Okanogan 14x24 by a lurker :)

Started by Oljarhead, September 21, 2009, 02:53:09 PM

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Adam Roby

I looked up snap switch but couldn't find very much.  Do you think these might do the trick?  They have them at many different temperature settings...


Quick trip to the cabin today to prep it for the weekend.  The idea is to go up at 'lunch' from work and kick on the power, hook up the generator and run it briefly, turn on the back up heater and get the wood stove going.  One the wood stove is going well and stoked nicely so it will heat for about 4 good hours it's off and running again back to work.  Then tomorrow night when we arrive late (around 9PM) the cabin should be at least 50F inside (thanks to the propane backup heater since the stove will be long since cold) and won't take too much to get warmed up before hitting the hay for the night.

It was 29F outside when I arrived with full sun on the solar panels and heater and I could hear the heater fan running in the porch.  Once I got into the porch I found the temp sitting right about 62F which was nice since there couldn't have been much more than an hour and a half of good sun on the heater to produce heat.

It's about 11:40am and 62F inside the porch.  I'm pretty happy with that!

Cabin temp on arrival.

Ten minutes with the door to the porch open to the cabin allowing that heat to help warm the cabin and having kicked on the backup propane heater the temp is rising nicely

There was a ten degree drop in porch temp due to the heat escaping into the cabin or the cold air being drawn out of the cabin and into the heater

26 minutes later and the temp is rising nicely and I have a fire going to help the heater out.

Better sun at 12:15pm means more heat and since the heater and woodstove are going in the cabin I'm guessing that helped the porch temp rise a bit.  Not bad though since it's still nearly 20 degrees colder inside the cabin.

At 12:47pm and ready to leave the porch is already passed it's arrival temp and up to 64F despite the heat loss into the cabin!  I did close the door for a short period though while the generator ran but it wasn't more than 20 minutes.  Nice to see that bounce up in temp in such a short period.

Wood stove going strong, backup heat set to kick off about 50F and it's time to head back to work and home.

I do believe this heater works well but I have some repairs to do to it.  Still, I will get a second made sometime this spring (I hope).

I'll be back tomorrow!

Can't wait to get back and adjust these panels and begin working on the porch.  I hope to get a battery box completed this weekend.


Spent the weekend at the cabin and am sore today!  d* ???  Maybe it was all the moving of batteries that got me ;)

Anyway, got started on the porch.  First step was to finish paneling up the South wall of the porch at least to a height above all the electronics on the wall (east) that the batteries were up against.

Since I started with that wall I wanted to finish it to at least above the door.  Next was to build the framing for the battery box and get it assembled.  I got the idea to rip 2x4's down from my camper build and figured this box didn't need a big heavy wall.  Once I had the framing sorted for what I wanted I removed the batteries from the porch and began working on the paneling on the wall behind after getting insulation in there too.

Once I had enough of the wall insulated and paneled my generator quit (because it has to be tied to the battery bank ground to properly function and I'd disconnected it) so I brought the batteries back in and got them all set up.  I had the new wall for the box installed and called it quits for the night.

I'd shortened the bus bars also since there was no need for them to be so long and tidied things up.  Sure makes a difference!

One big advantage to all this work is the room I've gained!  I gained over 6" to the right so the freezer could be turned and now takes up less room and the batteries are closer to the walls so I have more room in frot of them.

Was greeted with more snow and cold temps the next morning but planned to get some work in anyway

Had to sweep snow off the saw and deck often to keep a decent work area.  This did cause me to slow down a bit and eventually give it up!

Mother nature just wanted to remind us that Winter was NOT over yet!

However, I kept at it and got the box about 90% complete!

You can see it pretty well here.  Eventually the side will be paneled and the front will just have a gap at the base to allow air flow.  The front and top will be mounted via studs and wing nuts when complete so they can be removed for maintenance.

The fan goes there.  It will have a 2" riser to bring it up a little more (above the electrical box) and then will be vented outside.  Since venting under the window wouldn't be best I'll have to turn it down the wall a bit I think and then vent it away from the window.  I'll have to finish the paneling up the wall behind the disconnect box and charge controller and then get the conduits installed to clean up all the wiring.  I'll also have to seal up the penetrations so hydrogen doesn't vent into the porch anymore but I think I've made a giant leap forward here now :D

We left just before noon once I decided mother nature won and it was time to head home.  We're pretty excited though and are planning to get more paneling made and the flooring ready!  WhooHoo!



I wish we had that much snow. There's still not enough snow on the ground to need 4WD let alone chains or a plow.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Ha!  We've got plenty if you want some ;)

Was coming down hard when we left too.


Thought I'd add this one.

I'm really loving the room we gained and seeing the panel go up finally!

Now I just need to make more!


Love the blue stain in the t&g panels.......looks really nice.


Lookin' good there!

Did you get up to your place this weekend?


Nope :(  We went camping instead.  I popped up for an overnight a week or so ago but no major trips planned right now as it's milling season and I'm off milling two weekends this month with more trips coming in for July etc.

Trying to keep the milling down to two weekends a month and or some mid week stuff though so I can plan a trip to the cabin for work.


Crap!  Looks like the generator brains are gone :(  and the phone base is also dead.  Lightening struck not too far away but nothing else impacted.


Turns out the tractor PTO isn't working too!  Is that 3 things?

We arrived Friday night with no real clear plans other than to do 'something' while there and relax while we were at it but it had been a while since we were at the cabin and getting much done so hoped to accomplish something.  It was also our anniversary Sunday and we were determined to enjoy the cabin while there :)

After settling in Friday we had a nice evening and crashed early (happens when you are in your 50's I guess LOL).  Saturday found us 'sleeping in' until 6am (and that took work!) but once up and having had coffee we were off to take a walk around the property and then get started on the day.  Truth is I don't remember what occurred when but I was able to get the battery box vent installed and all the batteries topped off with distilled water.  That's when I discovered the battery was dead in the genny and then the brains quit too!  So I get the tractor ready to mow and that didn't work out either.  My wife did some weed eating and spraying round up around the cabin while I was working on the tractor and once I couldn't mow out came the chainsaw and I bucked up several logs for firewood, then split a large round and finally said 'to heck with it' and poured some Old Forester 100 proof and called it a day ;)

Battery box vent installed.  Since the genny was not working and there was not much sun I did not get a chance to see it working but it's in and 'should' work.

The outlet still needs a 90 degree elbow installed and some bug screen and I didn't have any foam to seal up the gaps but I'll do that soon.

A good start on this winters firewood :)  I've got to split it all this summer and get it into the shed but it's a start!

One thing I did attempt to do without success was blow the air bubble out of the bathroom cold water line.  At least I'm assuming it's an air bubble as it's not worked since blowing out the line two winters ago.  To attempt this I opened the bathroom cold water tap and put pressure on the kitchen thinking the air would have to blow out the tap right?  Nope.  Just didn't happen :(  I got some air out of it but it did not solve the problem.  This tap worked great two years ago but doesn't work at all now.  Not sure what's up but will have to come up with a new plan soon!

Sunday I was up early and after cleaning up some of the wood pile and 'stickers' I had somehow left laying near the pile in the past I got the forks on the tractor and we loaded a ton of wood into the truck to take home.  This will become flooring and paneling (depending on the thickness) and I hope to get it ready in the new month or so.  Our plan is to actually get the floor in this summer.

This is a mix of pine and fir and I plan to plane it all, put a tongue and groove in it and use tongue oil to treat it.  It will be a softwood floor but hey, it's a cabin :)

We did more cleanup, did some relaxing and also put the white roofing over the solar heater.  I hope to get back soon to get more done but for now it was a good weekend with a good start on cleanup and prep for the year.

Lots of work to do yet but it's a start :)  Now to get the darn tractor and generator fixed!


The good news is that GENERAC is telling me the brains are under warranty :D

Now to get the genny fixed (next month) and the tractor fixed (need a trailer for that and time) and well, everything else done....back to cleaning the shop I guess ;)


Quote from: OlJarhead on June 25, 2018, 07:35:32 PM
The good news is that GENERAC is telling me the brains are under warranty :D

That is extremely good news!

You mentioned a nearby lightning strike... do you have Midnite Solar's SPD's??  Surge Protection Devices.  They are real equipment savers.  I have replaced a couple of SPD's after their indicator LED's stopped, but have not had any other damages since the big strike a few years back. Every time I return to the cabin property I note whether the SPD LED's are lit. I have 2 spares on hand, a DC and an AC.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


I have one I have never installed...I better get it done!


Ol Jarhead & Don,

I will be installing a 45 watt 3 panel system this summer to run the fan on the composter when we are not there. Hooked to a single battery. Where are the SPD's to be installed (never heard of them before)?  Solar system only? The cabin is wired to a panel and then to a generator plug hook up. I also have ground rods installed as required. We run the gennie for power as needed when we are there and turn it off at night. Sorry to hijack the thread.



I have one MN SPD at the PV panel along with one Delta arrestor. They use different technology.

I also have a MN SPD at the charge controller and batteries, 325 feet away.

A third MN SPD is located on the AC service panel.

We have a small array; three panels. If I had more panels I would likely double the number of MN SPD's.

Nothing will protect against a direct hit.  I believe the big hit a few years ago was direct and sent an ultra high energy bolt from the PV to the cabin where it danced around all over. Burn marks visible on a PV panel top corner and the cabin eves as well as inside where a heater fan was plugged into a 120 VAC outlet. Fan motor survived but the snap switch blew apart.

SPD'sneed a good solid ground to shunt the energy surge to.  I have several 5/8" x 8 foot ground stakes driven in as well as a 2 sq ft area copper plate buried several feet down in a place where rain water is directed to, in an attempt to increase the conductivity.  I did that at the array and similar at the cabin itself.

Not to mention a separate installation of air terminals on the roof peak and ground rods and plates (lightning rods)
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Thanks Don. Looks like I have more homework to do. :)


Baby steps :)

I finally installed the fan (mentioned earlier) and this trip saw it actually working :)  Still need to get the pipe sealed up and protected from critters etc but at least it's venting now.

The generator battery was bad (5 yrs old and abused a couple times) so I replaced it and the brains came back to life.  Still having them replaced and the generator serviced (Tues) and then I hope to get back to finishing the solar panel upgrade (but arthritis has reared it's ugly head so we shall see).


Pics to follow.....

So I got out to the cabin today with two plans:  1.  Get the generator back online and 2. install the Outback FlexMax80 and the 3 panels on the roof.

The generator guy showed up about an hour late but that was ok.  He arrived with a new controller unit and set to getting it installed.  The old one, while now sorta working (showing the readout etc and allowing the gen to run but not charging the battery) was bad and he replaced it.  However he ran into several issues getting it working again and discovered another bad part (a motor that controls the fuel air mix) which may have gone bad right when he replaced the controller since it seemed to be working before hand.

As for the outback controller I installed it inside the cabin (which is what I planned on earlier but wasn't sure I was going to do until today) and while I did drill one of my conduit holes on a poor angle, I managed to get all the cables run and the solar panels providing power to the controller and the controller hooked up to the batteries.  I do find it odd to run two controllers tied down to the same lug on the main disconnect but I'm told that's fine.  Weird thing though, with the solar array offline I was getting voltage at the PV ports on the controller.  Not sure how that's possible frankly since they were wired to the PV combiner box and the breaker was off and the panels were NOT wired to the terminals ???

Anyway, on a hunch that it was ghost voltage I wired the PV array into the combiner and flipped the switch and it read 110vdc coming in and 25.1vdc going to the batteries.  Light was low and it was late so only a trace amount of charge was being sent to the batteries but it was something.

Now the interesting thing is that the combiner provides a 15a breaker which since the panels are 8.5amps and in series (so it should still be 8.5a but the voltage combines to be as much as 108vdc (35.9vdc max per panel and 3 in series) the folks I bought these components off felt I should not run 3 in series in the winter as they felt under ideal conditions they might push the votlage up close to the 150vdc max of the FlexMax80 but I have to wonder if they can really increase THAT much from 108 to 150???

Anyway, I digress a little, with the 15amp breaker at the combiner I continue to wonder if I really need a 2nd breaker at the disconnect panel for the array?  I'll have 2 or 3 sets of panels (2 or 3 in series) running into the combiner and each set of panels (array) goes into 1 15amp breaker then they are combined which will increase the amperage to ~17amps and keep the voltage where it is (108vdc) assuming two arrays (3 would make it 25.5amps after the combiner and 71vdc).  So do you really need a second breaker after the combiner?

The way everything is set up is that the panels hit the combiner and each array is then combined (parallel) and sent to the controller (PV- and PV+) then from the controller the BAT+ goes to the main disconnect (which is a 250a disco) and the Bat- goes to the shunt (side opposite batts) and of course ground to ground.

I'm running the FLexMax80 through a 100amp DC breaker so you have the 15amp breakers on each array on the input side (PV) and a 100amp breaker on the Battery side.  Why isn't this enough?

Anyway, I have room to install another breaker and can get one -- I'm thinking that a 60amp breaker will work as I shouldn't see more than 25.5amps coming in at 71vdc, assuming I really need it.

Also find it odd that I can run two seperate controllers to the same lug on the main disco but I'm guessing they sense whatever voltage there is at that point reguardless of how it's getting there and decide what to do based on that (so if the Outback's array gets sun first it will start bulk charging and the Morningstar will start later and see voltage is already up to or nearing the desired point and will work to get there.

I also need to make certain both are programmed with the same set points as it wouldn't make much sense to try to hit 29.6v on one controller while the other is trying to get to 28.8.....

Just me rambling on but I'm thinking I'm getting there.  I'll be back to get the last 3 panels up and wired in and then I'm going to have to really work on getting conduit installed so everything is cleaned up!  As it is now it's a bloody mess!  Grrrr but it works ;)


One mistake I made already is that I used the 6awg wire I had to run from the controller to the batteries.  This should be fine while I'm only running 3 panels (915watts@35.5v is only 25amps if memory of how to calculate is right and since each panel is 8.5amps and there are 3 if they were in parallel it would be 25.5a so I should be right) but once I am running all 6 that would take me up to 71amps of potential power output from the controller which means I should be running (as recommended by the manufacturer) 4awg wire (2awg for more efficiency but I won't likely be putting out that much power and the run is only 24" or so making me think 4awg wire should be fine).

Anyway, I think we're ok since I won't have the PV array to push the wire size until the next 3 panels are in but I better plan to change it out next trip.

So I need more ground wire to tie the PV combiner box ground to the ground stake, 4awg wire from the controller to the batts and possibly a 60amp DC breaker to install after the PV combiner box (in the DISCO box) as well as more conduit etc so I can clean up all the wire mess.

If I can get all this accomplished in the next few weeks I'll be a happy camper!  After all, it means going from an absolute max of about 16amps of charging power (3 205w 12v panels in series) to something like 67amps of charging power which brings me right about the 10% mark (10% input of total battery bank AH capacity -- bank is 660AH@24vdc).  The battery bank is a tad small for my usage (I can use about 50AH overnight bring the bank down to about 92% or a usage of 8% overnight -- which means I don't have the capacity to run more than one full day with no sunlight at all before I hit about 80%) so getting the solar array (s) up to snuff for recharging has been a critical thing for me.  After all, I don't want to run the generator EVERY day in the winter.

Finally, I learned the generator has an exercizer built into it in the new controllers!  I can now set it to exercize once a week for an hour to help keep it running well (it isn't good to have them sit for long periods).  It does mean I need to leave the power on all the time but I'm going to try that for the rest of the summer and the fall to see how it goes.  After all, in the winter all the power will be running is the inverter and generator charger (which is very low wattage) so in theory, with the exception of very poor charging days it should be fine and when the weather starts to get that bad I can turn off the exercizer and disconnect the battery again and leave it that way until the spring.


Outback FlexMax80 Charge Controller placed inside the cabin opposite the porch where the batteries are.

I ran 6awg wire to the PV breaker and buss and to the Disconnect ground buss and then realized I did not have 4awg wire for the controller to the batteries so I ran 6 gauge again and will change out next trip.

Up and running on 3 panels.  Notice the voltage!  I had no sun and it was getting dim out but I was surprised to see the voltage that high and even saw it hit 110vdc. 

I found it odd that it showed 'out' when there were no amps.  This seemed to very closely match battery bank voltages.

I didn't like the coat hook location anyway :)  But seriously, I'm happy with this install though the 'click click' when it goes from snoozing to tracking to low light and back to snoozing in the evening might be a little to get used to though it's barely noticeable.

I really need to run slightly larger conduit which may be tough since there is a stud slightly protruding into the penetration (and notice the upward angle  d* ) the combiner is on the outside of the far wall and you can see the penetration there.  I will need to place a junction box at each penetration location and then conduit between them and to the disconnect.

Once the paneling is completed I can re-install the combiner box and original controller and put some conduit between them.  It will be nice to complete that work!

The breaker on the upper left is the 100amp breaker for the Outback and the two on the lower right are for the morningstar and the original panels.  I don't really think the original panels need that breaker though since they have a 15 amp breaker in the combiner box and they are in series (so nothing to combine).  My thinking is I could remove one or the other and be just fine.  If that is the case I could take the 60amp breaker in the disconnect box from that array and give it to the new one since it will be 3 arrays combined into one.


One of my new considerations is this:

I currently pay about $50/mo for a landline and $65/mo for Huges internet (satellite) and figure that even a $1200 install for a booster would pay for itself in a year.  The problem I face is that I can only get 1 bar at about 60 feet above the ground at the cabin.  The cabin is 20 feet at the peak though so I'm thinking a 40 foot antenna might just get me high enough but then I have to deal with guy wires and grounding and of course lightening becomes more of an issue.



Guy wires and lightning are a PITA and a reality. 

If the antenna is mounted on the roof peak the installation can be difficult. I know I would not want to be handling the 45 lb antenna on a peaked roof such as yours and have to deal with the guy wire installation as well.  An on-ground antenna makes installation easier in some ways but means an even larger antenna is needed.  Then the guy wires get in the way at ground level not to mention having to thread them among trees.

There is a good chance lightning protection will cost more than the antenna.

However, it sure is nice to be able to have a working cell phone at one's cabin.  We have 3G service, usually 1 to 2 bars...  reliable for voice and SMS but graphics heavy webpages can be slow at times. That's with no booster or external antenna.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Folks at the repeater store turned me on to LTE Discovery and asked that I go out (good advice) and check signal.  I'll go all over and see what I can get and where as I might not need to go very high to get a signal strong enough to boost.

They also advised that what some do is they set up a remote booster where they can get signal but in my case, to my knowledge, that's 500 feet away which is a long way to drive even 120v I think.