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Old 02-10-2012, 19:08   #1
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Solar panel installation

How hard is it to install solar panels on your boat? Does anyone have a guide for doing so? Also how many would I need for open water cruising?
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Old 02-10-2012, 19:51   #2
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Re: Solar panel installation

installation is pretty straightforward and not especially difficult. hard part is planning the installation, starting with how much solar and where to mount it. there is almost too much information on this forum to digest in a single sitting, but if you search on 'solar' you should be inundated in short order.

i decided on a single 135 watt panel to provide half my needs and then upgrade to two panels when i could. i mounted it over the stern using 1" s/s tubing and u-bolts to mount it about six feet off the deck and attached to my stern rail. turned out to be much simpler than i expected - spent most of my time on research and planning.
take it slow and all will go well...
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Old 02-10-2012, 19:58   #3
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Re: Solar panel installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by EBB3 View Post
How hard is it to install solar panels on your boat? Does anyone have a guide for doing so? Also how many would I need for open water cruising?
I went through several designs before I finished my solar bimini. I started with my existing dodger frame then added more panels until I had a completed bimini that so far has survived brushes with two hurricanes. Here is the process that I went through:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI: PART ONE: Plan A!
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI: PART TWO: Plan B!
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI PART THREE: A plan comes together!
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI PART FOUR: Locating and trimming the rear frame
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI PART FIVE: Useful stuff: Filament Tape
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI PART SIX: DECK WORK
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: SOLAR BIMINI PART SEVEN: PANELS INSTALLED
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Old 02-10-2012, 20:05   #4
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Re: Solar panel installation

in terms of the "how hard" question: I had to pay a yard to fabricate the stainless arch, but was able to do the remainder of the job myself.

I ended up with 270 watts of solar backed up by 200 watts of wind. Total installation, including cost of panels and the wind generator, cost right around $5,000.
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Old 02-10-2012, 20:16   #5
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Re: Solar panel installation

for what it's worth, total cost of my installation (one 135 watt kyocera panel mounted on my home built frame was about $600. i think i can add the second panel, including frame additions, for an additional $500.
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Old 03-10-2012, 06:32   #6
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Re: Solar panel installation

Costs have certainly fallen over the last few years. Best place to install is over the stern where nothing can shade them during the high output hours. You really do not get much out of the panels until the sun is high in the sky, even if you were to face the panels towards the sun...so fixed is easier and makes more sense. Get some expert advice on charge controller and configuration. Good luck on the project...our solar lets us anchor almost indefinitely without needing to engine charge (we're cheaters, though...our fridge runs on propane -- only works for catamarans, I think).
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Old 03-10-2012, 07:21   #7
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Re: Solar panel installation

I think I have about the same system as Bash. I recently purchased 2X135watt Kyocera panels, Blue Sky 25 amp MPPT controller, Air Breeze 200 watt wind generator, plus all the wiring and connectors, switches and ammeter. I salvaged bimini bows from the yard where I keep my boat to mount the solar panels. I plan to do the installation myself.

Total cost so far $3700. I bought everything except the solar monting stuff from SALT Service in Marathon, FL. Very satisfied customer. BTW I know I could have lowered costs or gotten more solar watts for the same money by buying cheaper panels. I could have pieced-out the parts on line and maybe saved a little more but I got a lot of information from Bob Williams at SALT which was definitely worth what I paid for it in terms of his technical expertise.

Scott
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Old 03-10-2012, 10:02   #8
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Re: Solar panel installation

Any simple answer that you get runs a good chance of either costing you much more than it has to (because you buy more than you need), or not filling your requirements (because you buy less than you need). If you are determined to get a "simple" answer, then just buy and mount as many solar panels as you can afford and/or fit. You may have more than you need, and may have spent more than you had to, but at least you'll probably satisfy your electrical requirements.

If, on the other hand, you want to spend enough to satisfy your requirements, without wondering if you spent a lot more than you had to, then you are going to have to educate yourself some, and spend some time understanding your needs. The best single source I have found for educating yourself on these matters is this one...
HandyBob's Blog

There's a lot to read through there, but if you do then you will know enough to get through this, or at least to ask very specific and informed questions.

Good luck.
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Old 03-10-2012, 22:21   #9
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Re: Solar panel installation

What did it cost us to add 480 watts to the Endeavour? Six 80 watt panels at $160 cost $960.00 (down to $100 each since we bought those ), Blue Sky 3024iL controller $350, aluminum for frame and brackets about $700.00, SS bolts/nuts $100.00, Wiringing and fuses $200.00 for a total of about $2300. A couple of the above were best guesses, but the total is more than I thought it was 30 minutes ago.

So a little less than 1/2 of the total went for the actual panels and I made...



....the framework and all the brackets and uprights and ...



...mounted the panels and....



...installed and wired it myself on the boat so there was no labor charges included above.

The 200 watts....



...on our MacGregor was less per watt since the frame was a lot smaller and simpler to make.

The solar install for the Endeavour is here...

Endeavour 37 Electrical Mods Index

and the MacGregor install is here.....

Macgregor 26S Outside Mods page 33

One thing about the solar is that we won't have to hardly ever run the ship's engine for power. I know a lot of people run theirs 1-2 hours a day or more. That could amount to maybe $2.00 a day or more in fuel cost and make the next overhaul come quicker. It doesn't take a lot of those costs to pay for solar and it is quiet . After having it on the one boat we knew for sure we wanted it on the new boat.

Sum

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