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  • New "off the grid" owner

    Hi, I'm brand new to this forum. A couple months ago, my wife and I bought a cabin that's off the grid here in western Montana. I never met the previous owners as they are in Utah, older, and having failing health. I don't have manuals or anything for the components to the system other than a directions sheet telling what to turn and off. What I'm looking for is opinions on the system, things I should keep an eye and so forth. It's a four panel system and has four batteries. I am posting pics now, and can get more if needed as I'm heading up there shortly after sending this email off. It appears that my wife and I aren't using a lot of power, although this time of the year it's getting plenty of sun. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    cabinsolar5.jpgcabinsolar1.jpgcabinsolar3.jpgcabinsolarr4.jpgcabinsolar2.jpg

  • #2
    Well, it is nice equipment. When you get more information about the battery and panels (60 cell? 72 cell? can you count the squares, or access the label data on the back by sliding a camera underneath?), please include it. Without knowing those two pieces of information, nothing in between them matters much.
    CS6P-260P/SE3000 - http://tiny.cc/ed5ozx

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    • #3
      Solar panels are 60 cell. Four gel batteries Centennial brand.
      20170729_085235.jpg20170729_085442.jpg

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      • #4
        Gel batteries are a poor choice for solar charging systems. Too aggressive charging will cause permanent bubbles to form in the gel. When time comes to replace you should use another form of battery. If you like the maintenance free aspect, then AGM batteries would be a good choice. They can be aggressively charged which, with the limited charging window that solar gives is a good thing. If you don't mind a bit of a learning curve for flooded lead acid, (conventional) batteries they are a good economical choice.
        2.2kw Suntech mono, Classic 200, NEW Trace SW4024

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        • #5
          So is this set up to piggyback a generator in? I see there's a plug in, and a breaker switch on the side of whatever this unit is called. Bought a portable ac unit and learned one can drain the batteries quickly after sun sets.
          20170729_100156.jpg20170729_100433.jpg

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          • #6
            All off grid systems require a generator. Firrst thing you need to do is get a generator, LPG or Diesel fuel, and replace the batteries.
            MSEE, PE

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            • #7
              Wow. Just from the photos I would say that you have come into a system that has had more thoughtfulness of install and TLC than most. I can see the spec stickers on the back of those panels. Any chance for a readable close-up photo? Not that I am expecting anything good or bad, just curious.

              Is there a panel(s) inside that monitors the system? (another picture I suppose)

              Couldn't hurt to add a terminal post fuse to that positive terminal of the left bottom battery next time you get rearranging stuff.
              Last edited by AzRoute66; 07-29-2017, 07:07 PM.

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              • #8
                Sunking, I have a Champion 2800/3100 generator - I have not plugged it into inverter. I need to find a manual online for the outback FM60 controller - its display appears to provide plenty of info, but I need to dig a little deeper. AZRoute66, there is no panel inside the cabin that monitors the system - this whole unit is out in a shed - and I keep an eye on the Outback controller display, but this is still quite the learning curve. I have a pic of the inverter spec plate if that's what you're asking for.

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                • #9
                  Ram I can help you but the first thing to do is replace the batteries. I would not do anything until you accept you have to start with by replacing the batteries. Otherwise you are wasting yours and our time.

                  So what wattage are your 4 panels?
                  What battery voltage are you using?
                  How are panels configured? All in parallel (4P), [B]2 in Series with 2 in Parallel (2S2P),[/B] or all in Series (4S)?[SIZE=9px] It has to be 1 of the 3 ways. [/SIZE]
                  Last edited by Sunking; 07-31-2017, 03:57 PM.
                  MSEE, PE

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                  • #10
                    After two years of ownership, I haven't had any issues with this off grid system - well, take that back - plugged a wall A/C unit in once and about three hours later I drained the batteries. That was two years ago this month. I don't recall how old the gel batteries are - I'm thinking 6-8 years old now, and am considering replacing them with AGM batteries. Any recommendations? Any issues with installing them? I do need to figure out a better way to cool the cabin down in July and August - all big bay windows overlooking the river and all face west so it can get very hot in there from 2 pm on, and the A/C can't even keep it below 80 inside. My wife installed dark tint film on upper windows and we have blinds on the three lower ones and I run the AC unit off my generator exclusively but I need to figure out something to make it workable when we go up on weekends.

                    I did find a typed up manual on the entire off grid system - roughly 35-40 pages, very detailed and apparently put together by the installer of the system. Found it a little over a week ago when we stopped in to change propane tank on refrigerator on our way out to Oregon coast. Didn't take it with me because I was fishing every day. It appears that it can help answer some of the questions I've gotten out here. Hopefully will read through it this weekend up there if it isn't too hot out. july2019B.JPG Attached is pic taken when floating by around noon last month before the sun worked its way over the tree line.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RAM1961
                      I do need to figure out a better way to cool the cabin down in July and August - all big bay windows overlooking the river and all face west so it can get very hot in there from 2 pm on, and the A/C can't even keep it below 80 inside. My wife installed dark tint film on upper windows and we have blinds on the three lower ones and I run the AC unit off my generator exclusively but I need to figure out something to make it workable when we go up on weekends.
                      Throw away that wall AC unit, after you install a far more efficient mini split heat pump.
                      It will also save some firewood in cooler weather, up to the limits of your solar plant. I
                      use them to control 2 buildings year around. Your issue will be if to power a mini from
                      an inverter, direct from batteries, or from solar panel input. Maybe run your generator
                      to do initial cool down. good luck, Bruce Roe

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RAM1961 View Post
                        I do need to figure out a better way to cool the cabin down in July and August - all big bay windows overlooking the river and all face west so it can get very hot in there from 2 pm on, and the A/C can't even keep it below 80 inside. My wife installed dark tint film on upper windows and we have blinds on the three lower ones and I run the AC unit off my generator exclusively but I need to figure out something to make it workable when we go up on weekends.
                        Low-E windows will solve most of your problems. New windows here (nothing exceptional, just to code for new construction) reduce energy transmission by over 80%, mostly in the UV and IR bands.

                        If not, awnings can help, but will still allow winter sunlight in to help with heating.

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                        • #13
                          Fullriver makes some great deep cycle AGM batteries. I have been using a pair of DC250-6's for about 6 years now to run the 12 volt water pumps, VHF radio and stereo in Baja. Still going strong

                          https://www.fullriverbattery.com/
                          2.2kw Suntech mono, Classic 200, NEW Trace SW4024

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                          • #14
                            Yeah, a retractable awning that would cover the whole front deck would be pretty nice. It might add more value in allowing you to sit outside whatever the weather, keeping windows under the awning open for ventilation, maybe a fan inside to circulate the air? Just some ideas.

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