Search Mode for LED lighting

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1971Wildcat
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My RE system: 900 W PV--no backup. 2800AH Rolls-Surette 20+ years old. OB MX-60, VFXR2812A & Mate3S.

Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by 1971Wildcat »

We are off grid with a very clean AC side—nary a phantom load that is not behind a switch. Pumps, internet, device charging and much lighting are 12VDC.

We recently replaced our 20 year old Trace PS2512 with a VFXR2812A. Virtually all of our 110 volt house lighting is LED, some behind dimmers, and I have not had much luck getting the OB VFXR2812A to see these loads in search mode above 15. If I adjust sensitivity below 15, the inverter turns on for a few seconds, turns off, then resumes the cycle of pulsing/on (even with all AC breakers open so no leakage). This is probably not saving much power from simply leaving the inverter on which is what I have done for now. My adjustments to pulse length and pulse spacing did not seem to have much effect on the inverter’s ability to see these LED loads.

None of this is a big deal in summer when we are mostly floating anyway, but during winter we might want to revert to search mode to reduce inverter overhead on our modest system.

Our dimmers/LEDs worked well with the Trace so it seems like we should be able to replicate those search parameters with the VFXR2812A. Are the dimmers obstructing the inverter’s ability to see the LEDs? Would adding 110 to 12 volt transformers to our track lights help by offering an inductive load?

Any thoughts regarding search mode settings or taming the OB to play with LEDs would be much appreciated. Does even asking this question mark me as an irredeemable Luddite?
raysun
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by raysun »

Wow! 20 years on your Rolls. Kudos. That's some dedication to maintenance. That, and they don't build 'em like they used tuh.

Search turned out to be too tricky for me, so I'm not going to be much help here. When I first put in our system I messed with it, and ran into similar issues with (in my case, cheap) LEDs and dimmers. A lot of tweaking found a spot that made Search behave, but the Ultimate Domestic Authority didn't like the lag time between turning on a switch and having the appliance respond. She thought things were broken, I tried to explain, but eventually defaulted to the 34W idle. That, and the eventual addition of every modern electrical appliance in the compound made Search fairly irrelevant.

I'm not sure reducing Power Factor (adding inductive loads) would be helpful, in fact may further complicate the sensing algorithm Search uses.

Every home is different, so its not possible to make a blanket statement on the value of Search, but my impression is its more useful for unoccupied domiciles.
1971Wildcat
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My RE system: 900 W PV--no backup. 2800AH Rolls-Surette 20+ years old. OB MX-60, VFXR2812A & Mate3S.

Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by 1971Wildcat »

Hi raysun and thanks for your thoughts. Those Rolls batteries (6 x 4 KS 21P) have a 3.75” electrolyte reserve so we’ve been able to stick with a 90 day watering interval using float valves and a water system. And they virtually never go below 80% charge. Our Tri-Metric accumulating AH log suggests that the Rolls are about halfway through their useful life—let’s hope.

Is there any chance you remember the sensitivity, pulse width and pulse length parameters you tried in search? Your comment about the turn-on delay suggests you found a fairly wide pulse interval that worked. We aren’t particularly sensitive to turn-on delay and would probably find that acceptable in exchange for reducing our home’s idle draw from 50 watts back down to about 15 where it was with the Trace PS2512.
raysun
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by raysun »

Sorry, it was years ago now, and while I considered it an interesting exercise, it served no purpose for us, so I didn't keep any notes on it.
ralphday224
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by ralphday224 »

I had a small msw inverter for clock loads (vcr, stove, uv light) and used my Xantrex 4048 on search. One time I used my killa watt meter to check the loads and see how much power I was saving. It only came to about 50watthours / day or less. I went back to ON full time.

The worst thing about SEARCH is when you forget to unplug the central vac system and you get a spool up Zoom at 1am and An elbow in the ribs to remind you to go unplug it. The process repeats itself until you get up and unplug the vacuum.
raysun
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by raysun »

LOL! I feel that sharp elbow. In the delicate balance of marital accord, I too was the receiver of very sharp "wakeup nudges" when the Operational Level Agreement was not meeting expectations.

Other partnerships are more tolerant, I'm given to understand. The FXR class inverters' full idle is but 34W, or 0.816kWH / day. IMO, on a marginal battery in an occasionally used abode, search is worth saving the watts.

In our off-grid home, with two houses, two refrigerators, two freezers, and just about every modern amenity including fiber internet and WiFi that covers an acre, the extra idle power consumption is simply folded into the cost of keeping the lights on. No sharp elbows.

OP has a different sensibility, including a big lead-acid battery, a modest PV array and no backup charging source. "Runtime awareness" is understandably top of mind. Its not mentioned where the home is located, but after 2 decades, I bet the "days of autonomy" equation is calculated with a sharp pencil to a high degree of precision. The new inverter is throwing a disturbing new value into a key parameter.

Good luck @1971Wildcat. I hope your search for a "sweet spot" in Search bears fruit.
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by JRHill »

I too experimented with a sleep mode for the VFX inverter way, way back. It only lasted a day or three. The bottom line for me was since we are full time with critical loads (fridge, freezers, etc.) it is of no benefit and an invitation to troubleshooting complexities. Not to mention continuously resetting/programming some devices. For us the overhead of the inverter, regardless of batteries, is miniscule. It was that then and is that now.

But if you are gone and have no critical loads, sure. Absolutely. I'm convinced that is the case in many 'off grid' situations. But if you are living around the clock on the system its an anal pursuit.
1971Wildcat
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by 1971Wildcat »

Well, I have all summer to experiment with Search don’t I? Fortunately we live in southwest Colorado where winter sun is usually the norm, especially these days. If we can’t find a sweet spot in Search, we can always turn off the inverter at night and while gone.
raysun
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by raysun »

" If we can’t find a sweet spot in Search, we can always turn off the inverter at night and while gone."

The challenge I found is Search is TOO programmable. 😉 Trying to balance Sensitivity, Pulse Length and Pulse Spacing was a fiddly exercise that tried my patience, and since we were just starting out, adding loads always seemed to knock everything into a cocked hat. No fault of Search, just the nature of the beast with changing load profiles.

It was kinda cool that our first overnight consumption under the Search regimen was 1% of battery capacity, but that soon faded into the ether as we added a freezer and a plethora of household appliances.

I wanted OpticsRE to work seamlessly, which meant having a full-time internet connection. That alone was enough for me to retire Search.

@1971Wildcat, you do have a good long summer season to tweak the parameters. I have no doubt you will find a setpoint that works. I have a strong suspicion you may find, as I did, that cheap LED dimmers are cr@p and if not already a step ahead of me, will find the high priced ones behave much better in supporting Search.
706jim
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by 706jim »

Trace 2512, wow! I still use a Trace DR1524 and once I installed an electric fridge, I turned the search mode off. The Trace doesn't take much to turn on and the fridge can keep its defrost cycle programmed. Back in time when the Trace was one of the few available inverters, solar panels were REALLY expensive. With panel prices as low as they are now, you would be better off just buying another panel and leaving your inverter on 24/7. I started off with 170 watts and now have about 2400. FWIW, my first set of 12 GC's lasted 19 seasons charged by about 400 watts of panels.
1971Wildcat
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by 1971Wildcat »

Thanks to all of you for your ideas about my arcane Search question. My testing suggests that if I lower the Search sensitivity level (to below 15) to ensure that an LED lighting load will turn the inverter On, the inverter either turns and stays On full time or oscillates between Search and On which cannot be good for the electronics and probably saves little energy.

Rather than swapping out dimmers (mine are Lutron) and LEDs, I think 706jim’s idea of simply adding more PV is the simplest (Occam’s Razor) and lowest cost approach, especially as our existing array is 20-27 years old and has surely degraded output by now. Adding PV will make up that lost ground and allow us to simply leave the inverter On with less anxiety. During extended cloudy periods, we can always turn it Off at night too.
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by fcwlp »

1971Wildcat wrote: Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:41 am Rather than swapping out dimmers (mine are Lutron) and LEDs, I think 706jim’s idea of simply adding more PV is the simplest (Occam’s Razor) and lowest cost approach, especially as our existing array is 20-27 years old and has surely degraded output by now
The Lutron dimmers are generally good. That array that you paid more than $10K for can probably using the same mounts be doubled in size for <$1,500 today.
raysun
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by raysun »

[Array can] be doubled in size for <$1,500 today.
True that. I swapped out perfectly good 320W panels for 440W panels I paid $200 each for last October.

Not sure of the panel size 2 - 3 decades ago, but 60 cell panels are pretty adaptable, and compatible with the trusty MX60.
JRHill
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Re: Search Mode for LED lighting

Post by JRHill »

1971Wildcat wrote: Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:41 amAdding PV will make up that lost ground and allow us to simply leave the inverter On with less anxiety. During extended cloudy periods, we can always turn it Off at night too.
Mr Wildcat, your story is really inspiring.
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