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Old 26-04-2016, 16:21   #1
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Location: Hailing Port: Portland, Oregon
Boat: Norseman 400
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Solara Solar Panel Troubleshooting

Or -
How to fix your solar panels for 40 Pesos while at anchor in La Paz, Mexico.

After 10 months of 'cruising and using' our brand new solar system, we noticed that our batteries weren't keeping up with our boat's power demands. We expected to see the opposite - now that we were in sunny La Paz, Mexico instead of Portland, Oregon.

We have two identical independent solar systems. Each system consists of two 110 watt Solara brand panels, a Blue Sky controller, a charge status indicator, and four 105 amp hour AGM batteries. Everything, including the wiring connecting it all (battery cable too) was new 10 months ago.

After two expensive mistakes replacing parts that weren't needed, damnit, we found the 40 peso solution. Thanks to help from Mike Stanczyk, Tech Support at eMarine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Here's what we did:

We opened the little black boxes on the underside of each panel for inspection. (We should have done that before we installed them.) We also read the voltage coming out of the cables and then off the ribbons themselves.
  • Panel #3096761 had loose wires, an obvious resistance burn, and it wasn't producing any power.
  • Panels #3096810 and #3096854 appeared in perfect condition and were producing 24.5 volts each.
  • Panel #3096765 the cable wiring was completely disconnected inside the box.

Looks like the tech that assembled units 761 and 765 must have been sick on "Lug Nut Day." (Reference: Comedian Ron White.)

We connected the cable wiring inside the box on panel #765. It was now working properly and throwing out 24.5 volts.

Panel #761, as it turned out, had two blown diodes. We removed both diodes and moved the scorched wiring and the scorched ribbon to the undamaged, empty port. The volt meter now read 24.5 volts. (See attached PDF diagram.)

We were able to find replacement diodes in La Paz. The diodes we found were about half the size required (according to Mike's engineer) so two diodes were installed in place of each one. (Four altogether. ) Diodes have a positive and negative end, and they have to be installed correctly in order to work - just like an AA battery.

So, our advice (whatever that's worth, lol) - remove the covers off the little black boxes under the panels and make sure all the wires are securely connected. Make sure the wire tension nuts that hold the cable wire in place against the black boxes are TIGHT. The two panels in question had loose tension nuts also.

We feel that this was a likely manufacturing problem, but there's no way to know because we didn't inspect the wiring inside the black boxes before we installed them.

We also think the cheap plastic piece that holds the wiring should be replaced with something quality and substantial - like a regular busbar. Especially for the price of these panels.

Mike relayed that his supplier (Coastal Climate Control in Maryland) said the resistance burn was caused by loose wiring and the warranty would not cover replacement. Regardless, we are glad we found an affordable and timely fix.
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Old 27-04-2016, 13:40   #2
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Location: Hailing Port: Portland, Oregon
Boat: Norseman 400
Posts: 178
Re: Solara Solar Panel Troubleshooting


Today is the first day that the solar panels (now all correctly connected) have fully charged all eight of our AGM 105 amp hour batteries. Sweet!

Let the ice cube making begin!
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