Since I added the second solar panel, it has opened up the door to more efficient output and less loss from my 55 foot wire run into the house. In order to maximize the output from my now TWO panels, I needed an MPPT controller which would allow me to put my panels in series, instead of parallel. Here is a short video showing it to you. Will post some numbers when we get a really sunny day next to see how much better it is.
So, my weather station mostly worked great, except that I would occasionally lose the outdoor sensor signal. Then it would be a few hours before it found it again. I don’t know if my sensor is just a little too far away or what. I did some searching and found they sell another compatible display model that actually has a full LCD screen. More importantly, it features an EXTERNAL antenna. So I upgraded to this:
As you can see, the display is beautiful and has 3 info screens. Outdoor info, Indoor info, and then Records. This unit can store up to a year of data its collected. Since it has a real LCD screen, you can even display graphs of rainfall or windspeed etc. I get a perfect reliable signal now. The only negative is that there is no battery backup. Which means if the unit loses power for too long, you will lose your data and have to start over from scratch. So seeing as I have a 12v solar setup for my Ham Radio stuff, I thought, why not run it off of that. So I chopped up the power adapter for my weather station and wired this DC regulator in.
It takes 12v DC in and puts out 5v DC which is what my weather station uses. I was worried the weather station might use alot of power and drain my battery, but after some measurements, it only needs 0.13 amps at 12v DC to run. Thats not much at all and shouldnt be a burden on my system.
After a long winter, we are finally well into spring and the Sun is out often again! Now that bad news. Something happened to my 12v AGM batteries over the winter. I dunno if it was the lack of charging everyday or just poor quality batteries, but both of them died. They wouldn’t hold a charge. As soon I’d put a charger on them, the voltage would shoot up like they were full and after only an hour, it would say they were fully charged. When I put a load on them, the voltage would drop quickly and within an hour be down to 10 Volts. So I had to junk them. I won’t be buying APEX batteries anymore. I replaced it with this one, from Renogy, the same company I get my solar equipment from. Sadly, these things are expensive so I could only afford one.
So onto the solar upgrade. 100 Watts was nice, but I always felt it wasnt quite enough for my needs. Now with only a single battery to get me through cloudy and rainy weather, I decided I wanted to add a second panel. This presented some challenges. My single panel was sort of frankensteined with my old harbor freight solar panel frame made out of PVC and the year wasnt kind to it. Between baking in the sun and neighborhood kids climbing on it like a jungle gym, the frame was broken in several places and taped up with duct tape. Besides, it was too small to fit a second panel. So I decided a needed a new frame. I considered building my own out of PVC, but my buddy Steve brought my attention to an aluminum metal solar stand. The only catch was its meant for a single panel. Each “leg” attaches to one side of the panel. So I had the idea of bonding my two panels together with metal plates to use with the stand. I was unsure of how secure it would be, but it’s quite secure. Below you will see how I set it up and bolted the panels together.
And finally the finished result. Introducing my dual panel 2×100 Watts setup with a peak of 200 Watts! They are connected in parallel, positive to positive, negative to negative with some adapters I bought with the second panel.
Since I JUST finished setting up and my battery is already fully charged, I will get back to you all on how much output I get from the two of them. I’m pretty happy with the result!
So, I’ve been using this 45 Watt solar panel kit from harbor freight for a little while with my ham setup. I picked it up a few years ago for $120 or something. As you can imagine, that’s not a lot of power when running 3 radios at once, especially when transmitting occasionally. The max I ever got out of them was 2.5 amps to my 12v battery bank, which was enough to break even when all radios were on and just idling. So I found an inexpensive way to upgrade. Renogy sells very affordable solar kits, so I picked up a single 100 Watt Monocrystaline panel with a charge controller and the appropriate power cables. Below is the result. The big one on the right is the new panel. I reused the existing PVC frame that the Harbor Freight panels used and left on one of the panels on to act as a counterweight.
Then I have about 55 feet of wire between the panel and my controller/batteries. 20 feet of 10 awg cable that the kit came with, and 35 feet of 18 awg that I had already. The 18 awg defintely needs to be replaced because the voltage drop at 6 amps is REALLY bad, so that will be a future tweak to the setup. Inside I have the charge controller mounted to the wall next to the battery bank which you can see below. The white wire running off to the left goes to my 12v distribution box and to all the radios and stuff.
Next step is to add a fuse between the battery cables and the charger controller for safety. So far it’s working great. The real test will be how I manage through cloudy/rainy weather. More updates to follow later 🙂