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Old 04-01-2019, 11:02 PM   #1
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Solar panel

Soon I will be forced to move onto a mooring ball away from shore power. Everything on my boat is powered by the batteries except for my battery charger and fridge. I have a solar panel and it's connected to a battery, but not connected to anything else. I need advice on what I need to get to hook the panel up to the battery charger since it's charging my house batteries through shore power at the moment. Also need to know if I will need another panel and other hardware to be able to connect my fridge while out in a place where boats go to die. Any and all advice and instruction will be greatly appreciated. I have a little over a month to get this together before I have to move away from what's comfortable to me now.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:16 PM   #2
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Any chance you could fill us in about some details...

-- How many watts of solar do you have now?
-- What is the make/model/type of the controller?
-- How many and what kind of batteries do you have?
-- How are your batteries partitioned, if at all, among banks?
-- How many amp-hours of daily load to you envision? Or, 12-volt watt-hours, if you prefer that metric?
-- Are you able to measure the load? Or are you estimating?
-- How often will you be able to visit the boat?
-- Do you have a generator you can run periodically, as needed?
-- Is the boat staying near Hawaii?

...and...this one...
-- How often do your bilge pumps run each day right now and for how long.
-- Do you have a counter, timer, and/or watt-hour gauge that can tell you?

...this is important both from the perspective of energy usage -- as well as, well, you really want to be able to button things up to keep water out rather than trying to keep up with pumping it out. Pumping it out is costly energy wise, but also leaves open the possibility of a slow disaster due to pump failure.

And, here's another important one...
-- If your batteries are flooded, is someone able to maintain them?

In moderate climates, solar panels of the right size can keep a boat safe and batteries charged. But, one really has to keep the parasitic loads under control, keep the water out, and maintain the batteries.

I feel like folks will be able to give good advice and/or relay relevant experiences once we understand more about the situation.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:19 PM   #3
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I`m on a marina with shorepower but never leave the charger on. Like when we were on a mooring, the panels keep the batts full. We have a dedicated panel with simple regulator for the genset batt. Your bilge pumps should have the same batt access they have now. As you are only charging house you need to add the start batt/s to the charging regime, maybe you need a switch between them, that`s getting above my pay grade.

You should calculate the loads you want to serve to know how much panel you need Fortunately you have a good supply of sun. Regulators usually have an appliance load terminal as well as the battery one, so you can feed your fridge direct from the panels via the regulator/charger. Set the hours you want it to feed, it`s fiddly but you should get instructions supplied. Not sure if the fridge defaults to the batts if the direct supply is lost, so check the regulator insts.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:30 PM   #4
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All I can say to that is WOW! I've said before, owning a boat is a very new experience for me. Everything you've asked, I have absolutely no clue. I've installed new light fixtures, installed new bilge pumps, but to answer these questions, whew, it's sad to say, I have no idea. I will have to find out the info on the panel as well as the battery charger. Check wattage on the fridge and find out what my generator has to offer. Thanks so much for opening my eyes. Now I need my mind to open. I always tell people, I wish I would've taken electronics all four years in high school. Now it's kicking me in the butt that I didn't.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:41 PM   #5
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I`m on a marina with shorepower but never leave the charger on. Like when we were on a mooring, the panels keep the batts full. We have a dedicated panel with simple regulator for the genset batt. Your bilge pumps should have the same batt access they have now. As you are only charging house you need to add the start batt/s to the charging regime, maybe you need a switch between them, that`s getting above my pay grade.

You should calculate the loads you want to serve to know how much panel you need Fortunately you have a good supply of sun. Regulators usually have an appliance load terminal as well as the battery one, so you can feed your fridge direct from the panels via the regulator/charger. Set the hours you want it to feed, it`s fiddly but you should get instructions supplied. Not sure if the fridge defaults to the batts if the direct supply is lost, so check the regulator insts.
Thanks Bruce. I'm not an electrician, nor do I know anything about how to communicate what you have suggested. I really need to learn this stuff quick. I have a generator, but the last time I ran it when NOT connected to shore power, it would shut off after 10 minutes of running and would nt start up again for a little while. I take the boat out every three weeks to clean the bottom, but run the engine and gen once a week. I usually run the gen for about 15-20 minutes, but that's when connected to shore power. Only thing I can assume is that the fridge is asking for too much.
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Old 04-02-2019, 12:01 AM   #6
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Hi Luvyapop,

Refrigerators, by themselves, don't really use very much power as compared to what most generators put out. Things that normally test them are things like ovens, air conditioners, electric heaters, multiple electric burners, hair dryers and microwaves, in many cases combined together or with other things, etc.

What type of generator do you have? The make and model, if you know it, or just diesel vs gasoline.

Generators have a lot of safety shutdown. Not knowing the model, if it runs for 10 minutes, it is probably initially seeing proper oil pressure, and AC output voltage.

It could subsequently trip a safety shut down for a lot of reasons. It could be not cooling well and get over temperature. For example, maybe the thermostat is not opening. The oil could warm up and the oil pressure could drop. The load could be too much for too long tripping some other type of safety. Or the load could be too much pulling the voltage down. Just as some for examples.

The fact that it takes some time to cool down is interesting to me. It could be some type of mandatory time delay, e.g. from a time delay relay or IC equivalent. But, if it is many minutes, I'm thinking it could also, for example, need that time to self-correct the condition, e.g. cool down.

I'm also curious as to what it sounds like right before it shuts down. Does it just run nicely and then shut down like someone turned it off switch? (Could be a safety shutdown) Or does it seem to miss a beat or two before shutting down? (Could be air in the lines or something). Or does it surge and lag before shutting down? (could be dirty filters or a fuel line obstruction) Or does it seem to be labored? (Load?) Or does it seem to race? (Over RPM shutdown)?

I'd start with the basics. Is there enough oil? Is there enough coolant? Is water coming out the exhaust when it is running. Once running, if you have gauges, what is the oil pressure? Does it drop? If you don't have gauges, maybe get a cheap manual test gauge from harbor freight and have a look. Are the RPMs steady? If you don't have a tach on it, use a cheap phototach from Amazon (in fact, using one is generally a good idea, they tend to be more accurate). Put an IR thermometer on the block. Does it heat up? How high does it get? Does it reach a temp and level off or start to level off (like the thermostat is opening)? Or does it keep climbing? If it does keep climbing, how high does it get before shutting down? If you put a volt meter on the output, does it make full voltage initially? What about right before it drops? What color is the smoke initially? After it has run for a bit? As it approaches shutdown?

You get the idea. Basically, try to imagine why it might be shutting down and check that.
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Old 04-02-2019, 01:25 AM   #7
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Best separate the generator issue from setting up the boat solar so the batts stay full and the fridge stays cold. Depending on the fridge, it could draw average 5A per hour if it uses the popular Danfoss compressor.
I set up my own solar and I`m no electrician either. It wasn`t that hard. Maybe Calder now has a section on setting it up or you can get it off the internet. You are really just expanding what you have,the existing panel could be 150-200 watts,it should have a label somewhere,and you should be able to find the existing regulator too, it might be big enough to handle more panel, or not. Then you have to find somewhere for more panel. I`d be trying to see if the fridge can be direct connected via the regulator for daylight hours and if it can switch back to the batts after that. Which leads us to the size of the battery bank,to run the fridge overnight and to be solar recharged next day.
As you are under some time pressure, maybe get a boat solar guy involved.

Re the genset, you said in regard to the genset shutting itself down: "I usually run the gen for about 15-20 minutes, but that's when connected to shore power. Only thing I can assume is that the fridge is asking for too much." Gkesden is giving you good pointers there,getting hot sounds a possibility. If your genset is in the common 6kw range,it should handle a fridge and a lot more, simultaneously.
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Old 04-02-2019, 01:31 AM   #8
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There is a device called a "Kill-a-watt" that can be plugged in between your appliance and the outlet. It will tell you what kind of loads you actually experiencing. I think, it may be able to get daily averages as well. In the home, for instance there are many parasitic loads even from some equipment that is apparently shut off.


Good luck and read a bunch!
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Old 04-02-2019, 08:02 AM   #9
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With all due respect LUVAPOP, you don't sound like you have enough technical knowledge to pull this off yourself even with all of the help available here.

For example you have a misunderstanding as to how your DC system and solar panels can interact with your battery charger (none) and your fridge which seems to run on AC but maybe or maybe not also DC.

I would hire a good marine electrician and commit to spending a few hours going over the boat's electrical system, making notes and answering some of the questions asked here.

Once you have a better understanding of your boat's electrical system and have learned answers to some of the questions asked, then perhaps this forum can help.

David
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Old 04-02-2019, 03:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
With all due respect LUVAPOP, you don't sound like you have enough technical knowledge to pull this off yourself even with all of the help available here.

For example you have a misunderstanding as to how your DC system and solar panels can interact with your battery charger (none) and your fridge which seems to run on AC but maybe or maybe not also DC.

I would hire a good marine electrician and commit to spending a few hours going over the boat's electrical system, making notes and answering some of the questions asked here.

Once you have a better understanding of your boat's electrical system and have learned answers to some of the questions asked, then perhaps this forum can help.

David


I agree with David. I did my own solar install, but it took me months and lots, and lots, and lots of questions and reading before I felt I knew enough to approach the task. You only have a month and it sounds have a couple problems. I would see if you can find a marine electrician locally who can help you out and get you setup in a short amount of time.
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Old 04-02-2019, 05:37 PM   #11
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The solar panel pictured has a number of things casting shade lines across it. Though just lines, they can reduce output significantly;see if you can reduce that, and think about it with any additional panel.
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Old 04-02-2019, 05:54 PM   #12
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Solar panel

Quote:
Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
With all due respect LUVAPOP, you don't sound like you have enough technical knowledge to pull this off yourself even with all of the help available here.

For example you have a misunderstanding as to how your DC system and solar panels can interact with your battery charger (none) and your fridge which seems to run on AC but maybe or maybe not also DC.

I would hire a good marine electrician and commit to spending a few hours going over the boat's electrical system, making notes and answering some of the questions asked here.

Once you have a better understanding of your boat's electrical system and have learned answers to some of the questions asked, then perhaps this forum can help.

David

I also agree with thisó hire a marine election/solar installer, or find someone with a solar system installed on a nearby boat to help you think through it maybe?

I recently did a solar install with lots of help from David and others on this forum, but had much more than a month to research and think about it. It was not terribly hard, but it will require a decent understanding of your existing electrical system.
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Old 04-02-2019, 07:58 PM   #13
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Luvyapop,

I'm in the midst of putting 4 x 300w panels on my trawler...in Mexico!!!

Trust the TF, you need a professional to guide you through this. It is not a do-it-yourself project in 30 days.


Nuff said.


~LC
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:54 PM   #14
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QUOTE: I have a solar panel and it's connected to a battery, but not connected to anything else. I need advice on what I need to get to hook the panel up to the battery charger since it's charging my house batteries through shore power at the moment. END QUOTE

I'll third or whatever you don't understand enough to pull this off without help.

THe above tells all of us this is the case.
Connecting to the battery charger is NOT going to work. The charger operates from 120V ac and supplies 12Vdc to the batteries, the solar panels supply 12V dc to the batteries but the charger CANNOT be run directly from the panels.

Get some help. I'm an electrician with some solar panel and so on experience and there is no way anyone like me can fill in what you need over the internet especially in the time frame you have outlined. You need eyes on the boat to assess what you want, what you have and how to do it.

Some guys may be willing to act as a consultant with you doing the grunt work to help with the costs or you working alongside as helper IF THERE IS ROOM.

Sorry about being blunt but you need LOCAL help or you may cost yourself dearly.

A good book is Nigel Calder's Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual but it cannot explain all.
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Old 04-03-2019, 12:48 AM   #15
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QUOTE" I have a solar panel and it's connected to a battery, but not connected to anything else."
Luvyapop,Looks like you`ll be getting expert help.Nothing wrong with your solar setup as quoted above,except there should be a regulator between panel and battery so the battery gets only the charge it needs, otherwise you risk overcharging problems.
Remember your 120v and 12v systems are separate. A battery can be charged from the engine alternator, the battery charger,and the solar controller/charger,even simultaneously, it`s all 12v at that stage.
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Old 04-03-2019, 03:42 PM   #16
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There is a device called a "Kill-a-watt" that can be plugged in between your appliance and the outlet. It will tell you what kind of loads you actually experiencing. I think, it may be able to get daily averages as well. In the home, for instance there are many parasitic loads even from some equipment that is apparently shut off.


Good luck and read a bunch!
Kill-a-watt only works on AC devices. To determine DC loads, you'll need an ammeter inline, or a clamp-on ammeter.
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Old 04-08-2019, 01:17 PM   #17
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solar info

Here's an excellent web site on solar for boats:

https://www.custommarineproducts.com
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Old 04-08-2019, 01:34 PM   #18
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Here's an excellent web site on solar for boats:

https://www.custommarineproducts.com

Their prices are insane. 3-4X market.


David
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Old 04-08-2019, 01:43 PM   #19
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Don't be discouraged. Worst that can happen is you end up flopping around the deck doing the Funky Monkey. Seriously though there is a facebook page I follow called Solar on a Boat!. Fairly definitive. If you insist on doing it yourself, I would go there for advice.
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Old 04-08-2019, 02:28 PM   #20
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Being a marine electrician my self, I have to strongly agree with C electric, gkesden and djmarchand. And at the risk of being blunt as well, the time frame and lack of understanding your best bet is to get an experienced electrician to perform an good load analysis, and electrical audit on your boat and advise.
To many unanswered questions!
Battery bank condition and size, rates of charge and discharge, State of charge, etc etc....
IMHO your post sounds like the first paragraph of a horror story starting to unfold.
Sorry if I offended anyone.
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