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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fried charge controller



Don't you just love it when a circuit board fries to protect a ten cent fuse? I opened up the sailboat to discover a funny burned electrical smell in the hold. The little Instaspark brand charge controller had burned out.

When I bought the 30 watt solar panel for my boat it came with the cheap little charge controller. Frankly, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. The marine environment is harsh. The Instaspark was only rated for 3 amps. The panel is rated for just under 2 amps. However, I'm betting it put out more than that in the bright Florida sun reflecting off the water.

I've been told to not take charge controller ratings at their face value. A buddy of mine kept replacing 25 amp charge controllers when his panels put out just under that amount. Finally the dealer told him that yes, a 25 amp controller will handle 25 amps, but it won't do it very long.

If you are putting together your own solar electric system don't completely trust the ratings. Allow plenty of extra capacity. The replacement charge controller I've ordered is rated at 7 amps. It cost a few dollars more, but it'll be worth it in the long run.

While on the subject of over rated equipment, don't trust the ratings of inverters too much either. Let's say you have a mid sized inverter rated for 1000 watts continuous power. Don't believe it. While it might (or might not) put out the full 1000 watts, the quality of the electricity produced plummets. That doesn't do your electrical equipment any good.

Often the money difference to bump up a size or two is a small one and more than worth the price.

-Sixbears

6 comments:

  1. There is also a big difference between "peak" and constant load handling ability.

    You see a lot of cheap generators and converters sold to people not understanding the difference.

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    1. That's another issue too. My house inverter can run 2500 watts all day long, but for short burst it can handle over 7000. It's a good one. Very handy for starting table saws and the like.

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  2. Good advice for any body that depends on none commercial electric, like traveling in an RV.

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    1. Thanks Dizzy. Off grid homes, boats, RVs -all use these things.

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  3. Good points Six. There are so many low cost solar components out there today it is tempting to believe what they say and then later literally get burnt.

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    1. I did get a few years out of a very cheap inverter, and it came with the panel. Of course, imagine being someplace where you really need it and can't find a replacement. I was just lucky it didn't fry when my boat was out in the Everglades.

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