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stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #11 
You might have dodged a bullet. You might try loading them for a few hours (without charging) and compare them again.

If they all still test about the same, I'd suspect they're not getting fully charged.

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay

NYNick

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Reply with quote  #12 
I hooked up the batteries in series parallel again. They tested higher right away. Maybe I may have inadvertently charged them for a few hours but I then disconnected the collectors at the panels and have been loading them or running the house with them since 4pm today. I'll run them tonight and check the charges tomorrow. I suspect they'll be ok.

It's possible they're not getting fully charged as you say, but I've been running the system at current settings for years and years. My other suspicion is I'm putting them under too heavy an amp load occasionally and the system just can't handle it. (fridge, water pump, coffee maker, lights all at once?)

I'll update tomorrow.
NYNick

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Reply with quote  #13 
3 hours after I disconnected the panels from the system, my E meter was reading 21.1. Shortly after that, my inverter shut down and I lost power. I immediately went to the batteries and took some readings. Remember I have all 8 hooked together in two Strings of 4.

I got 24.96 right off the bat. Strange.

I then got:
6.24
6.24
6.22
6.28
6.24
6.23
6.23
6.21

My inverter, which has had a fickle turn on switch for years, now won't turn back on. I'm starting to suspect I have a faulty or broken inverter. It's a Trace DR, pretty expensive back in the day, yet over 20 years old.

Any opinions?

Small update. I hooked the collectors back up, even though there's no sun. The inverter did turn back on. However, my Trace Charge Controller has stopped giving any digital readings, yet continues to blink. Perhaps that has failed. I'm running on batteries until I can't and will update later. Load is pretty light. So weird.
stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #14 
The batteries do seem to be Ok, however SOMETHING has changed. Have you added or replaced any loads (fridge, coffeemaker, etc) in the past few months? A lot of appliances cycle on and off, and if two of them kick on at the same time, the increased load may be more than than the power supply can handle.

I've never know an inverter to "gradually" fail. Many have a bank of internal fuses that will blow. They're not supposed to be "user-serviceable" but I've known people to replace them. Otherwise you're probably due for a new inverter. You may be able to repair the old one as a spare.

But that doesn't solve the problem. Any time you put a heavy load on a lead battery the voltage drops. Remove the load and the voltage comes back up. Faulty wiring can cause the same thing, but as you've already disconnected and reconnected yours, you'd probably have found it.

Batteries do gradually lose capacity as they age, and you may have simply reached the break point in your "supply vs demand" curve. The only solutions I know of are to reduce demand, or increase supply.

Someone else may have a better idea. Sorry.

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
NYNick

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Reply with quote  #15 
Thanks Willie. Nothing about the load has changed. I'm stumped as to why my charge controller would not light up anymore.

For the last time today, I disconnected the batteries and the collectors from the system. I'm letting the batteries sit for 4 hours before I retest them. Then I'm hooking everything back up and Equalizing the hell out of them for as long as it takes. Then I'll let them run the house tonight and see if they die again. If they get lower, I'll get some quick battery readings while they're still loaded.

After that, I'm gone for a while and will have to pick this project back up in October. Thanks for your help. I'll keep you posted.

Nick
stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #16 
Testing them under load is a good idea.

Sorry, I thought it was the inverter that had failed. Do you have another way to charge your batteries?

Charge controllers are "magic" to me. You might check the wiring, though, a loose/corroded connection in the charging circuit could do it.

Once knew a fellow who replaced his battery because it wouldn't take a charge, then the battery charger. Problem turned out to be a 20c crimp connector.

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
NYNick

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Reply with quote  #17 
Ok, I'm back from being away from my system for 6 or 7 weeks. It was disconnected from the house, the inverter was off and the panels just charged the batteries while I was away. After I got back, I EQ'd them twice. It's been sunny and nice here, with system easily attaining 100%, even after buying a new fridge.

Bad news though. Last night the system inverter shut down suddenly. After a few minutes, I was able to power it back up and it ran all night, albeit there was very little load at night. 

This morning, it shut down again. Coffee maker, fridge maybe even the water pump going. I got it up and running again, and it shut down again. I'm getting all sorts or crazy indicators off my inverter. Low Battery. High Battery. The sun is shining, and it's registering some very high Voltages. 28, 29 even 30.

WTH? I thought my batteries were toast, but now I'm thinking maybe my inverter is, or even my Charge Controller.

Any ideas? I'm leaving for the winter and these batteries need to be continually charged so they don't freeze. I normally just turn off the inverter and leave them. Now, I'm unsure.

Thanks

Nick
jjackstone

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Reply with quote  #18 
Sounds like you have a bunch of flaky errors. Quite often when I have seen these types of intermittent errors it turns out that a power supply is bad. In your case, since the batteries are charging and you are getting odd readings on your inverter, I would guess that the internal device on the inverter that provides dc for the control circuitry is going bad. Probably some sort of voltage regulator for five or twelve volts dc. However, get your meter on the battery pack and verify whether or not the inverter readings match the battery readings when you are getting these odd numbers. I would almost guarantee that the battery voltages are not changing that rapidly. Additionally as Willie said, there is always the possibility of a loose connection. Shut everything down and go through and tug on all the power connections and see if anything pulls loose. Wear insulated rubber gloves and eye protection in case of sparks.
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NYNick

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Reply with quote  #19 
Thanks for the response JJ.  Before you responded, I was getting battery bank voltage readings very high, 29, 30 even 31 volts. In checking the individual batteries, I was getting 9-10 volt readings out of battery 1 and 2, and 6 -ish volt readings out of the other 6 batteries with one exception, where I got a 5.4. Just crazy. They should all be 6 ish.

My inverter was finally started giving my High Voltage messages and would shut down. Trying to reboot, it would give me the red light (high voltage) and shut down. Now, it won't even turn on. It has one of those finicky micro switches that was replaced once before, but I'm not sure that's the reason it won't turn on now. I'll keep trying.

After reading your post, I checked all the battery connections. Sure enough, I had some loose ones, but nothing terrible. I tightened them all. Also, the water levels were a tad low, so I filled all of them. This is curious, because I filled them all like 2 months ago. Oh well.

Rechecking the voltages, I'm getting decent readings. 26.8 bank and then from a 6.73 high to 6.2 low. All within range.

I'm thinking my inverter has bitten the dust. It's a Trace DR Series and it's 22 years old. There's a separate charge controller that's also a Trace. Seems to be working.

IDK. Maybe it's time to co-generate with the grid. Any ideas as to what's going on?

Thx

Nick

Update, Saturday.
The inverter toggled on today. I have no idea what's going on. All the voltages are good. Let's see if it stays on. Geez...

jjackstone

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Reply with quote  #20 
That makes things a little clearer. Assuming your voltmeter(not the meter on the inverter) is reading accurately and you have two batteries reading at 9 volts, your inverter is shutting down due to high voltage makes sense. I have never seen a battery over charge unless the charger is bad. Here is what it sounds like to me. You have an ancient system. ALL the components are slowly going bad. The two batteries with 9 volt readings on them are likely fried now, although I suppose those old lead acids could come back or be reconditioned. If it were me I would replace the whole system and be done with it. You said you only have 400 watts worth of panels. You can now buy that much capacity for $200 to $300 new if you shop around. And it would only be two panels. It looks like you don't run much for a load. If so a new charge controller and inverter could probably be found for under a $1000 total. As always, the batteries are the big expense. Seeing as you leave the system unattended for extended periods of time you would likely want to stick with lead acid. I would try to find some old forklift batteries somewhere if I were trying to cut expenses.

On the other hand. If you want to keep trying to troubleshoot the system as is, remove the two higher voltage batteries. Use the other batteries to make a single string of four 6 volt batteries for your 24 volt pack. Verify that your pack voltage is within normal range. Find a way to draw the voltage down to what you feel is a normal amount of discharge. Leave the inverter not only turned off, but completely disconnected from the batteries. Then when the sun is shining measure the charging voltage coming from the charge controller to the batteries. I've never worked with a 24 volt system but I'm guessing the charging voltage shouldn't be more than 27 or 28 volts. If you don't have the original manual look online for the charge controller model number and see if you can verify that voltage. If the charging voltage is right then your controller is probably ok. At that point I would disconnect the charge controller and reconnect the inverter to see if it works without the charge controller installed. Obviously if the inverter won't fire up, you have a problem with the inverter. If it does work, let it discharge the batteries again for a while and repeat the entire series of steps until you are satisfied with the operation.
JJ

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