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Old 03-13-2018, 02:36 PM   #1
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Why Do I Need Solar Displays?

Looking to purchase my Charge Controller and Inverter/Charger soon. Both offer different displays.

- Do I need them?
- What do they tell me?
- Is one display more important than the other?
- The charge controller has a screen on the device, is this the same information as on the display?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 03-13-2018, 02:52 PM   #2
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Different displays because they do different things.

The charge controller handles power from the solar panels and charges the batteries.

The inverter/charger does several things.

When plugged in to shore power it converts AC into DC and charges the batteries. When no shore power is available it inverts battery DC power into 120v AC power.

Most inverter/chargers automatically switch between shore power and inverter power.
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Old 03-13-2018, 02:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711 View Post
Different displays because they do different things.

The charge controller handles power from the solar panels and charges the batteries.

The inverter/charger does several things.

When plugged in to shore power it converts AC into DC and charges the batteries. When no shore power is available it inverts battery DC power into 120v AC power.

Most inverter/chargers automatically switch between shore power and inverter power.

Right. I get what the CC and Inverter/Charger are doing. Just wondering what type of data the displays show and if they are needed.
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Old 03-13-2018, 03:12 PM   #4
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I have a relatively basic solar charge controller. It really only tells me that it's connected properly, if there is any sunshine at all, if it's actively charging, and if it's reached the full level on my battery. That's really the least amount of data you can have on the solar side and still be useful.

Since then I added a pair of power meters that show current volts/amps/watts and have some historical data as well. One going between the solar charger and battery to show detail about power coming in, and one between the battery and load side to show power going out. This data is very useful and makes it easy to tell things like if you're using more power than you're generating.

However, the units I have crash (freeze up) regularly and I don't recommend them. I'm not familiar with other brands but I suggest avoiding the "WindyNation AccuMax" meters.
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Old 03-13-2018, 05:33 PM   #5
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the charge controller will need to be programed, it will also tell you what part of the charge sequence your in. the one for the inverter will allow you to turn it off and on and some have a voltage meter on them
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Old 03-13-2018, 07:32 PM   #6
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The the charge controller one tells me
- how much sun I am getting
- Battery level in %?
- Stage of Charge
- Anything else?

Inverter/Charger tells me:
- AC Draw?
- Source (Gen, Shore, or Battery)?
- Controls to switch between source?
- Control to turn off (why would I want to turn it off?)
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Old 03-13-2018, 08:24 PM   #7
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lots of different ones out there. a good read for solar is https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/
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Old 03-13-2018, 09:04 PM   #8
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You really don't NEED solar or energy displays. Even the most basic solar charge controller will tell you if you are getting power from the sun and if the batteries are good. The display whether on a better controller or a separate meter will give you more detailed information and that is all.
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Old 03-13-2018, 09:32 PM   #9
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Because information leads to knowledge, and knowledge is power!

Seriously though, anything you can do to prevent over-discharging or under-charging batteries is worthwhile. It's the same reason that I like having lots of gauges to tell me what's happening while I'm driving - if something's going to go tits up it will probably give me some early warning. Given a choice, I'll always prefer to have too much information than too little.

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Old 03-14-2018, 06:13 AM   #10
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It's a little difficult to speak specifically about these components as they are all different - as are in the installations.

In general, the following information is useful (at least I find it to be):

1. Power being produced by the solar array. Usually in watts but often also voltage and amps coming from the array. Historical data is interesting.

2. Battery state of charge. Voltage is a poor indicator. A good battery monitor has a shunt on the negative cable and keeps track of electrons flowing in and out. Amps flowing into bank when charging - note that this does not usually match the power produced by the panels as some amount of power is typically being consumed by components in operation. Some also report battery temperature. This tends to be more interesting to me during the winter months as my batteries don't like cold temperatures too much.

3. The mode of battery bank charging (bulk, float, etc.).

4. The inverter status. This is marginally useful for me. When trying to run a bunch of big items all at once, it is helpful to avoid over-working the inverter.

In my case, I have three displays. The Lithium battery management system (BMS), the solar charge controller, and the inverter.

As John said, the more info you have the better decisions you can make and the better you can take care of your investment.
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