Solar Power System
As anyone that has been following this project knows, we have very few systems on the boat. Right now there is no electrical system--which means no radar, depth sounder, mechanical pumps, water maker, radios, refrigeration, electric running lights, wiring, control panels, etc. Having said that, I think the boat will be very comfortable for sailing and cruising. It just depends on what you need and what your idea is of comfort. We have been homeschooling for six years. Until this year we did it all with text books, etc. However, this year we transitioned to a computer based program for algebra. We started using Teaching Textbooks which we like a lot. But, it means that we need the capability to recharge at least a laptop or tablet since the program runs on a computer. I discussed the issue with Teaching Textbooks and they told me they are working on a program, to be released soon, that will run on a tablet vice the current requirement to run off at least a laptop. A tablet would be more rugged than a laptop since it has a flash drive not a spinning hard drive. A tablet would also be much easier to recharge. I suspect that over time we will add some systems to the boat but we want those decisions to be based on what we determine we need not what the boating industry tries to convince us we need. I have looked into solar systems and of course there is no end to what you can install to generate power or the money you can spend to create it or effort and expense to maintain it. As we have done all along, our motto remains the same: simple but elegant. There is no doubt in my mind that solar systems are a fantastic way to meet one's electrical requirements. But, right now, I don't want to add any brackets, towers, or arches to support the panels or add any unnecessary complexity or expense. I have been looking into flexible panels that can be rolled up and put away . . . or moved about the boat to stay in the sun. However, they are very inefficient compared to glass panels. The Pardey's have given me a few tips and shared with me some ideas about how I might approach it. Their ideas sound interesting and of course they are a very simple and fairly inexpensive solution. I will be considering what our needs are and how we want to approach this new requirement.
Installing the battery platform. I needed to chose a spot for the battery to be located and then build a platform for the battery to sit on. The AGM can be installed upright, on it's side or, I have read, even upside down. The best use of space was to install the battery under the foot of the quarter-berth. It was out of the way and yet assessable if I needed to access it. I also wanted to add some weight aft and a little to starboard to offset the outboard engine and the 20 gallon water tank in the starboard cockpit locker. Regardless, the platform had to be strong enough and secure enough to hold the 65lb battery in place even under severe rolling or heeling. The photo gallery below depicts how I fabricated the platform and then installed it. Click on the photos for a pop up text that provides additional detail. I'll add some additional photos as I complete this project.
Below: 1. Under the foot of the quarter berth was the best place for the battery to be located. The "rib" however is in the way and will interfere with the battery platform. I need to cut a secion out. 2. I cut the section of the "rib" out with a dremel with a cut off wheel. I used a hot glue gun to temporarily install cleat stock to the vertical partitions. I then built a template for the platform with a hot glue gun. I took extra care to make sure the platform would be level 'thwartship and fore and aft. 3. I cut 1/4" blue board up to use as a filler and provide a smooth form for the biaxial tape to adhere to. 4. I wetted out the tape with West Epoxy and let it cure overnight 5. I took the template home and found a scrape of marine grade 1/2" doug fir ply. 6. I beveled the underside of the ply to match the curve of the hull. 7. I built the battery box from scrap BS1088 Okume ply with ash cleats. I test fit it to make sure everything lined up before I epoxied the platform in place. Note that I also cut a 1/16" deep rabet so the epoxy tape will lay flat on the ply. 8. There are ash cleats under the straight sides of the platform. The inboard cleat is through boltded with 1/4" bolts. The one to the right is sitting on a shelft and screwed through the Okume partion and into ash cleats on the other side of the partition. I applied thickend epoxy under the curved edge and pressed it into place. I then laid a strip of three inch wide epoxy on top to ensure it can't move under straining loads of the 65 lb battery.
I wired the the Blue Seas distribution panel is wired up incorrectly. But, my mentor caught it. The red wires need to go to the otherside of the breakers otherwise the the positive side of the distribution panel will always be hot. It was a foolish mistake but fortunatly no harm was done. Compare it to the photo below.Despite nearly a week of nonstop rain, I completed the solar panel install a few days ago when I wired in the MPPT controller and attached the solar panel. It was a long slow project as I carefully reviewed the wiring protocols for each component (battery, distribution panel, solar panel, and accessory runs) which required that I figure out what I needed and then order the parts. I did not want anything to show in the boat so I had to think about how to hid the wire as well as the 12 volt receptacles which are on pigtails that are hidden when not needed. I charged my phone yesterday and it worked fine. The battery is topped off and the 30 watt solar panel seems to be doing it's job. I'll know more about the system after I have used it a bit. The info I used was a combination of RC Collins' excellent descriptions at his Compass Marine website and my trusted mentor who really guided me along pointing me in the right direction. I recently ordered a 12 volt adapter and hope that it will do the job of keeping our laptop PC charged so the kids can continue using the CD based math program they have been using for the last few years. I'd like to purchase an Apple Mac Air laptop but the budget won't support it right now. We will work with what we have and see how it goes and adjust accordingly.