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Old 23-01-2011, 19:17   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Rockhampton, Australia
Boat: Top Hat 25
Posts: 337
My Experience with Solar Panel and Regulator

I'm sharing this story, not that I think it is profound, but someone may find it useful or entertaining. When I bought my old boat, it had a 20-ish watt solar panel and Pure-Solarstar 60w regulator. However, it did not seem to work very well. The boat batteries voltage were low. Ended up finding the house battery was not taking charge properly so replaced it.

Using a multimeter, the solar panel was putting out about 20 volts however moving the wire going into the panel caused it to drop down to 0 volts. Checking the wires, I noted they entered the panel through a hunk of white silastic. It did not look original so I prised the silastic out. I found inside the hunk wires joined together. One set of wires had simply been twisted together and they were corroded. Silastic does not make a good joining compound for electrical connections, so it appears .

With the wires properly joined, the panel was working better. However, batteries were still not charging properly. Checked amps and found it was almost nothing .

Lucky I had a new 20 watt panel and connected it up. No problems with the system for a few weeks.

But next time I got to the boat, after a month layup, I checked the battery voltages and they were too low for being on the solar charger. Ahh, golly gosh, what now?

After some days of trying all sorts of adjustments, I suspected the Pure-Solarstar 60 w regulator. Practically no current was going into the batteries from the regulator. Lucky I had a near new Steca 8 amp regulator. I connected it up but the leds gave some kind of error message. This unit was a replacement under warranty of one which had failed straight from the box. I had tested this one at home and it had worked then been packed away for quite some months. Now it gave some error code which was not in the operating manual.

To charge the batteries up while I was on the boat (motor not running as I was working on it) I decided to simply run the solar panel to the batteries (140 amp/hrs) and keep an eye on them. That managed to charge 'em up and give me power for living on the boat.

When I left the boat, I thought I would leave the solar panel directly wired to the batteries as I had installed two exhaust fans to hopefully keep mold down inside and so the batteries shouldn't get overcharged. However, I did not want the fans to run the batteries flat if a run of cloudy days. I tried to use the deep discharge protection feature of the solar chargers. I thought even if the chargers were not working as chargers, surely the load-connection circuit with over discharge protection would work. Nope.

Ended up running the fans straight from the solar panel and not connecting the batteries in. I had wanted to get another controller and get back to the boat but with floods it looks like it will be two months before I can make another trip to continue the repairs. While the batteries will be losing charge just from sitting there, I am hoping they won't get too discharged. I am also hoping the fans running only in the daytime will be enough to keep the mold down.

The controller below is the second Steca I have had and the second to stop working. The LED display has been useless in my opinion as it mostly gave codes which were not in the operator's manual. In this picture, the info LED would flash slow 4 x red then 1x green and the yellow led stayed steady. Now all I get is the info LED flashing quickly red. I'm gunna get a different brand.

troppo is offline   Reply With Quote

regulator, solar

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