Solar equipment - weather protection

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Solar equipment - weather protection

Postby thexmark » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:04 pm

I brought and set up an 85W solar panel, charge controller, inverter and battery this year to run various 12V items and charge some 110V items. It all worked perfectly as all of the connections were protected from the weather by my rock-solid shelter.

Next time I'm taking the 'less-is-more' approach and bringing a Springbar tent and will not have the luxury of cutting holes in my tent to route wires and house the battery (sealed lead-acid), inverter and controller.

Can anyone provide some advice on securely housing the controller, inverter and battery outside of my tent, but in a way that they'd be protected from dust & rain? I could fabricate a wood box or two to house the components but I'm afraid that any measure that I take to isolate them from the weather would insulate them too well leading to dangerous temperature levels.

Does anyone have any experience with this out on the playa?

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Postby unjonharley » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:19 pm

How about hole sawing some holes in a plastic tot.. Cover the holes with some filter fiber.. What came to mine first was plastic battery cases froma spots store.. The inverter is the thing to protect most.. Maybe give it it's own filtered box.. Just brain storming here but??
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Postby thexmark » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:40 pm

unjonharley wrote:How about hole sawing some holes in a plastic tot.. Cover the holes with some filter fiber.. What came to mine first was plastic battery cases froma spots store.. The inverter is the thing to protect most.. Maybe give it it's own filtered box.. Just brain storming here but??


I thought about using filters. The problem there is either you filter it enough to keep dust out and the components overheat or you filter less to provide airflow for cooling and the dust gets in.

I'm probably fighting a losing battle here.

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Postby Da Mule » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:51 pm

There's a bunch of tips on the Alternative Energy Zone's website
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Postby kman » Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:22 pm

Why not just have a pass-through port stitched into your new tent?

It's canvas, not plate steel.
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Postby thexmark » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:00 am

kman wrote:Why not just have a pass-through port stitched into your new tent?

It's canvas, not plate steel.


I'm not sure what sort of port could be sewn in that wouldn't compromise a Springbar tent's ability to block out weather, but I'll ponder that. I don't know that I want all that power with the possibility of fire inside of a canvas tent.

I appreciate everyone's input so far.

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Postby teardropper » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:36 am

I brought a solar charging system this year, 64 watt panel, 2-225 a/h golf cart batteries, charge controller and inverter. I put the batteries in a plastic box designed for that purpose. They got a little dusty, but were fine. The manufacturer said to seal the charge controller from the dust. Because I was far underloading that unit, I was able to use a plastic bag to seal it from the weather and dust. I left my inverter out. Had a fan in it and needed to be vented. I blew it out with my little 12v air compressor every day when I cleaned the panel and decided this was something I might have to replace if it quit. It appears to be OK. I left all of it out, but might build a small box to house it all next year that would be vented. Might lessen the dust, but still keep things vented.

I used water to clean the panel. It left a haze that was hard to get off. Maybe just a dry cloth next year. What did you do?

By the way, I had far too little panel. But very small draw, mostly LED rope lights and a small boom box. Also, charged camera batts and things like that.
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Postby Token » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:07 am

A box gently pressurized with a well filtered and servicable fan will stay surprisingly dust free on the inside.

Let's say you cut two 3" computer case fan holes on one side, install fans and put much filters on the intake.

On the other side of the case, cut a single 3" hole and filter it from the inside of the case so no dust can come in.

On the outside of that hole install a plate by hanging it on a hinge at the top side of the hole so that it can flap open and lift, using gravity to hold it in the closed position when the fan is not running.

The weight of the flap will determine how much pressure and airflow flow is in the box.
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Postby thexmark » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:29 am

teardropper wrote:I brought a solar charging system this year, 64 watt panel, 2-225 a/h golf cart batteries, charge controller and inverter. I put the batteries in a plastic box designed for that purpose. They got a little dusty, but were fine. The manufacturer said to seal the charge controller from the dust. Because I was far underloading that unit, I was able to use a plastic bag to seal it from the weather and dust. I left my inverter out. Had a fan in it and needed to be vented. I blew it out with my little 12v air compressor every day when I cleaned the panel and decided this was something I might have to replace if it quit. It appears to be OK. I left all of it out, but might build a small box to house it all next year that would be vented. Might lessen the dust, but still keep things vented.

I used water to clean the panel. It left a haze that was hard to get off. Maybe just a dry cloth next year. What did you do?

By the way, I had far too little panel. But very small draw, mostly LED rope lights and a small boom box. Also, charged camera batts and things like that.


Glad everything worked out for you. The manufacturer of my controller specifically says NOT to enclose it in an airtight enclosure due to heat build-up. That's why I'm trying to strike a compromise between airflow and a dust/rain barrier.

I stayed away from using water to clean the panel on-playa as the dust turns to clay when water is introduced. I taped a microfiber cloth to the end of an 8 foot 2x4 and wiped the dust off that way. It worked ok.

My 85W panel was perfect for our needs. We were drawing somewhere between 5 and 8 amps at most during peak use. The MPPT controller was taking the max rated 4.83a available at the panel and putting up to 5.6a back to the battery, even with a layer of dust on the panel. I was impressed. The battery was fully charged at the end of each day.

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Postby thexmark » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:31 am

Token wrote:A box gently pressurized with a well filtered and servicable fan will stay surprisingly dust free on the inside.

Let's say you cut two 3" computer case fan holes on one side, install fans and put much filters on the intake.

On the other side of the case, cut a single 3" hole and filter it from the inside of the case so no dust can come in.

On the outside of that hole install a plate by hanging it on a hinge at the top side of the hole so that it can flap open and lift, using gravity to hold it in the closed position when the fan is not running.

The weight of the flap will determine how much pressure and airflow flow is in the box.


That's an ingenious solution. I'll give that further thought as well. Thanks!

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Postby unjonharley » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:48 am

Put your port in the bottom/floor of your tent.. A car dust mop is sold on TV that is not supose to scratch the car.. Might work on your panels..
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Postby Token » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:44 am

thexmark wrote:
That's an ingenious solution. I'll give that further thought as well. Thanks!

(broke the commercial link, Anti M) -tXm[/url]


I used that design in the networking equipment industry. We built burn-in test ovens to get our gear running in a 70C environment for a few days to weed out the boards prone to failure.

Worked real well.

Gracias.
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Postby kman » Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:02 pm

unjonharley wrote:Put your port in the bottom/floor of your tent.. A car dust mop is sold on TV that is not supose to scratch the car.. Might work on your panels..


That would be very bad in the event of rain, such as the rain we had this year earlier in the week before opening and on Monday.

Best to put a port at least 6" if not 1' above ground level.

Get some heavy canvas, sew a reinforcement square, roughly 2" wide canvas leaving a 2" square hole in the middle. Put Velcro on top of the canvas, and make a flap to seal the hole when not in use. Sew the whole thing to tent using strong thread, like they use in sail-making. That's plenty strong to reinforce a small 2" square opening where you can pass the cords through, and the velcro will (a) seal around the cords, and (b) seal the port when not in use.
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Postby unjonharley » Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:18 pm

kman wrote:
unjonharley wrote:Put your port in the bottom/floor of your tent.. A car dust mop is sold on TV that is not supose to scratch the car.. Might work on your panels..


That would be very bad in the event of rain, such as the rain we had this year earlier in the week before opening and on Monday.

Best to put a port at least 6" if not 1' above ground level.

Get some heavy canvas, sew a reinforcement square, roughly 2" wide canvas leaving a 2" square hole in the middle. Put Velcro on top of the canvas, and make a flap to seal the hole when not in use. Sew the whole thing to tent using strong thread, like they use in sail-making. That's plenty strong to reinforce a small 2" square opening where you can pass the cords through, and the velcro will (a) seal around the cords, and (b) seal the port when not in use.


Oops,bottom bad idea..

I want to put a sock vent in the top of my shade struture.. Was thinking of goop reinforcement around the cut and sew.. Fishing line is good thread.. waxed sail line is large and takes a large neddle.. Care not to draw fish line to tight, it can cut the fabric along the stich.. That's where the goop comes in..
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Postby teardropper » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:30 pm

thexmark wrote: The manufacturer of my controller specifically says NOT to enclose it in an airtight enclosure due to heat build-up. That's why I'm trying to strike a compromise between airflow and a dust/rain barrier.
(broke the commercial link, Anti M) -tXm[/url]


That was only because my controller is rated for 15 amps and I was only pulling less than 4. They said because of that it could be sealed up. I am adding another 64 watt panel next year, so all suggestions are on the table, won't be able to seal it that way.

And, actually, I did figure that out after a couple of days and just dry wiped it. Someone on this forum said they washed theirs so I tried it. It glazed over.

You've got a Springbar? Don't cut it. And don't put your batteries in with you. Don't know if it is a bad idea, I just don't think you have to.
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Postby thexmark » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:02 pm

teardropper wrote:
thexmark wrote: The manufacturer of my controller specifically says NOT to enclose it in an airtight enclosure due to heat build-up. That's why I'm trying to strike a compromise between airflow and a dust/rain barrier.
(Edited to break Commercial Link TOS Violation - bbs) -tXm[/url]


That was only because my controller is rated for 15 amps and I was only pulling less than 4. They said because of that it could be sealed up. I am adding another 64 watt panel next year, so all suggestions are on the table, won't be able to seal it that way.

And, actually, I did figure that out after a couple of days and just dry wiped it. Someone on this forum said they washed theirs so I tried it. It glazed over.

You've got a Springbar? Don't cut it. And don't put your batteries in with you. Don't know if it is a bad idea, I just don't think you have to.


I don't have a Springbar, but plan to purchase one next time we go. Plenty of time to figure all of this out.

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Postby kman » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:04 pm

thexmark wrote:I don't have a Springbar, but plan to purchase one next time we go. Plenty of time to figure all of this out.

Since you're buying new, have you considered contacting the company to find out if they they will put a custom port in it for you?
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Postby thexmark » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:09 pm

kman wrote:
thexmark wrote:I don't have a Springbar, but plan to purchase one next time we go. Plenty of time to figure all of this out.

Since you're buying new, have you considered contacting the company to find out if they they will put a custom port in it for you?


When the time comes and if I decide to go that route I will certainly ask them. From what I read they do custom work.

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Postby Token » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:48 pm

Or you can get a cheap 4 or 6 wire bulkhead connector from any auto parts store and put a tiny hole in the canvas then seal it with the connector.

Lots of ways to solve this problem.
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Postby Trishntek » Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:23 pm

We have a vestibule on our tent (gigatent) which is basically closed in like the rest of the tent but has no floor. How about finding a tent with such a thing? It's a great place to put your dusty duds and footwear before entering your actual domicile.
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Postby gyre » Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:38 am

Image
A sealed heat sinked inverter.

Depending on the design, you can heatsink your controller to an aluminum box or plate, or extruded heat sink.

Use silicone dielectric grease and learn how to make the physical connection to transfer heat.
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Postby unjonharley » Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:46 am

Trishntek wrote:We have a vestibule on our tent (gigatent) which is basically closed in like the rest of the tent but has no floor. How about finding a tent with such a thing? It's a great place to put your dusty duds and footwear before entering your actual domicile.


I have a tent like that.. About 9x10 living space.. Used a few times, went to burning man once.. Sence changed the shade sturc. Now it sits in a dry sack.. The playa blow a little dust in..
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Postby teardropper » Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:55 am

Good gyre, that looks good. Can this be sealed or will a protected inclosure keep enough off that it will be OK, or maybe just blow it out?

Oh, I see, you use the plate base to sink heat. Would that allow sealing of the inverter? Though I rarely need pure sine, it is a good thing to have, just in case. The price, though, might be a bit high.

Intriguing idea... I wonder...
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Postby gyre » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:54 am

It all depends on the design.

The better the original engineering, the more likely it is to have a big heat sink to attach to.
A large box might even be used to contain circulated air and dissipate the heat.

If you can get photos inside, we can help.
Copper is best, but aluminum is commonly used.

Be sure to pay attention to what is live with higher power.

On forums, the cheaper inverters commonly fail.
A rugged unit that doesn't break is considered a better deal.
The morning star seems reasonable, but anything runs longer if it is cooler.

There are inverter forums, etc.
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Postby gyre » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:01 am

Note efficiency ratings and loss, crucial to solar use.

Have you been on the solar forums?
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Postby gyre » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:05 am

Token wrote:A box gently pressurized with a well filtered and servicable fan will stay surprisingly dust free on the inside.

Let's say you cut two 3" computer case fan holes on one side, install fans and put much filters on the intake.

On the other side of the case, cut a single 3" hole and filter it from the inside of the case so no dust can come in.

On the outside of that hole install a plate by hanging it on a hinge at the top side of the hole so that it can flap open and lift, using gravity to hold it in the closed position when the fan is not running.

The weight of the flap will determine how much pressure and airflow flow is in the box.

Fans are more efficient on the exhaust side, but you are specifically wanting to pressurize the case?
Interesting.
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Postby teardropper » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:37 am

Yeah, gyre, I have been on solar forums. Seems to be a lot of different ideas, and not sure who is speculating--jeez, I can do that-- and who really knows what they're talking about. Anyway, no real good, hard, I-believe-you answers.

For myself, I'm going to set it up one more time this year and see how that goes. Use everything set as for the playa, use real life loads over real life times and see what happens. I'll take it all down a couple of times to the playa, too, next year before BM, but it's different during BM. Not the same conditions.
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Postby gyre » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:43 am

Remember that heat limits output from inverters etc.
So wattage will be less on the playa, typically.

Sunelco used to have good basics on solar.

The first rule is to maximize efficiency of your equipment and reduce losses in the system and the use end.
For instance, more efficient lighting and refrigeration is cheaper than more panels.
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Postby Trishntek » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:51 pm

I've just ordered TWO 120w panels which I intend to use here and on playa. I want it to be portable, so I'm thinking about FOUR 12v batteries, the controller and inverter enclosed in one of those plastic tool boxes with wheels and handle for mobility.

If I epoxy 4" tubing in one end and incorporate the air filter for a motorcycle engine on the outside and a 4"computer fan on the inside-opposite which would exhaust through a similar tube and filter (long fuckin' phrase huh?), would that not sufficiently protect and cool what is within?
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Postby Trishntek » Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:19 pm

gyre wrote:http://www.morningstarcorp.com/uploads/resources/product-images/suresine-splash.png
A sealed heat sinked inverter.

Depending on the design, you can heatsink your controller to an aluminum box or plate, or extruded heat sink.

Use silicone dielectric grease and learn how to make the physical connection to transfer heat.


For my xray equipment, dielectric grease is ESSENTIAL since over 98% of the energy used to make an xray is wasted in heat. Nope still not an efficient technology, but after all it does allow me to see THROUGH you! Anyway, this morningstar you refer to above gyre, Do you know of their reputation in the 3-5kV range? Pure sine wave, of course.
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