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essej4269 28-03-2015 09:44

Solar Help For A Newb
Have a lovely 37 Endeavor. Very well cruise equiped except for power generation, only has engine charging and two very small flexible panels without much output.

I want to start by adding a solid foundation of solar charging as previous owners were plugged in and I will not be. I want to save the engine for propulsion and will use a portable genset for supplementing solar and eventually wind.

Sooooooo big issue is I am clueless where to start, google searching left me quite bewildered. Can anyone get me started in the right direction? A company with a good website with some "solar kits" that have something like 2 240/360 watt panels and charge controller packaged together?

Any help would be great thank you

roverhi 28-03-2015 11:30

Re: Solar Help For A Newb
First, figure where you are going to place the panels and then how to mount them. The 130 +- watt panels are about as large as you can mount on a life line/stern pulpit rail. Surface mounting on deck, dodger, etc can use larger but will take up more realestate. I'd be very leery about mounting a panel where you'll be walking as a miss step could shatter a panel.

Panels wired in Series need smaller gauge wire to run to the battery(ies) but are more severely affected by shading of even a small portion of the panel(s). If you can't find a place to locate panels where they won't be shaded, you'll need to figure on the large wire sizes necessary for low loss transmission with panels wired in parallel. In other words, lower the voltage output of the panels, the larger wire size you'll need. We aren't talking about 14 gauge vice 12, but 2, 4 vice 10 gauge so wire cost of wire gets to be an issue.

Once you've figured out how many panels you can mount and their size, you can start looking for panels and a charge controller. I've got 2 Kyocera 130 watt panels mounted on the Pushpit. They run through a BZ Products MPPT controller. The panels are going on 10 years old and still going strong. Other panels may be cheaper but will they last in a marine environment?? It's a decision you'll have to make between proven reliability vice up front cost. You can buy controllers from less than $50 to more than $400. MPPT are the most efficient in ideal conditions but you many not be able to take full advantage of that efficiency on a boat. Personally would go for a controller from one of the US manufacturers though you could buy 3-4 of the Chinese variety for the same price and just swap them out when/if they fail.

Good luck with your installation. Sure is a blessing not to have to run the engine or a generator to charge the batteries. Did a 15 day TransPac from SF to Hawaii and only used the engine to power into harbor at the end of the voyage.

Stu Jackson 28-03-2015 11:40

Re: Solar Help For A Newb
Solar Systems: Selection, Installation & Controllers by Maine Sail SUPERB

Installing A Small Marine Solar System Photo Gallery by Compass Marine How To at

Do I Need a Controller for Solar?

Do I Need A Solar Charge Controller ?? -

Sizing wiring for solar Wire sizing calculator for Solar Panel Arrays

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