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Reputable source for solar equipment for ham shack

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by K5CBM, May 24, 2020.

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  1. K5CBM

    K5CBM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Currently a Tech, studying for general and extra exams.

    Have an HF radio (Icom IC-746Pro) and a VHF/UHF radio (Icom ID-5100A). Have a 2M/70CM full-length vertical dipole for the 5100 and building a Broadband Butterfly Terminated Dipole antenna on the house.

    While the house is on city power, I thought it would be best to run the ham shack in the back yard on solar power instead. However, I don't know who is a reputable dealer in purchasing MPPT controllers, PV solar panels, or deep cycle batteries. Amazon and eBay just hasn't been doing well for me on the latest of purchases in other areas and quality of materials have left me wanting more.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for reputable sources to buy from or brands in the solar industry?
  2. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    MPPT & PWM controllers can be noisy. has had good reviews of quiet controllers.
    Here's some info also,

    You will want a good battery bank, containment & ventilation.
    Separate AC charging is also good to have for cloudy weeks.
    An oversized bank is good to have, as most operate in the evening to the night, when solar does not help much.

    K5CBM likes this.
  3. JME1

    JME1 QRZ Member

    Try here
    K5CBM likes this.
  4. KD0CAC

    KD0CAC Ham Member QRZ Page

    If your thinking alternative energy / solar , the 1st thing to do is a survey - a list of your want to use loads .
    Have you done that ?

    The chineezafication of the world is really screwed things up , so you end up with a small number of overpriced quality for small systems .
    Mixed in with a lot of cheap crap .
    Then a big jump to real " hole house systems " this is being eaten away by the chineeze suppliers making systems that almost require you buy each component from one source .
    As compared to several decades of many companies making quality , that after you do you survey - measuring / listing loads - then build a system around your known / measured loads , you could mix & match each component to suit your needs .
    To my view of alternative energy since the 70s , American companies developed all of the equipment and a combination of the US companies giving it all away and the chineeze stole it - the tech & cheap building and mass marketing .

    There is as I mentioned some limited quality on the small end systems , then a big jump to house hold systems .
    So you should give a list of consumption - read the power labels add it up , give yourself at least a 20% head room .

    Things haven't changed with the idea of a quality efficient system cost a lot up-front , but pays for it's self in the long run , a good current example these days is lithium batteries - you pay 2-3 times as much , but last ten times longer - so cost less over time .

    Unless you are vary familiar watt-hours , I suggest to get metering that has memory of accumulation in both directions to learn what can & can not be done .
    Mush like seasonal stuff like boats & RVs , most everyone goes through batteries in 1-3 yrs.
    A well designed system - with the old technology FLA - Flooded Lead Acid should last 6-10 yrs. or longer .
    K5CBM likes this.
  5. WA7ARK

    WA7ARK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is what I have learned about running my ham shack on ~13Vdc produced by solar...
    I use a 100W panel with an open-circuit voltage of ~38V.
    I use two 110AH SLA batteries in parallel.
    The max current that the panel can deliver to the batteries is about 7A.

    I've tried various MPPT regulators, and they are all horrible vis-a-vis RFI. I gave up and just use a big PFET as a DC switch between the panel and the battery bank. I use a modicum of dI/dt and dV/dt slow down when the switch opens/closes to eliminate a "thump" in the radio audio...

    The battery charging algorithm is trivial:
    • Turn on the PFET switch when the battery terminal voltage sags below 13.20V. This pulls the panel voltage down to a few tens of mV above the battery terminal voltage (IR drop in the wires).
    • Turn off the switch when the battery terminal voltage rises above 14.25V. This puts about (36-14)V across the open PFET switch.
    The system has been running and powering my IC-7300, various VHF rigs, and other station accessories for several years now. The SLA batteries are happy based on an occasional load test. The rate at which the system cycles on-off is a function of the load current. The PFET is either full-on or off, so it doesn't need a heat sink!

    I have more sunlight than I know what to do with here in AZ, so MPPT is not necessary. As it is, the panel is finished recharging the battery bank by about 9am so the rest of the day, the panel is open-circuited most of the rest of the day, anyway.
    N0TZU and K5CBM like this.
  6. W6KCS

    W6KCS Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's a real crapshoot as to which charge controllers are noisy and which ones aren't. I just tried an Outback Flexmax 80 and was amazed at the amount of RFI it put out, it was about -70 dBm on 6 meters at a distance of about 15 feet, while a similar Morningstar 60A was about 25 dB lower. They were both putting out about 60A to the batteries. I don't know how you'd end up with a "quiet" controller unless you try one or go by someone's review, so be careful. I was thinking of buying six of the outbacks for a repeater site. I'm glad I checked! But I still need to look more carefully at the Morningstar. I think simple on/off controllers would be a safer choice, and just add more panels.

    Beware that the power will cost you a lot more than grid power unless you make it a grid tie system with no batteries.

    Renvu in the SF bay area is good and will ship.
  7. NG1H

    NG1H XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Morningstar is used extensively for industrial equipment using UHF and microwave for communication and control. It is pretty "quiet" at those frequencies. They do sometimes have some noise on HF but it supposedly isn't too difficult to suppress. Mainly filtering on the output power IIRC. Also FWIW they are used on remote sites in high heat conditions and have a long lifetime in those conditions. I don't have any information on how they work with low temperature, though.
    W6KCS likes this.
  8. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I did not want to speak out first for a couple of reasons: 1. Not everyone thinks that a Morningstar MPPT controller is a very good idea for keeping the noise down. 2. I do not know what the company that I used to work for is selling now, and it has been over two years since I worked there. That said, TWR Lighting(R), Inc. once sold a lot of obstruction lights and a few solar stations to power them in areas where mains power might not be easy. Typically they sold a system with: Panels, batteries, racks, and inverter to provide about 20 amperes or less at 115-125 VAC. Now having said that, realize that metal battery boxes, conduits, etc. that went with the system would extend to the panels- thus interference to switch-mode power supplies as loads was usually considered to be insignificant. As I am not an engineer ( I am a technician ), nor an insurance/business rating specialist ( downsizing may or may not be over )- I will only say that it is easier to research a complete system reputation than the companies which might sell systems. Lightly loaded systems can be noisier than those under optimal loads, yet shielding and distance should not be neglected. Your receiver sensitivity in microvolts/db/etc. may determine how much distance is needed, as well as the 'solar inverter' noise expected.
  9. AA3EE

    AA3EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    The Micro M+ charger does not generate RFI, it's switching is in the order of several seconds. Not MPPT but probably efficient enough for ham use with a ~100 watt panel. Check QST or online for schematics and kits.
  10. W6KCS

    W6KCS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the reply, we don't typically buy turn-key systems but you've reminded me that I should be looking at the effects of shielding. I do plan to measure the conducted emissions so at least I'll have a place to start when thee go to the field and the complaints begin.

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