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Newbie Boat Seeking Advice on Solar Set Up


talltales
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I am happy to say that since my last post here in the Canal World forum I found a lovely 47ft Ken Bonikowski Narrowboat with headroom able to accommodate my 6ft 7 height, with a lovely layout and at the right price after purchasing it subject to a hull survey. Its currently having its hull grit blasted, stripe coated, and 2 pack epoxied.

My question to anyone who would be kind to offer me advice as the previous owner had the boat moored in a marina for four years and on a shoreline hook up, it doesn't have is an inverter or solar, so what do you think would be a good spec for a solar kit i.e. panel, inverter, MPT specifically for the Engine / Starter, 12v fridge, lighting? I was thinking 200w kit? The boat has a 12v system running 4x 120Ah Leisure batteries 1x new AGM starter battery. Hob, oven is gas and hot water / heating comes from a calorifer / Alde. 

Its worth noting that I already own a reliable 1000w portable power station chargeable with 12v / a 100w solar panel that I bought last year for a small fortune and for camping. I think this kit will be right at home powering what little electrical devices I own since adopting digital minimalism as a practise ;) I do have a little while to sort a few things out as I am moored at a marina until March. Your help and advice is very much appreciated. Please note I am unable to go into to much detail as I am not on the boat just yet, and approx 200 miles away from it lol.

Thank you

 

 

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Congratulations on getting your boat. 😀

How much roof space do you have? How much of that can you dedicate to solar panels? Making sure you don't make them vulnerable to bridge strikes, or using the boat, so hand rails are still available to help you walk the gunwhales. That determines the maximum panel area you can have, which ties in with the power output. Typically, 500W should be enough to run a typical boat like you describe over the summer almost entirely from solar, with engine running, or other power source needed increasingly over autumn and spring and very little in the depths of winter. The more solar you have, the further in to the darker seasons the solar will make a significant contribution. If you are planning to cruise the boat over the summer and have a shore line in winter, then around 500W would likely suffice. What are your cruising plans? Marina based, with summer cruising? All year continuous cruising?

 

4 hours ago, talltales said:

Its worth noting that I already own a reliable 1000w portable power station chargeable with 12v / a 100w solar panel that I bought last year for a small fortune and for camping.

The maximum of 100W from the panel is the important bit, not the 1000W (<pedant>Watts are a capital W</pedant>). Also, how many W.hrs can it store? It can power a 1000W gadget, but only for as long as there is charge stored in its internal battery. Then it will need to be charged for hours at an absolute maximum of 100W again. It is essentially a smaller version of a boat system, where solar panels charge batteries, then an inverter takes power from the batteries and supplies it to mains gadgets.

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Personally I wouldn't worry about charging the starter batter, I don't but I do have two small panels on the domestics, no help while I am using the boat, but when its not in use they slowly fully charge the domestics and keep them topped up, so I always come back to the boat with full batteries..

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Ken was a smashin bloke. He built realy good boats, I am pleased to hear one at least is still going strong. We cruised with him a couple of times a few years ago. Ken was very well known years ago in motorcycle circles. Some of his boats had a sloping stern, has yours?

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I would draw the OP's attention to "Wotever's Law".*

 

"No matter how much or how little solar you have, it will be more than you need in summer and less than you need in winter."

 

The point is, solar output is not fixed, is swings up and down wildly with the weather and with the seasons. You cannot rely on a 100W panel giving you 100W, ever. It could be as little as 1W on a dark December afternoon in the pishing rain.

 

* Wotever is the username of the bod wot rote the most excellent "battery primer" here. He no longer posts. 

 

 

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If you want to see how much power you can expect out of your panels over the year, I suggest going here and putting in the panel sizes you plan to fit (and the right location):

 

https://www.victronenergy.com/mppt-calculator

 

For example, a 360W panel in Birmingham would give an average of 1.1kWh/day in summer and 0.3kWh/day at Xmas, if angled correctly (south-facing, 35 degree tilt) -- if flat-mounted on a boat roof, knock 15% off these figures.

 

So don't just look at the panel rated output and assume the sun will shine and give peak output all day, use a "sunny hours per day" average time of 2.6 hours in summer and 0.7 hours in winter (for flat-mounted panels). Output will be higher on sunny days, lower on dull ones, these figures are averages.

Edited by IanD
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16 hours ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

Congratulations on getting your boat. 😀

How much roof space do you have? How much of that can you dedicate to solar panels? Making sure you don't make them vulnerable to bridge strikes, or using the boat, so hand rails are still available to help you walk the gunwhales. That determines the maximum panel area you can have, which ties in with the power output. Typically, 500W should be enough to run a typical boat like you describe over the summer almost entirely from solar, with engine running, or other power source needed increasingly over autumn and spring and very little in the depths of winter. The more solar you have, the further in to the darker seasons the solar will make a significant contribution. If you are planning to cruise the boat over the summer and have a shore line in winter, then around 500W would likely suffice. What are your cruising plans? Marina based, with summer cruising? All year continuous cruising?

 

The maximum of 100W from the panel is the important bit, not the 1000W (<pedant>Watts are a capital W</pedant>). Also, how many W.hrs can it store? It can power a 1000W gadget, but only for as long as there is charge stored in its internal battery. Then it will need to be charged for hours at an absolute maximum of 100W again. It is essentially a smaller version of a boat system, where solar panels charge batteries, then an inverter takes power from the batteries and supplies it to mains gadgets.

Thank you Jen for your reply. I must say that the good thing about my Anker 757 power station it can charge not only from the solar (on a good day) but from a 12v or mains and it does so in approx 60 mins and that is from 0 to 100%, I think the technology available and being used now in "portable" power stations is outstanding. 

13 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

Personally I wouldn't worry about charging the starter batter, I don't but I do have two small panels on the domestics, no help while I am using the boat, but when its not in use they slowly fully charge the domestics and keep them topped up, so I always come back to the boat with full batteries..

That sounds like a good set up, cheers Brian!

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13 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

Ken was a smashin bloke. He built realy good boats, I am pleased to hear one at least is still going strong. We cruised with him a couple of times a few years ago. Ken was very well known years ago in motorcycle circles. Some of his boats had a sloping stern, has yours?

I researched the history of Ken Bonikowski once I learned who the builder was. I must say I was fascinated to learn what I found out. Its a lovely boat that I fell in love very quickly. And yes mate, it has that trademark sloping stern design. Once I get settled in I think I would like to do a little more research on Ken. Maybe even make a little film on the subject (something I did professionally once upon a time) now its sort of a hobby. I'd like to keep in touch with you in I may? Thank you for your reply

13 hours ago, MtB said:

I would draw the OP's attention to "Wotever's Law".*

 

"No matter how much or how little solar you have, it will be more than you need in summer and less than you need in winter."

 

The point is, solar output is not fixed, is swings up and down wildly with the weather and with the seasons. You cannot rely on a 100W panel giving you 100W, ever. It could be as little as 1W on a dark December afternoon in the pishing rain.

 

* Wotever is the username of the bod wot rote the most excellent "battery primer" here. He no longer posts. 

 

 

Thank you for your reply

13 hours ago, IanD said:

If you want to see how much power you can expect out of your panels over the year, I suggest going here and putting in the panel sizes you plan to fit (and the right location):

 

https://www.victronenergy.com/mppt-calculator

 

For example, a 360W panel in Birmingham would give an average of 1.1kWh/day in summer and 0.3kWh/day at Xmas, if angled correctly (south-facing, 35 degree tilt) -- if flat-mounted on a boat roof, knock 15% off these figures.

 

So don't just look at the panel rated output and assume the sun will shine and give peak output all day, use a "sunny hours per day" average time of 2.6 hours in summer and 0.7 hours in winter (for flat-mounted panels). Output will be higher on sunny days, lower on dull ones, these figures are averages.

I had no idea there was such a calculator, appreciate that handy resource. Thank you!

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On 25/11/2022 at 02:13, talltales said:

I am happy to say that since my last post here in the Canal World forum I found a lovely 47ft Ken Bonikowski Narrowboat with headroom able to accommodate my 6ft 7 height, with a lovely layout and at the right price after purchasing it subject to a hull survey. Its currently having its hull grit blasted, stripe coated, and 2 pack epoxied.

My question to anyone who would be kind to offer me advice as the previous owner had the boat moored in a marina for four years and on a shoreline hook up, it doesn't have is an inverter or solar, so what do you think would be a good spec for a solar kit i.e. panel, inverter, MPT specifically for the Engine / Starter, 12v fridge, lighting? I was thinking 200w kit? The boat has a 12v system running 4x 120Ah Leisure batteries 1x new AGM starter battery. Hob, oven is gas and hot water / heating comes from a calorifer / Alde. 

Its worth noting that I already own a reliable 1000w portable power station chargeable with 12v / a 100w solar panel that I bought last year for a small fortune and for camping. I think this kit will be right at home powering what little electrical devices I own since adopting digital minimalism as a practise ;) I do have a little while to sort a few things out as I am moored at a marina until March. Your help and advice is very much appreciated. Please note I am unable to go into to much detail as I am not on the boat just yet, and approx 200 miles away from it lol.

Thank you

I have 200w. It's not very much.

 

The portable power station might be a useful backup more than anything else.

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33 minutes ago, Alway Swilby said:

I had 250 watts of solar. It wasn't enough. I now have 500 watts and would like more.

I've got 500W of solar.... it doesnt quite keep up with my use when I am on the boat, even at the height of summer, so I have to do a 6 hour genny charge every 2 or 3 weeks. It would be good to have another 250w.

 

(530Ah of Lithium batteries, 60A charger, Honda Eu10i genny)

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On reading the specs of the Anker 757 it only charges in 1 hour on mains supply which you wont have. The 12v input is only 10 amps so it will take 10 hours to charge the internal battery. If you leave this plugged in to your boat leisure batteries they will run down over 10 hours. The solar input is limited to 30 volts at max 10 amps so you must have at least 500w of panels that can charge the unit in 4 hours. 500w of panels will only give you 250w in reality, especially lying flat. The panels must be less than 30 volts.

 

For the price you paid a proper sine wave inverter and 4 big solar panels would have been better.

 

https://thetechnologyman.com/anker-757-powerhouse-1500w-portable-power-station-review-1229wh-long-life-lifepo4-fully-tested/

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24 minutes ago, robtheplod said:

So reading this thread it does seem to be true you can never have enough solar..... fill ya roofs! :)

Indeed, it's the biggest single thing you can do to help out with electrical power on a boat -- plus LFP batteries, obviously... 😉

 

Easy to do if you're starting from scratch like me, more difficult if your roof is peppered with hatches/rooflights/aerials/hardware/mushrooms/chimneys...

Edited by IanD
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12 hours ago, Alway Swilby said:

I had 250 watts of solar. It wasn't enough. I now have 500 watts and would like more.

I have 550 W which is fine, I'm minimal user. I need to boost batteries six months of the year. I usually run engine first  thing, in the hope that sun will drip a bit more in before sunset .

My  two panels are raised flat style, this was cheaper than triangle supports,  which is the only other system I would bother with, cost of panels being much lower nowadays it's not desperate you squeeze every last bit of energy out of them.

Having said that, with your very limited roof space, I would think about the most efficient panels. Work out where they can be fitted, and make sure the centreline can still be used readily. I don't clamber about on the roof, but if you want to do lots of locks and are athletic, then leave a gap on roof 

Your portable panel set up could be used in winter to grab sunlight at the best angle to sun, assuming you are on board during the day, maybe use it to power your Xmas lights, desk lamp, charge phone , tablet, smart TV, etc.

I'm using Aldi multi coloured Xmas lights (£4.99 3x AA batteries supplied) for a bit of colour.

 

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3 minutes ago, LadyG said:

I need to boost batteries six months of the year.

 

Point of Order...

 

No you don't. You need to charge them properly when the solar is not doing it or a set of sooner-than-necessary dead batteries will result.

 

Using the term 'boost' is meaningless. 

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On 27/11/2022 at 21:22, rogeriko said:

On reading the specs of the Anker 757 it only charges in 1 hour on mains supply which you wont have. The 12v input is only 10 amps so it will take 10 hours to charge the internal battery. If you leave this plugged in to your boat leisure batteries they will run down over 10 hours. The solar input is limited to 30 volts at max 10 amps so you must have at least 500w of panels that can charge the unit in 4 hours. 500w of panels will only give you 250w in reality, especially lying flat. The panels must be less than 30 volts.

 

For the price you paid a proper sine wave inverter and 4 big solar panels would have been better.

 

https://thetechnologyman.com/anker-757-powerhouse-1500w-portable-power-station-review-1229wh-long-life-lifepo4-fully-tested/

The only advantage the OP has is he can take it somewhere, maybe work or pub and recharge it.

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For anyone looking at a solar setup -- especially if you're trying to go solar-only, at least for part of the year -- this is a really useful site:

 

https://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvg_tools/en/tools.html#api_5.2

 

If you enter all the information including panel and battery size and power audit results (average daily energy use) it will show when in the year solar-only will work and when it won't.

 

For example, I put in the numbers for my boat when moored up and got the following results -- and note that the power predictions (with flat-mounted panels) are rather lower than the Victron ones...

 

[correction -- this gives energy *from the panels* as 7kWh in summer, 3kWh isn't captured because the battery is full -- Victron predicts 7kWh]

 

With my numbers, solar-only would work for 6 months in the summer (Apr-Sept) but I'd need to run the generator for 6 months in the winter (Oct-Mar).

 

PVGIS-5_OffgridPV_53.087_-1.392_undefined_2100Wp_35000Wh_1_4000Wh_0deg_0deg.pdf

Edited by IanD
corrected note about Victron prediction being too low, attached full PDF results
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Or you can just do it in the excel spreadheet.

 

Just fill in the 'blue' column with your power audit and it'll tell you how much solar you need by month, or put in the solar you have and it'll tell you how many months youw eill be self suffcient.

 

Damm ............ the forum will not allow me to attach an excel document.

 

 

Edit to add a screenshot - once you enter your usage, battery size and solar size it shows you both your shortfall / excess by Wh or by %.  by month.

It tells you what size battery bank you need to meet your required days of autonomy, and what total wattage of Solar you need.

 

If anyone wants a copy send me a PM with your email and I'll forward it to you.

 

 

 

Screenshot (1714).png

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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I installed my three 295W panels myself in the summer and they are still giving useful power at the end of November.

 

They are mounted horizontally, wired three in series feeding into a 60A EPever Tracer MPTT controller.

 

I have no telly or fridge, but today I have managed to recharge phone and tablet batteries, charge two drone batteries, part charge a 10AH power bank and give the three 110AH domestic batteries enough to send them on their way floating to battery bliss.

 

It was foggy and quite gloomy yesterday and is the same today. There is really only a couple of hours in days like this when I see a 4 - 5 A current flowing, the rest is a couple of amps. Yet on sunny Monday there was masses of power until nearly 4pm, right from 8:30 in the morning. The charge controller performed an auto equalisation charge then, which was fortunate.

 

So it can be done, and with three weeks until the winter solstice I don't imagine I'll be using the generator.

 

My panels

My controller

 

ETA: Forgot the one hour using laptop and router today.

Edited by Puffling
extra info
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