Trying to help a mate

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Farmer Jim
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Trying to help a mate

Post by Farmer Jim » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:35 am

Hello everyone and greetings from Down Under!
I'm trying to help a mate out. He is having an issue with his offgrid Outback system. There is a red blinking light on his inverter and he claims that hist system has started shutting down around 4am every morning forcing him to hook up the generator to give the batteries a boost. Unfortunately my mate doesn't have an Outback Mate unit so not sure if we can figure out why the red light is blinking and if it indeed has anything to do with him running out of juice early in the morning...

There are also a few other issues I have spotted when examining his system. The readout on his Flexmax 80 only indicates around 1-2 amps coming in from the roof and it was quite sunny outside and I found this to seem low. See below
outback main menu scr.jpg
Outback Main Menu Screen
Also, when flicking through his End of Day logs, I spotted that the Min Voltage seemed quite low - around 15-16V (it is a 24 V system) - is this normal? See below
outback log menu.jpg

His system specs (as far as I can ascertain):

System Voltage: 24V
9 x 230 or 240 W 24 V panels wired in series in two strings 5 + 4 producing a maximum of 120V (not sure how many amps the panels are rated at)
Outback Flexmax 80
Outback Inverter
12 x Raylite 2V cells MTL25P 1010A/H

The obvious reaction would be that his system may be under dimensioned and that it simply runs out of steam around 4 am in the morning forcing him to use the generator but he claims it has worked well until they experienced a violent thunderstorm a while ago. While his dwelling or system was not directly hit, the lightning hot some nearby gum trees and did a lot of damage.

Would really appreciate some feedback on this dilemma as I'm a total newbie on Outback but keen to learn and I'm planning on installing my own offgrid Outback system in the next 12 months.

Thanks.
Jim

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Kurt Lundquist
Alpha Energy Engineering
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 7:23 am
My RE system: VFX3524, Mate3, 200Ah 24V AGM Battery Bank
Location: Arlington, WA

Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Kurt Lundquist » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:45 pm

How old are the batteries? It seems like the battery capacity is reduced from the original 24kWh bank because the second image is showing ~4kWh charging the battery bank from pretty much empty to full. Check around for loose and or corroded connections. Don't forget to check inside the wiring compartment of the charge controller as well. If the battery bank is flooded check the specific gravities of all the cells. It might be time for an EQ cycle.

Red Blinking light means the inverter is sending a warning. If it only happens when the generator is running it is probably due to AC voltage or frequency from the gen. If it is happening while the gen is off it probably means either the inverter internal temp sensor or the internal fan are not working. If you know someone else with a Mate that you can borrow you can plug it into your friend's system to confirm on the warning message.

-Kurt
Kurt Lundquist
Renewable Energy Project Engineer
http://alphaenergy.us/

petertearai
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My RE system: 2220 watt pv, fm80, outback fxr 2000 watt inverter. Shoto 12 times 2 volt exc400 lead carbon batterys 24 volt system victron battery moniter. optics RE
Location: NewZealand North Island

Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by petertearai » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:32 pm

yep i would suspect batterys.
I note that you have 9 panels in series parallel . that i think is asking for trouble , one string will be a significant voltage difference to the other .
4 kw for the day indeed seems light .. to test what it can output at max ... switch on a heat gun or electric heater , midday sun . what is the amps/ watts when doing that?
2220 pv. fm80. 12 times 2 volt exc shoto lead carbon 450 AH 24 volts. victron battery monitor. outback fxr 2000 watt inverter

blackswan555
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My RE system: Other peoples, VFX "E" versions, FLA`s, Generators.
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by blackswan555 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:34 am

A quick google says they are FLAs ? So you need to get a hydrometer to check SGs for a real state of battery charge,
Looking at your lower picture you are only getting 1 hr of absorb, Which I suspect is because system has been left at default settings ? That would mean you are only getting one hour of absorb from either solar or gen running, It needs to be more like 4 hrs and the voltage up a little from defaults, Refer to battery manual for correct settings, (You can change solar directly on controler, You will need a mate for inverter programming)

Have a good one
Tim
My comments are based on my experience and research, They are not endorsed or checked by Outback.I am an independent British electrician living in Spain, So please take this into account when reading /acting on my post`s.

Farmer Jim
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Farmer Jim » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:57 am

Thank you very much for all your input and suggestions. Will definitely put most of them into action.

The batteries are 5 years old. Will definitely do an EQ cycle as per your suggestion Kurt. The specific gravity was measured at 1270 which is within the parameters supplied by battery manufacturer .

The red light is blinking without a generator connected but my friend finds that he has to run the gennie pretty much every morning to charge the batteries.

My question: If there is an issue with the generator being mismatched to the Inverter, does the red blinking light persist even after the generator has been disconnected?

If so, this could explain the red blinking light as he has to use the gennie pretty much every night and even if we did a complete shutdown and reset of the system, it will obviously come back as soon as he hooks up the generator again...

petertearai - I agree that it is less than ideal to have two mismatched strings of panels on the roof. I will carry out the test you suggested with the heat gun or heater at midday sun. I believe he has an electric boost hot water system hooked into the system though, and that would certainly provide a massive load...

blackswan555 - I think you're on to something here. I'm pretty sure the system has been left at default settings. The numbers just did not make much sense to me. I will definitely look into this a lot closer and adjust the values as per your suggestions. I will also attempt at getting directions from battery supplier as to the best values.

I believe we may have two separate issues here - the red blinking light and the fact that he runs out of juice in the early morning and they may or may not be related to each other.

Thank you very much gentlemen. Your feedback and suggestions are extremely appreciated!

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Kurt Lundquist
Alpha Energy Engineering
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 7:23 am
My RE system: VFX3524, Mate3, 200Ah 24V AGM Battery Bank
Location: Arlington, WA

Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Kurt Lundquist » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:58 am

Hi Jim,
Farmer Jim wrote:My question: If there is an issue with the generator being mismatched to the Inverter, does the red blinking light persist even after the generator has been disconnected?
Short answer is no.

Per the red light the following are the warning messages. The last two are the only messages that you will see when the generator is not running. To check if it is the fan you can power cycle the inverter. When the inverter turns the fan will cycle for ~10 seconds. If you hear the fan running the problem is probably the temp sensor fault.

AC IN FREQUENCY TOO HIGH
AC IN FREQUENCY TOO LOW
AC IN VOLTAGE TOO HIGH
AC IN VOLTAGE TOO LOW
AC INPUT CURRENT EXCEEDS MAX
TEMPERATURE SENSOR FAULT
INTERNAL FAN FAILURE DETECTED
Kurt Lundquist
Renewable Energy Project Engineer
http://alphaenergy.us/

Farmer Jim
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Farmer Jim » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:07 am

Kurt Lundquist wrote:Hi Jim,
Farmer Jim wrote:My question: If there is an issue with the generator being mismatched to the Inverter, does the red blinking light persist even after the generator has been disconnected?
Short answer is no.

Per the red light the following are the warning messages. The last two are the only messages that you will see when the generator is not running. To check if it is the fan you can power cycle the inverter. When the inverter turns the fan will cycle for ~10 seconds. If you hear the fan running the problem is probably the temp sensor fault.

AC IN FREQUENCY TOO HIGH
AC IN FREQUENCY TOO LOW
AC IN VOLTAGE TOO HIGH
AC IN VOLTAGE TOO LOW
AC INPUT CURRENT EXCEEDS MAX
TEMPERATURE SENSOR FAULT
INTERNAL FAN FAILURE DETECTED
Thanks so much for narrowing it down for us Kurt. We did shut down the system twice and restarted it but never got the inverter fan to start up so we're assuming it is an issue with the fan making the red light blink. This is worrying as we are heading into our summer and it will get very hot in this area. So what are our options now? Can we replace the internal fan ourselves, or do we need to sened the inverter away for service? Does anyone have experience with this?

sparksalot
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by sparksalot » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:30 am

Not terrible to change fan...can you get one there easy enough?

Farmer Jim
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Farmer Jim » Thu Sep 20, 2018 6:24 am

sparksalot wrote:Not terrible to change fan...can you get one there easy enough?
Yeah, I actually found a couple of clips on YouTube on how to do it. Doesn't seem too hard. I also found a mob selling replacement fans in Australia - Mpower. I can get one delivered for just under AUD$100. Seems we're heading for a fan replacement... Wish me luck.

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Kurt Lundquist
Alpha Energy Engineering
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 7:23 am
My RE system: VFX3524, Mate3, 200Ah 24V AGM Battery Bank
Location: Arlington, WA

Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Kurt Lundquist » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:25 am

If the internal temp sensor isn't too expensive you might want to swap that out at the same time. When putting the inverter back together triple check to make sure the case doesn't pinch the ribbon cables.

Cheers,

-Kurt
Kurt Lundquist
Renewable Energy Project Engineer
http://alphaenergy.us/

Farmer Jim
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Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Farmer Jim » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:24 pm

Kurt Lundquist wrote:If the internal temp sensor isn't too expensive you might want to swap that out at the same time. When putting the inverter back together triple check to make sure the case doesn't pinch the ribbon cables.

Cheers,

-Kurt
Thanks Kurt. Great advice and truly appreciated. Swapping the temp sensor at the same tine is a great suggestion. Would you happen to know where it is located? From the videos IÔÇÖve seen, it seems the fan is connected directly to one of the boards... I therefore assumed the temp sensor was mounted on this board. If this is the case, would I have to swap out the entire board?

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Kurt Lundquist
Alpha Energy Engineering
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 7:23 am
My RE system: VFX3524, Mate3, 200Ah 24V AGM Battery Bank
Location: Arlington, WA

Re: Trying to help a mate

Post by Kurt Lundquist » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:53 pm

You shouldn't need to swap the board. On the older FX inverter, I believe both the fan and the temp sensor connect close to the same spot on the FET board. Follow the little green wires going from under the transformer to the board connection. The replacement sensor you will place on top of the transformer and then use a dab of RTV type sealant to secure it in place. There should be a set of instructions to follow.

-Kurt
Kurt Lundquist
Renewable Energy Project Engineer
http://alphaenergy.us/

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