Please help out a Peace Corps Volunteer!

jinxypopjinxypop Registered Users Posts: 2
Hello! I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, and I am very lucky to live in a house with a roof mounted solar set up, but it's giving me some trouble and I have no idea what I'm doing haha. There is a pretty big language barrier between me and the landlord, so if I can fix it by myself at all that would be ideal. I don't know how big the panel on the roof is, but it's wired to a 12V renewable battery, a steva solsum 6.6 charge controller, and a D.C. 12 to AC 220 power inverter. It was working ok and I had a surge bar plugged into my wall outlet with my phone charging and then I went to plug in my computer to charge and there was a little spark and the electricity shut off. Now the charge controller has a red blinking LED info light with a green flash info LED light after every 3 blinks of the red one.....I found the Steca manual online and it sounds like it was a short circuit or maybe a high battery voltage output or something? To be honest I don't really know what that means. Can I fix this? If so how? Also does this mean my laptop is too big to charge with this set up? I thought the power bar would have protected the whole system from shorting out like this....

And help or advice you can give is very very appreciated!

Comments

  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,428 ✭✭✭✭
    It may help if you have or can borrow a multimeter to measure ac and dc voltages. If you aren't comfortable and capable of working with electrical circuits safely, stop now and let the landlord deal with it.

    Did this happen during the day when the solar would be producing?

    You could start by disconnecting the steca, first from the solar, then from the battery, by breaking the + (positive) circuit. Best to do this at night when the solar won't be producing any current. If there's a fuse or breaker on either the solar input or battery output, use that to disconnect. There should at least be one on the battery connection. If not, be careful to keep the wire isolated.

    Turn the inverter off, then reconnect the battery + to the steca and watch the LED status. After a minute or so, if the lights are normal status, reconnect the solar +. If still normal, turn on the inverter (with no loads). If still normal, try the phone charger.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,768 admin
    edited September 27 #3
    Yea, you need a small volt meter to see what is going on.

    I am pretty sure you did not make this mistake--You did not plug a 120 VAC ONLY appliance from the US into the 220 VAC power bar?

    Power bars can be made pretty cheap these days--It is possible something failed in the power bar. And surge suppressors in the power bar can fail too. I have seen where somebody plugged a 120 VAC US power bar into a 220 VAC system (handy way to plug in their North American equipment in the 220 VAC computer room)--And the surge suppressors shorted out and took down the 220 VAC AC inverter. Pull the power bar (and any other AC outlets/devices you may have plugged in).

    Here is a nice photo of a blown MOV in a power bar:


    The fact that the charge controller is giving you strange results is not good. A single failure on the AC side may have taken out the rest of the electronics (AC inverter and/or DC charge controller). There may be some major replacements needed to get stuff working again.

    Good luck!
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,428 ✭✭✭✭
    AFAIK, most phone and computer charging bricks are dual voltage, the power bar is another question though. Definitely disconnect the loads before doing anything.

    The charge controller supposedly has overload protection etc, so there may be hope :-)
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • jinxypopjinxypop Registered Users Posts: 2
    Thanks so much for your help! I am forever greatful :) To answer the first question, yes it shorted out mid afternoon in full sun today. And to be honest I'm not sure about the 120VAC to 220VAC power bar....it's a power bar I bought here in country and it's the same type I have used before at hotels and things and have plugged my computer charger directly into it, and that has worked before so I didn't really think about it. My computer brick says input 100-240V, and believe it or not the power bar has no info on it haha.

    I did go through the steps you advised and disconnected the positive circuit, everything looked good with a solid green info LED when I plugged the battery + back into the Steca. Still good when I plugged the panel + in too. I unplugged everything from the wall outlet and turned the outlet off then turned on the inverter, and then the info LED started blinking red again....it wasn't chirping like it was before though, so I decided to put the phone charger back in the outlet and try it and it did work. So I don't know what that means exactly haha, but it looks like I can charge my phone at least :) I unplugged everything for the night and I guess I'll see what it does tomorrow when the sun is out.

    I will see if I can find a voltmeter when I make a trip into town in a few weeks :)
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,768 admin
    If the power bar has "local" outlets, probably 220 vac. If it had the 2 blades (+ground optional) then is probably 120 VAC north American.

    You might try turning off dc power to the inverter (or disconnect then reconnect) the inverter to see if that would reset the fault history.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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