Automate EVERYTHING

dexter12353dexter12353 Registered Users Posts: 17 ✭✭

So, been living the off grid lifestyle for nearly 3 years now, However, recently I took on a new job out of state. Now my parents are left to figure out the off grid lifestyle on their own.

Been working on my PLC cabinet (See below), and am pretty sure I have a solid plan for getting all the control and whatnot ironed out. Next thing is to get rid of the lead acid batteries that require loads of maintenance (Going with CALB Lithium batteries).

Watch this video and check out how much I have made automated - and let me know what other tasks you think I could incorperate to the system to make things better for my parents who aren't the best at doing massively involved maintenance.


Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,990 admin

    I watched your video--And see that you are trying to automate the system for your parents (and you are no longer there for support, moved out of state).

    The concern that automation can hide a multitude of failures--And it not really a substitute for good maintenance and understanding what is happening to the system.

    And then I saw that you had something like 1-2 year life on your batteries... They were "boiled dry" (appeared to be over charged and nobody checked voltages/specific gravity/water levels in the Flooded Cell Lead Acid Batteries. And looking at the battery racking, it is not "user friendly" for battery maintenance (not saying it is your fault, but it is is a common problem with FLA batteries--You want a clean/tight/dense battery bank, but at the same time, it can tend towards a system that is not maintainable (little space to check water levels, clean cable ends and battery tops, etc.). And you have an installation that is not really "safe" for untrained / inexperienced people to work around either (exposed battery connections, grounded metal racks, exposed bus bars, etc.).

    I have not gone through your youtube videos... So I am not sure where you are at at the moment--Other than looking at the whole battery question (forklift batteries, Li Ion, NiFe, etc.).

    I humbly would suggest that whatever your look at, you need to make it safer and more "user friendly" for maintenance. That probably means a floor full of batteries. Or stepped batteries (row low in front, higher row behind, etc.). to make maintenance easier.

    And, I would suggest that you look at training and/or instrumentation/monitoring down to the battery level (or at least groups of cells at 6 volt or 12 volt blocks, voltage/current per string/temperature). And start looking at how the battery bank is being used/treated (specific gravity, rates of charge/discharge, temperatures, State of Charge/cycling depth/recharge etc.).

    What you have done with your automation is really neat... Have seen few systems that have gone to that level of automation--But it also shows what happens in "hiding" what is really going on with the system. And when a failure of some sort (over charging, under charging, etc.) causes cascading failures (boiling batteries dry, trying to run batteries outside any reasonable operating range, etc.).

    And, while further automation can help--Such as battery filling system--We have also had people here where such systems have overfilled the batteries and dumped electrolyte & distilled water everywhere.

    I certainly do not have any magic answers for your situation--Other than laying out batteries for easier/better maintenance, so that you and/or your parents can get in there once a week to once a month (after system is stable) to do some sanity checks (specific gravity, electrolyte levels, using a DMM on each battery to look for deviations, etc.).

    I would tend to just 1-3 parallel strings of large AH capacity batteries--Probably FLA unless you are really ready to drop $$$$ on Li Ion of some sort (lots more discussion needed). I am a big fan of keep it simple (1-2 parallel strings of batteries), don't go for N+1 redundancy--But still the 3x optional sources of power (solar+battery+inverter=1, genset=2, second genset=3 --- Or whatever works for you).

    I have done an N+1 redundant computer system... You end up spending 20% of your time (and expenses it seems) on the basic function, and 80% on "error recovery" design and hardware. And this 2-3x more complex system, there are 2-3x more wild and wonderful ways for things to fail.

    When you have a larger system like your--Automatic generator start/run certainly makes sense and you can justify all of the ancillary equipment that ensure that the genset starts/runs/shuts down reliably... For smaller systems, Manual start/run gensets for winter/bad weather really seems to work better for many folks.

    I would suggest that you also look at your loads and system design. I know that you want to add more solar panels--And I would suggest that that the solar power system be designed to run (mostly) from Solar+battery bank+inverter -- And that the genset be a backup system for bad weather/when needed. It seems that what you really have now is more of a hybrid system where genset supplies a large percentage of the power, and the batteries+AC inverter are there for "off peak loads". And, current, have a bit of solar power thrown in.

    Without knowing the details of your loads (Watts average, Watts peak, Watt*Hours per day, solar array size, battery bank AH and voltage, etc.), it is a bit difficult to give any detailed answers at the moment.

    Good luck and take care,

    -Bill

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • MichaelKMichaelK Registered Users Posts: 87 ✭✭✭
    I would agree with BB.  Automation is going to make things worse.  I would absolutely never, ever have an automatic generator start.  After watching a too-short gasoline feed line vibrate off the carburetor and pour fuel onto the RUNNING generator, I killed any idea of a generator running when I was not physically looking at it. 

    I have a 48V string of eight L-16 batteries that are 3 years old now.  I carefully programmed the controller to charge at Trojan's recommendations, and they are still in a like-new charge state, with 1.28 to 1.29 densities across all the wells.  Part of that is because my system is amply paneled, and because I insist on only have a single string of very large batteries, rather than multiple strings of small ones.
    15 Renogy 300w panels,  Midnight 200 CC, 8 Trojan L16 batteries, Schneider XW6848 NA inverter, AC-Delco 6000w gen.
  • mcnutt13579mcnutt13579 Registered Users Posts: 98 ✭✭✭
    We have loads of customers with auto gen start.  The catch is they are big expensive generators and the start is supplied by the manufacturer.  Not some homemade contraption on a portable.

    As for flooded lead acid.  If you have to water your batteries more than every month or two then your batteries are being pushed too hard.  Batteries should live an easy life and last 10 years or maybe a lot longer.  Stop buying batteries at Walmart.  The good stuff is worth it.
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