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Thank you for the great forum, Safe Driving over the weekend. Sincerely Jason
WillieC

Newbie here - help needed to monitor system

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Hi everyone,

Newbie here - would appreciate some help and advice. I do not know a lot when it comes to Solar and need help accessing the energy produced and consumed by my solar system to optimise it's usage. 

I am attaching pictures of my setup - not sure what other information may be needed?

Here's what I have:

  1. I think I have 3 x Axpert inverters (from the pictures other people posted) - can someone confirm?
  2. I have 18 x 200ah batteries - if I remember correctly I am running a 48V system
  3. I have 24 solar panels (need to check and find out their specs)

Here's what I would like help with please:

  1. I would like to access my system through a computer or smartphone. With what I have, is that possible?
  2. If yes, what do I need?
    1. I have a spare Mac Mini I can hook up to the system. Or, I see people are buying what looks like Raspberry PI's and connect them - I can also do that if that's the best way to do it
    2. I only have wifi in the area and would need to figure out a way to connect everything to the wifi as there's no LAN cable (though I can try and make a plan)
    3. I have a desktop Mac at home and am not sure if that could work to access the system remotely? Is that even possible?
  3. I am trying to monitor my energy consumption 
    1. during the night initially to see how I can further optimise as I don't seem to get through the night as I find the system fully charged every morning through Eskom
    2. during the day - when the batteries are full and so I can investigate to perhaps move stuff (ie pool pump at a specific time) to be moved over to Solar during the day if the batteries get full early enough etc
    3. have a general view of the generation of electricity and it's demand 

The demand from the house from around 5pm - 10pm seems to be high as the system do not make it through the night without recharging through Eskom at some point and that concerns me at the moment as I am investigating either increasing the system or finding a way to optimise consumption from the house. 

Is there anyone who can help me create a set up so that I can monitor my system closer?

Thanks

Willie

 

 

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6 hours ago, WillieC said:

what does that mean though and should I do something about it?

That's a really wild guess, there might be nothing wrong. We frequently discuss this topic here. Basically, if you remember the electricity basics taught in school, electricity takes the shortest path. If the path from one string of batteriers is shorter than for the others (and this includes the interlinks between batteries), then that string works harder than the others, and also takes up most of the charge current, which means unequal discharge and recharge, which eventually shortens the life of all the batteries. This image explains it more or less (ignore the fuses and busbars and the interlink in the middle and just focus on the length calculations in the middle... I stole this image from another question where we were discussing where the fuses were supposed to go):

Battery setup - Copy.png

Now just looking at that photo, I'd be willing to bet a couple of Windhoek Lagers that some string lenghts are longer than the others.

Most of the guys here monitoring their Axperts use the ICC software on a Raspberry Pi. I am not familiar with it at all. I once downloaded it to do a few security-based checks for my own sake, and an earlier version of the source was once leaked about which I'd rather not say much, the guys around here like it and it seems to do the job.

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Hi Willie

As far as I can see and what you have asked for.

The Axpert has two monitoring ports on each unit.

A RS232 port where you can fit a lan cable to RS232 for communication.

A USB port for communication.

You cannot plug the lan port into a wifi, computer or switch because it has to be changed from RS232  to Ethernet to communicate.

The other way is to use the usb port by using extending the usb cable with usb extender.

The extender I am talking about uses lan cable between the two usb ends. The  cable can be extended to about 30m.

This method is a inexpensive.

The monitoring software you are enquiring about you can get by reading the "Axpert monitoring " post.

The other problem you have I think is that you will have three cables as I do not think you can monitor all three units with one cable unless you can change your RS232 to Ethernet and run the three cables  through a switch  near the units and now you can use one cable to PC or even use wifi  using a wifi extender.

I am sure there a more capable members to deal with this problem.

I have had two Axperts in parallel and the extension of the usb cable is what I wanted to do before I changed my to grid-tie units.

 

The other question I would like to know is .Do you use many heating devices between 5pm and 10pm?

Do you switch off your geyser at night? Do you do all your cooking at night? Does the ironing done at night? Is there a air-conditioning unit being used? The pool pump you have already mentioned. The total rum time it is on.

I ask these questions as these are the appliances that are power hungry and use up the battery backup.

For a geyser you can use a smart device to switch the geyser on/off to suit the your setup.

I had a similar problem and now I use gas for my stove and geyser as they are the biggest culprits of power use other than an air conditioner.

I am sure there are many members that can add to this post.

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On 1/10/2018 at 10:35 PM, plonkster said:

That's a really wild guess, there might be nothing wrong. We frequently discuss this topic here. Basically, if you remember the electricity basics taught in school, electricity takes the shortest path. If the path from one string of batteriers is shorter than for the others (and this includes the interlinks between batteries), then that string works harder than the others, and also takes up most of the charge current, which means unequal discharge and recharge, which eventually shortens the life of all the batteries. This image explains it more or less (ignore the fuses and busbars and the interlink in the middle and just focus on the length calculations in the middle... I stole this image from another question where we were discussing where the fuses were supposed to go):

Battery setup - Copy.png

Now just looking at that photo, I'd be willing to bet a couple of Windhoek Lagers that some string lenghts are longer than the others.

Most of the guys here monitoring their Axperts use the ICC software on a Raspberry Pi. I am not familiar with it at all. I once downloaded it to do a few security-based checks for my own sake, and an earlier version of the source was once leaked about which I'd rather not say much, the guys around here like it and it seems to do the job.

Thanks so much for the feedback - I will have it looked at once I have done my assessment. I appreciate it.

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On 1/11/2018 at 2:29 PM, Peter Topp said:

Hi Willie

As far as I can see and what you have asked for.

The Axpert has two monitoring ports on each unit.

A RS232 port where you can fit a lan cable to RS232 for communication.

A USB port for communication.

You cannot plug the lan port into a wifi, computer or switch because it has to be changed from RS232  to Ethernet to communicate.

The other way is to use the usb port by using extending the usb cable with usb extender.

The extender I am talking about uses lan cable between the two usb ends. The  cable can be extended to about 30m.

This method is a inexpensive.

The monitoring software you are enquiring about you can get by reading the "Axpert monitoring " post.

The other problem you have I think is that you will have three cables as I do not think you can monitor all three units with one cable unless you can change your RS232 to Ethernet and run the three cables  through a switch  near the units and now you can use one cable to PC or even use wifi  using a wifi extender.

I am sure there a more capable members to deal with this problem.

I have had two Axperts in parallel and the extension of the usb cable is what I wanted to do before I changed my to grid-tie units.

 

The other question I would like to know is .Do you use many heating devices between 5pm and 10pm?

Do you switch off your geyser at night? Do you do all your cooking at night? Does the ironing done at night? Is there a air-conditioning unit being used? The pool pump you have already mentioned. The total rum time it is on.

I ask these questions as these are the appliances that are power hungry and use up the battery backup.

For a geyser you can use a smart device to switch the geyser on/off to suit the your setup.

I had a similar problem and now I use gas for my stove and geyser as they are the biggest culprits of power use other than an air conditioner.

I am sure there are many members that can add to this post.

Thanks Peter for the detailed feedback, I apprciate it. I will have a look at your recommendations and read up on it more, thanks. 

I may need to have my system independantly evaluated as none of the heavy lifting items you mentioned here is connected to my system. My geyers, aircon, washing machine, tumble dryer, pool pump, microwave etc - is all connected to Eskom. I have 5w led downlighters, 3 tv’s and 4 fridges that runs off the system and it doea not make it through the night - which is the main reason I want to access the system info to assess it myself.

Thanks again.

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Hi there

I will try to simplify your system

are you on 3 phase or is there another reason for the 3 inverters?

at a quick glance I think  your system is great

if anyone thinks I'm wrong then please  tell me

my bottom line is this (dumbed down version)

you have 16 batteries  in the picture

therefore each bat has about 2 kw( 200a  x 12 v  = 2400w ) of power but since its recommended not to take the bats below 50% discharge ,  well now you have 16 kw of normal use

my house usually runs a base load of 800w  so with your bats I would last   about 20   hours ( 16000w / 800w)

your solar starts dropping off at 5 ish in summer and starts making reasonable power at 9 ish in the morning( btw what panels do you have)

that equates to 16 hours on batteries

im on single phase (1 inverter)  and only things not connected is geyser kettle and stove (yes I have a pool which runs from 9 30 till 4 ) also I run Eskom at night

if I had your panels I think I could throw in the kettle and geyser

and I think you are right to want to monitor you system

my 2 recommendations are

 check your battery cables connections as mentioned  in the above posts and

 buy cheap  led or digital voltmeters and place one on each battery to monitor your batteries at a glance   ( im sure some one else on the forum will also mention  battery balancers which I don't have)

like I said if anyone thinks Im wrong please  shout

cheers

max

 

 

 

 

 

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To add to max

A quick method to see if you have enough power.

I would use a dc clip on ammeter to measure the load during max use and the min load when you go to sleep.

The measuring point must be where the banks of batteries are paralled together to a single cable before it goes into the battery isolator.

Now I would do a quick sum .

By multiplying the amps measured by the voltage (48v) which would give you the watt  power use.

Now multiply the no of hrs it runs at max. Thhis will give you the watt/hrs.

The same needs to be done for the min use.

The total time use in the sum must the same total time the inverter runs off batteries alone.

The two answers now needed to be added together.

This sum needs to be less than 16000w/hrs if you allow the batteries to discharge to 50%.

 

20 hours ago, maxomill said:

therefore each bat has about 2 kw( 200a  x 12 v  = 2400w ) of power but since its recommended not to take the bats below 50% discharge ,  well now you have 16 kw of normal use

 

If not you will have to find the power offenders and lessen the load.

 

 

 

 

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I used around 10kwh to get through the night last night, no special treatment, so 16kwh really should be enough.

I don't want to chase up any ghosts (Afrikaans expression: spoke opjaag), but when I hear things like this (large battery that's not lasting the night) I start to think it might not be charged properly (Axpert bug going to float too soon?) or those parallel strings are causing trouble, or something. And usually by the time people ask for help the bank has already sustained damage. I hope for your sake this is not the case.

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Hi @WillieC

Your system appears to be 3x Axpert MKS 5k inverters in parallel, with 8 panels connected to each inverter probably arranged as 4 strings of 2 panels in series, and an 800Ah common battery bank made up of 16x 200Ah batteries arranged in 4 strings of 4 batteries.

The software that you require to monitor your system is ICC. It comes in Rasberry-Pi and Windows versions, but not Mac as far as I am aware. I run it on an clunky old Pentium Laptop running Windows 10 and it works brilliantly - in fact I don't know how anyone could effectively run a PV system such as the one you have without similar monitoring software. You can download the software for your chosen platform at http://iccsoftware.co.za/about/download-2/

The computer (whichever route you decide to go) is connected to 1 of the 3 Axperts via the USB terminal.

I would also recommend that you get a Victron BMV-702 which addresses the 1 major fault of the Axpert (and most other inverters as well) being the method used to monitor battery State Of Charge (SOC) - the Axpert estimates SOC via battery voltage, whereas the BMV measures amps in/out of the battery which is a vastly more accurate method. Accurate SOC information is important for ICC to make accurate decisions on when to switch between Grid and Battery modes in order to protect your batteries from damage (lets hope you are not too late). The BMV will also communicate with ICC via a USB connection

ICC is like a high performance athlete on crutches without the BMV. If you decide to go this route then contact @Camel regarding the BMV and he will provide you with the correct equipment.

It all sound a bit complicated but really isnt once you get started - some sameples of ICC output below.

5a5b032586b3e_OverviewTrends170907.thumb.png.674e23aba21fe415d36778ebb9a86a72.png5a5b02c97fcdb_171017Dash.thumb.png.8e4f2105d180e24b627da5c1bbe2e8a4.png5a5b02ea2a4b5_GridWattserror1.thumb.png.eb22950b781a4c8553388b0c3735240a.png

PV Bell 171017.png

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On 1/13/2018 at 8:55 PM, Peter Topp said:

To add to max

A quick method to see if you have enough power.

I would use a dc clip on ammeter to measure the load during max use and the min load when you go to sleep.

The measuring point must be where the banks of batteries are paralled together to a single cable before it goes into the battery isolator.

Now I would do a quick sum .

By multiplying the amps measured by the voltage (48v) which would give you the watt  power use.

Now multiply the no of hrs it runs at max. Thhis will give you the watt/hrs.

The same needs to be done for the min use.

The total time use in the sum must the same total time the inverter runs off batteries alone.

The two answers now needed to be added together.

This sum needs to be less than 16000w/hrs if you allow the batteries to discharge to 50%.

 

 

If not you will have to find the power offenders and lessen the load.

 

 

 

 

Great, thank you for the feedback!

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On 1/14/2018 at 9:15 AM, pilotfish said:

Hi @WillieC

Your system appears to be 3x Axpert MKS 5k inverters in parallel, with 8 panels connected to each inverter probably arranged as 4 strings of 2 panels in series, and an 800Ah common battery bank made up of 16x 200Ah batteries arranged in 4 strings of 4 batteries.

The software that you require to monitor your system is ICC. It comes in Rasberry-Pi and Windows versions, but not Mac as far as I am aware. I run it on an clunky old Pentium Laptop running Windows 10 and it works brilliantly - in fact I don't know how anyone could effectively run a PV system such as the one you have without similar monitoring software. You can download the software for your chosen platform at http://iccsoftware.co.za/about/download-2/

The computer (whichever route you decide to go) is connected to 1 of the 3 Axperts via the USB terminal.

I would also recommend that you get a Victron BMV-702 which addresses the 1 major fault of the Axpert (and most other inverters as well) being the method used to monitor battery State Of Charge (SOC) - the Axpert estimates SOC via battery voltage, whereas the BMV measures amps in/out of the battery which is a vastly more accurate method. Accurate SOC information is important for ICC to make accurate decisions on when to switch between Grid and Battery modes in order to protect your batteries from damage (lets hope you are not too late). The BMV will also communicate with ICC via a USB connection

ICC is like a high performance athlete on crutches without the BMV. If you decide to go this route then contact @Camel regarding the BMV and he will provide you with the correct equipment.

It all sound a bit complicated but really isnt once you get started - some sameples of ICC output below.

5a5b032586b3e_OverviewTrends170907.thumb.png.674e23aba21fe415d36778ebb9a86a72.png5a5b02c97fcdb_171017Dash.thumb.png.8e4f2105d180e24b627da5c1bbe2e8a4.png5a5b02ea2a4b5_GridWattserror1.thumb.png.eb22950b781a4c8553388b0c3735240a.png

PV Bell 171017.png

@pilotfish thanks so much for the comprehensive feedback and graphs - it looks interesting and you are correct in that one should manage this system better - which is what I am hoping on doing. Hopefully little to no damage has been done to the batteries. 

I would most probably need to get someone to come and help me set this up - thanks again for the feedback!

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@WillieC the advice above from forum members will give you a system that is easy to monitor and control.

I use ICC-Pi though because the Raspberry Pi uses so little power. I use the free RealVNC viewer to access the RPi from my computer, tablet and mobile phone and also have the ICC MQTT Dashboard running on a Win10 computer that runs 24/7 as it monitors my CCTV cameras and cameras in our village.

Four HA02 battery balancers connected to my 16 x 6V Trojan T105 batteries to keep them balanced. The HA02 balancers were purchased from @Chris-R who made them available to forum members at a great price.

So I would suggest that you invest in ICC-Pi, a Raspberry Pi, Victron BMV702 (don't forget you also need the expensive Victron USB cable to connect the BMV702 to whichever computer you use for ICC) and 4 x HA02 battery balancers. Then make sure the connections of the batteries conforms to the suggestions of @plonkster and all should be well.

You may also consider upgrading to the firmware by @Coulomb and @weber which you will find under the forum topic Axpert Firmware. I have been using it for a long time and never had any problems. However flashing it to your Axperts will void the warrantee and needs to be done with care or you may end up with bricks. I elected to take the chance but this you have to decide for yourself as there is no recourse if things go wrong.

My T105 batteries need to be charged to 59.2V but the Axpert can only do 58.4V so I have set parameter 32 on my 2 Axperts to 90 minutes, thereby forcing it to charge at 58.4V for that time. Trojan recommended that I charge for a longer time at 58.4V and this seems to work just fine.

Good luck with enhancing your system to one that is easy to monitor and control.

 

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5 minutes ago, ebrsa said:

@WillieC the advice above from forum members will give you a system that is easy to monitor and control.

I use ICC-Pi though because the Raspberry Pi uses so little power. I use the free RealVNC viewer to access the RPi from my computer, tablet and mobile phone and also have the ICC MQTT Dashboard running on a Win10 computer that runs 24/7 as it monitors my CCTV cameras and cameras in our village.

Four HA02 battery balancers connected to my 16 x 6V Trojan T105 batteries to keep them balanced. The HA02 balancers were purchased from @Chris-R who made them available to forum members at a great price.

So I would suggest that you invest in ICC-Pi, a Raspberry Pi, Victron BMV702 (don't forget you also need the expensive Victron USB cable to connect the BMV702 to whichever computer you use for ICC) and 4 x HA02 battery balancers. Then make sure to connections of the batteries conforms to the suggestions of @plonkster and all should be well.

You may also consider upgrading to the firmware by @Coulomb and @weber which you will find under the forum topic Axpert Firmware. I have been using it for a long time and never had any problems. However flashing it to your Axperts will void the warrantee and needs to be done with care or you may end up with bricks. I elected to take the chance but this you have to decide for yourself as there is no recourse if things go wrong. My T105 batteries need to be charged to 59.2V but the Axpert can only do 58.4V so I have set parameter 32 on my 2 Axperts to 90 minutes, thereby forcing it to charge at 58.4V for that time. Trojan recommended that I charge for a longer time at 58.4V and this seems to work just fine.

Good luck with enhancing your system to one that is easy to monitor and control.

 

Great thanks so much @ebrsa - does the model of Raspberry PI matter or which one is recommended for this?

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2 hours ago, WillieC said:

However flashing it to your Axperts will void the warrantee and needs to be done with care or you may end up with bricks. I elected to take the chance but this you have to decide for yourself as there is no recourse if things go wrong.

The Axpert's are fairly robust and I think I know of only one "bricked" unit. Coulomb and Weber have a solution if you think you have  bricked your unit. I have reflashed twice and am very happy with their latest incarnation of the firmware. The major advantage is their firmware  resolves the issue of the inverter going to float too early a problem that arises when using the vanilla firmware.

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@WillieC I use the Raspberry Pi 3 which has built-in wifi and bluetooth. I have not used the wifi yet but it may just work for you if you do not want to string a CAT5 cable to you home LAN. Costwise it is about the same price as older models. I get my RPi stuff from Pishop which has a wide selection and competitive prices and is also an authorised distributor, but there are many suppliers so shop around.

@Chris Hobson I have flashed my 2 Axperts with both the SCC and Inverter firmware several times and also for a client of Mike in the village, all without mishap. So I personally have no hesitation in doing it but there is still a small chance that things may go pear shaped. I use a netbook with lange capacity battery and also connect the charger during flashing. If one is careful there is little chance af a mishap. If a warrantee issue arises, one can revert to the original firmware if you can find a copy.

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3 hours ago, @RiaanS said:

Is the ICC-Pi software available for the PI4? 

Yes, it is. I am running that combo

3 hours ago, @RiaanS said:

I could not find a download site for it

I got the link via mail from Manie. I would suggest sending him an email ([email protected])

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