The Solar is Charging – or, “Who You Callin a DIP Switch?”

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After a few false starts, I got the system working.  Here’s the story.

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First, when I ignored my friend’s advice used some jumper cables to hook up the inverter temporarily, the inverter shut down within a few minutes with a “low battery voltage” error.  I then hooked it up again just to see if the cables got hot.  They did.  Emphatically hot.  So I got on the eBay and ordered what Dan told me to get in the first place some awesome 4/0 big honkin cables.  Here’s some cable prOn:

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That’s a 1/4 20 bolt for a bit of scale.  Yes.  mmmmm.  BIG cables.  If it wasn’t for the stuff costing about $5/ft I’d rewire the entire bike with it.

OK, so, life happens, stuff goes on, and finally I get the 4/0 cables in, make them up, hook them up and try to charge up the bike.  The voltage on the batteries drops to the mid-8s, and after a bit the inverter shuts down from low battery voltage, and my cables are connectors are cool as cucumbers.  Now, here’s the thing.  The several times I’ve hooked up the panels and charger I’ve seen battery voltage of 24V and no charge current.  It should be charging to about 28V, and even higher at the “Equalization” setting, and it’s not happening.  Just to confirm my state of charge, and that my inverter is working, I slap an AC charger on the packs.  It’s sucking down juice like there’s no tomorrow.  Which makes me take a good hard look at my charge controller.

If you want to be a bitch and say, OH, he READ THE MANUAL, just go right ahead.  I’ll track you down and find you one day, and I’ll make you cry in front of your friends.

So, I read the manual and saw the “Setup” section and found this page – the DIP switches.

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You’ll note switches 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 determine the system voltage.  Mine was set to 48V, which is cool, except I’m running it at 24V.  I fix that, and I’m in business.  In partial sun/overcast I’m getting a peak of 3A charging into the pack, and the voltage has already gone up a few points.  I figure with it set to 48V it’s looking for about 60V from the panels, and wasn’t seeing it, so never even cared what the batteries were at.  Also keep in mind – my charge controller is running at 24V, but my inverter is a 12V, so when I switch from charging to inverting I have to switch from a series (24V) connection to a parallel (12V) connection.  This isn’t the optimal setup, but it works.  Well, now it works.

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I’m just going to let it soak up some sun for the day and see how long it takes to shut off.  That will be a good test – I’m going from a battery voltage that was low enough to shut it down, to the max, so I can see how long that takes (probably a couple of sunny days) and then, how much that’s good for when I’m charging my pack.

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