solar-panel-stack-moneyThere's a lot of talk of trade and trade agreements in the run-up to the election, but I've heard nothing of how the substantial anti-dumping and anti-competition tariffs applied to Asian solar products are protecting US interests.

Originally applied to just solar cells, these tariffs were expanded last year to also include complete solar panels made in China and Taiwan, and add a whopping 250% or so of duty to the imported price of all but a very few manufacturers of Chinese and Taiwanese panels.

The results of these tariffs are already being seen in the semi-flexible panels, popular in marine applications. Many of these low-cost panels suddenly shot up in price, and several outlets stopped offering them altogether, but the tariffs are not the only reason .....

new-testing-reveals-photo-640x427I've always wondered whether Firefly batteries really do charge faster than conventional lead-acid batteries, as the Firefly people tell us. There is oodles of information on the discharge characteristics in the Firefly blurb, but nothing much regarding this high-speed charging phenomenon. Well, now I know.

But let's first look at Lithium batteries because nothing can currently compare to their spectacular charging capabilities in their many forms.

These types of battery have the ability to suck in practically whatever amps the charging source can deliver, all the way through from start to finish, and such is their thirst that we really don't yet have charging sources powerful enough to satisfy their craving. Lithium batteries have an addiction: they're hooked on amps and all they want is more!

Those familiar with the now-standard 3-step Lead Acid charging routine of Bulk, Acceptance, and then Float stages will appreciate that, because Lithium batteries do not have to suffer through the painfully long, drawn-out Acceptance stage, they will recharge in a fraction of the time of Lead Acid equivalents.

Because of this, charging sources for Lithium batteries, especially alternators, need to be specially adapted and/or controlled in anticipation of them being forced to deliver their maximum amps output for the entire length of time of the charge. Ignoring this little nugget may well end in a debilitating melt-down, and I mean that quite literally!

Apart from the zippy charging, lithium battery systems will also last several thousands of cycles longer than conventional Lead Acid batteries, do not have to be fully recharged each cycle, can be discharged to deep levels, and are about half the weight. But they are also expensive, complicated, can't be charged when temperatures are at/below freezing, and for some they carry a scarily high fear-factor.

But wait a minute .... the Firefly is not a conventional Lead Acid battery, so let's compare its attributes to Lithium.

gauges-handheld-dreamstime m 76282015-640x427     It's happened again, and I'm getting really tired of it. Yet another call from a boat owner who called in what he thought was a trained and experienced marine refrigeration technician to fix a poorly performing system, and now it's working worse than it was before! Why? Because the technician had added refrigerant, or "put in a shot of Freon" to what previously was a perfectly charged system.

     Our office here spends way too much time on the phone and in e-mails helping customers correct mistakes made by mostly well intentioned but misinformed and inexperienced technicians. Too often it seems that adding refrigerant has been a Hail Mary move, made after diagnosis was unsuccessful, and done in an effort to show the customer that at least something had been done. And that's where all the problems start ....

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