Adding More Solar Panels Again
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I never really thought about the heat, especially since I was 3000 miles away during the heat of the summer, so no problem.

Our solar system, which I installed in 2007, continually had problems, especially with batteries going bad.
Having woken up to no power on one too many mornings, I decided that we needed more panels. This was correct but it would prove to be not quite enough.

I swallowed my DUI pride and found a pro, Dan Pritchett. In October of 2013 he installed an additional set of 4 panels up the hill on a rack. This turned out to be an underestimate, which I reminded him of three years later.

He also replaced the entire bank of 16 expensive 12 volt deep cycle sealed batteries, some defective, with a set of 16 cheap 6 volt golf cart batteries. He said it makes no real difference; batteries go bad regardless, so Cosco cheap is better. The catch is that you have to top these standard variety batteries off periodically with distilled water as needed. He agreed to take care of that twice a year.

We returned there mid-November of 2013. A week later the 6 year old Exeltech inverter threw smoke and sparks and died. I am very glad that I was there at the time. A frantic drive in and around Palm Springs to all possible sources got nothing. Somehow on my phone (no power, so no computer) I found an Outback VFX3648 Sinewave Inverter/Charger at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun for $1,770. They shipped it overnight for $153 to the Palm Desert UPS. I picked it up there the next day after paying the UPS girl another $20 in cash.

In the summer of 2016, we decided to add a third set of panels, but by then I was also beginning to get the idea that heat really should be a big consideration:

On Aug 8 a camera shows Dan working on something, perhaps topping the batteries. He commented that he had found the office to be above 120 degrees.
On Aug 12 my computer guy Mike Satterfield, there to get the computer running again, said "Your office is too hot".
On Aug 17 my neighbor Gabe climbed up to the dormer above the office and opened the window. (My note to myself: "Duh!")
On Aug 31 after paying Dan 50% of his estimate, he delivered the new panels and began installing the rack up on the hill.
On Sep 18 Dan installed the new rack of 3 SolarWorld panels. (One year later, he has not yet billed me for the balance. I did remind him on 11/28.)

August 31

September 18

November 19

SolarWorld SW 325 XL MONO
solar panels

We arrived on November 17.

On December 26, I thought to check the batteries even though I knew that our pro was taking care of them.
All but one were down to bare metal; the tops of the battery plates were visibly above the acid-water level. This should not be, ever. As says, "If the electrolyte level drops below the tops of the plates, irreparable damage may occur".
If Dan topped them off on August 8, could they have dried up this much in 3.5 months?

I sped to the Stater Brothers supermarket and bought 12 gallons of distilled water. I used almost 8 of them refilling 15 1/3 batteries; more than a half-gallon per battery.

One battery did not need much water, meaning that it was dead (or actually 2 of its 3 cells were dead). We did have power, however flaky, so apparently it was still passing power between its neighbors even though it was not contributing much.

I decided to wait awhile and test it again in the future. Maybe with everything topped off and with frequent equalizations initiated by our Outback charge controller, it might recover (it did not).

Four months and 8 days later, on May 3 2017 I topped off the batteries again. The metal was visable within a few, but not all. They required 5 gallons.
The bad battery was still bad, so the next day I purchased an expensive Duralast 6 volt GC2 battery from the AutoZone store in town.

A week later I was back east.

Perhaps next time, I will have the time to purchase one or sixteen(?) online, which with shipping are considerably cheaper than what I paid in town.
BTW, they say that when one goes bad you should replace them all. Otherwise the others will bring the new one down to their level. I concluded that I am okay with that – for the time being.

In July of 2017 a cam snapshot (taken thru my browser from 3000 miles away) of our LA Crosse forecast station clock showing IN and OUT temperatures did verify that the new AC is truly working, with a difference of six degrees. Others have shown 108 OUT and 101 IN. 101 is not good, especially since earlier in the day it had been in the 80s.

Insulating and sheathing the shop walls could help and may be necessary, but I would lose a lot of good natural shelving for my nail jars and such. So real shelves could be added but the actual workshop area would shrink considerably.

Another idea is to assemble some kind of insulated box around the batteries, the electronics and the air conditioner, which could be disassembled and stored away when I return.

But first I want to try something else.
I have noticed that the maximum heat occurs mid-afternoon when the sun is straight out in front of the place and blasting away at the front door and window and the uninsulated wall.

Back in 2010 I had bought a 16 foot triangular "Coolaroo Shade Sail" online, a great idea but I never got around to using it. If there is nothing solid to hook the spring-loaded corners to, then up to three long steel poles would have to be anchored in concrete just to keep it from blowing away. We do get gale-force+ wind gusts now and then. Perhaps solid hooks on firm soffit eves (below the solar panels) might work for one or even two corners. That 16 foot shade could easily keep the 8 foot wall in shadow all afternoon. I think this will be my first project when we return in the fall.


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Copyright © 2017, Van Blakeman