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

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.

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.

Multi Level Low Voltage Disconnect with Display

Pictured below is a special multi level low voltage disconnect controller which we recently made. As with our other low voltage disconnect products, this device is designed to automatically disconnect loads from a battery when the battery voltage drops below a user set threshold. The loads are then reconnected when the battery voltage has risen above a second higher threshold.

Three level low voltage disconnect (LVD) controller with relays and display

What makes this low voltage disconnect special is that it can be programmed with three independent pairs of voltage thresholds, and control three sets of loads. If you have a selection of devices powered from your 12V battery, some will be more important than others, and some will use more power than others. Having multiple LVD voltage thresholds allows you to choose which devices should have their power cut first as the battery charge level goes down. Cutting the power to high consumption low importance devices leaves more charge available to keep the more critical devices going for as long as possible.

If the battery was powering a large amount of lights for example, one light could be connected to the lowest voltage threshold output to stay on as an emergency light, while the rest of the lights could be turned off at a higher threshold. On a boat, the fridge and navigation system would be connected to the lowest threshold output, while the television and most lighting could be connected to a higher threshold.

display for three level low voltage disconnectThe standard display shows the voltage measured on the battery, as well as the status of the three outputs corresponding to the Bot (Bottom), Mid (Middle), and Top ranges. In the image above, at a battery voltage of 12.32V, the Top range is off while the other two remain on.

all outputs off low voltage disconnect

At a lower voltage (10.55V shown above), all three outputs are off.

all outputs on low voltage disconnect

…and then with the battery voltage fully restored (13.53V while being charged), all three outputs are on.

By pressing the View Thresholds button, the user set voltage ranges are shown on the display.

Showing the voltage ranges for the multi threshold low voltage diisconnectAbove for example the bottom range has the low voltage disconnect at 11.0V and the cancellation voltage (at which the output will be turned on again) at 12.2V.

programming the multi threshold low voltage disconnectProgramming the six voltage thresholds is done using the two on board buttons. These thresholds are stored in non-volatile (long term) memory and are therefore not lost when/if it is disconnected from the battery.

When the battery voltage is measured to have moved above or below a threshold which will result in an output status changing, the back light of the display flashes on and off. The voltage has to remain constantly on the new side of the threshold for 10 seconds before the output status will actually change so that any spikes and dips in measured voltage do not result in devices being turned on or off unnecessarily.

If you need any kind of low voltage disconnect, battery monitor, and/or datalogging device, email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.

Intel Curie tinyTILE – Mini Arduino 101

intel curie tinyTILEPictured above is the new tinyTILE development and production platform featuring the Intel Curie module. This board is a miniature version of the Arduino 101 and measures in at just 35 x 26mm (1.38 x 1.02 inches), and has been designed to fit on prototyping breadboards.

The tinyTILE board can be programmed using either the Arduino IDE or Intel’s own software – the Intel Curie Open Developer Kit (ODK), and the I/O connections are functionally identical to those on the Arduino 101.

With its small size, low-power consumption, array of motion sensors (6-axis sensor with accelerometer and gyroscope), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), tinyTILE should be ideal for battery powered wearable devices and any other IoT projects involving motion monitoring.

tinyTILE has a 32-bit 32 MHz Intel Quark SoC, 384 kB flash memory, and 80 kB SRAM. It also includes a digital signal processor (DSP) offering quick pattern matching identification of actions and motions.

tinyTile can be USB powered via its micro-USB connector. The board has its own internal 3.3V regulator and 3.3V (but 5V tolerant)  I/0 connections.

tinyTILE is available now from element14.com (US+) and cpc.farnell.com (UK) amongst others.

Hen House Door Controller with Voltage Indication

Pictured below is another of our hen house door controllers – this time using a light detector to automatically detect dawn and dusk (user light level calibration), but with the addition of three battery voltage indicator LEDs.

Hen house door controller with low voltage indicationThis device will open and close a hen house door at dawn and dusk respectively when the measured ambient light level dictates. As this device is to be used with a small 12V battery, there is a chance that the battery will go low on charge preventing reliable operation.

Therefore we have added three LEDs (LED-1, LED-2 and LED-3) connected to flying leads so that they can be located somewhere easily visible while the controller itself is in an enclosure to keep it clean and dry.

When the battery voltage is measured to be greater than 12V, all three LEDs are turned on. When the voltage is between 11.8V and 12V, two are on. When the voltage is between 11.5 and 11.8V, 1 LED is on, and when the voltage is below 11.5V, no LEDs are on.

Each day when the user goes into the hen house to collect eggs, they have a quick visual indication of the state of the battery voltage so that they know when they need to think about recharging it.

If you need a hen house door controller, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of any specific requirements you may have.

Introduction to TM1638 Display Module for Arduino

Pictured below is an electronic display module we have been testing out recently.

TM1638 Arduino Display Module

Available at under £2 including delivery (see here: buy TM1638 module), the pictured device offers 8 LEDs, 8 input buttons, and 8 7-segment LED display digits which can be fully controlled with just 3 pins from your Arduino (or other microcontroller unit).

We are looking at these to offer alternatives to the LCDs (liquid crystal displays) we currently use in our solar water heating pump controllers and low voltage disconnects in particular, since the two sets of 4 digits on these modules’ displays can show a voltage to two decimal places plus other information, or two temperature sensors readings also to two decimal places simultaneously. Seven segment displays are much more readable from a distance, and the availability of 8 LEDs and 8 user input buttons opens up many new possibilities.

Initial results of testing have been very positive. If you are interested in getting started with these modules and Arduino, an excellent starting off point is this excellent article: Arduino and TM1638 LED Display Modules from the Australian site tronixstuff.com. All you need is an Arduino board, the Arduino IDE (the software required to programme your Arduino), and the TM1638 library available here.

Programmable Target Shooting Timer Relay Board

Target shooting relay timer controller with display

Pictured above is a target shooting timer relay controller with programmable options for different shooting programmes. With this device the user can set the number of seconds that the target is to remain edge-on to the shooter and how many second that it is to remain face-on to the shooter, and also how many cycles of edge and face the shoot will comprise.

Target shooting timer display

The backlit display with this device shows the user programmed number of seconds that the target will edge (E) then face (F), and the number of cycles (C) for which it will be repeated. It also shows the current status of the target.

There are two buttons on the controller. The MANUAL button is used to enter the programming mode to set the timings for the programme and also to toggle the target manually between facing and edging. The AUTO button is used to start the programme. The programme starts by edging the target, and finishes also with the target edged.

target shooting timer relay display in action

While the shooting programme is running, the display continues to show the user set programme values and the status of the target. It also shows a running countdown of the time remaining during this part of the cycle, and also which cycle the shooter is currently on.

If you need any kind of automated user-programmable timer for target shooting, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.

24V Low Voltage Disconnect with SD Card Datalogger

Pictured below is a low voltage disconnect device we recently made for use with a 24V battery system. In addition to the user-programmable low voltage disconnect functionality and LCD display of our standard Programmable 12V LVD with Display, this modified 24V device also includes a full datalogger, storing measured battery voltages at regular intervals to a micro-SD card for later analysis.

24V Low Voltage Disconnect with SD Card DataloggerThis particular unit is destined to be used by a company specialising in the maintenance of the UK’s transport infrastructure; with the low voltage disconnect used to protect batteries from being overly depleted, and the datalogger used to track the rise and fall of battery voltage over time.

If you need any kind of low voltage disconnect and/or datalogging solution, please email neil@reuk.co.uk with details of your requirements.