Thursday, August 20, 2020

Updating the Solar System - Part 3

 Putting it all together

We went down to the boat Tuesday with a 'Left to Do' list

Left to do:
  • Install the bimini (repaired and waterproofed.)
  • Measure gap between Aft Shade Panel Zipper ends
  • Secure main solar power cables to Bimini frame.
  • Secure main solar power cables with cable glands
  • Clear out Port Side Locker for access
  • Feed cables from port locker into bathroom and into cabin and secure to loom
  • Restore the Port Side Locker contents
  • Install 30amp circuit breaker/switch to bulkhead adjacent to blue sky controller
  • Remove Blue Sky Controller
  • Install Victron Controller
  • Connect Battery to Victron Controller
  • Connect +ve main solar power cable to 30amp circuit breaker
  • Connect 30amp circuit breaker to Victron controller 'PV +ve'
  • Connect -ve main solar power cable to Victron controller PV-ve
  • Cover port and starboard solar panel to turn off.
  • Make up cables from Port side solar panel to T Branch Connectors (+ve & -ve)
  • Make up cables from Stbd side solar panel to T Branch Connectors (+ve & -ve)
  • Remove covers from solar panels to turn on.
  • Attach Smart Battery Sense unit to Main Battery System
  • Setup Victron Controller using Victron App on cell phone or Tablet
And we got all of that done!
We also had the next two items on the list. But by this time I was sopping wet because of the humidity, it was 100º F on the outside of the boat and even the 80ºF inside, because the AC was running, I was totally washed out. Time to head home.

We quickly ran the Victron Connect app to check the state of solar charging and it was less than 1amp !!!! What the heck . But the heat got me and it was enough for today.

Thursday Aug 20th. Back down to the boat. I started to check things.

  • Was the Circuit breaker ok - Checked - less than 0.01ohms.
  • Check the Voltage from the two panels.
    • Port Panel 19v (the Solar radiation must have been lower then the screenshot was taken.)
    • Stbd Panel 19v
  • Check the Ics at each panel - 0amps!!! or so low it could not read.
  • Check the physical connections inside the Panel Terminal boxes - all secure and correct.
  • Checked the physical connections to the T Branch MC4 connectors - Ah Ha! both pairs had a termination pin/socket not fully inserted - that's why there was 0amps the probes could not reach the pins/sockets.
  • Both pairs of pin & sockets were opened and the inserts fully inserted, they moved in by nearly a quarter of an inch.
With the pin/socket error fixed, the controller showed as per the screenshot on the left.

6.3Amps!! WhooooHoooo!! That's better than we had before from all k3 panels.

We'll check the data again Friday and I hope to see a much better position than over the first two days.

We had no real idea of how the system was performing before this upgrade but the Max Solar charge we have seen for the past few months has been about 1 or 2 amps, and that was with the 3 panels installed.

The new panel from Amazon has not arrived yet, latest shipping info is that it will arrive by 9.9.2020 - Looking forward to see how that improves the system.


After this success and as it was not as hot today, I completed two more projects. Finished the install of the new Dry Bilge pump, it works a treat. Then I repaired the Rub Rail on the Port side where it popped out after our rubbing of the dock pylon on our last retur. I'm guessing that the heat softened the soft plastic rail insert and it was under pressure from the nudge on docking.

All the tools cleaned up, boat is ready to take out sailing...

And then along came Tropical Store 3 barrelling up the path from Puerto Rico, expected here Monday. So it's time to secure the boat again. We'll prep the house tomorrow, Friday, and then start on the boat.

Meanwhile I purchased a new pair of Wire Strippers and a new Clamp AVO meter, wish I had them when I started this job, I would have found the issue with the contacts much quicker.

Before I closed up the panel for the new Victron MPPT Controller, I checked the wires from the controller to the batteries. Glum! they are 12AWG and 14AWG. That's bound to cause a voltage loss between the controller and the batteries. I have plenty of 10AWG wire so that will be the next job. 

Oh, and when the new panel arrives:-
  • Attach new panel onto Bimini
  • Monitor Solar Charge Status (to compare with status after connecting new panel)
  • Plug new panel into T Branch connectors (+ve & -ve)
  • Monitor Solar Charge Status
After everything is finished.
  • Put Blue Sky controller on Craigs List
I'll post a followup screenshot of the status tomorrow.

Stay safe out there!


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