Some Solar Quirks and Gardening Stuff At Last

Testing new 220W panels from Newpowa

Now that I’ve been actually using the solar power system for a few days I’ve run into a few interesting quirks. First the solar charging system. Other people with the EG4 6500EX inverter, or who are thinking of buying one, have been following along so I thought I’d warn you about this.

Up in that photo are 5 new 220W solar panels from Newpowa. I picked up 6 of those because I badly need more solar but I don’t have a lot of space to put them. These from Newpowa were the smallest size 200W panels I could find and that’s why I bought ’em. The charger in the EG4 is rated between 80V to 500V input from solar. That’s the minimum amount of voltage it takes to “trigger” so to speak the charger, and the maximum voltage it can handle from the solar panels.

Those five panels in series were putting out about 91 volts, which should have been enough to make the charger work properly. But apparently not. When I plugged them into the EG4 it looked like I was only getting about 450 – 500 watts out of panels that should have been putting out at least 75% – 90% of their rated capacity under the conditions I had that day. They were putting out half of what they should have.

I went back out, checked all of the connectors, all of the wires, made sure I had everything wired properly and couldn’t find any problems. The EG4 has two solar chargers so I plugged into the second one. Nope, same thing, I was only getting a little over 500W under full sun.

Grr, so now what… Could it be that 91V wasn’t enough? I had one more panel that I didn’t have room for. I shuffled things around and connected up all six panels and then checked. I was now getting a bit over 100V and…920W? Yeah, 920 watts. Adding that one panel, kicking the voltage up another 10V doubled the amount of power the panels were putting out.

So apparently that 80V lower limit on the solar charger in the EG4 isn’t quite accurate. I had to push 100V into it in order to get the charge controller to get it to work properly. So if you have one of these things and you aren’t getting the wattage out of your solar panels you think you should, check your voltage. If your panels are putting out less than 100V that could be it.

The other oddity is also related to solar charging. Before I configured the two inverters to work in parallel I was using one inverter alone for testing. It exhibits some interesting behavior. If I had the inverter physically turned off with the switch on the front panel and plugged solar power into it, it would turn itself on and start charging the batteries.

I personally find this a bit troubling. If I have a device that is physically turned off, I expect it to remain off. Period. Now I can understand why they might do this. If you’ve been using the system from battery only and drain the batteries down and shut the system off, it might then start to recharge the batteries automatically when it begins to get solar power. It turned on only the solar charger, not the inverter, so it wasn’t putting out AC so that was something at least.

Once I put the two units in parallel, that behavior changed. When I plugged solar into the turned off master inverter, it would still turn itself on with the power switch turned off. But it wouldn’t actually charge the batteries. It looked like it was in charging mode but it really wasn’t. It indicated it was getting only 47W of power out of solar panels that were putting out 500W. Eventually I figured out that both units need to be physically turned on with the power switch before it will now start actually charging the batteries. I find that disappointing as well. I’d prefer to be able to do what I did before, which was to use the unit to charge the batteries without having to switch the inverters on. Running an inverter while it’s just “idling” along without drawing power from it uses a small but still significant amount of power from the system. Each inverter takes somewhere between 70 – 90 watts of power, or 140W – 180W for the pair. And that’s 140+ watts that could be going into the batteries.

One last observation. These things aren’t exactly quiet. The fans on the EG4s run all the time the units are operating, and depending on the load on the units those fans quickly ramp up in speed. Tucked away in the basement this isn’t a problem but if you’re putting them near a living space some people could find the fans more than a little annoying.

One last thing about the solar system. I finally got the batteries mounted in the cabinet. And found that my existing battery cables going from the inverters to the batteries are too short because of course they are. So it’s time to get out the crimping tools and spend even more money on overpriced copper cable. Always something…

Gardening stuff

We moved the two raised beds from the north side of the backyard to the south side. In the previous location they were starting to get shaded out by a fast growing maple tree and a spruce tree. Growing conditions there were getting worse every year. Now that the ash tree is gone the area where we moved them now gets full sun all day long. Moving them was simple but took a lot of physical labor. Had to shovel out all of the dirt in them, drag them over to the new location and then shovel all the dirt back into them.

We’re doing some decorative work as well. An old, crumbling stone wall is being pulled out along the west side of the garage and being replaced with block, so we got a pallet full of blocks coming in the near future.

I’m not looking forward to that project. I am, at heart, a lazy person when it comes right down to it. I’ve developed an allergy to hard physical labor over the last few years. Still, it needs to get done.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, I found this while I was biking around the other day and I had to stop and take a picture of it.

We have some interesting people around here, including some who are pretty good folk artists. From the road I thought this was a real person for a brief moment when I saw the hi-viz vest.

And let’s finish up with a cat.

I love cats and cats love me, normally. But I don’t know what’s going on with this one. She stares at me, yells at me, glares at me and just barely tolerates my existence. I want to pet her and give her treats. She wants to shred my face. Sigh…

We had to take care of our youngest son’s cat for a few days while he was on vacation and she, being a cat, decided she owned the house.

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

4 thoughts on “Some Solar Quirks and Gardening Stuff At Last”

  1. Some cats are just ornery. My sister in law has a Maine Coon that is evil. That cat hisses and swipes at me anytime I get close. And I am cat people. Most cats love me. Not this one.

    Good update on the solar quirks. Things like that are good to know. Not that I’m involved with it yet.

    My idea of yard work is cutting the grass, picking up sticks so I can cut the grass (my dogs love sticks, and we haz trees,) and once every couple of years attacking the insideous honeysuckle, blackberries, and whatever else has taken up residence within the bushes.

    …and it’s too late in the year already to do that. Will have to wait for fall. I’m not fighting it in the heat. Grass, will get cut πŸ˜‰


    1. Yep, cats can be odd, there’s no doubt about that. That maine coon sounds a lot like how this cat behaves towards me. That always surprises me because cats generally like me. When I’m out traveling cats just walk right up to me and start talking to me. One night when I was in Sundance WY I was out in the parking lot having a smoke and this calico cat came sauntering up to me and climbed my leg when I didn’t bend down to pet her fast enough. We had a big orange tom cat running around here a few years ago who’d come trotting through our backyard on his way to whatever appointment he had and he’d always stop.

      My perfect lawn is one that has as little actual grass to cut as possible (grin). Puttering around out in the gardens isn’t work for me, it’s fun. Of course an added incentive is that the fruit and vegetables we grow ourselves always seems to taste so much better than what we can get at the store that it’s worth the effort.


      1. No doubt, grow your own, tastes so much better than store bought. But my indentured servitude in the “truck garden” when I was a kid, swore me off of gardening. I mean it was easily 3 acres, and I was tilling/planting/weeding/harvesting, in the hot ass sun, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.

        I can’t eat Beanie Wienies either. Got stranded in a truck stop in San Antonio way back when I was a teen. My stepdad and mother were Owner Operator truckers. I grew up in a truck. Anyway, we had 3 cases of Beanie Wienies stashed in the truck we had forgotton about. Overstock on a delivery, we got to keep them. Wound up in San Antonio, could not get a load out of there for like 10 days. We were running out of cash by day 4, and then we pretty much ate Beanie Wienies for a week just to survive.

        So, no gardens, no Beanie Wienies. No exceptions. πŸ˜‰ Just the thought of Beenie Wienees, make me want to hurl!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, wow, I can’t imagine eating that for a week! I think I’d have been out looking for road kill by the 2nd day!

          I understand what you mean about the garden too. My mom felt the same way about gardening. There were 14 kids in her family and it was during the depression so they had a huge garden and she’s spend the entire summer weeding, picking beans, etc. We had a small garden when I was a kid but she hated working in it because it always brought back memories of sweating away all summer and getting eaten alive by mosquitos when she’d been young.

          Liked by 1 person

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