11.18.2019 – Monday
Over the past year a few changes have taken place. The biggest update was the inverter. Back on August 24, 2018 the Ol’ man noticed something that he thought was odd. He couldn’t hear a cooling fan running on the inverter. We examined the inverter. After a bit I pulled up some information and figured out the exact nature of the problem… it was the Ol’ man. The inverter was operating 100% perfectly. The Ol’ man thought that a fan stopped working that should be running continuously.
He saw two fans and neither was running. I discovered that there are three fans total. The continuous fan is on the back of the inverter (against the wall) and cools the circuits. It runs continuously and moves a very small amount of air nearly silently. The other two fans activate at the same time when the unit reaches a certain operating temperature and keep the unit from heating up to greater than 120°F – at which point it would automatically turn off. Phew… we thought for a moment the inverter was starting to fail.
Then on September 20, 2018 at 8:55pm I got a text, “Inverter meltdown, lost power, Xantrex meter not working.” A bunch of warning and fault messages started to show up. We text back and forth a bit trying to reset faults and cycle the inverter on and off in the hopes the issue resolves without further issue. No luck. The Ol’ man ran the generator on bypass mode for the reminder of his visit at the cabin.
I started researching and the Ol’ man started recording data before making a few phone calls. The inverter is no longer supported and we cannot get parts. Here is the data recorded that night:
At this point we were stuck. No parts are available, no one locally could repair it, the manufacturer doesn’t support it, and I’m not even sure if there was a bad part that I could find it. The inverter was visually inspected and my untrained eye could find no obvious signs of failure. Have look.
So we moved to plan B: replace it. The direct replacement to our old Xantrex MS 3000 model is the Xantrex Freedom SW 12V. Here is a quick comparison of the key features and differences.
- series stacking is new
- full output to 104°F (was 122°F)
- 6000 watt surge (was 7500 watt)
- output frequency is 60 Hz +/- 0.2 Hz (was 0.05% or 0.03 Hz)
- battery charger voltage range 5 – 16 Vdc (was 10 – 15.5 Vdc)
- no load power draw 3 Amps (was <20 watts, new one no longer lists search mode as feature)
- max input battery charge 24 A rms (was 22 A rms)
- dead battery charge feature (not on old model)
- transfer time <20 ms (not reported on old model)
- operating range -4°F to 140°F (was -4° to 122°F)
- storage range -40°F to 185°F (was -40° to 122°F)
- size 7.75 x 13.5 x 15.25” (was 8.17 x 13.25 x 16”)
- weight 73.7 lbs (was 70 lbs)
On September 28, 2019 we received the new inverter. The box looked pretty awful. Not surprisingly the inviter inside suffered a fair amount of damage as well. The damaged inverter was installed and put to use until a replacement arrived and we could return the damaged unit.
On October 11, 2019 we finally got everything sorted out I did a cleaner installation and tidied up all the wiring. The replacement inverter arrived with significantly less damage from shipping (there was still some, but it was small and we were tired of hauling around inverters at this point). At this time we also installed a new control panel. Not surprisingly, the old control panel in the cabin no longer worked. It looked identical to the new control panel but the electronics inside were updated. Since all the screw holes and communication ports were unchanged it was a quick swap.
Finally! Back up and running.
Guess what… random blackouts started a month later. On January 17, 2019 we finally found the issue. The battery disconnect switch was faulty. The switch that failed was supposed to be an upgrade to the original switch we installed back in 2009. The original switch would stick sometimes. In cold weather we would turn it to ‘off’ and it would remain on. It would turn on reliably however. In 2014 the switch was upgraded to a heavier switch that had a more substantial click when engaged. The new switch was sealed and three times the cost of the original.
We went back to the original switch but used some thin lubricant to fix the cold weather sticking issue. OK… finally we were back to normal operation. The new switch, below, has worked perfectly and the new inverter has operated without any issues for the last 10 months.
While this was going on I did a quick upgrade to our charging station. Ten years ago when I built the first version in the stairway 12V automative accessory outlets were metal and USB chargers were mostly junk, or phones had proprietary chargers. Jump forward to present day and USB Q.C. 3.0 will do just about everything you want and 12V accessory outlets are going away. I ordered a bunch of parts and started on a redesign.
I built a whole new panel and routed keyholes on the back for mounting. The assembly is all set up for quick upgrades in the future. The keyholes allow the panel to be removed from the wall without tools and the spade connectors allow for a new accessory socket to also be installed without tools.
The outlets are on a power switch so we can eliminate unwanted power draws or simply minimize the amount of devices that are under power when we are away. The modular design also allowed me to test everything in my shop before installing at the cabin.
The installation was simple. As devices move from USB 3.0 toward USB C it is now super easy to upgrade the charging station by unplugging and popping out a 12V accessory socket and putting in a USB C charging socket (when the time comes).
And one more thing. The battery bank. I never got around to running a test. The test will be simple and is now planned for summer 2020. I will fully charge and equalize the batteries before running an air conditioner until 100 Ah have been used (as recorded by the Victron battery monitor). Specific gravity will be recorded after equalizing and after using 100 Ah and will allow me to calculate the remaining real-work capacity in the battery bank.