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534 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 154369 25-Oct-2014 18:50
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Hi

On our motor home that we own we have a couple of Solar panels on the roof that powers pretty much the whole thing. I am now looking into somehow monitor the amount of power from the solar panels with a raspberry pi. How would I go about doing this? The panels are 12V. Also, could someone clarify on how you would measure the amount of power? Is it kwh?

Thanks




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153 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 1162115 25-Oct-2014 19:11
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It is quite simple to find power meters suitable for solar panels. Why just don't buy them? Or you want to make something DIY?



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  Reply # 1162118 25-Oct-2014 19:13
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solival: It is quite simple to find power meters suitable for solar panels. Why just don't buy them? Or you want to make something DIY?


I want to DIY. Also, I have an arduino I could use, I know that this has analog inputs, can I just use resistors to lower the 12V to 5V and then check from the arduino?




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  Reply # 1162140 25-Oct-2014 19:56
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dcole13:
solival: It is quite simple to find power meters suitable for solar panels. Why just don't buy them? Or you want to make something DIY?


I want to DIY. Also, I have an arduino I could use, I know that this has analog inputs, can I just use resistors to lower the 12V to 5V and then check from the arduino?


I'm not an electronics person by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm pretty sure that sticking some resistors in-between your Arduino and the 12V output of your panels would not be a good thing to do (and might even result in melted stuff on your table or worst case melted fingers).  How is the Arduino going to measure anything ?  Going to need a power-measuring-thingy on it which then you'd have to work out how to attach to the panels.

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  Reply # 1162159 25-Oct-2014 20:49
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Voltage divider (two resistors) for making 5v from 12v is not the best thing as if you get more then 12v you'll burn your arduino port. So you need to design it to work with maximum possible voltage. I don't know specifics of solar panels though. Is it possible that they give less then 12v? For example 5v if it's cloudy. If it's always 12v then you don't need to measure voltage, just use constant.

You need to measure current. It can be shunt or special sensor. Good example of what you need is here:
http://www.hacktronics.com/Tutorials/arduino-current-sensor.html

For raspberry it's more problematic because AFAIK it doesn't have analog port, so you will need to add ADC to your device to use it with Pi.

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  Reply # 1162251 26-Oct-2014 09:11
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Check out the project at www.openenergymonitor.org. They have an Arduino shield which I am using for 240VAC measurement and it works very well. Would obviously require some mods to work with 12V but there is a pretty active user forum so I am sure you would get some advice/help if you asked the right question ;).

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  Reply # 1162953 27-Oct-2014 13:51
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On the back of the solar panel will be printed the maximum no-load voltage.  Use this to design a voltage divider so that this voltage gives 5V to the ADC input.

Current sensors with a shunt resistor has losses.  If you are up to it, get a decent sensor from http://www.lem.com/ and make sure it is designed for DC measurement.  You want to sense the magnetic field around the cable, not the voltage drop across a resistor.  It is also inherently isolated so almost no chance of blowing things up.  You can buy them from Element14 or RS Components.  The one I have used a number of times (for a high voltage application) output a 0-25mA current out which I pass through a 200 Ohm resistor to get a 0-5V measurement.  You also get sensors with a voltage output, but for industrial use a current loop is more common.




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  Reply # 1163303 28-Oct-2014 09:02
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I can think of several ways to measure voltage using a RPi.... caveat: I'm not an electronics guru, but know enough to be dangerous.

Obviously? you could add an analog-to-digital (A2D) converter chip to it (there's one on TradeMe ATM). If you got an A2D with a suitable maximum analog voltage (i.e. >= 12V) and 5V digital levels, you wouldn't need to do the voltage-divider thing that others have suggested.

If all you want to know is whether it is over/under a threshold (e.g. 10V) then a voltage divider and a transistor could give you this. You could even have several of these to allow you to detect several levels.

Another approach might be to use pulse-width modulation (PWM) -- a capacitor whose charge rate depended on voltage, with a periodic reset would do this.

Finally, frequency modulation... an oscillator whose frequency is dependent on voltage. The RPi could measure the frequency via a digital input.



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  Reply # 1164729 29-Oct-2014 22:52
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I've ordered some resistors for a voltage divider, I'll test to see if it works and then move on to get an amperage sensor.




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  Reply # 1164744 29-Oct-2014 23:31
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Seeing that it has not been said yet. The Raspberry Pi digital lines are 3.3v. 5V will fry the GPIO line. You will need to make sure that your ADC runs on 3.3v or you will need a logic level converter.




Geoff E



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1164745 29-Oct-2014 23:33
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geocom: Seeing that it has not been said yet. The Raspberry Pi digital lines are 3.3v. 5V will fry the GPIO line. You will need to make sure that your ADC runs on 3.3v or you will need a logic level converter.


I'm using an Arduino as the ADC as I have one I don't use. It uses 5V




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  Reply # 1164758 30-Oct-2014 04:12
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