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Saturday, June 4, 2016

My own electrician

Sometimes it's a lot more fun to work on other people's projects. All my electrical tools were organized in a rugged carry bag because I've been helping others. Ever start to do a project but get discouraged because you can't find all the tools you need? Since everything was packed in the bag there was no excuse to not work on my own electrical issues.

My solar electric system has major components that are over 23 years old. The inverter has a built in charger. The charger was turned on by a simple switch in my kitchen that activated a high amperage relay in the basement. The original relay had been salvaged from a fire horn. There was no telling how old it was.

When the charger stopped working the natural assumption was that the relay finally gave up the ghost. The quick and dirty solution was to hook up a battery charger directly to the battery bank. Unlike the system with the handy switch in the kitchen, the charger required that I go down the basement to turn it on. Fortunately the charger has a timer option so it's not necessary to go back down stairs to shut it off.

I was able to free up a relay from a hot water tank project. I removed the old relay and installed the replacement. Only after I threw the switch did I learn that I'd misdiagnosed the problem. While the relay switch was old and ratty, it was actually the charger part of the inverter that had died.

Since the inverter part is still purring along I'm in no hurry to replace it. I can keep using the heavy duty charger in the basement when the batteries need topping off. The only drawback is that I have to go outside to get into the basement where the charger and battery bank are. Right now I'm thinking that I could wire that kitchen switch to an outlet in the basement. That outlet could provide power to charger without me ever having to go downstairs.

There's a battery meter that's also in the kitchen so I'd know when the battery bank is charged. Of course, I could just spend a couple thousand on a new inverter/charger, but that will wait until it's absolutely necessary.



  1. Why spend money when you can fix it from salvaged parts from other projects?

    1. Exactly! I don't have junk, I have parts I haven't figured out what to do with yet.

  2. Sometimes cheaper is better. It frees up money for other things.

    1. If I had to pay for everything I'd have nothing.

  3. Working on other people's projects are always more fun than working on your own. I wish I was a handy person. You can save a lot of money if you do your own work. I have had several electricians come to my house and it can be very expensive. I'm glad you took the time to get the job done!