Summer System Tune Up
Summer Off-Grid Power System Tune Upby Alan Smith
Summer time is here, and now is a good time to take a look at seasonal maintenance of your system; above and beyond the normal attention and care you show your system. Below are some recommendations from Backwoods Solar for your consideration.
Seasonal Angle for Solar Panels
If you have an adjustable rack mount for your solar panels, it is worth tilting them to the ideal angle to properly capture the summer sun. An appropriate angle can make a big difference in the amount of power collected. Stationary mounts are optimized for spring and fall at an angle that is the same as your latitude. Peak summer angle would be latitude minus 15 degrees. Example: Sandpoint, Idaho is at 48 degrees north. Ideal summer angle is 48 - 15 = 33 degrees.
Many system owners will use more aggressive charger controller settings in winter with slightly higher voltages and longer absorb times to take full advantage of any winter time sun. When summer comes around, these higher settings should be reduced to avoid overcharging batteries. Keep a notebook in your power room with these settings written down for your seasonal reference.
With hotter summer temperatures, keep extra distilled water on hand. Also, keeping the battery room at lower temps if possible, with open windows, shading, etc. will provide a healthier environment for battery longevity.
The sun tends to be in abundance during the summer and can mask potential battery issues noticed last winter. Now is a good time to start planning ahead for corrective maintenance or battery bank replacement for older battery sets.
This is a great time to get overdue maintenance/tune-up done on valves, air filter, spark plugs, etc. If the generator uses a starter battery, consider a small 10 or 30 watt panel with a Sunguard charge controller for trickle charging the starter battery; or if available, use the built-in feature of the generator or AGS to exercise the battery for 15 minutes or so once a month. Consider adding fuel stabilizer to the gasoline for gasoline generators.
Regular maintenance of systems includes checking your wiring. Many of the metals in connectors and contacts can compress over time, letting a connection that was previously tight and snug to become loose. Also disassembling the connection points can reveal hidden corrosion that would not be visible otherwise. Powering down the system and going through these simple wiring checks at least once per year can proactively avoid problems that would otherwise grow to be a hazard if left unchecked.