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Old 26-12-2018, 07:02   #1
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Solar vs generator

Hello folks! I'm a long time reader first time poster. Great site for information! Here is a quick question for the collective wisdom here. I plan on going south next year from Toronto. Solar panels seem to be the way most of my fellow snowbirds are using to recharge, however I thought that a high ouput generator on the Beta and a Honda 2201i generator when anchored would be more efficient, less space, cost, maintenance....down side is noise so no early morning running in popular anchorages and extra Jerry cans.
What is your thoughts about this. Can't find any info on sailing sites.

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Old 26-12-2018, 07:14   #2
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Re: Solar vs generator

Before you concern yourself with solar or generator you need to determine how much power you need. What do you need to power and for how long. From there you can determine your battery needs and then your re-charging power needed. Solar is great if it can deliver the power you need, worthless if it cant.
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Old 26-12-2018, 07:22   #3
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Re: Solar vs generator

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Originally Posted by Jackssailboat View Post
Hello folks! I'm a long time reader first time poster. Great site for information! Here is a quick question for the collective wisdom here. I plan on going south next year from Toronto. Solar panels seem to be the way most of my fellow snowbirds are using to recharge, however I thought that a high ouput generator on the Beta and a Honda 2201i generator when anchored would be more efficient, less space, cost, maintenance....down side is noise so no early morning running in popular anchorages and extra Jerry cans.
What is your thoughts about this. Can't find any info on sailing sites.

Jackssailboat
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You already have the answer in your question. A Honda will do it and probably be about the same or less than the cost of solar. BUT solar s passivive and a generator is active. I have an installed generator and last year talked myself out of increasing my solar. Now a year later Iím going to go forward on increasing the solar as Iím tired of maintaining and running the generator so much.

I donít think Iíve come across a cruiser who wishes they had less solar and ran their generator more instead.
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Old 26-12-2018, 07:28   #4
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Re: Solar vs generator

Agree with all above comments. However if you want to make hot water or run an air conditioner you'll need a generator. Also, in some parts of the world the sun doesn't shine for days on end. Me, I have 400W solar and 3.5Kw diesel genset (avoids need to carry beaucoup gasoline). YMMV
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Old 26-12-2018, 07:29   #5
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Re: Solar vs generator

Both generator and solar is your answer. Solar will take care of most of your needs most of the time. But solar doesn't due squat on cloudy, foggy, or rainy days which you'll need to cover. Solar also won't do much at night. The generator will end up being far more economical and effective than trying to add useless windmills, so don't get any of those kinds of ideas.
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Old 26-12-2018, 07:33   #6
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Re: Solar vs generator

Thanks Gary for the response! Without going into detail about usage and just assuming typical requirements ie:navs, lights, radio and such...no big consumers like watermaker does it not make more sense to just throw a Honda gen on board then putting in a arch and adding large watt producing solars. Not just the cost but also the weight. Gosh knows my Morgan is beautiful but she is a heavy slow girl at the best of times! To me it makes sense but am I missing something here? Why wouldn't everyone do it instead of panels?
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Old 26-12-2018, 08:44   #7
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Re: Solar vs generator

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Thanks Gary for the response! Without going into detail about usage and just assuming typical requirements ie:navs, lights, radio and such...no big consumers like watermaker does it not make more sense to just throw a Honda gen on board then putting in a arch and adding large watt producing solars. Not just the cost but also the weight. Gosh knows my Morgan is beautiful but she is a heavy slow girl at the best of times! To me it makes sense but am I missing something here? Why wouldn't everyone do it instead of panels?
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Because solar panels are passive, quiet, don’t require fuel, and there’s not much to go wrong. You can add “solar wings” to your lifelines if you don’t want to go with an unsightly and costly arch. A solar wing kit is relatively cheap to add.

Here’s a video showing a Hallberg Rassy 54 with two of the solar wings:
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Old 26-12-2018, 08:48   #8
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Re: Solar vs generator

You have to go with whatever works for you. But I can tell you one thing for sure.

If you're the guy who starts up his genset, in the cockpit or on deck, first thing in the morning; then goes for a stroll on the beach to get away from the noise. You'll have a hard time making friends.

On the plus side, you won't have to put up with me, anchored beside you.

Cheers, and good luck.

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Old 26-12-2018, 09:07   #9
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Re: Solar vs generator

Thanks Paul!! Funny !! Great advice everyone and as I plan for the trip sure there is many questions to pose. Ie:U.S. customs, best tablet for navionics, insurance... thanks again
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Old 26-12-2018, 09:52   #10
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Re: Solar vs generator

Good things about either scheme, and not so good too.
-One good thing about engine and generator is simplicity; You dont have all that crap hanging off your boat. You initial investment is low and you are up and cruising in a short time.
-Downside is if you are anchored and want to take a trip for a few days off the boat, the gen or engine wont run it self so refrigeration is an issue.
-There's no need to run the gen first thing in the am. And you could always just run the main engine for charging if you needed to do in the am. You really can't hear the main engine at low rpm .
-Engine running daily gives you hot water for the day.
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Old 26-12-2018, 10:20   #11
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Re: Solar vs generator

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PS solar wins hands down, a cheap portable genny as backup. Buy cheap; hammerite all exposed metal and strip out and replace all screws with stainless steel. An expensive branded Honda won't last any longer in marine environment.
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Old 26-12-2018, 10:40   #12
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Re: Solar vs generator

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Good things about either scheme, and not so good too.
-One good thing about engine and generator is simplicity; You dont have all that crap hanging off your boat. You initial investment is low and you are up and cruising in a short time.
-Downside is if you are anchored and want to take a trip for a few days off the boat, the gen or engine wont run it self so refrigeration is an issue.
-There's no need to run the gen first thing in the am. And you could always just run the main engine for charging if you needed to do in the am. You really can't hear the main engine at low rpm .
-Engine running daily gives you hot water for the day.

Unless you are running your engine at high RPMs you should avoid using it to charge your batteries. Diesels do not like to run at low RPMs and doing that for lengthy periods should be avoided, it can actually damage the engine.

If you are sitting on hook nothing beats solar, if the initial cost is to high, get a Honda, my guess is in a year if you spend much time at anchor you will be wanting solar, having both is never bad.
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Old 26-12-2018, 10:49   #13
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Re: Solar vs generator

With the price of solar to 1 € per watt I really don't see how solar is expensive compared to 1000 generator .
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Old 26-12-2018, 11:15   #14
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Re: Solar vs generator

I say maximize your solar first. Then, if you need more charging capacity I’d prioritize a portable generator first, but you might also consider a wind generator.

Your boat will be a challenge to mount solar panels, but so is mine. I carry 400 watts in four panels. The two large ones are built into a bimini which I designed and built. (If I can do it, anyone can )

I also use a wind generator (Silentwind) which sits off the stern above and aft of our cockpit. It produces useful power whenever the wind gets above 12 knots, but it can work all day and night. And often when solar sucks (heavy overcast), is when the windgen really shines . Power output goes up exponentially as windspeeds increase. The windgen is also handy when underway when panels tend to see more shading, or when we’re sailing overnight.

I also carry a small 1000 watt gasoline generator. And of course the main diesel has an alternator.

I have modest power needs with the fridge being the single major amp-hog. Other than that just lights, pumps, standard electronics, and charging of all the electronic doodads (computers, pads, phones…). I estimate that solar provides 80-85% of my charging needs, with wind mostly filling in the rest.

I do occasionally run the gas generator, but this is quite rare. For example, last season we anchored in the same remote location for nearly two months. I ran the gas generator three times for a total of about 10 hrs over those ~60 days. I had zero input from the big alternator over this time. If I had been moving around last season odds are the gas generator would have seen zero use.
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Old 26-12-2018, 11:36   #15
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Re: Solar vs generator

Lots of great response here and all valid but first, read post #2. Look at your needs, what does the boat have in terms of refrigeration, lighting, heating (hot water) and so on. Come up with this number and then decide.



If you need 30 100W panels then solar won't work. If you only need a couple then you have options.
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