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Technology

INVERTER INSTALLATION: TROUBLESHOOTING 101

Quick Tips to Maximize Your Inverter’s Zesty Performance

By Tech Doctor Don Wilson

With all the interest generated by our previously posted edition of TECH DOCTOR, I reached out for this additional and rather relevant paper on inverters. These highly advanced additions to the electrical needs of many boats and yachts have become as important and necessary as any other piece of equipment aboard. -Capt. Ken

So you want to install an inverter, but with all the features and complexity of today’s more sophisticated units, you’re hesitant to take the plunge? Or, perhaps you’ve had some problems with your inverter, and you’re not sure if it’s a faulty unit … or a simple installation problem? Let the Tech Doctor help! This issue offers up some basic troubleshooting tips to help ensure your inverter
is installed correctly in order to deliver maximum, trouble-free delivery. Success in this area will save aggravation and potentially money associated with having to engage a support technician for unwarranted and unnecessary repairs.

Xantrex PROsine™ Inverters deliver true sine wave output that is identical to AC power supplied by your utility. This clean output makes PROsine™ Inverters ideal for handling sensitive loads, while also improving AC equipment performance. Designed for recreational and industrial applications, expect the best performances from televisions, audio systems, speed tools, and any other electronics where you want nothing but the most optimal performance.

Xantrex PROsine™ Inverters deliver true sine wave output that is identical to AC power supplied by your utility. This clean output makes PROsine™ Inverters ideal for handling sensitive loads, while also improving AC equipment performance. Designed for recreational and industrial applications, expect the best performances from televisions, audio systems, speed tools, and any other electronics where you want nothing but the most optimal performance.

LET’S GET STARTED.
First, an overview. When working with electrical circuits, you must always ensure the circuit is powered down and cannot be re-energized while you are working on it. If you’re not entirely comfortable with this task (or any other cited in this article) then by all means, leave it to the experts. Your attention and compliance to all safety directives must always be first and foremost!

THE BASIC BENCHMARK.
If for any reason, things don’t seem to be working as they should with your inverter, understand that these types of products simply don’t “kind-of” fail. When an inverter goes bad, typically nothing will work … or, one of the features simply won’t work consistently.

If an inverter system was not part of your original purchase, always seek out the experts when doing a retrofit or addition.

If an inverter system was not part of your original purchase, always seek out the experts when doing a retrofit or addition.

STRATEGIES FOR INVERTER INSTALLATION SUCCESS.
1. Revert all settings to factory defaults. This may seem obvious, but the factory default settings are usually default for a reason. They are the values that allow the inverter to work in the vast majority of environments. While you don’t want to leave these settings to factory default in the long-term, for a quick test, it’s ideal. After completing the test, then you can easily readjust the settings to meet your specific needs. Check the settings, one by one, until the problem is identified, or the settings are adjusted to work. Note: If the inverter came installed with your vessel, the manufacturer would likely have changed the factory default settings to custom settings to suit the design and application. In such circumstances, once you reset the inverter to the default OEM/manufacturer setting, you may not need any further changes.

2. Disconnect all loads. This action will remove the installation as a possible cause of the problem. This is also a good time to disconnect the  battery, wait a few minutes, and then reconnect, in order to reboot the inverter’s processor.

3. Power up the inverter. If this works, bring the loads on-line, one by one.

4. Watch the DC voltage at the inverter and make sure the voltage stays within the DC voltage range of the inverter. This eliminates the possibility that an ineffective circuit from the battery is causing the issue. If the voltage is erratic, solve that problem by tracing the cause of the erratic voltage and fixing it, and then get back to the inverter. Recommendation: if you don’t have a spare DC fuse on board, get one! Also, read up on and review the features of your inverter. Some perceived problems actually arise from features in the inverter like idle mode, or power save. Such features, when enabled, allow the inverter to turn off when the load is low, but can create the very real perception of a problem. Remember: inverters don’t produce energy; they simply convert what they’re given. If you have a combination inverter/charger, and the inverter doesn’t work, but the charger is humming along fine, then check the DC voltage at the inverter when inverting to gauge whether it is within the inverter’s DC range. If the inverter works, but the charger is problematic, then check the AC input voltage at the inverter and ensure it is within the inverter’s AC range. With a sound read of what the unit is receiving, you can eliminate most causes of perceived failure.

Tech Doctor Don WIlson.

Tech Doctor Don WIlson.

A FINAL TROUBLESHOOTING REVIEW.
1. For the most part, inverters either work, or they don’t.
2. From my experience and in working with dozens of tech service centers, I have concluded that more than 80% of inverters that are returned without hands-on troubleshooting have absolutely no issues on the bench. The problem in at least 20 percent of the returns correlate directly to faulty installations.
3. Erratic behavior, or inconsistent problems, are almost always a loose connection…somewhere. While it’s not easy to find them, it’s worth the time and the effort.
4. A quality volt-meter is worth the investment. While there is a cost associated with ownership, it may pay off in eliminating shipping and diagnostic bench time at the service center that is unnecessary.
5. Safety first!. Power down as much as reasonable when working with circuits. Always use one hand when working with wiring. If you’re not qualified, or are not 100% confident in the process you’re attempting, hire a qualified electrician.

SUMMARY.
Remember, inverters are nothing more than an appliance that does what it’s told to do. If it doesn’t receive the right instructions, or can’t interpret its input, it likely will not perform to your expectations, through no fault of its own. Take the time to ensure the proper installation in order to maximize the performance of your hard-working inverter! Then, you will realize its ultimate return on investment.

To view the Xantrex TECH DOCTOR LIVE, visit www.youtube.com/xantrextechnology
To request print or video editions of Tech Doctor, please email Marketing Manager Mitul Chandrani – Mitul.Chandrani@schneider-electric.com
And please mention that you read this edition on The Boat & Yacht Report.

About Xantrex Technology Inc.
Xantrex Technology Inc., a subsidiary of Schneider Electric, is a world leader in the development, manufacturing and marketing of advanced power electronic products and systems for the mobile power markets. The company’s products convert and control raw electrical power from any central, distributed, renewable, or backup power source into high-quality power required by electronic equipment. Xantrex is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, with facilities in  the United States. www.xantrex.com

About Schneider Electric
As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in energy and infrastructure, industrial processes, building automation, and data centres/networks, as well as a broad presence in residential applications. Focused on making energy safe, reliable, and efficient, the company’s 110,000 plus employees achieved sales of 19.6 billion euros in 2010, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations “Make the most of their energy.” www.schneider-electric.com

About Don WIlson
TECH DOCTOR DON WILSON has worked in technical capacities in the automotive, RV and marine fields and for the military since 1989 and has extensive experience in designing and troubleshooting onboard electrical systems. A former customer service manager dealing with electronic issues, Wilson currently serves as a technical instructor for the RV industry’s RVIA Trouble Shooter Clinics and is a full-time sales application specialist for Xantrex Technology.

 

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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Technology

 

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Technology

The Mystique of Automatic Generator Start!

Tech Doctor Don Wilson solves the puzzle surrounding the use and effectiveness of Automatic Generator Start (AGS), as an integral part of sophisticated electrical systems onboard boats.

Our friends over at Xantrex Technolgy are world leaders in the development, manufacturing and marketing of advanced power electronic products and systems for the mobile power markets. The company’s products convert and control raw electrical power from any central, distributed, renewable, or backup power source into high-quality power required by electronic equipment and the electricity grid.

Whenever they feel some useful information could be of interest to my readers, they send it on over for publication. Penned by Don Wilson, aka The Tech Doctor and a true wizard in this sector of the industry, this recent conversation concerns the use of AGS, Automatic Generator Start and why it could pop up on your radar screen. -Capt. Ken

So, what is an “AGS” and why do I want one?

Tech Doctor Don WIlson.

Tech Doctor Don WIlson.

Imagine a world where you program your electrical system to automatically use the sources necessary to maintain it, while staying as energy-efficient as possible. Sound like something out of science fiction? GREAT NEWS: The future is NOW! With the right components — including an AGS — this automated world and all of its exciting benefits – is here and available now!

If you’re a power junkie or a generator enthusiast, you may be familiar with AGS. If not, there’s no time like the present to learn and put this highly efficient technology to work, to your full advantage.

AGS is the acronym for Automatic Generator Start. It is one of the least understood, but one of the most versatile and powerful, accessories available on the market today! At its basic function, AGS automatically starts and stops the generator using pre-defined parameters, thus relieving the user from having to actively manage his electrical system.

Marine gensets, such as this one by Kohler, can be safely controlled by an AGS system.

Marine gensets, such as this one by Kohler, can be safely controlled by an AGS system.

Most AGS modules start the generator when the batteries are low, and automatically shut it off when the batteries are recharged. Some models can even start and stop the generator based on the climate control system, or even the inverter load.

In the beginning, AGS was primarily developed for usage in the RV and marine markets, allowing enthusiasts to leave their cabin or boat for a day on the town, without having to burn excessive fuel via their generators to keep things comfortable.

As the concept developed, early adopters responded favorably. One of the first consumer demands was for air conditioner triggers so beloved pets could be kept safe and cool while their owners were out and about. Inverter load triggering was an obvious addition when networked power systems were developed, thus allowing the AGS to launch the generator when a long-term heavy load was in place, thereby preventing an overload.
xantrexsw300system001

While the concept itself sounds simple enough, is AGS difficult to program and use?

The only challenge with AGS may be experienced at the very outset. Some select models may have more sophisticated parameters to initiate, but with some help from a knowledgeable sales person or installer, that is easily overcome. Other models are more simple and easy to activate. The good news: once AGS  is set up and operational, it’s an easy “set it and forget it” device. Truly, once the parameters are set, the only choice left is whether you want to engage the AUTO mode, or OFF mode (some AGSs have a Manual ON mode as well, replacing the stand-alone generator control panel).

Here’s a simple explanation of the typical modes:

-‘Off’ simply means that the AGS module is not active in monitoring triggers and the generator may still be started manually. However, if the generator is running when Off is set, the AGS will shut the generator down if it was set for

-Manual On or Auto. ‘Auto’ means that the AGS will begin monitoring the triggers that would cause an automatic start of the generator. It will start or stop the generator, based on those triggers. ‘Manual On’ will cause the AGS to start the generator without a required “trigger” and wait for the user to set the AGS to “Off” before shutting the generator down.

Wiring is fairly simple as the connections are usually:

• DC voltage (some systems get power and DC voltage measurements from the inverter)
• Air Conditioner (these are 12-volt or ground sense wires to determine the thermostat state)
• Manual inputs (to add your own buttons somewhere to manually start the generator)
• Generator interface (2-6 wires for preheating, starting, and stopping the generator)

Once these connections are made and the parameters are set, the AGS simply works to

A Xantrex Freedom HF inverter/charger is a combination of an inverter, battery charger and transfer switch into one complete system.

A Xantrex Freedom HF inverter/charger is a combination of an inverter, battery charger and transfer switch into one complete system.

simulate the regular manual switches by closing/opening relays in the proper timing, based on the generator model. In other words, when the system receives a trigger (low DC voltage, thermostat input, or inverter load), the AGS simply closes a relay, or series of relays, thus simulating the user pushing the start button. If preheat is required, it will push the proper sequence to preheat, then start the generator. When the trigger is no longer active, or has been satisfied, the AGS closes another relay that simulates the user pushing the stop button. Some AGSs have a minimum runtime to prevent premature wear on the generator’s engine.

That, friends, is AGS in a nutshell. If you might benefit from AGS in your personal application, make sure that the model of choice offers only those features you really want and need; take care not to get overwhelmed by a model with more features than are necessary for your usage. There are models that have over 20 wire connections, but for a minimal installation, you may only need three! The rest of the wires are for different generator models, or optional features that you may not want to incorporate right away.

Also consider the difference between stand-alone AGS systems, which simply work with the hard-wired inputs they have, vs. networked AGS systems, which can take data and generator start triggers from other devices like Inverters and Energy Management Systems. Some of the networked systems can also help the other devices make decisions like shedding loads, or supporting heavy generator loads, based on data shared between all devices.

When you’re ready to move up to today’s latest technology and enjoy the benefits of an easier and more efficient system, AGS delivers!

To view the Xantrex TECH DOCTOR LIVE, visit www.youtube.com/xantrextechnology
To request print or video editions of Tech Doctor, please email Marketing Manager Mitul Chandrani – Mitul.Chandrani@schneider-electric.com
And please mention that you read this edition on The Boat & Yacht Report.

About Xantrex Technology Inc.
Xantrex Technology Inc., a subsidiary of Schneider Electric, is a world leader in the development, manufacturing and marketing of advanced power electronic products and systems for the mobile power markets. The company’s products convert and control raw electrical power from any central, distributed, renewable, or backup power source into high-quality power required by electronic equipment. Xantrex is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, with facilities in  the United States. www.xantrex.com

About Schneider Electric
As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in energy and infrastructure, industrial processes, building automation, and data centres/networks, as well as a broad presence in residential applications. Focused on making energy safe, reliable, and efficient, the company’s 110,000 plus employees achieved sales of 19.6 billion euros in 2010, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations “Make the most of their energy.” www.schneider-electric.com

About Don WIlson
TECH DOCTOR DON WILSON has worked in technical capacities in the automotive, RV and marine fields and for the military since 1989 and has extensive experience in designing and troubleshooting onboard electrical systems. A former customer service manager dealing with electronic issues, Wilson currently serves as a technical instructor for the RV industry’s RVIA Trouble Shooter Clinics and is a full-time sales application specialist for Xantrex Technology.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Technology

 

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Dock News

MASTRY HELPS NEW YORK ISLAND OWNER LIVE OFF-GRID

At coordinates 40.87754°N and 73.76577°W, you will find Columbia Island; a 150-square-foot-dollop of rock off of New Rochelle, NY in Long Island Sound that is situated between David’s Island and Pea Island. In fact, prior to 1940, it was known as Little Pea. That was when CBS purchased it, and in 1940 began construction of a concrete foundation to support a transmitter building with emergency housing for ten workers, topped by a 410 foot (125 m) antenna tower for WCBS-AM (then known by the call sign WABC). The transmitter remained in operation until the 1960s, when the station was moved to nearby High Island.

Fast forward to today with the romantic notion of living on one’s very own island added into the mix as filmmaker and actor Al Sutton has been preparing to do just that on Columbia Island.There was a hitch, though. The tiny island with its well-known history, had no power or water. That’s where Florida’s St. Petersburg-based Mastry Engine Center stepped in and helped make it possible for Sutton to live there completely off the grid.

Sutton is renovating the facility that housed the aforementioned Columbia Broadcasting’s 410′ radio tower for almost 20 years. Columbia Island is essentially a 75′ x 75′ concrete building protected by a 175′ x 175′ seawall. Employees once lived there, using a well that has since been breached with seawater, and electricity from an underwater power cable that’s now long gone. Sutton’s goal is to create an off-the-grid, green home in this facility.

The Mastry Engine Center was a key player in meeting this challenge, supplying two custom-built, synchronized, 45 kW MasPower generators as part of the home’s power system. The packages feature electronically controlled Yanmar diesel engines, powder-coated enclosures, stainless steel exhaust systems and 100-gallon stainless steel fuel tanks. A DeepSea electronic controller is instrumental in synchronizing the generators; no easy feat on smaller power systems.he house’s 100,000W power demand is fed primarily by a 1,200 sq. foot solar panel array linked to six large Xantrex inverter systems, with overflow sent to a bank of 48V batteries. When needed, the inverters signal the MasPower generators to start, which then simultaneously supply house power while recharging the battery bank. As power levels stabilize, one generator shuts down, leaving one to finish charging the batteries.

Total Electric, a Charleston, South Carolina, alternative power specialist, coordinated the electrical system. To connect the MasPower generators, “All I did was plug and play,” said Total Electric’s Tom Stoudenmier. “Mastry was great, they did all the synchronizing and fine tuning of the circuitry that makes the generators talk to each other.”

The house itself presents its own obstacles. More a bunker than an island estate, its basement is consumed by four half-million-pound concrete pads that once secured the radio tower. To install the generators, Mastry completely disassembled them to fit through a hole cut in the floor, then reassembled and installed them within the sparse basement area.

Project manager Harry Hunt of Marine-Solutions, a Glen Cove, New York-based marine repair and restoration company, said renovation work at Columbia Island, “Is like working on a boat that doesn’t move.  This is a very small, unprotected island. Everything must be watertight to stand up to the elements.  It demands the use of the best available products.”

Water comes from a 1,200 gpd Village Marine reverse osmosis seawater desalinator. Waterproof marine bulkhead doors, hurricane-proof windows, roll-down exterior shutters and two 10,000 gph sump pumps help protect the house from the elements. Sutton is currently creating a documentary about the resurrection of Columbia Island and incorporating its unique history as well.

Mastry Engine Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary, specializes in marine and industrial engines for OEM and repower, use MasPower diesel generators and industrial equipment.

Contact Mastry Engine Center, 2801 Anvil St., N. St. Petersburg, FL  33710.  727-522-9471.
Fax: 727-527-7013.  www.mastry.com

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Dock News

 

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