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Getting the most from my system. Does anyone else does this?


Sass
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Hi.

This is a long explanation of my setup, but with an interesting result

I have two PV systems powering my house. Not two parallel inverters, mind you. Two independent systems powering the supply based on setup. I harvest solar energy in a way I have not really seen anyone do this, and think this has proven to be VERY effective.

Let me explain.

(Note that where I refer to grid supply, it is not the municipal grid but the household "grid" at all times.)

System 1 

This system constitutes the following:

Axpert Mks 5Kw inverter

12 230Ah AGM batteries

12 JA Solar 330W Poly solar panels facing true north

3 Victron battery balancers using Victron battery connection recommendations for load distribution

This inverter is not connected to the grid to charge batteries at all and remains in a charging state through PV supply throughout.

PV Monitoring with Watchpower software

 System 2: 

Axpert PIP-HS PF1-1-5KVA inverter

6 PylonTech US3000c Li-Ion batteries

12 Canadian Solar 340W Poly solar panels facing north west

This inverter is connected to the grid to charge batteries via PV and grid supply simultaneously and switched to a charging state through PV and grid supply via Arduino automation. (Here I have an Arduino-controlled relay that turns the inverter mains switch on and off as and when required. When supplying via Solar and Grid, this eliminates a loopback issue where the inverter receives supply from the grid supplied by itself by switching off the inverter.)

PV and BMS monitoring using Raspberry Pi4 and ICC software.

General:

I do not use the recommended AnyDesk remote software as I consider it rubbish, and nowhere near as good as Teamviewer. 

I use Arduino automation to switch between electrical supply based on the battery and solar input of the two systems. 

I added System 2 after running System 1 for two years, and at times pushing it quite hard. In May 2021 I added System 2 and has not used any other energy supply since. Before this, I frequently used the ESCOM grid in winter, and occasionally in summer.

To enable continuous flow of supply to the household these systems are both connected to a 3500 Watt UPS to act as manager for the household supply. Note that we rarely use more than 1800W at any one time. For the bulk of the day, our usage is between 750W and 950W.

Explanation of what the system does:

During the night and when the solar supply drops to a set lower level, System 2 using PylonTech battery storage will take over supply to the household automatically. This will run all the time when there is no sun. 

In the mornings, around 09h40 presently the situation will reverse. As soon as solar supply reaches a level that can maintain 1Kw, the supply system using AGM batteries takes over. (Note that the AGM is not depleted at this stage as the system changed over before the battery DoD could become significant.) 

This switchover is seamless and the System 1 supply will be dependent on a little battery capacity at first but as yield increases and exceeds the household demand, the excess wattage is sent to the System 2 inverter. 

This may sound a bit confusing because Some might think that it is risky. I don't find it a risk as the battery settings in the inverter follows all protocols recommended by PylonTech to prevent overcharging, etc. 

Result:

The result of a system like this is fascinating. I include two snapshots of the different systems to illustrate the point.

System 1 Snapshot:

As can be seen from the screenshot, PV input power is around 2600W. The inverter recognise this and supplies the household, which at the time of the screenshot was around 900W, then the balance of the yield is sent to System 2. Therefore the output active power sent to System 2 is not the actual 900W but shown as 1791W per the snapshot. Interestingly System 1 is also charging the AGM batteries at the same time, although that excess power will shortly become available to be routed to System 2 when the float charge voltage is reached.

2027133858_PVSystem1.thumb.png.b8df374d3ce3f865cd5856a76298849f.png

 

System 2 Shapshot:

This inverter is not connected to the grid to charge batteries at all presently and remains in a charging state through PV and grid supply at this stage. The system ran through the night, therefore battery power is low and must be topped up to be available when full. Note that only when fully charged, this system will be activated but not used as the PV supply on system 1 will only disconnect when supply becomes lower than demand for 20 minutes. At such a stage the Grid supply from System 1 will be disconnected, and a minute later grid supply will be switched to System 2.

750652188_PVSystem2.thumb.png.8ba95f0ed7a71edf6beb6b61815c6172.png

 

What happens next is amazing. As this system is set to grid and solar supply it will charge using the panels, then slowly increase the demand from grid (Supplied by System 1) until the PylonTech batteries are being charged with electricity from all 24 solar panels.

The one thing I do manually is set the inverter of System 2 through Teamviewer to either 10A or 20A, depending on the state of supply (Solar yield) and the DoD of the batteries. This is the only step I take to ensure the PylonTech batteries are charged using all the solar energy I can harvest.

Final thoughts:

I have not had any negative results from this. The system is stable at all times. The reality of using two systems is that the AGM batteries are not hammered through repeated excessive discharges and their lifespan is increased. The PylonTech batteries on the other hand is charged more rapidly, and in a safe manner as no parameter recommended by the manufacturer is ignored, nor is any charging rate exceeded. I notice no notable extra effect on the inverters.

On most days the system using the PylonTech batteries will be fully charged between 13h00 and 15h00, and ready for night time use.

The System 2 inverter driving the Pylontech batteries is connected to solar panels facing North West and will achieve over 3000W at a later stage than that of System 1, which yields better results in the mornings but less in the afternoons. 

Could I please have your thoughts on this?

Thank you

Sass

PS. @Coulomb

Your advice over the last two years have been invaluable. Thank you for that. Tell me, have you seen a system like the one I built in operation anywhere?

I also want to extend my gratitude to Chris Hobson.

You guys are awesome!

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To illustrate what happens, here is a snapshot of my nightly system (System 2).

The batteries were on 68% when the panels started generating watts. At around 10h18 the daily system (System 1) sensed the batteries were full and turned on the excess feed to the nightly system.

The charging rate was upped by around 8 Amps whilst the solar rate was still low, but climbing. 

As System 2 is limited to 10A grid charge input, this will not go higher than 10A from the grid supply as to not overcharge the PylonTechs.

That energy would have been wasted otherwise, however, I am able to store it in the second battery bank.

 

 

image.thumb.png.53f20b3afc187e3f8e5e7d2609d8f562.png

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1 hour ago, 87 Dream said:

Great setup Sass. What makes your system really good is that you still find a safe & longterm use for the Lead Acids. However, it's quite a complex setup that most people would avoid. You basically have two independent systems. In a parallel Axpert setup you can achieve the same results.

However, you cannot mix the Acid & Lithium Batteries except if you had a DC Changeover switch. Great way to at least keep the Lead Acid batteries providing energy storage. 

Very interesting setup. Thank you for sharing 🤓🤓

87

Thank you.

It is an interesting way to harvest energy which I don't think many people use.

With parallel inverters I would not be able to do this. At the moment I am loading the bejeezus out of the system to test & see to where it can be pushed. Washing mashine and dryer running together with the rest of the household demand, and even still getting good energy into the nightly system. Right now I am checking cables to see if these are overheating and all, and nothing.

 

Interestingly the 6 PylonTech batteries are rapidly filling up. By 13h00 all systems will be fully charged up. This means there are still scope to get even more from the system.

I really think this is not bad for a coldish winter day in the Cape. Here's the present situation

image.thumb.png.84242096fa73d820a3ca0864112e66aa.png

image.thumb.png.d1875cb482175a313feaf2f084be16ad.png  

image.thumb.png.4173c9b622056f657ae4431f12333283.png

Edited by Sass
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And just before 13h00 the 6 PylonTech batteries are fully charged.

image_2021-07-05_125857.thumb.png.fcc23ab2e3e4980276399256f84c6f07.png

Whilst at the same time the 12 AGM batteries are also literally full and still supplying household demand.

image.thumb.png.37682fd6a93d5950315400f6a5e168a9.png

The result of this is that I am getting the most out of my system, with minimal effort and with a lot of overhead to spare.

Here I show some of the images of my installation.

When I took these it was still a bit of a dog's breakfast. I have since cleaned up the roof cables and trunked them. I need to make space for the inverter installation and clean this up properly too. The Arduino units are installed in a box behind the Victron battery balancers. Not happy with the external cabling, and need to work on those. That's next on the list.

The PylonTechs are in a steel cabinet with removable panels that I built myself. It is on castors to enable me to move it around.

The different solar panel orientation can be seen from these photos.

PV5.thumb.jpg.80eca283989275e69b577e422526ee36.jpgPV4.thumb.jpg.3a3466fb63cadc53f09733d885dbe846.jpgPV3.thumb.jpg.70fc2da0f58f18d2cc80c84fdb8d1de0.jpgPV2.thumb.jpg.5185e0e4454ee9cd77edc88f1ae7d898.jpgPV1.thumb.jpg.4a858b814ae34ad12109b591a233da1c.jpg

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@SassI also use my old Lead Crystal batteries as a extra source off power. Main inverter on Pylontech batteries. The second inverter is not connected to Solar panels. When we need extra power we switch on the 2nd inverter witch has its own plugs. If the Pylontech of the main system are fully charged we charge the Lead Crystal batteries for the next time we need them. Running like this for 2 years. Use ICC to know when the Pylontechs are full and then switch on the charging for the Lead Crystals with Sonof Wi Fi. 

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Hi Chris

Much the same way as I do, except I do believe that this way I am extending the life of both battery banks as the DoD is a lot less than it would otherwise be.

What I love about this is the fact that it's automated. Hence there is not a lot of input needed from my side.

An added advantage is the UPS that allows switchovers without any detectable impact to the supply.

And yes, the extra panels oriented differently also exposes my system to longer solar hours.

 

Regards

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23 hours ago, 87 Dream said:

Hi 87 Dream

Thank you. My aim is to at least get the minimum 5 years out of the Lead Acids before I migrate to more PylonTechs. Hopefully the pricing trend of reduction will make this cheaper. Also, my philosophy is I have them, so I use them.

What I would say is that if your batteries get full by just past midday then why not load your geyser onto the supply that charges the Pylontechs. You can use a Smart WiFi breaker to switch to warm your geyser when the batteries are fully charged. The good thing about the addition of this switch is that even if you go on vacation or are out with the family & your load demand is low, you can turn the geyser ON to use the available energy in the panels.

Ironically I don't make use of geysers. One of the first things I did after my energy audit was to install 3 gas water heaters. Therefore the geysers are white elephants simply sitting in the roof at the moment. I have found decent plans to build solar water panels and aim to build those at some time or another, connect them to the geysers with 12V recirculation pumps to enable me to configure the water system to use the geysers, which will become mere collectors, to supply the house before switching to gas. That'll save on my gas bill.

This is the biggest misconception in solar energy. You can have 8000W of solar panels on your roof & a big enough 8kW inverter of your choice, however, if this is hooked up to a system that only demands 500W at the times on the loads guess what the solar Production for the day is? 500w multiplied by total time the 500w was demanded. 

I agree with you re the misconception in solar energy. However, living in the Cape I have a different approach, hence building my system as it is now. We have winters with low sun hours and no good generation at times, therefore I prefer excess backup storage to overworking the batteries.

If however, you can dynamically control the load demand then we have a very efficient system. These breakers are available as the CBI Astute switch or the TOMZN Smart WiFi switch. They work the same way & can be dynamically controlled. They can also be integrated into Home Assistant & Alexa. 

I will take a look at the switches you are talking about and study their uses. This might be an interesting option too.

 

Awesome setup again 🤯😱🤯

87

Thanks a lot for the kind words!

 

Edited by Sass
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20 hours ago, Chris Louw said:

The reason for my setup is also to get maximum battery life out of the batteries. If 1 off the 12 volt batteries fail, I use the rest in lower voltage inverter until they are of no use. 

Well that is a sensible approach. My issue is if lead acid batteries are pushed hard it might be a while before we see the failure approaching.
I lost batteries like this before too. Sicne I have opened the AGM batteries and check the electrolyte level frequently. I also do an independent load test on them all.

I have some spare batteries for if this happen.

 

 

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I try not to discharge lead batteries below 70 SOC. Use ballencers and checked them regularly. They then last a few years depending of the quality of the battery. I have found that the maintenance free batteries of cars run low on electrolyte after 3 years. Their life can be extended by opening them and correcting the electrolyte levels. Thanks for lithium batteries they make life less complicated. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Morning all

As most of you will know we have had severe weather in Cape Town for a good few weeks now.

Furthermore, it's the time of the year with the lowest number of daytime useable sunshine and the PV yield has been at it's lowest. These factors in combination has led to more strain on my system and I have made some observations which I share here. Some of these are quite interesting.

 

1. The worst conditions allowed only a 16% recovery of the SoC of the PylonTech batteries.

2. The ability to re-charge has been diminished. yet the lowest SoC I recorded in this time on the PylonTechs were 59%. (Note that our domestic household requirement at night far exceeds the daytime requirement.)

3. The AGM batteries were only used during the day for maximum of 27% of the time, including time to recharge. This obviously was determined mostly by the load for that day.

4. The older 72 cell JA Solar 330W 72 cell Polycrystalene panels actually outperforms the newer Canadian Solar 340W 120 cell Polycrystalene cell panels on cloudy days. This I found most interesting as the JA solar panels as described faces properly north, whilst the Canadian Solar panels faces north west. In theory the Canadian Solar panels which are 340W and gets their sunlight at times when the UV index is much higher. Perhaps the azimuth angle of the Canadian Solar panels has something to do with this as the angle is a little shallower than the JA Solar panels, which are adjusted for the correct 90degree angle to the sun 4 times a year. Yet this really makse no sense to me as the light intensity is the same during times like these, regardless of the panel orientation.

The JA Solar panels nevertheless provided at most inclement times up to 14% more watts as the Canadian Solar panels.

5, The Raspberry Pi4 driven ICC software at times behaved below expectations and there is a definite flaw in the software, or the PylonTech BMS reporting software, as the ICC at times reports less batteries, currently only 2, whereas I have 6 of these. Sometimes restarting the batteries an the ICC software will rectify this, other times it won't. I am unable to explain this. Perhaps Manie can add some explanation. (I did mail him before asking for an explanation but have not had his reply.)

My observation brings me to conclude that the decision to split the installation into two seperate but very similar systems was indeed the best route to follow.

I was also interested by the fact that the AGM batteries rarely ran below a S0C of 47.1V. These were always full or near full when changeover occurred during the early mornings, which is currently monitored at around 09h20.

I hope this helps anyone considering to expand their PV system as a truly feasible option to parallel inverters. 

Please note I shied away from considering a parallel system due to the number of inverter card failures I have read over the years. Even if the changeover was not automated with my custom system, a manual changeover would be a very simple operation.

 

Bye bye, ESCOM.

Thank you.

 

 

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On 2021/07/05 at 1:56 PM, 87 Dream said:

Wow Sass, very very cool setup indeed 😎😎 I don't think there is anyone using such a system. Many people look to offload old Lead Acids & get into the lithium market. Once they are there they just either bin the dead Lead Acids or if they in decent shape sell them off. You have found a great second Life out of these.

What I would say is that if your batteries get full by just past midday then why not load your geyser onto the supply that charges the Pylontechs. You can use a Smart WiFi breaker to switch to warm your geyser when the batteries are fully charged. The good thing about the addition of this switch is that even if you go on vacation or are out with the family & your load demand is low, you can turn the geyser ON to use the available energy in the panels.

87

Hi there and thank you.

Note that I replace all 3 my geysers with gas water heaters and the stove and oven before I inven went PV therefore I am not much concerned with that kind of loads, as it will not happen with me, with one exception

Our water pressure is very weak, hence I have a diaphragm type water pressure pump inline which turno on and off when a lot of water is used, to maintain 6 Bar inside the house.

On the plus side, the maximum load of this pump is around 700W. Considering that it takes around 5 mins to shower there is not really any significant power loss, nor load on the batteries at all. The biggest load we use is around 2.8Kw when the washing machine heats water and we use that during daytime anyway when the AGM's are full as a rule.

Regards

 

 

 

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Hi

After a lovely day of sunshine, for the first time in weeks, I might add, this is what the PylonTech batteries state is at 07h00 today. Running flawlessly through the night. The system rocks!

I was quite anxious of running out of power at times with the inclement weather but we have not been let down. Not once. Thankfully I never had to strain the batteries.

I doubt if I'll ever revert to municipal power after this.

image.thumb.png.44a340b1654559364c5461d9c3b64258.png

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We've got a little 1kw grid-tied system in the southern suburbs. I've connected 3 330w HV panels to our old 3rd hand Sunny Boy inverter. It's there just to help run the pool pump. Anyway I also noticed a significant loss in production during the bout of bad weather we had (20% of the norm).

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10 hours ago, WJP said:

We've got a little 1kw grid-tied system in the southern suburbs. I've connected 3 330w HV panels to our old 3rd hand Sunny Boy inverter. It's there just to help run the pool pump. Anyway I also noticed a significant loss in production during the bout of bad weather we had (20% of the norm).

Hi

Being in Helderberg myself we've faced the wrath of inclement weather over the last weeks. I'd say 20% degregation is not bad.

My pool is inside the house and spared from the scourge of atmospheric pollution therefore I rarely needed to run the pump, though it is used frequently in summer as the pool area being under a polycarb roof tends to get hotter than the rest of the house. I also notice that our chemical consumption which is nil in the winter, increases dramatically in summer. That's a definite drawback, but it's better to keep the Ph proper rather than the effort of getting rid of excess algae.

A saltwater chlorinator is really on my checklist at the moment.

Regards

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I did not explain myself well enough. I saw an 80% reduction of the PV output. I've got 8 thermal panels to heat the pool that I'm going to install in the next two weeks. I forsee PVC weld and sticky fingers in my future. I'll lay them on the flat roof of the garage. We've had the pool for 25 years, most of it with a saltwater chlorinator. It makes it much easier to maintain. Pretty much always blue. I think it's worth it.

Edited by WJP
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On 2021/08/02 at 6:13 PM, WJP said:

I did not explain myself well enough. I saw an 80% reduction of the PV output. I've got 8 thermal panels to heat the pool that I'm going to install in the next two weeks. I forsee PVC weld and sticky fingers in my future. I'll lay them on the flat roof of the garage. We've had the pool for 25 years, most of it with a saltwater chlorinator. It makes it much easier to maintain. Pretty much always blue. I think it's worth it.

With ours inside there is no reason to heat it. However I miss the saltwater chlorinator our other pool had. That water is much more pleasant to swim with literally a 25Kg bag of salt twice a year. 

In Gauteng I had heated pools. Those on the other hand, cost me a lot in chemicals. I think your setup is ideal.

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Good morning. 

This gives a good illustration how my system charge rate of the PylonTech batteries is boosted when the AGM battery system is full, and excess amps are routed to the second inverter, presently charging the PylonTech batteries through PV and domestic grid.

The AGM battery system is presently also supplying the domestic grid and the SoC of this system hovers in the region where I am most satisfied, without load on the batteries themselves.

Note the battery charging graph, and the jump in charging amps shows how the rate jumps higher and plateau at the new increased charging rate.

Firstly, the SoC of the AGM battery system. (At a later stage I will invest in a better battery management system, though the Victron battery monitor shows identical values.)

image.thumb.png.31523528151555834a1cb14ee0fa7768.png

Secondly the SoC of the PylonTech battery system.

image.thumb.png.6fcec247744d53236e0b92d6b46750d1.png

 

 

Note the battery charging graph, and the bump in amps shows how the rate jumps higher and plateau at the new increased charging rate.

Finally, the graphs indicating the boosted amperage and battery temperatures. Note that battery temperatures are in no way problematic

image.thumb.png.bdb97e2f6ae90ff6b7a1478b6f5cf057.png

image.thumb.png.74b60432e6d9b3d26fa9307e8feb5554.png

The temperatures are well within expected ranges, and remains quite low, thus the system is operating well within expected safe parameters and nowhere will these affect the expected lifespan, nor lead to degregation of any of the components.

I also monitor the wiring temperature frequently using a decent IR thermomenter reader and all of these are cool. 

The system is perfectly safe and acceptable. 

Thank you

image.png

Edited by Sass
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Further to the above, the SoC accelerates nicely. Within a short timespan the 6 PylonTech batteries fill at a very decent rate and I expect a full charge in the next few minutes. After this, the system will first remain as is for a while, allowing the PylonTech batteries to settle through it's built-in BMS, then revert to the PylonTech system and the AGM system will proceed in a float stage, during which domestic loads will be increased through doing daily washing and other tasks, i.e. starting the pool pump.

During this stage no load will be placed on the AGM system nor the inverter powering this, and the time of day allows sufficient PV hours to bring the SoC of the PylonTech batteries to 100% again, before sundown. Note that the loads are managed by chosing what tasks to do and big loads will not be done simultaneously. These tasks are done sequentially.

This leaves the PylonTech battery system at or near 100% as the PV supply once switched to the PylonTech system will supply the grid first, and the batteries will supply the grid second. As there is ample wattage to power the domestic grid at this time, chances are that the PylonTech batteries will not even be required at all.

 

image_2021-08-05_115518.png

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And the moment has arrived that the PylonTech batteries are fully charged. Note the difference. This system is not using any load at present. I have noticed periodical switching to PV which to me indicates that the PylonTech BMS must be requesting a OV supply load every few minutes to ensure the batteries are charged evenly.

Upon switching to zero load the system goes into sleep state and thus the Arduino will do the switchover from AGM to this system to supply the domestic grid.

 

image_2021-08-05_120816.png

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This is the effect on the AGM battery system. 

Now this system is used to supply the grid only and as the demand has dropped, the PV supply will supply only enough watts to maintain float and domestic grid requirement.

 

 

image_2021-08-05_121218.png

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Time has come and changeover has occurred.

Larger domestic loads are allowed and thus is driven by the PylonTech battery system inverter without discharging the PylonTech batteries. 

The AGM battery system will float and keep the batteries full. Variations between battery SoC will be corrected through the Victron battery balancers and eventually little or no PV demand is required.

This state will exist until the domestic loads are reduced during daytime hours, and the fact that the PylonTech battery system is supplied through PV panels with a more suitable orientation for this time, there will be ample watts to drive all household demand, including the increased loads depending on the requirement.

 

SoC.jpg

Edited by Sass
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Well done! I think for using two totally different batteries this is the only choice.

I started from zero and opted for Li Iron Ph batteries. First with one Axpert MKS 5 5kW inverter. We do electric cooking and have an electric geyser. I started with 9 335 W canadien pannels and 9.8 kWh (200 Ah, 48 V) batteries. Now I upgraded to two MKS 5 in parallel since the cook sometimes managed to overload the inverter. Now with a total of 10 kW max power it wont happen anymore. Also due to power sharing each unit caries less load, less stress - I hope to extend their lifetime. And if one fails I still got the other one. Another benefit is the total of 20 kVA short circuit power. That insures the rapid breaker tripping in case of a short circuit.

I installed 3 additional panels connected to the second inverter. With WatchPower I can monitor each unit individually and also read the total load as well as total charging current from my office. I also added 4.8 kWh (100 Ah) battery. That not only increases storage capacity but also lowers the stress on the batteries as currents are divided between the 3 units. With PmodbusTool I monitor the batteries individually.

In summer times I sometimes have the batteries charged at mid afternoon. That allows to heat up the geyser additionally that already has 2 m² thermal solar panel. The only drawback is that I cannot have this done automatically. Otherwise everything works well automatically after having found the optimal parameter settings.

PICT1348.thumb.JPG.09d7b71166e0115184162e8439442dfd.JPG

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19 hours ago, Beat said:

Well done! I think for using two totally different batteries this is the only choice.

I started from zero and opted for Li Iron Ph batteries. First with one Axpert MKS 5 5kW inverter. We do electric cooking and have an electric geyser.

Hi Beat.

Note It was never intentionally the plan to use two different types of battery technologies.

In my case I started with the AGM battery system and decided to expand, since I was happy with what was achieved at the time.

Not having any PV experience I learnt as I went along and thus the system developed into this Frankenstein thing. It was not planned, it just sort of happened this way. In time I will invest in more and more Li-Ion batteries, stepping up the system to a point where I achieve the full charge potential of everything. I still waste energy as the PV yield, even in winter, is not fully exploited.

If I may give you some humble advice, I would recommend you seriously consider moving to gas or gas and solar water heating using the geyser as a collector only, with a recirculating pump to constantly cycle colder water from the geyser through the panels. You can google and find some interesting home designs for panels that in my experience really work. Check Youtube for some brilliant videos on the topic.

Also, get rid of that electric stove and go gas.

You should really aim to reduce the load on the battery pack by eliminating those two devices. The amount of load those place on your batteries is huge. The result will no doubt improve the life of your batteries.

I will keep an eye out for changes you make to your system. 

Happy savings!

 

Regards

 

 

Edited by Sass
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