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Chit
Parrothead

Having an installer perform work for you, can be a pain in the ass.

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Parrothead
During my first trip to Battambang, the first week of this month, we sat down with a representative from Khmer Solar. We spoke for a while, and let her know what we wanted installed, concerning our solar array at the farm house. At that time, she seemed fairly knowledgeable about solar power in general. I felt comfortable enough. So, we laid sthe deposit down on the table, and asked her for an official quote on company letterhead, as well as a receipt for the deposit.

 

Stupid me - I would later learn.

 

I should have asked her a few more questions prior to paying the deposit. For example, she should have been queried concerning the difference between PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controllers. We ended up going with a PWM controller, well - because it was the ONLY type they had available. Got to love limited choices when trying to set up a tailored solar solar array at your home. :rolleyes: Do a lot of research on any solar installation company in Cambodia, prior to doing business with them.

 

By the way, if you are interested, the differences between PWM and MPPT is explained in the following PDF document:

 


 

The first part of October is well into the rainy season, here in Cambodia. Little did I know, we had arrived in Battambang just before one of the worst monsoons in the past few decades. Knowing my luck, I should have guessed that one the minute the rains started to come down.

 

So, we ended up heading home later that week (after 8 days in the hotel), due to the major flooding caused by the heavy rains that Cambodia was experiencing at the time. Nothing was completed during that trip, with the exception of purchasing the rain water harvesting project parts. That was a shame, really. Lots of water we could have stored, was simply lost. That's okay. Next rainy season we will be cookin' with gas!

 

Fast forward to the third week of October. 

 

On Monday, the 14th, we headed back up to Battambang. This time, we decided to do it with a one night layover in Phnom Penh. The next morning, Tuesday the 15th, we headed on to our destination city - in a no-so-comfortable, seven (7) grueling hours ride. Fortunately, the hotel in Battambang was comfortable, as usual. After getting refreshed, we dropped by Khmer Solar's office, and scheduled the installers to show up Wednesday morning, 9am sharp. Yes, Paul, hold your breath for that one.

 

We woke before day light on Wednesday, had breakfast, and off to the farm we went. At 7am, the representative rang us, letting us know the installers would not arrive until 9am. I informed her that we were there waiting, and they needed to get on the ball and get their asses up there. 

 

Time to throw a wrench in your plan for the day.

 

Sure enough, about 9:30am, Khmer Solar rang up again, letting us know the installers would not arrive until about 11am. I was not a happy camper, as they didn't have an excuse for being more than two hours later than previously agreed upon. This company was not looking good, in my eyes. Hindsight, people. Hindsight.

 

About 11:00am, they had not arrived. So, we decided to head out to Highway 57, a good 5 kilometers away, to meet them and show them how to get to the farm. (I didn't want any further delays.) We waited along the highway about fifteen minutes before they rang us, letting us know they were 10 kilometers away. They finally arrived to meet us at 11:35am. 

 

We led the way back to the house, with them following along.

 

Arriving at the property, we, that was me and most of the male family members, as well as Chan, filled our hands with "solar stuff" and headed toward the house with it all. (Bear in mind, there is a dyke, a not-so-small dyke (about 20 meters across), between the road and the farm property. We had to cross it, and part of the perimeter of a rice field, to get to the farm house. Talk about rural living. Green Acres ain't got anything on us!

 

FINALLY! Everything was there and ready to be installed - except the damned installers. They were out by their car, hood (bonnet) popped up, and using a voltage inverter and power tools to cut up some angle iron, which appeared to be 1" x 1", or perhaps 1.5" by 1.5". (They apparently, had been constructing the bracket to which the panels would be mounted.) 

 

A while later, they finally crossed the dyke, and with the balance of the parts in hand - the frame, a ladder, and one solar panel. By now, we were bumping on 2pm. Needless to say, I was definitely NOT happy with these people. I mean, Khmer Time is fine for most things. However, when it comes to work engagement, especially after you have agreed to a specific time, that is just rude and disrespectful as hell to your customer. Not to mention the money we were paying these guys to get this done - $110 USD, just in labor and deliver fees! They were not worth 10% of that! 

 

It gets worse.

 

Once inside, one installer, the one in charge, began taking out his little handy dandy combination wrench, and started tightening down the already tightened (snug, as they should be, by me!) battery terminal bolts on one of my batteries! The fecker thought he was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bear in mind, these are battery terminals that were ALREADY torqued to appropriate specifications. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine what a half turn past snug means.

 

I immediately stopped him from continuing on, and hollered for Chan to come into the house to translate for me. She was some distance away from the house. So, I had to get my big boy voice out to get her to go there - fast - before I ended up killin' this guy and burying him in the rice field! Basically, and I am sure, by using much nicer words than I had, she convinced him to leave my batteries alone, get out of the house, and climb his happy arse on the roof to start the panel install.

 

I later found out that the installer had told Chan that the batteries would not charge properly, unless the terminals were "tight". Well, apparently, his idea of "tight" was measured in inch-tons of pressure, not foot-pounds. The idiot.

 

After I saved the batteries from being tightened into oblivion and ruined, I grabbed the charge controller, a MorningStar ProStar 30m (with meter) and began installing it. Khmer Solar was very limited in their stocks, having only one other controller on hand. It was also a PWM. So, I chose, what I felt to be, the best option - the ProStar 30.

 

The meter on the ProStar 30 rotates reading Battery Bank Voltage (the voltage at the batteries), PV Amperes (charging amperes from the panels), and Load Amperes (what your circuits are drawing from the batteries), continuously.

 

Below, you can see the controller is showing the panels are charging the batteries at 13.8vdc, and in the second image, charging at a rate of 10.1 amperes.

 

IMG_0028.jpg

 

IMG_0027.jpg

 

IMG_0083.jpg

 

If you are interested in a rural project similar to ours, and want a decent controller that is fairly reasonably priced and packed with features, I can recommend the MorningStar ProStar 30M Charge Controller. I would recommend buying one from the states, though, as you can import one cheaper than you can buy one locally. Here is information you may find beneficial about this particular unit:

 



 

Now, to keep this story from getting much longer - yeah, I know, too late for that, Paul.

 

Well, the bottom line here is, everything these guys worked on ended up shotty. I wish I could have taken a photo of the bracket they mounted the panels to. (EDIT: I have since purchased a camera and taken images. A photo of the controller and one of the controller and current combiner box is above. A photo of the (installed) bracket is below this paragraph.) Oh, yeah, the panels. They cut the FACTORY INSTALLED MC4 plugs off brand new PV panels so the installer could junction the wires on the panels. This was done rather than buying the proper MC extension cables to add length for the wires to the combiner box. There goes the 20 year warranty on three PV panels. :rolleyes:

 

IMG_0041.jpg

 

Oh, when they mounted the bracket and panels, they didn't bother to see what angle the roof was at, which would determine the proper elevation (just under 13.00 degrees) for the panels. (I have an azimuth / elevation gauge I will take back with me, to make sure the elevation is correct.) 

 

I am glad I changed the setting on the controller to lead acid (flooded) batteries. (There are three settings, depending upon which type of battery you will be using for the array.) The installer didn't even bother to check it to make sure it was on the appropriate setting, when he connected it! 

 

To top it all off, they didn't finish the install until that evening - long AFTER sun down. Soooo, we couldn't even check to see how well the panels were performing until the next morning. 

 

So, folks, if you are looking for a solar array to be built on your property, definitely, do NOT EVER use Khmer Solar. I cannot believe a professional business could be so shotty. But, they are. 

 

As far as I am concerned, the next install / upgrade we do concerning the solar array, will be done entirely by me and Chan's family. An extra $110 USD would buy us a lot of beer for the after install party. :D

Edited by Paul
I added some photos, and some files on the controller.

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Chit
Parrothead

Okay. I have added some photos, as well as some files, regarding the install. 

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