Sol-Ark confusion

12VoltInstalls

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the battery is supplying 4.66kw to ... something, somewhere
Didn’t your neighbor post a note in the “Personals” in the local paper, thanking you for the substantial reduction in their electric bill?

I wonder if they would be willing to send you a new unit and return that one. That ghost load would be maddening; would be interesting to test with an inductive meter to try to find the free-sprites load
 

robby

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I'm not sure about this. I turned off Battery First a couple of days ago at Sol-Ark's suggestion, but the issue remains. Consider the following images, taken just now (3:34a PST).

Image 1 shows the current that my home is drawing (~500w) and that I'm getting it from the grid. The battery is at 98%

Image 2 shows the current TOU settings, with TOU not enabled. Notice that between midnight and 7a, I have TOU setup so that, if enabled, it will draw from the battery _up to_ 2510w to power the home until the battery reaches 85%. My home consumes nowhere near this, but larger max wattage settings make the effect I'm trying to demonstrate much easier to see. Since right now said home is using ~500w, which is well under 2510w, my understanding is that if I enable TOU now, the Sol-Ark will _stop_ drawing from the grid and draw the ~500w that the home is currently using from the battery.

Image 3 is me enabling TOU.

Image 4, taken just a few seconds after I enabled TOU, shows what the Sol-Ark _actually_ does. Notice that it's _still_ drawing ~540w from the grid, but now suddenly it shows that my home is drawing 2.84kw, though nothing in my home turned on to account for the load increase. Also notice that the Sol-Ark now reports that the battery is supplying 4.66kw to ... something, somewhere (the indicators one the batteries themselves also show this). It's as if the Sol-Ark _created_ a "phantom" load to consume from the battery. The size of the load it created (~2300w) is approximately the size of the max wattage I have setup for this TOU slot (2510w). I've verified this with different experiments using different max wattage settings for the TOU slot.

Image 5, taken just a few seconds after image 4, is after I once again disabled TOU. The Sol-Ark goes back to displaying that my home is drawing ~500w, and the grid is supplying it. The load-from-nowhere is now gone.

So, my questions:

1. When I enable TOU, why does the Sol-Ark continue drawing from the grid even though there is plenty of battery?
2. When I enable TOU, why is the Sol-Ark creating this "phantom" load to draw 2.84kw when my home was only consuming ~500w just seconds before?
3. When I enable TOU, why is the Sol-Ark drawing even more from the battery (4.66kw) than the "phantom" load (2.84kw) requires?
4. If my home is actually drawing 2.84kw (it's not), why does it suddenly return to only drawing ~500w as soon as I disable TOU?

So far, Sol-Ark support hasn't been able to answer, though they are honestly trying their best. I'm on the phone with them every day and they are very courteous, personable and helpful - seriously they rock and are really doing everything they can to help. They're telling me that my system shouldn't be doing this. They've tried 3 different firmware versions, but the behavior is the same. The current diagnosis suggests that the CTs are not operating correctly or are installed incorrectly. They've had me switch the CT leads inside the Sol-Ark (I'm not touching anything inside the main panel - I let the installer do the high-voltage stuff) and tell the Sol-Ark to detect the sensors multiple times, to no avail. I believe we're going to schedule a Zoom call later today so I can show them how the installer wired the CTs, as well as anything else they need.
First of all as I stated, Sol-Ark says there is a bug in the "Load First option", it either works for some people or it doesn't.

Second thing is that I am not sure why you have "Limited Power to home" ticked? That changes the ball game completely. You want "Limited Power to Load" ticked if you want the battery to be using the TOU schedule in the way I described.

Don't get frustrated, this thing takes a few hours of fiddling with but after that it becomes really clear how it operates.

BTW what Battery combiner box is that in the picture, it looks really nice?
 
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robby

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Didn’t your neighbor post a note in the “Personals” in the local paper, thanking you for the substantial reduction in their electric bill?

I wonder if they would be willing to send you a new unit and return that one. That ghost load would be maddening; would be interesting to test with an inductive meter to try to find the free-sprites load
LOl we laugh that stuff but I had a friend who had a shop in a Mall and he was wondering why his electric bill was so high. After 2 years of this he called the utility company in and they did an investigation. It turned out another smaller shop had paid a crooked maintenance guy to hook their power onto the guys main breaker in the buildings electrical room. Before it could become a court matter the other shop paid him the compensation he demanded.

My brother in law is now in charge of the fraud dept for a utility company and some of the stories he tells me are unbelievable.
 

jmzorko

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First of all as I stated, Sol-Ark says there is a bug in the "Load First option", it either works for some people or it doesn't.

Second thing is that I am not sure why you have "Limited Power to home" ticked? That changes the ball game completely. You want "Limited Power to Load" ticked if you want the battery to be using the TOU schedule in the way I described.

Don't get frustrated, this thing takes a few hours of fiddling with but after that it becomes really clear how it operates.

I'm aware, but I don't have anything connected to the Sol-Ark load terminals yet - right now i'm using it as a grid-tie inverter with battery support. While I was planning the expansion of the current 3kw array that came with this home, I was investigating different inverters. I had pretty much settled on the Sol-Ark when the legacy inverter (Delta Solivia 3.8TL) died. So, instead of replacing it with another Delta only to have it replaced again in the coming months when this system is expanded with more PV and to be off-grid capable, I decided to get it replaced with the Sol-Ark now since it's technically replacement equipment and hence doesn't need a permit. So, my use case is different than yours and Limited Power to Home is more appropriate to mine.

That being said, it looks like Sol-Ark support may have found what the issue is, and it may be where the installer put the CTs. The installer is going to come out later this week to move them, and we'll see if that fixes it.
 
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robby

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I'm aware, but I don't have anything connected to the Sol-Ark load terminals yet - right now i'm using it as a grid-tie inverter with battery support. While I was planning the expansion to the current 3kw array that came with this home, I was investigating different inverters. I had pretty much settled on the Sol-Ark when the legacy inverter (Delta Solivia 3.8TL) died. So, instead of replacing it with another Delta only to have it replaced again in the coming months when this system is expanded with more PV and to be off-grid capable, I decided to get it replaced with the Sol-Ark now since it's technically replacement equipment and hence doesn't need a permit. So, my use case is different than yours and Limited Power to Home is more appropriate to mine.

That being said, it looks like Sol-Ark support may have found what the issue is, and it may be where the installer put the CTs. The installer is going to come out later this week to move them, and we'll see if that fixes it.
Good to hear that they are taking care of you.
BTW what brand is that Battery combiner box in your picture. The one with voltage and Amperage on the display.
I really like it and would like to see the specs.
 

jmzorko

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Oh sure - I purchased it from BigBattery.com, where I got the - well, batteries :)


Regards,

John
 

Keith Moreau

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I'm aware, but I don't have anything connected to the Sol-Ark load terminals yet - right now i'm using it as a grid-tie inverter with battery support. While I was planning the expansion of the current 3kw array that came with this home, I was investigating different inverters. I had pretty much settled on the Sol-Ark when the legacy inverter (Delta Solivia 3.8TL) died. So, instead of replacing it with another Delta only to have it replaced again in the coming months when this system is expanded with more PV and to be off-grid capable, I decided to get it replaced with the Sol-Ark now since it's technically replacement equipment and hence doesn't need a permit. So, my use case is different than yours and Limited Power to Home is more appropriate to mine.

That being said, it looks like Sol-Ark support may have found what the issue is, and it may be where the installer put the CTs. The installer is going to come out later this week to move them, and we'll see if that fixes it.
I have a Sol-Ark as well and have experienced some strange behavior like this as well. At first when I read your problem it seemed like a simple CT reversed or mis-wired issue. One fix, as was pointed out, is to use the 'auto-detect' checkbox in the advanced configs. However, I think it is better to wire the CTs perfectly and not use the auto-detect, because even if you do use auto-detect, when you don't have a battery connected, that feature doesn't work. Also the auto-detect features is 'one time only'. Every time you change the grid or battery configuration, for example, you'll need to run the 'auto-detect' checkbox again, what a few minutes while the Sol-Ark sends current back and forth and figures out how to get the CTs to show properly. If you decide to disconnect your battery, for service, etc, and put the Sol-Ark in 'no battery' mode temporarily, your Sol-Ark will misbehave because of mis wired CTs and you can't do anything about it. I was relying on the auto-detect but then decided to just wire the CT's up correctly and not have to use the 'auto-detect'. It turned out I had reversed white and black leads on the CT sensors. The CTs have an arrow, that needs to be pointed away from the utility power and towards your house main panel, etc. At the Sol-Ark terminals, the CT wires' white goes to + and black goes to -. This isn't mentioned anywhere in the Sol-Ark manual or videos. It just says says wire them up. A little simple experimentation fixed this and I'm happy with that now.

However I'm still getting strange behavior in the Sol-Ark's logic where even when I have plenty of solar available, it still might draw from the batteries and / or grid, or when I have too little solar, the battery isn't discharged to offset the demand and it draws from the grid. This problem is intermittent and is always solved by a reboot of the Sol-Ark. It seems to be related to drawing large loads from my Tesla charging. I can set my Tesla up to draw up to 72A / 240V but usually ride a 'sweet spot' of 27A that gets to the upper limits of my Sol-Ark and PV without drawing from the grid. I do this during the day when the sun is around it's zenith, like from about 10-3 PM. I've been in communication with Sol-Ark about this along with a lot of other questions and configuration misunderstandings and they've promised a firmware update soon though they are not hopeful that would magically fix the problem. I've made videos of the problems happening where it is very clear that the PV and / or battery are being throttled for no reason. Like you (and everybody else) I want the behavior of: If sufficient PV is available, use that first, if sufficient PV isn't available, supplement with battery up to a certain charge level, and beyond that, as a last resort, use the grid. To me, it seems like a software bug. I think there is some state that is happening when the Sol-Ark sees large loads being drawn for an extended period. Prior to me drawing large loads with the Tesla I didn't experience or notice the problem. I still love my Sol-Ark, I think it is the best thing out there and seems really solid in many ways. I'm confident eventually this problem will be resolved.
 

robby

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I have a Sol-Ark as well and have experienced some strange behavior like this as well. At first when I read your problem it seemed like a simple CT reversed or mis-wired issue. One fix, as was pointed out, is to use the 'auto-detect' checkbox in the advanced configs. However, I think it is better to wire the CTs perfectly and not use the auto-detect, because even if you do use auto-detect, when you don't have a battery connected, that feature doesn't work. Also the auto-detect features is 'one time only'. Every time you change the grid or battery configuration, for example, you'll need to run the 'auto-detect' checkbox again, what a few minutes while the Sol-Ark sends current back and forth and figures out how to get the CTs to show properly. If you decide to disconnect your battery, for service, etc, and put the Sol-Ark in 'no battery' mode temporarily, your Sol-Ark will misbehave because of mis wired CTs and you can't do anything about it. I was relying on the auto-detect but then decided to just wire the CT's up correctly and not have to use the 'auto-detect'. It turned out I had reversed white and black leads on the CT sensors. The CTs have an arrow, that needs to be pointed away from the utility power and towards your house main panel, etc. At the Sol-Ark terminals, the CT wires' white goes to + and black goes to -. This isn't mentioned anywhere in the Sol-Ark manual or videos. It just says says wire them up. A little simple experimentation fixed this and I'm happy with that now.

However I'm still getting strange behavior in the Sol-Ark's logic where even when I have plenty of solar available, it still might draw from the batteries and / or grid, or when I have too little solar, the battery isn't discharged to offset the demand and it draws from the grid. This problem is intermittent and is always solved by a reboot of the Sol-Ark. It seems to be related to drawing large loads from my Tesla charging. I can set my Tesla up to draw up to 72A / 240V but usually ride a 'sweet spot' of 27A that gets to the upper limits of my Sol-Ark and PV without drawing from the grid. I do this during the day when the sun is around it's zenith, like from about 10-3 PM. I've been in communication with Sol-Ark about this along with a lot of other questions and configuration misunderstandings and they've promised a firmware update soon though they are not hopeful that would magically fix the problem. I've made videos of the problems happening where it is very clear that the PV and / or battery are being throttled for no reason. Like you (and everybody else) I want the behavior of: If sufficient PV is available, use that first, if sufficient PV isn't available, supplement with battery up to a certain charge level, and beyond that, as a last resort, use the grid. To me, it seems like a software bug. I think there is some state that is happening when the Sol-Ark sees large loads being drawn for an extended period. Prior to me drawing large loads with the Tesla I didn't experience or notice the problem. I still love my Sol-Ark, I think it is the best thing out there and seems really solid in many ways. I'm confident eventually this problem will be resolved.

I guess this is why I have never seen the problem with mine. It does exactly what I expect it to do.
After seeing part of Will's live cast yesterday and hearing him mention it would take 3 days to charge a Tesla with a medium sized PV system, which is no surprise given that I think Tesla's have a 100KWH battery bank in them. My line of thinking is that if your going to charge the car just use the Grid and consider the Solar's Home offset as paying for Gas errr electricity for the car.
 

Keith Moreau

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I agree with what you are saying and in the near future I will be grid tied with net metering. It will be so much easier to just pump power out to the grid and then use it if I need to, such as charging the Tesla, on off-peak times. I am just about to get a local permit final approval and this is required to get a grid tie agreement. This could take a while though with our local utility, up to 2 months or possibly even more time. In the meantime I don't want to leave any of that solar power to waste! And, Sol-Ark is supposed to be the premiere off grid hybrid inverter, it should be able to provide up to it's specs reliably. What if the grid went out? Could I use the Sol-Ark to charge my Tesla off grid without manually intervening all the time? I think I should be able to and so does Sol-Ark. They just need to find the bug and update the software, in my opinion.
 

jmzorko

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I'm aware, but I don't have anything connected to the Sol-Ark load terminals yet - right now i'm using it as a grid-tie inverter with battery support. While I was planning the expansion of the current 3kw array that came with this home, I was investigating different inverters. I had pretty much settled on the Sol-Ark when the legacy inverter (Delta Solivia 3.8TL) died. So, instead of replacing it with another Delta only to have it replaced again in the coming months when this system is expanded with more PV and to be off-grid capable, I decided to get it replaced with the Sol-Ark now since it's technically replacement equipment and hence doesn't need a permit. So, my use case is different than yours and Limited Power to Home is more appropriate to mine.

That being said, it looks like Sol-Ark support may have found what the issue is, and it may be where the installer put the CTs. The installer is going to come out later this week to move them, and we'll see if that fixes it.
So ... not fixed yet :-(

The CTs that came with the Sol-Ark weren't large enough to fit around the bussing connecting the house side of the panel to the utility side (see photo). I purchased the larger ones from Sol-Ark, but while they're large enough to loop around the bussing, they're too large to fit in the space between the wall and the breakers. While I'm sure we could attach them to the cables coming from the grid on the utility side of the panel and have it work, PG&E won't allow that.

So, I'm looking at buying yet another set of CTs, assuming I can find a set that will be large enough to fit around the bussing but not be so large as to interfere with the placement of the breakers. I'm aware that there are flexible CTs available, like these:


... but the smallest size is 16", where the CTs Sol-Ark sells are perhaps 3-4". This is so _incredibly_ frustrating ... it never ends ...
 

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jmzorko

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So ... not fixed yet :-(

The CTs that came with the Sol-Ark weren't large enough to fit around the bussing connecting the house side of the panel to the utility side (see photo). I purchased the larger ones from Sol-Ark, but while they're large enough to loop around the bussing, they're too large to fit in the space between the wall and the breakers. While I'm sure we could attach them to the cables coming from the grid on the utility side of the panel and have it work, PG&E won't allow that.

So, I'm looking at buying yet another set of CTs, assuming I can find a set that will be large enough to fit around the bussing but not be so large as to interfere with the placement of the breakers. I'm aware that there are flexible CTs available, like these:


... but the smallest size is 16", where the CTs Sol-Ark sells are perhaps 3-4". This is so _incredibly_ frustrating ... it never ends ...

Does anyone know of any 100a CTs that are flexible enough to fit in the above space (around the bussing coming from the utility side of the panel in the photo)? I've not been able to find any..
 

solardad

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Did you search...? First hit:

 

jmzorko

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Did you search...? First hit:


Yes, I searched - please see above post with photo. I'm looking for CTs that will both fit around the bussing and in that small space between the breaker and the side of the panel. Also, in the above post, I asked if a 16" flexible CT would even work (since the CTs that came with the inverter are much smaller).
 

solardad

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Also, in the above post, I asked if a 16" flexible CT would even work

Sure why not? They would be sticking out but why not the Sol-Ark 4" versions? The bus bar for each phase seem pretty small. You can put one for one 120v leg on each side of your box I would think (guessing since the pic. only shows one side of your breaker box)

Also there are other manufactures out there that have smaller sizes and maybe cheaper than Sol-Ark. Either case I would think you would need to adjust the settings in the inverter menu.

https://www.powermeterstore.com/category/current-transformers-for-sub-meters
 

jmzorko

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Sure why not? They would be sticking out but why not the Sol-Ark 4" versions? The bus bar for each phase seem pretty small. You can put one for one 120v leg on each side of your box I would think (guessing since the pic. only shows one side of your breaker box)

Also there are other manufactures out there that have smaller sizes and maybe cheaper than Sol-Ark. Either case I would think you would need to adjust the settings in the inverter menu.

https://www.powermeterstore.com/category/current-transformers-for-sub-meters

Yes, I already tried the larger 4" versions from Sol-Ark (also referenced in the above post with the photo). They're large enough to wrap around the bus bars, but too large to fit in the space provided. The smaller CTs that originally came with the Sol-Ark are small enough to fit in the space, but too small to wrap around the bus bars. I asked the installer if it was possible to just move the breakers to the right 1cm to allow space for the larger CTs, but the panel itself isn't really setup for that apparently.

How would 16" flexible CTs even work, though? If there's not enough space for the CTs I have, how would larger (even if flexible) ones work? I'd have to wrap them around each bus bar several times, right? There's no space for that if so.

I sincerely appreciate the help, I'm just not sure what to do. It seems more than a bit crazy that the only thing at this point keeping me from using the Sol-Ark for TOU is literally the lack of 1cm of extra space for the CTs to fit.
 

XO4001

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How would 16" flexible CTs even work, though? If there's not enough space for the CTs I have, how would larger (even if flexible) ones work? I'd have to wrap them around each bus bar several times, right? There's no space for that if so.
They only need to wrap around 1 time.
If you go with the flex ones what I think must be possible, just press them flat when the cover go on.
You have to choose the correct CT output when ordering.
 

Keith Moreau

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So ... not fixed yet :-(

The CTs that came with the Sol-Ark weren't large enough to fit around the bussing connecting the house side of the panel to the utility side (see photo). I purchased the larger ones from Sol-Ark, but while they're large enough to loop around the bussing, they're too large to fit in the space between the wall and the breakers. While I'm sure we could attach them to the cables coming from the grid on the utility side of the panel and have it work, PG&E won't allow that.

So, I'm looking at buying yet another set of CTs, assuming I can find a set that will be large enough to fit around the bussing but not be so large as to interfere with the placement of the breakers. I'm aware that there are flexible CTs available, like these:


... but the smallest size is 16", where the CTs Sol-Ark sells are perhaps 3-4". This is so _incredibly_ frustrating ... it never ends ...
The photo isn't too clear about where the CT's wouldn't fit around. Where are you trying put the CT's around? I ask because I have fit the standard Sol-Ark CT's just after the main breaker from the meter on the 4/0 wires leading to the main breaker panel. The fit was tight but ok. If you're trying to put the CTs on the black wires below the breaker in the picture they would seem to fit if you offset them a bit. But just hard to tell.
 

jmzorko

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The photo isn't too clear about where the CT's wouldn't fit around. Where are you trying put the CT's around? I ask because I have fit the standard Sol-Ark CT's just after the main breaker from the meter on the 4/0 wires leading to the main breaker panel. The fit was tight but ok. If you're trying to put the CTs on the black wires below the breaker in the picture they would seem to fit if you offset them a bit. But just hard to tell.

That's where the installer first put them as well, but that was leading directly to the weird Sol-Ark behavior I was experiencing (described in the beginning of this thread). Once Sol-Ark support realized this, they said I needed to have the CTs around the bus bars coming from the utility side to the house side, not the wires coming from the 100a breaker. I'm attaching another photo to try to clarify.

The issue is that the smaller CTs that came with the Sol-Ark are not large enough to wrap those bus bars, and the larger 4" CTs that I purchased from Sol-Ark to solve that _are_ large enough to wrap around the bus bars, but too large to fit in that small space.
 

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