Last weekend I visited the Boomershoot site to get the weather station (see also here, it seems I always have to work on it in January) and webcam working again. The webcam had been down since November 8th and the weather station went down on December 31st.
I figured there was a good chance the power went down. The power supply is two deep cycle batteries charged by two solar panels and in the winter there is a risk of not enough solar to keep the batteries charged. The math says it should be enough as along as the batteries are not at end of life. But the batteries are getting old.
I took my 2 KW generator and a battery charger and arrived at my new gun range a little before 4:00 PM. It looks a lot different with 20+ inches of snow over it:
After taking a few pictures there I drove to the driveway at the Boomershoot site. As I expected the driveway was impassable. I loaded up the toboggan I borrowed from Brother Doug and went out to the shooting line where the weather station is:
I opened up the underground “vault” where the batteries, charge controller, ethernet switch, and power supplies are:
I measured the battery voltage. The 12 Volt batteries only had 3.7 Volts. That’s not good. That’s a real problem.
I hooked up the charger and generator and the smart charger quickly brought the voltage up to six volts and went into “maintenance” mode. Crap! It thinks these are six Volt batteries rather than 12 Volt. There was no manual switch to convince it to charge to 12 V.
I went back to my car and found the direct battery charging cable for the generator. I almost left this home because I didn’t think I would need it as I had brought the smart charger. I’m so glad I brought it.
Back at the shooting line I hooked up the direct cable and in a few minutes got the voltage up to about 10 Volts where the smart charge, with a power cycle, became convinced these were 12 Volt batteries.
It was getting dark but there was a nice sunset fading away:
The next morning I came back to refill the gas tank and check the charge on the batteries. Things were a bit frosty:
The charger said the batteries were fully charged. That’s not good. These two batteries should have a combined 400 Amp Hours of storage. The charger puts out a maximum of 12 Amps. After being on the charger for about 16.5 hours that is a maximum of about 200 Amp Hours of charge (including the consumption from the electronics and contribution from the solar panels that morning).
For all I know they could have stopped accepting charge after eight hours. There was nothing I could do about it. The only solution is new batteries. And I do not want to do that in the winter. The batteries are just too heavy to make the trip on the toboggan and be lowered into the “vault” with all the snow making access difficult. I’ll go back in a month or two and recharge them.
I couldn’t get the webcam to come back online. It is dead. I confirmed that after bringing it home. It doesn’t even turn on the ethernet switch lights. It seems to be a frequent occurrence at this site. I suspect low voltage to be a contributor. I have a new webcam but I forgot to take it with me. I’m thinking I will make another trip to Idaho in late February and put up the new web cam and charge the batteries then.