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Old 02-08-2012, 23:37   #1
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Help Me Build This Solar Setup

it's time to build my first solar setup. i've been researching for quite a while now and trying to learn about what i need to get done. i'm not looking for some showcase solar set up. and we aren't huge electricity drainers. this is going to be a budget project that simply gets the job done. i have a 28ft. sailboat and i'm looking to power a chartplotter, auto tiller, laptop, VHF, and lighting (running, navs, mast, and interior). we use candles, lanterns, and AAA powered LEDS half the time anyways. my outboard motor has an alternator which helps big time on keeping them charging, but i won't always be using that and don't want to depend on gasoline all the time.

so i bought some AGM batteries a while back and installed them on my boat. when i purchased the batteries the guy also gave me new wiring and the used charge controller that he had successfully working with his setup. (so i bought most everything minus the panel.)

i guess my main question is to please take a look at what i have to work with. let me know your opinion as to if this puzzle can be put together with the pieces i have to offer.

here is the charge controller i have. i know i've read a lot about everyones MPPT and it sounds like maybe that's what i need. but if i can get this one to do a similar job and not spend the money i'm ok with that. he gave me about 15ft. of heavy gauge wire. it's not infront of me right now so i'm not exactly sure what thickness but he said its the same spool he's been using and it's expensive.

the batteries i have are NorthStar (NSB-M12-210FT)
here is a link to my blog that will show you and tell you more about them. another question is, will this charge controller be compatible with these batteries?

here is a solar panel that i am interested in. i've been searching around for something between 100-180W just because of the actual size of the panel and because i think that will be more than enough to keep those big batteries topped off, especially if we're using minimal power and occasionally running the motor. more questions, do these batteries hold more power than your average 12v? if so, is it by a lot? also, will this panel be strong enough to keep them topped off with moderate power consumption? and, will this panel be compatible in a setup with that controller and those batteries?

i saw that i need to purchase MC4 clips to put on my cables. if i've got it right it should work out and go like this: solar panel - MC4 cable connect - cable wire- C40 charge controller - cable wire - batteries. correct?

also i saw they sell an optional LCD digital display. probably not necessary but a wise add-on worth purchasing?

thank you for your time and especially any help.
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Old 03-08-2012, 00:08   #2
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Re: help me build this solar setup

That is a very good charge controler, it's certainly not worth changing it for MPPT in your sized system. The charge controler is very adjustable and will be fine for your batteries with the correct voltage settings.

Fit the largest wattage solar panels you can. Make sure they are 12v panels. The one you provide the link to looks ideal.

The wiring order you have is correct, but you need a fuse or cb on the battery side.

Rather than a digitital display for the charge controler I would get a good battery monitor. This will provide better information by monitoring the discharge as well as the charge side.
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Old 03-08-2012, 00:19   #3
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Re: help me build this solar setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikalcalvino View Post
it's time to build my first solar setup. i've been researching for quite a while now and trying to learn about what i need to get done. i'm not looking for some showcase solar set up. and we aren't huge electricity drainers. this is going to be a budget project that simply gets the job done. i have a 28ft. sailboat and i'm looking to power a chartplotter, auto tiller, laptop, VHF, and lighting (running, navs, mast, and interior). we use candles, lanterns, and AAA powered LEDS half the time anyways. my outboard motor has an alternator which helps big time on keeping them charging, but i won't always be using that and don't want to depend on gasoline all the time.

so i bought some AGM batteries a while back and installed them on my boat. when i purchased the batteries the guy also gave me new wiring and the used charge controller that he had successfully working with his setup. (so i bought most everything minus the panel.)

i guess my main question is to please take a look at what i have to work with. let me know your opinion as to if this puzzle can be put together with the pieces i have to offer.

here is the charge controller i have. i know i've read a lot about everyones MPPT and it sounds like maybe that's what i need. but if i can get this one to do a similar job and not spend the money i'm ok with that. he gave me about 15ft. of heavy gauge wire. it's not infront of me right now so i'm not exactly sure what thickness but he said its the same spool he's been using and it's expensive.

The charge controller you got is a PWM. It won't give you as much energy as an MPPT but the batteries should last somewhat longer.
The web site you linked to it has a manual. I would suggest downloading it now since this is an old piece of equipment and who knows how long the manual remain on the site. http://www.solarcellsales.com/techin...controller.pdf
Late in the manual is a wiring size chart. Make sure you follow it. Pg 43


the batteries i have are NorthStar (NSB-M12-210FT)
here is a link to my blog that will show you and tell you more about them. another question is, will this charge controller be compatible with these batteries?
From reading the charge controller manual it looks like it will work with your batteries. You will need to look up with the battery manufactured what voltages are appropriate for BULK and FLOAT. Then break open the charge controller and set those values on the poteniometers inside the controller (starting pg 22). At the same time you will need to make sure the jumpers are set for 12volts, PV controller operating mode and for Manual Equalization (pg19 et al)

here is a solar panel that i am interested in. i've been searching around for something between 100-180W just because of the actual size of the panel and because i think that will be more than enough to keep those big batteries topped off, especially if we're using minimal power and occasionally running the motor. more questions, do these batteries hold more power than your average 12v? if so, is it by a lot? also, will this panel be strong enough to keep them topped off with moderate power consumption? and, will this panel be compatible in a setup with that controller and those batteries?

i saw that i need to purchase MC4 clips to put on my cables. if i've got it right it should work out and go like this: solar panel - MC4 cable connect - cable wire- C40 charge controller - cable wire - batteries. correct?
Looks about right.

also i saw they sell an optional LCD digital display. probably not necessary but a wise add-on worth purchasing?

I would be more interested in the temperature compensating sensor.

thank you for your time and especially any help.
Good Luck.
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Old 03-08-2012, 00:20   #4
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Re: help me build this solar setup

awesome and simply put. oh ya i forgot about my circuit board with a fuse. thank you for that. ok getting a battery monitor sounds good, i thought i might need more than that one LED that it has. i'll need more digital read out of what's going on. so i guess with a little more research i will probably get this panel next week and start brainstorming how i should mount it. more info and help from anyone is greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-08-2012, 08:04   #5
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Re: help me build this solar setup

mikal, fwiw even the best agm batteries are generally considered to have a 4 year working life, with 8 years being extraordinary. So depending on how those batteries were maintained...once you get them charged up, you may want to load test them and see just how much capacity they have left in them. The early numbers for agm longevity apparently just having been proving out in the real world.

And unless the manufacturer says they can be equalized, make sure your charger won't try to equalize them. That would simply cook off conventional agms and ruin them.
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Old 03-08-2012, 09:19   #6
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Re: help me build this solar setup



Only 2 Northstars??? HAHAHAHAH
(Propulsion Pack)
One of the best AGM's out there. When (7 years old and going strong) they ware out I'll go Lithium.

Steve in Solomons MD
Lagoon 410 SE
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:03   #7
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Hellosailor. Well he had that charge controller hooked up to those exact batteries for a few years no problem. He was really confident with it. All those are 7 years old?! Awesome! Gives me faith they'll last if I hook it up correctly. Im pretty sure these batteries are younger. Thanks for the help so far. Oh ya and my batteries usually sit at 14.2 - 13.6v if this helps anyone explain more to me.
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Old 11-08-2012, 22:48   #8
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Re: help me build this solar setup

if you don't feel like reading any further... please.. check out this video and all i want is to know what that maneuverable bracket mount is specifically called and possibly where to purchase it. thank you.


so i ended up purchasing:

Solar Cynergy 140 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel $203.00
OutBack OBB-15-150VDC-DIN, 15A PV Breaker Midnite Solar MNEPV15 $13.20
Male Solarline 2 locking – fits MC4 cables on module $3.20
Female Solarline 2 locking – fits MC4 cable on module $3.20
Xantrex BTS-15' Battery Temperature Sensor with 15' Cable $22.97
Xantrex Trace CM Digitalmeter- C12/35/40/60 $78.40

now that i have a pile of everything to start a great solar set up taking up my whole galley. i want to hurry up and mount it. i have a simple idea. all i want to accomplish is three things. 1. panel isn't an obstruction to our actual act of sailing 2. panel is firmly mounted and not hassled by the bobbing, rocking, and wind 3. adjustable with a tilt option from horizontal to about 45 degree diagonal. this probably sounds vague...but i see it in my head.

2 galvanized poles coming straight up out of the stern. 29" apart. ontop of each one of those 2 poles will be an adjustable tilt bracket mount (i'm so pissed i can't find where to purchase this or exactly what it is called and i've been looking all over the internet for hours)

so i guess what i'm trying to say is... check out this universal mount and if anyone knows what the hell this bracket is specifically called and where to purchase it please let me know. (i'm guessing it's gotta be about $20-40 if he's selling the kit for $50??)

here's the kit for sale: Solar Panel Pole MOUNT kit

i don't want to purchase his kit for a set price if i can just find that bracket elsewhere. i'd have to cut and shape his kit anyway so i might as well do it all myself. plus waiting for it to come in the mail sucks if i can just purchase it locally tomorrow. worst case scenario i buy 2 of his kits. i don't want just one pole because i feel like the 4 ft. 10 inch long panel that weighs 30 lbs. needs superior support. basically it will be just a 2 legged adjustable air foil off the back of my boat.

here's a video of his universal kit. all i want is to know what that maneuverable bracket is called.
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Old 12-08-2012, 18:02   #9
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Re: Help Me Build This Solar Setup

mikal, the links you posted don't seem to link, and I can't see the utube videos as I've temporarily shut down Flash as a security problem. (It is a great malware delivery system that coincidentally distracts you with videos.<G>)

But I'm guessing any kind of swivel/tilt mount is pretty much proprietary and made by one source with one name. If you can't buy it from whoever is showing it, ask a local machine shop if they can fab something up for you cheap.
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