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Old 22-05-2010, 11:35   #1
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Switch on a Solar Panel

I have 2 wind gens and a solar panel. The wind gens are connected to voltage regulators, the solar is not. Eventually I will get a regulator for the solar too.

Until then we do what the previous owners did, cover the solar panel. But its mounted between the 2 wind gens, so not getting your head chopped is concern. You also have to climb up to a bit awkward spot. Its OK for occasional covering and uncovering...

So my question is - can I just install an inline switch on the feed line? Or will this cause some kind of load issue as with wind gens that you need to signal them that they are being taken out of the feed?
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Old 22-05-2010, 12:42   #2
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I think installing a switch should be okay. The panels can be safely open-circuited, unlike the wind generator. You could also put in a solar controller for not much money. I use Morningstar SunSaver MPPT controllers. They're only a couple hundred bucks and will do a better charging job than what you have now.
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Old 22-05-2010, 14:41   #3
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only a couple hundred, pppffffhh... mppt is nice but hardly necessary, i have been very happy with morning stars pro-star 15 (and 30) units, about $130...
nice for the led read out of solar amps and battery voltage...

or you can get a plain jane charge controller for $50, check Solar Panels : Solar Panels Direct $1.20 per watt Minimum of 4

spend the 50 and get a cheap one until you can upgrade, a switch will work, but its too cheap and easy to put a controller in to not do it. i say this because a friend of mine cooked his batteries repeatedly when is fridge went out because he didnt have a charge controller and depended on the fridges to keep the batteries down, point is he regrets big time not buying the controller...
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Old 22-05-2010, 15:03   #4
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Thanks but I need to reserve money for more urgent items. Also I live in a place where none of the items are available, so we have to ship and pay taxes. So for now I need to focus on the essentials for now...
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Old 22-05-2010, 16:30   #5
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I installed switches on all three of my solar panels.... no problems.
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Old 22-05-2010, 16:38   #6
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only a couple hundred, pppffffhh... mppt is nice but hardly necessary, i have been very happy with morning stars pro-star 15 (and 30) units, about $130...
nice for the led read out of solar amps and battery voltage...

or you can get a plain jane charge controller for $50, check Solar Panels : Solar Panels Direct $1.20 per watt Minimum of 4

spend the 50 and get a cheap one until you can upgrade, a switch will work, but its too cheap and easy to put a controller in to not do it. i say this because a friend of mine cooked his batteries repeatedly when is fridge went out because he didnt have a charge controller and depended on the fridges to keep the batteries down, point is he regrets big time not buying the controller...
I have a charge controller but when the batts are fully charged it puts too high a voltage to the batteries. Isn't this the problem with the "cheap" ones? Disconnect works.
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Old 22-05-2010, 19:20   #7
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Yes you can if you keep it in a dry location to avoid any future issues with the contact. But probably not worth it - a simple regulator will be how much? 20?

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Old 22-05-2010, 19:59   #8
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I think any regulator would need to be integrated with the other regulators, and as others have said, cheap regulators can kill the batteries.... I think the switch will work best till I can afford to integrate it fully and properly with the other systems.
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Old 22-05-2010, 22:24   #9
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i've had a switch in mine since january - no problems so far. it's a kyocera 130 watt panel which is working beyond my expectations. i did buy the small sunsei regulator that west marine sells (i think it's 30 or 40 dollars) but i've yet to install it. i put the switch in a dry location in the lazarette near the batteries on the positivie side - also don't forget a good fuse. since my panel puts out 7 amps i have a waterproof 10 amp fuse in the positive line.

the only problem with a switch is that you have to remember to use it.....
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Old 23-05-2010, 10:00   #10
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I think any regulator would need to be integrated with the other regulators, and as others have said, cheap regulators can kill the batteries.... I think the switch will work best till I can afford to integrate it fully and properly with the other systems.
Cheap regulators kill batteries at a much slower rate than connecting an unregulated solar panel does ...

If you use the switch, then once you switch the panel off you simply waste all the available energy. And you never charge the battery properly this way either.

So, the switch is OK, but not as an alternative to the regulator.

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Old 23-05-2010, 10:59   #11
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We have regulators on the wind gens. We only use the solar panel ocassionally to boost up when the batteries are low and we can easily switch it off long before it will reach overcharge. As it is now and for the 3 years the previous owners had it, its controlled by covering it with a cloth.
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Old 23-05-2010, 11:12   #12
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I think any regulator would need to be integrated with the other regulators, and as others have said, cheap regulators can kill the batteries.... I think the switch will work best till I can afford to integrate it fully and properly with the other systems.
I'm not so sure you need to integrate everything. That sounds expensive and may lead to a single point of failure. I have 3 different, inexpensive, regulators for 3 solar arrays (one 110 watt and two 160 watts) and a self regulating wind generator (Air X). If any single device fails the others will still function normally. Simple, redundant and inexpensive. I've had this setup for 5 years and it works fine.
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Old 23-05-2010, 19:43   #13
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Surprisingly too, it makes sense in such simple systems to switch off the ´fewer Amps´ producing system, if it delivers higher voltage, and leave the lower voltage, higher Amps on. So if you have a switch on solars make one for the wind too.

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Old 23-05-2010, 20:13   #14
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Pyotr the cloth is a kludge. Solar panels take no damage from being disconnected, i.e. unplugged or switched open circuit, and that also isolates protects them from any reverse voltage or overvoltage problems in the system. And keeps your fingers away from those blades.

But that still leaves a question about your wind charger regulator. Solar panels typically produce higher voltage (i.e. 17V) that has to be regulated "down" to 14.4 for charging, while wind generators need a "dump" regulator to dump excess power. One regulator with only one voltage sensor (at the one battery) can't regulate both kinds of devices at the same time. it can only get confused and try to regulate the 'system' while the two power sources are behaving differently--at best, totally wasting one or the other unless the batteries are so deeply discharged that they are sucking up all the power you can feed them.

I don't know the practical answer, don't know of any one regulator that can handle both at the same time.

An MPPT regulator for the solar panel WILL increase the effective power from the panel by 10-15% because of the higher efficiency from the way it charges. So while MPPT may seem like a waste of money, consider that it will give you 10-15% more power from the existing solar panel, almost all of the time. That makes it more economical than it might seem at first glance.

A plain AC mains wall lighting switch, sold in hardware stores for under one dollar in the US, would be a perfectly adequate way to switch the solar panel out of circuit. Nothing fancier needed, although something smaller and "more nautical" certainly might be appealing.
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Old 24-05-2010, 19:23   #15
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... don't know of any one regulator that can handle both at the same time...
Possibly, these ones:

Windcharger Controllers

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