Morningstar EcoPulse PWM Solar Charge Controllers

Pictured below is one of the new range of EcoPulse solar charge controllers from Morningstar Corp (makers of the ever popular SunGuard Solar Controller). EcoPulse controllers are a part of the new Essential Series™ of consumer rated products designed for residential and off-grid use including the leisure market.morningstar ecopulse metered version

There are six different versions of the EcoPulse: 10A, 20A, and 30A rated with an interactive meter display as pictured above (EC-10M, EC-20M, and EC-30M), and 10A, 20A, and 30A rated with no display (EC-10, EC-20, and EC-30M) as pictured below.morningstar ecopulse non-metered version

EcoPulse controllers are designed for 12V and 24V solar systems with DIP switches used to select either 12V, 24V, or auto-detection.

These controllers are suitable for marine use as they are rated up to 100% humidity, the electronics have a protective conformal coating, and all connection terminals are corrosion resistant. The case is made from durable polycarbonate, and passive cooling is provided by an aluminium heatsink.morningstar ecopulse charging algorithmEcoPulse controllers have a 4-stage PWM battery charging algorithm – bulk charge, absorption, and float, with equalization available (automatic or disabled on non-metered models, manual or automatic on the metered models). The PWM frequency is 300Hz by default, but can be set to 1Hz if there is a problem with system noise.

EcoPulse has a built in adjustable dusk ‘til dawn lighting controller with the solar array being used as the ambient light detector.  (See our article Solar Panel as Darkness Detector for a simplified version of this technique.) A built in low voltage disconnect prevents the battery from being overly depleted by connected loads.

ecopulse pwm solar charge controller connection diagramEcoPulse has a built in sensor for temperature compensation, but an optional remote temperature sensor is also available if the controller is to be positioned more than 3 metres from the battery bank. There is also protection against short circuit, over current, and high voltage etc with fault indications displayed with coloured LEDs.

To find out more about EcoPulse, click here for the official Morningstar EcoPulse page where you will find links to the full operation manual and datasheet for the EcoPulse range.

The MSRP for the products in US Dollars are as follows and they are sold with a two-year manufacturers warranty:

  • EC-10 $65 EC-10M $101
  • EC-20 $78 EC-20M $129
  • EC-30 $104 EC-30M $156

μduino Smallest Arduino Compatible Board – ATMEGA32U4

Pictured below are photographs of the top and bottom of prototypes of the new μduino, an Arduino-compatible board with dimensions of just 12x12mm making it probably the smallest Arduino every built – just a little bigger than a microSD card.

uduino smallest arduino compatible board

The μduino is smaller in size than the Digispark (with its ATTiny85 chip and 6 I/O pins), but uses the same ATMEGA32U4 microcontroller found on the much more powerful Arduino Leonardo offering 20 I/O pins including 6 analog and 14 digital I/O ports, 7 PWM channels, and a lot more memory.

μduino is now (early August 2017) fully funded on Crowd Supply (a crowd funding website similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo), easily reaching and exceeding its funding goal with 11 days to spare.

μduino can be set up to operate at either 3.3V or 5V depending on the requirements of your project and any connected sensors.

The tiny size of µduino was achieved using a smaller hole separation (1.27mm vs 2.54mm) relative to standard boards, and packing the components tightly together on both sides of the board.

For full details and/or to place an order for a µduino @ US$18 (shipping on or after September 20th 2017), click here for µduino on the CrowdSupply.com website.

μduino Specs

ATMEGA32U4 microcontroller
6x Analog I/O ports
14x Digital I/O ports (including Rx/Tx)
Status LED
Dual-power modes for 3.3V and 5V operation (accepts up to 16V)
1x Power output (3.3V or 5V depending on what mode is selected)
3x Ground ports
1x Analog reference voltage port
Reset button
16 MHz precision crystal oscillator
MicroUSB port for easy programming and prototyping

Raspberry Pi Pinout Command with GPIOZero

raspberry pi gpiozero pinout commandPictured above is a screen capture showing a new (late July 2017) feature of GPIOZero for the Raspberry Pi – pinout – which shows the status of the general purpose input/output pins of the Raspberry Pi and additional useful information about your Pi.

Simply enter pinout at the command prompt. If the command is not recognised, do a sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get upgrade to update your Raspberry Pi and GPIOZero software to the latest version, and it will then work.

Click here for full details from the command-line tools section of the GPIOzero docs.

Rainwater Toilet Pump Controller with Display and Timer

Pictured below is another of our rainwater toilet pump controllers  which we recently built and supplied.rainwater toilet pump controller with display and timer

This particular unit will be used in a system configured as follows:
There is a large water butt with 2000 litre capacity (to which a further 1000 litre capacity will soon be added). There is a 210 litre header tank which gravity feeds the toilets in the property. The header tank has a float switch near the top to detect when it is full, and a float switch near the bottom to detect when it is nearly empty. The pump chosen can fill the header tank from empty in around 6 minutes, and the pump has its own float switch protection (so that it will not run dry if the water butt is empty). Finally there is a solenoid valve fitted to a mains water supply which when turned on, will fill the header tank.

header tank not full display rainwater toilet pump controllerThe controller has a display which is used to show the status of the header tank – full, not full, or empty – and also the status of the pump and solenoid valve.

solenoid valve on water butt empty display

Once an hour, the controller will turn on the pump if the upper float switch indicates that the header tank is not full. The pump will run until the upper float switch floats on a full tank OR for 8 minutes since if the pump runs that long, the water butt must be empty or there is a problem with the pump.

If at any time (except while the pump is running) the lower float switch indicates that the header tank is empty, the solenoid valve will open sending mains water into the header tank until the upper float switch indicates the tank is now full.
After another hour has passed, the controller will attempt to top up the tank with rainwater as normal, and will only top it up with mains water if the tank is empty.

If you need a rainwater toilet pump controller, email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements. Take a look at some of our previous controllers here: rainwater.

Target Shooting Lights Controlling Timer

Pictured below is a timer for use in competitive target shooting. Usually we make turning target controllers which turn the target to face and away from the shooter at the required times. This controller instead is for use with a fixed target, using a red and a green light to tell the shooter when to shoot.

shooting target lighting controllerThe red light starts off on. The start/stop button is pressed and the range master gives a vocal command for shooters to load. After 30 seconds, the red light turns off and the green light turns on – shooting commences. After a user programmable timer period has elapsed, the red light turns on again, the green light turns off, and shooting stops.

With this particular controller, the available timing options are fixed as 4, 6, 8, 10, 20, or 150 seconds. The timer option button is used to cycle through those options with red indicator LEDs used to show which option is currently selected. (We also make timers like these with a physical display and the ability for the user to change the values of the timing options instead of having a fixed selection – see here for details of some of our other shooting timers.)

The type of bulb to be used with controller is pictured below: a low current 12VDC powered 22ds LED bulb from Onpow.22ds 12vdc LED bulbIf you need any type of shooting range timer, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.

Conservatory Cooling Fan Controller

We sell a wide range of types of differential temperature controllers which are primarily used in solar hot water systems. However, with slight modifications, they can also be put to good use in other scenarios.

thermostat for conservatory coolingPictured above is an Arduino Pro Mini based fan controller we made for use in conservatories and other sunny rooms to help to keep the temperature from getting too hot.

This device can be used to turn on an extractor fan when the temperature in the room gets above a user set value, and keep it on until the room temperature has fallen below a second user set value. By dumping excess hot air from the room, the room’s temperature can be kept in a comfortable range.

display for conservatory cooling fan controller

In the photograph of the device’s display above, the air temperature is showbn to be measured as 18.2C. The fan (which is currently off) will turn on when the air temperature goes over 25C, and then turn off again when the air temperature falls below 20C.

We have also previously made these types of thermostatic controllers to automatically drive hot air from a sunny conservatory into cooler regions of the house. An insulated conservatory can still get very hot even in the winter months, so sending the hot air to the cooler side of the house is an easy and cheap way to reduce heating bills.

Solar Water Heating Pump Controller – East West Aspect Collectors

Pictured below is a solar water heating pump controller which we recently made for use within a system which has two solar collectors – one on an East-facing roof and one on a West-facing roof.

solar water heating pump controller for use within a system with east and west facing solar collectors

We have previously made an East West Solar Water Heating Pump Controller for use in a more complex system which controlled valves which were used to select whether to take solar heated water from the East or from the West-facing collector. The above pictured controller however is just based around our 2014 Solar Water Heating Pump Controller, with the additional of a third sensor and a modified display output.

display for east west solar water heating pump controller

The standard 2014 controller will turn on the pump when the solar collector is a user programmed number of degrees hotter than the tank or pool to be heated. Our modified East/West version instead runs the pump whenever either the East or West-facing collector is that user programmed number of degrees hotter than the tank or pool.

The water in the system is pumped from the tank or pool, up through both solar collectors in turn, and back again in a loop. Therefore, this simpler version has the disadvantage that water from the hotter collector (or from the tank/pool) may cool a little in the colder collector as heated water flows through it. However, overall the system is pretty efficient considering the disadvantage of having to face collectors to the East and West instead of to the more optimal South (in the Northern Hemisphere) due to the orientation of the building.

If you need any kind of solar water heating pump controller, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.

12V Low Voltage Disconnect with Display and SD Card Datalogger

12V low voltage disconnect with display and sd card dataloggerPictured above is a low voltage disconnect device which we recently made for a client. It offers all of the battery monitoring, protecting, and datalogging functions and features of our REUK Programmable Low Voltage Disconnect with Display and Datalogger, but with the added benefit of an on board microSD card to store the measured battery voltage once per minute.

low voltage disconnect sd card datalogger

The voltage data is written to a simple text file on the SD card. When the battery is connected to the low voltage disconnect and powers it, POWER CONNECTED is written to the log file. Then each subsequent minute, the battery voltage is written to the file preceded by the number of minutes since the power was last connected. For example the line 6,13.98 indicates that 6 minutes after the power was connected, the battery voltage was measured to be 13.98V.

While the pre-existing basic datalogging of the LVD is useful for constantly displaying the minimum, maximum, and average measured voltages, every now and then it is good to have the option to copy the data from the SD card to a PC for more detailed analysis and plotting etc.

If you need any kind of datalogger, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.

Solar Water Heating Pump Controller for Distant Pool

Pictured below is our standard 2016 Solar Water Heating Pump Controller with Datalogger. We recently made a modified version of this controller for use in a particular situation where the standard unit would not be very efficient.

2016 SOLAR PUMP CONTROLLER WITH LCD DISPLAY AND DATALOGGER. Solar water heating pump controller with backlit display to show temperatures and system status information and a dataloggerIn this case, the controller was to be used to heat a swimming pool. The problem was that this pool was located 30 metres away from a garage where the controller would be fitted, with 50mm water pipes already installed running underground to and from the pool from the garage (on the roof of which were installed solar water heating panels). There was therefore no easy way to retro fit a temperature sensor at the pool – that would necessitate digging a new 30 metre long trench, fitting sensor cable into an armoured tube, and burying it.

It was however possible to fit a temperature sensor to the return water pipe where it emerged in the garage, but the contents of that pipe would cool down much faster than the large volume of water in the pool, and this would result in the pump being turned on frequently unnecessarily, often cooling the pool instead of heating it.

To get around this problem, the controller was modified to provide additional features. The key feature was that the pump would not be turned on until the temperature of the solar panel exceeded a user programmable value. When this threshold is reached, the pump is run for a user programmable number of seconds (TD) which circulates the water through the system sufficiently to get an accurate measurement of the temperature of the pool water. When TD seconds have elapsed, if the temperature differential between the solar panel and pool exceeds the user programmed differential (diffOFF), the pump will continue to run until the differential falls below diffOFF – standard operation for the 2016 controller.

If however after the test run of the pump, the differential is not high enough, the pump will be turned off, and the temperature of the pool sensor will be saved. For up to the next four hours this saved value of the pool temperature will be used rather than the sensor temperature (which will rapidly fall when the pump is turned off). The pool temperature over the course of 4 hours will not fall by more than a degree or two, so using this saved value is acceptable for efficiency. During the 4 hours, if the temperature differential exceeds the second user programmed differential (diffON), the pump will be run as per standard operation and after TD seconds the controller will start to use the current pool temperature sensor measurement instead of the previously saved value as the pipe in the garage will now be at pool temperature. The pump will continue to run until the differential falls below diffOFF.

If during the 4 hours, diffON is not achieved, the controller will wait until the solar panel temperature exceeds the user programmed temperature before running the pump for TD seconds again and repeating the above processes.

Overall these modifications (together with a few additional features not described above) will result in a far more efficient system than our standard controller would have given and less wear on the pump.

If you have any special requirements which are not met by our standard controllers, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details.

Replacing 30 Year Old Solar Hot Water Controller

Pictured below is the differential temperature controller fitted to a 1980’s solar hot water system. After many years of successful operation, this controller finally failed (pump stays on all the time) and needed to be replaced.

Old solar water heating pump controllerSomething functionally identical was required, at least externally for the benefit of the user, so we were tasked to build a differential controller with relay to switch a mains powered pump, and to include a power on LED indicator, a pump on LED indicator, and a physical switch to select between standard automatic operation and ‘override’ which forces the pump to run.

Circuitry found in 1980's differential temperature pump controller

The internals of the old controller are pictured above. It shows a simple system with mains power going in and coming out again on its way to the pump switched by a relay, a transformer to get low voltage DC from the incoming mains AC, a potentiometer which is probably there for the installer to set the temperature differential required between solar panel and hot water tank for the pump to be turned on or to zero the measured difference when the sensors are at the same temperature, and the connections (two core) for two temperature sensors which are almost certainly going to be thermistor type sensors. There is also an IC visible which will most likely is a microcontroller, a 555 timer, or a comparator.

The sensor leads (and all other leads) were soldered in place upon installation, and the sensor cables were run through walls and are therefore inaccessible. Since the existing cables were 2-core, we had to build the new controller using sensors with two connections – LM335 – rather than the 3 connection digital sensors we use in most of our controllers – DS18B20 temperature sensors.

Our 2013 Solar Water Heating Pump Controller is the most similar unit we sell to this existing controller, so used that as the foundation of the controller we built.

modified 2013 solar water heating pump controllerAll LEDs, buttons, and switches have to be external to the controller board, so these have extended leads which connect via screw in terminals. We supplied a plug in 12VDC power supply rather than fitting a transformer directly to the circuit board, and we added an LED which turns on when the unit is powered, and the override switch which can be used to force the pump to run. We fitted the programming button (used to set the temperature differentials at which the pump turns on and turns off) to the circuit board, but connected terminals in parallel with it so that an external button can be panel mounted now or at a later date.

If you need a modified version of one of our differential temperature controllers, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.