MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Discussion about the MX60 Charge Controller

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MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 11, 2017 12:00 pm

Hello everyone,

As a newbie here, I appreciate all the support given. I've searched many threads but haven't found what I'm looking for, so here goes. I hope this turns out to be a no-brainer!

I installed my own off-grid system back in 2004. The original MX60 was replaced by Outback in 2005 and the fan was replaced early on as well. That 2nd fan on the 2nd CC lasted a few years, but I think we are going on 3+ years now without the fan working. I've assumed responsibility for this because my install was in a barn - a pretty dusty situation. I figured the dust killed it. But I've recently built a floor and walls around the electrical hardware to greatly reduce the dust and I have just ordered a new fan and will see if that helps the problem, which is:

In MPPT bulk mode, even though there is plenty of sun on the PVs, the MX60 is limiting the number of watts to around 150-350. If I do a restart or a force Bulk, for example, like I just did a few minutes ago, it quickly climbed up to about 1300 watts.

I thought maybe I had a short at the PV array or combiner box, but found nothing, and yesterday's high watts reached 1924, which is close to what I'd expect this time of year given my PVs (16 @ 160 W). Oddly, today's high watts says 3410, which is greater than my PVs should be able to produce! But my log shows that the batteries have not reached float state in 23 days now, and I have lost power 3x this week, which has been partially cloudy, but still, it is summer and I have had little experience of reaching low battery state this time of year when the days are so long. The batteries are dropping voltage VERY fast, like within minutes of a cloud blocking the sun, they'll drop from 25.6 to 24.8. Just a month ago they would hold 25 volts all night long with load on them and shorted hours of daylight...

Details:
Batteries are Trojan L16s (4 of them) 2 years old, 420 amp hours
MPPT seems to work for bulk charging for a while, then drops to a level that won't even maintain a bulk or even a float charge.

Since finding the low state of the batteries last week, I recently re-set the MX60 to factory settings, then changed the Amp limit to 65 and the absorb volts to 29.4 and float volts to 27.2, latter two per Trojan.

In the Aux menu, I just today changed the low bat. disconnect to 24.0 volts to see if that would help, but I'm afraid I don't understand enough to mess with it any more than that. (It was set at 28.2 I think?)

Other notes:
misc menu: gt255; state flashes from 7 to 10 to 12 and back; pwm% 32.6 and up; chdt 000

I've never had this problem before. The power in always seemed to match the PVs and time of day/state of batteries. Does the MX60 think the batteries are charged? If so, why would it hold them at about 25 to 26 volts while never reaching bulk charge voltage? Could it be a battery problem? Could the dead fan for years and/or dust cause the MX60 to malfunction or overheat to the point it misreads the wires?

As I said I've just ordered a new fan, is that the next logical step in sorting this out? I've also ordered a hydrometer, as I've always gotten by just by multimeter tests, but it is time to really look at the health of the batteries. Aside from these two items, is there something else I should be looking for?

Any and all ideas welcome! Thank you.
Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:24 pm

You MX may be limiting itself when it gets hot, The new fan and a good clean should help that but the below bothers me more :grin:
Since finding the low state of the batteries last week, I recently re-set the MX60 to factory settings, then changed the Amp limit to 65 and the absorb volts to 29.4 and float volts to 27.2,

Numbers are fine but you do not mention absorb time ? If that has been left at factory default now or before it is WAY to short at 1 hour, 3 to 4 hours would be a better starting place, When you get your hydro, You will be able to tell better, but for now I would go 3 1/2 hours,

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 11, 2017 9:36 pm

Hi Tim, thanks for the quick reply. I normally have kept the absorb time at 2 hours, didn't realize the reset changes that to one. No wonder I got 1 minute of float time today! I'll set it to 3.5 hours tomorrow.

In case this is helpful, here is more info about my system/the array:
16 V Modules are rated at 23.8 V and 6.72 A
I have 4 sets of 4 wired in series for 64 volts (95.2 rated)
These run to an Outback combiner box and from there travel 277 feet to the MX60 via #1/0 copper wire.

Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Sun Jun 11, 2017 10:36 pm

What is the VOC of your modules ? & where in the world are you ? High / low temps ?

Whilst you have what seems plenty of panels ( maybe too much for that battery) 2 hrs would enplane your diminishing performance, Get your hydro and start reading SGs, At a rough guess they will be low and all over the place, Try to read at start and end of charge cycle, Post results on here and we will try to point you in right direction, I suggest you also have a good read through other posts on here (if I find a link to a good one I post or anyone else please do) You are not the first to be "deficit charging" but it does sound like you have caught it in time, So a little work (lots of reading SGs) Should get them back,


Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby ralphday224 on Mon Jun 12, 2017 4:46 am

I had to replace the button board on my MX60 after 8 years of service. At that time the fan was starting to make some un-natural noises too. No way was I going to take it all apart again when it went, so here's what I did (didn't get a replacement fan)

The bottom cover (wiring area cover) I took off and drilled a grid of holes every 1/2 inch vertically and horizontally for air flow. While the button board job was going on I cut off the top of the outer case (drilled holes then wire cutter nipped the material out) Placed and taped a 120v muffin fan on top and draw air through the controller. It's run off a SSrelay on VentFan AUX function. Works great. I re3ally hated the high pitched whine of the internal fan when it would run. Even though I've lost the Aux to one function I have the inverter's AU"X and my Midnite solar 250 Classic's 2 AUX functions to use.

Ralph
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:15 am

Tim, the VOC of the panels is 30.2. And I live where we have great temperature fluctuation much of the year. We can see a 50-degree (F) temperature swing in one day from June to October. Not so drastic the rest of the year. I've never seen it below 9 degrees in the winter, and the norm is around freezing. Summer highs are around 100, highest I've experienced is 116. Thanks for your advice. I'll do as you suggest when I get the hydrometer.

Ralph, thanks for the idea. I'll consider that type of approach after I've first tried the new fan that I ordered. Noise doesn't bug me as it isn't in a living space.

Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:05 pm

Update on my MX60 and batteries (6/18)

Got the hydrometer on 6/14 and tested SG that evening and every one since (results below). As I usually check and add water if needed at the beginning and middle of each month, I also added water right after the 6/14 reading. Only one cell (#3, which not surprisingly had the lowest SG at the time) was starting to have exposed plates, but I added a little to most cells as several others were getting near plates level.

My life is such that testing before the charging day starts is not doable, so I’ve done these at around 8 pm each evening.

MX60 has continued to supply less than half the expected power to the batteries nearly the whole week, and only does so briefly after I’ve done a Force Bulk or EQ charge. Even then, it seems to never hold this for more than an hour--until today. Right now it is in absorbing mode and seems to have been there since I forced it ~2 hours ago. Up until today, the trend was actually decreasing battery voltage during the day, even though we had some clouds early in the week and none the last 3 days...more sun, less power in, and confoundingly, seemingly healthier batteries. Does this make any sense to anyone?

I awoke to no electricity and no power to the VFX this morning. Upon searching for issues, I found one of the nuts on the cable between batteries 1 and 2 was not tight. A few turns of the wrench and the system was up and running again. Phew. I suppose that this has played a role in the nearly 4 weeks now of not reaching absorb state, though I can’t be sure of it because I was tinkering with the batteries last night after the SG reading--trying to level them better (their platform/box has been undermined by ground squirrels and is gently leaning forward). I may have been lifting that battery enough to rotate the nut and loosen it a little, but I don’t think I did. Could a slightly loose cable connection cause the MX to drop input? Maybe this really is the main problem?

But it can’t be the whole problem because the MX still needs me to force bulk or EQ to get battery voltage up to 29. Could that be simple overheating? The fan should arrive next week, so I guess I have to wait for that to know for sure.

As for the batteries, Tim (or others), for how long should I take these daily SG readings before a diagnosis can be made? Time is critical, as we are in full-on fire season (and I live in high fire danger area) and I need to keep the freezer running and the water tanks full. I also would prefer not to continue to give so much time to checking the status and forcing the charging of the batteries daily, as I’m getting behind on other work. But such is the life of an off-gridder!

Thanks,
Brien

SG readings:
Cell 6/14 6/15 6/16 6/17
1 1160 1162 1188 1226
2 1138 1120 1145 1180
3 1115 1135 1195 1205
4 1155 1180 1188 1224
5 1138 1135 1162 1195
6 1130 1113 1125 1137
7 1162 1163 1195 1226
8 1165 1185 1210 1238
9 1160 1170 1214 1228
10 1195 1180 1188 1224
11 1140 1138 1160 1201
12 1162 1177 1220 1236
Last edited by Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Brien near Paskenta
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Sun Jun 18, 2017 7:42 pm

Your loose connection could be a lot of your problems, From looking at your SGs , they are stating to improve slightly but have a VERY long way to go yet & then a good EQ .
The numbers apart from being extremely low are a long way apart also, Try and get as much charge into them as you possibly can untill you are starting to see around 1.260 to 1.270 across most cells at end of charge day and then we look at EQ.

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:36 pm

Thanks for that, Tim. Today's readings showed very good improvement on all cells plus I got over 3 hours of absorb and 55 minutes of float! Loose cable certainly a major factor in the problem so it seems.

Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:55 pm

I would extend your absorb to "all day" untill you get the SGs up, Also what is your absorb voltage ?
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.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:22 pm

29.2, per Trojan.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:45 pm

You could go up to 30v for a a few days, See if you can get SGs up & also a lot closer , It will make EQ a bit easier, (keep close eye on water levels at higher voltage)

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:45 pm

Tim, I did bump the absorb setting to 30 volts this morning, but it seems useless today, as the MX is once again not allowing many watts in. Today's peak so far (and I'm past solar noon) is 941, and the batteries are at 28.2 volts. I don't think the batteries could reach 30 given the trend with the MX. I sure hope the fan arrives soon, as the device is quite warm to the touch.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:52 pm

Do you have an AC source eg generator or grid ? if so may be worth giving the solar "a hand" first thing in morning by running a quick charge from there ?
Other than that, got any type of little fan,, Desktop / clip or anything to blow some cool air on MX for now ? may help a little,

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.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:34 pm

Sorry for the slow reply, Tim. Not a lot of news, but I did install the fan two nights ago and it is working fine. MX not getting so hot. There seems to be some improvement of the MX but with full sunny days we are still not even hitting 1000 W during the day and haven't seen the batteries above 29.2 V. They are holding their charge better at night and the trend is still good, but it is slow going. Right now, across all cells, the post-charge average SG is 1.248.

I do have a generator, but due to the summer heat and the proximity of the power room to my sheep, I'd rather not add hot, smelly air to the space. If I were in a situation where I still couldn't pump water (was able to pump 45 minutes the other day!), I'd be looking at using the generator.

And I have a little fan on my buy list for the next trip to town...probably in two days.

Thanks for all help so far!
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:41 pm

haven't seen the batteries above 29.2 V. They are holding their charge better at night and the trend is still good, but it is slow going. Right now, across all cells, the post-charge average SG is 1.248.


Are you hitting absorb ? if so how many hours are you getting ? are the batteries gassing during charge ? How warm are they ? What are your ambient temps at mo ? (the lower than expected voltage could be down to temp compensation)

1.24 is still low and you are doing your batteries no good at all, possible serious irreparable damage, Sulphation, I would want to see in the 1.27s and not rising, Apologise to the sheep for me :smile: but I would suggest you have a low as possible consumption day then do a gen run in middle (coolest,,, for the sheep :grin: ) of that night followed by an all day of solar, You NEED to get your SGs up as quickly as you can to stop sulphation then do long EQ to try to get rid of some of it,

Tim

To add, The major difference between MX & FMs are the temp ratings, MXs are at 25c (as most manufactures use for everything) FMs 40c, That basically boils down to your MX will start backing off much above 25c (and I suspect from your descriptions, could be pretty dirty inside making it worse) And if you had FM it would be 40c, Maybe worth thinking of an upgrade if you get a lot of high temp ?
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.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:53 pm

Tim,

Thank you for all that. Hitting absorb some, but not for very long. Today when I checked around 1 o'clock sun time, they were absorbing at 29.8, so I suspect that was the temp compensation voltage given the 97 degree F day. I cleaned the MX when I put the new fan in of course, and was surprised at how little dust was in there, but there was some for sure. Is there a way to find out how many minutes of absorb happened in a given day? I know where to find the float time, but haven't seen any way to find absorb time.

I am not smelling any gassing and not hearing much bubbling. Now you have me worried that it is too late for the batteries. I will run generator in early morning, and see if that helps. It is not cooling down here much until middle of the night.

FMs sound like a better match for our ambient temps. If a new charge controller is in order, do you recommend the 60 for my small battery bank? Or is there some reason an 80 would serve me better?

Thanks,
Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:02 pm

Not sure on absorb timers on MX ? Anyone else ?
did you extend absorb to all day anyway?
I am not smelling any gassing and not hearing much bubbling. Now you have me worried that it is too late for the batteries. I will run generator in early morning, and see if that helps. It is not cooling down here much until middle of the night.

Yes, give it some Gen & try to make it coincide with sun up so EG, The gen runs through bulk and just into absorb as you have enough sun on panels so solar can carry on and do a full day of absorb, As for too late for bats, As long as you are getting SG rising (yes it may be slow) That is a good sign :smile:
Tip, you do not have to get up in middle of night to start gen, Set a must run time in mate for that day :smile:

FMs sound like a better match for our ambient temps. If a new charge controller is in order, do you recommend the 60 for my small battery bank? Or is there some reason an 80 would serve me better?
I would go 80, with your temps gives more headroom, not much in price diference and room for expansion,

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:38 pm

Tim, Sorry for the slow reply. Had some ups and downs with the generator (worked fine the first day, then wouldn't run the next two, then worked fine again...another technical problem to solve!!!) and wanted to get more SG readings made before posting.

On the first day I used the generator, I hit absorb for 3 hours. Yesterday, also with generator in morning, I came close to three hours. I have the CC set to absorb for 4 hours so not understanding why it goes to float after 3. Today, with generator for only about 1 hour, we were into absorb by late-morning. Around mid-day, I checked on things and the batteries were bubbling nicely and while in absorb the power in was 94 V @ 4 amps. I checked a couple hours later and in float mode the power in was now 100 V @ 1.9 amps.

The fan is still working nicely and the MX is no longer hot to the touch.

Last nights SGs were the best yet: average of 1.261 of all cells, the range being 1.244 to 1.277. Eight of the 12 were in the 1.261-1.269 range, two were below (both on the same battery--the one that had the loose cable), and two were above 1.27. Most of this seems good, but there is one big problem. When I flip on the pump or vacuum at solar noon, the CC does not increase power in and the batteries quickly drop to 25 V or less. A sweep while pump running yielded no improvement in the watts in, returning to the MPPT value of about 500 W that was holding the batteries at the absorb voltage. In the old days, it would have shot up to over 1500 W when I turned on the pump.

If I have a bad battery, (which seems likely, right?) would that keep the CC from sending more power to them?

Actually, the battery with the poor readings is still improving daily, just more slowly than the others. So maybe it isn't a goner yet. So next question: if the batteries are okay, is it likely the MX was abused too long (too much heat without fan) and it is malfunctioning? At this point, I'm on the verge of ordering an FM80, but would like a little more input on these two questions before I take the plunge.

Thanks, Tim, and anyone else who wants to jump in.
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:40 pm

SGs Sound like they are going in the right direction :grin: As for absorb time, You want as much as you can get at the moment & not sure why it stopped early ? But to make sure you get as much as you can, Set the float voltage to same as absorb,

Actually, the battery with the poor readings is still improving daily, just more slowly than the others. So maybe it isn't a goner yet. So next question: if the batteries are okay, is it likely the MX was abused too long (too much heat without fan) and it is malfunctioning? At this point, I'm on the verge of ordering an FM80, but would like a little more input on these two questions before I take the plunge.


Yes it will be slow doing it "this way", The longer the absorb you can get in them, the quicker it would be, ( If it was not for your temps and animals, I would be suggesting a lot longer gen run time over a few days) But the point is they are rising, So improving :grin:

MX, I can not honestly say, It could possibly have lost one of its FETs, But I do not know if that would give symptoms you describe,
I would go for the FM 80 and send off the 60 for service/test and repair, Then either keep it as a back up or ebay it ?

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:01 pm

Tim, Thank you. Excellent suggestions on float voltage and on getting MX serviced, then having as backup or selling! I will order the FM80 tomorrow.

Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:59 pm

An afterthought, I do not know if OB still do the MX replacement boards ? If you are handy enough with basic tools & cost dependent inc postage, may be worth getting replacement board thrown in the same box as your new FM ?

Tim
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:46 am

I'll ask about that, thanks again, Tim!
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby Brien near Paskenta on Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:00 pm

Tim and anyone else reading this thread:

The problem is solved and it isn't the MX! I made the mistake of trusting that since the PV wiring was intact and no breakers had been thrown, and the PVs only range in age from 7 to 13 years, that the problem surely couldn't be them. Wrong! I paid the local solar professionals to come inspect them as one last test before proceeding with the purchase of the FM80. Turns out BP Solar made lousy panels and I bought at least 4 of them, though due to the fact they have started fires, I've opted to return all 12 that I bought. I'm about to file my claim online and it should more than cover the cost of the new PVs, which are up and running and the MX is operating just fine!

So thanks Tim for all the thought and input. I learned a lot through you and will continue to monitor SG of the battery bank from now on. I also plan to keep the Float at 30 V until all cells are holding around 1.26 to 1.27, then I'll do an EQ. If for some reason this seems like a bad idea now that the system is working as it should again, please let me know.

Thanks all!

Brien
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Re: MX60 overheating? malfuntioning?

Postby blackswan555 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:36 pm

Happy you found that !!! :grin:

30v is a bit high, but if you are not seeing "too much" at the moment due to your panels, Keep a very close eye on battery water levels and it should be fine, It will also help with your final EQ stage as it is just borderline EQ voltage so will be doing a "mini" EQ every time it gets there for a while :smile:

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.
blackswan555
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 2536
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:50 am
Location: Ibiza Spain,
My RE system: Other peoples, VFX "E" versions, FLA`s, Generators.


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