Solar for Dummies

plongsonplongson Solar Expert Posts: 115 ✭✭
Is there a basic training manual for us solar newbie's? I know that it can be had by reading every thread here and surfing the 'net, but honestly...I don't have the time.

I've bought what I hope is essentially "plug and play" system but I know this may not be the case 100%. So I'm wondering if there is a "care and feeding" manual for my 48vdc Magnum system with Midnite controller (or generic for that matter).

I'm looking for correct SG, full battery voltage, LBCO, absorb time all in one place.

This might be tall order, but I'm just wondering. I would just like to have a check list to follow to get the most and longest life from a very expensive system...

3500w solar, 800AH with Rolls Surrette, Magnum inverter, Midnite charge controller, Kubota 21kW diesel genset...private well...and just recently connected to city power for additional options...nice to have options 


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,327 admin
    Re: Solar for Dummies

    From our Beginner's working FAQ:
    Regarding Solar Books:

    What's a Good Beginners Book?

    From the above thread:
    FL SUN wrote: »
    This is a link to a PV textbook I find very informative. It was a requirement for the FL contractor's exam I took last month. It even has a very good interactive CD with a bunch of informative extras. A quick search on-line shows this book goes for about $75.00 USD everywhere.

    Don't forget nothing compares to OJT when it comes to installation. It's always best to apply in the field what you've learned from a good textbook first.
    TnAndy wrote: »

    Here a good "textbook" on actually IS a textbook for some solar courses, and is set up that way with practice questions at the end of each chapter, but it's also a good self guide as to the basics of components and how they mesh together to make a system. Worth the money, IMHO.

    Solar Book Here
    Some information on NEC and how it applies to solar power:

    PV and the 2005 NEC -- Reference Document

    And, of course, the NEC Code Book (current edition or version that is used by your locality).

    PS: Our host also has a Book they recommend:

    Book - The New Solar Electric Home

    PPS: From another poster:
    KeithWHare wrote: »
    I recommend "Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual" from Solar Energy International. This does a pretty decent job of explaining everything except for battery banks.


    PPPS: From another website, I saw thisBoatowner's Illustrated Electrical Handbook recommended.

    according to wikipedia once it is adopted into law by a particular govt agency it becomes public knowledge

    is one link

    there are many more specific to certain states/cities here

    My suggestion. Get the manual for your batteries and read through that. Then read these two FAQs:

    Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

    Next, if you don't have one, I would suggest a Battery Monitor of some sort (Victron Energy is another one with a good reputation).

    In the end, the only thing you can really mess up (other than hooking things up backwards/etc.) is the battery bank. Under charging, "deficit" charging, over charging, not checking/adding distilled water, dirty cable ends/terminals, monitoring specific gravity (non-sealed batteries), etc... all can shorten the life of your battery bank.

    So, proper tools, such as a hydrometer (if flooded cell batteries). I really highly suggest (besides the battery monitor) a DC Current Clamp Meter. They are much easier and safer to use, and will display upwards of 400 amps (here is a cheap version that is functional).

    The Battery Monitor (if you get one) will really help you monitor your loads, charging current, and overall battery state of charge.

    Programming the charge controller to optimally recharge your battery bank, and just making sure the Inverter has good/short/heavy power cables and does not over discharge your battery bank (some inverters also have an internal battery charger--so you may have to learn how to program that too).

    Basically, you can parallel charge controllers (good/heavy/short cables from each controller to the battery bus common connections) and which ever has the power and the highest voltage setting(s) will "win".

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • alyazalyaz Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭
    Re: Solar for Dummies

    Great information. Thanks guys...
    3.3 kW solar.  3 Midnite Solar controllers; 5 lightening suppressors.  Magnum’s inverter; auto gen start, BMK.  Davidson 2 v FLA’s - 24v bank.  Perkins diesel gen.
  • plongsonplongson Solar Expert Posts: 115 ✭✭
    Re: Solar for Dummies

    Thanks Bill, I'm gonna dive in to your suggestions and do more reading.

    I really do have a pretty good handle on my system overall, and I've read everything I can get from Midnite and Magnum. I've been using a small system I built for a permanent RV on the property for 5 years and had great luck. I know the theory is the same, but this is a very big and expensive challenge I can't screw up.

    Going from a 12vdc system with two t-105's to a 48vdc system with 800 amp and 10 235w panels, is no joke and really has my full attention LOL...

    I keep reading here about short charging and over drawing from the batterys and need to get a grip on it.

    I do have a Magnum BMK in the system, along with a AGS-n and a 48v PAE. I'm gonna beat the family into using less, understanding that what gets used must be replaced and there is no free lunch energy wise.

    THANKS, We'll be talking along the way!

    3500w solar, 800AH with Rolls Surrette, Magnum inverter, Midnite charge controller, Kubota 21kW diesel genset...private well...and just recently connected to city power for additional options...nice to have options 
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