Saturday, April 22, 2017

Misc Updates

Well, I spoke too soon. The heated liner and gloves have been put to use again. It was only 16°F on Monday morning though it did eventually warm up to just above freezing. Today's (Wednesday) challenge in addition to the cold was strong, gusty NE winds so if I was riding in any direction where the wind was from the sidecar side of the rig, I needed to shift my weight to the right. The sidecar was definitely wanting to fly today. You can definitely feel when the sidecar wheel unloads. The NWS was saying 19 mph winds with gusts to 45 mph. In the picture, the dirty snow behind the rig is actually a huge pile as there is a pretty steep drop off.

Before disconnecting the battery bank, I had one more minor piece that I needed to install and test. A small DC-DC convertor (circled in red) so I could run the Raspberry Pi directly off of the battery bank instead of through the inverter. There will be a small parasitic draw from the Trimetric monitor and the Raspberry Pi even as they are connected before the main cutoff switches. It looks like the parasitic draw is around 100ma. This would eventually drain the battery bank to 50% in ~3 months but the plan is to remove the batteries during the winter. The small white labels next to the breakers are to remind me to disconnect the solar panels before turning off the charge controller. And to turn the controller on before connecting the panels. I'm using the 50amp circuit breakers as DC switches. In the picture they are both "tripped" or "off".

I also had to disassemble the serial cable, grind down the DB9 connector and reassemble the cable with the flat cable coming out the other side so it didn't interfere with the charge controller cover. After re-assembly, I took the opportunity to not only test the cable but also the Dell netbook with a fresh install of Windows 7. It connected and recognized the MorningStar Tristar using their proprietary MSview software. The software allows a lot of control over the individual charge parameters. Right now I'm just using the defaults for flooded, lead acid, deep cycle. After testing, I realized that I should've taken the opportunity to shorten the cable. It came 6' long but I only need it to be 6".

Friday Evening - The system is now partially disassembled and starting to get boxed up. The battery bank is sitting in the truck now and time to start getting everything else sorted out and packed. I'm trying to figure out all of the tools I need to get everything installed. Everytime I go out to the garage I think of something else. Now that the pallet is empty, I can use the space to start sorting things into boxes. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sam Manicom

A couple of evenings ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts,  Adventure Rider Radio RAW, and the hosts are given the opportunity to plug some product or event at the end of the show. Sam Manicom mentioned that he was going to be speaking at BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon on Friday, May 19th. I've listened to three of his books and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The audiobooks are made even better with him as the reader. Since I am planning to be in Oregon on that date, I jumped onto the website and nabbed a ticket to the event ($15). The website for the event is off of the sam-manicom.com site. I think I was originally attracted to the books due to his bike. A BMW R80GS Airhead. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Blah, Blah, Blah

I started the manual battery equalization on Saturday morning since it looked like we would be getting another fabulously, sunny day. The panel received enough sun, i.e. enough that the array voltage was higher than the target voltage for equalization (15.68volts @ 53°F). From the graph it looks like it took about 3½ hours to complete. You can tell by by looking at the battery voltage as it transitions from "BulkCharge" to "Equalization" and back to "Absorption". At Absorption, only enough current is sent to the battery to maintain the configured absorption voltage. In this case, 14.8volts@75°F which in this case translates to 15.15volts@55°F.

On Monday, I'll check the water level in all of the battery cells and start to disassemble the system. To say that I'm thrilled with the overall system would be an understatement. On the status pages, I colored the cell background to easily see the control state of the TriStar charge controller. This is the abbreviated page for display on the RPi. Green for Absorption or Float, yellow for Equalization, orange for BulkCharge, blue for Night and red for anything else such as errors.

At this point, the Trimetric monitor is indicating that I am 17.5amp-hours ahead of the fully charged state as a result of the equalization.

From this casual testing, it looks like I am getting about 40-50 amp hours from a 130 watt panel on a good day. This suggests that I might get around 150 amp-hours per day from the four 100 watt panels. The lower amp-hour days on the graph are when I wasn't really putting much of a load on the battery bank and it would reach absorption and/or float early in the day. This graph is made from storing a single data point (cumulative amp-hours produced) every day at 11:59pm. The numbers on the graph don't exactly match up and I am still trying to figure out why.

I was asked to make a line drawing of the solar setup. The line size indicates the size of the wire. Red is +12volts and black is ground. The curved lines are the small 22 awg for the shunt and sense wires for the Trimetric and the serial communications cable to the Raspberry Pi. What is not shown is the remote battery temperature sensor and the battery sense wires for the charge controller.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Does Not Get Much Better Than This!

Another beautiful, sunny day in a week of nice days. Except for a slick spot this morning where melt water was running across the road on top of ice, the riding has been fabulous. No heated anything needed anymore and back to my regular gloves. No real destinations, just a lot of running back and forth around town. This morning while at College Coffeehouse, DavidR, an avid rider (understatement here!) said that he needed to put together an intervention when he found out that I was not planning on riding at all during our upcoming road trip.

Even the slab of ice in the middle of the driveway is starting to disappear. With all of the sun what better time to try and see what I can do with the battery bank. I prepared all of our meals on Thursday using just solar power. It took yesterday and today until 4:30 to fully recharge. And this was from a single 130 watt panel. Sometime this weekend, I'll start run a manual equalization cycle then partially disassemble the system for transport. Only three more weeks before I start my road trip!