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Old 03-10-2013, 16:45   #1
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Solar Panels

Bear with me here and those electrical engineers out there need not roll their eyes.

We are looking at putting a solar installation on a hard top bimini where there is lots of room. We will have a generator but my goal is to avoid using it as much as possible. Intended area of cruising is the Caribbean.

Why would I not put the largest installation possible, ie 4x 220?

I understand the whole add up your intended usage and buy sufficient capacity concept, but I figure we will still need to augment whatever we generate with the engines/genset.

Would like your thoughts on brands and size, where to purchase (S Florida), and type of regulator. Second issue is batteries to store the power. 7 year old batteries will probably need to be replaced anyway.

I realize this may be rudimentary for many but would appreciate some helpful advice.
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Old 03-10-2013, 17:18   #2
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You put on all you can fit and afford... We have 630w and want more! Power use tends to expand as power is available

I'll write up something on parallel vs serial, mppt vs pwm, etc when I have a keyboard :-)
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Old 03-10-2013, 17:35   #3
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Re: Solar panels

Thank you for the excellent reply. Looking forward to hearing from you when you have time....
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Old 03-10-2013, 19:18   #4
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Re: Solar Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozen Chosen View Post
..................... We will have a generator but my goal is to avoid using it as much as possible...............
Your generator will likely last longer and remain operating well if you run it at least a half hour a week under load after a warm up period.

For fulltime livingaboard & cruising I like the AGM batteries,- a greater initial cost, but a better lifetime for my experience. We never let them run way down!

We have moderate solar panel power and a moderate wind generator. Like most everyone our big power "pig" is the refrigeration/freezer. It's wise to spend as much effort making the refrig/freezer efficient and well insulated as it is to increase the power sources.
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Old 03-10-2013, 19:47   #5
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Re: Solar Panels

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Originally Posted by Frozen Chosen View Post
Why would I not put the largest installation possible, ie 4x 220?
Bingo...when it comes to Solar MORE IS BETTER.

One thing you never (ok 99% of the time) here a cruiser or live aboad say,
"I have too much solar".

Most people have budget or space limitations that keep them from 600W of 1000W of solar but if you have the room for it, you will NOT regret going big on Solar.
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Old 03-10-2013, 20:01   #6
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Re: Solar Panels

These pannels are both light and are made from the most effecent cells. The price is not bad. My only complant with them it the top mount connector is hard to hide.
http://www.grapesolar.com/images/pdf...oFlex-100W.pdf
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Old 03-10-2013, 21:05   #7
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Re: Solar Panels

I just installed my solar system this past week. I have 3 175w panels, that are 24v. My boat is 12v so that is almost like installing double the number of like-sized panels in 12 volts. So far, I have about 14+ amps going into my controller, and about double the amps going out to my batteries. My controller is a Morningstar MPPT 60a.

I couldn't be happier.

Cheers, Bill
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Old 04-10-2013, 00:54   #8
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Re: Solar Panels

+2 for what Montenido [Bill] detailed and SV Third Day [Rich] said.
4x the biggest panels you can fit + MPPT.
Battery: there are many advantages to LiFePo4 [Lithium] batteries for all vessels but especially if you have a cat.
Consider these, their cost/performance/difficulty is not as some would have you believe, do your own research and listen to those who actually have them in use.
Cheers,
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Old 04-10-2013, 03:37   #9
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Re: Solar Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozen Chosen View Post
Why would I not put the largest installation possible, ie 4x 220?
Why not indeed
That is a good plan especially now that solar watts are so cheap.

I would still encourage people to do some calculations it can answer questions such as is worth purchasing the more expensive high efficiency panels which will pack more watts into the given space, or a more expensive controller that will get a bit more power out of the same number of watts.

With the sort of array you are talking about Outback and Midnite make the best controllers it may be worth getting a model that is slightly oversize in case you decide to squeeze more watts in place in the future.
Many people once they have lived with the quiet, reliable, free power of solar want to be able to do with out their generator completely.

One advantage of solar is that the batteries get a much easier time. The solar panels will drive most of the loads over the 10hours or so that they are charging meaning that the draw from the batteries is less.
With solar you can get away with a smaller bank, there is also no need for battery type and size that will accept the high charge rate possible from a generator.
So it may be worth seeing how much of your power is produced by solar before deciding on the size and chemistry of a new battery bank.

Or you could do some calculations to tell you before hand
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:16   #10
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Re: Solar Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozen Chosen View Post
Bear with me here and those electrical engineers out there need not roll their eyes.

We are looking at putting a solar installation on a hard top bimini where there is lots of room. We will have a generator but my goal is to avoid using it as much as possible. Intended area of cruising is the Caribbean.

Why would I not put the largest installation possible, ie 4x 220?

I understand the whole add up your intended usage and buy sufficient capacity concept, but I figure we will still need to augment whatever we generate with the engines/genset.

Would like your thoughts on brands and size, where to purchase (S Florida), and type of regulator. Second issue is batteries to store the power. 7 year old batteries will probably need to be replaced anyway.

I realize this may be rudimentary for many but would appreciate some helpful advice.
I've read through a number of these threads, how many watts solar, how big a house bank, etc. My take away is usually the same.

You can estimate your energy consumption all you want, but at the end of the day space limitations and cost are the factors that will ultimately govern what people end up with.

One of these days I'll have to figure out how to set up a poll, would be very interested to see what most people have set up on a forty footer. Somehow I imagine most people end up with very similar set-ups on similar sized boats, but I could be wrong.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:42   #11
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Re: Solar Panels

Does anyone have any comments on brands, I understand that the newer cheaper panels have been very disappointing in reliability after about 5 years.

I have had only BP, Solarex or Siemens in the past some of which I bought used. But all were well made and warranty is nice and all, but not worth much if the company closes down.

also, I guess everyone is super sizing these days, but I had 250 watts on my last boat and it would have been nice to had maybe 100 more tops to run the fridge/freezer cabin lights and laptop at anchor. that was an older PC also that sucked the power when charging. I suspect an iPad uses a lot less.

I guess if you have the space like on a catamaran or hard Bimini to easily mount them, but if you have to hang them off of all parts of the boat you might want to reconsider your energy consumption.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:43   #12
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Re: Solar Panels

allow me to educate you before you spend over $4 a watt at a store.
this is the cheapest solution for non-MPPT
DM 158w solar panel, solar module 158w, 12V Solar Panel
dont have them shipped, pick them up.

here is the cheapest for an MPPT controller.
Lightway 235w Poly Module
this one is $0.79 per watt, and is the best deal out there right now if you have a MPPT controller.

a normal controller is not as efficient as a MPPT, and can not use very high voltage (+14volts) efficiently. where as a MPPT can charge a 12V bank, from a 32 volt panel very well.

as for batteries, i have found in recent research that the T150's, or the ones from sams club (golf cart batteries) are the cheapest and best.

if you are S/V moneybags, ignore what i have said, and go get the $8 a watt panels, and lithium batteries. if i had cash to chuck off the boat, i sure would.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:49   #13
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Re: Solar Panels

I would like to see a break down of what people on a 40'+/- boat do with 600-1000W of solar when on anchor/mooring. Just what what are you running to need so much power?

I have 290W and it is enough to charge the batteries each day and I haven't turned off the freezer/frig in 5 months. Most days the batteries did 1 hour at absorption and spent 2-3 hours just floating. The biggest load I normally have is when I what to defrost the freezer and break out the hair dryer.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:55   #14
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Re: Solar Panels

Those are cheap, but does anyone have long term experience with them? Warranty coverage in marine use age? I recently saw some new old stock Siemens sell for $2 a watt on EBay. I still believe you get what you pay for, problem is all new stuff is mostly crap.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:59   #15
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Re: Solar Panels

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Originally Posted by Boatguy30 View Post
Those are cheap, but does anyone have long term experience with them? Warranty coverage in marine use age? I recently saw some new old stock Siemens sell for $2 a watt on EBay. I still believe you get what you pay for, problem is all new stuff is mostly crap.

a solar cell is a solid state device, and all made the same way.
as long as the initial test is good, the device should be fine.
even the best solar can, and will fail. the solar powered boat that circled the globe, they even replaced dead cells.
save the cash up front, and in the event of a failure, where you cannot get a warranty, your only out $130, not $500-900. if you want a panel made in a specific country, you can get even American made ones very cheep.
here:
Solar Panel Price Survey | EcoBusinessLinks

they even have sharp panels for about $1 a watt.
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