The agony and the ecstasy...

RandomJoeRandomJoe Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
Oh, what a busy day it was yesterday...

First, the "ecstasy" - I just doubled my solar panels from 1kW to 2kW! Amazing what a difference that can make! :cool: I could now run the furnace straight off the panels if needed, or even my portable AC unit. But mostly the batteries now get a proper charge rate for a change, even while my normal loads are present.

Funny what can thrill a person. I felt like a kid on Christmas Day when I heard the fridge start and I watched the solar input spike up to 1600W to handle the inrush and the batteries kept charging! :D Maybe not quite as impressive as a major grid-tie installation, but I like it. Here are the new panels, 6 Kyocera KD185s:

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There are occasionally some thin shadows from all the antennas I have in the air, but only at the later parts of the day. During midday no shadows at all. I have a little more room at the end of the rails - maybe I'll finally mount the Harbor Freight panels permanently and put them back to work too!


But there was a major "agony"! I've been far too lazy and put off the watering a bit long... *Beats head with a cluebat...*

Finally got around to checking the batteries yesterday afternoon and I had at least one cell in each battery (8 T105s) where the plates were - if not exposed, there wasn't ANY water over them. They looked good and wet, and just the smallest amount of water added covered them. Not sure if that counts as exposed or not... Took 2 gallons to fill all 24 cells to capacity! :cry:

At the moment I see no ill effects - voltages and reaction to charging looks the same as always. Haven't tried a big load test, might have to let the system run off-grid overnight and see how it does. Anyone have more experience with this sort of thing? I realized I only knew this was a Bad Thing - but not really just what happens. A little net searching tells me simply that the exposed plates can't recharge thus the sulfation hardens. Perhaps I caught this just in time? Or is there something that may weaken / worsen over time?

Comments

  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    I've been there before. Not a good feeling when you shine a light into the hole and realize how close you are to damaging your batteries. As long as surface tension is still keeping the tips of the plates wet you should be ok.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    Hopefully you dodged the bullet! Bet you won't let that happen again! :D
    Yes, it's a pretty awesome feeling to realize how much one can run on solar! Gotta love it :)
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    that was a close call for your batteries.

    i guess now you'll slowly start adding more loads?

    it looks like you shouldn't have too much trouble in relocating the antennas in question, but the pic doesn't show everything you might be up against. it also looks like they could benefit from a bit more elevation too. looks like i'm not the only one who straps antennas from the side of the house, but mine is multistory.
  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    I don't really have too much more to add to the system. The only things left are *big* - house AC, electric stove and oven (will eventually change those to gas, I prefer it anyway) and such. I do think I'll try running the washer and dryer off the inverter during sunny days when I think about it but then I only do a single load of laundry per week!

    It's fun to try for completely off-grid, but kind of silly here. Also, the house isn't really laid out well for that. My main goal for now is to be prepared for this summer when I go to time-of-use metering. My target is 0W from the grid during the hours of 2-7PM! :) Still the experience may come in very handy if I do my "dream home" at some point in the future. Would like to get a nice large chunk of land well out of town and build a big workshop with small living quarters which would work well off-grid.

    My main problem with the antennas is my disinclination to take risks! I'd like to have a nice tall tower, but the homes are close enough together that any tower suitably tall could possibly hit a neighbor's house no matter where I put it. I also need more than one - I have a BUNCH of antennas up, lots of VHF/UHF/SHF rigs and scanners. Just another reason I'd like that acreage away from town! :)
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    joe,
    i'd love that kind of room too, but if i were to require fall clearance then i wouldn't have an antenna up at all. most antennas won't hold up well against a fall, but you do need to watch the utility feeds. if it's encased in a fiberglass radome like comet or diamond vertical antennas for vhf and up then put it up higher and you can even use those fiberglass masts if you like. my comet antenna if it falls could hit the utility wires on either side, but the mast won't hit the wires where it is, however any higher and a fall will make contact with the masting or i'd have already put another mast section in. maybe one day i'll try the fiberglass masting.
  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    I'm mostly worried about damaging a neighbor's house. I have the lighter antennas up on a mast, since I figure those aren't likely to do much should they fall. A tower is a different animal! I've looked at some local hams' towers and frankly I'm amazed the things stay up at all with the winds we have around here. 25-30 MPH is pretty common - just a regular day, storms often bring 40-50 MPH gusts. Even the trees tend to stay short here! ;)

    I do have a fairly high mast - 40 feet or so - just to the right of the picture above. I also have a tilt-over pole in the back yard I can go to about 30 feet or so (farther than that would be in the trees and bushes when I tilt it down). There is yet another mast on the OTHER end of the house from the one above. I've used every peak on the house! :) They do what I need well enough, though. I've found I do far more operation mobile or portable, so that's where I've focused my efforts lately. Including eagerly awaiting shipment of an Elecraft KX3 - hopefully in the next week or two! :D


    I got home a little early today and am experimenting. Just now doing the laundry (that I forgot to do this weekend) and dang I didn't realize (or had forgotten - I did run it on a KaW long ago) just how much the washer pulls in the various cycles! It'll run, but the inverter doesn't particularly care for the spin cycle. Agitate draws about 550W, but in spin when the clutch pulls in after the drum has drained the wattage spikes to 1600W and it really labors to get up to speed. Plugged into grid power it's nearly instant.

    But the new panels are doing their job nicely, and the battery bank seems to be okay. Drew it down to 70% overnight, voltages looked normal and it took the recharge nicely today. Nearly 6.5kWh between charging and loads so far and a couple hours of sun left!

    Looks like I need to adjust some parameters in the Mate, though. It isn't resetting the "days since full" counter for some reason. Resets all the AH and kWh since-last-full totals, but not the counter. Just have to dig out the book - been so long I don't remember what settings control that function.
  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,969 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    Hi Joe,

    Well, for Crank-Up towers, the thing that keeps them up is a lot of concrete in the ground. For guyed towers, often if is concrete that also keeps them up.

    Looks like you might live in lightning country, so using a tower bracketed to the eaves (a common practice) might not be such a good idea, but this often reduces the amount of concrete that would be required for a free-standing tower. But, it you can get by with masts and poles, plus trees for wire antennas, you are probably ahead. 73 GL Vic K6IC
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH [email protected], 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.
  • Eric LEric L Solar Expert Posts: 262 ✭✭
    Re: The agony and the ecstasy...

    Joe,

    Nice system, and I now have a grid supported system similar to yours.

    As far as washing machines, I've found the traditional clutch-motor washers are tough on my inverters during the oscillation part of the wash cycle; basically causes the voltage on an inverter to swing wildly.

    The more energy-efficient 'clutchless' motor designs work much better (I even ran a GE one on my old solar power system using a Suresine 300). Unfortunately, the clutchless motors have reliability problems though; after a couple of visits, my repairman told me they usually die within five years.
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