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Old 04-01-2013, 03:03 PM   #1
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Solar Panels

I am considering installing solar panels for my trawler (great location on my bridge). I have a generator, but with all this free solar power in Florida it is becoming a strong option. I basically run a full sized refrigerator, TV, stereo, and the occasional light and small appliance. Any recommendations to the size of the solar panels and reputable company would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:24 PM   #2
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I am considering installing solar panels for my trawler (great location on my bridge). I have a generator, but with all this free solar power in Florida it is becoming a strong option. I basically run a full sized refrigerator, TV, stereo, and the occasional light and small appliance. Any recommendations to the size of the solar panels and reputable company would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Ian
Hi Ian - this is older knowledge, but I'd look at Kyocera and Sharp. I have a panel on my boat which I think is a ~120w panel. PO installed it. Just charges the battery though. You'll need to look hard at loading - fridge motors take quite a few amps.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:25 PM   #3
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I'm considering a panel for battery charging on overnight excursions too. Am interested in hearing what's involved too. Have a dandy spot for one on my hardtop. About a six foot by three foot area.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:33 PM   #4
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You might try searching the T&T list for a poster named Shay Glass. Super guy, very handy, engineering background, who went through this whole process a year or so ago on his 49' Defever. He winters in FL with the boat and has been very happy with his set up. He home ports in our marina.
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:46 PM   #5
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I'll be interested in hearing the comments on this thread. I've got two Kyocera's now and I'm moving all the electronics onto the mast, leaving space for six or more on the 8.5 X 12.5' pilothouse roof.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:39 PM   #6
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"Rebel" who might post on this, fitted about 400watts of panels,replacing a dead genset. Recently he reported running the fridge, no problem with ice cream. Peter B has a composite panel and wind charging system.
We have 180 watts total panels (90 to each) to main batteries, plus 25w (10w might be enough) to condition the genset battery. All have regulators, those for the main batteries have 4 stages. (IGs have an odd set up of one 200ah battery for each engine and no dedicated house/start split.) Good regulators record the amps your panels contribute. Input is of course weather dependant. We still use a genset ,eutectic fridges need mains voltage.
We are on a swing mooring, batteries are full when we go onboard and recharge easily. They run the 12v fridge no problem when onboard. Panels are best totally unshaded. Mine are not optimally located but still good. Got them from Ebay, most are Chinese,does not seem to be a problem. Flooded batteries need regular top-up checks, especially after equalization. Put fuses in the +line close to the battery. Output from panels per hour seems at best about half the theoretical amps from watts. Regulators allow direct connection to a load,as well as to batteries. The regulator fitting instructions should say how this works, I just run to the batteries. Remember panels produce in sun,cover them to stop this while building/working on the system. Charged batteries live much longer than if half charged, that alone justifies the cost of solar.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:00 AM   #7
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but with all this free solar power in Florida it is becoming a strong option.

Not really unless you have a 20x40 ft section of panels.

Work out the loads you dream of powering with solar in watts , then see how many are required .

A std box store house fridge will frequently require 4- 6 panels alone.

You will also need a charge controller , rated for the total amps of all the panels together.

Solar is great at battery charging to 100% and small DC loads .

To switch to efficient DC is pricy the fridge can be $1500 to $2300, (Sunfrost) alone.
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Old 04-02-2013, 09:03 PM   #8
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but with all this free solar power in Florida it is becoming a strong option.Not really unless you have a 20x40 ft section of panels.....
A std box store house fridge will frequently require 4- 6 panels alone....
You will also need a charge controller , rated for the total amps of all the panels together.....
Solar is great at battery charging to 100% and small DC loads ....
Agree with the last quoted sentence, but practical experience says much less panel does more. You don`t need 800sq ft of panel for good effects.
Boats typically use solar as one of multiple sources, I have alternators and genset.
Running a full size domestic fridge via solar is not a practical aim.
I recently ran both an old small Danfoss powered under-seat fridge of around 80L capacity(accidentally,someone it switched on in error),and a 35L Danfoss car type fridge as a freezer(intentionally). In sun,my solar feeds one or other,but not both 100%; even so the batteries almost but not quite held usual charge level.
My 180 watts of panels sub-optimally mounted get occasional shade outside the flybridge fence. Don`t be discouraged. Fitting panels is not difficult, cost is reducing, batteries respond in several ways including longer life which alone recoups install cost. You can power appliances, in whole or part, including typical smaller boat fridges, using feasible panel sizes and commonsense.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:59 AM   #9
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I endorse what Bruce said there. We had a perfect example just this Easter. When we got out, I discovered the air breeze was not charging, (since found a wire had come adrift at the braking switch), so we only had the 40w solar and the fact we did move anchorages with about an hour run between each of the 4 days. Yet we did not discharge the house batts below 3/4 charge. Still, I'm glad I have replaced all other than running lights with LEDs, and the frig is a very efficient Danfoss powered 12v DC WAECO conversion using the well insulated previously eutectic cooled cabinet. I am also glad I have now found the fault today re the wind genny. With that working we can anchor out indefinitely without engine runs to help top up.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:47 AM   #10
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Let continue the all-moderator discussion ;-)

In the past, I have considered adding solar to Skinny Dippin', however, I keep coming to the same conclusion. TBH, for us, the numbers just don't ad up. For sailors, they will spend entire days under sail power to get from Point A to Point B, there is clearly a need to have a continuous source of power to keep the DC system going. But for us, we have very large power plants that we use any time we have to go anywhere. Not-to-say that IF we plan on spending days or weeks on-the-hook that there isn't SOME need for alternative power, but with the right alternator, genset, charger, and battery bank, wouldn't it only take a couple of hours to top off batteries?

I am certainly not saying that some of you have the need for large solar arrays, but does it justify the expense for the few times where you will stay on the hook with no desire to run the main engine or generator?

There are more than a few member here that have years of cruising experience with a battery-only system (no genset) and have done fine without solar. And while I don't think I could do without a generator onboard, I have concluded that the thousands of dollars needed to setup a proper solar system will go a long way in paying for fuel to run the main engine or generator... or even slip fees in the Bahamas for a few nights to get on shore power.

I hope this isn't too "trolly". Mods, you may delete this if you feel that way.
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Old 04-03-2013, 09:00 AM   #11
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Tom, totally agree with you if you have an AC powered galley and appliances, etc and therefore automatically have a diesel genny, but there are some who don't have much if any AC stuff, and love not having to run the engine or genny, and that is the attraction of solar and wind power. If you have a wee bit of a green bent it also appeals to be able to use renewable (and free) energy. Solar is totally silent and modern wind gens are pretty quiet, especially to other boats at the usual anchor distance, and for the owner, hearing the quiet whine advertising free amps going in is quite satisfying. Having missed that this Easter because of a temporary breakdown of my wind gen because of a wire loose I only found today, I can tell you it really teed me off not having it going, but the solar panels still kept pace with the frig, and most lights are now LEDs on our boat, so the batts were ok. However if it had been winter - different matter. it is powering a 12v frig 24/7 which means one has to have something other than large batts and engine charge.
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Old 04-03-2013, 11:45 AM   #12
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http://item.mobileweb.ebay.com/viewi...id=85278772794

Ok guys. Pretend I know almost nothing about marine electrical. Should be easy because I'm an electrical moron.

Will the above unit keep my battery charged while I'm away from the dock?
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:39 PM   #13
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Craig, The package you are looking at will certainly charge your battery, and the price seems good too. Whether or not it will put back what you take out depends on the load you apply. It will keep the battery healthy for long periods when you are away from the boat. Just check the electrolyte levels from time to time. I bought an 85 Watt pannel about 18 months ago and went through a learning curve similar to yours! The following might be of interest - no offense if you have already got it covered:

1. There are charge controllers available that can handle two batteries - eg: Start and House. I have this one.

2. The cables that come with the pannel are only 3ft long and your battery/batteries are likely much further away than that. Heavier is better and #10 AWG is the heaviest that will fit in the controller terminals and the MC4 connectors. A possible source.

3. You will need additional MC4 connectors to add extra cable. This is where I bought mine.

4. The connections should be fused (close to the batteries) just in case the worst should happen.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:13 PM   #14
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Thanks Mike. I have an extremely low load stereo, lights and a couple fans mostly. Truth is I'd probably be fine with just the batteries but for less than a couple hundred bucks rather be safe than sorry sorta thing.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:45 PM   #15
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Man, what a chocked-full of info thread. I'll be building the framing for the additional panels on my roof in the next week or so, looking for a larger controller to handle six or more 100 watt units, and it couldn't be better timing. Thanks guys.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:38 PM   #16
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Craig, 85w theoretically can produce 7 amps/hour, realistically you might get half that, at best, in sun.
The regulator is a simple one I use for the dedicated genset 150ah battery panel, it works and does not overcharge the battery. There are others, around $100, which are 4 stage: bulk/absorb/float/ equalize, they also tell how many amps were delivered over the last 2 days, and the battery and panel voltage. Find them on Ebay, but the included one should be ok.
From what I read, getting batteries to 100% full is the hard part. Alternators and chargers readily get them to around 80%, the last bit requires slow persistent charging, panels are good at that. My batteries seem to recharge easily and quickly, I think because they are in better shape generally.
Constantly full batteries live longer than ones left half charged, that alone covers the solar cost. You will get power to use, and to replenish batteries. Be aware what you are draw,and whether your panel(s) can supply it, if they can`t you are using battery,check how much.
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Old 05-25-2013, 10:18 PM   #17
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FWIW, I work in the oilfield and solar panels / 12 volt batteries are used extensively for small pumps etc. 90% are Kyocera and appear extremely reliable.

Could someone recommend a good source for eutectic refrigeration in the USA ? Trailblaza fridges were the ducks guts in Australia but I cant seem to find comparable units in the US. Thanks !
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Old 06-17-2013, 05:37 AM   #18
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FWIW, I work in the oilfield and solar panels / 12 volt batteries are used extensively for small pumps etc. 90% are Kyocera and appear extremely reliable.

Could someone recommend a good source for eutectic refrigeration in the USA ? Trailblaza fridges were the ducks guts in Australia but I cant seem to find comparable units in the US. Thanks !

Hi Craigo.
Mate I saw this set up on eBay and was wondering if you think its any good or to not bother with it? I know nothing about Solar and your last post has eluded that you're the man to speak to about this?

640W Solar Panel KIT Deluxe DIY KIT Caravan Motorhome 4WD Boat C3 | eBay

My Battery set up will be two Lead Acid Battery banks.
Bank One will have 4 @ MONOLITE 12 FFT FIAMM Batteries and
Bank Two will have 8 @ GSYUASA PWL 12V 100FT Batteries.

I have one 12V 160A Alternator.

Whats your thoughts mate?

Cheers mate
Matt
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:10 AM   #19
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We had solar on our sailboat and are now in the process of installing it on our trawler. We will end up with four 120 watt panels and two controllers. One controller per pair of panels. I like redundent systems and therefore chose two smaller controllers rather than one large one. Just remember that your battery banks are just as important as your panels and charge controller. No need to have a ton of panels and too small a place to put all that energy. When we are finished we will have 480 watts total in panels and two banks each with 4 Trojan T 105 golf cart batteries.

I have been very pleased with the Morningstar Sunsaver Duo charge controller. It comes with a monitor that gives a wealth of information. It tells you the amps presntly being put in, max amps put in, total amp hours put in, and battery voltages.

SolarHome.org has the best price I have found for the Morningstar controller. $138.33 including shipping.

This is a link to a panel that I am using. I was very impressed with it. The frame is very ruuged and it puts out the full rated amps.

Brand New 120 Watt Solar Panel 120WATTS w PV Solar Panel RV Boat 12V Batteries | eBay
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:12 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Tom.B View Post
Let continue the all-moderator discussion ;-)

In the past, I have considered adding solar to Skinny Dippin', however, I keep coming to the same conclusion. TBH, for us, the numbers just don't ad up. For sailors, they will spend entire days under sail power to get from Point A to Point B, there is clearly a need to have a continuous source of power to keep the DC system going. But for us, we have very large power plants that we use any time we have to go anywhere. Not-to-say that IF we plan on spending days or weeks on-the-hook that there isn't SOME need for alternative power, but with the right alternator, genset, charger, and battery bank, wouldn't it only take a couple of hours to top off batteries?

I am certainly not saying that some of you have the need for large solar arrays, but does it justify the expense for the few times where you will stay on the hook with no desire to run the main engine or generator?

There are more than a few member here that have years of cruising experience with a battery-only system (no genset) and have done fine without solar. And while I don't think I could do without a generator onboard, I have concluded that the thousands of dollars needed to setup a proper solar system will go a long way in paying for fuel to run the main engine or generator... or even slip fees in the Bahamas for a few nights to get on shore power.

I hope this isn't too "trolly". Mods, you may delete this if you feel that way.
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