Solar Panels Can Lower Your Expenses While Boating
The starting point for a successful solar panel installment is evaluating your requirements. We present right here a simple evaluation based on the test boat used for our recent report on choosing and installing a solar panel. A few values are from experience, and others are accepted rules of thumb. For additional details regarding selecting and setting up a solar panel, view the March 2018 issue of Practical Sailor online.
Find the present draw of each and every piece of equipment (verify with panel ammeter if available) and approximate the number of hours operated. Record the number and capacity of your batteries, acknowledging that you can not draw below 50% charge without reducing their lifespan, and that you will seldom charge past 85% while away from the dock– as a result, only 35% of nameplate capacity is actually useable. Lastly, total your charging resources, including motor, wind, and solar. When it comes to solar, take the rated wattage x 5 hours/12 = amp-hours while on passage and wattage x 7 hours/12 = amp-hours while at anchor (sails do not shade and the boom can be rigged out sideways). This is far below the rated capability– sailors in the tropics will do better, and sailors farther north or sailing in the winter more poorly– however this is actually an accepted starting point.
Determining Panel Output
How many days can you manage with poor generation? Are you willing to economize during the course of a long cloudy stretch? Will you recharge at a marina or simply by running the engine every now and then? Long-term cruisers appriciate a wealth of power, while the infrequent cruisers may be satisfied with a lot less.
Every AH (amp-hour) consumed has a real cost in weight, panels, and dollars. If you can decrease usage by 50 AH/day you will save a battery (the useable capability), a 120 watt panel, and possibly a mounting arch. The expense savings might be $500 and 150 pounds for merely a few bulbs.
Lighting. Change from incandescent to LED and fluorescent lights, starting with the lights you make use of most. We use LEDs and fluorescent for the anchor, salon, and cockpit lights, but since we rarely run at night, we left the running and steaming lights alone. Likewise, the deck light and many task lights remain halogen or incandescent; they are not used enough to make a difference.
Go to bed at night and get up with the sun. Big savings in juice and more time to play. The gasoline solenoid is a big user for us; it runs the propane fridge and cabin heater, so it is on for long hours, but we can easily switch it off at night or go without refrigeration now and then.
Operate these on reduced speed and watch the hours. A wind scoop does not use power.
Do you actually need GPS and other instruments full-time on passage? Twenty years ago they didn’t even exist. Balance the sails in order to reduce the load on the autopilot.
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