Cruisers Forum

Join CruisersForum Today

Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 17-06-2010, 01:28   #1
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Boat: Bavaria 36 - "Sweet As"
Posts: 13
Portable Generator vs Solar Panels or Wind Generator

I am a new owner of a Bavaria 36 (2004) fitted with 300Ahrs of AGM house batteries. The only battery charging currently is from the engine alternator or shore power. My cruising intentions are primarily coastal rather than ocean passages. I am seriously considering purchasing a HONDA 2kW portable generator as an alternative means of battery charging rather than fitting solar panels and/or wind generation, both of which will require supporting infrastructure to be fiited to mount them. The other advantage with the portable generator option is the ability to run 240V as well while charging. Is my thinking valid? Why then are there so many yachts with panels and wind generators? The small petrol portable generator pluged into the shore power socket on the yacht seems so less complex and more versatile.

Sweet As is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 01:49   #2
Long Range Cruiser
MarkJ's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Australian living on "Sea Life" currently in New York
Boat: Beneteau 393 "Sea Life"
Posts: 12,180
Images: 25
We have 2 x 120 watt solar panels and they are the antz pantz. Are you staying in tasmania? If theres sun to keep them going there then I would highly recommend them, particularly as they have halved in price in Australia over the last 2 years.

Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
MarkJ is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 02:08   #3
Boracay's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Pelican Bay, Great Sandy National Park
Boat: Steel Roberts Offshore 44
Posts: 5,175
Images: 18
It's not the generator that hurts...

For me it's not the generator that's the problem it's the noise, the petrol, the smell, the big, expensive charger (needed since a Honda only puts out about 6 Amps) and that 22kg lump that needs to be carted round (my back's not what it used to be).

I've only two small solar panels at the moment but they sort of silently sneak up on one. One week the batteries are a bit down, the next they're nice and full. Don't even notice it happening.
Rust never sleeps
Boracay Blog.
Boracay is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 02:37   #4
Registered User
bewitched's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 885
Images: 3
You're going to get a whole lot of different opinions....

here's mine.

If you're based in a marina and will only use the boat weekends and mayby a longer summer break - you probably don't need any other source of charging other than your alternator and your shore power.

If however you are planning longer spells aboard when you'll be running a fridge 24/7 etc. that's when the passives come into their own.

My opinion is that you only need a generator when:
a) you insist on air con
b) you have very large power requirements
bewitched is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 02:53   #5
Registered User
MarcW's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: East Coast Aus
Boat: Farr 36
Posts: 56
A bit if each

Solar panels 2 x 120 watts at least as per MarkJ.

We have 2 x 60 watt panels, 300 watt wind turbine and alternator 60 amp with smart regulator on the engine.

Even with this set up we are down on Amp/hrs if we dont run the engine will be looking into a 120 watt solar panel addition. ( find the space)

My problem with the generator is the fuel storage on top of the outboard fuel.

Solar is only good if the sun shines and the wind turbine great when the wind blows, engine sloves the problem if you need to motor to anchor.

It comes down to how much power you use and need to put back into the batteries.
Marc W
MarcW is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 03:11   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 188
Newer (and more expensive) solar panels work when the sun's not shining (but not in the dark!)

You will not make friends in anchorages by running a petrol generator.

Stick some more insulation in your fridge, get a tow generator, some solar panels and a wind-generator. If you're going to need anchor lights and cabin lights during the night, then think about installing LEDs.

I spent a year on 9 different boats between the EU and NZ and the only one that didn't have power issues was the only one that didn't have any engine-driven means of charging the house batteries.
YourOldNemesis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 03:36   #7

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Tampa to New York
Boat: Morgan 33 OutIsland, Magic and 33' offshore scott design "Cutting Edge"
Posts: 1,594
We have 400 watts wind and 400 wattts solar used to carry a small gas gen and gave it away after I didn't run it for 2 yrs. The labor you spend installing solar will be less than the labor of lugging out starting fetching gas and putting away the generator over time..
forsailbyowner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 03:46   #8
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 23
We have been sailing since March and I have not needed to charge my batteries once and we only have 1 one large solar panel.
Mario G is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 05:12   #9
Registered User
Sunspot Baby's Avatar

Join Date: May 2003
Location: New Bern, NC
Boat: Prout Manta 38' Catamaran - Sunspot Baby
Posts: 1,521
Images: 14
There are pluses and minuses to all the options.

Solar is completely passive and as they have become more efficient and cost effective, my feel, talking to other cruisers, is that they are becoming more and more the option of choice.

The down side is that they don't work as well when it isn't sunny. One seldom gets the full rated output.

Wind, while passive also only works when the wind blows. Check the rated output on most and you will find you need a lot of wind (15 to 20 knots) for them to be a reliable source for recharging the house bank.

The generator has the advantages you have listed, but requires digging it out, firing it up and carrying extra gasoline. The first time the pull cord breaks (it will) and you find out how hard these things are to work on, you won't be so enchanted with it.

Our house bank is about 1/2 the size of yours and it takes a lot of run time on the Honda to top up the batteries.

I guess if I were to have only one, I would go with the Honda, but I think the majority of cruisers would say, go with solar and have the Honda as a back up.

She took my address and my name
Put my credit to shame
Sunspot Baby, sure had a real good time
Bob Seger
Sunspot Baby is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 05:41   #10
Pete7's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Solent, England
Boat: Moody 31
Posts: 6,711
Images: 14
Living on a small soggy island off the NW corner of Europe, we have both.

The Honda 20i is superb and when connected to our 40 amp charger thumps the amps back into the batteries. Mains electric for the hot water calorifier, power tools and an electric oil filled radiator a bonus. Its big enough to have real clout, but I can still lift it out of the locker with one hand. Runs for about 7 hours on a tank full of full and makes up for not having power on our jetty.

We also installed a single solar panel over the winter. Its 45 watts, about 10 amps a day in the UK, which tops the batteries up after a weekends use. We would like more in the future and when we go long term cruising will expand to hopefully cover all our needs. However the Honda will always be on board just incase.

Pete7 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 05:51   #11
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Chesapeake Region and Maine
Boat: 42' Bob Perry sloop
Posts: 3,921
Images: 4
My vote would be for solar over the portable generator option.

Example: I just installed two 135-watt Kyocera panels and a BZ MPPT controller on a clients vessel. These panels put out about 17 volts open circuit and were wired in series. So, 34 volts going to the PV side of the MPPT controller.

I have been on the boat several times since, during periods of heavy overcast. Those panels still put out nicely. Yesterday, with heavy overcast and rain threatening, they were putting out a steady 9-11 amps. That's more than enough to keep up with 12V refrigeration, and other light loads.

Simple. Silent. Robust. Reliable. Require very little maintenance. Very long life.

What's not to like?

btrayfors is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 06:19   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: San Juan Island
Boat: 1973 Jay Benford "TOKETEE" 46'
Posts: 20
I have that generator, converted it to run on propane.. Really quiet, I run it only occaisionally in winter (49degrees lat.) as I have solar power too. Buy the generator first, and add a panel of solar as budget allows. Eventually you won't need to run it a t all. I used a wind gen for years until the bearings went noisy, still have it but haven't bothered to fix it yet.
waterworldrob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 06:52   #13
Registered User
Strygaldwir's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Deale, Maryland
Boat: SeaView - Privilege 37
Posts: 1,019
Images: 5
One of the items that gets interesting in the solar/generator debate is the costs. How much does it cost to produce the amps you need by using the generator? How much does it cost to produce the amps you need by solar? I ran extensive numbers on my full time cruising cost. I found while the initial cost of solar was high, the long term cost was lower than I really expected in relationship to the variable cost of fuels. I elected to get solar panels and utilize a portable generator to meet my energy needs when there was insufficient sun. The portables were so inexpensive and the installation was even less so. Not having one, did not make a lot of sense. But relying solely on the generator did not make much sense either. This was especially true in non U.S. waters where fuel prices are a LOT more expensive than other parts of the world.
Strygaldwir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 07:16   #14
CF Adviser
Bash's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: sausalito
Boat: 14 meter sloop
Posts: 7,256
Originally Posted by YourOldNemesis View Post
You will not make friends in anchorages by running a petrol generator.
We have 260 watts of solar (twin 130-watt panels) backed up by 200 watts of wind, and we rarely need to use the wind generator because the solar is more than enough to power our system, which includes a separate stand-alone freezer in addition to a fridge. The only time we need the wind generator is during winter rain storms and all-night passages.

During the peak hours of sunlight our panels are putting out 16 amps. Rarely, in the summer, do they run past noon before shutting themselves down because the house bank is full.

Running a generator in an anchorage is becoming less and less acceptable all the time.
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
Bash is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17-06-2010, 07:55   #15
Senior Cruiser
Vasco's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Toronto
Boat: CS36Merlin, "La Belle Aurore" Ben393 "Breathless"
Posts: 6,819
I opted for the Honda as a back-up to my wind generator because the cost of panels and the mounting hardware and the regulator was too much. The Honda only cost $850 and I would have been into over $2000 for solar. Your battery bank is a bit small for sitting on the hook if you run a fridge. As for charging you will need a charger much bigger than what comes standard (20 amp?) in most boats your size. I have a 100 amp charger/inverter. With a 20 amp charger you'll be running the Honda all day to keep up. The Honda is handy to have on a cruising boat, run tools etc.

Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
Vasco is offline   Reply With Quote

generator, wind generator

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
A-Frame to Mount Wind Generator and Solar Panels m.e.harrap@sky. Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 18 30-04-2013 08:19
Wire Sizing for Installing Solar Panels / Wind Generator Eddie Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 17 30-03-2010 19:06
A GENERATOR AND SOLAR PANELS....... High Cotton Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 20 06-03-2008 18:43
wind generator or solar panels or both nancynana Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 15 26-02-2008 05:17
Wiring of Wind Generator and Solar Panels Da BigBamboo Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 38 15-10-2007 12:21

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2015 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:14.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.