Problem with Sol-Ark (the company not the unit) What would you do?

AmpLee

Solar Enthusiast
So last year I bought 40kw of used Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) Toshiba Scib modules. I got a great deal on the batteries so was looking for an inverter to pair them with. The voltage range on my batteries are not common, however, so I did a lot of research before buying an inverter. The voltage range of LTO is 36-64.8v but 90% of the range is between 48v and 60v. So I keyed in on inverters at 60v or above.

The Sol-Ark 12k was an obvious choice for my needs. The unit I received had an advertised voltage range of up to 61v. However when I installed the unit with my solar setup, I could only charge my batteries to 59.1v. When I called to find out why I could not charge to 61v to company said that it can only do 61v for brief periods and with a temperature sensor and that 59v was the max sustained charge that the hardware could handle. But this was not information in the manual nor was this mentioned anywhere online. In fact, on the side of my unit, it clearly states the voltage range of of 43-61v with no qualifier that 59v is the actual upper limit that the hardware can handle. I feel like I got duped, right? I mean that information should at least be in the manual? Nope, in fact my manual states the upper limit of voltage to be 63v.

When I first called Sol-Ark to find a solution to the issue, the lady in the main office seemed genuinely concerned. She understood my position of believing I was getting something that was clearly written on the side of the unit, but actually getting something much different in real life. She promised to get to the bottom of the matter. I felt like I was in good hands. Then I got a call from someone else and after returning their call reached the sales department. The guy in sales started gaslighting me that I should have known the real voltage limit was 59v and that I should have called Sol-Ark prior to buying. Not a good sign, but at least there was a solution in the works.

So the solution proferred by Sol-Ark was to pay $1,000 restocking fee plus $450 shipping and I'd get a brand new 63v outdoor rated unit in exchange for my 59v (61v advertised) unit. I wasn't over the moon for this deal as I don't feel I was in the wrong at any point, but it was sufficient since I would be receiving a brand new outdoor rated unit (which was an improvement over the unit I had bought last year).

Well, today the "new" unit arrived and it was not a new outdoor rated unit. It was the same model unit I already own, except they have refurbished the unit to handle 63v charging. I can tell this because the wifi dongle is on the bottom, the sticker claims 61v, and the tamper tape has been removed and reapplied. This would be fine by me, except this is not the deal that was agreed upon. I would not have wanted to pay an extra $1450 for a refurbished unit. I would have asked for a clean swap and to share in the shipping costs. That would have been fair in my book, especially since my original unit has only been out of box for maybe 4 weeks and has been babied the whole time.

To make matters worse, the "new" unit appears to have some exterior damage -- as though there's been a lot of pressure put against the unit, either by a drop or maybe something heavy atop it at some point. There's some bent metal where it attaches to a wall and the casing is warped somewhat making removing the bottom panel more difficult. I don't know if this occurred in shipping or if it was something that happened before they shipped it. It is an old model so I am wondering if there's a reason they had an old one just laying around.

Then, and this is worst of all, when I pick up the "new" unit to move it to my inverter room, I hear a rattle on the inside like a bolt is loose somewhere. This is on the inside where I am not supposed to look or I'll void the warranty. Goodness. I was ready to accept my refurbished and slightly damaged "new" unit to this point, but now there's a broken element inside and I have no choice but to keep going with this mess of an experience. I'm pretty tired of trying to solve this and am pretty dismayed by the whole process. I could see damage sustained in shipping being the cause for the broken piece inside, but why send me a refurbished unit when you the deal was for a new unit.

I'm writing my experience here because I believe that people should know that Sol-Ark can do better in their advertising real world numbers, and they certainly can do better in rectifying a problem caused by their poor advertising. Also, if you have a non-common chemistry, you should not believe their numbers without calling them or you may wind up in the same boat as me. I was willing to bite the bullet and pay $1450 to trade in my unit for a brand new one. I thought this was an okay deal. Not one I was pumped about, but okay, I'll meet them halfway. But now I just feel like I've been lied to.

So what would you all do here? What is reasonable for me to ask of Sol-Ark? How much cost should I bear in this whole fiasco?

Picture on the unit clearly states the voltage range of 43-61v.
 

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400bird

Solar Enthusiast
Wow, what a demonstration of their customer service!

I'd call them and give them the chance to make it right. They owe you a new unit that matches their promise (and hopefully your paperwork?)

Otherwise, dispute with the credit card company at least the recent cost, if not the entire purchase (might be too late on the original purchase)
 

rhino

Solar Addict
Did you have in "writing" that you were going to get a new one for that amount of money you were going to pay? Sounds like you got a refurbished unit. If they sold you something they said was new but then sent you refurbished they'd be in trouble.
 

AmpLee

Solar Enthusiast
Did you have in "writing" that you were going to get a new one for that amount of money you were going to pay? Sounds like you got a refurbished unit. If they sold you something they said was new but then sent you refurbished they'd be in trouble.
It’s in my email correspondence.
 

AmpLee

Solar Enthusiast
I just want to be clear that aside from not charging batteries above 85% I really love the Sol-Ark 12k. I’m using it to zero out my meter and it’s so easy to install and manage all elements of my system. Just wanted to be clear that my issue is how they are advertised and then how issues are resolved. I’ll give sol-ark a chance to remedy the issue. And I’ll keep this thread updated so prospective buyers can follow how things go.
 

Hedges

I See Electromagnetic Fields!
It is not uncommon for specs to list a voltage range it can span, without clarifying what is meant.

When I bought my first Sunny Island, I noted that battery voltage was 48V nominal, with range 41V to 63V.
An earlier model actually supported 48V nominal and 60V nominal battery. I planned to use mine at 60V, since 25% higher voltage would mean 25% higher wattage at the same charging current.

Turns out the nominal battery voltage can be set from 42V (3 lead acid cells removed from a 48V pack) to 52V (2 cells added.) The rest of the voltage range is for temperature compensation and equalizing charge.



If you were charged a restocking fee rather than a repair fee, another model you purchased should have been new. Absent indication otherwise.
Considering it was refurbished and dinged, maybe you can at least get them to credit you back the $1000 restocking charge.
 

AmpLee

Solar Enthusiast
Just wanted to update that Sol-Ark is doing the right thing. They are replacing the unit that was damaged in shipping with a new outdoor unit.

I am unsure whether to define the model they originally sent as a refurbished model. It may be a game of semantics here, but it was an unused model that they had gone in and updated the hardware to increase the voltage. I'm not sure what to call it, but at any rate, that's what it was. It's a moot point since the product was damaged in shipping and a new unit will be sent out asap.

I just want to say that I appreciate their communication in resolving the issue. I think they can do better with providing more information in their manual when it comes to battery voltage, among other things, but if the poster before is correct that it's industry standard to give a voltage range outside of what the inverters can sustain, I think that is also a problem for the industry standard and not completely Sol-Ark's fault.

Anyway, that should put a wrap on this issue and I'll update if anything else comes up problematic.
 

400bird

Solar Enthusiast
I think they can do better with providing more information in their manual when it comes to battery voltage, among other things, but if the poster before is correct that it's industry standard to give a voltage range outside of what the inverters can sustain, I think that is also a problem for the industry standard

That is great news that they are going to do the right thing. Glad they are making it right.

I entirely agree that it is a problem with their documentation.
I hope it is not an issue for industry as a whole if this is common.

In my research I knew what I was getting into with my Schneider inverter. It will charge to 64, but only invert from a max of 60. It's pretty well documented in their manuals.
 

solardad

Solar Addict
dispute with the credit card company
Just wanted to update that Sol-Ark is doing the right thing. They are replacing the unit that was damaged in shipping with a new outdoor unit.

I guess good news but it sounds like you are still out $1.5k for fixing their initial slip up.

A general comment when dealing with any online vendor and one that I have exercised a few times over the years with 100% success.
  • Always purchase with a credit card. Preferably one that you have been a member of for X years.
  • Notify asap with them if something wrong with the order/product. Don't wait a month to check it out, open the box, etc..
    • Make sure communication is in writing
  • Be fair but firm when trying to resolve. The responsibility should not be on the buyer to resolve the issue.
    • Shipping and packaging needs to be covered by the seller
    • Never pay a restocking fee
    • They should not require the damaged good to be received 1st vs. sending out a replacement asap.
I highlighted the dispute comment with the credit card company since that is my go to 1st step if I don't receive a clear resolution after my first attempt.

No need to waste my time trying to resolve a seller's problem. If no clear resolution is had I call the credit card company and put a hold on the payment. Once this is done 9 times out of 10 the seller is more than willing to resolve asap. For the other 1/10th my card was charged back and I 'own' a damaged good and purchase a replacement from someone else.

WRT Sol-Ark I would push back on the $1.5k charge. They sold you an older version (61v support), if not one that was refurbished since they were phased out 1+ year ago. The new ones support 63v battery voltage were released I believe Sept. / Oct 2020. (I own a 61v version purchased April 2020).

Good luck
 

A.Justice

Swears he didn't start that fire.
The guy in sales started gaslighting me that I should have known the real voltage limit was 59v and that I should have called Sol-Ark prior to buying. Not a good sign, but at least there was a solution in the works.
When people order from them in the future, they should call to confirm EVERY SINGLE specification in the manual, item by item. 😁

If your item doesn't meet the specification met in the manual, in my opinion it should be either replaced or refunded free of charge. That's crazy that they charged you an additional $1,400 for the same item that had been modified. They can also resell your original unit, maybe even as new.

I'm glad that you feel the situation had a positive resolution, but after that I don't think I would order from Sol-Ark.
 

newbostonconst

Solar Addict
Glad things worked out....I also like to be able to add extra cells and currently at 18 lifepo4's and want to move to 20 soon. I fine Outback stuff to allow the highest voltages so far.

With the higher cells efficiency increases and when adding one 280ah cell is like adding 1 kWh of storage without buying a whole other set of cells.

Good Luck....
 

Roqm

Solar Enthusiast
Sales person is a jerk...if it only charges to 61v briefly that should be noted in the manual...for the price you would expect it to perform to spec or specify the functionality of the voltage compensation....
 
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