New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
We just had a brand new PV system installed. Fifteen 265W Solar World panels, two Outback GVFX inverters and two FlexMax 60 charge controllers. The panels are on the roof of the garage, and the Outback equipment is located inside the garage.

When the cooling fans of the charge controllers are running, our garage sounds like a hair salon with many hair dryers on full speed! There is also an earsplitting high pitched frequency associated with them, which appears to be not audible to everybody. It is audible from the patio, the garden, the open kitchen window! I am talking about distances of 30 feet or more.

We usually use the garage to do maintenance work on bikes etc. which does not involve power tools. So typically it is a quiet place. But now, when the two inverters and the charge controllers are cooling, which is the case most days here in Southern California, we have to leave the garage or turn off the equipment.

Our installer contacted Outback and let the representative listen to the fans over the phone. The rep agreed that the controllers were "screamers" and sent two new ones and one new cooling fan for the noisy inverter immediately. (One inverter's fan is not nearly as loud as the other's.) Unfortunately, the two new charge controllers are just as loud including the high pitch sound. The new inverter fan has - just as the old one - a slight wobble on low speeds, and then gets noisier at higher speeds. Compared to the charge controllers it is more tolerable but still loud when running at full speed.

Outback appears to be willing to work with us on this, but I wanted to ask on this forum what the experience regarding Outback's cooling fans has been? How loud are they when they are working well? Where do people have the equipment located - in a shed, or soundproof box?

Before we moved to this new location we owned a small PV system with a Xantrex XW inverter/charge controller. The Xantrex has no cooling fans and emits just an electrical "humm", which is much more quiet than these fans. Luckily so, because the Xantrex was located inside the garage on the neighbors' wall in a condo association.

We were looking forward to trying out this new equipment, but so far we are disappointed. Is this equipment broken and needs replacement?

Regards,
Elke
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Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Scream? No, not normally.

    Couple of questions for you:
    1). What is the system Voltage?
    2). How do you have fifteen panels configured on two controllers?

    Most of the time the fans don't even run; only if the controllers get hot (ambient + higher current).

    I'm wondering what sort of current is running through them; the closer to the max the more the fans will run.

    Mine are in the main of the cabin. Whereas they are noticeable, they are not disturbing. Certainly not high-pitched. And they don't run constantly nor for long. I'd hate to think Outback is cheapening up.
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    The system voltage is 48V.
    The panels are arranged in 5 strings of 3. One charge controller is handling 3 strings, the other 2.

    We are tied to the grid. Therefore the equipment is running at full tilt all the time, and it does get got. The fans are on a lot - possibly half of the time in the afternoons.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Hmm. I get one controller handling about 27 Amps and the other handling 55 which would probably have significant fan action. Are both on constantly? How hot is the environment?

    Regardless, when they are on they should not "scream". Whoosh, yes. Sound as though they are getting so hot there's some binding going on, which means they will inevitably fail prematurely. Not acceptable; keep at Outback on this.
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Thank you for your replies.

    The temperature of the surrounding garage is probably from the mid seventies to the mid eighties these days.
    The fans are on maybe half of the time.

    The description "screamer" is what the Outback rep used, when he heard one of the fans over the phone. I would liken it more to the sound of an old, handheld hair dryer on HIGH. Plus, there is a high frequency audible noise superimposed on the hair dryer noise.

    I used to work in a lab with a lot of electronic equipment with cooling fans ... they were much more quiet! If the lab had been as loud as our garage is now, I would have quit the job very soon.
  • KnowledgeSpongeKnowledgeSponge Solar Expert Posts: 163 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Thanks for this.

    I'll be watching this carefully as I also had an Outback on my list, but it was also going to be in the garage, which I'm used to very serene quite conditions.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    The "hairdryer" noise is normal; the high-pitched noise is not.

    You could possibly look into getting some outside venting just for the controllers, to make sure they're getting cooler air and perhaps a bit of "sure-fire" drafting across them.

    But I'd still be concerned about the high-pitched noise.
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    So even if we solve the high pitch noise problem, we will still be listening to two noisy hairdryers in the garage, plus the not very quiet inverter fans?

    We were told the fans are no louder than computer fans! But if they are this loud instead ... who can live with such a noise?

    Is building a soundproof, but still vented box around the equipment an option? I guess we could build our own, quiet fan into the box.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    They are most definitely louder than computer fans. People shouldn't say things like that.

    I do not find the noise bad, even in the house. Not loud enough to disturb me. Mine do not run constantly though.

    Boxing in the equipment to reduce noise is an option, but they'd have to be able to draw air in and exhaust air out which means a path for noise. If this is to the outside it will be less noticeable than if in the room.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,023 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    When the bearings seize up, the fans will quiet down. At the very least, the dealer should be able to swap the fans, or worse case, you get the airflow specs for the factory fans, and then look for a replacement with quieter blades. It's all aerodynamics, good airfoils at the right speed, move more air, more quietly than "blades on a hub". And look for ball bearings or ceramic bearings, not sleeve bearings. Your install will be running the controllers near max, and they will need the cooling air.

    Another alternative, is to craft a duct from the chassis, up and through the wall like a dryer vent, and remote mount the fans there, removing them from the indoors, and still maintaining the factory airflow through the unit.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Solar Expert Posts: 341 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    My fronius inverter fans makes odds noises also, the fans are variable speed and when they intitialy start up they have a distinct pitch that varies as the fan speed increases. My inverter is in a cool basement so the fasn dont run often unless the inverter is maxed. Of course one option is to go with a bigger inverter and run less load through it.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Isn't this the " Made in the USA " Inverter and Charge Controllers with all the components virtually made in the USA, with ADDA fans made in China ?? So much for that story , as if I believed it in the first place.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Isn't this the " Made in the USA " Inverter and Charge Controllers with all the components virtually made in the USA, with ADDA fans made in China ?? So much for that story , as if I believed it in the first place.

    Well there's no such thing as an electronic device made entirely in the USA anymore because almost none of the component parts are manufactured there anymore. But the OB and MidNite stuff has more USA construction than most, which are built entirely overseas. Without someone watching the QC it doesn't matter where they're built, likewise if someone is watching.

    I remember a problem that landed on my desk one time: units that had speakers made in Taiwan. The cases of the thing were ultrasonically sealed. They'd test fine until they were closed up. The ultrasound was melting the glue that held the magnets on the speakers and they dropped off. It was an unauthorized design change in the imported speakers; they used to have the magnets spot-welded on. After I figured out the problem QC went up one side and down the other of the supplier.

    Sounds as if Outback is buying fans which meet the minimum function spec at the cheapest price. Such is the folly of cost reduction. :roll:
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,163 admin
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Also, you can look for fixed pieces of metal (holes in sheet metal, guide vanes) and even a cable very near the fan inlet/outlet.

    Any interference in air flow can cause a siren like sound (as blades cut through interrupted air flow).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Thank you for all the suggestions.

    The fans are indeed ADDA from China. I think the Inverter fan said "bushing-less". Not sure what exactly it means, but it looked like a cheap fan to me. I have seen robuster ones.

    The charge controllers have a decorative "grill" in front of them, which could be part of the high frequency noise issue.

    My neighbor has a simple grid-tie system with a Sunnyboy inverter outside of his home, just about the same distance away from me as my own Outback in the garage - if I could hear his as I do mine, I would not have moved here!

    I am planning to contact Outback and my installer tomorrow.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    The ADDA fan is not a cheap fan by it's price, ( $25 for the Inverter Fan wholesale for 1 ea. ) I was just pointing out that it's made in China. It's a ball bearing based and reasonably quiet. I just happen to have a couple of them from old OutBacks I have cannibalized for parts.
  • dhsoladhsola Solar Expert Posts: 38
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    I'm running the FLEXmax 60 near its maximum voltage and the cooling fans would go on early in the morning. The noise from the fans didn't bother me as much as the heat buildup in the controller. So, I removed the bottom cover plate from the controller. At the bottom, I utilized the existing screw hole to mount an L bracket, attached a 3" computer fan to the other end of the bracket and bent the bracket upwards slightly so the air would blow inside the controller. There is a 12V AUX connection inside the controller you could use for a 12VDC fan, although I did not do so. Now, the controller fans never go on and the units run MUCH cooler. The one draw-back is dust and lint blown inside the controller by the external fan. So, now I have to blow-out the controller with compressor air. (When blowing air through the hole where the controller fan is, be sure to put something through the fan blades to prevent it from spinning).

    Under the inverter, I mounted three 3" 12VDC computer fans to help cool the inverter. Again, the draw-back is the added chore of removing the dust build-up.
    By the way, I bought some 48VDC cooling fans (48 volt system) but they are so much noisier, I haven't used them.
  • ChrisOlsonChrisOlson Banned Posts: 1,807 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Elke wrote: »
    Before we moved to this new location we owned a small PV system with a Xantrex XW inverter/charge controller. The Xantrex has no cooling fans and emits just an electrical "humm", which is much more quiet than these fans.

    The XW-MPPT60 does not have a cooling fan - just a heat sink. But the XW inverter has a fan in it. You can't hear the XW's fan because at full load it sounds like a 1,000 kVA utility transformer and the loud buzz completely drowns out the noise from the fan.
    --
    Chris
  • john pjohn p Solar Expert Posts: 814 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    If you need to use fans the same size as computer power supply fans there is really only one solution.
    Buy magnetic levitation fans. (excellent)
    The other 2 types ::sleeve(poor) ball bearing (good) Both these types have fairly short life spans.
    In theory a magnetic levitation fan should last a few lifetimes. As nothing that moves touches any other part.
    As no (real) bearings there is no bearing noise.
    Average noise less than 30db.
    Cost only slightly more than ball bearing types.
    Easily taken apart to clean.
    What more can you ask for??????
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Unfortunately the fan in the Outback Inverters are 140 x 140 x 38 mm and all create around 70db, thats more than a Honda EU 2000 on ECO. Guess I'll take a happy pill and relax. Sound ?? what sound ..... lol
  • john pjohn p Solar Expert Posts: 814 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Unfortunately the fan in the Outback Inverters are 140 x 140 x 38 mm and all create around 70db, thats more than a Honda EU 2000 on ECO. Guess I'll take a happy pill and relax. Sound ?? what sound ..... lol

    It should be possible to use 2 good fans about 80mm and mount them externally and make a mounting tube so the 2 fan outputs converge into a smaller area???
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Well, my husband was right, I was a little more optimistic at first. Outback won't be able to - or does not want to - do anything about the noise. They know their fans are noisy. Basically, just install the equipment at the other end of the house was the suggestion! They are coming out with a new passively cooled unit in the near future and are not interested in fixing vintage equipment. At first the tech support guy said that the noise has not come up as a problem in the past, but later in our conversation he mentioned people calling about it. The Sunnyboys have two fans, which are much more quiet, but I was told they use better and more expensive parts. Ok?!?! Basically, get a SMA, if you want green energy and a quiet environment.

    The high frequency noise is a different story. Outback asked to get an audio recording to analyze the problem. I am not convinced that this will help much. So far all women coming to the house are hearing the high pitch noise, but almost all men do not. I better ask for a female tech or a computer to analyze the problem.

    Yes, the Xantrex XW inverter has a buzz to it, but definitely no high frequency audible noise. When going with a Xantrex XW I would definitely oversize it. It has a sweet spot where the buzz is not bad at all, but when the wattage from the panels it either near its max or near its low end the buzz gets louder.

    The trouble with the Xantrex was that it had a very high electromagnetic field around it, which gave some of our family members a headache. This problem at least has improved with the Outback.

    Until the noise issue is resolved, the equipment stays off. Maybe we can sell it to a deaf person ...
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Elke wrote: »
    The high frequency noise is a different story. Outback asked to get an audio recording to analyze the problem. I am not convinced that this will help much. So far all women coming to the house are hearing the high pitch noise, but almost all men do not. I better ask for a female tech or a computer to analyze the problem.

    You should get a high quality recording. If you just record it with your phone, the high frequency noise may be cut off. When you record it, make sure you still can hear it on the recording.
    Elke wrote: »
    Yes, the Xantrex XW inverter has a buzz to it, but definitely no high frequency audible noise. When going with a Xantrex XW I would definitely oversize it. It has a sweet spot where the buzz is not bad at all, but when the wattage from the panels it either near its max or near its low end the buzz gets louder.

    The trouble with the Xantrex was that it had a very high electromagnetic field around it, which gave some of our family members a headache. This problem at least has improved with the Outback.

    I have Xantrex XW and it doesn't seem to give me a headache. I wouldn't call it queit, but it is in the garage, and therefore I cannot hear it at all.
  • ElkeElke Solar Expert Posts: 28
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Thank you NorthGuy. Our installer is bringing something better than a phone. Somebody in his office has a nice video/audio recorder I was told. I will make sure the sound gets recorded.

    Luckily not everybody is equally sensitive to electromagnetic fields (just like acoustic sounds, I guess). The sensitive family members are also sensitive to running microwave ovens and some cell phones, but not all. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to try a different brand than Xantrex.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,023 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Unfortunately the fan in the Outback Inverters are 140 x 140 x 38 mm and all create around 70db, thats more than a Honda EU 2000 on ECO. Guess I'll take a happy pill and relax. Sound ?? what sound ..... lol

    140 x 140 x 38 Can you get a model #, so we can research the airflow and voltage/power requirements ? AC DC 12V 36V

    here's one review of fans, but without the CFM spec ...
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,023 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Elke wrote: »
    ... The trouble with the Xantrex was that it had a very high electromagnetic field around it ...

    Very odd, since mine is in a grounded steel case, the EM field is minimal. While you were measuring the field, did your get what freq it was at, 60, 180, 300, 360 hz ?

    Also, you can try mounting it on a sheet of 18 ga soft iron which will greatly reduce any radiated field. Some clip-on ferrite cores on the I/O wires (power and signal) should help a lot too.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    mike95490 wrote: »
    140 x 140 x 38 Can you get a model #, so we can research the airflow and voltage/power requirements ? AC DC 12V 36V

    here's one review of fans, but without the CFM spec ...
    I am out of town till Tuesday, I'll post it then. The two I have are both 12 V, I'd say they probably use 12 v, 24v & 48 V.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Probably not the EM field of the XW that causes headache as it meets the same FCC specs as the Outback in that respect. However as Chris pointed out the transformer is prone to buzz; could be low frequency (sub-audio) irritation.

    Trivia: despite my age my hearing is still astoundingly good in terms of detecting low dB sounds and wide frequency range. Multiple sound sources such as a room full of people talking, however, become and irritating, even painful wall of white noise to me. People can react differently to the same sensory stimulus.
  • ChrisOlsonChrisOlson Banned Posts: 1,807 ✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Elke wrote: »
    The trouble with the Xantrex was that it had a very high electromagnetic field around it, which gave some of our family members a headache

    I got a gauss meter and after I read this I went out to the utility room and checked our XW. The inverter was at 2.46 kW load at the time I checked it. The needle does not even move off zero holding the probe right up by the case anywhere around it. However, by the big conduit where the DC power cables go into the Conduit Box on the bottom of it, the needle did wiggle a little bit I suppose from the magnetic field around the conductors.

    My wife's hair dryer has a bigger magnetic field around it than our XW inverter. And that hair dryer will definitely give a person a headache :blush:

    Just for the heck of it I checked our Outback PSX-240 autotransformer. Now that has a magnetic field showing .090 - .100 T right by the holes on the grille on the front of it - about the strength of a refrigerator magnet.

    I'm sure the XW has a decent magnetic field around its transformer. But inside the solid metal case it would have to completely saturate the metal of the case for any of it to leak outside.
    --
    Chris
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?

    Yeah, Hair Dryers and Curling Irons are a curse to off grid, especially since they seem to want them both on at the at the same time ( 3,000 watts ), they should be outlawed....lol.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,335 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New Outback Equipment Cooling Fans Screaming Loud - Is This Normal?
    Yeah, Hair Dryers and Curling Irons are a curse to off grid, especially since they seem to want them both on at the at the same time ( 3,000 watts ), they should be outlawed....lol.

    Yeah right! tell that to my wife and 2 teen age grand kids. What is the worst is when they get 2 or 3 of them going at once and trip the breakers.
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