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Old 08-28-2017, 11:55 AM   #1
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Solar power under load

I'm posting this in order to provide more data regarding real-world use of solar power.

A few weeks ago I broke my refrigerator. I had a Coleman PowerChill thermoelectric cooler which runs on 12V or line voltage, so I moved my food into it. The cooler works surprisingly well, but it draws a constant six amps on 12V. At my previous location I had shore power, but I moved down to New Mexico and got a spot without it. I wanted to see how well my solar panels could keep the batteries charged while under this load.

I have three roof-mounted panels totaling 355W of power and the dual six-volt batteries. I moved to a state park near Portales, at around 34.25 degrees latitude. The weather was mostly sunny. When I arrived my batteries were at 100%, due to having shore power the night before and sun on my panels during the trip. I did my usual routine-- using the microwave for a couple of minutes via the inverter, charging my laptop, watching TV for maybe an hour or two. The next morning my batteries were at 62%. During that day they charged up to 80%, not higher.

It became obvious that I couldn't go more than two or three days like this without depleting my batteries, so I eventually moved to a site with hookups. I'll try to get my fridge repaired at an RV shop next week.
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Old 08-28-2017, 12:06 PM   #2
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Something does not add up, you should have plenty of reserve with 355 watts while using only 6 amps per hour? Are your dip switches correct?
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Old 08-28-2017, 12:46 PM   #3
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I agree with Jim, something not right. The 160w factory unit on ours with twin 6v puts it right back to full within 2-4 hrs from most any depletion point. Who put the solar on? What are the components? Panels wired in series or parallel?
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Old 08-28-2017, 01:43 PM   #4
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I have suspected that my system was underperforming, but I didn't know how to check.

I don't see a reference to the dip switches in the Go Power controller manual, though I've seen them mentioned in the forum. Can someone give me a reference for the correct settings, and/or a troubleshooting procedure?

The inital 95W panel and controller were installed by ETI. Two additional panels, controller, and a battery monitor were installed by AM Solar.
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Old 08-28-2017, 02:00 PM   #5
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Correction: the GoPower controller was installed by ETI. AM Solar used the initial controller, so it hasn't changed. AM Solar installed two panels and a battery monitor.

I read the GoPower manual and checked to make sure the controller was set to flooded batteries. It was. Other than that, I don't know what to do. In particular, I have no way of detecting a dead solar panel.
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Old 08-28-2017, 02:02 PM   #6
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Panels appear to be wired in parallel-- all three go to a rooftop junction box installed by AM Solar. This re-routed the initial wiring by ETI for the 95W panel.
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Old 08-28-2017, 02:26 PM   #7
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Mike: I recall your thread from a few days ago about cleaning the panels and a 1/3 increase in amps. That's significant. Since this issue of optimal recharging appears to have been prior to the cleaning do you have a feel for how you might recharge now?
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Old 08-28-2017, 02:49 PM   #8
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Certainly sounds like the install would be correct, you'd want them in parallel. The one thing they have in common is all the panels go into the same GoPower controller and the output seems like it isn't what it should be to the batteries. I'd definitely focus on the controller. Maybe a call into GoPower and see if they can walk you through testing it.
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Old 08-28-2017, 04:37 PM   #9
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That works out to 144 amps in 24 hrs. The most I've gained over a full July sunny day here in western MA was 50A with my 160w panel. Using those numbers I would have gotten 111 amps if I had had 355w, a loss of 33 amps for the day long cooler use, not counting your other uses.

Your numbers look roughly right to me.
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Old 08-28-2017, 04:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rubicon327 View Post
Mike: I recall your thread from a few days ago about cleaning the panels and a 1/3 increase in amps. That's significant. Since this issue of optimal recharging appears to have been prior to the cleaning do you have a feel for how you might recharge now?
Yes, I cleaned the panels to make sure I was getting the optimum charging, and because I knew they were filthy. I'm on shore power now, but I could switch that off at the box and let the batteries drain overnight, then check my charging tomorrow. At my new location I'm not in full sun all day, but I am for part of the day. I will check my charging rate then.
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