few questions about solar power....

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  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Have a car nearby that you can check the 12 volt battery and confirm your meter is working correctly? With digital meters, it is always possible that they have a dead battery. The meter could also be bad, but that is more rare.

    If the UPS uses two batteries (or more) batteries--It is possible that they are 6 volt batteries (3 cells each for lead acid batteries). In any case, 6 volt batteries should be reading 6-6.4 volts each (or 12-12.8 volts for 12 volt/6 cell Lead Acid batteries) if they are charged and "resting".

    It is difficult to diagnose systems with almost zero details about the hardware.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    just got up and the screen on the mppt reads 12.3v.. and the mandarin inverter still turns on

    i would be happy to take an in depth video of everything if you can tolerate the celine dion accent...
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    and the ONLY vehicle i have nearby is the landladys toyota. however it is a new toyota and i dont think she will appreciate me opening the bonnet (hood).. i do have a chinese motorcycle with a flat starter battery.. will that do ?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Have any 1.5 volt or 9 volt, etc. cells?

    Ideally, you want a "known" good battery/voltage to verify meter operation.

    You could also measure 120 VAC wall outlet (of course, your meter set to AC and correct voltage range).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    if the clamp meter only measures AC.. then it is usless to me because im not intelligent enough to comprehend alternating current... .. i have ah.. umm.. 4.5V battery that i got as a back up for my solar table fan....
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
    edited May 21 #37
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    and in your instructional video. it sais i need to separate the positive from the ground ?.. i see no use in damaging a perfectly good cable to measure it sorry.. i simply need to know exactly the amount of watts that are going from my solar panels to my mppt... the voltage will vary.. but i imagine between 12v and 18v... and 20 watts to MAYBE 100 watts... 

    and i apologize if im obsessively thourough.. Quebecers have functioned on this mindset since i dont know.. the 1600s ???
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    The 4.5 volt battery(?) will not be useful for your UPS project. But you can use it to test your volt meter to see if it reads something around 4.5 volts (assuming the battery is charged).

    If your MPPT solar charge controller can read voltage (like the 12.3 VDC), you can simply connect the volt meter and see if it is close to the MPPT reading (usually within 0.1 or 0.2 volts or so). And many MPPT controllers will also display other readings (Array and battery bank voltages and charging currents).

    In general, solar+battery power (many times) ends up being more expensive than utility power (in the USA you are looking at $0.15 to $0.50 per kWH) where Watt*Hours are:

    Volts * Amps * hours of use = Watt*Hours
    Watts * hours of use = Watt*Hours
    kWatt*Hours * 1,000 = Watt*Hours (k=kilo or "1,000")

    If you need "backup power" (unreliable utility power, etc.), then battery and solar+battery power is certainly useful.

    But so is a simple laptop computer (I use a $200 Chromebook laptop computer for virtually all of my day to day stuff). Also a laptop (with battery) tends to be much more energy efficient.

    A desktop computer can take 100 to even 300 Watts... Vs a laptop of around 8 Watts (my simple Chromebook) to 100-300 Watts (a larger desktop computer).

    Probably start by breaking your task into 2 sections... The first is to connect your solar charge controller to the battery bank and your solar panels to the charge controller, and get the battery charging. During the day, the battery should be at 13.8 to 14.4 VDC or so to be "actively charging". Once the battery has been at 14.x volts for at least a few hours, then it should be "charged".

    The second tasks would be to ensure your UPS is working correctly. Ideally you should see around 12.7 VDC (or a bit more) with the battery "resting" (no loads, no charging). And around 12.7 to 11.5 volts "running" your loads.

    I am a bit confused about what your battery bank is right now (12 volts @ XXX Amp*Hours?). It is very easy to "over whelm" a battery if your loads are very large relative to the battery--Your loads can pull the battery voltage down and shut down the UPS, or your AC loads will only run for 20 minutes to an hour (most UPS are designed only to run long enough for you to save your work and shut down the computer "safely").

    Once you have both tasks functioning, certainly the system should run with solar charging and the inverter running at the same time (again, how long depends on amount of solar vs battery bank capacity vs loads).

    Did you figure out how to run the UPS without being plugged into the wall?

    I know you already have a UPS--But it may be much easier to start over with a battery+AC inverter+solar charge+solar panels+AC Battery charger (if needed)... It will be much less of a nightmare vs trying to get a UPS based solar system working.

    For example, here is a very quick article on how to do this:

    https://www.instructables.com/How-to-Build-a-Battery-Backup-Generator/ (missing the MPPT solar in this example)

    But before purchasing anything, you really need to measure your loads, define what you need power wise (how many Watts, how many hours per day of battery, how much sun you have (solar does not work in shade) and what it is you are trying for (just sunny weather operation, day time charge/nighttime power, emergency backup power, save money on power bill, etc.).

    Note that it is almost cheaper/easier to conserve power vs generate power--So having a very power efficient laptop computer/small computer+monitor will save you more money in the long term.

    Then design (on paper) what you want the system to be--And finally, find the hardware that will meet your design goals.

    To do this, you will need some basic test tools. A kill-a-watt type meter for measuring (and understanding) your AC loads. And I highly recommend an AC+DC Current Clamp DMM (Digital multi-meter). So you can learn how your system works, and debug it later when something goes wrong. You can get away with just a DMM (or AC current clamp DMM) to save money and get the system going--However, that requires you getting a good paper design together first rather than just going out a purchasing random hardware. That almost always never works out well (and wastes $$$).

    Also, find out if you have any electrically inclined friends nearby. Make it a project that you can both work on together.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    thank you my California friend.. if i havent said this already. i need 150-200 watts to comfortbly use my desktop/monitor and fiber optics modem...
    and the solar panels claim to 300 watts or more per panel.. but could be chinese BS... im lucky if i get 50 watts per panel... which is why i got a clamp meter so i can verify all this..

    im certain i could locate a local electrician but in the Philippines they have "afam tax" which means they overcharge foreingners for simple tasks.... for example i owe a local 1L of a Philippine brand beer for helping me crimp the thick copper ring terminal onto my 1/0 gauge cable....and im actually down to... change... im trying to start a new life here and i overwhelmed on the basic needs of my pampered butt.. 

    my system is very simple 2 12xv 50ah batts connected to each other.. positive to positive and negative to negative... keeping things at a safe... 12v or so.. still that does give me 1200 wh to work with. unless the wh of the 12v ah. battery is chinese BS too.. i dont know if you see this in your small country but... do you ever see smartphone power banks claim to be 500000000 mah ???? exactly.. chinese BS.. and yes i said "small" country.. but dont forget where i come from.. the great white north.. bigger :).. and once Russia goes down... Canada will be the biggest :)
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    sorry, i pressed post before finishing.. connected to positive of left battery is  positive of mppt.. connected to right negative is.. etc. etc....
    i have 2 inverters.. 1 is modified sine wave inverter... covered in mandarin.. sais 1000 watts.. the other is power sonici 12v dc to 230vac ... model S-300
    duct taped into the mppt... ( jk of course) are 3 solar panels.. if you refer to the last photo i uploaded.. its  the 3 panels with dimensions indicated...... AND on negative side.. mppt to  battery.. i put a cut off switch...
    AND finally on POSITIVE side from mppt to b attery there  is a 80 amp fuse...

    couple of hello kitty stickers and that is my  petite solar thingy...
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    nothing to add my San Fransisco friend ? tips ? advice ? anything ?
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    should add that as i replugged the power cable to my psu .. when i touched the metal casing i felt a familiar shock.. an the pc is powered by grid power.. im expecting a popular brand name psu today....Antec. to replace the Filipinoe psu...

    im not sure if it is the root of my issue.. but all the wall outlets in my home do not have grounding hole. means everything is 2 prong....
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Sorry... Some family issues are taking up a lot of my free time right now... So I am not able to reply as quickly right now.

    And who knows--Russia is making noises that they may want Alaska back--Time will tell regarding US land mass totals. As well as China and the South China Sea "stuff" ongoing.

    Regarding your questions--I am kind of running out of answers. Both, I am getting a bit confused about your physical installation, and trying to ensure my answers are clear and concise--And I don't get you electrocuted because of my, or your, mistakes.

    Adding the confusion of two wire AC power, and "black box UPS" system (where they may "need" a grounding plug for safety and AC polarity between "hot" and "neutral" AC wiring... This is pretty easy to end up with a shock hazard (which it sounds like you already have). What may be a "tingle" on a dry day--May turn into much worse if you are soaked from rain and standing in puddles.

    Solar is difficult to do on the "cheap". You can end up with a mix of somewhat incompatible equipment, trying to convert one unit (a UPS) into something different (a solar power system). All from many thousands of miles away with different power/hardware requirements.

    To get a bit of a reset here... Are you still trying to get the UPS setup as a "solar" power system (to presumably save money on utility power)?

    Or are you looking to use a standard AC inverter (12 VDC to 120 or 240 VAC), a solar charge controller+array, and maybe a 240 VAC to 12 VDC battery charger (backup charging)?

    Is the system working? Are you trying to figure out if you have enough solar panels to power your AC loads?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    jeez, sorry about Russia and your family issues.. the "other" super powers have gotten cocky lately but with my twisted mind.. i wont add to this political issue ay further...
    AND my current solar system does work.. just not enough to give me anything visual on my computer system.. the monitor sais.. no signal when trying with both of my inverters..... the cpu in my computer is an AMD apu.. its technically a cpu with a video card embedded into it.. maybe the power isnt sufficient to activate that portion of the cpu ???? although i did use a wattmeter to see the power draw during boot up.. and it did not exceed 120 watts... im sorry if i didnt say this already but i somewhat lost hope of using the ups as a all in one thing.. to replace the ups battery with my solar power bank.. and cut the circuit and plug into the grid when the sun God goes down... however.. im at a point where i think my best option is to just get a better inverter with minimum 500watts peak...i found 2 brand names that look similar to the inverters i see in Canadian tire and Walmart.. tde and bosca...

    good luck with Russia, i faced them in the first invasion of Ukraine.. umm (2014??) and they are all quite tall
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    minor update. apperantly my issue this whole time was the psu in my computer.. it came with a YGT 750watt psu..vut i switched it for an ANTEC... unplugged the ups from the wall.. super glued it to the inverter.. and boom. everything works.. for 3 hours today i was operating my pc monitor and fiber optics modem at zero cost to me.. felt great...
    sorry that was yesterday.. today ive been using solar power since 7 am.. i feel slightly safer about not my pc not being damaged by whatever is giving me little shocks.. even with the new psu.. i feel a tiny shock when my arm touches one of my hdd's.. but only when plugged into the power grid..im confused if this is poor wiring or.. dirty power... 
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Without looking in detail at the hardware (including power supply, etc.)... It is difficult to guess why you are getting a tingling feeling when touching the metal of the PC (or UPS, or??).

    If you are interested, take your AC volt meter and grab one meter lead in your hand (say the black lead), and then touch the other (I.e., red) lead to the places you are getting shocked... More or less, you may measure 24-60 VAC (considered "relatively safe" by electrical codes)... Or you may measure line voltage (120 or 240 VAC--I guess you have 220 VAC @ 60 Hz line voltage, and no standard wired ground outlet).



    You can do some experiments... For example, take a small 120/240 Volt filament lamp and wire it between the chassis of the PC and some local ground (cold water pipe, or similar).

    If the lamp lights--You have a dangerous situation... If it does not light, take your AC volt meter and measure the voltage across the lamp. Normally, it would be very near zero volts and would indicate that there is not a direct electrical connection/short circuit. You could also take the AC Clamp meter and measure the current in the lamp wiring--While the lamp may not light, it is possible that there can still be dangerous current levels--Basically any AC current that passes through your body that is over ~0.015 Amperes or so, is potentially enough to stop your heart.

    The problem is these parasitic AC currents can even be caused by "filter caps" on the AC input (used to reduce electrical noise/interference created by the computer).

    Problem is that depending on the "source" of the voltage/current that is causing you a shock --It can range from a "small bite" to an electrocution--depending on exactly what is going one with your equipment and how wet you are (dry skin--pretty high resistance--Wet skin relatively low resistance).

    Be careful.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    witth DC i feel safe but im sorry i will not be sticking any multimeter in a wall socket, 110 or 220v
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    When set to volts (and not amps with a "wired" volt meter"), generally they are rated to 600 VAC minimum and are quite safe.

    AC and DC each have their own safety issues... Much of these issues depend on the "energy source". Certainly, home 120/220 VAC power is not "touch safe"... But a 12+ VDC battery bank with 100 AH and larger batteries can easily smoke wires and start fires too with a dead short.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    my multimeter cost me 4$.. id need to m=be covered in rubber to feel utterly safe.. furthermore.. my multimeter has 3 inputs for the 2 included cables.. im afraid i have more faith in my own stupidity than any sort of technology....

    what am i lookig for exactly can the multimeter tell me about this minor feedback that im getting ???
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Simplest, set the meter to measure AC voltage (first test), put red lead in V and black lead in COM, grab the black lead of the meter and touch the red lead to the frame/thing that is giving you a shock and read the voltage.

    Same thing, but set to DC Voltage (second test), grab black lead, and touch red lead to thing shocking you.

    Most DMMs these days have very high internal resistance when measuring voltage, and you should not get shocked by the meter lead (very high resistance, very low current).

    And in any case, you are getting shocked and unharmed, so the volt meter test is a quick a dirty verification of the voltage/current leakage.

    Normally, I would not be telling you to grab the black lead with your hand--But we already know that the voltage "leak" from your system is not hazardous (at least so far).

    There is the "Lightning Bolt" function on your meter --I am not exactly sure what it does but it appears it can also measure "stray" AC voltage too (as well as for measuring three phase voltage too).

    The meter itself is rated for 600 volts isolation on the V and COM leads.

    More about your meter:

    https://www.petervis.com/meters/dt3266l/dt3266l.html

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    okay, i did look it up and our  outlets have 2 linedprongs and 1 is slightly longer than the other.. never noticed.. the red lead is in V(ohms symbol) and ma and it has a line hat connects to COM wirh a tiny lightning symbol.. hell photo will do
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    i hooked a wire from the ground prong of my input cable and taped it the floor.. additionally.. i still have a wire on a screw in the back of the  psu touching the metal of the table legs.. and now when i touch anything on my pc.. no shocks no electrical feedback.. i intend to hook up a wire from the ground prong to the balcony railing.. but that isnt in my budget at the moment.. i believe i need roughly 5 meters.. any gauge will do.... i just cant afford to lose my computer right now.. the video games are the only thing stopping me from using the combat training of the best military in the world on these great Philippine people... 
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    should add that reddit told me to remove the computer components from the computer case to verify that there isny any unkown grounding there...
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    and now for todays question if i havent done so already.. and forgive me if i already asked this.. can i use the 500 watt inverter (connected to my power bank naturally) while charging it with my high amperage "smart" charger ? i ask this because apperantly i can use the inverter while the mppt is sending power to the same battery bank... .. and even on my UPS.. i feel a rude buzz if i just touch just ONE battery terminal exact same buzz i felt when i used my power bank as a ups battery before.. it isnt excrutiating... but isnt pleasant either.... hardly 220v shock... if the buzzing is constant.. doesnt that mean im getting "electrical faults" constantly ??? meaning the GFCI would power off every 5 seconds... or am i understanding this wrong ???

    and obviously.. i wont charge the power bank from 2 separate sources... ie.. solar and smart charger..

    just touched the positive terminal of my ups battery.. no shock.. perhaps the ups has stoppped charging the ups battery

    your thoughts please
    and yes i would LOVE to dig a hole 1 meter deep and jam a copper rod in there and have it function as a "ground" but my landlord is rather strict you see.. im lucky i have permission to replace just a single outlet for the gfci..

    but.. NO BSOD in some time.. however.. linux doesnt exactly have BSOD.. :/

    PS my power bank is made up of 2 12v AGM possibly gel 50ah batteries linked in parallel
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    sorry, i forgot to mention that i ordered a GFCI plug... and yes my stupid Quebec mind thinks he can wire it himself 
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    Some quick answers (and SWAGs too):

    Yes, you can connect your AC inverter's DC input to the battery bus while charging with other charging sources.

    The basic warning is ALWAYS have a battery connected to your battery bus. Do not try to "run" DC loads/AC Inverter/etc. without a battery connected. Some chargers are OK in that they hold a steady 14.4 VDC (or whatever) when just plugged in. Others may not provide a stable DC Voltage (and current) without the battery (bank) connected. The Battery is what really controls the DC bus voltage. Other charging sources (car battery charger, MPPT solar charger, car alternator) are not usually designed to hold 14.4 volts, but instead have a "slow" feedback circuit and can easily exceed 16+ VDC for factions of a second (an car alternator can easily hit >>16 VDC without a battery). Others, such as solar charge controllers usually will not start if there is not a battery connected (zero volts)--And they usually use the 12/24/etc. voltage to "auto select" the correct battery bus voltage.

    We have not discussed--But use "bolted connections", not "alligator clips" for connecting your AC inverter, chargers, etc... Alligator clips just are not reliable electrical connections.

    Don't know where the electrical "shock" voltage is coming from. Connecting and AC/DC volt meter and getting voltage readings is a start for debugging (see above posts).

    I assume you mean a GFCI "Outlet" to connect replace the wall outlet? They do make GFCI "plugs" for hair driers and such--Don't remember a GFCI "Plug" in local hardware stores.

    Note that GFICI protection is just that. If there is enough AC fault current (over something like 0.010 Amps), it will turn off the AC power--And keep people from a dangerous shock.

    HOWEVER, if you do have some sort of Ground Fault in your system, the GFCI will just keep tripping (turn off), and still will need to figure out what is happening.

    Regarding chargers, yes, you can connect multiple chargers to the battery bank as long as they have the correct charging voltage/profile to prevent over charging. For a 100 AH GEL battery, you may have a charging limit as low as 5 Amperes--You need to check the specifications. There are a wide variaty of GEL batteries, some with 5% charging limits (to prevent permanent gas bubbles in GEL)--And others that allow higher charging current. You need to check for your brand/model of batteries.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    thank you..i was just curious if i can use my home computer system on the inverter 24/7 and give my power bank the power it needs using my chinese "smart" charger.. (during non daylight hours)but.. im worried that pumping that kind of juice into my power bank WHILE my 500watt inverter is still drawing from that exact power bank might damage something. i think someone mentioned "smoke show" in some other forum...
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,522 admin
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    XXX Watts into battery. YYY Watts out into AC inverter

    XXX Watts in -  YYY Watts out = ZZZ Watts charging into battery (or discharging battery if Watts out > Watts in)

    As long as battery bus voltage is what it is supposed to be (around 14.2 volts charging and 13.8 volts "floating"--Battery fully charged and smart charger cutting voltage back to keep battery charged without over charging), then all is OK... Whether or not the AC inverter is running or not AC inverter is running at that moment. 

    When Battery bus falls below ~12.8 volts, the battery is (probably) discharging. Happens when 1) inverter running and no charging current or 2) inverter load exceeds solar or smart charger output current--Such as when the sun is not up for solar charging.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    wow that was perfectly clear thank you.. i ordered an additional solar panel that claims to be 300 watts however its dimensions are for a 50 watt panel.. hey.. only 20-25$.. cant go wrong...
    sorry if my question was dumb, im just not sure if the charger "frequency" is a factor...and both the inverter and smart charger use clamps.. is that a problem ?
  • corporal_Canada
    corporal_Canada Registered Users Posts: 69 ✭✭
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    the "smart" charger is meant to desulfate.."repair" batteries.. but it is an "option".. as pulse.. i imagine if it isnt set to pulse it will function as a regular charger.. i am confused about the second switch however.. i have motor and automobile.. no clue there..