Friday, December 13, 2013

Mysterious Christmas lights

The charge controller for my solar panels has three lights to indicate various stages of charging. The green light is usually on. At night, with no sun, it’s usually the yellow one. I had never seen the red light on.

The other night the lights were flashing red-yellow-green, red-yellow-green... That couldn’t be good.

So I got out the manual. It said it could be one of two things. A self-test failure or a changed dip switch setting. The dip switches (tiny little things inside the controller) are set to match the type of battery you’re charging. I had not changed them. 

The manual said to press the reset button. I did. The lights kept flashing red-yellow-green, red-yellow-green...

I pressed and held the reset button a few seconds. The lights still kept flashing red-yellow-green, red-yellow-green...

Hmmmm, had something worse happened, like a damaged circuit board? Would I need to call customer service? Would I need to go to Flagstaff to the company I bought the controller from in order to get the problem solved? Had I sent in the warranty card? Would I need to shell out several hundred dollars for a new controller?

Well, there was nothing I could do until morning. (How many times in our lives do we end up saying there’s nothing we can do until morning?) Between worrying about that and thoughts of dental work, I didn’t sleep much. I checked the lights several times during the night. Still flashing red-yellow-green, red-yellow-green...

But when the sun came up, presto, no more flashing lights. And the batteries were being charged. Cool!

Then I saw something that might have caused the problem. I had happened to park under a bright parking lot light. Had the not-as-bright-as-the-sun light from that produced some sort of low voltage/wattage from the solar panel that confused the controller? If it happens again when I park under bright lights I’ll have a pretty good answer. And I won’t worry. Much.

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