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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 10-11-2010
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Live Aboard Solar Panels

Good evening. I am having some trouble, mainly because this is completely new to me, finding information about how to shop for solar panels for a live aboard. I plan to live on a mooring during the summer season and would like to be able to charge my batteries without running my engine. I would be using cabin lights and the radio mostly. Is anyone who might have done this willing to share their experience?
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Old 10-11-2010
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This can be a complex issue but here are things you need to do to get started. This is a very simplified list.

1) Determine what you power needs actually are in terms of amp-hours per day when you are on board.
2) Determine how long you have to charge the batteries between sails
3) Select the panels and charge controller to fit your needs.

There is a tremendous amount of info on this forum about solar so do some searches and you should find an answer to any question you have.
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Old 10-12-2010
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Nick has it right. One other thing is to look at your weather patterns--how many "not-sunny" days do you see in a row? In order to "surf over" a series of cloudy days, your battery bank needs to be sized so that you can discharge it without damage for that many days with no (or small) input from the panels. Conventional wisdom says that your daily energy draw should be maybe 25-35% of the bank capacity. It's messier than that, with solar, but it will give you a starting point. The 25-35% number assumes you can charge every day, and if you rely on your solar, you can't, so the battery bank needs to be larger by a factor of the number of cloudy days in a row that you want to be able to tolerate without running some other generating source.
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Old 10-12-2010
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Also, to state the obvious, you need to figure out how much space you have available for the panels. You want to try to avoid even partial shading as best you can, which is no small feat with a mast.

The Kyocera 135W panel is extremely popular with boaters, and multiple can be used if 135W isn't enough. Figure in good weather, you can get about 25amp hours a day from each one, obviously less in partly cloudy weather or shorter days.

Will you be living aboard up here in MA, or somewhere with more sun in the winter?
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Old 10-12-2010
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You should be able to easily maintain your anchor light, reading light and radio time. It would be heating or cooling things that would be near impossible. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 11-10-2010
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Don't forget cell phone, computer, non-vhf radio, inverter, and your favorite music source.... it all adds up. switching to LED helps some with reducing lighting demands.
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Old 11-10-2010
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sterilecuckoo brings up a good point about charging computers, they draw a lot of amps (4-5 for a Mac anyway). That was something that I didn't figure into our equation. There are many good sources for solar panels, we bought our Kyocera 135's from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun ( Solar Electric Power Systems For On & Off Grid ) and also the MPPT controller.

sterile- I learned to sail (long ago) in my Dad's Vivacity 20. Haven't seen or heard of one in years but I have great memories of making every mistake in the book in that boat.
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Old 11-10-2010
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We read that book, and have added to it, the signature pic was just the first, and nothing original about it either, just classic. I am, at that moment, returning from a discussion with the harbor police who were just wanting to confirm we were alive, well, and had water and food.

I saw my signature lacked the visual. Have fixed that successfully this time. Bilge keels have their advantage.
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Old 11-10-2010
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Here's a link to an easy to understand primer on solar by our own sailingdog. Well worth reading. Adrift at Sea Ľ Solar Power on Boats
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