Repair of a solar controller

joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
I purchased a Morningstar TS-45 from our host about six months ago. Its now working funny, with the flashing lights going all over the place.

Contacted Morningstar and they really do not seem like they want to accept returns, period. Finally after several months of emails back and forth (I travel for a living so when I email them and it takes a week for a return, I am already back out on the road and it takes me a week to get back to them) with him trying to diagnose all the different possible problems and I finally talk one rep saying that he will give me a RMA number. Course that was last week and he has not gotten back to me yet... Grrr.

While poking around the market here in Phoenix I found a used TS-60 that I got for a reasonable price. We used it on a different set of panels and batteries that we have powering a piece of land in the boonies. It started acting up so we pulled it off. Now I have two TS controllers that are not working...

I have no idea how old this controller is, does not matter. Its not working right and need to get it serviced.

Well ladies and gents, Morningstar does not service anything, its not worth their time or so the rep told me. When a used but in warranty unit comes into the facility they just replace it. No tech's repair anything, evidently its tossed into a bin and who knows what happens to it. They will not even talk with me about repair...

Does anyone know of any facilities that repair controllers like this? Is it worth doing? Hate to lose the TS-60 and replacing it is not easily in my means.

Thx,

Joe

PS Not really happy with the Morningstar company right now and needless to say may not replace the 60 watt unit with an identical unit. Any suggestions for an affordable 45-60 watt controller that its makers WILL service if there are any hassles?

Comments

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    From your signature,(10 GE 80 watt panels. Using 40 6v golf cart batteries) it looks like you are charging (or trying to charge) 40 golf car batteries with only 800 watts of Panels?

    800 watts might, on a perfect day through a good MPPT controller put out ~50 amps. (into 12vdc) Your batteries are about 2500 ah if my calcs are anywhere near right (12vt bank) That means you are ( on perfect day) only putting in ~2% of ah capacity, WAY under the 5-13% recommended for good battery health.

    It is also possible that your controller may be the result of overloading. Assuming that the controller is rated at 45 amps, you 800 watts might quite often exceed amps of input current if you are wired for 12vdc.

    Is there something I am missing?

    As for repairing the controller, if Morningstar won't touch it, I would try to find an electronics whizz, but my guess is you are going to pay more to fix it than it is worth. If MS will take it back under warrantee and give you another, then what is wrong with that?

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,606 admin
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    I have not seen a Morning Star controller in real life--but they keep talking about conformal coating for much of their product line.

    Conformal coatings make for a nice sealed unit that is almost impossible to debug and repair...

    I have had many discussions with manufacturing engineers about the trade-offs between conformal coatings or not for computer circuit cards... And the general opinion was that it was not worth the the costs and unrepairability issues.

    When used on less expensive cards--I could imagine that scrapping would be about the only viable option.

    One would hope that they look at their returns and identify issues/flaws with the product to improve future offerings and updates. But I have seen my fair share of bone piles that nobody wants to touch (costs the company to fix, cost the company to scrap, costs almost nothing to store)---I was assigned to a bone pile when I started as an design engineer at one company--Had no idea about the product at all---was a quick indoctrination into the product line, some customers got failure reports, and a few vendors where told about their problems (and, even eventually had one of our largest recalls do to a design/manufacturing clock line issue).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    2 controllers going bad? it makes me wonder if something else didn't cause this. they do epoxy the parts and boards. maybe find somebody who is willing to try the controllers on their system to see if they are malfunctioning there too otherwise they are junk.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,987 ✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    I would recommend you make note of the "flashing lights" and then look in the manual, the lights are signaling an issue and I doubt two controllers would fail in the same manor.

    If you post the light sequence and what the manual states the code mean maybe we can offer some suggestion to help fix or narrow down your issue.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,805 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller
    icarus wrote: »
    800 watts might, on a perfect day through a good MPPT controller put out ~50 amps. (into 12vdc) Your batteries...

    I think that should be an hour, FWIW.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller
    Photowhit wrote: »
    I think that should be an hour, FWIW.

    Well I didn't write it very well, but my point was,, (and is) on a perfect day the best average output is likely to be 50 amps. That was not meant to be 50 amp/hours per day for example, just that it might average ~50 amps. Sorry for any confusion.

    I still think the issue of too much battery, and not enough Pv is still an issue.

    T
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    If "conformal coating" is anything like the "potted" circuits that existed back in my day ... repair is impossible; you just toss 'em in the scrap bucket.

    So the #1 suspect is super-low battery resistance caused by a massively over-sized and chronically under-charged battery bank, eh? Possibly a lack of CC fusing to boot? I agree with the others; this looks suspicious for blowing out two controllers.

    Can't say I'm thrilled with the report on Morningstar's customer service. Sounds a lot like Xantrex to me! :cry:
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    don't be too hard on morningstar as their stuff is ok. we just don't know for sure if they both are bad or not and if they are bad then we don't know just what caused it. sg addressed the lights and the op should follow through with sg as it could be something messing with the controllers that is reversible. we just don't know and is why i suggested another system to have the cc tried in.
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller
    icarus wrote: »
    From your signature,(10 GE 80 watt panels. Using 40 6v golf cart batteries) it looks like you are charging (or trying to charge) 40 golf car batteries with only 800 watts of Panels?

    800 watts might, on a perfect day through a good MPPT controller put out ~50 amps. (into 12vdc) Your batteries are about 2500 ah if my calcs are anywhere near right (12vt bank) That means you are ( on perfect day) only putting in ~2% of ah capacity, WAY under the 5-13% recommended for good battery health.

    It is also possible that your controller may be the result of overloading. Assuming that the controller is rated at 45 amps, you 800 watts might quite often exceed amps of input current if you are wired for 12vdc.

    Is there something I am missing?

    As for repairing the controller, if Morningstar won't touch it, I would try to find an electronics whizz, but my guess is you are going to pay more to fix it than it is worth. If MS will take it back under warrantee and give you another, then what is wrong with that?

    Tony

    Tony,

    Whats missing is that I did not think that we were discussing my setup. Was hoping for information on repairing the controller. Whats on the bottom of my signature is not everything that is on the system now. Need to update it.

    2/3rds of the batteries are not hooked up to the system. Right now have six of them hooked up to five of the panels. Thats 1350 amps worth of batteries hooked up to 425 watts (22.5 amps) of panels.

    MS will repair/replace one of the controllers, there is no question on that. They will not even talk with me about the second controller as I was not the original purchaser. Thus the reason for my post.

    Joe
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    Guys,

    Thanks for the replies but I am not trying to diagnose the system, am hoping to find someone or someplace who can fix the one 60 watt controller. I bought it used and use it on a separate system that has NOTHING to do with what is on my signature.

    We are NOT talking about the two controllers being used on the same system. Please lets not get any more confusing. One was used when I got it so it may have had problems before I purchased it.

    The error lights are one is "scrolling" down through the lights, one lighting at a time and rolling though all three of them. The second one is flashing the two outer lights. Yes I have looked at the manual and their troubleshooting section. Neither I nor the MS rep can figure it out.

    Anyone know of a place where I can get one of these fixed?

    Thx,

    Joe A
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,987 ✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    http://www.morningstarcorp.com/en/support/library/TS.DAT.LED_Summary.01.EN.pdf

    The scrolling lights Green/yellow/red sounds like the eeprom of firmware maybe corrupt, I would recommend you at least try loading new firmware, all you need is a serial cable and download the loader and firmware from the morningstar website. Also check all the DIP switch settings and if you have and RTS check that its not damaged

    On the Red/Green blinking, according to the above link, it would indicate a HV disconnect. You may simply have the dip switch setting for the wrong voltage , like the previous owner may have had it on a 12V system and you connect to a 24V or greater battery bank would cause that light sequence.

    The failure rate on the TS series is less than 0.1% of all units sold, the only actual dead units I have seen is when the fets were blown off the boards and with a PWM controller, the likely caused by putting a source other than solar on the input ( like when used for diversion mode ) and the load faults and dumps the battery through the controller
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller
    http://www.morningstarcorp.com/en/support/library/TS.DAT.LED_Summary.01.EN.pdf

    The scrolling lights Green/yellow/red sounds like the eeprom of firmware maybe corrupt, I would recommend you at least try loading new firmware, all you need is a serial cable and download the loader and firmware from the morningstar website. Also check all the DIP switch settings and if you have and RTS check that its not damaged

    On the Red/Green blinking, according to the above link, it would indicate a HV disconnect. You may simply have the dip switch setting for the wrong voltage , like the previous owner may have had it on a 12V system and you connect to a 24V or greater battery bank would cause that light sequence.

    The failure rate on the TS series is less than 0.1% of all units sold, the only actual dead units I have seen is when the fets were blown off the boards and with a PWM controller, the likely caused by putting a source other than solar on the input ( like when used for diversion mode ) and the load faults and dumps the battery through the controller

    SG,

    Thanks and have gone over the DIP switch settings a couple of times on each unit. Even changed it from "auto sense" to 12v trying to see a change but no luck. The tech at first thought that was the issue and had me measure the voltage coming from the panels. It was 18v so nothing out of the ordinary there.

    May look at doing the eprom on the one that MS will not talk with me about. The MS rep said that he was going to give me a RMA to send the one back but of course that was a week ago and still have not heard back from him after sending him the serial number. Prompt customer service evidently is not normal here...

    Thx,

    Joe
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    are we to understand that both controllers have the same exact symptoms with the lights?
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    Niel,

    No, they are doing different things.

    If it was the same thing with both controllers would focus on the system.

    I put a different controller on both system's to charge the batteries while these are down (in both cases) and its working fine. Problem is that I am using an older controller that is pushing its limits as its a smaller sized controller.

    Thx,

    Joe
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    Excellent news to report.

    I finally talked the Morningstar rep into letting me return the two controllers to their facility and "take a chance" that they would do something with them. I knew that one of them was still under warranty but not the second.

    Turns out that the one used controller that I had no history on was still in warranty, so its also covered.

    He did confirm that they each had different problems, so it was not my imagination nor the tequila that was causing this. They said that there was some corrosion on the back of one of the boards, and we cannot figure out where or what caused this but

    Have to say that I am very pleased at Morningstar's handling of the problem. Cannot wait to get the replacement units back and get everything going again.

    Thanks,

    Joe A
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,606 admin
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    With enough tequila--Do you really care? ;):D

    Nice to hear they are stepping up to the plate and working with you...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • joeaksajoeaksa Solar Expert Posts: 39
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    Bill,

    Hey, we are in Arizona so sitting by the pool with a Margarita is like second nature!

    They were difficult enough to get a RMA from that I was really concerned, and thought that the one that I did not buy from AZ W/S was not going to be fixed, thus the reason for this thread, but in the end they did step up to the plate and it seems are taking care of things.

    It does restore my faith in their company and thats good as I am looking at purchasing more product in the near future.

    Joe
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Repair of a solar controller

    the corrosion could be from failing to clean off excess rosin from soldering, but this usually isn't a big problem to cause failures from.
    in any case you will be back to normal when they replace them and that is good news.
    i've never heard of any problems in dealing with morningstar and so far this still stands.
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