Sorry. Life kind of came at me from all sides this week but I think I have a good grip on it now. Could be wrong.
Starting Friday, Ian’s electrical system went completely south. 3 out of four mornings found the inverter shut down with red error lights blazing away in a most accusatory manner. All signs seemed to point to the batteries – which came as no surprise because these batteries are more than 14 years old which is old – but the signs were confusing.
I am not an electrician, nor do I play one on television but I have been poking around with DC solar power for a long time now. Which is why the diagnosis came as kind of an embarrassment. My first thought was to test each cell individually…
…and that seemed to indicate only one unambiguously bad cell. But that wouldn’t cause all this trouble by itself, I thought. I didn’t want to do anything rash until I had consulted an older, wiser head. I texted Neighbor S and requested a consult at his leisure.
…I got a prematurely empty propane bottle and a BIG whiff of gas at the Secret Lair’s bedroom regulator. This is becoming a common problem – a nearly-new hose suddenly decided to leak like the proverbial sieve.
That was yesterday, and it was cause for anxiety because suddenly I had the makings of a scheduling conflict. That very seldom happens anymore and it always raises my stress levels. I knew that Neighbor L planned to go to town yesterday but that it would be a long trip because she was going to get her hair done. This was not a trip I greatly desired to share – but I really needed a new hose and the alternative was to ride my bike. I’m still healing from a lot of painful joints at the moment and the bike was also not an attractive option.
I elected to tag along with L, worrying all the while that now I would miss my appointment with S which was scheduled for whenever he wanted to. Turns out I needn’t have worried…
I got my hose, L got her hair done, we went home, I fixed the propane leak and re-lit the bedroom heater, and almost on the next beat S texted his readiness to meet me at Ian’s place. So that worked out great.
S took a much simpler approach to diagnosis than I had – he just measured the resting voltage of each battery. By now it was late afternoon and all the batteries should have been fully charged with a reading well over six volts. Of the eight batteries, three were emphatically not doing that.
So rather than one bad cell in one battery I had three underperforming batteries. And that would most certainly cause the problem the system was having.
Okay fine – I now had a plan of action. It’s a 24-volt system which means it needs at least four 6-volt batteries. I had five. Re-wiring was in order, and I hit that early this morning. I confirmed the findings of the previous afternoon with my own voltmeter…
I have a sort of problem doing math in my head. Arithmetic is no problem but any math higher than that makes my eyes glaze over. I’m good with words but not with numbers, and for some reason this also extends into visualizing electrical circuits. Eight six-volt batteries can make 24 volts when connected series-parallel. FOUR six-volt batteries can not. I was rushing, because I was due at Neighbor L’s at 10, and I got flustered. Finally – wisely – I called a halt.
Neighbor L’s horses are scheduled to leave home forever on Friday. Yesterday she reminded me of my promise to come over and help her service their horse trailer, which had not moved in at least a couple of years.
Lube up the hitch and get it working, then hitch the trailer to their big pickup and get it moved away from its parking spot, turned around and backed up to the workshop. Fire up their big compressor, air up five tires and pack four sets of bearings. Took about an hour and half. Tobie stayed in the Jeep and was SUCH a good boy. Remember two years ago when I left him in D&L’s Jeep and he tried to eat their parking brake handle? Well, that was puppy Tobie. Adult Tobie is not prone to anxiety issues. He just wants to come along and enjoy the show.
Meanwhile I was able to clear my mind and apply it a bit more sanely to my circuitry puzzle. With four six-volt batteries, to make 24 volts you wire them in series, not series-parallel. A much simpler circuit indeed. So after saying goodbye to L I went straight back to Ian’s and did that.
And now to email him the good news…