't hurt to ask either way.

    boB
  • SolInvictusSolInvictus Solar Expert Posts: 138
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    What is the manufacturer and model of your photovoltaic panels, and how many are connected in series?

    I am wondering if the maximum input voltage of the charge controller could have been exceeded initiating the failure.
  • Down2easyDown2easy Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    I am thinking about requesting for a warranty repair, it is a bit of a calculation because sending it out from here, I live on a small island in the Caribbean, will cost me minimal $150 and I have to pay for return transport too (minimal $300).

    I trust it is a fabrication fault, in-spite of all the things you guys suggested, could have been better. And I will carry out the suggested improvements, but they are in my opinion not the cause of this burned out circuit board. I can not recall, and I have been through this many times, that I did something wrong.

    But if they decide it is not warranty it will cost me a minimal extra $90,- so that is coming close to the price of a new one. Beside that, the whole thing can take a few moths before I have it back so I need to buy a new one anyway.

    We have no dealer here who can provide me with a charge controller for the time being.

    But when I have to buy a new Charge Controller I really don't feel like buying a Schneider again I am a bit disappointed in the Schneider now. I am more thinking about an Outback Flexmate or a Morningstar TriStar. I am not sure yet, it looks like the Outback is more reliable.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,768 admin
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks

    Check which controller is easier to replace boards fans, and upgrade software..

    I believe the outback is more difficult to repair/upgrade. And the Schneider requires an implanter or network box for a software upgrade.

    I think.... This is not my area of experience.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • DMJ72DMJ72 Solar Expert Posts: 125
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    ...But when I have to buy a new Charge Controller I really don't feel like buying a Schneider again I am a bit disappointed in the Schneider now. I am more thinking about an Outback Flexmate or a Morningstar TriStar. I am not sure yet, it looks like the Outback is more reliable.

    I would have to disagree with that, that fan is a major liability in terms of reliability. I have seen 3 FMs die, 1 was DOA and the other 2 were due to a fan failure. But everyone has different experiences :) But the + side is, Outback's RMA process is amongst the best. I am getting a Schneider SW 4024 Inverter soon, I really wish Schneider would update the MPPT 60, seems dated and shit-prone!
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 3,257 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Xantrex / Schneider MPPT 60 big sparks
    Down2easy wrote: »
    I am thinking about requesting for a warranty repair, it is a bit of a calculation because sending it out from here, I live on a small island in the Caribbean, will cost me minimal $150 and I have to pay for return transport too (minimal $300).

    I trust it is a fabrication fault, in-spite of all the things you guys suggested, could have been better. And I will carry out the suggested improvements, but they are in my opinion not the cause of this burned out circuit board. I can not recall, and I have been through this many times, that I did something wrong.

    But if they decide it is not warranty it will cost me a minimal extra $90,- so that is coming close to the price of a new one. Beside that, the whole thing can take a few moths before I have it back so I need to buy a new one anyway.

    We have no dealer here who can provide me with a charge controller for the time being.

    But when I have to buy a new Charge Controller I really don't feel like buying a Schneider again I am a bit disappointed in the Schneider now. I am more thinking about an Outback Flexmate or a Morningstar TriStar. I am not sure yet, it looks like the Outback is more reliable.

    In my opinion you should buy another controller. No way are they going to give you warranty now that you have opened the unit. They might give you a break on the repair and you would have a spare. If you are leaving the solar on during lightning storms without surge protection it does not matter what controller you buy. At the least you should turn off the breakers during lightning and at the most you would disconnect the solar wiring by several feet from the controller. Nasty stuff but it happens! And yes please describe the panels and their wiring.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail offgridsolar@sti.net

  • barssanbarssan Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
    Hi 
    Burned two resistors r43 r38 who can help what was the face value?
    Or take a photo close, so that I can see for myself.
    Thank you in advance.
  • barssanbarssan Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
    After the thunderstorm happened, another transistor burned next to the resistors.
    The controller does not start, the screen is dark
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 3,257 ✭✭✭✭
    It is very unlikely that you can fix this.  There are probably more bad components that are in the circuit.  
    Try and find a replacement. Good Luck!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail offgridsolar@sti.net

  • barssanbarssan Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
    It is very unlikely that you can fix this.  There are probably more bad components that are in the circuit.  
    Try and find a replacement. Good Luck!
    Power transistors and Schottky diodes did not suffer
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 694 ✭✭✭✭
    barssan said:
    Power transistors and Schottky diodes did not suffer
    How do you know that?
  • LumisolLumisol Registered Users Posts: 374 ✭✭✭
    The components can be tested to make sure they are still within spec.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,768 admin
    Not really.... Static Discharge is/was a huge killer among early solid state designs. Between adding clamping circuits to signal inputs, static safe handling (work-space, packaging, air handling, equipment grounding, etc.), they have done a lot to reduce failures from over voltage on solid state components.

    But even today, the only sure way to figure out how/why a device failed is to de-cap it (X ray and other test are done too). And look for signs of over voltage or other failure causes.

    http://www.semitracks.com/reference-material/failure-and-yield-analysis/failure-analysis-package-level/delid-and-decap.php

    Electrical Over Stress Manual:

    http://www.cypress.com/file/97816/download

    And, while ESD/surges/etc. are a common cause of chip failures, they are not the only ones. Frequently there are design failures (chip/application/power supplies/etc.) too.

    Nothing like bringing your electron microscope to a major accident scene. Very likely, the evidence you seek will have been destroyed in a massive failure.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • barssanbarssan Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
    barssan said:
    Power transistors and Schottky diodes did not suffer
    How do you know that?
    Checked with the device
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 694 ✭✭✭✭

    barssan said:
    How do you know that?
    Checked with the device
    Checked with which device?
  • barssanbarssan Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭

    barssan said:
    How do you know that?
    Checked with the device
    Checked with which device?
    Miniature incandescent lamp and resistor, apply voltage
    I so check up mos fet
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