Author Topic: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning  (Read 1011 times)

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Offline VK3DRB

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Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« on: April 11, 2020, 05:02:25 am »
Someone in my neighbourhood had two non-compliant solar inverters (actually solar regulators) he imported into Australia from China. The regulators have no CE, UL-94 or any other safety approvals, and had no conducted or radiated RF emissions filtering. The neighbour's regulators had caused broad spectrum EMI on HF since its installation, swamping the neighbourhood and wiping out my ham radio hobby.

I was awoken this morning by someone yelling "Fire!" in the distant background. A person had jumped a fence and put the fire out by switching off the power and using a fire extinguisher. The fire was quite large and was in danger of catching fire to the house the regulators were attached to. There was a family sleeping inside the house. I went over and took these photos this morning. The second image is the regulator box that incinerated itself, and the first one is where the flames started catching fire to the other regulator. The cases were cheap ABS plastic without any fire retardant of course. There was no flame barrier or EMC sheilding inside the regulators either.   

The good news about this is my HF interference problems are magically gone! 20 metres, 40 metres and 80 metres are clean without the usual high levels of QRN.

The bad news is the owner of the inverters has lost his solar system, and deservedly so. I hope he realises you don't risk lives, saving a few dollars by buying non-compliant products designed and manufactured by idiots. He won't do it again. But it make me wonder how many other devices people have in their homes that do not have any testing for safety.
 
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 08:24:57 am by VK3DRB »
 
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Offline VK3DRB

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2020, 05:06:43 am »
By the way, the incinerated inverter was a copy of the partly burnt inverter - same type of wiring, same type of circuit breakers. The circuit breakers were completely obliterated.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 06:39:25 am by VK3DRB »
 

Offline Cubdriver

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2020, 05:58:48 am »
Damn!!  He's lucky that didn't ignite his house!   :o :o :o

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If it jams, force it.  If it breaks, you needed a new one anyway...
 

Offline digsys

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2020, 07:02:15 am »
There's a SERIOUS amount of dodgy practices going on wrt solar power / grid-tie etc etc A friend investigates over 20 incidents a week .. that's just one person.
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Offline PTR_1275

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2020, 07:08:19 am »
Just going to put it out there, these are solar regulators for charging batteries, not the implied inverters which would be PV->mains or battery->240v.

A lot of people think that ELV solar systems are harmless because it’s “just 12 (24 or 48v)” but there are so many problems that can occur.
 

Offline VK3DRB

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2020, 08:22:35 am »
Just going to put it out there, these are solar regulators for charging batteries, not the implied inverters which would be PV->mains or battery->240v.

A lot of people think that ELV solar systems are harmless because it’s “just 12 (24 or 48v)” but there are so many problems that can occur.

True, they are DC-DC converters for battery charging, not inverters per se. They switch around 30kHz, as shown by the harmonic spacing evident in the spectrum analyser on the ham radio.   
 

Offline madires

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2020, 10:42:04 am »
Cheap non-compliant electronics causing RFI issues are a hot topic over here too. Luckily we have an official way to get rid of them. You simply call the agency responsible for regulating the RF spectrum and they'll send a van packed with RF T&M. After finding the source of the RFI they have the right to confiscate it. And they may also bill the owner of the RFI source for their service. Problem solved.
 
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Offline treez

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2020, 10:56:32 am »
Hi,
Tell the “Revive Australian industry” campaign about this. (website  is “as” below but thats not “actually” the one)
RAI works on the same basis as the UK  branch…..these problems are inevitable when you hive off your entire power supply design industry over to China....and will get much much worse.
We would be very grateful if you could supply here the manufacturer and part number and spec of this device? Also, from where it was purchased?
https://massey276.wixsite.com/revive

Quote
The bad news is the owner of the inverters has lost his solar system, and deservedly so. I hope he realises you don't risk lives, saving a few dollars by buying non-compliant products designed and manufactured by idiots.
Well i understand your sentiments but its not his fault...the general public just dont know this stuff.......this has to  come from Governments going down the docks and ports...opening containers and checking this stuff doent come into the country in the first place.

.............*..............
Let it be known…somewhere in Australia there will be an Australian citizen (who probably knows nothing about electronics) who  once got  sent over to China to check out a Chinese solar inverter factory so that the Aussy Government could  import loads of solar panels for its government buildings and highways etc.
….After doing this, the citizen would have then used the Aussy Governemnt as a reference, so that they could then import loads more solar inverters etc from the Chinese factory (and others) …to loads of private buyers in Australia….this citizen will now be a multi-millionaire sitting counting the money…….this is money which the Aussy Government should have flowing into its own coffers……eg to fight Covid and the fires……but no…..the money is in some citizens  private bank account.
There are loads of such “citizens” in all western countries.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 11:15:35 am by treez »
 
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Offline Brumby

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2020, 11:24:42 am »
As I understand it, while anyone can import any rubbish into Australia, they can't legally sell it without the appropriate approvals - or they will be in big trouble.

With the level of power involved, I wouldn't be taking this sort of risk myself - but, then, I understand what can go wrong.  This being a prime example (and I include the RFI).
 
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Dodgy solar inverter catches fire this morning
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2020, 11:25:12 am »
There's a SERIOUS amount of dodgy practices going on wrt solar power / grid-tie etc etc A friend investigates over 20 incidents a week .. that's just one person.
Over here in the Netherlands the radio communication system used by the fire brigade, ambulance, police, etc is known to be disrupted by (dodgy) solar panel installations. Another problem in the making...
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 
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Offline treez

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2020, 01:03:50 pm »
Quote
As I understand it, while anyone can import any rubbish into Australia, they can't legally sell it without the appropriate approvals - or they will be in big trouble.
Thanks...but stuff can still pass approvals and be rubbish......just look at Dave Jones Laptop which  passed all approvals but obviously was junk due to insufficient transient protection/clearance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfpUggLais4&feature=youtu.be

Also, the cheap Chinese PSU with the potentially  "iffy" fan, which is highlighted in this video.......it makes a noise like a bearing is gone.......a known cause for fan premature failure.
To be fair, we dont know if this PSU has a cut-out so if the fan fails, it shuts down, and waits for a fan replacement before restarting...we also dont know what thermal protection the PSU has.
Maybe the datasheet tells it?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxszz_lo14&feature=youtu.be
...also no output current clamp.....this i wouldnt mind, but its spec sheet should point it out, just in case....maybe it does point it out...dont know

Be prepared in Aus/NZ/USA/EU/UK  etc etc etc for loads of trash, short-lifetime electronics.....unless YOU actively oppose it...its coming to you

Quote
Over here in the Netherlands the radio communication system used by the fire brigade, ambulance, police, etc is known to be disrupted by (dodgy) solar panel installations. Another problem in the making...
We've sent over the "Revive EU industry" template to the EU...but we got no reply...please try to send it yourself...
...here is the template...(just sub [Your Country] for [UK] )
https://massey276.wixsite.com/revive

« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 01:29:38 pm by treez »
 

Online blueskull

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2020, 01:12:29 pm »
these problems are inevitable when you hive off your entire power supply design industry over to China....and will get much much worse.

In our country we don't tolerate engineers who can't use pre-validated Vicor modules properly, unlike in UK. Imagine those solar inverters using expensive pre-validated modules yet erupting into flames. At lease we get one end of it.
 

Offline treez

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2020, 01:19:32 pm »
Quote
In our country we don't tolerate engineers who can't use pre-validated Vicor modules properly, unlike in UK. Imagine those solar inverters using expensive pre-validated modules yet erupting into flames. At lease we get one end of it.
OK thanks, but that wasnt the point. Everyone here acknowledges that China has  the best Power supply designers in the world  right now.
The mistake is in the West, by Westerners.......shutting down their entire power supply design capability and sending it all over to China.

It would similarly be a mistake  and be bad for China to shut down its entire power supply design industry , and send it to the West.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 01:21:59 pm by treez »
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2020, 01:35:40 pm »
Not sure I see the link with a dodgy installation using dodgy parts as is shown in the OP.

If you buy non-certified crap and have it installed (even worse if not installed properly on top of it), it's 100% your responsibility. Not the responsibility of the current state of the power supply industry.
 ::)
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2020, 01:54:47 pm »
Not sure I see the link with a dodgy installation using dodgy parts as is shown in the OP.

If you buy non-certified crap and have it installed (even worse if not installed properly on top of it), it's 100% your responsibility. Not the responsibility of the current state of the power supply industry.
 ::)
It is not black & white like that. If equipment fails CE emissions testing the manufacturer may opt to rectify that by supplying external filtering components and/or specify mounting instructions. If the installer gets it wrong then the installation will cause more emissions then expected even though it passed CE emissions testing.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2020, 02:37:18 pm »
Could that be from using AC only breakers on DC? The breakers are completely melted while the charge controller only partially.

It also looks like automatic fire extinguishers would be a good idea just as they are for 3D printers left running overnight.
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2020, 02:45:49 pm »
Could that be from using AC only breakers on DC? The breakers are completely melted while the charge controller only partially.
I was thinking the same when I looked at the picture. Maybe someone cares to lookup the breakers and see if these are rated for DC.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online blueskull

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2020, 02:54:53 pm »
Could that be from using AC only breakers on DC? The breakers are completely melted while the charge controller only partially.

Those battery and panel breakers, DZ47-60, are AC-only for sure. DZ47 is designated for lighting and motor systems, and -60 means the total capacity of the panel shall not exceed 60A. The Chint one is rated 50A, and the ATA one is not clearly shown, but I bet it is also 50A, which exceeds not only the AC/DC type rating but also total panel current rating.
 

Offline jmelson

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2020, 04:32:25 pm »
What's amazing is the half-melted unit appears to still be running!  The LCD display shows system readings.

Jon
 

Offline treez

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2020, 04:41:58 pm »
I think this thread shows that due to the possibilities for damage due to bad design or installation….these kind of "fairly big power" products  would best  be  designed and built in the country/area  where they are installed. If the company with the design expertise for this product had been Australian... in Australia, then  it could have had knowledgeable installation techs to sort this kind of stuff out. Because the west is  generally  clueless about anything to do with a power supply….the knowledge needed to avoid this kind of thing is well too scarce.
We have massive numbers of multi-millionaire western middle-men, who are clueless about electronics, bringing this stuff in, whilst pressurising the Chinese designers to produce this kit at a very low cost…the results are here for all to see.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 04:45:03 pm by treez »
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2020, 04:43:00 pm »
Not sure I see the link with a dodgy installation using dodgy parts as is shown in the OP.

If you buy non-certified crap and have it installed (even worse if not installed properly on top of it), it's 100% your responsibility. Not the responsibility of the current state of the power supply industry.
 ::)
It is not black & white like that. If equipment fails CE emissions testing the manufacturer may opt to rectify that by supplying external filtering components and/or specify mounting instructions. If the installer gets it wrong then the installation will cause more emissions then expected even though it passed CE emissions testing.

I fail to see how this related to what I said just above. ::)
Installation was potentially part of the issue as I mentioned.

I may just modulate the "100% your responsibility". It is if you knowingly chose to buy crap, do the installation yourself or hire a dodgy installer. But I admit it's not if you got scammed, meaning for instance you chose an installer that seemed legit, they chose the gear themselves, installed it for you, and all you did was trust a professional. In this case, it's the professional's responsibility of course.

And I'm still failing to see what it has to do with the state of the power supply industry itself, which was the main point.
 
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Offline Red Squirrel

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2020, 06:58:07 pm »
Wow that could have been bad.  Would not necessarily blame the owner though for fact that it was junk.   He probably just went on Amazon and searched for solar charge controller and shopped.  Seems most of the stuff that's readily available is junk.  It's harder to get the good quality stuff it seems. You really need to know where to shop and it's not as obvious to find.

I personally look at prices, anything that abnormally low, I assume it's going to catch on fire, and not get it. Not the best metric to go by though. Also can't go by reviews since sometimes they switch the product around.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 06:59:40 pm by Red Squirrel »
 

Offline cpuerror

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2020, 12:14:23 am »
To me it looks like the solar regulator was not at fault, it only melted/fire from the adjoining inverter catching fire. Looking at the pics, I don't see any wires that look like they are actually heavy enough for inverter use, even though this was a 48v system. So perhaps the wires over heated, the jackets melted and the system shorted out. If the wires were too thin to begin, they won't carry enough amperage to trip the breaker but would just get hotter and hotter, so perhaps this is what led to the fire.


 
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Offline Electro Detective

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2020, 12:52:19 am »

What a disaster, the family inside sleeping,  :=\
lucky if a smoke detector eventually triggers.. which may not be much use once the walls are on fire and collapsing around them  :scared: :scared:


I think I'll stick to my long time 'Claytons' Solar Install

LED light replacements and switch off stuff not required

and keep chasing off the door to door salestards trying to flog me a solar deal and loan  >:(

 

Offline Red Squirrel

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Re: Dodgy solar regulators catches fire this morning
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2020, 01:13:35 am »

What a disaster, the family inside sleeping,  :=\
lucky if a smoke detector eventually triggers.. which may not be much use once the walls are on fire and collapsing around them  :scared: :scared:


I think I'll stick to my long time 'Claytons' Solar Install

LED light replacements and switch off stuff not required

and keep chasing off the door to door salestards trying to flog me a solar deal and loan  >:(

I feel outdoor smoke detectors should actually be a thing, they would be designed for the outdoors and be less sensitive but still detect excessive smoke or maybe even have a flame sensor that points down.  My parents had a fire that originated on the side of the house (24h old camp fire ashes had been put in the garbage earlier that day and it actually managed to ignite overnight).  My parents were inside sleeping and my dad woke up because the dishwasher was on timer and it kicked in.  He's a very light sleeper.  He had a weird feeling, and went to look outside and saw light.  Being tired and dazed did not think much of the light, but then he decided he better look outside.  Looked out and saw the corner of the house on fire and flames shooting through the soffit and into the attic.

Long story short if he had not caught it, I hate to think of what could have happened.   By the time any smoke detectors inside the house went off I think the roof would be completely on fire and collapse into the house first. 

Long story short, never trust camp fire ashes even if they've been sitting out for over a day.  The fireman told them sometimes they are active for days even though it does not seem like it. 

In the case of electronics cabinets, perhaps it's not a bad idea to put a smoke detector right inside the cabinet, and have it shoot an alert to inside the house if it goes off.
 
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