Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

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System: 50 Sharp PV Panels,Outback 60 and 80 charge controlers,Xantrex Sine Wave + Invertor/Charger, 48- 12v Deep cycle batteries series of 4 (48v), each series to bus bar.First I am sure problem has been lack of proper Maintenence. As I cleaned each post I found several loosly connected,a few corroded, and one not even connected. Surprised batteries lasted a year.out of 48 only 12 servicable after testing with hydrometer. Don't think enough to power invertor. Disconnected 36 bad batteries and waiting for replacements. Does the SW+ provide constant charging? Should I turn on EQ Charge? Am I correct in my assumption that the Outback Charge controllers only collect PV voltage and maximise to SW+, and SW+ charges Batteries and with enough stored energy, Inverts to A/C? Appreciate your help, trying to learn. Live on Remote Carribean coast of Panama NO GRID HERE. B-4 my arrival no one checked H2o or cleaned posts. First check 3 gals H2o. Duhh 36 dead batteries in a year? Costly mistake, A little more instruction goes a long way.

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  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Welcome to the forum.

    How many problems have you got there? Lots. Or one: badly designed system.
    Forty-eight batteries? That's asking for trouble, and those corroded connections you found are the proof of it. Even with bus bars it is going to be extremely difficult to keep current flow in/out of all those batteries even. We're talking eight parallel strings of four batteries each, right?

    Now, if we knew the Amp hour capacity of those batteries it would be possible to evaluate how well the array can charge them. Without that data it isn't possible.

    The venerable Xantrex/Trace SW inverter/charger ( probably SW4048 ) will charge batteries if it is fed generator power at the AC IN. Probably not that many batteries, though. You only need four 12 Volts in series to power up the inverter and see if it works. May not provide many Watt hours or handle heavy loads, but it should function. Unfortunately the old SW series is old, and we get a lot of posts on here about them failing. They're pretty much beyond their life expectancy at this point.

    If these are flooded batteries, the kind with the caps you can open and look inside, get a hydrometer and measure the specific gravity of each cell on every battery. Take the ones with the best readings and try to recharge them. You may need to equalize them if there's an SG difference between cells after charging. Do not EQ before charging. Read through the Battery FAQ's first: http://www.windsun.com/Batteries/Battery_FAQ.htm

    If we knew the size of he PV's (Watts each, total number) we could approximate how much battery capacity they could support.

    This sounds like a classic case of too many batteries, not enough PV, all wired together by someone who didn't know what they were doing.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,502 admin
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Some reading:

    Deep Cycle Battery FAQ
    www.batteryfaq.org
    Trojan Battery User's Guide (English)
    Trojan Battery User's Guide (Spanish)
    Does the SW+ provide constant charging? Should I turn on EQ Charge? Am I correct in my assumption that the Outback Charge controllers only collect PV voltage and maximise to SW+, and SW+ charges Batteries and with enough stored energy, Inverts to A/C?

    The Inverter/Chargers only charge if you have the generator up and running--Normally, with the price of fuel, you will want to minimize runtime, so a good way to do this is:

    We normally recommend generator charging if the battery bank is below ~75% state of charge and you have cloudy weather forecast--start the genset early in the morning and run to get the batteries back above 80-85% state of charge (below ~75% state of charge, batteries "sulfate" fairly quickly and if left for days/weeks/months below ~75% state of charge will lose capacity).

    If the batteries are below 50% state of charge, start the genset right away to get them recharging. Batteries discharged often below ~50% state of charge will have less cycle life.

    If the batteries are below 20% state of charge, stop any loads and get them recharged... Below 20% state of charge, it is possible to take a weak cell dead and even "reverse charge" a cell which will cause it to fail now or in ~1-2 weeks).

    If I understand your questions correct.... Think of the battery as the heart/center of your power system. For a first approximation--The Outback charge controllers take solar power and send it to the battery bank:
    • Bulk: When batteries are low, will send out as much current to the batteries as it can (maximum of solar array and maximum output rating of charge controller--depending on sun and # of watts of solar panels). Bulk will continue until the batteries are ~80-90% charged.
    • Absorb: When batteries reach charging set point (around 57-59 volts), the charge controller will hold the charging voltage and the batteries will naturally limit the charging current to smaller and smaller amounts. Down to ~1% of Bank AH capacity (i.e., 500 AH battery bank, ~5 amps minimum current when bank is full). Outback can be set to time the Absorb cycle to ~2-4 hours... Useful to not confuse charge controller if you have other loads running at same time.
    • Float: Battery is fully charged... Controller will back down to ~53-55 volts. Batteries can sit at this voltage "forever" and not be over charged or slowly discharged.
    • Equalize: Batteries are "overcharged" to get weak cells back up to fully charged... Will not "fix" batteries with problems, but will recharge a weak cell in a series string of fully charged cells. Too often/much equalization will damage/quickly age a battery bank. Read the Trojan manual about when to equalize (or your battery mfg's manual).
    And for inverter loading--look at the battery bank directly... How much charging the solar charge controllers are doing (or not) should not affect the day to day operation of the inverter(s) unless you get to their cutoff voltage (typically around 42 volts). Normally though, you should not be taking your battery bank below ~46 volts in normal day to day operation.

    If you have a lot of parallel batteries (personally, my recommendation is to avoid more than 2-3 maximum parallel battery strings--more strings become difficult to keep sharing current equal. If you can, get larger AH batteries and keep the number of parallel strings down (to one--my preference--However, that may not always be possible).

    I would suggest getting a DC Current Clamp Meter (here is one model that is inexpensive in the US--about the minimum price I have seen that will do the job. $60 USD... Otherwise, you can spend $300-$400+ for a very nice Fluke or other good quality True RMS reading meter).

    Use the current clamp meter to measure current (during heavy charging/discharging) in each parallel battery string every week or month... If you see a string that is not sharing current with the DC current clamp meter--you know that something is wrong and can fix it before the batteries fail.

    You can also use a digital volt meter to monitor the voltage at each battery to make sure they are reasonably matched in voltage. And even check each cable voltage drop with the 2 volt or 200 mV scale (if too little drop, perhaps not enough shared current flow; too much drop, perhaps a failing cable/cable connection).

    Lastly, with lots of parallel strings of battery banks--each back should have its own fuse/circuit breaker. This will help prevent a shorted battery from catching fire by pulling huge amounts of current from the other batteries strings.

    I will stop here--lots to read and I am sure you will have more questions.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Vic
    Vic Solar Expert Posts: 3,208 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Hello belinriver,

    Nice to see you here.

    The Outback Charge Controllers are one source of charging for the bateries. The Inverter/Charger is another it you run a generator (or have grid power).

    As you know, the batteries are the "storage tank". The inverters need the batteries to stabilize the charging current porvided by the PV array.

    From your posts at the other Forum, sounds like you have one of the SW+ 5548s that appears to work right now, and one that does not. These inverters are tough workhorses, but as Coot mentioned, this design is mature, and many of these units have thousands and thousands of hours of service, and are beginning to fail.

    In your location, might expect that perhaps Lightning could be some concern.

    You need only one string of batteries able to hold a charge to do some more testing on the inverters. As Coot also said, you should check the SG, and record the readings of the good string(s), top off each cell, and try charging them from the PV (or generator). Carefully check the connections from the main battery bus to the DC inverter breakers, and to the inverters themselves, they sould be tight and clean.

    Remove any loads from the output of the inverter which appears not to work, turn on the main DC breaker to it, and see what happens. Does it come up and run, if not, what lights do you see? In the 'Error Causes' menu, what, if any, troubles are noted?

    Hope that you folks HAVE NOT ordered batteries just yet. The fewer batteries in parallel (fewer strings) the better. Using larger capacity batteries and fewer of them is often the key to happiness. Large Deep-Cycle batteries may be a bit harder to find in your location, but will be well worth the effort.

    You are asking good questions, and with a bit of help from folks here, you should be able to get the system running much better. Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH X2@48V, 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.
  • Vic
    Vic Solar Expert Posts: 3,208 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Hi belenriver,

    Know that you have had a lot to digest, but am wondering how you are doing.
    Do you have any info on the one inverter that was giving problems, and how is your existing battery bank doing?

    Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH X2@48V, 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.
  • techntrek
    techntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Did you measure the SG on all the batteries after first giving a good charge to each one?
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Thanks for your responses. The boss started flipping switches turned both on and damn thing started and ran off 12 batteries 3 strings for 2 days of course rainy days and system shut down agfain, as of now hav'nt got it going again. This afternoon a fan or motor started inside upper unit but when I randomly flipped switches it stopped. The top invertor controll doesn't respond when I try to set menu to search or invert. OK I have 2 250a switches 1 for each invertor. Sometimes with bottom on ,if I flip top on then off it seems like I am tricking the bottom into inverting. the last few times I 've done this It inly comes on for a min or two then shutsw down.This is with no load to house.The outback charge controllers actualy controll the charging?. I will check the pv voltage and get back to you. Thanks again
    I'm slowly learning
  • Vic
    Vic Solar Expert Posts: 3,208 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    Hi belenriver,

    Thanks for the update.

    Sounds to me like both inverters may be OK, but they need charged batteries to do so. Some questions:

    Is Solar the only means of charging batteries (that is, through the Outback Charge Controllers)?

    If it has been cloudy, you may need to charge from the Grid if you have that or from a generator. With the grid or generator, the charging normally comes from the Inverter and from any solar input that is available at the time.

    Normally the fans in the inverter only run when it is working fairly hard from the loads on the inverter output, or from heavier charging. Altho, in a hot environment the fan will run more often and longer.

    You may need to charge the batteries some more or again.

    The 250 Amp switches are most probably the main circuit breakers -- one for each inverter.

    Info on battery voltage, PV in, charge currents on the OB CCs etc.

    More later, good luck, Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH X2@48V, 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.
  • SCharles
    SCharles Solar Expert Posts: 123 ✭✭
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    Re: Outback Charge controllers/Xantrex Sinwave + invertor/charger

    You have had some good answers here. Yes, the charge controllers control the charge. In simple terms, they take the PV electricity and send it on to the batteries. Plus, they monitor the batteries and decide how much of the PV power to send to them so they do not overcharge. You set the maximum voltage you want the batteries to reach, along with other aspects such as how long to absorb, etc., and the charge controllers follow your instructions. That is what they are for.

    I have a Trace inverter. The "charger" part of the Trace is an option and most of them have the charger. The charger, as others have said, on the Trace is not for charging the batteries from the pv panels. It is for adding additional charging from another source: a generator. On the Trace, the parameters for charging are all set from the controls on the digital display area of the inverter. The owner's manual for the Trace tells you how to do this. You can charge, overcharge [intentionally], EQ, etc., all by setting the controls on the Trace charger. Just like you can on the Outback Controllers.

    So, simply, you have two charging systems available in your set-up. You have the PV panels charging from the sun, controlled by the Outback Controllers. You also have the Trace inverter, with the charger added on, and this charger must be used with a generator.

    I'm just trying to set the basic, simple overview here.....