So let me start out by saying that I am not a professional electrician. I have a elemental knowledge of electricity and wiring. I did
plenty of home work and lots of studying the latest in photovoltic systems to put this system together. On this web page I hope to explain the components of the system and how they work to power up
our freezer, cooler and other electrical needs. Dan Ward, former owner
First I will start with the
photovoltaic panels (solar panels)
I choose because of their price point, long life and durability 4 Krocera 130watt 12volt soar panels. These panels produce up to 9amps each. I picked these up and most of my solar equipment at Sun Electric International here in Miami. The price per panel was $ 569.40 (8/12/2008) As most solar equipment, the initial cost is high, but considering never having to pay an electric bill it's worth it. In our case I love alternative energy and installing FPL electric to our concession was not possible.
From the combiner box the electricity from the panels is fed into the Charge controller. Now the charge controller is really one of the most important parts of our system. It is the heart and brains of the entire system. The main job of the charge controller is to keep the battery bank fully charged and maintained at charge level that will maximize the use of power we get from the solar panels.
I choose the $ 156.00 (8/12/2008) Morning Star TriStar 45 MPPT This unit will take up to 45amps. Sense I have 4, 9amp panels my current max amperage (amp.) is 4 X 9 = 36amps. This unit works fine and it gives me ability to add more panels if I need to in the future.
There are several things I enjoy about this charge controller. It has a easy to understand LED screen that tells me exactly how much power is being used from the solar panels and how fully charged the batteries are. This unit also will maximize the use of the panels and more or less baby sits the battery bank. It also has a number of safety features like protection against things like overloading, short circuits, high voltage, reverse polarity and powers surges. Of course there are many choices for charge controllers. For me this one suits my needs nicely .
So after more than a year and half the system has worked perfectly. We've just had to add water to the batteries. We average about a gallon every 4 months between all the batteries together. Our trailer can get very hot inside so the evaporation is expected. Our system has kept at least 12. volts of charge throughout. Fully charge is 15 volts system, cut off is 10 volts. The only problem we found is that when we have a kite festival and the freezer is constantly being opened to get the ice cream, the freezer won't keep up and the ice cream will melt. So to compensate I throw in a block of dry ice to assist the freezer on festival days. That worked out fine.
Well we had a very hot and sticky summer with more cloudy days than normal. We ran a 3 foot box fan a lot on cloudy hot days and did put some wear on our battery bank.
Although we are still in good condition (12.5vt plus ). We will see how much longer our batteries hold up. They are still working fine. We haven't dropped less than 12 volts, it's just that they
don't stay at full charge as long.
I did add another solar panel to help hold up on the cloudy days. I picked up a 200watt no-name 12 volt panel from Sun Electric International. It was on sale for just $ 300.00 It was easy to add to the system because I had over sized the system for this. So in total I have four 150 watt and one 200 watt panels. On any normal sunny day I have way more power than I use.
This last weekend my batteries seemed to finally give up. The voltage was dropping below 11 volts. The system shuts down when it hits 10 volts. These
batteries lasted 3 years 3 months. I am told that is average for this type of system. I decided to add 4 more batteries to make now 12 X 6volt 225amp hour batteries for my bank. My thinking is
that a larger battery bank will not have to work as hard and therefor will last longer. Of course the price of the batteries has gone up. I had to pay $ 95.00 each this time from Battery
Sales here in Miami. They are good folks who are very helpful and know solar tech talk well. As a matter of fact there store is solar powered,
**** I am working on this page, more to come. Let me know what you think*****