Monday, April 16, 2007

Solar panel ordered

I had written last night that I'd not made up my mind on whether to get that big solar panel or not. I don't usually have a decision-making disorder, but I think the money already spent this year (on the Montserrat trip, a big order to Buddipole antennas, Mosely, and the AntennaSmith, and so on) has made be cautious about spending more.
There was something of a breakthrough at breakfast this morning. After some discussion, Sandy and I agreed it made sense to do it. Further, I should probably look into it soon. If, for some reason, the thing was backordered for 3 months, that would screw up all my Summer plans!
I called The Alternative Energy Store this morning and talked to Ben. After some hand-wringing, I decided to get the Global Solar P3-48 48W 12V Portable Power Pack Desert panel. There was one bigger, the 55 watt version, but it ran at a nominal 16 volts, not 12 volts. Not knowing all the implications of this, I decided to be conservative and get the 48 Watt panel.
I also picked up a larger charge controller to go with this system. I have the smaller 6 amp Morningstar Sunsaver SS6-sL that I've been using with the 15 watt panel. This new controller, the SS-20L handles a load up to 20 amps. The "L" in the part description means "low voltage disconnect". So, the controller sits between the battery, solar panel(s), and load (my radio, in this case). When the battery voltage falls below a safe level, the load is disconnected from the circuit thereby avoiding permanent battery damage. Very nice! My original controller has this feature, as does the new one on order.
I had tried to use the SS-6L controller with the IC-7000 last summer but quickly discovered that the unit could be swamped by excessive current from the radio. I could back the power down until this no longer happened, but I wanted the option of cranking the power up. Of course, I could always by pass the low voltage disconnect feature by connecting the radio directly to the batteries, but that means I need to watch the battery voltage. I'd rather have the box do that.
So, I now have two charge controllers. I can either use the two panels together to generate more current for the radio, or use the big controller for the radio with the new panel, and use the smaller controller just for charging a second battery.
Finally, a note about The Alternative Energy Store: when I called their toll-free number this morning I was connected to a very helpful sales representative (Ben). He made sure all my questions were answered. He gave me an immediate indication on the stock status (both items were immediately available). Within 30 minutes of placing my order I received an email with confirmation of the order with a PDF invoice attached. An hour after that I was given estimated shipping dates (the charge controller ships today, the panel tomorrow). I am promised UPS tracking numbers when they ship. That's the way to do business.
My expectations of things are pretty simple: if I've given you money for a product, please keep me informed about your progress in getting me that product. The Alternative Energy Store does this well. Other folks I've dealt with (and blogged about) do it not-so-well. These folks are good guys. Need solar stuff? Check them out.
I can't wait to see the new panel! {grin}


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