Renogy inverter failure
About 6 months ago, we purchased a heap of Renogy gear, and I was keen to see how it would go. We’ve just had our first failure, and it’s the 2000W Renogy Inverter that has been in our Isuzu Dmax for the last 6 months.
We paid for this product
These days, if we want something, we pay for it, and it takes any questionability out in terms of bias. There’s a lot of people taking gear for free (and we get heaps of requests), and I think its hard to tell whether they are being truthful, especially when many don’t even declare its been gifted.
I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that we’re happy with the Renogy gear, and I’ll comment on that more below, but know that this post is honest, not meant with any ill intention, and hopefully something you can learn from.
Inverter use case
Traditionally, we were only using our small inverter in the Dmax for charging camera batteries, drone batteries, Ryobi 18V batteries and other small appliances. However, when we installed a 230aH lithium battery, and I saw how cheap the Renogy inverters were (we also put a 3000W one in our camper, that is going fine, touch wood) It seemed like a no brainer to get a 2000W unit.
The idea was to still use it for our chargers, but also to run the induction cooktop when we were out and about, or when the camper batteries were lower. We’ve used it full time now for 6 months, and only on about 1200W (the lithium BMS is capped at 150A draw), along with a 900W toaster, and similar wattage toasted sandwich machine.
We’d use the induction cooktop the most, but usually only when it was overcast, or we were camped in shade and the camper batteries couldn’t keep up. Normally it was for short periods to boil water for hot drinks, but we did use it a few times for longer cooking.
Whilst camping at the beautiful Jamieson Creek Campground, I was running the inverter and induction cooktop at 1200W, for about 10 minutes, boiling water with potatoes in them, to make mash. I wandered over, and smelt hot electrics, and worse than the normal warm electrics smell that you get.
I opened the other side of the canopy, and could have sworn I saw a waft of smoke, so ran around and turned it off, and let it cool down. We used it again a while later, and the smell seemed to disappear, but I noticed that one of the cooling fans seemed to chirp on startup, and take longer to get going than the other. They also varied in speeds a bit, which seemed weird, so I sent a ticket off to Renogy. It was strange though, as the outside of the inverter wasn’t getting overly warm.
Renogy took about 2 days to reply via email, and were quick to ask questions about how it was installed, and what it was being used for. I told them it was mounted on its side, and how it was being used, and they came back a day later saying that it was installed incorrectly, and shouldn’t be installed vertically, and that the failure was due to user error.
Feeling annoyed at this point, I grabbed the manual which makes no reference to any mounting orientation, except for a ‘2.5 inch gap on all sides’, which mine did not meet. I replied, asking how it being mounted in this orientation would make one of the fans not work correctly, and received the below response:
‘The technical department indicates that vertical mounting may cause the inverter to malfunction due to gravity affecting the internal components, not just the fan.’.
Feeling like they were trying to fob me off, I pushed back further, asking what components in the inverter would malfunction with it being mounted in the way I did, and received this:
‘Our technical department answered as below：
1. All components inside the inverter and the fan control circuit may be affected by gravity
2. Insufficient space on the other side of the inverter may also cause overheating inside the inverter and damage it”
In the mean time, I continued to carefully use the inverter, until whilst at Lake Eildon I was warming some food up in the induction cooktop when it went off, with a loud wailing alarm from the inverter, and that was it. The moment you plugged anything in it would wail and turn off, and after playing with it for a bit, even turning it on with nothing plugged in it would do the same.
Later that day I did manage to get it to run a toaster for about 5 seconds before it turned off, so I presume its completely dead.
There’s more to the story
Now, just when I thought that was the end of the story, we arrived at Cooks Mill campground, with camper trailer batteries that needed more charge, no sun on the solar and a full battery in the Dmax. I decided to plug the lithium in the Dmax into the DCDC inlet of the camper, and watched it move about 23 amps across from one battery to the other. Sweet.
However, checking on it about an hour later, I could see the charger would stop suddenly, and then start up again, and on one occasion the fridge happened to be on at the time that it stopped, and it shut the fridge off too, and this was happening every 30 seconds or so.
Thinking that something could be wrong with the battery, I turned the LED light on in the canopy (also supplied by the lithium), and watched it turn off, and then come back on each time the DCDC stopped. After looking into the BMS information and finding nothing, I realised that the inverter was going off on low voltage, when the battery wasn’t supplying power to it.
I went over all of the terminals, tightening some very slightly loose positive ones around the fuses, and it would still do the same thing; every time the DCDC started to take more than 15 amps the Dmax lithium battery would ‘turn off’ momentarily, and the lights would flicker.
On a whim, and after chatting to a mate online, I removed a stud in the chassis that was the primary earth for everything in the canopy (but it does also tee off back to the lithium battery), including the inverter, and found it in pretty average condition. The lug and washers were filthy, with rust evident, and no paint had been removed from the chassis. Getting a drill out and sandpaper bit saw it all cleaned up nicely, with the paint removed and I reinstalled it.
This resolved the DCDC issue and it happily chugged away for several hours after that without any issue, so I confidently plugged the inverter and induction cooktop in again, only to have it alarm within 5 seconds. So, is the inverter damaged, or the battery BMS? Did the dodgy earth cause the damage to the inverter?
I have no idea, but will swap it over and see what happens.
Did Renogy replace the unit?
In their last reply, Renogy said they’d send a new unit out, and to ‘take care of the installation method’.
As our inverter was still working, I asked them to ship it to our place in Perth, and in the mean time it failed, so we’ll have to get it shipped over here, but its still a reasonable result
My thoughts about Renogy
Obviously, to have something fail so early on is disappointing, but given the ‘faulty’ fan, I think it was dodgy to begin with. According to their manual it was not installed correctly, although I’m loathe to believe this contributed to its demise.
My bigger gripe was that their advice was incorrect; you can mount it in that orientation (at least according to their manual) as long as it has ample clearance around. Perhaps this was lost in translation as it felt like I was talking to a bot some of the time, but their manual should be clearer. Their initial emails specifically mentioned it needs to be horizontally mounted, and yet a huge number of them are not, and the manual doesn’t mention this, so which one is it?
EDIT – I clarified by email that it should be mounted horizontally, which shows there is a major issue with their manual.
I think Renogy products are good value for what you get. I also feel that their customer support is average in terms of response time, the fact that you can’t ring anyone, and their actual technical information, and I knew that when I made the purchases.
I have previously enquired about lithium battery voltages with a ticket, and received some rather underwhelming information in reply, so wasn’t expecting anything overly helpful.
There is an Australian distributor now, who is helpful (Zero Grid Australia), but if you want amazing customer support there are other companies like Redarc and Victron that have an exceptional reputation.
For now, I’ll get the inverter shipped over here, and try and install it horizontally (in a different spot as it won’t fit), and we’ll start our testing again.
In the grand scheme of things its not a major problem as I have a backup Projecta inverter for the small camera appliances (plus the 3000W Renogy Inverter in the camper), and we don’t really need to cook with the induction off the Dmax battery. If the camper batteries are low we will just swap over to gas for now, which is much slower and more frustrating, but it still works.
Have you had any Renogy products fail? How did you get on with it?
The photos are a bit deceptive. The original install had at least 50mm clearance all the way around except for one side (that it sits on). It certainly has ample cooling ability with the top and rear being completely open with good air flow.
It never really got hot externally and I think it was just a faulty unit.
I have the new one temporarily strapped down on the feet and it’s working fine, although initially it wouldn’t power the induction on heat which was weird.
I have limited room and have to decide whether I mount it how it was or get new leads made up and put it elsewhere.
All the best
Your review was a great read as you’ve raised some really interesting challenges!
Have you been using the replacement inverter you were sent, and is it lasting the distance?
Your photo of the horizontal install is of particular interest for me; reading the Renogy technical datasheet, the inverter is up to 90% efficient; which literally means if you’re powering a 1.2kW device, it’s drawing 1.33kW from the supply. 2nd law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) means there is >130 watts of heat being output from your inverter; which you’re pumping into a very small space looking at the photo’s. Does the new location have a bigger heat dissipation opportunity?
I’m in the market for an inverter at the moment and also don’t have a large space for the install so interested to hear how your replacement went.