Tuesday, October 07, 2008

System Automation for a Spare Battery Bank

Having recently replaced my PV system’s battery bank, I had to decide what to do with the still-good older batteries. Connecting batteries of different types and ages together is not a good idea; it shortens the life of the newer batteries. My choice was to install a switch, allowing me to add and remove the old bank from the charge controller/inverter circuit. When I want to charge the old bank, I can simply switch it in. I can also switch it in when I need extra amp-hours, during a grid power failure for example. I can switch it out the rest of the time, keeping it from dragging down the new battery bank.

My plan worked fine for awhile, but then I neglected to check the batteries for a few days. To my horror, I found that the battery voltage dropped below 10 volts. Allowing batteries to deeply discharge, and remain in that state for an extended period of time, can ruin them. I knew I had to do something else. I wanted to use energy from the sun to keep both battery banks charged, but I wanted the main battery bank to have top priority. Here’s what I did:

The problem was easily solved by adding a relay to an unused channel of my Morningstar Relay Driver. I’ve programmed the relay driver to monitor the main battery bank voltage. When the main battery bank is nearly fully charged, I divert excess current to the older battery bank. Programming voltage thresholds is done by temporarily connecting a computer to the relay driver and running a simple configuration program. Here are my settings for the spare battery bank relay:

Turn on relay when main battery voltage > 14.40 volts.

This establishes the main battery bank as the top charging priority. Power will be diverted to the spare battery bank ONLY when the main battery bank is nearly fully charged.

Turn off relay when main battery voltage < 14.00 volts.

Turning off the relay disconnects the spare battery bank from the inverter and charge controller, preventing it from discharging through the load.

The main battery bank provides power to the loads day and night, cutting my electric bill. I’ve programmed the relay driver to remove the load from the main bank when its state-of-charge (SOC) drops below 80%. This happens at night, or when it’s cloudy, leaving me with little surplus power to use in the event of a grid power failure. However, by keeping the spare battery bank fully charged I now have the best of both worlds, lower electric bills and reserve energy to serve in the event of an emergency. A simplified diagram of my system is shown below. Relay 1 switches the inverter on and off, while relay 2 switches the spare battery bank in and out of the circuit.



John said...

I am experimenting with various setting changes in an attempt to maximize efficiency. Check back later for an update.


Habanero said...

Very interesting and informative blog.


Anonymous said...

brinkka2011 says: Remarkably! Thanks!