Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lessons in an Off-Grid life

Yesterday, Sir Knight was more than a little concerned about our solar output.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, not to hot, no clouds, in essence, perfect.  However, our 2150 watts of solar panels was only putting out about 30 amps of power.  Now as a matter of reference, on a nice sunny day, in the middle of summer, in full sun our panels put out about 50 to 80 amps, depending on the batteries state of charge. 

Concerned, Sir Knight checked our Outback Flex Max 80 charge controller to see if we had met "charge criteria" and the batteries would no longer take the full output the panels were capable of producing.  Seeing that we were still charging "bulk", Sir Knight new something was up.  First thing Sir Knight did was check the wiring on the solar panels then he checked the circuit breakers in the combiner box.  Then he got really concerned.  Something was very haywire - we had a problem!  After trying to determine what could possibly be reducing our photovoltaic output this drastically, Sir Knight decided to do a visual inspection of our panels.  Ha!  What he found was startling.

About a week ago, we had a couple of nasty wind storms.  All of the dirt from the counties south of us ended up in our fields, in our shouse and, apparently, on our solar panels!  They were filthy.  Out came the hose and 10 minutes and a good washing later, Eureka!  Immediately the Tri-Metric jumped to 47 amps - we were back in business.

This is a perfect example of K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid.  Our initial reaction is usually to jump to the worst possible conclusion - faulty wiring, a compromised circuit breaker, a bad cell in the batteries - nothing so simple as dirty solar panels.

Next time we have a problem, we will start with the most obvious solution and go from there!  Live and learn.

1 comment:

  1. Too funny.

    You'll like this: The Big Guy came out of the shower last evening wondering why the water wasn't hot. Oh dear. Better get down there and check out the water heater tank...doo dah, doo dah...

    Turns out he'd flipped the wrong switch on the breaker panel when he went to turn off the garden pump.

    Uh huh. That's why there's a light switch in that little tool room, dude.

    I'm with you, Enola Gay: always so-o-o grateful for SIMPLE!!

    And speaking of sun...we have none here today. It was still under fifty degrees at 9 a.m. and it's only 68 now, at noon. It does look like the overcast might burn off by the afternoon, so I'm watering in good faith.