Apollo solar gate operator/battery failure mode

   / Apollo solar gate operator/battery failure mode #1  

JRobyn

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Hi guys.

So I've bragged on here several times about the great service I've gotten from my Apollo 1550 ETL solar gate operator AND the Sam's Club "Duracell" battery I've been using in it. Almost 4 years now. The control board did have one glitch where the "OK" button in the controls quit working. Nice Apollo quickly replaced it under warranty.

This week, it quit.

The first symptom was that the Dakota Alert MAPS vehicle sensor started going off continuously. It's powered by an auxiliary power tap on the operator control board. And the gate opened itself up and stayed open. I figured that some critter had gotten into the underground (conduited) wiring to the ground loops for both the gate and alarm, and chewed into them both. When I opened the operator control box, half of the dozen or so LEDs on the board were flashing. No combination of power off/on, board resets, or unplugging of all the various accessories INCLUDING all the ground loops would affect it. I assumed that lightning had hit near enough by to fry the board and gave up until I could call Apollo on Monday for help.

Yesterday, something made me think that I ought to check the main battery. I really didn't suspect it since it was not far out of it's 3 year warranty and is a solar-charged group 34 auto battery, that is HUGE relative to the current draw of the operator. Guess what? 9vdc! Of course, I had NOT done as I was advised and exchanged it for a new one just before the warranty expired, so I had to cough up for a new one. I'm no longer such a fan of Sam's Club Duracell batteries.

At least now I know how the operator behaves when it lacks sufficient power.
 
   / Apollo solar gate operator/battery failure mode #2  

RNeumann

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The led acid batteries these days don't tend to go much past the warranty. They have the science figured out. A lot of the names you think of (like Interstate, Optima) have switched manufacturers between Exide and Johnson Controls (which make almost every led acid battery sold in the USA) or switched to non USA manufacturing.
If the battery only showed 9 volts I'd also clean the solar panel and test its function. If that all tests good it was probably a bad cell in the battery.
It would be interesting to know if the best battery for your application is a deep cycle or regular starting battery. That would depend on the amps needed to open and close.
I'll stop, I've geeked out enough on batteries. Or does anyone want to talk Midtronics?
 
   / Apollo solar gate operator/battery failure mode #3  

TractorGuy

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I've got a $25 walmart lawn tractor battery on my mighty mule opener with a 30w panel. It is probably 6 years old and still going. Lightening blew up the first opener and 10w panel I had it on but the battery survived. I used it on the second opener and now have it on a dual gate setup. Use to have to charge the battery every now and then with a 10w panel. Haven't had it off the opener since going to the 30w.

The mighty mule board has an alarm that starts beeping and won't stop if the battery gets below 12.2 volts or something ridiculous.
 
   / Apollo solar gate operator/battery failure mode
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JRobyn

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The Sam's batteries are manufactured in the USA by "East Penn". I believe they also make "Deka" batteries. The solar panel output yesterday was varying between 14ish to almost 20vdc with filtered sunlight through the trees WAY off its prime axis in the late afternoon. The operator board regulates both the charge voltage and amperage to the battery, adjustable between 0.1A - 1.5A.

I originally thought that deep-cycle would be a requirement for this application. Apollo says NO. And then I realized that a few operational cycles of the gate actually drew very little energy from the battery, and it stays on a "trickle" charge via the solar for an average of 10-12 hrs/day. I was pleased when I found that my solar panel outputs well above 12vdc with most ANY light on it. Direct sunlight is NOT necessary. So cloudy days and tree shade only diminishes the charging somewhat but does not stop it. I've never measured the actual current draw while the operator is running, but I doubt it would be more than 1-2A.

I'm using a 20w solar panel. It seems to keep up with our usage just fine. Apollo recommendations say that 20w is good for up to 40 cycles/day. We typically do maybe 6-12/day.

I actually was thinking on the way home from buying the new $85 battery, "why didn't I just give the $30 lawn and garden battery a try?" Even if it only lasted a year or two, would be way less $ than the big one! That's exactly what I'll do in SIX years after I use up this one and its replacement.
 
 
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