your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
Hi everyone,
long time no speak. I added another 175w sharp panel to my system today for a total of 875w stc. really exciting to see the increased amperage!

My mx60 is still cranking along just fine and its been going nonstop 6 years this spring. Im kind of worried it may kick it soon so was thinking of buying a new controller ahead of time and just storing it so that when it does happen i can make a quicker switch. So i have 3 questions for you folks:

1) do any components in a controller degrade as they sit around, if unused?
2) how long do you think a controller should/should last?
3) in the 60amp range do you like the outback or xantrex controllers better?

I was kind of excited about the pollo controller specs with built in battery monitor but after reading some stuff here I think I better stay clear.

thank you!

matt

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,482 admin
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    It sounds like the FM XX family is a step backwards in terms of MPPT tracking ability from what I have read here.

    The Morning Star 60 amp MPPT now has native internet support (no more adapters or extra software?)--if that is of interest.

    I guess the Xantrex 60 amp MPPT is a close second otherwise...

    Electrolytic capacitors do age--the hotter, the faster. (roughly, 1/2 the life for every 10C increase in temperature). And thermal cycling is just hard on everything that is not well designed/manufactured.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Get a spare board for the MX ?
    Have a good one
    Tim
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex, morningstar?

    thanks very much guys.


    Bill whats the FM XX series? I dont see model numbers from xantrex or outback relating to that.

    the morningstar with monitoring is VERY exciting.. last time I stopped by here it wasnt released yet. i have seen you guys recommend their smaller stuff so i am hoping this is of similar build quality. I think i'll go with that, but i'd really have to lean towards the best mppt ability and quality/warranty.

    I run the webcam on my mx60 off of the webserver 24/7 for monitoring, so if not having to run that , saving a few watts by using the morningstar's monitoring, is very appealing.

    anyone using the morningstar? thoughts on that in particular? or the others?

    UPDATE: just read all the morningstar specs and 5 year warranty. this is a no brainer and i lpan to get that unless someone has any alternate experiences that may change my mind.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,482 admin
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Outback FM60/FM80 series (MX60 follow-on).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • audredgeraudredger Solar Expert Posts: 272 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    I'm very happy with my FM-80. I have two MX-60's also. I believe the FX-80 is a better controller than the MX-60. The higher voltage input is a real advantage to me with my long wire runs! The MX-60's were put into service in April 2006, so 4 years thus far without any issues. FM-80 was added this winter to accommodate another array. One MX-60 is just occupying wall space for the time being.

    Would be willing to part with one MX-60 .... use funds toward another FM-80!

    If you keep the spare in a cool dry place, the only issue with shelf life should be firmware updates... not a big issue.

    As to life in service, I expect 10+ years.... maybe more?

    My vote: Outback and I have voted with my dollars!
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Thanks Bill and Mike.

    Mike if I wasn't so enamored with web/internet logging/monitoring and access i have absolutely no reason to be unhappy with outback either. I might pass mine on to a buddy i'm trying to get hooked up with solar.
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    If u dont need 80 Amps then I would go with the 60a Tristar mppt with the digital display. The fm80 data logged is inaccurate and some times really inaccurate from my limited experience.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,482 admin
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    The MX/FM series read ~5-10% high (based on a 1/2 dozen samples) and use calculated values rather than measured values which makes it difficult to be more accurate (from the thread).

    Earlier FM series has MPPT tracking issues last year (don't know if firmware fixed issue or not--I do not remember reading any updates here).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    BB. wrote: »
    The MX/FM series read ~5-10% high (based on a 1/2 dozen samples) and use calculated values rather than measured values which makes it difficult to be more accurate (from the thread).

    Earlier FM series has MPPT tracking issues last year (don't know if firmware fixed issue or not--I do not remember reading any updates here).

    -Bill

    I had a 220w array hooked up to the FM80 the other day, it was very cloudy and the wattage was on the low side for part of the day, but the Logged Amp Hours on the FM80 was double the actual Amp Hours Put into the Battery which was logged by a Watts UP meter. I have pictures of both readings

    I have noticed that usually the higher the wattage put out from the panels the lower the difference between the real numbers and what the FlexMax is displaying. Even in the 180W range it is still usually off by 1/4 to 1/2 an Amp all the time between what it says its putting out vs what it is displaying its putting out in Amps, Which also throws off the Total Amp Hours Readings.

    Drives me nuts either way, I prefer it work correctly for the price and quality of the device.
  • audredgeraudredger Solar Expert Posts: 272 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Yes it would be nice if it were accurate ... think it was tallgirl that said, from all appearances that logging was from the input side not output!? A separate metering device is the only accurate way to know.
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    BoB said that its his fault and its because the numbers that are shown are based on math that does not take into account for any losses in the MPPT conversion.

    I think I'm seeing larger differences because of the lower wattage array I am testing it and the losses in the MPPT conversion is greater at lower wattages because its designed for higher wattage arrays. Its probably more efficient working with higher currents.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,142 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    RWB look at the efficiency charts in the Manual, they head for null as the input power gets smallerrrr......
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • hillbillyhillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    RWB wrote: »
    I had a 220w array hooked up to the FM80 the other day, it was very cloudy and the wattage was on the low side for part of the day, but the Logged Amp Hours on the FM80 was double the actual Amp Hours Put into the Battery which was logged by a Watts UP meter. I have pictures of both readings

    I have noticed that usually the higher the wattage put out from the panels the lower the difference between the real numbers and what the FlexMax is displaying. Even in the 180W range it is still usually off by 1/4 to 1/2 an Amp all the time between what it says its putting out vs what it is displaying its putting out in Amps, Which also throws off the Total Amp Hours Readings.

    Drives me nuts either way, I prefer it work correctly for the price and quality of the device.

    Just wondering, I'm assuming that you are accounting for any loads in this discrepancy? As the amps through the CC are rarely the same as the amps into the battery in our own system. Not doubting that there are any issues, just wondering if that was being considered...
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    I am measuring the Output from the FlexMax 80 with a Watts Up meter, it logs the data over the course of the day.

    So I know Exactly what the Outback FM80 is putting out via its Battery Connection Load on the battery or No load on the battery it does not matter its going to be the same.

    The Problem is the FM80 does not take any conversion losses into account before it displays the current output and then uses that data to give you totals that are based on inaccurate current readings.

    Sounds like the larger the solar array you hook up to the unit the more accurate the numbers displayed will be. Most people will see 5 to 10% over actual real world numbers. The Smaller the Solar Array the larger apart the displayed numbers will be compared to real world output numbers.
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    westbranch wrote: »
    RWB look at the efficiency charts in the Manual, they head for null as the input power gets smallerrrr......

    Yep just looked and your right, 90% efficiency for the input and voltage range I'm using. So it makes sense why the differences are so much bigger at lower wattage's.
  • boBboB Solar Expert Posts: 965 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    RWB wrote: »
    I am measuring the Output from the FlexMax 80 with a Watts Up meter, it logs the data over the course of the day.

    So I know Exactly what the Outback FM80 is putting out via its Battery Connection Load on the battery or No load on the battery it does not matter its going to be the same.

    The Problem is the FM80 does not take any conversion losses into account before it displays the current output and then uses that data to give you totals that are based on inaccurate current readings.

    Sounds like the larger the solar array you hook up to the unit the more accurate the numbers displayed will be. Most people will see 5 to 10% over actual real world numbers. The Smaller the Solar Array the larger apart the displayed numbers will be compared to real world output numbers.


    It doesn't need to take efficiency into account for the OUTput current reading... Just the INput current reading, which it doesn't.

    10% (even 5% ?) is way higher than it would normally be off, unless of course the units are just not being calibrated at all. I would think and hope that isn't true.

    boB
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    if I wasn't so enamored with web/internet logging/monitoring and access i have absolutely no reason to be unhappy with outback either.
    Get a mate then use one of the software packages, www.wattplot.com www.greenhousepc.com www.mysolarlog.com to monitor, If you go with more OB equipment and have a spare aux, Using wattplot Pro, I get fault and alert emails & I have had one site set up so I can start the gen remotely, even from my blackberry :D

    Have a good one
    Tim
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    Get a mate then use one of the software packages, www.wattplot.com www.greenhousepc.com www.mysolarlog.com to monitor, If you go with more OB equipment and have a spare aux, Using wattplot Pro, I get fault and alert emails & I have had one site set up so I can start the gen remotely, even from my blackberry :D

    Have a good one
    Tim

    These are great resources thanks! Just briefly checked them out. I've never been a fan of the price of the mate, and since my unit is aging i think it makes sense to go with the morningstar in my case. nonetheless these software apps look promising for the right people with outback stuff and mates.

    It looks like both wattplot and and mysolarlog need windows pc's. I run a linux server. additionally mysolar log looks to be linked to their website, transferring data to them (similar to fatspaniel??). this isn't something I want to do, I just want to access my own system and see current production at various times. greenhousepc looks the most promising for my needs but their website will take some time to pore through. its sounds like i could run the software on my own linux machine avoiding the need to run the additional artigo computer.

    im curious, which of these do you use?

    very cool, again, thanks!
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    I use wattplot Pro on a "site pc"(cheapo off ebay so it does not sting that much if it gets nicked, £90 IIRC) then something like logmein free to remote access,( internet access supplied by customer) The pro gives me emails (configurable) for alarms or alerts, I would also recommend it as a good tool for EQ `s and setting systems up, It`s a lot easier if you can see what each inverter is doing for setup and faulting, I have not tried any of the other products, so can`t comment on them
    Have a good one
    Tim
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Just to add, they all give free trial, if you do not have serial port, USB > serial converters have worked fine for me (I use a PCMCA converter on this 9 yr old laptop)
    Tim
  • RWBRWB Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    I can't believe somebody has not made a really nice looking Graphical Interface for viewing Outback Data Online. Something like how the Enphase online interface looks like would be very nice.

    All the avaliable online data options now look like junk even though they work.

    I am guessing the market for this online monitoring is not very big and that is the reason nobody has put the time into making something really nice to look at.
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    TG from GM is constantly developing the GUI but I find each package provides a different "persons view" I use mine mainly for install and setup, which suits me but not my customers too much, Something like mysolarlog gives a nice customer friendly interface,
    Have a good one
    Tim
    ps, I would think you are right on the small user amount, not a lot of profit in it
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,142 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Also one needs the Mate to be able to 'access' the raw data... you cant get at it otherwise...

    EJ
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    Well I'm the new owner of a morningstar tristar mppt 60 that I bought here. once again i thank this forum who first helped me get setup with my first system in 2004.

    awesome.. i have the tristar page made public so you can check it out http://florenceit.net:81

    i really like it so far and seems well built, comes with battery sensor included. I have mx60 thats running fine but 6 years old if anyone is interested. theres a little bit of burn / discolorization from heat, on the outside of the PV + input when it overheated one day (have no idea how that happened but i noticed it a couple years ago so its stable and running fine still).

    anyhow... tristar looks pretty cool. speaking of which i'll be interested to see how the heatsink holds up once i start running my AC through the inverter this summer :)
  • tallgirltallgirl Solar Expert Posts: 413 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?

    I've been out of pocket and haven't had time to respond, and obviously I'm going to be biased ;)

    I don't have Xantrax support in my company's product -- yet. The time that was allocated to add it went to adding SMA inverter support. From the looks of things, Xantrax is going to stay out of the product until after I get more 'environmental monitoring' features added. I have a client who is leaning on me to provide support for pyrometers, thermocouples, etc. If you go with Xantrax, neither I nor WattPlot nor MySolarLog can help you.

    The other product that was mentioned, other than WattPlot, was MySolarLog. MySolarLog doesn't seem to have gotten very far off the ground. They show several customers on a Google map and it's been the same several customers for as long as they've been around. I'd be fine with that, but sniffing around the Internet I find a lot of "former" customers, such as this URL -- http://solar-id.mysolarlog.com/ -- and that usually means that a company is trying to pad out their portfolio. I don't want to say MySolarLog is the worst product on the market, but it only supports two inverters and two charge controllers -- and all the other products support at least a full Hub10.

    As for WattPlot, the comments about it are mostly correct. It can be used to send out e-mail alerts. I wouldn't call them "user defined", more like "canned" -- if I read the list of potential alerts correctly, there are about 47 different alerts possible. In comparison, the number of potential alerts that greenMonitor can produce is countably infinite (there's a great mathematical proof of this), and that brings up the big difference between greenMonitor and WattPlot: one is like a can opener and the other is like a Swiss Army knife. If you want to open the same kind of can over and over again the exact same way, WattPlot might just be the right decision. If you have different kinds of cans and bottles and sometimes a cardboard box or gutting a fish -- greenMonitor.

    In terms of price, when I looked at the pricing for MySolarLog it required, as others pointed out, a subscription service. WattPlot and greenMonitor aren't subscription based (I do offer a subscription based service for people who don't want to maintain software and it does include automated alerts, monthly production reports, web pages, etc for $10 per month).

    Most everyone here has mentioned WattPlot PRO, and you need it for the automated alerts. It's $150. We have a product with all the features of WattPlot PRO (and many, many more -- see the Swiss Army knife comment) for $75. We also provide multiple ways of viewing your data, such as this one -- http://data.digitalgnomon.com/users/tallgirl/gmChart.php Real simple display -- you can even embed it into a web page with an "iframe", no need for Java applets or screen scrapers. Or for your smart phone, http://data.digitalgnomon.com/users/tallgirl/gmMobile.php Like I said, lots of ways to view your data, and it's a Swiss Army knife.
  • tallgirltallgirl Solar Expert Posts: 413 ✭✭
    Re: your opinions sought: Outback or Xantex?
    lamplight wrote: »
    its sounds like i could run the software on my own linux machine avoiding the need to run the additional artigo computer.

    The ARTiGO, Atom and Geode based systems are for people who don't want to run a high-power PC. The two ARTiGO based systems consume 11 (small) and 18 watts (large). The ATOM is 32 watts and the Geode is 5 watts. The Geode will run off of the AUX relay power -- that's how low power it is. If you need even lower power and have Internet access, we can go down to 2 watts with remote monitoring.

    For people with on-grid homes who have their own computer that they leave on 24/7 you can run it on that computer rather than getting something from us. The software runs great on Linux -- that's what the 24/7 monitoring servers use.
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