Yes, all OutBack products are battery-based and designed to work with batteries. All OutBack inverters and charge controllers require a DC source at the correct voltage in order to operate as designed.
The most typical renewable energy batteries are deep-cycle flooded lead-acid, absorbed glass mat, or gel-cell technologies. Automotive or "starting" batteries are not considered a good fit as the cell plates are thin and designed for high current, short duration applications. Lithium batteries are sometimes used for special applications and can work with OutBack products as long as the battery management system (BMS) is compatible with OutBack's constant-current/constant-voltage battery charging algorithm.
Both the inverter and charge controller's work by first delivering a constant current charge to the batteries until a target voltage is reached. This is called the "bulk" charging stage. Once the batteries have reached the approximate target voltage, the charger then switches from constant current to a constant voltage mode. This is called the "absorb" mode. During this phase the charger slowly reduces the charging current to maintain a steady charging voltage. The last stage of the charge cycle is called "float". This is when the charger reduces target to a pre-set lower voltage and delivers a "trickle" or "maintenance" charge to keep the batteries at a "full" or "charged" state. OutBack inverters can also enter a "Silent" mode and shut the charger off completely at the end of a charge cycle. This allows the battery voltage to naturally drift down to a preset level at which point the inverter will begin "Float" charging the batteries again. This mode will save small amounts of energy and depending on the technology is sometimes more effective at maintaining a battery. These voltage set-points are battery dependent and are obtained from the battery vendor.
It depends. The FX and Radian inverters both have auxillary ports that can open and close a relay. The OutBack Mate system control and display device also has a feature called "AGS" or "Advanced Generator Start". If the generator is of the "two-wire-start" variety, then yes the FX can close a relay to initiate a start command and open the relay to initiate a stop command. If your generator requires "three-wire" or other advanced setup then a separate auto-generator-start-module is required. It would be best to talk to your generator company for specifics. Setup of the "AGS" feature can be found in the Mate or Mate3 manuals here: http://www.outbackpower.com/downloads/documents/1401103031817mate.pdf and also in the video section of our website: http://www.outbackpower.com/outback-support/videos
The Mate displays the SOC value that is derived from the FLEXnet DC battery monitor. The FLEXnet DC gathers its data from the DC shunts that are installed between the DC loads, sources and batteries that they are connected to. Typical reasons for incorrect SOC readings include mis-wired shunts or wrong programming set-points in the FLEXnet DC setup. Please consult our tech note on proper setup and calibration of the FLEXnet DC here: http://legacy.outbackpower.com/pdf/tech_notes/Technical_Note_FNDC_Battery_Calibrating.pdf
Minimum requirements for an off-grid AC system are: battery bank and inverter(s). Additional items dependent on specific need and geographic location: AC/DC generator, charge controller(s) solar panels, wind turbine, micro-hydro turbine, diversion load, propane appliances. First step is to determine your load profile, power requirements, available renewable resources and available budget. Based on your findings the battery bank, inverter and renewable energy sources can be balanced into the optimum system for your needs. A professional system designer/installer can be a great resource for system sizing and budget pricing. OutBack can help you find a competent installer in your area. Call us at (360) 435-6030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A charge controller can go to "sleep" for a variety of reasons: Insufficient solar radiation, PV voltage lower than battery voltage or the controller has failed. A good first step is to look at the main screen and verify that the "IN" voltage is higher than the "OUT" voltage. If so, verify that there is enough power available for the controller to operate. If the sky is severely overcast and/or the array is too small, then the controller will not be able to gather enough energy to operate. This typically happens in early morning or late afternoon times. If you still have questions or concerns, feel free to email or call the OutBack tech support team: (360) 618-4363 or email@example.com for assistance.
If you suspect that your inverter is not working, there are several easy troubleshooting steps to verify this. Check to see that the correct DC voltage is present on the black and red DC input terminals of the inverter. If the correct DC voltage is present then verify that there is no AC output from the AC output terminals of the inverter. If not then check to see if there are any illuminated green, yellow or red indicator lights (Not applicable on the Radian). Last step is to try cycling the DC input breakers on the inverter. If there is still no power up, then call our tech support team at: (360) 618-4363 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
First step is to verify that the AC input breaker is closed. A quick glance at the Mate should show a yellow illuminated LED above the "AC Input" button. You can also confirm that AC power is present by measuring directly on the AC Input terminals of the inverter. If power is present on the AC input then verify what mode the inverter is in. This can be done under status/FX/meter on a Mate or by pressing the inverter icon on the Mate3. The Mate should show that the inverter is in a charging mode like bulk, absorb or float. If it says "Silent" then that means the inverter has completed a charge cycle and has deliberately shut off its charger. To force a bulk charge and verify that the charger is working there are several options. One method that works with the off-grid inverters is to simply cycle the AC Input breaker. Once the FX reconnects it should reinitiate a full charge cycle. If the inverter is grid-interactive then the easiest way is to press the charger menu on the Mate3 and start a bulk cycle or press the "AC IN" button on the Mate until the Force Bulk menu is present.
The quantity and configuration of solar panels depends on several factors: Battery voltage, panel specifications and geographic location. Sizing of a system is not that difficult if certain parameters are understood and factored into the configuration. Many people use a "string-sizing program". OutBack has such a tool available on our website at String Sizing Tool.
First verify that either the charge controller is in EQ mode and is charging or the inverter is in EQ mode and an AC source is present. If this is correct next verify that the inverter or charge controller is still charging the batteries and that the programmed target EQ voltage is correct. The most typical reason for not reaching the EQ voltage is an insufficient charging source. If the PV charging source is too small in relation to the size of the battery bank then it will be unable to bring the batteries up to the EQ voltage during daylight hours. Also, if an AC generator is too small in proportion to the size of the battery bank, the charging of the battery to the target EQ voltage may not be possible. Additionally, if the generator is also passing through its power to the loads, then there may be insufficient energy left over to charge the batteries. The second most common reason that a battery bank will not reach EQ voltage is that there is one or more shorted cells in the battery bank. A shorted cell will show a collapsed voltage that is dispropotionally lower than the others. If the bad battery cell is connected in series with other good cells, it will drag the entire series voltage down.
The FLEXnet DC is a powerful device that can provide another level of DC system information. It also can give you the capability of terminating a charge cycle based on return-current into the batteries and start/stop a generator using state-of-charge. However, setup of the device must be done correctly in order to derive correct data. There are several excellent resources for programming of the FN-DC. The first is the programming guide and the second is a tech note on the subject:
GFDI stands for Ground Fault Detect Interrupt. The OutBack GFDI breaker assembly is designed to accomplish two tasks: 1. Protect the charge controller output conductors from an overcurrent condition. 2. Detect and interrupt any ground faults that are greater than 500mA between the PV conductors and ground. The first step is to determine whether a ground fault or overcurrent condition is occurring. If the GFDI breaker trips during peak operation (typically around noon) and the output current is greater than 80 amps, it is likely that the breaker is simply tripping due to charging current > 80 amps. For troubleshooting purposes an appropriately sized conductor could be temporarily installed in parallel with the GFDI at the DC negative and ground terminals. This parallel path bypasses the GFDI thereby defeating its operation. If the breaker still trips, then the fault is overcurrent on the breaker. If the breaker stops tripping when the GFDI is bypassed then there is most likely a ground fault in the PV wiring.
The OutBack GFX and Radian inverters sell power from the battery bank by "selling" the battery voltage down to a target set-point. This setting is called the "SELLRE" setpoint. Additionally the inverter will not begin to sell until two requirements have been met: The batteries have gone through a complete charge cycle and the AC input has been connected for 300 seconds. If both of those conditions have been met, you should next verify through the Mate or Mate3 that the selected AC Input type is "Grid". If a generator is selected as the input source then the inverter will not sell. If the AC input voltage or frequency is too high/low, the inverter will not sell. If the utility voltage is too high sometimes changing the grid-tie authority from IEEE to USER will allow the inverter to sell. This should only be done if receiving permission from your local authority having jurisdiction. Also, if there is a FLEXnet DC installed in your system and the Advanced Grid Tie mode is enabled it will force the inverter to not sell until the battery bank has reached the programmed FLEXnet DC charge parameters. Please see the Mate manual for details of this function.
Stacking is the nomenclature used to describe the synchronization and phasing of the AC waveform between OutBack inverters. Stacking is necessary and is dependent on your AC source and incoming AC power configuration. There are several ways that OutBack inverters can be stacked:
Parallel - This ensures that each inverter's sinewave is in-phase with each other.
Classic or OutBack-Stack - These choices create a 180 degree phase shift between the inverters and are only used with grid sources that use a neutral and two hot conductors. Most common example is the 120/240 distribution system used within North America. This is sometimes referred to as "split-phase" or "mid-point neutral".
Three-phase - This stacking type allows each inverter to keep 120 degrees of separation between each of the three phases and is typical in commercial buildings or high power applications.
It depends on your AC source and the available options for each product. If you have a single inverter then adjusting the stacking setting is not necessary. However, if you have two or more inverters than some type of stacking set-point will have to be chosen and programmed. The operation and programming manual included with your inverter(s) will detail the various options for stacking and can guide you to the correct choice. If you still have questions, feel free to call or email technical support at: (360) 618-4363 or email@example.com
Contrary to popular belief breakers and fuses are not designed to protect a device but rather to protect the conductor that they are connected to. Therefore, it is important to size the breakers and wires so that the breaker will trip and open before the conductor(s) overheat. Wire and breaker sizing should be done by a qualified professional. In order to size breakers and wires, the first step should be to determine the appropriate wire size for the installation and load carrying requirements. Another factor to wire sizing is to ensure that the voltage drop on the conductors is within an acceptable range. Depending on the type of application a conductor voltage drop from 1% to 5% can be deemed a suitable match. There are various reference tables and online tools that can be used for sizing of both the conductor and breaker. All OutBack pre-wired systems and wiring kits have breakers that are correctly paired to the appropriate size of wire. All wiring external to the OutBack system will have to be factored carefully for safety and maximum system performance.
OutBack produces many flavors of inverter. Everything from a 1.3kVA unit and all the way to a 10-stack of 8 kVA inverters connected for 80kVA of power. The first step in choosing an inverter system is to determine what your requirements are. There are many types of applications but four main categories: backup, grid-interactive, off-grid and mobile. Back-up type applications are designed to backup the utility grid power only. This takes the place of a generator and can act in a UPS-like fashion with transfer speeds less than 16mS. Grid-Interactive applications provide the same benefits as Back-Up; however, they have the added capability of "selling" or exporting energy back into the local utility grid. This is typically done using a renewable source like: solar, wind, water or even biomass. Off-Grid is relatively self explanatory and allows you to create your own utility grid when none is available. This can be accomplished with just an inverter and battery bank, but usually includes a generator and maybe solar, wind or water to help recharge the batteries. Mobile is the fourth category and is very similar to the Off-Grid or Back-Up applications. It allows you to take the grid power with you on a trailer, boat or RV. If you are unsure of what your system needs are we can help point you in the right direction. Give us a call at (360) 435-6030 and ask for sales or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a great question and very common. There are many factors to be used when designing a system. Considerations have to be made for: application, budget, location and load requirements. The first step is to decide on your application. The four main applications are: Back-up, Grid-Interactive, Off-Grid and Mobile. Once you have determined that, the next step is to determine what your requirements are. This includes: load requirements, inverter and type, battery bank size and technology and accessories like generators, charge controllers, wind turbines and solar panels. There are many experienced individuals in the renewable energy industry that make a living by designing and installing such systems. We can help point you in the right direction. Give us a call at (360) 435-6030 or email us at email@example.com.
Batteries are a very important part of an OutBack system because they are at the heart and integral to the system's operation. Depending on battery technology the maintenance schedule will vary. FLA or flooded-lead-acid batteries require distilled water to be added at intervals. They also vent hydrogen gas when charging above certain voltages and this requires some kind of venting measure. Absorbed glass mat or gell-cell batteries have special vents installed that ensure the release of pressure and gas during a charging cycle, but are not designed for active maintenance such as adding water. Because of this inherent design, AGM and gell-cell batteries require less maintenance than a flooded-lead-acid battery. All batteries should be installed in temperature stable and clean environments if possible. Covering the exposed battery terminals with an insulative rubber coating like liquid electrical tape can help reduce corrision. Also, keeping the battery tops and terminals clean from build up of electrolyte and dirt on the case is prudent as well. If possible, verifying that the battery terminals are torqued to the specified amount. This is more critical in a mobile application that has the potential for vibration. Last but not least the three most common causes o f early battery failure are repetitive over-discharging, repetive under-charging or not charging at all. Batteries self-discharge on a continuous basis and must be charged regularly.
A breaker is designed to open when a certain amount of current for a certain amount of time passes through it. Every breaker is rated to carry a certain amount of current and has a specified trip curve that plots current versus time. Although it does happen, a breaker failure is very rare. The more likely cause is from excessive current through that breaker. If a breaker immediately trips and when reset instantly trips again, there is most likely a direct electrical short. At that time a qualified professional should be involved to ensure safety and proper repair of the short. If a breaker trips occasionally or during certain events then it could be caused be excessive current. This could be anything like too much current through a charge controller when peak sun conditions occur to someone turning on too many household appliances that are on a common circuit.
This is a common question with folks looking to install a grid-interactive inverter, but want a small and low cost battery bank. There is no one right answer, but there are some good guidelines to follow.
DO NOT: use starting or automotive batteries. These will quickly fail and will bring down system operating efficiency through their internal charging losses.
DO: use a deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries have thicker cell plates and are designed for longer life.
DO: use a minimum of 100 amp-hour batteries per 4kw of grid-interactive inverter. For example a GFVX3648 should have no less than four, 100aH deep cycle batteries. A GS8048 should have no less than four, 200aH deep cycle batteries.
Because the inverter actually sells from the DC side of the system, it is important to have a large enough battery capacity for the hysteresis to be effective. Hysteresis is used to create a "lag" or delay in the battery voltage changing state during the charge and discharging events. Without any hysteresis the batteries could be lowered to the lower sell voltage in seconds at which point the inverter would stop selling. Then the battery voltage would quickly spike up to a higher voltage at which point the inverter would again sell the battery voltage down. This rapid micro-cycling of the battery bank would work to shorten the life of the batteries and thereby reducing the system selling efficiency due to the increased self-discharge and heat losses within the battery bank.