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post #51 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

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Originally Posted by Stumble View Post
As you describe your usage this is what I would do in order of priority:

1) Reduce demand as much as possible. All lighting should be LED, turn things off if you can, add insulation if you can, etc.
2) Add as much solar as seems reasonable. Ideally you would be looking at about a 400w solar array but you may not have space for it all, and don't bother trying to make yourself miserable with solar, just accept more generator time (though maybe not much).

Once you have the solar in place you will need to figure out the SOC the batteries need to be at in order for the solar to pull the batteries up to ~100% by the end of the day. Then run the generator enough to get them to this point in the morning, and let the solar handle the rest. Basically let each system do what it does best. The general for bulk charging and the solar for the long slow absorption phase.
These are good points, especially No. 1.

I was just thinking about number 2. I think one would have to size the solar array to provide a bit more power than the house loads, otherwise during the day the solar charge will be used to run fridges and things and the charge won't be going to the batteries. There is no such thing as too much solar!

Minne, does you battery monitor record your daily ah use? It might be a good place to start to size your solar array.

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post #52 of 75 Old 01-02-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

Thanks again for the input. Some reaction and answers......

I understand sealed batts are flexible with installation. I have two locations immediately adjacent to the current house. One is under a locker that has all my tools, the other is under a locker that has all our galley equipment. I wouldn't want to use these lockers, rather go under them, which is inconvenient to service, inspect or troubleshoot, but definitely possible.

Great point about usage. I have countless halogen lights that burn massive juice. I priced plug-in replacement LED bulbs at over a grand. Yikes. I should start with the most often used. Ironically, one set that drive me nuts are the bulbs in the two compasses. For some reason, the illuminate when I put my anchor light on. Seems stupid, but they come on with all night lighting settings. It changed the anchor light to LED, but I can still tell the draw from their two incandescents over night. I have to dig them apart to see if it's LED replaceable.

My battery monitor is a a smartgauge, which tells you state of charge, not amps used or returned. I also have multiple voltage meters, but they are not useful for this purpose, other than to know I might be tapping on the bottom of the range for a gel... 12.3 volts resting.

I think I mentioned gels, but don't recall. Another thought occurs to me that these are getting more and more difficult to source. Maybe they'll make a comeback one day, as I think they are a very effective house bank solution. They can take deep cycling better than any other lead battery and are fully sealed and leak proof. Their only downside is they don't charge as fast as an AGM, which doesn't seem to be an issue with solar. If anything, AGMs seem to get cranky if they don't spend routine time at 100% SOC.

Anyway, if I do expand the house, maybe I should consider AGMs at that time. Simply given the difficulty with sourcing gels. That means new chargers, sensors, smart alternators, etc. Perhaps this is a time to just swap what I have an experiment with solar and battery usage to get a good sense of efficacy and make the switch at the next house replacement.


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post #53 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

I personally like the idea of solar power. Im looking to invest in it soon.

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post #54 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

You can use Amazon find inexpensive LED replacement "bulbs". If they don't work... biggie... try another... I've replaced all mine incandescent and halogen... You can find any "base" or configuration. Big change in current draw. I can't tell you their life expectancy. But so far they seem fine.

Maintenance free batts are a pleasure... no adding water or spilled battery acid. You probably don't even need a contained battery box. And of course you can find the form factor which works for you and parallel them to get the total AH you need. 8Ds worked for the space I had but they are too heavy at 150# e/o and hard to change. Mine are at the end of their service life so I will be looking for an updated battery solution... 3 - 200AH... or 6 - 100AH or replace the 2 8Ds 2 -250AH?????

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post #55 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

You are making it too complexicated I think and are starting to talk yourself into spending more money to "save" batteries than it costs to replace them. Do the math of how much your batteries cost you per month if they last 4 years, then figure what they cost if you get them to last 50% more to 6 years. Now before you go spending all kind of money to make that 6 years happen, what's the pay back time?

You said above that you plug into shore power normally at least 3 times a weeks. If so just let your batteries get down to 60-70%, run your generator to get them back to 85-90%, and don't worry about them because they are going to get fully recharged on those 3 days.

I bet you run your generator for things beside just charging the batteries. If so and you plan long term to continue your current shore power amounts and you don't want to listen to the generator as often, expand your battery bank and get more AH use time at the same levels of charge. That will cut down the generator runtime to charge because it will always just be doing bulk charging. It doesn't matter that the batteries aren't getting fully charged, you're going to plug in a couple time a week and then they will.

Batteries are CHEAP for the use and abuse we give them. My current 440AH bank cost me $550 (because I didn't want to shop for them and got at the easiest place for me). If they last just 3 years that's $15.28/mo, that's a MONTH!! Nothing on the boat is this cheap. Why spend $2000 for say solar to get the batteries to last 6 years? That's a savings of $7.64/mo on the batteries and at that rate the solar needs 11.9 years to pay itself back.

So instead of thinking battery life, think cruising convenience and annorance. Consider if doing a solar or battery upgrade is worth it to you to not have to listen to the generator etc. Make the decision a quality of life on the boat time for YOU instead whether you need to bow down and serve the boxes of lead.

BTW - I do have solar because I kept my boat on a mooring for years and liked the beer to be cold when I showed up (quality of boat life). I talked myself out of upgrading my solar last year because the $500 was going to be a long pay back. But I've since changed my mind and am going to do it next chance and time I have to do it. Just because I don't want to listen and be bothered by running the generator as much (another quality of boat life decision).

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post #56 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

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Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
I think I mentioned gels, but don't recall. Another thought occurs to me that these are getting more and more difficult to source. Maybe they'll make a comeback one day, as I think they are a very effective house bank solution.
Yes GELs lost to AGM within the SLA category.


Quote:
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They can take deep cycling better than any other lead battery

If anything, AGMs seem to get cranky if they don't spend routine time at 100% SOC.
Firefly Oasis is designed to handle both scenarios well, with a periodic trivial protocol to restore lost capacity when PSOC conditions reduce it.

I believe GEL overpromising in that regard may have been part of the reason for their downfall, along with being "too finicky" sensitive to incorrect charging parameters.

Of course regularly going well below 50% does exact a cost in lifetime cycles with any house chemistry, including LFP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
Anyway, if I do expand the house, maybe I should consider AGMs at that time. Simply given the difficulty with sourcing gels. That means new chargers, sensors, smart alternators, etc.
I would advise making sure it's the last time then, make sure all charge sources' profiles are fully adjustable by the user, not just selecting canned presets, but tweaking setpoints, Absorb from 13.75 to 14.15, adjustable hold time, etc.

One way is put non-suitable sources on Starter, and use only a large enough DC-DC Sterling batt2batt charger for House.
But high output alt charging should go direct to House, via Balmar MC-614, or other tweakable external VR.

Also make sure wiring, connections, CP are designed to handle sustained high-amp charging.

That way, if you decide ten years from now to go LFP you don't need to replace infrastructure again.
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post #57 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

* Start with LED conversion and energy conservation first. This is your best investment.

* Keep in mind that in order to "charge" your batteries with solar your solar charge current must exceed house loads or you're only slowing the rate of discharge.

* If you have 10A of solar current and a 12A load you are discharging by -2A vs. -12A with no solar. 2A is not a lot of charging unless you have weeks.......

* 4 weeks of cruising is 100% doable with a single 100% SOC recharge every two weeks, provided the boat gets to full regularly the rest of the year. Once a week would be better but GEL's are pretty tough provided they are not some subpar Chinese GEL.. Sonnenschein or Deka/East Penn or Trojan (Trojans GEL's are made by East Penn) are damn good GEL batteries. I've yet to see any other GEL technology that comes close to the Sonnenschein technology. Sonnenschein trained East Penn to build it when they licensed the technology for US distribution. As long as you don't exceed 14.2V these batteries are some of the longest cycling lead acid batteries ever built.

* We have no idea what your generator/120V chargers amperage is?

* We have no idea what your alternator is?

* We have no idea what brand of GEL battery you are using?

* We have no idea how long you run the generator each day.

* Due to the low absorption voltage of GEL batteries they generally charge slower than AGM or flooded batteries and require 7+ hours of charging to attain 100% SOC from 50% SOC. 1-2 hours per day is nowhere near full and means a usable cruising capacity of about 30% of rated Ah capacity or about 132 Ah's IF your batteries are still as good as new, which is unlikely. This would be very much on the small side for a 54' vessel unless you had LED's and a very, very, very efficient refrigeration system.

* Don't be afraid to cycle GEL's a bit deeper than you would a typical flooded or AGM battery. They are one of the few batteries than can actually be cycled to 70-80% DOD, if necessary. Aim for 50% for regular discharging but on passages etc. just recharge to 100% ASAP after deep discharging.

* Solar on deck is a compromise due to horrendous levels of shading and the abuse they take. I won't even go into rough weather issues.. I have data logged 350% improvements on boats where I have re-located panels from deck to davits or deck to bimini etc.. Panels on boats are already compromised due to being mounted flat so it's best not to make it worse by placing them in even more shade prone, toe kicking locations.

* Semiflexible panels are a gourmet item with a short / sushi like expiration date. Solara and Solbian being the two most reliable but still nowhere near as long lived as rigid panels.

* Avoid cheap Chinese knock offs semi-flexible panels especially if drilling into your decks. A high percentage of these panels never deliver anywhere close to their ratings and they deteriorate quite rapidly. Just because a panel claims Sun-Power cells it often means diddly squat and in many cases is a flat out lie because Sun-Power should be written like this; SunPower®

Low grade cells are what most of the Chinese manufacturers are using & far too often SunPower® Bin-X, or "chipped or cracked".. If one of them claims "A" grade SunPower® ask for clarification of this from the manufacturer because SunPower® does not make "A" graded cells..

Legitimate branded manufacturers such as Gioco, Solbian & Solara are using actual premium grade SunPower® cells.

While some knock-off panels can claim "SunPower®" cells you'll be very hard pressed to find many, if any, of Chinese manufacturers using anything close to SunPowers premium quality cells.. You'll find a lot that may claim "A" grade (does not actually exist so they make it up to mislead) but then actually using / substituting much lesser grades. This is the reason why so many of them fail to meet spec.

Some of them are even knocking off the SunPower® cells and using the term Sun-Power cells vs SunPower® and intentionally misleading consumers into thinking they got SunPower® cells when in fact all they got were Sun-Power cells or imposter cells..

Beyond that some companies that purport to be US Companies are pretending to be actual manufacturers and slapping a name brand (sticker) on them when in-fact these panels are most often no better quality than a no-name panel direct from China off eBay. Just look at the horrible mess Renogy got themselves into by slapping a Renogy sticker on cheap Chinese semi-flexible panels. They have now discontinued semi-flexible panels under the Renogy brand as a result of the horrendous quality.

Can cheap Chinese panels work? Sure they can, but you may go through quite a few before you find ones that can meet spec, and then when they do fail, and you re-order, the size or shape is different so you now have even more holes in your deck or a destroyed bimini that looks like a patched up Raggedy Ann doll..

As I mentioned SunPower® does not use standard industry grading, but the cells are graded. They have 10 grades of cells they offer all the way down to Bin-X "Chipped or Cracked Cell". Oh and yes they do have pricing and plenty of buyers for Bin X cells, almost all of them in China......

Solbian & Solara use SunPower® cells called; Ultra High Performance. Most of the Chinese manufacturers are using SunPower® cells marked Bin-D or lower. The price increase Solbian pays over a Bin D cell, and their Ultra High performance cells, is 514% more based on 2015 pricing.

Unfortunately this is why folks often think Solbian is "ripping them off" when in fact the cells Solbian is using cost them 514% more than what the seedy Chinese vendors give you. Of course both are using "SunPower" cells so the consumer automatically assumes they are the same.

You simply can't buy the raw cells Solbian or Solara use for the price the Chinese sell a complete panel for.

* All that said I would urge anyone looking for a long term reliable solar system to not mount to the deck and to not use semi-flexible products unless you are in the "gourmet / caviar budget" arena.

Solar is great if done correctly, and by correctly, you need to be able to actually charge the batteries while at the same time using the boat. Slowing the rate of discharge helps but it will not get you to 100% SOC and the batteries will sulfate and walk down in capacity. In other words if you think your average DC load is 10A - 12A then you'll want an array capable of 20A - 24A (net 10A to 12A of charging during good irradiation hours. You'll then want to charge early in the AM with dino juice to a point where your panel can take over and at least get you into the mid 90% SOC range by the end of the solar day. 100% SOC with solar is doable but it's pretty rare especially as batteries age and charge times get longer..

______
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post #58 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

Fabulous expose MainSail... Frankly I don't really want to spend much time tending to my batteries. I know they have a service life of less than 10 yeas... my AGMs are now at that and at the end of their service life. I have a Balmar 614 regulator a few small 25 yr old panels on the coach roof which seem to keep the batts up while we are away during the week. When we cruise our use of the motor seems to pick the batts up replacing the amps used by lighting and instruments. Frig is engine drive so there is essentially no drain. Windlass is running when engine is so it's the same. Lamoing has been replaced with LEDs and that's it. The Link20 monitor seems to measure voltage accurately and amps in / out which is all I needed to know for the past 10 yrs with the 2 8D AGMS. Electric energy cost was less than $100/year or $15.mo or a few $ per weekend... no more than a coffee and a donut. No noise from gen set... no waste of fuel or pollution.

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post #59 of 75 Old 01-02-2018
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

Excellent details on SunPower® there.

Whay about the full assembled panels sold directly by SunPower itself, do they use lower quality levels on those?
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Re: Solar or bigger house bank

Awesome info. Thanks again to all.

I just organized my pile of scrap notes and iphone notes into one big commissioning spreadsheet, with an adjacent column of supplies to be ordered. Divided into Spring (ie prior to boat usage), In-Season and Deferred. That last category takes some real experience to know you'll need, but it's really upgrade projects.

My Spring list is 29 items long. I know me too well. The batteries and new cabling are on the spring list. The solar is on the in-season list. That in-season list gets tough, once I have a jib sheet in my hand during the day and a beer at night.

I've started to look for LED sources. Buddies have used Marine Beam. Not sure which G4 replacement is best, 9 or 10 cells. Nothing is easy!!
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