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I have been working with my graphic designer to produce a 'users guide' basic educational poster that will be printed on 11" x 17" poster board (or laminated) to be hung on the wall next to the SolarNexus power centers.     The idea is to provide some basic information that will hopefully help the staff and students to understand a bit more about how the system works and how to take decent care of the batteries.  I'm trying to head off the most common system problem I saw last year in Africa - batteries that bounce between the low voltage disconnect and the low voltage reconnect, seldom (if ever) being completely recharged.    

Below is a link to the most recent draft of the poster.  Can you please take a look and let me know if you have any feedback that we could incorporate before we call it good and send it off for printing?   

OBETRI POSTER draft2.pdf

Thanks very much in advance for your suggestions!    Any ideas are welcome.   If we can't include them in the poster I will try to incorporate them into the installer's guide I'm working on next.

I sent this request out to a circle of friends and off-grid colleagues for their input.   I am going to post some of their replies here to try to jump-start this discussion.    I appreciate everyone's input and will consider all suggestions.    Some of the points are worth more discussion, so I'm hoping this could be a forum for that.  

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This from John at Rainshadow Solar

How many of the owners read? Are you producing a graphic only version?

There seem to be what I would call five graphic topical image groups. The first three really get the point across to my mindset.

The second to last (#4) seems like it might be confusing? You make reference in the text nearby (outside of the graphic) that voltage is effected by weather the battery is under a charge, discharge, or resting. It is not entirely clear to me if this #4 graphic is meant to relate to one of these states? But the use-it portion of this graphic looks to be for batteries under charge? The conserve section seems to be for batteries at close to resting voltage or very slight discharge. The doNotUse portion seems to be for batteries at rest or with a slight discharge. But the whole thing makes tremendous sense to me if the goal is to conserve the batteries at the expense of using the system.

You then follow this with the last graphic. This one seems to indicate usage under varying weather conditions? I am not sure that the Day/Night issue combined with the weather is getting across. This may be partially caused by the close proximity of the image to the battery condition gradient of the graphic just above it. Your brain needs to switch from the idea of a left to right )across the page) gradient of conditions/state of charge …… To a case by case situational diagram that seems to be arrayed across the page the way the graphic above is arrayed. Thai make any sense??? I am sure you did this because of space constraints but if the last graphic assembly were to be arrayed vertically with text to the right it might come across without this potential confusion.

Without knowing the battery capacity and maximum load that the inverters allow or the solar charge rate or climate….

It’s hard to judge whether this poster (if followed to the nines) would result in overzealous battery care at the expense of useful usage; or whether it would result in good care of the batteries.

I think that this sort of thing is a huge challenge to create.

Lastly, I feel strongly that a “Western Mind” will respond out of a cultural context to these images that is going to produce radically different types of comprehension for the culture that these posters are inserted into. I would be wary of my western advice!

Is there any way to have customer peer to peer review of these posters?
This is from Ian at Solar Energy International

From a technical standpoint, I hate to see the "batteries store electrons" myth perpetuated, as if batteries are getting filled up with electrons and then releasing them. Charges (charged particles, which include electrons, but also ions) go _through_ the battery, energizing a chemical storage process. Charges (including electrons) are not "made", "stored", or "used" because they are _part_ of the wire and other components in a closed-loop system. It's energy (not charges) that is "made" (really changed form), moved, stored, and used.

Talking about photons, electrons, and such is unnecessarily technical, and inaccurate here too. The point is not to impress with our technical knowledge or teach a (poor) physics class, but to help non-technical people understand how to use and care for the systems.

I'm also uneasy about connecting voltage to SOC, since 12.5 V can mean full at rest, empty under heavy charge, or overcharged under heavy load...
I also love the phrase "solar-electric", which is much more direct and less technical than "photovoltaic". I also am not a fan of the ambiguous "solar panels", in favor of the longer but clearer "solar-electric modules".

Weekly washing seems excessive unless this is a very dusty environment. I'd start to worry about physical damage with that much attention.

I think there's too little on the most important point for this sort of a poster -- users MUST adjust usage based on sunshine available.

If I were running this circus (poster), I'd change wording to something like this, starting from the top:

Solar Electricity

Solar energy is captured by your solar-electric modules, creating a flow of electrical energy from the modules to your battery.

Like the level of rainwater stored in a cistern, electrical energy stored in your battery tends to raise the battery voltage.

Sunshine In = Electricity Out
The sun provides a daily ration of solar energy.
Lights and electric devices use the solar electricity.

Low Voltage can damage batteries. Battery voltage should never be below 12.1 V!

Cloudy weather reduces the amount of solar energy your system can collect.
This from Chris at Winter Sun Design

Really good Eric,
Congrats on making such a go of this. My only suggestion is that 3 words may be overly (insert vocabulary word for too high brow)
I'm thinking that ration, adequately and consumption could be replaced with easier words. I have no idea what the average education level is there. It really looks great and is very logical and understandable.


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