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Old 23-01-2013, 17:54   #1
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new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Hi,

I have 2 4D batteries running the boat (3 years old), we have refrigeration, no air, we use an inverter to run laptops, cell phones etc along with the must have coffee pot in the morning, and the tv for part the evening or music... We had 3 Kyocera140v panels installed last week with a blue sky 3024iL controller. We left a marina fully charged (from shore power) on Saturday south of Miami and been on a mooring ball ever since (Wed). Each night I switch over so a single battery is running the boat and turn both back on in the morning. I noticed the battery i was running on drops down to less than 12v each day and when the solars are running it only get back up to 75% or less than 13v, Tuesday evening I ran the engine for an hour to assist with the charging, Wed morning one battery was almost registering discharging. Today i ran the engine twice for an hour each time and at sundown i'm only showing 12.5v. The batteries worked fine before the panels and controller was installed albiet I wasnt moored out for 5 days. is this shat i should be expecting?

Another item i noticed is that on top of the batteries i see small amounts of water, i checked the fluid levels in the 4D's and it appears to be fine. is it natural to see water on top of the batteries (i've noticed this perodically over time)

I figured i'd get a better result given that it's been faily sunny since the panels have been installed

I'd appreciate any insight

cheers
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Old 23-01-2013, 17:58   #2
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Im just shooting in the dark here, but I had 3 year old batters go bad , more than once to you check the cells out, could be one is going, draging down the rest??
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Old 23-01-2013, 18:10   #3
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

First of all, leave both batteries on at night.

Now, how much power do you use?
How much power are you pushing into the batteries from the solar cells?
How much power are you pushing into the batteries from the alternator?

Answers you supply to these questions will give you the answer.

Also read the many battery threads on this forum. That will help you to understand what is happening.
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Old 23-01-2013, 18:21   #4
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

I notice that you're in Lake Ontario. That's what, 45 degrees north? In January, those solar panels are probably not pumping enough power to offset your usage, even on "sunny" days. I would guess you may not even be getting 100 amp hours per day at that latitude this time of year with your setup. The only way to really know is to install something like a Link 10 that monitors both how much you consume and how much you're charging.
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Old 23-01-2013, 18:54   #5
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

(he currently is in Miami)

Have you checked the water level in your batteries?
Did you set the controller to the correct voltages for your batteries?
Do both batteries do this or only 1?
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Old 23-01-2013, 18:56   #6
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
(he currently is in Miami)
Oops. My bad.

Still, a Link 10 would tell you what the problems were at this point.
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Old 24-01-2013, 04:48   #7
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

I had a similar problem and someone that claims to know his way around electrickery, suggested that I fit a battery desulfator to my five year old bank of batteries. It's made a huge difference eg before fitting the desulfator, with the engine running, my link 2000 reported 13.2 volts while charging. It now charges at over 14 volts.

Apparently, these magic boxes send out a pulse that breaks down the sulphur build up on the battery plates and then dissolves it back into the battery water, where it should be. My desulfator cost $49, which is a whole lot cheaper than buying a new bank of batteries.
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Old 24-01-2013, 05:08   #8
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

I suspect your consumption is too high for the power you are producing.
You need to measure your consumption and production with a good battery monitor, as other have said.

To live successfully on solar you do need to reduce your power consumption as much as possible, generally this can be done still enjoying the better things in life.

Coffee pot - go gas
TV - it should be a led LCD screen preferably running from 12v
Computers - run off 12v with a DC converter, not 110v via the inverter. Low consumption net books and tablets are worth using where viable.
Inverters- many have a reasonable standby current. A good battery monitor will tell you this. In the mean time switch it off when its not used.
Refrigeration is a big consumer make sure this is as well insulated and efficient as possible.
The lights should be LEDs.

I suspect with a bit effort and minimal expense you can substantially reduce your power consumption. When you consumption is less than your production, you and your batteries, will be happy again

If both your batteries are house batteries (with a separate start battery) its more efficient, and much better for the batteries, to keep both of them connected. Don't switch one off overnight.
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Old 24-01-2013, 05:39   #9
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I have not seen a desulfator but you should equalize your batteries occasionally. Your shore power charger probably has that function. The Blue Sky also appears to but I would start with shore to remove doubts in the new solar. Be sure the panels are all shut off before equalizing. The voltage goes above 15V and may damage some equipment.

A clamp on amp meter is quite useful until you install a good battery monitor. Then you can see how much current is going through various segments of your system. Get a decent one. I went cheap ($39 radio shack) and the readings are more relative than absolute many times but it is still good data.
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Old 24-01-2013, 05:55   #10
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Wire an Ah meter into your kit and you will see how much goes in and out each day. Otherwise, a plain +/- A meter will help out too to see your consumption and your production, or the balance of the two.

When off the grid we can be solar only for months on end. Our batts never drop below 12 (I think they hardly ever go below 12.2). They get back to 13+ as soon as the sun is up. On most days they get to 14.5 where the regulator cuts in and goes into PWM. If anything, we start the engine EARLY IN THE MORNING.

We have 150W solar onto 110 Ah battery (formerly onto 180 ah, reduced due to LED conversion).

Check out your balance, you might be in the red.

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Old 24-01-2013, 17:46   #11
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

thanks for the feedback, i will review in detail and see what happens. were were off the boat most of the day and the batteries are now showing 12.6v with a partially sunny day today here in the Miami area. cheers
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Old 26-01-2013, 18:57   #12
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

its been nice and sunny the past two days and the solar panels seem to be doing their job. by late afternoon the voltage is reading around 13, and when keeping both batteries active i see around 12.3 in the morning. i guess i just need to be patiient... thanks for the advice
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Old 26-01-2013, 19:59   #13
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Your charge voltage should be around 14.2 - 14.6 depending on the type of batteries you have. If the voltage sits at 13 in the afternoon perhaps your charge controller has not been set up properly.
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Old 26-01-2013, 21:22   #14
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Good advise from all above. But a question... are your panels subjected to any shading? Of course if you're measuring the battery input current provided by the panels, your problem might be just balancing the loads against available input as suggested by Noelex and others.
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Old 28-01-2013, 11:40   #15
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Re: new solar panels but batteries not keeping a charge??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stingo View Post
I had a similar problem and someone that claims to know his way around electrickery, suggested that I fit a battery desulfator to my five year old bank of batteries. It's made a huge difference eg before fitting the desulfator, with the engine running, my link 2000 reported 13.2 volts while charging. It now charges at over 14 volts.

Apparently, these magic boxes send out a pulse that breaks down the sulphur build up on the battery plates and then dissolves it back into the battery water, where it should be. My desulfator cost $49, which is a whole lot cheaper than buying a new bank of batteries.
I vote best answer on this one by Stingo

Lead-Acid batteries *hate* to be discharged below 50%. It causes sulfation on the plates and this reduces the batteries' overall capacity and the maximum voltage. A battery charging system that goes based on amps will register the battery as fully charged because the battery wont take any more amps, but sulfation on the plates mean that you will drop below the optimal voltage faster, hence, your batteries will appear to be dead.

I bought a 1.1A "smart charger" for $49 at Canadian Tire for my boat battery. It has a 7 step charging process one of which is "recovery" for below 50% charge where it does pulse a low amount of current to desulfate the battery. If you are regularly killing your batteries you'd probably want to get a much more powerful one so you can use it as your main battery charger, say a 10-15 amp model, but my boat sits at the dock connected to shore power 7 days a week in the offseason and usually 5 days a week in the sailing season so the amount of time it takes to fully charge doesn't matter to me.

When I first connected the smart charger to my battery my regular charger indicated that the battery was at 75% charge. The smart charger indicated under 25% and entered recovery mode.

Sympoms that my battery was sulfated and neeeded reconditioning on my boat were with the battery at full charge: Turning the stereo too loud when it would thump a deep bass kick would have the stereo turn itself off. Turning on multiple incandescent lights (I gotta get those replaced with LEDs this season) each successive light turned on would dim the others. Music would cause the lights to fluctuate with the beat. The battery would seem to die quickly even after a full charge. My 8HP outboard outputs a 1.5A charge and despite leaving the dock with a full charge and running the motor to get around it never seemed to have much effect at keeping the battery topped up ( I know a 1.5A current would take forever to actually charge the battery I did the math once ). The battery seemed to die quickly even when fully charged and the only current drain was maintaining the GPS's waypoints in memory with it turned off.

I bought two of the smart chargers, one for a truck that I dont drive much and one for the boat. Well worth the buy much cheaper than buying batteries after killing them from overdraining them.
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