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Old 05-10-2019, 07:05 PM   #1
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House banks, whatcha got, whatcha want?

Iím designing a power system from the ground up. It will be a little non typical in a few ways. Mainly that I donít want to ever use shore power OR generator. It will be 100% solar run, hopefully, and Iím trying to get a feel for what people actually need for AH capacity on their boats. Also, I see some people use an 8D for a starting battery. Why the heck would anyone use such a large batt for starting? Seems overkill for dedicated engine batt. Anyway, hereís the equipment list:

Typical systems for a 40í live aboard regarding lights, fans, iPads, water pumps etc.
Diesel furnace and water heaters, we may even use the boiler for some sort of improvised hot tub
Dorm fridge, and possibly a chest freezer too for long trips.

All the above (except the water heater and furnace) will be powered by a full time inverter on AC. The inverter has a 1w idle current draw.

Roof solar: Iím fitting 1200w panels.

SO, how much AH storage would be a good goal? Iím thinking that Iíll try to use sealed lead acid, running at 24v bank. My initial thinking is that around 400ah@24v would be enough for us and allow rom for bank degradation in coming seasons, but I also donít want to go below 50% DOD, so thatís really only an effective capacity of 200ah, and if you figure 24% degradation over a few years now we are down to 150ah usable and that feels a little light to me. Should I just bite the bullet and up the capacity from the start or ? We have plenty of room in the engine room, so thatís not a worry.
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:13 PM   #2
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I see you're in the Pacific Northwest. How many days in a row are you prepared to go without the sun recharging your batteries?

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Old 05-10-2019, 07:30 PM   #3
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Are you proposing the equivalent of 4 8Ds for your battery bank? Is that all house? What do you plan for a start battery? Do you have one or two main engines? Is there already a boat or are you in the theory planning stage?
As to an 8D for starting a perhaps 6L diesel, I can`t tell you the thinking behind it but Onan recommend an N150(?6D) for starting a 3cyl Kubota engined genset. It has to preheat as well as start so maybe that`s why,it`s a lot of battery but I do it because it`s what Onan says to do. What size battery is advised by the mfr of your (?intended) main(s)?
O C Diver raises a good point. From my limited experience of PNW, going without a genset, in "Yes Minister" terms, is "courageous".
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:40 PM   #4
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Would be good to know your expected daily consumption. And if you want to be 100% ď off the gridĒ you ought to consider adding a wind generator.
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:46 PM   #5
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Well even on cloudy days you still get solar watts, but I dont know how many it’s true. Yes the boat exists but it’s quite spartan, the systems most boats have that I’d be replacing were never installed on this craft. So, that’s good and bad. At least I’m not having to suffer with inferior old crap, but it means I have to create new systems now.
I may find that I need a genie. I may decide that I can’t live without AC, and I have room for one, so that is almost a likelihood . However since we are living on the hook and I’d rather not run gen everyday the goal is to not need it under normal circumstance, and given the efficiency increases in solar in recent years, coupled with the large area of available space it seems like it should be possible.

For batteries I’m looking at either L16 style 6v or another 12v style that I don’t know the form factor name for. A fellow here has them for a very good price. They are 188ah@12v, 130lb each, 15yr rated life and he wants 150$ ea for them. So 4 of those would be 380ah@24v. But I may get 6 of them if we decide that we need more cap than 380ah, that would boost it to 570ah. Again though at 50%DOD that’s only 285ah usable.
The boat has twin baby 4cyl Isuzu’s and I’d likely just keep an automotive started batt for them with a simple maintenance trickle charger.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:06 PM   #6
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I think that to get where you want to be, you need more battery than 380(@24v). So six rather than 4, but you can add later. There is a boat on my marina who ditched the genset and went for a massive panel array which seems to work with more batts where the genset was. What ccs and hp are the "baby" Isuzus, what size are the alternators?
A wind generator too is a good idea, if it ain`t sunny it`s probably blowing.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:23 PM   #7
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I don't think wind generators are much good.
Most cruisers tend to travel downhill, so wind is reduced
Most cruisers tend to anchor behind something, so again, wind is reduced.
Plus, they are bloody noisy.

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Old 05-10-2019, 10:31 PM   #8
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Yeah I don’t want the wind turbine noise. And here in Portland it’s actually not very windy at all. It’s nice that way. I’ll have to do some math and see what I think we could gain on a cloudy day. If we can’t even top up the mid size battery then there isn’t much point in over sizing it without adding panels, which I could do. There’s another large roof area we could fill but rather than do that I’d probably just opt to shut down the electrical loads instead while we are off boat, or resort to getting a gen.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:38 PM   #9
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I live in Coastal BC, Vancouver Island, so pretty much your weather. My philosophy is a little different considering our not always sunny climate. In southern regions, solar is the go to and everyone in our region copies this advise. But in my opinion, your first go to should be Efoy (preferably the 210), that coupled with a decent alternator and in my case 4 Firefly batteries, I have ample power on the hook away from shore power. This recommendation is based on off season boat cruising.

I have added Efoy first, if for some reason I have a critical shortage of power, then I might consider solar. But I know the Fireflies are like Lithium and take a quick charge and can be taken down to 20 % which many do regularly. My refiter installed a large solar system in another boat, only to get a call from the guy when he was in Desolation Sound during a week of rain wondering why his solar unit wasn't generating enough power.
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Old 05-11-2019, 12:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rsn48 View Post
I live in Coastal BC, Vancouver Island, so pretty much your weather. My philosophy is a little different considering our not always sunny climate. In southern regions, solar is the go to and everyone in our region copies this advise. But in my opinion, your first go to should be Efoy (preferably the 210), that coupled with a decent alternator and in my case 4 Firefly batteries, I have ample power on the hook away from shore power. This recommendation is based on off season boat cruising.

I have added Efoy first, if for some reason I have a critical shortage of power, then I might consider solar. But I know the Fireflies are like Lithium and take a quick charge and can be taken down to 20 % which many do regularly. My refiter installed a large solar system in another boat, only to get a call from the guy when he was in Desolation Sound during a week of rain wondering why his solar unit wasn't generating enough power.
Wow I had no idea that those were a thing. Thatís incredible. What a great way to replace a rattle box ICE genset. Are they very expensive?
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Old 05-11-2019, 01:15 AM   #11
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Sea Word, I think solar is great and it is true that solar panels can be quite effective on overcast days. However, you have to take into consideration the length of the day as well. Portland is a bit further south, but our days are short for 1/2 the year. Your solar array will not be providing you will much during Oct-Feb.

When I replaced my battery bank, I ended up with 4 x L16 AGMs. The total rated size of that bank is 780Ah. I was very tempted to upgrade that 6 x L16s to give me 1060Ah but decided not to based on weight, cost, and the fact that my existing charger maxes out at 125amps. These AGMs like to be bulk charged at 20% of capacity (150amps for a 780Ah bank) and so it would be significantly undersized for a 1060Ah bank.

I added 365W of solar to my boat. I would like to have added more but that was as much as I could comfortably fit without some major construction on the flybridge. You are looking at adding over 3x that amount but even so I donít think that would be enough to meet my power needs in the winter.

Using a fuel cell to supplement the power in the winter months would be possible, but in the long run I think you may find that much more expensive than a diesel genset. If you a sufficiently large house bank with a charger sized appropriately, you could run the genset at full load to put a lot of energy bank into a bank in a relatively short amount of time.

Do an energy audit to see how much power you actually will use. You can find graphs of how much sunlight you will get throughout the year and then calculate how much you will need in panels to get you there.
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Old 05-11-2019, 01:26 AM   #12
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Good advice. It’s hard to really know the total energy used by speculation of course, because there are many variables especially in refrigeration needs. And even heating too in winter. A solar setup must be sized for the worst case scenario, which is in January. I suppose a gennie makes sense regardless of the setup.
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Old 05-11-2019, 02:47 AM   #13
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I run a 48v inverter system. Smaller cables and batteries can be further away from the inverter. Everything on the boat is 120/240 ac except the nav lights, bilge pumps, emergency lights and nav equipment. What made a big difference to me was adding a 48v alternator to one of the mains. It keeps the 48v banks up while running without operating a generator. I may add a wind generator because my winter dock is in a high wind area and Many of the places I anchor have some wind. The noise won't bother me. I don't have solar but thinking about it. Also in the PNW.



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Old 05-11-2019, 06:19 AM   #14
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If you end up installing a generator Iíd consider a diesel DC model if battery recharging is its primary function. Lighter, variable speed, quieter and more efficient than a AC model.

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Old 05-11-2019, 06:51 AM   #15
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While the Efoy looks interesting, they seem extremely expensive for their capacity (KW rating), the KWs produced per gallon of fuel is poor compared to diesel, and KWs produced per dollar of fuel is incredibly expensive. Saving the environment with one of these isn't for the financially challenged.

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Old 05-11-2019, 05:41 PM   #16
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Well I stumbled on a sweet deal on these northstar 190ah batteries. They are 3mo old and taken out of some cell phone tower backup situation. They all had 12.8v so I couldnít say no. I was going to get 6 but ended up not resisting the temptation to get as many as my poor little car could carry, which was 8. In fact, thatís a lot more than my car should carry, 1100lbs! So now the question is, do I use all 8 on the boat, or do I just use 6?
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Old 05-11-2019, 05:51 PM   #17
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Nice find. If it was me, Iíd probably see if I could find room for all of them. 1,400-1,500Ah is a lot of juice. Just make sure that you find out exactly how those batteries should be charged and ensure that your charge controller can be configured for that.
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Old 05-11-2019, 06:43 PM   #18
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Yes that’s a good point. And also that they will charge well in a 24v system.
They are AGM batteries.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:04 PM   #19
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That is a lot of capacity. I recently added a couple so we are now at 1020. I haven’t spent Time on the hook yet since the upgrade, but I am thinking that will give us about 2 days in between Gen runs to charge. The amount you have seems like a lot for a Solar System to charge based on the system you are describing. Anyway, keep us posted. I am interested to hear how things work out.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:19 PM   #20
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Well after wrestling 6 of them (130lb) outnof the car, on to the dolly, down the beach, into the dinghy, and on board, I think 6 is the perfect amount lol! I dunno, it was a case of 6vs8 and if 8 lasts longer or does more for us then that’s worth the extra 200$ but if not, then I’ll save them for my van instead. Hard call, especially without ever having used the boat yet. We haven’t even slept on board once in fact.
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