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Old 07-05-2007, 14:50   #1
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Is One Brand of Panel Better Than Another?

I'm looking at putting a panel on the stern of an F-31...probably something about a 100Watts and was wondering what brand or brands are well made, and reliable? I can't say that money is unimportant (d*rn, I didn't win the lottery again!) but I'd rather have something that will work well and reliably over time than something that's just inexpensive to start with.
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Old 07-05-2007, 22:15   #2
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I am sure, but you will get a lot of advice. Things to check -
Reliable for 10 to 15 years?
Does it take a hit?
What happens if water gets on the cells?
What happens if part of the pannel gets shade?
What happens if it gets to hot?
As mentioned, these are not the cheep ones but will last.

There are several good brands and things do change from year to year. Where/how you put the pannels may have more of an impact on performance than anything else.
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Old 07-05-2007, 22:36   #3
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I only know Simens..Changed name to Shell they did.

Had them panels for 5 or 6 years.
Been thru a few hurricanes, hail storms and general shitty conditons. (Salt, wind and storms)

No problems noted..Would buy them Siemenes/Shell panels tomorrow again.
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Old 08-05-2007, 02:05   #4
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I have Kyocera.
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Old 08-05-2007, 12:11   #5
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OK, so I'll check out Shell and Kyocera panels. I knew I didn't just want to buy whatever West Marine had in their catalog...may be good but almost always overpriced.

Is there a problem if water gets on the panel? It will be almost impossible to keep anything totally dry on an F-31 while sailing (unless low wind/toodling along which doesn't happen here during the season)

I was planning on trying to avoid partial shade...and think that I can most of the time. I haven't yet gotten to the exactly how do I mount this panel stage.
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Old 08-05-2007, 18:27   #6
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I'm also in the "what brand, how big, and where do I put them" stage. An item for thought... another couple here at the marina that's been cruising full time for several years has an interesting approach for the mounting part of the equation. Their thought on the matter is that if you are moving you are either sailing, and the wind generator is providing the juice, or you are motoring and the the alternator is pumping out the amps. It's only when you are at that well protected - read out of the wind - anchorage that you need the output of the solar panels. Their approach then is to have a couple of small ones permanently mounted at the stern and three larger ones that can be temporarily mounted in various locations. Stantions, on the boom, bow pulpit, or wherever the best exposure is. It seems to have worked out well for them. I'm also considering this, however storage when they are not in use may be an issue. My next step is to decide the size I want/need/can afford and create some templates to help with the mounting /storage configuration.

Has anybody else on the forum used this method for setting up their solar panels? Does this make sense or is it better to hard mount them?
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Old 08-05-2007, 21:48   #7
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Originally Posted by Greg S
... Their thought on the matter is that if you are moving you are either sailing, and the wind generator is providing the juice, or you are motoring and the the alternator is pumping out the amps. ...
I don't have a wind generator, but so much sailing is downwind that I wonder about this -- going downwind the apparant wind is often pretty light, and most wind generators need a stiff breeze before they put out much current.

I have three 100W panels mounted on top of the dodger, and they do suffer from shading (as I expected when I installed them). On the average, I probably get decent output from two panels. Still, given my choices for panel placement (which take into account the esthetics), I like having the panels permanently mounted. On passages, I need to run the engine perhaps one hour every day for charging, and the panels provide the rest. I have seen very few people who actually adjust the panel positioning during the day, and it seems difficult to find a spot for adjustable panels where they don't foul jibsheets, or cause other troubles. At anchor, the fixed panels manage to keep up with my power needs.

A stern arch is a great place to mount panels, but I don't care for the look of one on my boat, so I make do with the less-practical dodger location.

You really should do a power budget, so you won't be surprised after all the electrical gear is installed.
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Old 08-05-2007, 22:18   #8
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I have a 26 foot boat and there is really no good place to mount them so I have them put in bags with a clear top and a way to tie it off. I can take them down and move when needed. A bit of a hassle but I hope to stay at anchor most of the time.
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Old 08-05-2007, 22:20   #9
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I have used siemens (shell) for years on off the grid homes (used to design systems) Never had a failure, and always good output, but they can be pricey. I would never consider WM as a source. Lot's of internet sources, and used panels are often not a bad deal. Check the efficiency of the panel full sun, and partial shade. I have heard allot of good about the Kyocera panels, but have no experience with them.
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Old 15-05-2007, 05:09   #10
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absolutely
1 look out for monocrystalline for a start, higher effeciency, smaller footprint and they do overtime(start work earlier and work till alittle later),
2 make sure that the panel has supplies a reasonable good high voltage so that it actually makes it to your batteries and doesnt get lost to cabling, i have seen some that products that put out 16v etc
not going to mention brands but the above should give you some pointers
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Old 15-05-2007, 05:22   #11
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I have on that is a 75W bp brand and have just bought another 125 W sharp. the bp one has been excellent but as the electrics on the boat increase so does the power consumption :-(
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Old 15-05-2007, 11:52   #12
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We all like to complain about West Marine's prices, but they show commitment to our sport by publishing their "Advisor", which they have to pay somebody to researce and write. Recently they were awarded a letter of Commendation from the National Water SafetyCongress for their contribution to water safety. I don't work for WM, nor am I against low prices, but I say we should support the guys who support us.

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Old 15-05-2007, 14:19   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Elliott
...I have three 100W panels mounted on top of the dodger, and they do suffer from shading (as I expected when I installed them). On the average, I probably get decent output from two panels. .....
Paul,
Is there a good picture on your site that shows the mounting of your panels?

Paul L
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Old 15-05-2007, 15:52   #14
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Here is a site to evaluate different panels: Eligible Photovoltaic Modules

I have worked with the folks. They are good and very knowledgeable. Ask for Ryan. Solar Electric Systems & Solar Panels

I have no affiliation with them, just like them and respect their opinion.

As far as the panels go, I think you are best served with a permanent mount and building an arch to mount them (assuming you can stomach the price). It is high, but they work well if you build the right array with the right battery bank. I strongly prefer a large solar array coupled with a large AGM battery bank (AGM being the operable word).

Many of the cruisers I know use Kyocera. I have not done an official tally, but they seem to have the market for cruisers. THat is what I use. I currently have 4-KC 130's wired to an Outback MX-60. I will increase that to 6. My current real-world output is about 176-180 ah/day. That is a flat, permanent mount on a solar arch with no moving (which, no offense to those who do it... I am not going to sit around and move my panels every few hours... I have better things to do with my life). They are wired in series, not parallel, which is ideal for the Outback.

If I can answer any questions for you, please let me know. I will help in any way I can. I have pics I can post, but they are large. I can post them if you want (but I do not really know how to decrease the size... maybe I can try??)

Take care.

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Old 15-05-2007, 18:22   #15
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Cruisingdad,
I agree about mounting panels flat. We had about 470 watts worth of panels mounted as a bimini over our cockpit and they furnished 100% of our needs.
The only fussing we had to do was to wash them every couple of weeks.
Other cruisers were always twisting their panels around to face the sun, then going off in the dinghy or back below. Within 5 minutes, the boat had swung around due to wind shifts or current, and the panels were ineffective at best and totally shaded at the worst. Give me a flat mount any day!

Steve B.
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