PIP-4048MS inverter

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offgridQLD
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PIP-4048MS inverter

Post by offgridQLD » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 16:50

That's good to know. I tried several times with the USB adaptor I have and the best I could do before a failure was 9% compleat.

I don't know what brand it is. It works OK for communications on several divises. Including the watchpower program on the PIP. Though no luck with firmware updates.

That USB adaptor was eliminated when using the Del laptop with 9pin serial. So as mentioned windows xp probably wasn't contributing anything to the successful outcome and most likely just a dud USB adaptor.

That said the software for my Selectronic inverter refuses to work on windows 10 (works on win7) so the xp laptop is handy for that and didn't cost much more than a new USB to serial adaptor.

I havn't had a chance to play with the PIP running the new firmware though might this afternoon. So the new firmware enables higher AC/DC charged rate and a higher Mppt solar reg charge rate? Or a higher combined rate?

Was it not 30A PV and 30A AC charging 60a combined on the old firmware?

Kurt


Last edited by offgridQLD on Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 05:52, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by coulomb » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 17:04

coulomb wrote: But it's a big update (some 224 kiB, less some unused space), so that's expected over a slow serial link.

I suspect that they send the hex file undecoded, so that's almost 500,000 characters to be transmitted in an update. To transfer in under 8 minutes (480 seconds), they'd need to send around one character per millisecond, so that implies 9600 bps.
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Post by coulomb » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 17:35

offgridQLD wrote: So the new firmware enables higher AC/DC charged rate and a higher Mppt solar reg charge rate? Or a higher combined rate?

Was it not 30A PV and 30A AC charging 60a combined on the old firmware?

Yes, I think it was 30 A mains (utility) charging, with 60 A total charge current. That would imply 30 A maximum SCC (solar) charge current.

[ Edit: I got the above wrong; see Weber's explanation here. ]

The new firmware gives up to 60 A utility charging and 120 A combined charge current. I'm guessing that the SCC takes care of its own maximum current. So basically the new firmware doubles all the charging limits. Not bad for a software upgrade, but of course the hardware has to be capable of it. Perhaps they didn't have the new firmware ready when the new hardware started shipping, so since the release of the 52.30 firmware, some models can get a performance increase. Possibly they had issues with stability or the like, and didn't want to release higher current firmware until they were satisfied it wouldn't cause too many problems.

Edit: Weber pointed out to me in email that it's more likely that the higher current capable PIPs shipped with high current capable firmware, and some problem unrelated to higher current necessitated the release of the 52.30 firmware. The warning was needed for people not having the higher current hardware. So the higher current might have happened around firmware 52.28, for example. It would be nice to know exactly which firmware version was the first one with the higher current capability.
Last edited by coulomb on Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 13:29, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by offgridQLD » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 17:51

That's interesting one. As my unit was advertised as 3000w PV charger but from memory the charge limit was 30A on the PV settings (perhaps I am remembering that wrong) though I do remember thinking 60A was the max combined.

The fan speed was my main reason for upgrading.

I'm about to test the pip out running a small inverter style split system AC. I know it runs a 2.5kw old (non inverter) split system fine as i tested one a few months back. I had thoughts the variable speed drives might trip up the hi frequency style PIP. Somthing like it (some times) did with the imiev's variable charge ramp.

Will report back.

Kurt
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Post by solamahn » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 18:01

I have one site with 3 4048's in single phase parallel running 5 a/c no problem.
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Post by offgridQLD » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 18:11

OK, are they modern inverter style spit system AC units?

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Post by solamahn » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 18:18

No. Just split system but not inverter. Also just completed a job yesterday with 2 4048in single phase parallel running 3 of those big coke coolers with glass doors and 2 500l deep freezers and the 4048's were able to start up all of them together.
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Post by offgridQLD » Sun, 08 Nov 2015, 18:23

OK it's the inverter style spit systems that (potentially) might have issues. It's not the size of the load it's how the load varies up and down that (could) be a issue.

Though have to see.

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Post by weber » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 01:18

offgridQLD wrote: Image I just had a go at updating the firmware on my PIP4048 to 72.40
What was the original version?
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Post by paulvk » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 01:43

I now have a temperature probe in the fins of the 230v inverter it gets to 48c with a light load of 300watts I think they may have gone too far with the fan slow down.

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Post by weber » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 02:10

paulvk wrote: I now have a temperature probe in the fins of the 230v inverter it gets to 48c with a light load of 300watts I think they may have gone too far with the fan slow down.

What firmware version first introduces the fan slowdown?
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Post by paulvk » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 02:45

Firmware 52.30 compared to the older one that had the fans running flat out under a light load Note I have a number of inverters have not updated any firmware just have one with the older version before 52.30

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Post by offgridQLD » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 02:58

"What was the original version?"

I had 52.25 and updated it straight to 72.40.

I had it running some loads this afternoon around 700-1000w for 1hr or so. I did notice the fans where very slow just a very gentle air flow that you could just feel and it was noticeably warm. No temp measurements sorry.

Are the fan speeds load based (I think that was the conclusion befor) or temp triggered as well.

Kurt

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Post by paulvk » Mon, 09 Nov 2015, 13:45

No have not changed firmware two different inverters but they are identical other than version of firmware.

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Post by Tjadenw » Tue, 10 Nov 2015, 04:37

Hi

I have the 2.4 KW model running a VFD controlled pool pump and a Inverter Aircon (12000btu).

No issues at all.

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Post by offgridQLD » Fri, 13 Nov 2015, 15:53

Tjadenw wrote: Hi

I have the 2.4 KW model running a VFD controlled pool pump and a Inverter Aircon (12000btu).

No issues at all.


That's good to know thanks.

Has anyone had the need to remote activate or more simply switch on/off there PIP from a distance. I'm not talking away from the location over the internet. Just say 30 meters away.

I intend to use my pip in the future just to run my hard wired EVSE (electric car charging) Though I don't want to have the unit turned on 24/7 at 50w idle consumption ( 1.2kwhr pr day) As some days it wont be used and days when it is it would only be for a few hrs.

I looked at the small rocker switch at the bottom of the PIP and wondered if there would be any harm in extending that to the garage and placing a switch on the wall near the car charger. It has to be simple so anyone can use it.

It's just not practical to walk to the other end of the house. Unlock the power room door and switch on the inverter. But snakes, rain, cold, hot all make it less than practical at night.

I Have remote coms to the room (as in the room is part of my home network via wifi and LAN connection ) though want to keep this simple so was look at the switch.

Edit: Yes I did see the option remote unit sold for the PIP inverters but it lists it as

"Maximum operating distance of the remote module is 15m connected via RJ45 network cable. "

Though perhaps some kind of powered hub could be used to extend that distance?

Kurt



Last edited by offgridQLD on Fri, 13 Nov 2015, 04:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by coulomb » Sat, 14 Nov 2015, 00:33

offgridQLD wrote: I looked at the small rocker switch at the bottom of the PIP and wondered if there would be any harm in extending that to the garage and placing a switch on the wall near the car charger.

I happen to have traced that part of the schematic (plus there were some fragments in a PDF published earlier in this topic):

Image

I can't see a problem extending that by 30 m. There may be issues with false starts caused by transients, which would be minimised by using twisted pair wire of any kind.

[ Edit: Use your browser's "view image" or similar facility for greater detail of the schematic]
[ Edit: extended schematic trace to include Q36 and TX9. Some more detail can be found in the Axpert MKS Charger/ Inverter Service manual. ]
[ Edit: added U8 opto and current sense components. ]
[ Edit: added regulator U6 and opto U11 for sensing the battery voltage. ]
Last edited by coulomb on Tue, 25 Jul 2017, 09:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by lopezjm2001 » Sat, 14 Nov 2015, 05:07

offgridQLD wrote:"Maximum operating distance of the remote module is 15m connected via RJ45 network cable. "

Hi Kurt,
I have just installed a remote module for my PIP4048MS. Could not get the 5Vdc supply from the PIP to work even after changing the jumper setting, probably due to the new communications board not being compatible, the remote unit is about a year younger than the PIP, so I had to use a separate 5Vdc mini-USB supply to power the remote module. It also worked with a better quality 20m network cable which I bought separately. My remote unit has two switches, one to switch the 5Vdc and the other to switch off the PIP. Neither one of the two switches works so I assume they have both been bridged out inside the remote unit. Other than that the two switches do nothing and the remote unit works fine. Luckily I did not buy the remote unit for the intention to switch the PIP remotely as the PIP runs 24/7 to the whole house. Just for monitoring.
PS - I am thinking of installing a grid inverter inside my Plug In Prius to take power from the 220Vdc PHEV battery to supply 220Vac to the house which in turn would be used to charge the Off-grid 48Vdc battery via charger. I would just need to run a cable with a three pin plug to the AC side of the house to the nearest GPO. Just for when the off-grid battery is near flat.
Last edited by lopezjm2001 on Fri, 13 Nov 2015, 19:00, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by weber » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 04:42

Coulomb is a hacking legend!

That's hacking in the good (and original) sense of the word.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_culture

Despite having spent several days in intensive care after a serious kidney infection recently, and several weeks in hospital after that, Coulomb has been working for months on understanding why the low-cost Taiwanese PIP-4048MS inverter/charger/MPPT does some of the strange things it does, in the hope of being able to fix it and adapt it to work sensibly with LiFePO4 batteries, since the manufacturer has not done so despite us pointing out some of these problem to them at the beginning of this year. The manufacturer has nothing to fear from Coulomb's efforts, except maybe more sales.

Coulomb has now reached the point where he can practically make a PIP sit up and beg!

Yesterday he patched the firmware to fix a longstanding bug that affected all kinds of batteries, not just Lithium. If the charge current available from the PV array at the beginning of the day did not ramp up to greater than one fifth of the maximum total charge current setting (parameter 2) within 50 seconds, it would prematurely go to float mode and never achieve absorb voltage that day. This made it almost impossible to achieve automatic top balancing of LiFePO4 cells.

And once in float mode, it did not return to boost mode unless the voltage fell more than 4 volts below float voltage for 10 seconds. This is fine for lead-acid batteries. But we float a 16-cell LiFePO4 battery at 53.8 V, and 4 volts below that is very low SoC indeed. So he changed it so it only has to go 1 V below float voltage before it will go back to boost mode (and hence absorb voltage, which we set to 55.2 V). [Edit: We have changed that to 1.2 V below float in later versions.]

Today, he made it so the low voltage cutoff can be set as high as 52.0 V. The previous maximum setting of 48.0 V was way to low to protect a 16-cell LiFePO4 battery, hence all those extra contactors I had to add to the Black Monolith, controlled by the BMS. Not needed now! [Edit: Although we still must have a main battery contactor controlled by the BMS, as last ditch protection in case any single cell goes out of its safe operating area, including temperature.]

And then for an encore, and so no one could possibly mistake this for the manufacturer's firmware, he did this. Image

Image

That's the Main CPU version number display. Image What a freakin' legend!
Last edited by weber on Tue, 15 Dec 2015, 06:37, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by offgridQLD » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 05:15

Yes it sure can knock you about. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. I remember going from a bundle of energy one day to being walked to the car like a 100 year old man and driven to hospital in what felt like a very short space of time, very debilitating.

I hope this effort is a sign he is feeling a lot better now.

What can I say all this hacking and just making electronics do what you like. Sure is a skill I can only wish I had.

Well done Coulomb.

PS, What do you want for xmas for a copy of it? Image

Kurt

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Post by coulomb » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 06:14

Thanks for the kind words, Weber. But a lot of thanks is due to you, too. It was a team effort, over many months (low part time, thankfully).

This started when I observed that the firmware upgrades must contain a copy of the actual firmware. There are two sets of firmware; one is for the main DSP (Digital Signal Processor) that drives the inverter proper, and one for the SCC (Solar Charge Controller), which is a stand alone MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) battery charger. These have very different processors; the DSP is a TMS320F2809 fixed point 16/32 bit processor, while the SCC uses a Freescale 8-bit HCS08 microcontroller. I happen to be familiar with the TMS DSP chip from other work; the HCS08 is somewhat similar to a computer I once used that was housed in a shoe. That latter one is a long story, not for this forum.

It so happens that there are good reverse engineering tools available to disassemble binary images such as these, and it also happens that I have some experience in this area. That doesn't make it easy, just possible.

One thing that helped is that the manufacturers kindly, or inadvertently, left some debugging information in some of the firmware upgrade files. This gave me some valuable clues as to what some of the thousands of memory locations were doing.

Weber and I became interested in examining the firmware, because it seemed to be doing some things that really weren't what is needed for LiFePO4 batteries. These batteries have an extremely flat voltage versus state of charge curve, which makes it virtually impossible to even estimate their state of charge from their voltage. This is in marked contrast to lead acid batteries, which vary sufficiently in their voltage from full to empty that it is possible to use only voltage to control them. Only a few things needed to be changed, and so we asked if these changes could be made so that everyone could benefit. It is documented in this thread that unfortunately the manufacturer thought that these changes couldn't be done.

The main problem we wanted solved is one that became evident with Black Monolith number one. With this bug, the only workaround was a high float voltage, which meant the battery would either end up bypassing all day, or virtually never enter bypass. (Bypassing is when the cells are at a relatively high state of charge, and some of the charge current is made to bypass the highest voltage cells so as to top balance them). This problem would also beset any future monoliths (solar electric energy systems with battery storage). We either had to fix this problem, or find an alternative inverter that didn't have this problem. The problem is, these alternatives are either way more (6-8 times more) expensive, or turned out to be vapour-ware.

Many theories were formed about how the two processors co-operated when charging the battery. It turns out that the algorithms in the DSP and the SCC are very different. For example, the SCC has a three stage charge algorithm, with the absorb stage lasting 10 times as long as the bulk stage lasted. There is a graph in the PIP-4048 manual stating this. What we found was, this is completely overridden, at least in the cases we examined. When the SCC is connected to the DSP inside a PIP-4048 (as opposed to running stand alone in some of the MPPT charger products), it is forced to operate in step with the DSP. It turns out that the DSP, while effectively a three stage charger, internally combines the bulk and absorb stages. We ended up adding snooping circuitry to the serial connection between the processors, snooping both directions at once, to establish this. So it became evident that the problem is that the DSP charger exits bulk/absorb (going to float) way too early most of the time. As Weber has mentioned, this is a real bug that probably affects many PIP-4048 inverter-chargers.

In essence, the DSP terminates its bulk/absorb mode when the charge current drops to a certain value. That value is a bit complex; it depends for example on the number of PIP units connected in parallel (using special paralleling hardware so they can talk to each other and co-operate properly), and also on the maximum charge current setting. The current has to fall below the limit without exception until a certain counter reaches the value 1500, which turns out to be around 50 seconds. The problem is (and Weber figured this part out), that it might still be ramping up towards maximum charge current when this criterion is fulfilled! The other problem is that the current limit is the maximum of two values, one of which is the maximum charge current setting divided by 5. If this setting happens to be 120 A, then the limit is 24 A. It could easily be the case that near sunrise, the PV current doesn't exceed 24 A for 50 seconds at a time, so that means that for that whole day, the charger will stay in float mode. This is the exact problem that we were seeing with black monolith number one.

One solution might have been to increase the time that the current is seen to be below the limit. But still many days would not have sufficient PV charging current available to stay in bulk/absorb stage till the PV current became high enough.

So Weber suggested that the best solution would be to add an additional criterion to the decision to exit bulk/absorb mode. The battery voltage should be at higher than a particular value for the duration of the 50 seconds. This value should be just below the CV voltage setting; we used half a volt below. So now if the solar day starts weak and the current starts low, the charger will stay in bulk/absorb mode until the battery voltage is near the CV set point, AND the current falls below the threshold. We also decided to change the threshold from the higher of five amps (per paralleled unit) and the maximum charge current divided by 5, to the maximum of one amp and the maximum charging current divided by 30. These values are more suited to LiFePO4 batteries. Most of the changes are by changing immediate constants in the operands of DSP instructions, but the changed algorithm was implemented by calling out to a new patch function. It turns out that there is a fair bit of flash space available for this sort of purpose.

So now we have a patched version of the 72.40 firmware that works well with LiFePO4 batteries. Note that if you have a different lithium chemistry battery, then their terminal voltage will probably vary a lot more than with LiFePO4, so you likely don't need or want this patch. (The exception is the actual bug; hopefully the manufacturer will soon fix this problem). So this is a LiFePO4 patch, not a lithium patch. Hence the display in the post above. The QVFW command (Query Version of FirmWare) cannot return anything other than a pair of numbers, so it reports 72.43. I hope that there aren't many firmwares in the field with this version number to be confused with this patch. That was the other reason for the display above; you can't mistake this for the original firmware!

Hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to post the firmware patch with instructions. Actually, the instructions will be the same as the official instructions. Although we performed several SCC firmware patches in developing this patch, there is no need to update the SCC firmware to get the benefits of the LiFePO4 patch.

In summary, here are the patch changes:
1) Version number changes to identify itself.
2) Float to bulk/absorb now happens at float voltage setting - 1.0 V, not float voltage setting minus 4.0 V.
3) The exit bulk/absorb to float transition uses different charge current thresholds now. It was
MAX(5 A, maximum total charge current setting divided by 5)
and is now
MAX(1 A, maximum total charge current setting divided by 30) .
When multiple PIP units are paralleled, the charge current settings are added.
4) The time constant associated with the exit from bulk/absorb to float has been increased from 50 seconds to 120 seconds.
5) The additional exit bulk/absorb to float criterion is added, i.e. in addition to the charge current falling below the threshold stated in 3) above, the battery voltage has to equal or exceed (CV voltage setting minus 0.5 V).
6) The Battery Under Voltage Cutoff setting voltage range has been changed from 40-48 V to 44 to 52 V (i.e. 4 V has been added to the lower and upper limits). When this limit is exceeded (on the low side) for some 20 seconds, the inverter turns itself off to protect the battery from excessive discharge. It seems to take about 15 minutes of exceeding this limit plus 1.0 V (was plus 4.0 V) before the inverter comes on again.

We hope that this patch will be of use to many users, and if it leads to sales of more PIP inverter chargers, then that's great too.


[ Edit1: clarified that the bypassing all day was not a result of the bug, but a consequence of the only workaround we could think of. ]
[ Edit2: clarified that the DSP charger is effectively three stage, but internally it combines the bulk and absorb stages. ]
[ Edit3: Added link for black monolith #1 ]
Last edited by coulomb on Sat, 19 Dec 2015, 01:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by rhills » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 09:12

Hi Coulomb,
coulomb wrote:... a computer I once used that was housed in a shoe. That latter one is a long story, not for this forum...

Hey, this is the Lounge! Do you really think you're going to get away with that little tease?

Sorry to hear about your illness but pleased that you're back on deck again.
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Post by T1 Terry » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 12:13

Great news Weber & Coulomb, and great news you are on the mend Coulomb.
Will this upgrade work on the other PIP inverters such as the 24v units? It certainly saves a lot of aux control, our fix was to cut the solar supply every hr so it sensed a restart when hopefully the solar conditions were better. We eventually gave up and went to a different solar control method as our arrays are generally within 10% of the target voltage so very little advantage from an MPPT control.

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Post by offgridQLD » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 14:41

" the SCC has a three stage charge algorithm, with the absorb stage lasting 10 times as long as the bulk stage lasted."

I know that's how the instruction manual list it. Though I always just assumed that was crazy and perhaps a typo with the *.

If it took 1hr to reach absorb voltage then it would spend 10hrs at absorb voltage. What if it took 3hrs to reach absorb voltage 30hrs in absorb is crazy!

Edit" looking at the instructions again it also mentions max 8hrs. Though to reach that you would only need 48min of bulk and that still sounds crazy to me.

Because of this I thought that perhaps it was actually.

Time spent at Absorb = time to reach absorb voltage +10 min. Effectively giving you a minimum absorb time at 10 min.

Though I could be wrong. As I have never actually used the solar charger long enough to watch the bulk/absorb stage and time it.



Last edited by offgridQLD on Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 03:47, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by coulomb » Mon, 14 Dec 2015, 17:46

T1 Terry wrote: Will this upgrade work on the other PIP inverters such as the 24v units?
You certainly can't use this patched 48 V firmware directly on a 24 V inverter. The firmware is customised for a particular voltage. But if you could get hold of a 24 V firmware image, it's quite possible that the logic is similar enough that the same sorts of changes could be made to a 24 V unit.

Actually, I did grab a 24 V firmware at one point, and had a quick look at it. The 24 V inverters use a HCS08 processor (similar to the one in the SCC), and it happens that the symbols aren't available with that image, so it's much harder going. Perhaps something for the far future.
We eventually gave up and went to a different solar control method ...

Yes. It's a shame, as the hardware seems to be pretty good.
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