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Thread: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

  1. #31
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    I have a 40 W panel and a charge controller on the way to me, I have a 110Ah AGM battery for use at home and will eventfully buy a 24Ah AGM for my portable set up. Here's my question, whilst waiting to build up funds to purchase a battery can I run a charger and other devices directly for the output of the controller?
    Hi Norm! Bear with me here as I throw things out quickly to save time....

    A solar charge controller will not work unless a battery is attached to it. Some get returned when users try to measure operation without it. Also, attach the battery to the charge controller first to allow the controller to get a reference, and *then* attach the panel. Cheap on/off ping/pong mosfet switching types from the 70's don't count. We're talking modern solar controllers.

    For batteries we are assuming that they are NOT SLI starters, but at the very least hybrid, dual-purpose faux-deep-cycle marine types. Dedicated RE is the best choice.

    Watch out for the classic "deficit charge" scenario where the panel is not realistically large enough to support the battery. This involves meeting a minimum current from your panels...

    Flooded charge rates are C/12 to C/8, where C=20 hour rate in ah. If you go below C/12, the battery suffers acid stratification. Larger than C/8 usually exceeds the manufacturer's maximum inrush rating. See manufacturer's specs for max rate.

    AGM - high quality lead-calcium types like Deka/East-Penn can accept a maximum inrush of 0.3C. East Penn recommends charging at close to this rate as long as you don't go overtemp for longest life. Small ups-style lead-calcium's like Powersonic can also handle this, but my preference for these smaller types is about 0.25C max. Minimum current? Agm's can accept lower current than flooded but the problem is that you can walk-down the capacity if they are not charged up to at least 75% SOC within about 72 hours max, otherwise hard sulfation takes place. So you may not be able to do that from a deep discharge with your 40w panel setup. Even Schumacher warns against using "maintainer" currents typical of 1-2A chargers with their very own chargers on large batteries like your 110ah after a deep discharge. You'll walk down the capacity. While getting up to 75% SOC slows down sulfation, it does not mean it stops. By far the best thing to do is finish the charge.

    For lead-calcium agm's, shoot for at least 0.1C, 0.2C even better, and close to 0.3C recommended by East Penn. I trust them. As always, check the manufacturer's docs. Again, we're dealing with recharging them faster than they sulfate, so extremely low currents can actually be harmful, but may not be noticeable if you are only doing a one-off low-current charge here and there.

    Pure-Lead option: pure-lead batteries like Optima, Odyssey, Hawker can accept HUGE amounts of inrush current if you have the solar panel power to adequately charge them, and are an advantage in areas with very limited solar insolation. Typically 0.4C is the minimum for Odyssey's if you don't want to walk down the capacity from deep discharge (50% DOD or more). But don't tickle these - they want to see some beefy current. Don't overlook small Hawker monoblocks.

    Quick SOC voltage determination chart for agm's - measured after 4 hours or more of no-charge, no-load)
    12.8v + 100%
    12.5v 75%
    12.2v 50%
    12.0v 25%

    Best bang for the buck is usually running no more than 50% DOD.

    Solar-insolation hours vs sunrise-to-sunset hours are very different! Find the solar-insolation charts for your area, although I imagine in Gippsland it is probably very good. Use the "winter" hours to give you some headroom when calculating how long it will take to recharge. A lot of solar projects fail when they use the sunrise-sunset hours instead of the published solar-insolation hours. Typically, these hours are between 10a - 2pm. Sunlight before and after this are too weak to be incorporated into charge calculations. Solar insolation will change these hours depending on geographical location.

    Many use PVWATTS, and another useful chart for north american users can be seen here:
    http://www.bigfrogmountain.com/SunHoursPerDay.html

    If ground mounting, watch out for long-shadows. Mono's cut their power output very fast when even a small leaf, shadow, or other debris lands on them. Amorphous deals with shadows and debris much better, but you do not want to do that on purpose and are bigger than mono since they are less efficient. I've seen plenty of ground mounted panels with grass over the bottom edge - not good!

    A general guide to recharging is (AH used / A charge current) * 1.7 = hours needed to allow for efficiency compensation during charge. Not exact, but ballpark. Your geographical solar-insolation will help determine this. Stay under 72 hours if at all possible, the less the better. This will help guide your selection of panel wattage needed obviously.

    The key point here is to get at least up to the absorb voltage within 72 hours time. If not, the batteries sulfate, even while charging (albeit a bit slower than no charge at all). Sooner is better. If you take into account your discharge level, solar-insolation for time, and the power output of your panels, you can see if you are going to meet the 72 hour time limit.

    There are plenty of deficit-charge setups out there that seem to work for a short time while the op is interested and the battery is new, but come to find they don't hold their load 6 months down the road when a real load other than a cellphone charger is placed upon it.
    Last edited by IonicBond; 08-24-2013 at 02:09 AM.

  2. #32
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    IonicBond thanks for your informative post, I have purchased a 26 Ah AGM, this project is just a bit of fun, the battery would normally be charged at home using a Ctek MXS5.0, it will see casual use on Ham field days etc. , I expect the solar to only keep the battery topped up thought out the day, it will also be a small emergency set up although our power supply is very reliable and I don;t expect to have to use it and if it was to be used in an emergency it would only be used to charge batteries and a mobile phone with a few short contact on 2m / 70cm and the HF ham bands.

    I have not attempted to use the setup without a battery, still waiting on my charge controller

    Norm
    Last edited by Norm; 08-24-2013 at 02:29 AM.

  3. #33
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    I have not attempted to use the setup without a battery, still waiting on my charge controller

    Norm
    See...I thought I was right and that my Morningstar cut the load off when I disconnected my battery. It's nice to have confirmation that it wasn't my imagination, lol.

    Going forward, a battery needs to be connected, even a small one, or even a weaker one, to feed the load.

    Chris
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  4. #34
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    IonicBond thanks for your informative post, I have purchased a 26 Ah AGM, this project is just a bit of fun, the battery would normally be charged at home using a Ctek MXS5.0, it will see casual use on Ham field days etc.
    That will be a nice setup! Use the agm/snowflake mode, (14.7 volts) and not the motorcycle mode.

    Some napkin-calc with a 26ah batt. You don't want to go below 50% DOD, so that means that you have 13ah to play with. Let's assume you use all 13ah during field day. How long / days would it take to charge it with a 40 watt panel?

    Let's say best case the 40watt panel is capable of 40w / 18v ocv = 2.2a. Round down to 2a.

    13ah withdrawn / 2a charge = 6.5 hours initially. Since you need to replenish 110-120% of capacity owing to the inefficiency of charging, add the compensation:

    6.5h * 1.7 = 11.05 hours. Now, if your solar insolation is good at 4 hours per day (NOT sunrise to sunset but actual solar-insolation gathered from the data), that would mean it would take about 3 days to fully recharge. You'd just barely make it with the 40 watt panel before hard-sulfation walks your capacity down.

    Now you can juggle the pieces - having more than 4 hours of solar insolation would be nice. Doubling your panel power would do. Reducing your load so you can use a smaller battery and not draw down to 50% .... it's all a juggling act. You'll do fine and have some room to grow.

    That ups-style agm probably has a maximum inrush current of about 7amps, so your CTEK will do just fine. Supplementing your solar with it means if you are suddenly caught with a string of bad weather, your discharged battery won't suffer.
    Last edited by IonicBond; 08-24-2013 at 12:06 PM.

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGarrett View Post
    Going forward, a battery needs to be connected, even a small one, or even a weaker one, to feed the load.
    Yep. Note that those load-connects on the CC are for low-amperage needs like small lighting, small radios, basically anything that could be considered a parasitic draw. When using things like inverters, or devices with large current needs, attach directly to the battery. But you can connect the small stuff directly too without using the load terminals. Just keep an eye on your discharge voltage.

    If you don't connect the battery first, the controller won't get it's brain together, and think you have a badly abused battery on the other end, and will not charge at all, or in some cases, go immediately into float when a battery is finally installed last instead of properly going into the bulk/absorb routine. Batts first!

    Forgot to mention a few other things:
    100% DOD does NOT mean discharging to zero volts! It means the end of the rated 20-hour capacity nearing usually 10.75 to 11v or so.

    When receiving / purchasing a battery, make sure it is not below an initial 12.5 to maybe 12.4v at the terminals. If it is, that means it is new-old stock, or has been sitting in the distribution chain possibly under hot conditions, doing nothing but hard-sulfating. You'll be paying for far less capacity than you bargained for. The easiest thing to do is return / refund / recycle it and start off on a good footing 12.4v + to begin with.

    Use the rated voltage settings when setting jumpers, and not always the silkscreen labeling on the charge controller. For instance, some Morningstars have a sealed/agm and flooded jumper. For most, sealed/agm is really applicable to gel, which wants no more than about 14.1v absorb, which is too low for agm. Use the flooded setting instead which usually gets up to 14.4v at least.
    Last edited by IonicBond; 08-24-2013 at 12:27 PM.

  6. #36
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    I am waiting on this meter and have this USB supply for my battery box build, inputs and out puts will be 30A Anderson Powerpoles, the USB supply is excellent just 30 millivolts over 5 Volts, initially it had two USBs for apple and two vanilla flavour it's very simple to make them all Apple. I hope to build the box this week.

    Norm
    Last edited by Norm; 08-24-2013 at 01:29 PM.

  7. #37
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Norm - I can't wait to see the box! Between you and Chris it makes me somewhat ashamed with all my temporary hookups..

    That meter is great - it will easily allow you to detect when the battery has reached a full charge, which when the electrolyte is new is somewhere near C/100 or lower. So once you reach about 260 milliamps on say a 26ah battery in absorb mode, it is basically done and ready for float. The CTEK, like my NOCO, may not have a constant float, but "float mode monitoring", which gets close to fully charged, but really expects a vehicle charging system to take it all the way, or just wait until it discharges down to a preset lower level.

    Fortunately, your solar setup will ensure that your agm is actually capable of being fully charged down to C/100 - weather/time permitting of course. But that's only when the electrolyte is in good shape.

    If the battery is aging, and the electrolyte may be drying out, you may never reach C/100 in ocv conditions, and in that case, using that meter to monitor for no change in current after about 2 hours may be used to indicate the end. In extremely bad cases, the float current can rise to something like 1A and never drop, and if so, case swelling usually (but not always) accompanies this dried-out condition.

  8. #38
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by IonicBond View Post
    That will be a nice setup! Use the agm/snowflake mode, (14.7 volts) and not the motorcycle mode.

    Some napkin-calc with a 26ah batt. You don't want to go below 50% DOD, so that means that you have 13ah to play with. Let's assume you use all 13ah during field day. How long / days would it take to charge it with a 40 watt panel?

    Let's say best case the 40watt panel is capable of 40w / 18v ocv = 2.2a. Round down to 2a.

    13ah withdrawn / 2a charge = 6.5 hours initially. Since you need to replenish 110-120% of capacity owing to the inefficiency of charging, add the compensation:

    6.5h * 1.7 = 11.05 hours. Now, if your solar insolation is good at 4 hours per day (NOT sunrise to sunset but actual solar-insolation gathered from the data), that would mean it would take about 3 days to fully recharge. You'd just barely make it with the 40 watt panel before hard-sulfation walks your capacity down.

    Now you can juggle the pieces - having more than 4 hours of solar insolation would be nice. Doubling your panel power would do. Reducing your load so you can use a smaller battery and not draw down to 50% .... it's all a juggling act. You'll do fine and have some room to grow.

    That ups-style agm probably has a maximum inrush current of about 7amps, so your CTEK will do just fine. Supplementing your solar with it means if you are suddenly caught with a string of bad weather, your discharged battery won't suffer.

    I think you meant 6.5 * 1.2, not 1.7. Many AGM batteries have better round trip charge efficiency that 80% and most over 90%, so 1.1 may be more accurate.

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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by IonicBond View Post
    A general guide to recharging is (AH used / A charge current) * 1.7 = hours needed to allow for efficiency compensation during charge. Not exact, but ballpark. Your geographical solar-insolation will help determine this. Stay under 72 hours if at all possible, the less the better. This will help guide your selection of panel wattage needed obviously.
    Your explanation for the 1.7 number is not accurate. This has nothing to do with efficiency compensation. A good quality AGM battery only requires 105 -110% of the capacity of the battery to fully and completely charge.

    However, when you near the end of the charge, no matter how much charge capability you have, you can only push so much current into the battery and the charge current will drop significantly going from whatever your charge rate is to C/100 or so when you stop charging the battery. This is when it is fully charged. That is why it takes quite a lot longer than capacity/charge current.

    You are overstating how dangerous running below 75% SOC is. If I was below 75% SOC with a good AGM battery, I would not be worried about charging it within 72 hours. Within a week or two yes, but not 72 hours. Sure that is perfectly ideal, but a good AGM battery can sit at 25% SOC for a few days with almost un-noticable capacity damage. I would not stay there much longer. At 75% SOC, you could sit there for several weeks with almost no impact on capacity. The less state of charge, the more important to charge of course.

    What is very important for all lead-acid, and not just AGM is that the battery is truly fully charged. That does not just mean reaching a termination voltage, but staying at the termination voltage until the battery is fully charged. Most good solar chargers will of course do this. Do they have good temperature compensation .... maybe. For Australia I would not be worried. For cold climate ... it can be an issue.

    Solar Insolation is of course an average over large periods of time. In Australia you may be consistent, but in other areas you could be much lower over a short period of time or you could be higher if you are lucky. Most data used is 20 year averages.

    Semiman

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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    Thanks Chris, I'm trying to put together a portable system roughly based on yours, not sure why, I have no need, but I thought it might be a fun project.

    So far I've ordered.

    New 40W Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel
    CMP Solar Panel Charge Charging Controller Regulator 10A 12V 24V
    4 USB Car Charger Step-Down DC 12V to 5V Power Supply Module

    Thanks for the battery link, I imagine the freight would be $200+ There is plenty of stuff available here. I'll be buying an AGM battery, I currently have a 110Ah that cost me nothing, I bought a 110Ah originally for our caravan, it wasn't until after the truck had delivered it I realized one of the end cells was cracked and the company replace the battery leaving me with the cracked one, a friend suggested I get it plastic welded which I did, I then opened the cell and topped it up with acid with the help of the local battery wholesaler, I was very pleased to see the battery come up as OK on his test meter. That battery is amazing it sits outside of my radio shack and I check the charge every so often and put the ctek on it never charges for more than about 15 minutes, even after three months standing it never drops below 13V.

    Norm

    I would ditch that charge controller and get something better. There is little benefit to a $10 charger to take care of an expensive battery. Many of these cheap controllers do not implement a proper algorithm. They just charge to a certain voltage and turn off. That is a recipe for a sulfated battery. This one claims to turn off at 14V. That is too low to properly charge as well.

    Semiman

  11. #41
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by SemiMan View Post
    I would ditch that charge controller and get something better.
    What would you recommend? anything on Ebay that is good?
    Norm

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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    I have a hard time recommending anything off Ebay as you have really no clue how it works. You should be able to get Phocos in your area. They are usually pretty reasonably priced. Even a low cost Morningstar from a local dealer would be better. How long your battery lasts is highly dependent on your charge controller.

    I don't know the dealers in Australia so not sure what to recommend. My experience in the past testing low cost charge controllers is that they are worth what you pay .... and you will keep paying with batteries.

    Semiman

  13. #43
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    I see this controller also from the guy I bought the panel from.

    Keep in mind the majority of the time, I'll be charging with the charger at home, the solar will only be used occasionally.

    I am out of the city and most dealers are over a 100 K from me, so ebay is very convenient.

    Norm
    Last edited by Norm; 08-26-2013 at 01:15 PM.

  14. #44
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    I see this controller also from the guy I bought the panel from.

    Keep in mind the majority of the time, I'll be charging with the charger at home, the solar will only be used occasionally.

    I am out of the city and most dealers are over a 100 K from me, so ebay is very convenient.

    Norm
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Morningst...#ht_4499wt_961

    I might look at that one, as it's a major player in the solar controller game.

    6A P.V. input and 6A load, so that should be acceptable for most charging applications. Running a tanning bed, or a table saw, maybe not.

    Nothing wrong with the one you're looking at except it's a 'no-name' brand.

    If you need to edit the link out of my post, feel free. I only posted an Ebay link because you did, lol!

    Chris
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  15. #45
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Links are fine Chris as long as you are you aren't an obvious shill, which I know you aren't

    I think I'll order from your link.

    Norm

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    This is a nice controller for the money. Set point is lower than I would like but it has an equalization boost every 28 days. Cutoff is 11.5 which is good. Often they are too low and completely discharge the battery.

    Semiman

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 4

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    Norm the one you linked is likely okay. There is a Chinese company that makes these for a bunch of private labels. They are not too bad.

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 4

  18. #48
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    I was going to build a plywood battery box but I spotted this small cooler when i was at Bunnings.



    There will be an piece of aluminium sheet mounted about a centimetre below the top of the box to mount everything.

    Norm

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    Nice implementation. I may do that with my setup.

    Semiman

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 4

  20. #50
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGarrett View Post
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Morningst...#ht_4499wt_961

    I might look at that one, as it's a major player in the solar controller game.
    Chris I order Morningstar SHS-10 12Volt 10Amp DC Solar Controller.


    Norm

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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by SemiMan View Post
    Your explanation for the 1.7 number is not accurate. This has nothing to do with efficiency compensation. A good quality AGM battery only requires 105 -110% of the capacity of the battery to fully and completely charge.
    I pulled that number from the PowerSonic manual - they actually state 1.76. But yes, better agm's probably 1.2

    You are overstating how dangerous running below 75% SOC is.
    I might be over-cautious since I'm usually in 90F temps much of the time. My secondary concern that many forget is that sulfation isn't the only thing happening at low soc's - grid corrosion is also doing it's dirty work.
    Last edited by IonicBond; 08-27-2013 at 10:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by IonicBond View Post
    I pulled that number from the PowerSonic manual - they actually state 1.76. But yes, better agm's probably 1.2


    I might be over-cautious since I'm usually in 90F temps much of the time. My secondary concern that many forget is that sulfation isn't the only thing happening at low soc's - grid corrosion is also doing it's dirty work.

    That 1.75 from the PowerSonic manual is not caused by charge efficiency, it is caused by charge acceptance. As the battery gets closer to fully charged you can only pump charge into it so fast, at least using something approaching a constant voltage algorithm.

    If you look at their charts they show charge efficiency in the 90%+ range except at high temps and low currents and also cold temps and high currents.

    In their charging graphs they do show a charge volume of 120% though which seems high at least for an AGM battery in good condition.

    Semiman

  23. #53
    *Flashaholic* ChrisGarrett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    That should be more than sufficient.

    I didn't see that model in 10A, but I looked at the Australian prices for my Sun Saver 10-L 10A model with low voltage battery disconnect and they were over $80 AU before shipping and I didn't think that you wanted to spend that much.

    As always, post pics when you get it all up and running!

    Chris
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  24. #54
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    A bit more work on my battery box.



    Three mm aluminium panel with meter, USB sockets, fuse and Anderson Power Poles still to be added. The finger hole is for lifting the paned which will be held down with Velcro. The meter isn't sitting flush, just trying fit. The panel will be painted black when all the metal work is finished, prior to mounting everything.

    Norm
    Last edited by Norm; 09-02-2013 at 06:39 PM.

  25. #55
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    A bit more work on my battery box.



    Three mm aluminium panel with meter, USB sockets, fuse and Anderson Power Poles still to be added. The finger hole is for lifting the paned which will be held down with Velcro. The meter isn't sitting flush, just trying fit. The panel will be painted black when all the metal work is finished, prior to mounting everything.

    Norm
    Ha! Looks very professional right now. I have an amp/volt meter, not as elaborate as yours, but I've held off installing it, as I have no vessel to really place it in, like you do and it would just be hanging off of my wires that I've posted above. Certainly not as elegant as your implementation.

    Good for you!

    It's a fun project, no doubt.

    Chris
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  26. #56
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGarrett View Post
    It's a fun project, no doubt.

    Chris
    It's is a fun project. Just wish there was an easier way to make square holes Chris, I've been starting the cut with my Dremel and then finishing off with a hacksaw and file.

    Norm

  27. #57

    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    It's is a fun project. Just wish there was an easier way to make square holes Chris, I've been starting the cut with my Dremel and then finishing off with a hacksaw and file.

    Norm
    You might consider something like this, Norm.

  28. #58
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by Taschenlampe Dude View Post
    You might consider something like this, Norm.
    Thanks for the suggestion, I do have exactly that nibbling tool, unfortunately it only good for 18 gauge / about 1mm my panel is 3mm

    Norm

  29. #59
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Norm quick question what is the maximum panel that you can use with this controller ?

    I am gathering some info for a similar project (to drive some LED lamps) but the Voc vs Watt per panel cause me headache...

    Bill

  30. #60
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portable solar charging setup I just built...

    Quote Originally Posted by billy_gr View Post
    Norm quick question what is the maximum panel that you can use with this controller ?l
    Bill

    Maximum input is listed as 10 Amps so I'm guessing 120Watts, someone more knowledgeable than I am will come and correct me shortly.

    Norm
    Last edited by Norm; 09-03-2013 at 01:05 AM.

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