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Old 04-08-2016, 10:08 PM   #1
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Solar Survey

AI am interested to know how many people are interested in converting to solar power and if you have not done it yet what is stopping you?
Also what type of boat do you have and what is your power draw? (Equipment, hours used, amps needed to run or watts). Working on a report and trying to get feedback. Thankyou all.
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Old 04-09-2016, 05:25 AM   #2
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The correct terminology is more likely supplementing vice converting. In almost all trawler type boats, a generator will still be required. The issue that stops most people is the lack of real estate to place the panels. Anything with a flybridge will be a challenge to find space. Some posters have tried flexible panels but they don't appear ready for prime time. I am considering a custom frame over our aft cabin to mount several rigid solar panels but haven't asked for a design or quotes on it. We might go with a hard top on the frame and mount the panels over the hard top. But our use profile at the moment doesn't justify a solar solution. It is hard to justify solar if your boat sits in heated winter storage for 7 months out of the year. My interest in solar is to get the boat ready for the Great Loop.

The primary continuous power hogs are air conditioning and refrigeration. Stoves, ranges, microwaves and coffee pots put high amp, short use loads on house battery banks. Electric windlasses also have heavy loads but they typically have their own battery bank as do thrusters unless they are hydraulic. Running stuff off the inverter like computers and phone chargers are also an issue. Sorry, I have been too lazy to measure out actual power draw.
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Old 04-09-2016, 06:52 AM   #3
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12 year old 85W panel with Trace charge control to keep batts happy all summer with no shore power.

Topping of a batt set is what solar does best!!!

As house power supply , you need an acre of space .
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Old 04-09-2016, 07:24 AM   #4
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Have 2 permanently mounted 100W panels that in clear weather can keep up with our daily needs. New fridge this summer will help by cutting daily amp/hours in half I hope.


Am planning on buying 2 more 100W panels with no great place to mount them, so I may have several places that they can be hung or laid and plugged in for those days they are required.


I would love to go flexible for the temp panels...but need more reassurance that they are worth 2X the cost and less fire hazard/reliable enough.
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Old 04-09-2016, 07:41 AM   #5
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I don't have solar panels but I have spent some time living on my boat. The power requirements needed for long time comfortable living aboard is just too great to be supplied by solar.
Refrigerator and air conditioning power requirements are beyond the capability of solar in the normal configuration of a motor boat.

We used our generator for 233 hrs over a period 5 months of living on the boat during the summer of '14 moving the boat from FL to MD. We used the airconditioner almost every night when we were at anchor. At an average fuel price of $3.25 a gallon that comes out to $757. In the fall of '15 we spent 3 months on the boat when we returned the boat to FL and did not use the air conditioner but used the reverse cycle heater a little. Total generator use on the return trip was 93 hrs. At an average fuel price of $2 that comes out to $186.
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Old 04-09-2016, 09:10 AM   #6
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I have two 50 watt panels on my cabin top with room for perhaps another dozen. The two panels were installed primarily to keep up with my bilge pumps (it is an 80 year old wood boat), but I discovered that they provide plenty of power to let me leave my refrigeration on 24/7. I have a small house battery bank (3 grp 29 batteries = 360 amp-hr) and a single grp 29 starting battery. My dual output solar controller splits the output so that 90% goes to the house bank and 10% goes to the start battery.
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Old 04-09-2016, 09:41 AM   #7
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Quote:
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I have two 50 watt panels on my cabin top with room for perhaps another dozen. The two panels were installed primarily to keep up with my bilge pumps (it is an 80 year old wood boat), but I discovered that they provide plenty of power to let me leave my refrigeration on 24/7. I have a small house battery bank (3 grp 29 batteries = 360 amp-hr) and a single grp 29 starting battery. My dual output solar controller splits the output so that 90% goes to the house bank and 10% goes to the start battery.
That is pretty effective. I might be able to get away with that over the summer, provided it is a nice summer, but the other three seasons of the year, not enough sunshine.
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Old 04-09-2016, 11:05 AM   #8
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Hi,
On my sailboat I had three 175w 24v panels on a radar arch on the stern. In Mexican sun I was able to keep my house bank of six golf cart batteries topped up easily. My current boat has the same size of house batteries (6x6v) and I plan to add four panels of 150w or larger. My current plan, no pun intended, is to mount the forward edge of the panels on the fiberglass arch on the flybridge. I will add another "arch" behind the FB arch to support the rear of the panels and to provide shade to part of the aft deck.

Even though I will still have to fire up the generator, this should keep my batteries close to charged while at anchor. I'll let you all know how it works in the real world when I get it installed.

Cheers, Bill
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Old 04-09-2016, 11:53 AM   #9
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I wish I had more space for solar. I envy you folks with room for multiple panels. I did find a spot for a 100w panel and I'm eyeing another possible spot.

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Old 04-09-2016, 11:58 AM   #10
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I wish I had more space for solar. I envy you folks with room for multiple panels. I did find a spot for a 100w panel and I'm eyeing another possible spot.

Ken
Here's 2 that are hinged and fold all the way up and overcenter to get sunshine from the other side when the sun is lower...my other two are going to hang just in front of these temporarily or be able to be moved to lay on the forecabin top.

Two sets of plug-ins....


I have also thought of being able to hang from the main deck hand rails to really get out and away from things.
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Old 04-09-2016, 03:15 PM   #11
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Hello Swampgatr.

I now have a total of 445 watts in five panels atop Seaweed. It matters not if I am plugged into a shore power or at anchor. My life is the same.

EXCEPT I cannot run the wall-banger air-conditioner while at anchor.

One thing to remember is it is not just power generation you need to deal with. You also must have a place to store the power derived from solar, wind, etc. So as you are thinking about what you require, also factor in batteries.

Aboard Seaweed I have 700+ amp hours in seven batts.
I get about 150 amps per day from my solar panels.
Additionally I have a wind generator that helps bump things up too when the wind blows.

Note: It is never windy enough when you are like me and anchor close to shore and in the lee of islands.

A Kill-O-Watt meter will tell you how much power your items use. In 80 degree ambient temperature my reefer/freezer combination (the smallest made, 3.1 cubic feet by Haier) uses 60 amp hours in a 24 hour period.

That leaves me a theoretical 90 amps for everything else.

Definition of "everything else"
Computer (netbook, uses 15 watts per hour maximum)
DVD player (15" runs on 12 volts and uses 24 watts maximum)
Microwave (700 watt model by Rival uses 10 amps a day)

The depth sounder is on 24/7. It uses 6 amps in 24 hours
VHF radio is on 24/7. I'm not sure how much it uses (I forgot)

I've got a couple of fans that run when needed
Inverter uses .6 amps per hour when running (it cycles)

My batts stay topped out when the sun shines.

Having real estate for solar is important. Having an expensive MPPT solar controller will increase the power your solar puts into the batteries. The less expensive controllers work too.

IF you have limited real estate for solar I would opt for the higher dollar/better performing MPPT controllers. And yes, I'm about as thrifty as it comes. On some things the better item is the best choice, even if it is more costly up front.

Good luck.

There are a lot of us out here with solar.

Mini Lesson: Solar charges batteries through a solar controller.
Batteries supply power to inverter.
Inverter changes battery power (12 volts) into AC (120 volt) power like you'd have in a house.

All three components have to work together.

Start small. Solar to batteries to 12 volt items. THEN move up and start with your AC side of the boat.

If you're like me you will find that buying a cheap throw-away refrigerator for $150 is better economically than spending $700 or more on a small 12-volt one. When mine quits I'll go to Walmart and buy another.

Years ago (pulling on old-fogey slippers) "everyone" switched over to 12-volt items. It was the "newest and greatest" thing. We stopped using iceboxes (with blocks of ice) and life was good. Then, well, things change.

The DC refrigerators (reference Engel for instance) are wonderful. They are also WAYYYY beyond my budget. By increasing gradually the amount of solar I have, I'm now able to buy and use any item off the shelf from regular stores such as Walmart.

I do not need to buy expensive "Marine" items.

Anyway I do wish you all the best swampgatr. Good luck.

P.S. - I am NOT a power expert. I'm relating the experience I have had while out here for the past 8 years. There are some real technical folks here that are far more numbers oriented. I just want it to work, you know?
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Old 04-09-2016, 04:28 PM   #12
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Have two 140 watt panels on roof of pilot house. In addition I have a Seabreeze wind generator.

I would add more solar panels if I had the real estate. Prefer not to hang them off the rails.
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Old 04-09-2016, 05:44 PM   #13
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I have installed a fiberglass hardtop on my flybridge. I have mounted three 275 watt solar panels. Peak sun in the day will produce 50 amps at 12 volts going into the batteries. I do not run my air conditioning on the hook .but does supplies plenty of power for everything else. Peak charging so far this spring Has produced 280 amp hours for the day
now if I can figure out how to make hot water I will rarely need the Gen set
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Old 04-09-2016, 05:53 PM   #14
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Semi-flexible solar panel install


Data point
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Old 04-09-2016, 07:48 PM   #15
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No solar to date; no plans in the near future. 1,000 amp bank completely charges while underway. Could probably sit 2 or 3 days without recharging. Usually run the generator to make dinner if I'm not at a dock, which also puts 100 or 200 amps back in the bank. Have a slip not a mooring so idle time isn't draining the batteries. For the rare variation from the above, seems cheaper to run the generator.

Tried to fit solar in my refit and concluded in my situation it wouldn't pay for itself.

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Old 04-09-2016, 08:54 PM   #16
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Thankyou all for the replies, the more info the better.
Are flexible panels really that much less efficient? I would think the mounting options would be much greater with the flexible panels.
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Old 04-09-2016, 10:53 PM   #17
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I have seven 260 watt panels. Two on the pilothouse roof get partly shaded for 3/4 boat orientations so I am in the process of moving them forward a couple of feet. I have to relocate some stuff out of the way and am about halfway through doing that. I am thinking of changing out 3 of the 260W panels for three 345W panels so I can max out both of the Outback 80 controllers.

I get 500 Ah from solar on a good day. After dealing with the shading I'm expecting over 600 Ah per day. I can spend a few days at anchor with a 1284 Ah house bank. Then its time to spend a few hours cruising, or return to shore power. Engines both have 200 A alternators, so cruising charges the bank quite quickly. The only genny I have is a Honda 2000, but hardly ever use it.

I don't have aircon. But I do run 2 fridges and an icemaker normally, and can run another 2 fridge/freezers on occasion.
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Old 04-12-2016, 10:46 AM   #18
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Solar Survey

What 3 changes would you recommend in the industry for you it take to make the switch to solar power? I am sure pricing will be a big one on this.
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Old 04-12-2016, 11:00 AM   #19
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I don't have solar now but have considered it in the past so maybe your question is aimed at folks like me?
Size and weight of the panels
Reliability
Cost
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Old 04-12-2016, 11:06 AM   #20
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Thank you, Would panels you can store and then deploy when needed work or is permanent mount better?
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