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Old 23-04-2015, 07:14   #1
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Solar panel installation help

Hi,

I originally planned on installing shore power for my old sailboat (for charging batteries), but then came to realize, what a waste of money if I can install a 100-200w solar panel setup for less than what it would cost me to install shorepower. Plus the added safety factor of not running AC power + not dealing with galvanic corrosion.

Now I looked a bit around and created a shopping list:

Steca PR 2020 Charge regulator.
100w solar panel (monochrist)

So it seems really simple with a one battery-setup.

Solar panel -> Chargeregulator -> Battery -> From battery i connect my 12v items.

Now I however have 2 batteries, one start and one leisure. What do I need to be able to charge both batteries?

And what if I want to add an extra solar panel? (On the Steca charge controller there is only one input for a single solar panel? Is there something like a splitter or do I need a bigger/different charge regulator?)

Here is an image of the Steca:
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/...L._SL1000_.jpg

I appreciate your help guys.
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Old 23-04-2015, 17:29   #2
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Re: Solar panel installation help

If you are only going to use the charge controller for solar, then you might want to look at the Flexcharge PV7D. It can handle 7 amps (more amps than a 100 watt panel), and two battery banks. It is also expandable. I had one on my O'Day 35 for years and it worked perfectly. I now have an O'Day 40 and am very happy with their NC25A, a much larger unit (which can handle multiple solar panels and wind generators).
SES Flexcharge USA - HOME is their website.
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Old 23-04-2015, 23:26   #3
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Solar panel installation help

In my experience we use the shore power charger and the solar. The solar regulator is good at keeping the batteries topped up but if you need a deep bulk charge only the shore power will do (or massive solar array).

When we are away from the boat we keep the solar on to run the pumps and refrigerator. We always come back to a battery 100% charged even with the fridge and a few lights left on.

Charge the house batteries with the solar regulator. No special connectors needed for solar panels. Just connect everything in parallel. And use good wiring. Our panels can put out 16A combined. So I use 4mm cables.

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Old 23-04-2015, 23:42   #4
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Re: Solar panel installation help

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Originally Posted by Nicks View Post
Hi,


Now I however have 2 batteries, one start and one leisure. What do I need to be able to charge both batteries?
You get an ACR (automatic charging relay) [made by Blue Sea] or a combiner [made by Yandina]. It connects the two banks when charging sources are present, and disconnects them when the voltage drops below a setpoint.

You can read more about them on those company's websites.
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Old 24-04-2015, 00:29   #5
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Re: Solar panel installation help

or for a no-current draw option, use an FET splitter isolator from Vetus or Victron.
Regulator output to input of isolator, then two outputs, one to house , one to start.
The advantage of the FET isolator cf the old diode isolators is almost no volt drop.
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Old 24-04-2015, 05:26   #6
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Re: Solar panel installation help

How about this Top-of-Pole solar kit from Custom Marine Products? I like how easy it seems to be able to rotate and adjust the panel angle. Even if the biggest panel is limited to 160W, I think that having the capability to properly orient it will provide output similar to fixed 250W or 300W panels.
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Old 24-04-2015, 05:57   #7
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Re: Solar panel installation help

I would just hook the solar up to the house batteries. After you leave the dock, keep the battery selector set to start battery, for awhile to top it up. The alternator charges much faster than a solar panel.
If the start battery will not start the engine, just switch to all batteries to start.
When I was cruising, I just charged the starting battery now and then.

Not sure what your house batteries are, or duration of yoursails. For a boat used mostly for daysails, and small battery bank, and 100 watt solar panel, Unless you have refrigeration (12 volt) and a small alternator, I thinking, running the engine for 15+ minutes, while taking down sailsand docking, would top the batteries up, and thesolar would keep them topped up.

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Old 24-04-2015, 06:20   #8
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Re: Solar panel installation help

One option is to wire the charge regulator in to the battery switch on the output side. That way your solar array will charge whichever battery bank the switch is currently set to (or both if it's set to 'all'). But, charging both the start battery and the house battery at the same time all the time is not a good idea. The regulator looks at average voltage to determine how much current to allow through to the batteries. In general, the start battery is normally at a higher voltage, so you will end up over-charging your start battery and under-charging your house battery.
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Old 24-04-2015, 07:09   #9
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Re: Solar panel installation help

There is no quick answer. If your charge controller has the capacity you should have no problem adding another solar panel. You should also be able to wire the second panel in parallel or series. Parallel will add to the amount of current being delivered to the controller, series will add voltage. Parallel will need larger wiring from the panel to the controller because of the added current (possibly your existing wiring is large enough). Either way you don't need a second set of wires from the second panel to the charge controller, you simply wire the panels in series or parallel and then use the existing wires from the original panel to the controller. If you choose parallel you will need to make sure the wiring to the controller can handle the current, and if you choose series you will need to check the specifications on the controller to make sure it can handle the added voltage. I charge two banks with either of two methods. 1. I put my 1/2/BOTH switch in BOTH and charge the batteries in parallel. I only do this if I know both batteries have about the same amount of charge in them. It's not a good idea if one battery is drained and the other is nearly full. In that situation I use....2. The output from my charge controller is wired to the common post on the 1/2/BOTH switch, so if I put the switch on 1 or 2 it will only charge that battery, and as stated earlier, if I put it on BOTH it will charge both batteries in parallel. Hope this helps.

Gary
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Old 25-04-2015, 02:37   #10
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Re: Solar panel installation help

Quote:
Originally Posted by cygnussailor View Post
There is no quick answer. If your charge controller has the capacity you should have no problem adding another solar panel. You should also be able to wire the second panel in parallel or series. Parallel will add to the amount of current being delivered to the controller, series will add voltage. Parallel will need larger wiring from the panel to the controller because of the added current (possibly your existing wiring is large enough). Either way you don't need a second set of wires from the second panel to the charge controller, you simply wire the panels in series or parallel and then use the existing wires from the original panel to the controller. If you choose parallel you will need to make sure the wiring to the controller can handle the current, and if you choose series you will need to check the specifications on the controller to make sure it can handle the added voltage. I charge two banks with either of two methods. 1. I put my 1/2/BOTH switch in BOTH and charge the batteries in parallel. I only do this if I know both batteries have about the same amount of charge in them. It's not a good idea if one battery is drained and the other is nearly full. In that situation I use....2. The output from my charge controller is wired to the common post on the 1/2/BOTH switch, so if I put the switch on 1 or 2 it will only charge that battery, and as stated earlier, if I put it on BOTH it will charge both batteries in parallel. Hope this helps.

Gary
Hi Gary,

Thank you for the description.

I heard about parallel/series, one thing I am worried about is the negative effect of just a small shade on the panel. If I have 2 panels hooked up together into one controller and one of the panels has shade, will that heavily effect the output of the one without shade?
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:27   #11
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Re: Solar panel installation help

Shade is going to cause a significant negative effect either way. However, you are right that one of them (series or parallel) is more affected than the other. When I was doing the research for my installation I knew the answer to that. Old brain cells have swept it from memory!!! I opted for a single 245 watt panel so that information became irrelevant. At my age I have to forget anything I can't use. Space is becoming limited. I suggest a search on the internet such as "solar panels series or parallel" Sorry for the non response!!!

Gary
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:50   #12
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Re: Solar panel installation help

Nicks,
So far you've gotten irrelevant advice. You have to start with an understanding of your daily amperage use, "power budget ". Once you know that, you can know how much daily charge you need. You also need to allow for overcast days and shadow from rig, and figure your battery capacity for real world performance considerations such as charge depth and taper.

So what's your power budget? What's your battery capacity? Type of battery chemistry? Your location? (Latitude)
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:54   #13
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Re: Solar panel installation help

You could use both shore charger and solar.
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Old 25-04-2015, 10:28   #14
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Re: Solar panel installation help

I don't have much input regarding the start battery, does the engine have an alternator?

Regarding the solar, putting panels in parallel is much better for shade tolerance, and it is also very simple to add more panels when in parallel but they need to have the same voltage. This microMPPT board I'm making does that, so you can combine 12v panels in parallel, and then run a mppt battery charger.
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Old 25-04-2015, 10:48   #15
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Re: Solar panel installation help

I see lots of semi good info here also see some info that was offered that is irrelevant to the op he doesn't want shore power at all just solar. On that point I do need some info as far as your power needs and battery size you don't need to spend all the money for fancy mppt controllers and huge panels I have installed many different systems for customers and I found that the cheap panels work just as well as the expensive ones ( even have same / simmilar warranty). ( just different wording ). Here is an example 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Complete Kit for RV's, Boats and Off-Grid also the starting battery will be recharged off the ships main engine just like in your car. However its a good idea to have one of the 1-2 both switches to be able to align all battery banks together for solar/alternator charging and using house battery to start mains if ever needed.
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