CAN I MIX DIFFERENT SIZE SOLAR PANELS?
A common question asked by many iTechworld customers:
"Can I join one of your 120W Solar Panels with my existing 200W Solar Panel on my roof to get 320W?"
Mixing and matching Solar Panels can be done. In order to get the results you are looking for though you must take all the factors into consideration beforehand. In this blog I will look at the different ways of connecting Solar Panels together to make an array. I will break down the basic fundamentals to give you an idea of what wattage you should expect from your array.
When you are looking to connect Solar Panels produced by different manufacturers together the problem does not come from different manufacturing styles or cell type, it comes from the electrical characteristics of the solar panels. Watts, Volts and AMPS.
There are two ways to wire up Solar Panels. Series and Parallel. Both have their own purpose and applications and both have different outcomes when hooking up Solar Panels of different wattage together.
Firstly lets take a look at connecting Solar Panels in series. Solar Panels are usually connected in series to obtain higher output voltage. This is usually the case with 24v systems.
If we connect 4 x 150w Solar Panels in series the total power is calculated as follows:
Total power = 150W + 150W + 150W + 150W = 600W
However if we were trying to create 620watts of power using different wattage solar panels we would have a different outcome.
Total Connected Power = 140W + 160w + 160w + 160W = 560W
The 140W Panel actually drags the 3 other 160W panel’s wattage down to 140W as well meaning we effectively have 4 x 140W Solar Panels.
So when connecting Solar Panels in series always try to keep the electrical properties of the solar panels identical to get the full benefit of the solar array.
Now lets look at connecting Solar Panels in Parallel. Solar Panels are connected in parallel to obtain higher output current. More AMPS. This is usually used with 12v set ups.
For Solar Panels connected in parallel total power is calculated as follows:
Total connected power = 140W + 150W + 150W + 150W = 590W
Unlike Solar Panels connected in series, the different Wattage parameters do not effect the overall outcome of the array. However if the voltages of the Solar Panels are drastically different then this can cause some discrepancies.
With this knowledge it should stand you in good stead when you are looking to expand your Solar array on your caravan, motor-home, boat and RV.
The great thing about blog entries is that its just the start of the conversation, do you have anything to add? Do you have a question about the information provided? Have your say in the comments section below.
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Solar panels are so common placed nowadays that we almost take them for granted. We see them on houses, office buildings, boats, RV's and even on ruck sacks. Personally I have always been fascinated by the science behind Solar Panels.
So how does it work?
Solar is a renewable energy resource that uses photovoltaic (PV) systems to create electricity. A solar PV system uses light to generate electricity, which you can then use to charge your Caravan, Motorhome, boat, 4x4 or other RV’s batteries.
- The sun's light (photons) is absorbed by the solar panel.
- The silicon and conductors in the panel convert the light into Direct Current (DC) electricity, which then flows into a Regulator/Solar Charge Controller.
- The Regulator/Solar Charge Controller brings the solar panel voltage down to around 14v to charge the battery effectively.
- The Regulator/Solar Charge Controller then makes sure that the Solar Panel never over charges the battery.
Its almost crazy to think that the first ever Solar Power experiment was demonstrated by French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel In 1839, at age 19, he built the world's first photovoltaic cell in his father's laboratory. I wonder if he ever thought that what he was doing would change the way the world was powered. Of course Solar technology has come on leaps and bounds and now we are seeing Solar Panels with very high efficiency ratings. Solar cell efficiency refers to the portion of energy in the form of sunlight that can be converted via photovoltaics into electricity.
The efficiency of the solar cells used in a photovoltaic system, in combination with latitude and climate, determines the annual energy output of the system. For example, a solar panel with 20% efficiency and an area of 1 m² will produce 200 Watts at Standard Test Conditions, but it can produce more when the sun is high in the sky and will produce less in cloudy conditions and when the sun is low in the sky. In central Colorado, USA which receives annual insolation of 5.5 kWh/m²/day, such a panel can be expected to produce 440 kWh of energy per year. However, in Michigan, USA which receives only 3.8kWh/m²/day, annual energy yield will drop to 280 kWh for the same panel. At more northerly European latitudes, yields are significantly lower: 175 kWh annual energy yield in southern England. Luckily we do not see a great deal of difference in Solar Panel test results here in Australia and we are fortunate to live in country ideal for Solar.
Different Types of Solar Cells
Solar cells are typically named after the semiconducting material they are made of. These materials must have certain characteristics in order to absorb sunlight. Some cells are designed to handle sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface, while others are optimized for use in space. Solar cells can be made of only one single layer of light-absorbing material (single-junction) or use multiple physical configurations (multi-junctions) to take advantage of various absorption and charge separation mechanisms.
Solar cells can be classified into first, second and third generation cells. The first generation cells—also called conventional, traditional or wafer-based cells—are made of crystalline silicon, the commercially predominant PV technology, that includes materials such as polysilicon and monocrystalline silicon. Second generation cells are thin film solar cells, that include amorphous silicon, CdTe and CIGS cells and are commercially significant in utility-scale photovoltaic power stations, building integrated photovoltaics or in small stand-alone power system. The third generation of solar cells includes a number of thin-film technologies often described as emerging photovoltaics—most of them have not yet been commercially applied and are still in the research or development phase. Many use organic materials, often organometallic compounds as well as inorganic substances. Despite the fact that their efficiencies had been low and the stability of the absorber material was often too short for commercial applications, there is a lot of research invested into these technologies as they promise to achieve the goal of producing low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells.
By far, the most prevalent bulk material for solar cells is crystalline silicon (c-Si), also known as "solar grade silicon". Bulk silicon is separated into multiple categories according to crystallinity and crystal size in the resulting ingot, ribbon or wafer. These cells are entirely based around the concept of a p-n junction. Solar cells made of c-Si are made from wafers between 160 and 240 micrometers thick.
- Monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) solar cells are more efficient and more expensive than most other types of cells. The corners of the cells look clipped, like an octagon, because the wafer material is cut from cylindrical ingots, that are typically grown by the Czochralski process. Solar panels using mono-Si cells display a distinctive pattern of small white diamonds.
Epitaxial wafers can be grown on a monocrystalline silicon "seed" wafer by atmospheric-pressure CVD in a high-throughput inline process, and then detached as self-supporting wafers of some standard thickness (e.g., 250 µm) that can be manipulated by hand, and directly substituted for wafer cells cut from monocrystalline silicon ingots. Solar cells made with this technique can have efficiencies approaching those of wafer-cut cells, but at appreciably lower cost.
- Polycrystalline silicon, or multicrystalline silicon (multi-Si) cells are made from cast square ingots—large blocks of molten silicon carefully cooled and solidified. They consist of small crystals giving the material its typical metal flake effect. Polysilicon cells are the most common type used in photovoltaics and are less expensive, but also less efficient, than those made from monocrystalline silicon.
- Ribbon silicon is a type of polycrystalline silicon—it is formed by drawing flat thin films from molten silicon and results in a polycrystalline structure. These cells are cheaper to make than multi-Si, due to a great reduction in silicon waste, as this approach does not require sawing from ingots. However, they are also less efficient.
Mono-like-multi silicon (MLM)
- This form was developed in the 2000s and introduced commercially around 2009. Also called cast-mono, this design uses polycrystalline casting chambers with small "seeds" of mono material. The result is a bulk mono-like material that is polycrystalline around the outsides. When sliced for processing, the inner sections are high-efficiency mono-like cells (but square instead of "clipped"), while the outer edges are sold as conventional poly. This production method results in mono-like cells at poly-like prices.
Thin-film technologies reduce the amount of active material in a cell. Most designs sandwich active material between two panes of glass. Since silicon solar panels only use one pane of glass, thin film panels are approximately twice as heavy as crystalline silicon panels, although they have a smaller ecological impact (determined from life cycle analysis). The majority of film panels have 2–3 percentage points lower conversion efficiencies than crystalline silicon. Cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and amorphous silicon (a-Si) are three thin-film technologies often used for outdoor applications. As of December 2013, CdTe cost per installed watt was $0.59 as reported by First Solar. CIGS technology laboratory demonstrations reached 20.4% conversion efficiency as of December 2013. The lab efficiency of GaAs thin film technology topped 28%.The quantum efficiency of thin film solar cells is also lower due to reduced number of collected charge carriers per incident photon. Most recently, CZTS solar cell emerge as the less-toxic thin film solar cell technology, which achieved ~12% efficiency. Thin film solar cells are increasing due to it being silent, renewable and solar energy being the most abundant energy source on Earth.
- Cadmium telluride is the only thin film material so far to rival crystalline silicon in cost/watt. However cadmium is highly toxic and tellurium (anion: "telluride") supplies are limited. The cadmium present in the cells would be toxic if released. However, release is impossible during normal operation of the cells and is unlikely during ﬁres in residential roofs. A square meter of CdTe contains approximately the same amount of Cd as a single C cell nickel-cadmium battery, in a more stable and less soluble form.
Copper indium gallium selenide
- Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) is a direct band gap material. It has the highest efficiency (~20%) among all commercially significant thin film materials (see CIGS solar cell). Traditional methods of fabrication involve vacuum processes including co-evaporation and sputtering. Recent developments at IBM and Nanosolar attempt to lower the cost by using non-vacuum solution processes.
Silicon thin film
- Silicon thin-film cells are mainly deposited by chemical vapor deposition (typically plasma-enhanced, PE-CVD) from silane gas and hydrogen gas. Depending on the deposition parameters, this can yield amorphous silicon (a-Si or a-Si:H), protocrystalline silicon or nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si or nc-Si:H), also called microcrystalline silicon.
- Amorphous silicon is the most well-developed thin film technology to-date. An amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar cell is made of non-crystalline or microcrystalline silicon. Amorphous silicon has a higher bandgap (1.7 eV) than crystalline silicon (c-Si) (1.1 eV), which means it absorbs the visible part of the solar spectrum more strongly than the higher power density infrared portion of the spectrum. The production of a-Si thin film solar cells uses glass as a substrate and deposits a very thin layer of silicon by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD).
- Protocrystalline silicon with a low volume fraction of nanocrystalline silicon is optimal for high open circuit voltage. Nc-Si has about the same bandgap as c-Si and nc-Si and a-Si can advantageously be combined in thin layers, creating a layered cell called a tandem cell. The top cell in a-Si absorbs the visible light and leaves the infrared part of the spectrum for the bottom cell in nc-Si.
Gallium arsenide thin film
- The semiconductor material Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is also used for single-crystalline thin film solar cells. Although GaAs cells are very expensive, they hold the world's record in efficiency for a single-junction solar cell at 28.8%. GaAs is more commonly used in multijunction photovoltaic cells for concentrated photovoltaics (CPV, HCPV) and for solar panels on spacecrafts, as the industry favours efficiency over cost for space-based solar power.
Multi-junction cells consist of multiple thin films, each essentially a solar cell grown on top of each other, typically using metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy. Each layers has a different band gap energy to allow it to absorb electromagnetic radiation over a different portion of the spectrum. Multi-junction cells were originally developed for special applications such as satellites and space exploration, but are now used increasingly in terrestrial (CPV), an emerging technology that uses lenses and curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto small but highly efficient multi-junction solar cells. By concentrating sunlight up to a thousand times, High concentrated photovoltaics (HCPV) has the potential to outcompete conventional solar PV in the future.]:21,26
Tandem solar cells based on monolithic, series connected, gallium indium phosphide (GaInP), gallium arsenide (GaAs), and germanium (Ge) p–n junctions, are increasing sales, despite cost pressures. Between December 2006 and December 2007, the cost of 4N gallium metal rose from about $350 per kg to $680 per kg. Additionally, germanium metal prices have risen substantially to $1000–1200 per kg this year. Those materials include gallium (4N, 6N and 7N Ga), arsenic (4N, 6N and 7N) and germanium, pyrolitic boron nitride (pBN) crucibles for growing crystals, and boron oxide, these products are critical to the entire substrate manufacturing industry.
Triple-junction GaAs solar cells were used as the power source of the Dutch four-time World Solar Challenge winners Nuna in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and by the Dutch solar cars Solutra (2005), Twente One (2007) and 21Revolution (2009).GaAs based multi-junction devices are the most efficient solar cells to date. On 15 October 2012, triple junction metamorphic cells reached a record high of 44%.
A triple-junction cell, for example, may consist of the semiconductors: GaAs, Ge.
Adjusting for inflation, it cost $96 per watt for a solar module in the mid-1970s. Process improvements and a very large boost in production have brought that figure down dramatically according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A recent observation states that solar cell prices fall 20% for every doubling of industry capacity. It was featured in an article in a popular Australian weekly newspaper. With the solar market increasing every year, we can continue to expect to see price drops on solar panels with no decrease in the quality of product.
iTechworld solar blankets HERE
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Top tips from industry insiders and manufacturers.
With sealed construction and a designed service life of seven - ten years, AGM deep cycle batteries require very little maintenance, especially when compared to their flooded cell counterparts. Nevertheless, knowing how to correctly charge and look after your deep cycle battery is crucial in optimising its performance and life span.
To help you get the best out of your deep cycle battery, we’ve put together a guide to charging and maintenance. Still got questions? Click the contact us tab and fire away!
Never store your battery in a discharged state, this can cause sulfation (see below) and make it difficult to recharge the battery fully. Keep your battery in a cool and dry place with plenty of ventilation and remember to recharge if storing for more than four months.
Sulfation occurs when the sulfuric acid within lead-acid batteries reacts to form a lead sulfate on the battery’s negative plates. The surface area of the acid on the plates is reduced, making it hard for the battery to hold its charge. The best way to prevent sulfation is by charging your battery before storage. If it’s too late for that, try using a reverse pulse desulfation charger such as the 12V 8A Automatic Reverse Pulse deep cycle battery charger. The specialised battery charger can reduce effects of sulfation by using reverse pulse technology to limit the battery’s internal impedance while charging.
Charging Your Battery
Correctly charging your deep cycle AGM battery is crucial in maintaining performance. Overcharging your battery can damage the internal structure of the battery while undercharging can shorten its lifespan. The trick is to find the correct voltage for your battery, which in the case of AGM deep cycle batteries, is 14.7v.
While it is possible to charge your AGM deep cycle battery using a traditional petrol generator, most have insufficient regulators and can damage your battery. For safe and effective charging, use the iTechworld 20Amp 240v battery charger or consider using an iTechworld solar system with regulator for a cleaner power option.
Using a Battery Charger
A 240v ‘smart’ charger, such as the iTechworld 20Amp 3 Stage deep cycle battery charger is a great tool to accurately charge your deep cycle battery. The new devices automatically detect the type of battery being charged by sending a pulse into the battery to determine its internal resistance. It can then decipher the voltage that best suits that type of battery, meaning you don’t need to worry about overcharging or even removing the battery from the charger when it’s finished.
Charging From Solar
For cost effective and environmentally friendly power, consider using an iTechworld solar system to charge your AGM deep cycle battery. This method is especially useful for motor home or caravan owners who are without access to grid power but do have portable solar panels. After placing the solar panels in the sun, the power they produce can be run through a regulator set to charge AGM deep cycle batteries. While the fluctuation in power levels of 12v solar panels would damage a battery if left unregulated, using a regulator such as the iTechworld intelligent Solar Charge Regulator ensures the correct voltage is consistently fed into the battery.
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Honda Yamaha Hyundai iTechworld Generator
What is the difference is between a generator, an inverter and an inverter generator. In this blog we will discuss the differences and help you work out which one is best for your application.
Conventional generators have been around for a long time, the technology used is pretty much unchanged. Fuel is used which then powers a motor attached to an alternator that produces electricity.
An inverter does something different, it changes DC to AC. This AC power can be converted to any voltage and here in Australia we use 240v. The power produced can either be in the form of modified sine wave or pure sine wave. pure sine wave power is beneficial as it creates electricity identical to what you get from mains power.
We will use The Redback's inverter technology as an example. The Redback's takes power produced by the generator and uses a specific computerised processors to condition it through a multi-step process.
First, the Redback's alternator produces high voltage multiphase AC power. The AC power is then converted to DC. Finally the DC power is converted back to AC by the inverter. The inverter also cleans up the power to make it pure sine wave.
Redback's inverter is machine made and are of the highest quality which produce stable and consistent pure sine wave power.
The benefits?? Clean enough power to run even the most sensitive electronic equipment including laptops.
Size / Weight / Portability
Weight is key in the RV market. Most older style generators can weigh close to 100kg. Inverter generators weigh a fraction of that. The Redback for example only weighs 33kg. A conventional generator that can produce this much power usually weighs 60-70kg.
Fuel Efficiency / Run Times
Generators generally come with larger fuel tanks than inverter generators but tend to be more fuel hungry. Inverter generators such as the Redback's have features such as automatic economy mode which only allows the generator to rev up to match the load. This takes the strain off the generator and allows it to be more economical.
Generators are loud, there is no getting away from it. Inverter generators are considerably quieter than their generator counter parts. The Redback's has a noise level range of 49dB - 56dB. This is extremely quiet and wont disturb the neighbours too much.
Max Power Output
Conventional generators come in all shapes and sizes and can produce enough power to run a food stall at a local market to being able to provide power for a supermarket with a power outage. Inverter generator are designed more as back or for RV use. The Redback RB4 produces enough power to back up your home during storm season or to live comfortablly on the road in your RV.
Generators are a dime a dozen and can be picked up for a fairly reasonable price. An inverter generator usually comes with a longer warranty, quieter operation and other features such as remote control start. You pay the premium for this, however you don't need to bust into your lifetime savings.
So Which One Wins – the Conventional Generator or the Inverter Generator?
Horses for courses. But more and more people are finding that the convenience, portability, quiet operation and clean power offered by modern units like the Redback RB4 Inverter Generator is definitely the way to go.
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You’ve bought an iTechworld inverter generator with built-in 12-volt outlets. But how do you go about charging 12v batteries from your generator? Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.
Let’s get straight to point: Most inverter generators may have a 12-volt output on them, but when it comes to the crunch, they are not designed to fully charge your batteries directly. There are two main reasons why:
First, your generator’s DC outlet is limited to a current of about 8 amps maximum. So any battery will take a while to fully charge.
Secondly, the voltage of the DC output isn’t regulated – it varies according to the generator’s RPM. This is fine if the generator is running a low load, but not if it’s running a medium to high load. Also, the generator won’t cut back the charge when the battery is nearly full, so you can’t risk leaving it charging for too long.
The bottom line: Your DC output on your generator is best for emergency or short term charging, i.e. providing your car battery a trickle charge. Anything more is a potential risk to your batteries.
So what’s the solution?
The best way to charge your battery is to run the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery charger off the generator’s AC output. This will recharge the battery much faster and accurately. Putting in a hefty 20 Amps. Also, the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery chargers regulate themselves down, so as charge builds in the battery, the charger won’t be pushing the same amount of amps. It will also cut off when the battery is fully charged.
So as a backup or alternative to your solar set up to charge your camping/caravan/motorhome battery packs, iTechworld Generator Inventors are a great option when they are working with the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery charger, especially as you can also run your appliances on 240v straight from the generator also.
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