Author Topic: Going off-grid in Idaho  (Read 34111 times)

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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #45 on: January 26, 2021, 09:43:17 pm »
Hi SN,
To my knowledge, no regular powerjack inverter can be grid-tied.  I'm certainly not an expert in grid tie, but that's my opinion.  I do have 2 of the actual powerjack gridtie units sitting on a shelf in my shed.  I messed around with them a couple years ago and had mixed and mostly disappointing results from them.  Only keeping them because I'm part packrat.  They are no longer sold by powerjack, probably with good reason.

Probably should take things Sean (Genetry) says with a grain of salt.  He's probably a great guy but has been known to put out some less-than-valid information (See his video explaining how powerjack inverters don't really put out 240v, as an example).  Luckily for him and his customers he has lately partnered up with a really sharp guy named Sid who seems to be helping keep him on track. Still no new control boards from Genetry.  Just promises....

My system has changed significantly during the last few months, and I hope to catch up on my postings soon.  Also have a couple of new projects in the planning stages waiting for warmer weather.

Take care all

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Offline solarnewbee

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #46 on: January 27, 2021, 06:00:54 am »
Thanks Doc
SN

Any day above ground is a day for potential mishaps

Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #47 on: February 02, 2021, 04:31:57 pm »

Well, as shown in my other posts,  my Lifepo4 batteries are installed and functioning well.  My broken inverters are still broken.  Genetry keeps saying 'soon' for their new controllers.  Not holding my breath. I'm making other plans.

Anyway, my best running inverter is still my 3rd old-style clamshell model 48v 15kw powerjack.  It has a version 3 or maybe 4 control board and I'm keeping my fingers crossed it continues to perform well. So far, so good.  I took advantage of wintertime to do some improvements to it. 
Last summer I noticed that the transformers were running pretty warm, so propped up the end of the case lid to improve airflow.

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This reduced running temp by 10 degrees but was a bit hokey.  Temporary.  Foam pieces to hold it up and ducttape to direct the air.  Did the job tho.  So several months later I finally did a more permanent improvement.

I changed both the transformer fans.  (It still had the original weak powerjack fans.)  Now the fan in front of the last transformer (this is a 3 transformer model) is a medium speed unit.  The fan in front of the second transformer is a high speed fan that runs at half speed when started with the other one.  Added an additional sensor that kicks it up to full speed when the temp stays up high enough (higher loads). 

Got rid of the foam and duct tape and seated the cover correctly.  It's been a month and it hasn't kicked in the high speed once.  (It'll see use this summer!)  The transformer is running cooler all the time now and the mainboard heatsink is also benefitting from lower running temps.

I have to say these older model, multiple transformer inverters are a better design than the newer, single xfmr models.  You need less robust airflow to keep them cool.  So its quieter (slower fan speeds needed) and more efficient.  Simple math.  With the same load spread to 3 xfmrs, your heat buildup is also spread to 3 xfmrs.  3 xfmrs have more surface area than one large one.  Less airflow needed to pick up the heat and carry it away.  Also the clamshell models shape does a better job of keeping the airflow where it does the most good.

That being said, powerjack managed to screw up the airflow by cluttering up the exhaust end with plugs, connectors, switches and stuff.  So I simplified mine and got rid of some of the unnecessary junk.  Then I cut the endplate.

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You can see part of the reason why the high speed fan hasn't yet been needed.  I get great airflow out of that endplate now.  And the inverter doesn't run appreciably louder than stock.  Clearing the airflow path reduces the resistance to flow and makes the fans work less hard, making them actually run quieter (and more efficient) than they did before the butchering.  Looks much better now too.  The jacked up lid and tape/foam was a Rube Goldberg setup.
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Offline Pete

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #48 on: February 03, 2021, 01:58:06 am »
Looks like a trap for the unwary. I am guessing that you don't have much of a problem with rodents or insects that like to chew wiring. I try to seal my electronics stuff by putting flywire over the vents to prevent unwanted critters deciding to live inside.
I used to repair electronic stuff in an earlier life. We used to see a lot of damage to circuit boards and small hookup wires from Cockroaches. Their urine seems especially corrosive to copper tracks, and they seem to like eating pvc insulation too.
Hope you don't have critter problems where you are.
Oh I even had to repair a cool room compressor once where an ant got itself between the contacts of a pressure switch and held the contacts open by sacrificing its life.
Cheers
Pete

Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #49 on: February 03, 2021, 04:58:42 pm »

Hi Pete,
You're right.  I have no worries about critters where this is used.  No one comes in this room but my wife and me and she knows better than to stick a hand in anything.  Spiders and gnats would be the worst problem bugs here, and since they could crawl in through the regular grillwork anyway, screening won't stop them.  No cockroaches around here luckily.  A little regular cleanup once in awhile suffices.
Outside, yellowjackets get in literally everything and are a real pain as they clog openings up with dirt.  I have to clean my air blower nozzle for my compressor in the shed all the time.  They even fill electric receptacle slots that don't get used often.
Several cats on the property keep rodents at a distance from the house, and two indoor cats in case any get in...
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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #50 on: February 03, 2021, 09:43:15 pm »


Since I'm still waiting for Genetry Solar to come out with their promised simplified control board, I have to go a different way.  I'm not giving up on my older model 15kw powerjacks.  And I'm tired of waiting for parts that will work.

So found these Upower 6kw 24v inverters at a price cheaper than the cost of the parts to build them.  So I bought 2.




These have the newer v10.3 powerjack simplified control boards that can be jumper-selected for input voltage.  12, 24, and 48v.  They also have 115/230v transformers, so I can be pretty sure my 115/230v xfmrs in my old inverters will work just dandy.  The v8 control boards that Genetry sent me and that failed miserably shipped in powerjacks that used 130/260v transformers so i'm guessing that's why they failed to work.

So the plan is to use the new v10.3 control boards jumpered for 48v, use the control wiring and sensors and end panel leds, all hooked up in my old style clamshell case with my 3 old 230v transformers and output wiring.  Should work.  Guess we'll see.
Wish me luck.
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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #51 on: February 18, 2021, 03:21:48 pm »
Ok, while the v10.3 control boards should work fine, I just got some info from Sid at Genetry Solar.  (He's the designer of their forthcoming control board)  After hearing what he had to say, I'm going to wait awhile longer on the hope of getting those Genetry control boards.
From what Sid says, I should end up with a much more reliable inverter if I use his boards.  So since I currently have working inverters to run the house, I'm going to be patient (awhile longer).

I am going to predict that if these GS boards work as well as described, that Powerjack's next control board version will be a knock off of Sid's boards. Within a year is my guess. (They are being assembled at Powerjack's facility after all) 
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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #52 on: March 21, 2021, 01:07:53 pm »
Spring has sprung, somewhat, here in Idaho.  We're getting more sunny days, and they are getting longer. 
As of March 19, I'm off grid 24/7.  Have been using grid power at night but with the new battery bank doing well, the system is handling the overnight drain fairly easily (no charging for around 12-13 hours). Probably could have done it a couple weeks ago, but still learning my new battery bank's limits.  I fully expect some consecutive stormy days to force me back to grid power a night or two, but we'll see.
Also, as mentioned in another post, will soon be adding 8 more byd modules to my 48v bank, doubling its size/capacity.  Overkill for summer but will be nice next winter and on those stormy days.

As the weather warms up, hope to be starting a couple other projects soon.  A geothermal project and a compressed air energy storage project.
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Offline Pete

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #53 on: March 21, 2021, 07:36:39 pm »
Sounds like it is all going along well.
Soon you will be able to supply the rest of Idaho with power.
Pity that PowerJack/Upower are so rough and ready. Seems odd that we buy brand new machines then have to check them and fix faults before they are reliable or even working. I guess that is the price we pay for buying cheap machines.

Pete

Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #54 on: March 21, 2021, 10:16:39 pm »
Quote
I guess that is the price we pay for buying cheap machines.

Yeah, I try to justify it but it gets down to "I'm just cheap"  I don't like soldering the small stuff anymore for the same reasons.  Eyesight and hands not as steady as they used to be.  Sucks getting old.  That's why I stocked up on mosboards.  Here's a link to a pretty good deal I bought;

https://www.ebay.com/itm/12V-24V-48V-lot-Mosfets-Boards-Pure-Sine-Wave-Power-Inverter-DC-AC-UPS-Charger/373115883376?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&var=641906540310&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

Good seller /relatively quick shipping.  Two full sets for 104.99USD.

Beats soldering... 

Seller doesn't have the v9 lf drivers though.  Only has v7/8.  You need v9 for your newer inverter. I got some v9 from genetry awhile back but he's currently out of almost everything parts-wise.  Did you order yours from powerjack direct?
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Offline Pete

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #55 on: March 22, 2021, 02:11:24 am »
Hi Doc, that is the seller I got my boards from. I bought two sets of mosfet boards and two driver boards.
My inverter must be an older type as the mosfet driver boards are the same as they show in their ad, and they work great.
Like you say a lot easier than soldering surface mount stuff. Even though the exchange rate racks the price up a bit.
My 8000 watt ( i reckon more like 2.5 kw) inverter looks the same as your 6kw one you show the photos off.
Mosfet boards only have 4 mosfets per board too.
Anyway It works and is up and running again.
Thanks
Pete

Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #56 on: April 12, 2021, 09:34:57 pm »

Just a quick update;
Been completely off grid since March 19.  Made it through a few stormy/cloudy days without going back to grid.  As the days get longer it's less and less likely I'll need grid power until winter comes back.
Now just need to get the new byd modules added to the 48v bank....
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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #57 on: April 27, 2021, 06:45:43 pm »

Last night I had to switch back to grid.  3 straight days of clouds/rain took it's toll.  Probably could have made it (sunny today, rain over) except the wife used the oven yesterday for about an hour.  About midnight my low battery alarm woke me up.  First time I've heard it. It's set to alarm if batteries go below 48v.  I probably should have just switched to grid before going to bed, but, well, wanted to see if it would make it.

Back on inverter by 10am this morning.  Fully charged by noon.  The sla batteries wouldn't have made it thru the first night after a cloudy day like these last 3, so not unhappy.  When the second set of eight byd modules gets hooked up (soon, I hope!) should be able to last through more than 3 days.  Bank size will be double the current size, 16 modules.  If they were new I could call it a 1760ah bank at 48v.  Not sure how much of that is left but should be enough for us. 

On another topic, being off grid also means being prepared for 'eventualities'.  The threat of war breaking out very soon has me concerned to the point that I am protecting 4 spare inverters, 2 charge controllers and some other electronics/parts from a possible emp.  I have 2 emp surge protection devices installed, but no idea if they will really do any good.  We are already well stocked on everything we could think of, so now its just wait and see if the insane/dementia riddled politicians in DC are going to keep prodding the bear in Ukraine. Suicidal!
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Offline dochubert

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #58 on: October 17, 2021, 03:34:58 pm »

Since the last post in April, when I went on grid due to some cloudy days, we've been off-grid continuosly.  One cloudy afternoon last week I switched the kitchen to grid so the wife could use the oven without draining my batteries.  About an hour then back off grid.

I don't try to solar power the central air conditioning, so when used it uses grid power.  This crazy summer with 100 degree + temps in June and July saw more grid power used than usual.  Cost me about $75 total to run the ac and be comfortable during those days.  I'm good with that.  In a 'no grid available' situation I have a window unit AC I could rig up in a short while to keep us cool if needed.

The sixteen BYD module 48v bank has worked very well over the summer. Double what we had last year.  Now in mid October I'm watching to see how much the voltage drops overnight.  Days getting shorter and nights longer.  Plus more cloudy days.  So far we're not even close to needing to shift to grid overnight.  Plus, I've added some 'winter only' additional solar panels to insure the batteries start each night with a full charge.

Just finished putting up and connecting 8 additional panels facing south at a steep angle to augment charging on the coming shorter (and more cloudy) winter days. Most of the year I have more than enough solar panels.  Those short winter days are another matter. My East-west array produces less and trees partially shade my rooftop panels during these months.
The additional 8 panels will be taken down and stored, probably in March.  They would interfere with my pasture irrigation, and aren't needed after that anyway.  (Till the next winter)
It's hoped that I can continue off grid farther into November with this additional charging power.  So far so good.
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Offline Pete

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Re: Going off-grid in Idaho
« Reply #59 on: October 17, 2021, 07:56:10 pm »
Glad to hear that the system is working out Doc. Having extra panels for winter sounds like a good plan too. I have one 3kw bank of panels facing North, and a 2 kw bank facing North West. So the morning sun usually does the job. Unless the mountain fog comes in, then usually the North West panels get some power in, in the afternoon.
I copied your idea of standing the transformer in my inverter up on blocks to get some airflow under it. Even on fairly light loads on the new inverter ( 5kw Aliexpress 8010 board) , the transformer was getting hot. I also removed the steel band that was around the outside of the transformer too. I got the transformer from an 8kw dead powerjack I bought for $100. It had two transformers in it so I put together two 8010 based inverters. So far so good.
Hope the winter is kind to you
Pete