Xantrex MPPT low output problems

39 Posts
Sep 25, 2010 09:11 am
Xantrex MPPT low output problems

I've got a Xantrex MPPT charge controller (60A) in my off-grid system, and recently in the mornings as the sun rises, the output readings are much lower than expected.  I've found that if I switch my PV array breaker off, and then on again, that the output readings jump to the Wattage I would expect, continuing to climb during the day as expected.  I've found that if I switch "off" all of my loads on the batteries overnight, this problem does not happen in the morning. Any ideas why?  I don't want to have to be switching the breaker every morning!
462 Posts
Sep 26, 2010 02:53 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Matthew, how old are the batteries? It should be no problem mixing different amp hr batteries, but if one or more are older and have been totally discharged, it may not be charging or holding a charge properly. This is what may be shutting the controller down, it's reading a low voltage from the bank.
  Also check for shorts or bad grounds in the wiring.
  Then try charging the batteries individually to make sure they are charging correctly. Then you may see that one or the other is not charging and causing the shut down.   
  If/When, they are both fully charged, hook them back up together and see what happens.
39 Posts
Sep 30, 2010 06:31 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hey, thanks for the tips!  I'll try those things! The batteries are all new, and haven't been totally discharged, but it's a third-world country and one always has to double-check things in case there was damage in shipment or something not immediately evident.  Appreciate the help... -Matt
39 Posts
Sep 30, 2010 07:07 pm
Relay or diodes causing Xantrex MPPT low output problems?

I've done some narrowing-down, and found out that when I leave my inverter (Prosine, 12VDC->220VAC) on overnight, I do not have the charging problem in the morning.  But when I leave my freezer or satellite internet system on overnight (through a Crydom 40A DC relay controlled by the Xantex Aux output, each with a diode installed to guard against the transient voltage from the relay), the charging problem occurs in the morning. With no loads on overnight, there is no charging problem in the morning.  So something's going on with that relay-diode setup I think.  Any ideas?
220 Posts
Sep 30, 2010 11:27 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems


sounds like you are on to a reasonable theory.

don't have an xw here but have had similar units that act funny under certain scenarios.

some speculation:

a) the prosine may have a decent size capacitor bank onboard to help smooth out any stray interference caused by other equipment and we don't see the problem when left on?

b) the satellite internet system is most likely powered by a switch mode power supply (high frequency PWM) which may cause anomalous behavior (had a battery desulfator cause trouble like this)

3) not sure on your diode setup? should be ACROSS the coil power supply in "flyback mode"

d) some strange grounding/ground loop issues?..the xw does not like the battery grounded anywhere except through the built in GFCI circuit. see tech bulletin.

possible actions:
after checking any grounding issues and flyback orientation could install some ferrite beads/cores on all the wires from the aux trigger and satellite power lines..next step might be a parallel capacitor across the line to smooth things a bit..?

kind regards, dave

edit: matt had a look at the crydom relay..it's an ssr! like Johnny used to say. "that i did not know" so.. cross off that flyback on the coil- no coil to worry about. rather as you pointed out we are protecting the output mosfets with the flyback across the load. we do need to check that the load is on the low side (negative) for those n-channel fets though?
« Last Edit: Oct 1, 2010 03:00 am by david ames »
39 Posts
Oct 1, 2010 03:25 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hey Dave, thanks for the help.  I'm getting over my head, but still trying to follow you and learn in the process! My responses:

a) ok

b)could be, BUT this issue ALSO occurs when ONLY the freezer is running, and the satellite system is off.  Seems like whatever the issue is, it's common to both the freezer and satellite system (although it's possible they each have their own interference issues). Since both run through the relay and both have diodes on them, I'm thinking through whether maybe I have the wrong kind of diode?  I'm past my understanding here, so an avionics acquaintance gave me some diodes he had lying around, saying they should work.  But they may be the wrong ones. The diodes are very small black squares about the size of your finger nail, with a small metal protrusion at the top and a hole through the metal for mounting purposes.  The one on my freezer has white lettering with "LT 2420" at top, then "SBL 2040CT" or maybe it's "BBL 2040CT" (hard to see where I have it installed).  The one I've been using on my satellite system has "LT 5220" then "BBL2040CT."  Crydom's installation papers and tech tips re: DC SSRs specify certain types of diodes (e.g. "fast recovery type").  Help me out- what do I have and what do I need?  And do you agree with the Crydom instructions that "all loads should be treated as inductive even if not marked as such", and should therefore have diodes installed, e.g. DC lights?

c)(or "3") Smiley If I can figure out how to post a .bmp I'll send a diagram of how I have these diodes wired now.

d)thanks I have seen that XW bulletin and as such have not grounded the batteries elsewhere except through the XW's GFCI circuit. So that should be fine.

re: your edit: "we do need to check that the load is on the low side (negative) for those n-channel fets though?" Wow, now you've lost me.  If you can, bring it down to laymen's terms on that one. Smiley Thanks!
« Last Edit: Oct 1, 2010 03:26 am by Matthew Edelen »
220 Posts
Oct 1, 2010 04:43 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems


 have not used those three legged flyback diodes your buddy set you up with..looks fine for this though.

 trying to do a write up on picture posting. we need to host our files somewhere, i use photobucket. best to size them to something reasonable like 500x400 for screen scrolling and folks like me on dialup. just copy the IMG file from photobucket to your post.

 did a quick paste up for the ssr/load/diode..careful with the metal tab it's electrically hot!

 easy to get confused with these..see how the load negative goes to the battery negative and the load positive goes to the ssr negative! and ssr positive goes to battery positive..reminds me of the polarity markings when we plug those teckno wacko mc type pv cables end to end when adding cable..the polarity markings swap with every new plug!

cheers, dave

edited to add: yes on the inductive load question, better safe than sorry..if the diode is not/was not needed it still won't hurt anything to be there.

further edited to add: matt give me a bit to check a cleaner cut sheet on that three legged diode..i may have it orientated a$$ backwards? gotta go find a symbol lookup table..YEP, had it wrong! the metal tab and center leg is the pointy end of the symbol..sketch is now corrected with a cleaner copy.

yet another edit: added "Pictures and Sketches" how to post..http://www.altestore.com/forums/Renewable-Energy/RE-General-Discussion/Pictures-and-Sketches/index.php/topic,2272.0.html
« Last Edit: Oct 6, 2010 02:21 am by david ames »
220 Posts
Oct 1, 2010 07:44 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

 readers at this point may be wondering what mosfets are and why we are talking about them...sorry about that...they are the chips inside the ssr (solid state relay)
39 Posts
Oct 4, 2010 06:42 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Ok, I may be on to something here.  When I wired my diode, I only wired the negative to one of the outside tabs on the diode.  Then the positive to the middle tab. 

Should I have wired the negative to BOTH of the outside tabs, like your diagram shows?  I thought the avionics friend said just use one side, but I may remember wrong...
« Last Edit: Oct 4, 2010 06:45 am by Matthew Edelen »
220 Posts
Oct 4, 2010 04:07 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

 hey matt,

 should be OK to just use one of the outside tabs (half the diode)

how about that metal tab on top? are we touching anything with that? it's the same as the center tab electrically.


ps: good going with the sketch posting! Wink
39 Posts
Oct 4, 2010 09:02 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Nope, the center tab is not contacting anything.  If using one side of the diode is fine, I'm back to the drawing board on this mystery. 

Next time I'm back in the village where my setup is, I'll have to try some other maintenance I've been meaning to do, and see what happens (replace corroded battery cable lugs, install an additional ground rod, take my 100Ahs out of my battery bank to test performance of the two 200Ahs alone, etc.)  But if any of those were the problem, it seems I would have this charging problem every morning, not just mornings when I've got loads going through that relay.

Take a gander (this before I added the 200Ahs):

462 Posts
Oct 5, 2010 11:47 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Mattew, you say you are leaving for a few days. I have had experience in remote villages where locals were stealing power after we left. Some even tapped in with 220 volt lines. Perhaps this is your problem too? Hopefully not. But it would explain your loss of power when everything was fine the day before and no apparant hardware problems.....anyway, just a  thought....
39 Posts
Oct 5, 2010 12:03 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Heh heh ahh yes, you do know 3rd-world thinking!  Thanks for the tip, but in our village, these people still don't know the difference between an electrical cable and a piece of nylon clothes line!  So the main thing I have to watch out for is somebody hacking my PV panels off of their mount with a machete, then trying to haul them downriver to sell in another village that DOES know how to use them! Smiley

Edit: just for clarification, yeah I've been observing this charging issue consistently when I'm in the village, able to monitor loads (or possible power-stealing).  When I left I had to shut off the freezer & all loads since I haven't figured out what's going on yet, and just let the charge controller float charge the batteries til I get back to the village again.
« Last Edit: Oct 5, 2010 12:08 pm by Matthew Edelen »
462 Posts
Oct 5, 2010 12:49 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Matthew, just looking at your schematic. What is switching the line coming from the charge controller aux/load output to the relay? And why the relay to begin with. If you are using it for the contact rating, just to handle the current from the batteries to the freezer, why don't you just hook up the freezer directly to the batteries? It should have a themostatic switch of it's own and should be able to draw power directly from the batteries when it switches on. If there is not a secondary switch that turns on before the freezer, sending power to the relay, then the relay has continuous power coming from the controller keeping the relay contacts closed. This is where you may be losing some power.Huh Especially if not properly grounded. You don't show any grounds in your diagram. This could also be the reason why you thought you needed to install some diodes. You have continuous power being supplied and it needs to go somewhere, so you may think that it needed to be stopped or redirected. Remember, Keep it Simple....
220 Posts
Oct 6, 2010 02:08 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

 hi guys,

 matt, nothing wrong with being back at square one..we now know what was not the problem.

 tom has a good suggestion with trying things directly off the battery. we can further track down the possible conflict by seeing if we get the anomalous behavior running direct..help to see if it is the aux output/relay or the load?

 i believe i see why you chose to go through the relay with your loads. automation is oh soo sweet when things work!

 was digging further into the operations manual and we have a bunch of other settings to run through yet to find a reliable combination of settings.

 after the separate loads test above (running off battery)
we can try moving that trigger setting around from active high to active low, maybe change the voltage from 12 to 5vdc output. lots of options there. as well as some ferrite beads and other things to try.

 keep plugging along and don't give up till you get it running to your requirements!

thanks for the look at your setup..nice load center and wiring!

cheers, dave
39 Posts
Oct 6, 2010 03:09 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hi Tom & David,
Thanks for the encouragement! 

Yes, the reason for the relay is to protect my batteries from discharging too low and damaging them or reducing their lifespan.  Yes, the idea is an automated system I can walk away from which will monitor itself to protect the batteries from over-discharge.  The Sundanzer freezer's default (not customizable) low-voltage cutout is 10.8V or 11.8V or something, which may protect the compressor, but still toasts my batteries!  So I want to keep my AGM batteries at or above the 12.2V range (~50% so I've been told), to maximize their lifespan.  Similarly, my Prosine 1000i inverter has a default (not customizable) low-voltage cutout of 10V - big help that is!  Xantrex tech support tells me if I'd sprung for the expensive XW system inverter of course I could customize its low-voltage cutout, but for my small system that extra $3600+ isn't worth it (and they agreed). 

So my plan was to use a DC relay to run all of my loads, powered by the charge controller's Aux output.  Unfortunately, finding a DC relay large enough to run my inverter through was not realistic (Amperage too high), so I opted for using 2 relays: one SSR is 12VDC up to 40A for my DC loads (some 12VDC emergency lighting, 12V freezer, 12V satellite internet system, totaling <=20A altogether); and a second SSR is 220VAC, wired between my inverter 220VAC output and my house 220VAC circuit breaker panel. I haven't tried the AC relay yet (does it need diodes too?), but first trying to work out the kinks with the DC relay.

Tom, there is nothing switching the Aux-to-relay power.  The charge controller itself switches the Aux power on or off based on battery voltage levels.  I'm currently set to "Active Lo", meaning the Aux port is normally powered (sending power to the control circuit of the DC relay, causing it to close).  The charge controller cuts Aux port power (thereby opening the DC relay) when battery bank voltage falls to 12.2V or lower for 5mins or more.  I've tested this scenario, letting my batt bank voltage drop to 12.2, and it operates correctly, cutting power to the relay control circuit until batt voltage returns to 12.4V for 5mins or more.  According to the XW charge controller's instructions, the Aux port can be used to power a relay for this very purpose. But Xantrex tech support tells me "I've never heard of anyone using a setup like this, but it should work."  Well, the XW's instructions (p. 1-8 "Auxiliary Output Functions") indicate this as a primary use of the Aux port!

Xantrex tech support suggested trying a C35 as a load controller if we can't get the DC relay setup to work, but then I still need to figure out how to manage my AC loads.  Who knows, maybe the AC relay won't have these issues! Not going there yet though!

Grounding: sorry, my simple diagram doesn't show that I have a ground running from my charge controller to a ground bus bar, then to ground.  (but not connected to the battery negative, in keeping with the XW instructions)

Relay: Is there a problem with the relay being continuously powered?

Running directly off battery: guys, we're thinking alike here! I will try running the freezer and satellite system straight from the batteries when I'm next in the village.  It's not a good long-term solution, but it will help me isolate the problem (which seems to be some kind of interference caused by the relay, but we'll see).
View from my power shed:

Regarding aux port output voltage: again, we're thinking alike! I just made a note to myself to try the aux port output voltage at 5VDC.  The relay instructions indicate its control circuit can be powered by 3.5VDC up to 32VDC, so I'm going to try 5V and maybe 13V (Aux port can deliver 5-13VDC) and see if there are any differences.  Hopefully something crazy like that will solve the interference issues!

Relay input Amperage:  Here's an interesting note: Crydom's instructions state that the max input current is 1.6mA @5VDC or 28mA @32VDC (I'm not sure why the current is higher for higher voltage--I would expect higher voltage to require less current...anyway...).  The XW's Aux port specifications say that it can deliver 5-13VDC and up to 200 mA!  But the amperage output is not customizable on the XW.  Could it be that the Aux port is sending way too much power (amperage) to the SSR?  Or is the current (amperage) level going to be determined by whatever the SSR "needs" or "pulls", and no more?  Next time I'm in the village I can put my Amp meter on that control circuit wire and see how much current is going through it to be sure...

Ferrite beads: could you explain? Never heard of 'em.

Charge controller status:  I need to go through the display readings in the mornings of my subsequent tests and see what the XW's says its charge state is: does it say it's in float stage when I'm getting these low readings, or does it say its in bulk, but just delivering less-than-bulk output?  I forgot to check this before.  It should only be in bulk, because my batteries have always been in the 12.2-12.4 range in the mornings after having load(s) on the night before.

That's all for now. In the mean time, trying to get back to the village soon to run more tests and finish house-building!...
220 Posts
Oct 8, 2010 05:24 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

 it's all good matt,

 the new trouble shooting plan sounds textbook to me!

i have a good feeling about setting that controll voltage down into the 5vdc range..less voltage- way less current- less heat- less possible interference? all good things.

yep, hard to grasp that less volts = less current draw on the switching side of that ssr for me too..some of this stuff i've just resolved to believe the data spec sheets and call the inner workings of 'em as "magic" Smiley..there are some notes there about them being current limited (only draw what they need to operate) and being powered up  continuously is one of the normal modes of operation.

Ferrite beads: we see these a lot these days on USB cables, cell phone chargers etc. -the fat part of the cable (like a big snake that swallowed the prized village goat) they snap or slip over the cable to absorb RF frequencies and voltage spikes traveling along the wire. one of those "won't hurt anything if not needed things".

Charge controller status: yea! never thought of that..might be some interesting information stored in memory..should be always starting up in bulk charge with the 3 stage setting.
?can't see if it stores any alarm codes? that would be even more gooder info to know as well.

me thinks you are well armed to get this worked out matt..and it's a pleasure to see someone that is as informed as you are on your system!

the ac relay should be a snap when you get to it..no diodes to fiddle with on that side. the only possible catch i can think of is the possibility that we won't be able to put that inverter to sleep (stand by) just switching one leg of the 240ac?..can always do a double pole relay if it comes to that.

good luck with the house-building!

cheers, dave
39 Posts
Oct 9, 2010 02:06 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Thanks for the encouragement, Dave! 

Where can I get those ferrite beads, and do you snap it on both lines?  Are you thinking I'd try putting it/them on the relay control circuit cable(s)?

Also, re: the inverter, I can run the inverter in "Powersave Mode", which will cause it to go into standby when the load is less than 10W, so I'll try it and make sure it can do that.  Sounds like it'll work well.  In standby, it draws only 1.5W.  Is your concern that with only one leg switched, I'll still have some kind of current flowing in the AC lines?  Please explain.

Looking forward to getting back to the village to test it out...

220 Posts
Oct 11, 2010 12:19 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems


 could scrounge some of those beads off some discarded electronics equipment.

 some more info and a visual:


with care we can unsnap and reuse the pretty covers as well.

also available at radio shack, dick smith, mouser and the like.

 yep. i would start with the aux out to relay wires..one right over both leads. next might be to find a larger size and go over the conductors from the xw to the battery.

re: inverter.. a humbling moment for dave- matt, the truth is i'm not sure how your power system switches the loads? pretty sure that your 220vac system is a hot and neutral with the hot switched but not 100% certain. best to try it and see. can you let me know when you find out? or perhaps other forum readers know for sure?

kind regards, dave
39 Posts
Oct 13, 2010 06:24 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Ahh yes, keeping the fire extinguisher nearby Wink
462 Posts
Oct 15, 2010 10:14 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Matt, another solution to consider is to install a timer on the freezer plug. If you can charge your batteries and make ice during the day while the sun shines, then that ice should carry you through the night and you can cut power all together to the freezer reducing night time operation and power draw....plus, you can always regulate the time the freezer is powered manually when you are physically there. Also, adding insulation to the freezer can also reduce power needed...
39 Posts
Nov 9, 2010 03:14 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Yeah, man, I'm on that.  But where to get a timer for my 12V freezer?
462 Posts
Nov 9, 2010 09:26 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Matthew, just did a quick search for 12 volt timers on line. A bunch came up so it should be easy enough to find one. Here's one link that shows some timers;


They have an interesting solution there also, use a programmable thermostat instead to throw a relay. They should be readily available anywhere.

...Or, since you have an inverter already, you can use that as your power source along with your existing relay.

Remember, it's just a switch and as long as the contact ratings can handle the power, Volt x amp, you should be able to use any one you can find...
« Last Edit: Nov 9, 2010 09:38 am by Tom Mayrand »
39 Posts
Dec 18, 2010 02:07 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hey there, Tom & others. I'm back in the jungle now, messin' with my power system again.  Get this- now I've observed the problems with charging at least twice when the only load all night was my Prosine 1000i Inverter in Powersave mode.  No DC relay connection or other loads.  Since I've also observed some days with no charging problems in this same scenario in the past, and no other variables in the system that I can identify, I've contacted Xantrex to report this as probably an intermittent problem with the charger.  Interestingly, the Xantrex manual does have my symptoms in its troubleshooting section:

Problem: Low panel output. Input and output voltages read about the same.

Possible Cause: Array maximum power point is less than the nominal battery
voltage. The XW SCC is still charging, but cannot charge at Vmpp.

Solution: Check or reconfigure the array.

So one explanation may be that in the morning as the sun is rising and the
MPP is less than the nominal battery voltage (e.g. 5:30am?), the XW hangs in
this state and does not adjust as the PV array output continues to increase. Not sure since I usually start my readings at 6:30am (which is usually up to 50-60V by then), but anyway I'm waiting to hear back from Xantrex. Bummer...
462 Posts
Dec 18, 2010 11:01 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Matthew, wish I was there with you now. Jungle sounds good. The first scenario, according to the manual may also be the culprit if the load you have is kicking on first thing in the morning when there is not much sun.

voltage in = voltage out or is it really supposed to be, power in = power out?

Try disconnecting the load over night to see if it still happens, or use a timer as I suggested earlier.

What was your PV set up again? how many panels at what voltage and watts?

« Last Edit: Dec 18, 2010 11:04 am by Tom Mayrand »
220 Posts
Dec 19, 2010 11:25 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

 Gee Matthew, sounds like the darn thing is stuck in MPPT park and is not going thru sweep mode to find the ever changing max array output. there was something in the manual about setting it that way for hydro systems?

 I seem to recall a discusion somewhere about the "float" timer having weird issues on startup as well..(can't find that info again) the fix there was to switch to a two stage charging configuration.

 fingers crossed in hopes that you can get anything out of tech support...there was a bunch of info on the old xantrex forum, years worth of Q&A..all gone now after the Schneider takeover.

 isn't this the time of year when everything hits the fan out that way? the mighty monsoons!

kind regards, dave
39 Posts
Jan 11, 2011 11:06 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hey Dave, most nightly rains here feel like monsoons!  And that's during the "dry" season! Shocked)  Well, here's the latest: Xantrex tech support is saying they're going to send me a new unit!  (Of course, send to my U.S. address, then I'll have to get a hand-carry over here who-knows-when!)  But in the mean time, I'm recording comparable output when set on "Manual" (MPPT off) and the reference voltage set to 60.0V (which I might have mentioned was the average reference voltage when the unit was on "Automatic", MPPT on).  So I'm very happy to have a work-around for now, without having to try 2-stage charging.  Of course with my family in the village I never get to "Float" anyway! ;o)  But in 2 days they're back to town and I'll let 'er top off for a good while...  Oh, and about the float timer issue you mentioned, I might mention that in my case, in the mornings when the unit was malfunctioning, the unit was still reading "Bulk", not "Float". Seems to be a different issue, eh? 
220 Posts
Jan 30, 2011 09:21 pm
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

thanks for that update matthew,

it's good to hear reports of xantrex tech support comming back to life. (been real bad for about two years now)

curious if you could tell from talking to them if this morning wakeup problem is something that they are aware of? or did it seem like they have no idea and will just replace it because it's easy?

at least you found a good "parking place" for that controller to run as a simple buck converter for now. bet it's close to harvesting the same amount as if it were doing the MPPT sweep.

cheers for now, dave
39 Posts
Jan 31, 2011 04:43 am
Re: Xantrex MPPT low output problems

Hey Dave, good question.  I had a lot of discussion with the tech support guy, and he seemed pretty surprised at the symptoms and once we pinned it as an intermittent problem not attributable to any of my other components, he just said it must be malfunctioning and they're going to replace it under warranty.  No indication that they've seen this behavior before- strange.  BUT they've been really helpful & flexible, and willing to do a "scrap in the field" since I'm so far away and it's so hard to get the malfunctioning unit to them.  So I just mail them the serial number & label off the case, and they mail me a new unit!  (hmmm, so maybe this will become my backup, non-MPPT, charge controller? I guess I'd better ask if they want the unit itself whenever I get back to the States!)  You are right that since I've been able to manually set the reference voltage to a value right in the middle of the usual MPPT range I've observed during normal operation, my output is about the same.  So that's a good workaround until I swap for the new unit in ?? months Shocked) .

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