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"Balcony solar" (e.g., Anker Solix) with micro-inverter; do they really use exposed pins ("suicide cable" style)

jameshowison

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I watched a youtube video from Germany about an Anker Solix "balcony" solar system. Anyone on here use something like this?


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The manual shows that it is panels, connected to a micro-inverter, then plugged straight into an outdoor outlet. Figure seems to show a connector that ends in a male (aka normal, Schuko) plug, so that the system can feed power into the building. There are no batteries or charge controller (nothing to charge). Just creates 240v and offsets electricity usage.

Anyone on here know more about these?

So. Many. Questions. :)

Is there something that stops voltage on the exposed pins if someone unplugs the system? Or could this just flop around nailing people with 240v power? In the US they call this "normal outlet as input for a generator" a "suicide cable" ... but maybe there is something I'm missing (amps generated too low? I think 800W system through a micro-inverter could only generate about 3amps of 240v power (manual says 2.6amps), but I think that's still enough for trouble!

Given that you are back-feeding a circuit, what is to stop this power "heading onto the grid and killing a lineman"? That's also something people are very concerned about in the US, hence the need for transfer switches or generator interlocks. Are you meant to turn off the incoming circuit breaker so that power on that circuit is only coming from the Solar? But the video implied that this was just offsetting usage.

Hmmm, manual says (in tiny script), "Note: According to the government's regulations and to ensure safety, the microinverter can only start working after connecting to a powered grid for 5 minutes." So maybe if the power goes out the system stops working? And maybe as soon as it stops sensing power on the circuit the system turns off, so if you flop the male pins around they can't have voltage on them?

Oh, and they have a battery option too, so is that including an AC charger to convert the micro-inverted DC to AC then back to DC to charge the battery?

Anyway, seems like a curious product.
 
As they mention the inverter will only output power if it detects power from the ac grid. When unplugged, the circuit breaker turned off, or the gird is out it would shutdown and not output any power.(hopefully fast enough not to shock someone who immediately touches the plug) These are pretty standard features for grid tied inverters.

One issue might be the device could feed power to the grid while the grid is up, without meeting any regulations that might exist for such an installation.
 
I have a similar one. It puts power into the grid while it senses the grid is up, when the grid goes out it stops working. Mine will feed about 500w into the "house grid" every hour the sun is on it. Nowhere near enough to offset a meter, maybe a few kw. I read the meter every day and I have never seen a number less than 5kw. It claims they are "stackable" though, so I suppose you could pump out alot more, but then you will run into (big) problems with your utility company.
 
Thanks. Makes me wonder, though, why don’t generators just use that technology, then no ATS no interlock etc.
 
Thanks. Makes me wonder, though, why don’t generators just use that technology, then no ATS no interlock etc.

1) Because grid feedback is not allowed without a contract. If you push power back to the utility, they'll bust you. I use a couple of small ones for a specialized purpose. I never produce enough power to ever backfeed to the utility.

2) Grid-tie works on the basis of having an infinite grid to dump power into, so they output the max power available. A generator wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a needed load or the grid and would simply dump max power into the grid - needed or not.
 
Thanks. Makes me wonder, though, why don’t generators just use that technology, then no ATS no interlock etc.
Generators are most commonly used to provide power without the grid, instead of just supplementing it. A backup or standalone generate that requires the grid to work would be pretty useless.
 
While they don't allow this in US, it is legal in many European countries up to 800W without any permitting. I bought some electronics from a guy in the US and he showed me his solar system. He had more than a dozen of these 500W units and panels everywhere on his house. He pays $25 a month to keep his spinning wheel meter read instead of the digital which would show backfeed. So many panels on his house in every direction it was comical. It certainly wasn't hidden from the meter reader. He wanted to know how he could connect up car batteries to it so it would produce at night. I wanted no part of that. I'm sure there are some people in Europe that have five of these connected to an extension cord in their living room.
 
The problem with these socket inverters, is that they backfeed a socket, not a breaker. A socket is usually just one component on a circuit, there could be more on the same circuit like lights, more sockets etc.
This can violate the "circuit branch" rules (look it up). In short, it means that a breaker in your AC panel will not open/pop when a certain appliance overloads the circuit. This can cause the wires to heat up or possibly even start a fire. Remember, breakers are there mainly to protect the wires.

Any grid tied inverter should be hooked up to a dedicated breaker in the AC panel.

It seems like more and more of these are popping up lately. I think EcoFlow also recently released something like this.
I think Legion Solar were one of the first to bring such a product/kit to the market.
If you dive into thier user manuals, they talk about the branch circuit rules, but I doubt many consumers will actually oblige.
 
Generators are most commonly used to provide power without the grid, instead of just supplementing it. A backup or standalone generate that requires the grid to work would be pretty useless.
Right. I was thinking of that sensor, but working in reverse. But yeah, not thinking hard :)
 
So my question is what would a proper standard & regulations around this look like, to make it safe so that a lay person could go down to a home improvement store, buy a plug in solar system and have it be safe?
 
It is a cultural thing. There are still 1 1/2 states that don't allow you to pump your own gas because it is dangerous. One state is going to try this newfangled idea to see if it works out. New building codes now require a 50A outlet in the garage to support electric car charging. If codes required a dedicated outlet near a balcony, there would be no reason why you couldn't have balcony solar.
 
So my question is what would a proper standard & regulations around this look like, to make it safe so that a lay person could go down to a home improvement store, buy a plug in solar system and have it be safe?
I would imagine a new type of generator inlet keyed to only allow certified plug and play grid interactive inverters.
 
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