EMP, CME, & Lightening Surge Protection – Part #2

If you haven’t read Part #1 of this 2-part series you probably should.

< click here to read Part #1 >

My Protection Strategy –

So how do I protect my off-grid home?

First off…I place a more likely chance that I will suffer a lightening strike than an EMP. However, I don’t discount the occurrence of an EMP strike on the continental US, and that has the potential to affect our home. Remember I am off-grid so I don’t have thousands of miles of electrical transmission lines attached to my house. That my friend greatly reduces my exposure to an incoming EMP surge.

All that being said I take some basic precautions first…

  1. My PVs (solar panels) all have aluminum frames, all those frames are attache to an earth ground system. The earth ground system includes:
    1. A single continuous 8AWG bare copper wire connected to each panel of 3 PVs in the string via a lay-in grounding lug.
    2. The 8AWG bare copper wire from each string is connected to a 6AWG bare copper wire handling the array that contain 2 strings each.
    3. The two main arrays (#2 & #3) are connected via 6AWG bare copper wire to an earth ground that consists of three 8’ copper clad rods driven in the ground 10’ apart bonded with 6AWG bare copper. Note1: the arrays are approximately 50’ apart and the 6AWG bare copper wire connecting the two arrays are buried 12” in the ground between the two arrays. Note2: the third array is grounded separately to its own earth ground that is also the house system earth ground. Again, it consists of three 8’ copper clad rods driven in the ground 10’ apart bonded with 6AWG bare copper.
    4. Each array also has a 40ka surge protector in the EcoWorthy combiner box. That surge protector is connected to the 6AWG array ground wire. The combiner box is a Chinese manufacturer and I don’t know if it will work or not when the times comes. The SPD was included with the boxes when I bought them.
    5. This gives two types of surge protection; 1) any energy absorbed through the PV metal frames is directed into the ground, 2) any energy absorbed into the PV wiring is directed to the external combiner box’s SPD and that energy is directed into the ground.

  1. The utility room that houses the solar/electrical/electronic equipment has a metal roof and foil backed OSB on the side walls. I have no idea whatsoever if this provides any protection. Some folks think so, others don’t. I don’t count on it.
  2. Inside the utility room the incoming PV power lines come into separate array disconnect boxes. Each disconnect box has a Midnite Solar MNSPD-300-DC (80ka) installed.

I consider this to be my lightening strike/surge protection (E2 & E3); 1) good grounding, 2) a 40ka SPD, and 3) an 80ka SPD. But that stills leaves out the EMP E1 power surge. To address that issue you have to go downstream of my system.

Downstream of the array disconnect boxes I have a combiner box that combines arrays into a circuit breakers that also acts as disconnects. that is located just before my charge controllers. Arrays #1 & #3 go into my charge controller #1, and array #2 goes into my charge controller #2. For the E1 surge I have an EMPShield model Dual-DC-90-120-W. Each charge controller has its own protection via this EMPShield unit since it is a “dual” unit. And yes, the EMPShield unit also provides E2 & E3 protection.

And how good is the EMPShield? Well, that is hard to say. Remember, we have no definitive idea if a device works, or not, until an event occurs. But, the documentation on the EMPShield device, along with the advertised testing, assures that it will protect against E1, E2, & E3 power surges. So that combination of surge protectors protects against surges coming into the system from the outside via the DC side of my off-grid solar system.

Now let’s talk the AC side of the system…I also have a Midnite Solar MNSPD-300-AC installed in my main breaker panel. That is intended to protect power surges getting into the system via house wiring. Yup, that means every single inch of wire in the house is a potential “antenna” for power surges. And yes, that means I am only protected against E2 & E3 surges from the AC side of the system. It is my intention that as my research continues and I become 100% convinced of EMPShield products I will install one of their AC units in the main breaker panel and move the Midnite Solar SPD to the inverter/generator transfer switch.

And if you are wondering…I have no problems with an Siemens FS140 (FirstSurge) being used as a substitute for a Midnite Solar SPD. I use Midnite simply because I found it first and have confidence in it for lightening protection.

How an SPD works –

If you are wondering how a SPD works…well, that is another whole article. But the short version is this…the SPD draws the power surge into itself away from other wiring and equipment and dissipates it through its internal parts. Yeah…call it magic, voodoo, or a modern engineering marvel…but that’s how they are designed to work.

Now, have you asked the question yet…Will all of this work and protect my house full of electronics/electrical equipment, and better yet, will it protect thousands of dollars worth of my solar system gear? If you have an answer let me know!

Yeah, a funny way to say I have no idea if this will all work to save me from an EMP, let alone a lightening strike. But I do know that doing nothing will definitely result in a bunch of burned up and useless equipment.

I will write reviews on EMPShield and Midnite products fairly soon. Should you buy now? Well…I did. And doing something is better than doing nothing. Do nothing ensures failure.

< click here to read Part #1

If you are interested in buying any of the mentioned products…PLEASE DO 🙂

I am providing links to the equipment below. If you buy one of the Amazon products through my link I will earn about a 1.5% commission. If you buy an EMPShield product I will earn a 15% commission. And if you use the coupon code “ahtrimble” when you buy an EMPShield product on their website you will get $50 off any product.

Any money I earn will go towards a test unit for the AC side of the system. If I earn more than the cost of a test unit then any excess funds will go towards another LifePO4 battery.

Click on the icon below for the MidNite Solar 300vDC unit (for protecting DC voltage equipment)…

MidNite Solar MNSPD-300-DC Surge Protection Device (300vDC )










Click on the icon below for the MidNite Solar 300vDC unit (for protecting AC voltage equipment)…

MidNite Solar MNSPD-300-AC Surge Protection Device (300vAC )










Click on the icon below for the Siemens FS140 Whole House Surge Protection…







Click on the EMPShield logo below  to buy EMPShield products. Use “ahtrimble” in the coupon code at check out for $50 off any EMPShield product. Hint: If you are buying more than one product then make them separate purchases and use the coupon code for each. If are having trouble deciding which product to buy, then write a comment below and ask for help from me.

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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

EMP, CME, & Lightening Surge Protection – Part #1

Time to go technical…’high-tech’ to be exact…let’s talk surge protection.

For this discussion surge protection will include the concepts of lightening strikes (LS), Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), and of course, Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP). While they do differ, they all can be a threat to electrical and electronic equipment. Additionally, I won’t go into detail on protecting small devices such as handheld radios since I have already covered that in the past. I will concentrate on covering entire systems such as home AC electrical systems and solar systems (both AC & DC sides).

As with all my articles regarding equipment/gear I define the mission, or job, that I want that equipment/gear to accomplish. For this I define it as…

Reasonably, effectiveness & economically, protect our home’s complete electrical systems from damage due to electrical surges regardless of their origin.”

Also, when you hear me refer to a SPD, I am talking about a ‘surge protection device’.

Now that’s done let’s talk about risk management. As I have previously written extensively about risk management, it is determining the probability of an event occurring, and if it does occur, how severe will the potential damage be. Once those two criteria are properly assessed then proper mitigation measures can be identified and undertaken.

In my original article “Will we really be hit with an EMP?”, written in 2015 and updated in 2019, evaluated and stated both the probability and severity values. I originally set the probability at ‘very low’ and the severity as ‘nationally devastating’. Numerically speaking now I would go with 4 – 5 for probability (moderate) and 9 – 10 for severity (nationally devastating).

For the purposes of this article I put the CME events at a ‘moderate’ in severity and ‘low ‘in probability. And then for lightening I go with ‘serious’ in probability and ‘devastating’ in severity. And then somewhere in here I have to inject a healthy dose of reality. I don’t it is feasible at all to ‘harden’ my entire house and all associated electrical and electronic items against all possible surge events. I simply don’t have them time, the expertise, nor the money to do so. And honestly, I don’t have the desire to. I want to live in reality and not acquire a bunker and/or siege mentality out at the fringes.

So let’s talk the most likely of the surges involved with the most potential of severe damage…EMP.

EMP’s are a result of a high-altitude nuclear detonation. Modern nuclear devices that would be used in an EMP strike consist of three waves of energy pulses; E1, E2, & E3. Now, I am not going into intense details…it would make everyone’s eyes glaze over. There are plenty of articles on the subject if you want to get that far into the weeds.

EMP information, generally speaking…

  • EMP devices are generally detonated high in the atmosphere so the damage can cover large areas of earth’s surface.
  • The detonation effects spread out in all directions but the earth attracts most of the energy pulses downward.
  • The higher the detonation the lessening of the pulse energy.
  • The further away from directly underneath the detonation the lessening of the pulse energy.
  • In North America the energy pulses are drawn more to the south of the detonation point due magnetic field and orientation to the equator.
E1 Pulse –

This first pulse of energy does most of the damage in systems. It is primarily high-voltage that does the damage. This first pulse of energy travels at about 90% the speed of light (about 168,000 miles per second) and peak energy is about at the 5 nanosecond mark.

Realistic Example: You are 250 miles from a EMP blast, that means it hits you in about 0.0015 seconds (15 thousandths of a second) but traveling at 168,000 miles per second, and once it hits you, the peak energy arrives in 5 nanoseconds. So once the energy hits you, the energy goes from 0% to 100% of peak withing 5,000,000,000ths of a second. And the pulse has passed you in about 100nanoseconds. Meaning you have to protect your systems quickly, approximately within a nanosecond, and for about 20nanoseconds.

The voltage that actually reaches a maximum of about 50,000volts per square meter. Meaning, if you had a 1 meter square steel plate sitting on the ground directly beneath the detonation point the steel plate would absorb 50,000volts. If what was struck was a normal 3-wire household service cable 100’ long from the electric pole to the electrical service entrance it would absorb about the same 50,000volts. Ironically, the amperage would only be less that 50amps for that same area…but only for far less than a second.

As you can see it is the absorbed voltage that will do the damage but it occurs very, very quickly. And that is why normal residential, and even commercial, surge protectors simply won’t provide protection…they can engage/react quickly enough…about 500-1000 times too slow to react to the incoming energy surge.

E2 Pulse –

This is the next energy pulse to hit…about 1000nanoseconds after the E1 strike, and 900nanoseconds after the E1 is gone. And the reaction speed required is about a microsecond. Yeah, slowpoke!

To get a grasp of this energy pules you can think in terms of a lightening strike. And also think of it in terms of DC voltage. The power can reach 100,000 volts and 100,000amps when it hits…depending on your relative location to the detonation. And surge protection devices such as Midnite SPDs can handle this kind of strike..essentially a lightening strike.

Here’s the problem…that same SPD would get burned out by the initial energy surge…the E1…so it is no longer available to handle the E2 energy surge…and your system is pretty sure to now damaged.

E3 Pulse –

The final energy surge is just plain weird! The energy surge is produced by the earth’s magnetic field being heaved about. And that surge can last from 10 – 100’s of seconds. To get an understanding of this pulse…think DC current. Unfortunately household systems, including power stations and transmission equipment are designed to handle AC current not DC current. That gets you a whole lot of burned out equipment.

Once again E1 pulses normally burnout SPDs that could have handled this E3 power surge.

Pulses Summary –

Whew! I am glad that is over. But the summary is pretty simple, 3 different pulses of energy, all 3 can destroy equipment, and the first pulse is the worst and generally destroys any device (SPD) that could prevent damage from the 2nd and 3rd pulses. And yes, generally speaking almost all SPDs in use today can’t handle the E1 pulse. So you’re screwed right? Ah, no.

Remember, most common SPDs can’t protect against an E1 pulse…they burnout with all your other electrical/electronic gear. But, most common SPDs are fairly inexpensive…about $125 – $150 range for Midnite SPDs. The commercial grade SPDs can hit $300, but they still are too slow to protect against the E1 pulse.

That means something rather simple…You gotta find E1 protection if you are going to be worried about EMP protection. If you are going for less protection against energy pulses, such as lightening protection, then a Midnite Solar SPD or the more expensive Siemens FS140 are great options.

Next comes what I do!

NOTE: In Part #2 I will give links to various products that I personally use and believe in. And if you purchase a product through one of those links I will make a bit of money…from 2% – 15%. The money I make from any of those purchases will go towards a new battery for my solar system. And I can offer a $50 off coupon for the #1 EMP surge protection device!!!

< click here to read Part #2 >

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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

DC Wire – Types, Size Chart, and Fusing

One of the things that can get confusing, but is extremely important, is knowing what size of wire to use when working with DC circuits. And once you get the wire size figured out…then trying to figure out what size fuse should you use.

So I’ve included a wire sizing chart at the bottom of the page for you to download. And I will provide a couple of tips as well. Finally, I will provide a link to a great little sizing and fusing calculator that I think makes everything much easier when trying to calculate all of this. But first, some good information to know…Also, it is important to note that when dealing with DC currents in solar power systems (SPS) you need a high-quality wire with a good insulation rating; 105 degrees centigrade is commonly referred to as the standard. Voltage rating should be “600V”. Also, stranded wire is best when using wire in the DC side of SPSs…the more strands the better. But, a good measure would be as follows, with each strand being 30AWG wire…

6AWG – 260 strands
4AWG – 364 strands
2AWG – 624 strands
1AWG – 767 strands
1/0 – 975 strands
2/0 – 1196 strands
3/0 – 1547 strands
4/0 – 1950 strands

Most wire wire/cable will come with rubber or rubber-based insulation. Silicone-based wire insulation is generally considered superior to rubber-based wire insulation for a number of reasons, one being a higher heat rating, up to 200 degrees centigrade. Silicone is the most fire-resistant of common insulation material, it is also highly resistant to extreme environments. Then we also see silicone as being more flexible and more compression resistant. And yes, silicone is more suitable for outdoor applications, but when running wire outdoors it’s always best placed inside a protective conduit.

Aluminum wire should not be used…period. Copper wire is the standard for DC applications due to its high electrical conductivity. However, there is even better wire than standard copper wire, tin-plated stranded copper wire. Tin-plated copper wire is noted for its longevity because of its anti-corrosion properties. And, studies show that this variety of copper wiring is able to withstand adverse weather conditions and end up lasting far longer than the standard copper wires. It’s also preferred in applications where the wire will be exposed to a high degree of humidity. And lastly, tin-plated copper wire has more electrical conductivity as compared to other varieties of copper wires. And yes, it is more expensive.

Here is a little tip for you…up-size wire recommendations one size. Yup, look up the recommended wire size…then go with one size larger. This gives you a measure of safety when deciding on your wiring. Better to have a wire/cable one size too large than one size too small. One size too small can result in more resistance and potentially melting the wire itself. And obviously, if you melt wire it is a bad thing, a very band thing…which could result in a fire.

And that brings me to another tidbit of information that should be, will be, important to you…protecting your wire from over-current. The reason you protect your wire from over-current to prevent melting wire/cable and the possibility of fire is plain and obvious. So you put a fuse in the circuit.

Quality equipment manufacturers (Tier 1 companies) will provide fusing and/or circuit breakers internally to the equipment to protect that equipment. It is the installer’s responsibility to protect the wire connecting the equipment with fuses and/or circuit breakers.

Looking at a fuse and its job is pretty simple…the job of the fuse is to melt its wire or plate element at a lower current (amperage) than the wire can handle. That breaks the circuit and stops the flow of electricity. If the fuse is rated for a higher current than the wire, then the wire become the fuse by failing before the fuse blows.

Here’s an example: 1AWG wire is rated to handle 150amps at a total circuit of under 15′ (up-sized one size). Now, if you wanted to protect that wire from failure and put a 200amp fuse in the circuit…the wire would theoretically fail at 150amps before the fuse “blew” (a.k.a. opened) at 200amps.

To avoid this problem in our example you would use a fuse of slightly less that 200amps…say 125 – 150amps. That way the fuse would do its job before the wire failed and caused a potentially serious problem.

And here is another thing to consider when deciding on the correct fuse to use…its different ratings. So take a 125amp/58v BF-2 fuse from Littelfuse. It is rated at 125amps, yes? But does that mean it will blow as soon as the current hits 126amps? No. If you review the chart that accompanies the fuse you will see it will maintain integrity for different lengths of time at different currents (amps).

At 100% of rating, in this case 125amps, the fuse will maintain integrity for 4 hours. If the current rises to 135% of its rating (169amps) the fuse will still be good for approximately 2 minuets before it opens/blows. At 200% of its rating (250amps) it will open/blow at about the 1 second mark. And at 750amps it will open/blow at about 1/10th of a second. So before you decide on the right fuse looks closely at its ratings.

In our 1AWG, 200amp wire circuit at a full 200amps of current, the 125amp fuse would blow in 2 – 3 seconds

Also, notice the fuse description in the example, “125amp/58v”, that means it is rated for 125amps only up to 58volts. Meaning, if you try to employ it in a circuit above 58v it will not function correctly…as in fail.

What???  And why is it rated at 58v, sounds strange, eh? That fuse is designed for 48volt solar power systems. So why the larger than 48 voltage rating? Remember that solar power system voltages can run as high as 56 – 58 volts +/- coming out of the MPPT charge controller.

Now, let’s return to the wire insulation rating. Remember I mentioned that wire should have at least a rating of 105 degrees centigrade? That means 220 degrees Fahrenheit. That is above boiling temperature of water before it fails. Silicone insulation can handle almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit before failure. So you can see one of the obvious benefits to silicone wire insulation. Now, that being said…if you are building a circuit counting on silicone’s ability to handle almost double the temps vs rubber-based insulation…you are building the circuit in dangerous country. Consider redesigning the circuit more for safety.

And there is one really misunderstood aspect of deciding on wire/cable size…the distance or length of the actual wire run. Most folks will look at the circuit and say there is 5′ between the pieces of equipment and then use that to choose the wire/cable size. WRONG!! You use the total distance of the run…round trip. The circuit is the round trip of the current. So 5′ between equipment is a 10′ distance/length.

OK, so here is the long awaited chart with one note before the displaying it…when looking at the “circuit type” use “Critical” and “3% voltage drop” and when looking at the distance, the distance is the maximum run. So when you see 15′, that means up to 15′ round trip. Notice the “round trip”…that means the wire going to AND from the two devices.

( This is a very large graphic chart. Click to enlarge or you can download it as well. )

< click here to download the DC Wire Selection Chart in PDF file format >

“Voltage drop”…don’t worry about it…just use “3%” when using the chart. But if you really want to know…voltage drop is the amount of voltage will be lost through “resistance” in the wire. Meaning the lower the quality of the wire, the more resistance, the more voltage drop, resulting in less energy being moved from one device to another. Yes, that is a bad thing, it’s a waste of energy. That is the reason to correctly size wire…to efficiently move current/power through the wire.

Now, let’s talk about the wire sizing and fusing calculator that is found on the “explorist.life” website. I like it…I like it a lot! You input the “amps”, the “voltage”, and the round trip length between the devices…then it shows you the recommended size of wire/cable to use to safely and efficiently carry that current. I like to reduce the “voltage drop” to 1.5% when using the calculator. That gives an extra margin of safety and efficiency.

There is also an option “Show Fuse Sizing Recommendations ” it gives you a great bunch of fuse information; 1)Minimum Fuse Size, 2) Recommended Fuse Size, 3) Max Wire Capacity, 4) Max Fuse Size. That is great, and critical, information to help guide you through making those design decisions. But again, I like to up-size the wire/cable one size just to be safe…and it allows for a little system expansion should the need arise.

The calculator link is https://www.explorist.life/wire-sizing-calculator/

And yes, https://www.explorist.life, run by Nate Yarbrough, has a lot of great information for you if you care to look around, including some very good videos.

TakeAways –
  • Use high quality, well insulated, stranded wire in DC circuits.
  • Up-size the wire by one size.
  • Use the right chart and/or calculator to determine the correct fuse size.
  • Ensure that the fuse rating(s) always are lower than the wire rating.
  • If you don’t understand all of this…then you shouldn’t be doing it yourself.

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Third Battery Arrived – Trophy 220E-1

note: This post should have been made 6 days after the initial post regarding the battery purchase, but it was delayed along with the first post.

Well, you know by my last post regarding my quest for a new battery was arduous but I pulled the trigger and bought a third battery for my system upgrade.

If you want to read about our solar power system upgrade you can read about here < click here >

If you want to read about evaluating and choosing the new Trophy Battery you can read about it here < click here >

If you are wondering why I didn’t buy two new batteries to round out the two I already had for a total of four batteries you can read about it at the bottom of the Solar HomePage < click here >

If you remember from the first post in this series about buying a new battery I had the batteries shipped to a friends business, his warehouse. It saved a considerable amount of money avoiding a “residential deliver” and a “tailgate lift fee”.

As soon as I got there I started popping the pallet straps, then I figured it would be good to have a video of what it looked like. Here is the video…

So the batteries (5 total – 3x110Ah, 2x220Ah) were well secured to the pallet, they shipping cases were all in great shape, no apparent damage. Trophy did a great job of designing the shipping cases. They also did a great job on shipping case placement on the pallet and strapping them down really well. And yup, FedEx handled them with care and delivered them a full day ahead of time…despite a snowstorm in the area.

I am thrilled so far…more evaluation to come!

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Ordered My Third Battery !

note: this post was written on December 6th, posting was delayed for a number of reasons.

As promised before, I am posting about my experience with Trophy Battery…and purchasing the third battery in a bank of 4 batteries. The fourth battery will have to wait awhile…we just don’t have the money for it just yet, the third one was expensive enough. Bummer!

As I mentioned before, I researched a lot of battery options…watched numerous videos, read a ton of reviews, spoke to more than one manufacturer directly, and I even talked with a 20-year veteran of the solar business for advice. I looked at everything I could find about the different companies and their batteries. One thing was paramount…internal Battery Management System (BMS); and I wanted steel case, rack mount batteries from the very beginning. Oh, and no off-the-wall stuff like golf cart batteries.

I looked into, researched, evaluated the following batteries:

  • EG4 LiFePOWER4
  • SOK
  • Jakiper
  • Ampere Time

I eliminated right away the following batteries:

  • FNS / Sacred Sun due to my prior experience with them.
  • Storz due to their high price tag.
  • Victron due to their high price tag.

Eventually I settled on Trophy Battery, the 220Ah beast to be exact. Their build was top notch, their capacity and voltages most closely matched my existing two batteries. I like the way they were designed, especially the built-in high current DC 175amp circuit breaker. I liked what I saw at every turn, more than any other battery or battery provider. Done…I would buy the Trophy Battery model 48V220C-1 48/51.2v, 220Ah.

I talked with a neighbor/friend who is also a DIY solar guy to get his opinion and he thought the batteries were awesome. He wanted to order as well after we had talked for about an hour. And I am helping out a close friend and his wife who are kinda stuck in their DIY solar journey, I agreed to help them out and build their system, they needed batteries as well. Their situation wasn’t all that unusual, their system would be in an unheated Conex container. Ahhhhhhh, Trophy batteries have built-in heaters to keep them functional (i.e. charging) at below freezing temperatures. They were in as well…they wanted model 48V110C-1 48/51.2v, 110Ah…3 of them.

At Trophy I spoke with Dan, the owner multiple times before placing the order. He was great and easy to work with and answered all my questions. I collected the money from the other two folks and placed the order. We did it together to save on shipping. Placing the order with Trophy was not without a minor issue. Their website locked my account and the cart would not function. Turned out to be a blessing…I placed the order directly with Dan and was pleased.

The batteries shipped the next day and are due for delivery in less than a week…1 week after the order was placed. They are coming FedEx freight to a friend’s business to help save money. It saves money to have them delivered to a business vs a residence. I received multiple emails from Trophy keeping me advised of the order/shipping process.

Some of the features I think are important to note:

  • 16 x EVE Power 230Ah cells
  • Heaters for charging in cold weather
  • Sophisticated programmable 200amp Battery Management System (BMS)
  • Soft start, automatic pre-charge of inverter capacitors to prevent damage
  • High current DC built-in circuit breaker
  • Front display screen for BMS
  • US based 24/7 support
  • 10-year non-prorated warranty
  • An owner’s manual…in ENGLISH!!

That is a 220Ah, 11.3watt battery for $3595.00! That comes out to 32cents per watt. Compared to many popular comparative 100Ah batteries at 34cents per watt…but the cheaper battery comes without the heaters, without the 200amp BMS,and without the internal high current DC circuit breaker! And it would take two of the 100Ah batteries and it would still fall short by 10% of the overall Ah rating…with less features.

So far I am thrilled! I will keep you advised.

< click here to ope a PDF file with Trophy Battery – 220E Battery Info >

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Our Solar System Upgrade

There seemed to be a bunch of interest in the solar stuff I have been posting. And, I decided a couple months ago to upgrade our system. Seems like a perfect time to share more solar info, add to the solar book I am writing, and use it to double check what I am doing. I hope you get something out of it. And as always…ask questions, make comments, add suggestions, and do helpful critiques as you wish 🙂

Existing System –
  • 3.8Kw of solar panels (2 arrays of 1.5Kw, 1 array of 800w)
  • 1 x Victron Smart Solar MPPT 150/70 charge controller
  • 1 x Victron Quattro 48vDC/5000w/120vAC/70a inverter/charger
  • 1 x Victron Smart Shunt with BMV-712 Smart connected to a Victron Color Control GX
  • 2 x 202Ah LifePo4 batteries in parallel
  • On the usable house AC side we get 120vAC at approximately 41a
  • Our average power usage per day is 11.3kWh (last 12 months of history)
  • < click here to open the PDF file showing our current solar system >
Drawbacks to the Existing System –
  • We used our generator 3 days out of the last year due to low battery, approximately 40kWh.
  • We had the inverter cut out due to over discharge (drawing too much power) twice, once in June, once in July. Yup, we were using the AC’s at the time.
  • We have used two inverter style air conditioners for two summers and love them. But, we can’t run them past 10pm without risk of running the batteries too low. Fortunately, there aren’t too many nights that much AC is needed.
  • On cloudy days, or when the batteries start the day low, it is difficult to charge the batteries 100%.
  • This past year we experimented with using electric baseboard heaters during mildly cold days and evenings. They work fine, really nice. But, we can’t run more than 3 on at low settings, or two on high setting, without risking shutting down the inverter due to over discharge (drawing too much power) if/when we turn on something like the air fryer.
Proposed Upgrade to System –
  • Increase to 5.9Kw of solar panels (2 arrays of 2.235Kw, 1 array of 1.47Kw), 58% increase in power generation.
  • Add a second Victron Smart Solar MPPT 150/70 charge controller, 100% increase in potential PV to battery power generation. It will also balance the charging of the incoming solar panel power avoiding overloading a single MPPT system.
  • Add a second Victron Quattro 48vDC/5000w/120vAC/70a inverter/charger resulting in a doubling of available AC power, 100% increase. Giving us 10Kw/240vAC @ 82amps.
  • Add 2 x 220Ah LifePo4 batteries into existing battery bank, increasing our energy storage by 107%.

As a side-effect to the upgrade I will be “cleaning up” the wire layout, increasing the size of wire at strategic wiring points, improving the fusing and circuit breaker systems, and replacing important Tier 2 equipment with Tier 1 equipment. And for a major safety upgrade I will be putting up cement board (fire resistant) behind all the equipment vs the particle board I have now.

I will be posting as I go to show the “before”, what is planed for the “after”…and then what actually gets installed. Of course I will be glad to respond to any input or questions along the way.

Related Pages & Articles –



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TIP : Solar – Check/Tighten All Connections…regularly

A dangerous, potentially catastrophic, situation developed with my solar system and I was almost unaware of it. Thankfully I caught it in time and learned a couple lessons along the way. And that is what I will share with you today.

I run a 150/70 Victron MPPT SmartCharger…a charge controller that converts the solar panel power into usable power that charges my batteries and provides power to the inverter during daylight hours. The 150 represents the incoming voltage from the solar panels, the 70 represents the amperage (current) going into the inverter and batteries.

Normally we push about 82vDC from the panels into the charge controller. And the charge controller runs about 45 – 50amps into the batteries/inverter under normal conditions. It can run a high as 70amps in early fall or on some summer days. In the winter it can go as low as 35 – 40amps due to the solar elevation. Obviously it can go down noticeably as cloud cover increases.

When I installed the charge controller I used a standard wire size calculator for 70a, less than 10’ (round trip) circuit. That showed that 6AWG wire was plenty good enough, well within the requirements. And I wanted the circuit fused to protect the charge controller and the rest of the system, so I went with an 80a ANL fuse. And since I didn’t want the wire to act as a fuse I upgraded the wire to 4AWG, which is capable of 80a when used in a less than 15’ (round trip) circuit. Yup, all set!

About 2 months ago I was looking over the system on a particularly sunny early fall afternoon with the sun at the perfect solar elevation for my panels. I was hitting the 70a max for the charge controller. But not to worry, the charge controller will throttle the output amperage at 70a and not let it go above that limit. It does that by limiting the input power from the panels. Well, something prompted me to touch the 4AWG wire between the charge controller and the ANL fuse. Ah…hot!

For some reason, and I mean unknown, I had used 2AWG between the main busbar and the ANL fuse, but used 4AWG between the fuse and the charge controller. Please don’t ask me why, I don’t remember. I probably ran out of 2AWG and didn’t want to go buy a 1’ piece of 2AWG…but I wasn’t worried about it because 4AWG was a full size above what was required anyways.

But the 2AWG wire on the battery side of the fuse was not hot at all. Hummm….. I wrote it off as being the peak 70a current due to the sun intensity, panel angle, and solar elevation. A month later I was looking over the system again and noticed a slight discoloration to the 4AWG wire, I touched it, it was real warm, not hot, but real warm. The 2AWG below the fuse was room temperature. Problem! But I couldn’t figure it out, not to worry, the fuse would protect the system no matter what…and it was high quality 105c degree rated insulation on the wire so I wasn’t particularly.

A couple of weeks later I was once again looking over the system and noticed my red electrical tape on the aforementioned 4AWG wire, used as makeshift heat shrink, had flagged on me and an end was sticking out. 40A current showing on the charge controller and the wire was real warm. OK, I am not the brightest bulb on the tree but I realized I had to cure this problem. I wasn’t sure what the problem was…but it had to be fixed whatever it was. And since I didn’t know for sure what the problem actually was, it was my intention to replace the 4AWG wire with 2AWG, new terminal lug, proper heat shrink, and replace the 80a ANL fuse, maybe even the fuse holder if needed.

Now…left turn for a minute. While researching my upcoming system upgrade I learned that using wire ferrules on the battery wire going into the charge controller is considered “best practice” for a number of reasons, all of which made perfect sense. So I was sure that my wire overheating came from that lack of wire ferrule when I first put the system together 2.5 years ago. I now have the tool and wire ferrules…this “fix” would be a great trial run for me.

Well, the day came for the “great fix”…full batteries, informed the wife of the need for low power consumption, and gathered all of my tools and parts. Shut down the panel power input, disconnected the batteries from the charge controller, tested all the wires to make sure the charge controller was isolated, and double checked everything once again.

I went to disconnect the charge controller to battery ring terminal from the fuse and immediately knew what the problem was.

About a year ago I was reading on how to maintain a solar system and one of the points made was to check all electrical connections, then tighten or replace as needed. Ah, well, the nut holding down the ring terminal on the charge controller side of the fuse was actually loose. Yup, loose…and that was the problem.

You see if a terminal connection is loose it becomes a high resistance connection and that generates heat. The hotter the terminal gets, the weaker it becomes, and this continues until it shows up as a critical failure. But the question remains…why did it become loose? I know for a fact that when I did the initial install I tightened it correctly…period. But, as I thought about it…all the times the ring terminal connection heated up, then cooled down, then heated up, then cooled down…over and over again nearly 2,600 times. The nut simply loosened itself due to the continuous heating and cooling. And I never once checked my connections to see if everything was still tight.

Well, I replaced everything as needed, making sure everything was properly tightened. Everything is fine now, the system is running as designed, wire is room temperature, and I am sleeping a little better. Then I took the old fuse apart this morning. Oooooppppppsssssss…

See the picture for more information, but, the fuse was burnt as it should be but not 100% separated at the element. Thus, current/power was still flowing to the batteries/inverter but was several impeded.

Needless to say…I will be setting up a schedule to perform maintenance just as advised.



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Our Glamstead Solar System

Here we go…I was asked to supply the info and diagram of our solar system. I hope this can be of use to folks who are thinking about going off-grid or grid-tied.

After working through the numbers I felt a 4kw – 5kw inverter would handle our needs. Yeah, I maybe didn’t get it right…thought it would meet our needs.

Later I thought about adding electric baseboard heaters…right after I figured out we needed air conditioning. So be careful on how you calculate your electric needs…then add 40 – 50%.

So here are “jpgs” for each part…

Here is the link for a PDF file of the whole thing…

< click here for Glamstead Solar Sytem PDF file >



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TIP : Very Energy Efficient Air Conditioning for Solar Systems

As you know we have a solar system…3.8kw Canadian Solar PVs, 400ah LifePo4 batteries, 5kw Victron inverter powering a 120vAC household system. Originally we were not going to have air conditioning…but a summer of me building the house changed my mind quickly. So the next summer (2020)…we had an older standalone upright AC unit that we pressed into service. Mistake! Terribly inefficient, power hog, loud enough to make conversation uncomfortable, and didn’t get the house below 80 degrees.


The issues/problems that we faced were:

  1. Not enough AC power for a regular whole house AC system.
  2. Only 120vAC power.
  3. 915sq’ of living space in 4 rooms (master bedroom, spare room, bathroom, & great room that includes a kitchen).
  4. Not enough available wall space for a split unit.

Bottom line…we had little other choice than a window unit. But they are notorious for being anything but energy efficient as well as being limited in total square footage vs BTU…not to mention noisy. As I said…few options…limited selection…yuck. So into research mode I went.

I found inverter technology as an alternative to standard air conditioner technology. So what is this inverter technology? Basically is converts incoming AC power into DC power. Then it regulates that DC power to the unit through a modulation process. Meaning…it only uses the bare minimum power required at the time for the temperature setting vs room temperature. And since DC power is more efficient on electric motors and compressors you get longer life out of them as well. The result in power savings is around 35%.

And as an added benefit I found a unit that is 9 times quieter than traditional AC units. Yeah, quiet as a library. Nice!

Now it was time for a trial…we decided to try it out on our 224sq’ master bedroom…after all a decent night sleep with AC is worth a whole lot!

We purchased a “Midea 8,000 BTU U-Shaped Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner” for our trial run. It was rated to cool 350sq’ giving us a 40% margin…meaning that the AC unit should be able to 100% cool the room running at 60% capacity. We bought it from Amazon for $389 (tax included).

It was very easy to install, very quiet, super energy efficient, and froze us out 🙂 We considered it a success in every way. It was even quiet enough to allow me to sleep uninterrupted, and that is rare for me. So we bought the second unit a month later. This time we bought a 12,000 BTU unit (rated for 550sq’) for the great room / kitchen which is 460sq’… for $465.

It was a very nice summer & fall and the solar system could handle the power load with no issues. We even ran it into the night till 10:30 a couple times…still over 80% on our batteries.

This year when I put them back into service I placed the 12,000 BTU unit in the great room again but a different window that was protected and shaded. The 8,000 BTU unit went into our spare room which opens into the hall that opens into the bathroom, the master bedroom, and the great room. So far we are super pleased with the AC cooling power set-up we now have. And we don’t even have to run the AC’s after sunset…if that long.

Why not put the AC unit back in the master bedroom? Well, it was in my window the summer before so no cool breezes for me at night. This year…ahhhhhhhhh…cool summer night breezes every night through an open window.

We do have ceiling fans in the master bedroom and the great room / kitchen that keeps the cool air moving. I contribute that to the master bedroom staying at a very comfortable temperature all day.  We usually keep the great room / kitchen set at 71 degrees and the spare room set at 67 degrees. This keeps the whole house very cool and comfortable.

The maximum AC power draw on the 8,000 BTU unit is 8.75 amps and the 12,000 BTU unit comes in at 12 amps. However, when I look at the user screen on the solar system computer I rarely see them drawing more than about 8 – 12 amps total combined. So realistically, if I have them both running, they are drawing no more than 21 – 30 amps off the batteries at any one time. Considering that the PVs are producing 50 – 70 amps during the day…I am getting free AC and still charging the batteries.

I love these AC units! They are super energy efficient and very, very quiet. If you have a solar system and no AC but you want AC…these are the units for you! If you currently use grid power and have older energy inefficient window AC units…you might want to consider upgrading to these units.

Unit information:

  • ULTRA QUIET – The Midea U Smart Inverter AC unit is 9 times quieter than traditional units. The U-shape design uses your window to blocks noise outside and the high efficiency Inverter system warrants ultra low noise and vibration. This design allows for extremely quiet operation as low as 42 dBA – almost as quiet as a library – so you can get a restful night’s sleep or binge your favorite shows undisturbed.
  • MORE THAN 35% ENERGY SAVINGS – With the advanced DC Inverter technology, Midea U achieves over 35% energy savings compared to other traditional units, and it’s the first window AC to obtain the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2022 Certification. You may also get exclusive benefits from your local energy distributor.
  • FLEXIBLE WINDOW OPENING – Midea U-shaped design allows your window to open, bringing fresh air into your home anytime and allowing you to maintain more of your view even when the unit is installed. The Anti-Theft Mechanism locks the closed window for added security
  • SMART CONTROL – The Midea U Smart Inverter Air Conditioner is Wi-Fi enabled and can be controlled from anywhere through the cloud using the MideaAir app on iOS or Android. You can also use voice commands throughout your house, office, or apartment using Alexa or Google Assistant.
  • ROBUST INSTALLATION – Install the included quick-snap bracket, set the unit on the bracket, and secure the sidearms. After that, you are all done and ready to enjoy. Available for single-hung or double-hung windows with size: 22″-36″, minimal height at 13.75″.

For the 8,000 BTU, 350sq’ unit < click here >

For the 12,000 BTU, 550sq’ unit < click here >



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TIP: Prepping for Electrical Issues

This is actually a sub-article to a larger project article and it includes some items from previous articles. However, I think there is a solid case for writing this article as a stand-alone. Wow…mouthful of word salad!

So there I was…time to finally upgrade my water well system to a solar pump water well system. You can read more about it here <click here to read about it>. It came time to do my wire splicing…and that is where this article came from.

During an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event you may find yourself having to do some electrical work. And if you find yourself having to do some splicing it would be nice to have the needed supplies on hand. Here are a couple of things that I feel could be invaluable in those situations.

Let’s start with the basics…Electrical Tape –

Not all electrical tape is created equal. And let’s start this off with a general statement…you get what you pay for. That means I buy Scotch brand electrical tape, or private label electrical tape made by Scotch. I don’t buy the knock-offs or the cheap stuff. Why? Because I am entrusting personal safety and/or my house and/or my equipment to this electrical tape…I don’t want cheap-junk vs expensive-quality. Nice thing is…the quality stuff isn’t really that much more expensive.

I keep three basic types of electrical tape on hand; 1) Scotch 700, 2) Scotch 2242, 3) Ace 30986.

Scotch 700: A high quality, vinyl insulating tape. Resists a wide range of chemicals and abrasive materials. Can be used indoor/outdoor and even below ground. And a roll has about 66’ on it. It is good down to about 15 degrees or so. Pretty much a general purpose electrical tape that I would use where the tape is not exposed directly to the weather and not exposed to moisture…so basically dry indoors. Don’t over stretch this tape when using.


Scotch 2242: A high quality general purpose rubber tape. Used correctly it provides an immediate moisture resistant seal as well as insulation. This is a great weather resistant electrical tape. Stretching doesn’t really affect this tape. Since it is made out of rubber it is pretty dang resistant to abrasion. It is good down to about 0 degrees. A bit more expensive and only 15’ on the roll. This what I would use when the job was exposed to the weather or on my equipment (i.e. tractor) used outside.


Ace 30986: Self-fusing, water-tight, rubber based electrical tape. It seals based on a rubber resin, “vulcanized” as my electrician buddy explained it to me. It is pricey but well worth the money when a water-tight seal is needed. This is the tape I used to protect the splices on my well pump installation. Yes, that means the splice was submerged in water…and will be for years to come. I used multiple layers, medium stretch, pressed together hard.


I also keep two types of Gardner Bender Liquid Tape on hand; 1) the brush on variety, 2) spray on version.

Brush on version (GB LTB-400): It’s a rubber based brush on electrical sealant. It can be sued indoors/outdoors and creates a waterproof seal when used correctly. It’s also very UV resistant which is nice here in Arizona. It is resistant to chemicals, solvents, and saltwater. It is dry in 5 minutes, fully cured in 24 hours. Can be used in harsh temperature conditions…30 degrees below zero to 200 degrees above zero. And it stays pretty dang flexible. I like it when I use butt connectors and want to make a water tight seal around them.  If I wanted a really good, virtually fool-proof water tight seal I would use the Ace 30986, then use two coats of GB LTB-400 allowing 24 hours between coats. First coat of GB LTB-400 would overlap the Ace 30986 tape ends. Then the second coat of GB LTB-400 would overlap the first coat of GB LTB-400. WARNING: don’t think an opened container of the GB LTB-400 will be acceptable for storing! Once opened it tends to dry out. Store a brand new, unopened container.

Spray on version (GB LTS-400): This is kinda like the brush on version, but not entirely. This stuff is vinyl based vs rubber based and is much thinner obviously since it is sprayed on. Yes, you can spray on multiple coats to build up the thickness. It dries quickly (5 minutes) and is fully cured in 24 hours. It is very protective and insulating but I would not count on it being water-tight with a single application, more like water-resistant. Water-tight if you build up multiple, correctly applied layers, each of which is allowed to properly cure. Can be sued indoors/outdoors and a temperature range of 30 degrees below zero to 200 degrees above zero and resistant to chemicals, solvents, and saltwater.

So there you go…there is my electrical prepper kit for electrical work.

Related Articles –



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