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Old 31-12-2009, 21:26   #1
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Solar Panels?...Wind Generators?...

Hey Everyone! So Im preparing to buy a small livaboard in about a year to two years. Im going as cheap as possible (no refridgeration, use as little electronics as possible) but i do want to bring my laptop, what would be the best way of charging it?

Dont know to much about the electronic stuff so im trying to learn as much as possible! Thanks
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Old 31-12-2009, 21:56   #2
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If you plan on no refrigeration and minimal electronics then probably no need to go to the expense of a wind generator or solar panels unless you are also going without an inboard engine. Charging a laptop will not draw that much power and charging batteries from the engine would suffice. Of course a small solar panel is greener technology and I am expecting better and cheaper in the next year or two.

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Old 01-01-2010, 00:48   #3
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:34   #4
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Originally Posted by Joeb1 View Post
Im going as cheap as possible (no refridgeration, use as little electronics as possible) but i do want to bring my laptop, what would be the best way of charging it?
Solar is best by far. Reliable and quiet and safe.

Our boat is like you are describing - no fridge, minimal power consumption, laptops being our biggest electrical consumer. The laptop's range quite widely in power consumption. I netbook is very thrifty while a game machine is an absolute power hog.
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:44   #5
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I have had very spartan boats & have lived on boats for many yrs.To me a fridge is essential.Cold milk,tea beer & meat pretty good.In Canada assume cool most of yr,thermocouple unit possible option.marc
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Old 01-01-2010, 02:26   #6
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It does depend a bit where you are - a fridge is much more attractive and power hungry in hotter places! Also which power generator is best for you depends on where you are too.

We've found that a little 12v charger for the laptops is really useful. We don't use it when actually using the laptop (its an uneven power supply) but you can plug it into the 12v when you have got power and catch up with yourself.
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Old 01-01-2010, 05:18   #7
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If your planning on living aboard off dock you'll be surprised at your power consumption needs. Under way autopilot, depthsounder,running lights etc.. Anchor light will be mandatory, reading lights, laptop consumption is huge. Unless you are into meditation I would budget for a robust power system. Solar prices are way down and seem to get cheaper every year. There are wind generators on Ebay going surprisingly cheap. We've found a blend of both works for us. Seems like solar 400 watts almost keeps up then wind gen tops off when there's wind.
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Old 01-01-2010, 09:52   #8
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A combination of wind and solar is best for true non petroleum charging. As mentioned above, the running lights, anchor light, and interior lights can eat up a bit of juice that will need to be replaced somehow. If you are just a little careful, you might be able to get by with a single 60 watt panel. If you run an autopilot while sailing, more electrical generation will probably be needed.

Wind is not as useful at anchor except in the Carribean or other areas with reasonably strong, steady winds in the anchorages. The windmills just don't produce much power with winds under 10 kinots. We find that much wind to be uncomfortable to sit in and found almost no anchorages that will reliably produce that much wind in our two years of cruising the west coast and French Polynesia. Still, windmills are capable of producing a lot of power day and night when the wind blows.

We've found the best way to be energy self sufficient is to keep our power consumption down. A windvane does most of our steering, I'm slowly replacing all the light fixtures with LED's, don't have refrigeration and don't miss it, and trying to keep the electronics down to a minimum. Not much of a sacrifice, if any, to stay off the grid.

In any case, don't believe the claims of the solar panel/windmill manufactures. They are good for a relative measure against other generators of that type but not a representation of the real world. For solar panels, they will never produce at their rated peak and only near it for relatively short periods (4 hours around midday). Production will be significantly reduced before and after the peak sun periods. Cloud cover of even the thinnest kind will have significant effect on output. Overcast will probably reduce output by 70% or more.
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:10   #9
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I agree somewhat with roverhi. We found living in the Caribe that solar panels produced more power than our wind gen. The winds in the caribe don't always blow at levels that charge especially when anchored out behind an island or some where surround by large hills like in the Gulfo. Our KISS would spend days without turning but even in cloudy weather the solar panels would produce something. If there was any sun the latest in the day would be 10AM to get the batteries to float via the solar.

If you properly size your system, optimize the timing of of your power usage you can run long periods without the need of aux charging. There were several occasions where we spent 6 weeks at anchor with aux charging. We are not easy on use of electrical equipment we didn't believe cruising was to be like backpacking or camping.

In our case the solar would bring the batteries up to float by mid morning. Once the float happens we fired up the watermaker, washing machine and charged the laptops. the goal was to have big electrical use done by 1-2 to ensure by sundown the batteries were 100%.
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Old 01-01-2010, 13:05   #10
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For any doubters that you will just have to come to you senses, and will eventually have to get a bunch of power consuming fixtures. Go back and read the website of Estarzinger. Many of you may have breezed over it thinking "oh just another tiny poor boat" I am not saying it is wrong to have these things. I am saying you can do it, and still enjoy it years later.
Their website is a treasue of good information from two circumnavigations.

Solar is best by far. Reliable and quiet and safe.

Our boat is like you are describing - no fridge, minimal power consumption, laptops being our biggest electrical consumer. The laptop's range quite widely in power consumption. I netbook is very thrifty while a game machine is an absolute power hog.
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I am also someone who enjoys not having all the "modern inconveniences" I have two 80 watt panel and a 60 watt panel. With Led Tricolor light, Led house lights, the laptops are the most power hungry. We are never low on juice with this set up. No refer/no water maker/on and on.
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Old 05-01-2010, 14:57   #11
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Great! Thanks all!
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Old 05-01-2010, 16:00   #12
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One answer only - shorepower. If on the grid.

Off the grid, if the boat is with an engine then a dupy alternator with a good regulator.

Off the grid, sunny are, willing to pay for the blessed silence - solar.

No sun, no engine - wind.

Etc.

Not really either / or but rather a sound choice based on what sort of place you will spend most of your time (marina, anchorage) and what equipment you already have / have to buy.

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Old 05-01-2010, 16:32   #13
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We use shore power when available; diesel generator on occassion; wind generator & solar panel. If you truly and admirably adapt to no refrigeration, I would recommend the solar panel if you spend most of your time north of 28 degrees latitude and the wind generator at lower latitudes. Both is good,- three or more methods of producing energy is better. 'take care and joy, aythya crew
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Old 05-01-2010, 16:48   #14
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I have only wind and solar. I run my netbook 24 hours a day, but it uses <10W of power.

I started with a 30W solar panel which ran the laptop for a few hours a day. It rotates on 2 axes, and this is very important especially if you have minimal panels.

Then I added a wind generator which helps a lot in stormy weather (when it is windy and no sun) but overall it produces about what a 50W panel would give. The benefit is it produces power when there no sun. One thing to note, is during storms it fills the batteries in just a few hours (I have 12v 160AH) bigger batteries would help take advantage of it more.

Since a refrigerator came with my boat, and I have power tools, and various other high power things running, and I wanted to run my netbook more than 8 hours a day, I added 2x 115W solar panels ($200 each) and they rotate but only on 1 axis. Since doing that my batteries are full most of the time, and it is rare for me to run out of power. I also dont have to aim them much, but eventually I will use electric motors for this task.

I ordered another 75 watts of small 15w panels, since they were under $2 a watt. I think this along with a peak power tracker will give me a 50% boost in solar power which will give me unlimited computer usage even with weeks of overcast windless days.
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Old 05-01-2010, 18:01   #15
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Been off the grid for over 6 years now.. wind and solar are the major charging system on the boat.. a 4-winds and two 75 watt pannels atop the bimini on the rack.
We have over 2000 ah of storage so my batteries are always up in the 85% area.
when we re-fit the boat, our #1 goal was for equeptment that used very little power, from the diode lights to refer system.. a lot of extra money but the boat has been operating fine for all this time without any problems..
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