The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Installing a Solar Panel

"I am plagued by the simplistic ideals in a world where simplicity is mistaken for lack of ambition" ~ Martello Mateus 

Installing a solar panel is a piece a least that's what it said in the installation manual. And it would be true, if I weren't installing it on a boat!

It took only about one hour to install the 80 W Bosch solar panel on its pole mount. That part was easy. I basically used the old wind generator pole with a modified mounting frame made at a local metalworking shop.

solar panel pole mount
Not the best summer day, but good for testing the solar panel output.
Then came the wiring. The solar cables are thicker than the ones I used for the wind generator, so I had to find another hole to feed them into the boat. After much head scratching, I finally removed an old tiller pilot power socket (previously used for my ruined windvane) and fed the wires through that.

Attaching the charge controller to the bulkhead in the dungeon was also easy - 4 small screws and that's it. Next, you'd think that it would be a simple job of using the old wind generator wires to the battery. But for one reason or another, nothing is easy on on a boat.

Although the wind generator wires ran right over the house battery, I needed an extra 1.5 meters to lead them down to the battery terminals.

The problem was that they snaked through mysterious places - bunched up with lots of other wires - all the way to the engine room where they were hooked up to the wind generator controller and then to the alternator splitting system.

Tracing those two wires and pulling them out from the spaghetti mess in impossible to reach places was a good yoga workout.
Boat wiring schematics
The old wind generator wires ran all the way to the engine room seen on the far right. I needed to pull them out in order to run a direct route to the house batteries shown on the bottom left.
After copious cursing, sweating and ranting to myself, I sort of got it done...for now.

I finally got the wires hooked up and, even on a cloudy day, it didn't take long for the 180-amp house battery to hit 14.7 volts. Yes sir, it was worth the money and sweat. It felt good reading the voltmeter, real good I tell you.

PS. If I were smart (IF!!!), I would have used the old wires to charge the engine battery and installed new wires to the house battery. Now I have to run a new set of wires to the engine battery along the same path as the wires I removed. Did I ever feel stupid when I realized this. But then again, if I were smart, I'd be living the life I dream about.

That's enough for today. In my next post you'll be hearing about the biggest F#$%&! screw-up the F%&/#$ marine shop made that's making my balls hiss. Incompetent pukes!!!!! Almost as stupid as me.

The good news is that July 26 remains the planned date of departure to the Algarve.


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  2. Impressive amount of wiring for a naked boat ;-) IMHO a solar panel is one of the best additions one can add to it's boat if planning to stay of the grid for a while (or being in a harbour where power delivery is inconsistent). On my boat i'm running a 100 watt panel that's basically delivering so much energy that i don't know what to do with it. A small word of warning about the measured voltage: 14,7 volts is rather high, the charging of a lead acid battery is a chemical process driven by voltage, not by amps and at 14.4 volt you reach the point that the electrolyt will start gassing, so keep a close eye on those electrolyt levels. I'm running my charge controller at 14.1 volt and that keeps my batteries healty without any electrolyt losses.

    1. Good to hear from you again.
      I totally agree, solar panels are moving parts, no humming vibration noise in the boat. I should have shot my wind generator years ago!!
      My regulator manual says "14.6 volts for flooded batteries". It also says something about occasional higher voltage to equalize the battery. But the regulator manual is on the boat and I'm at home, so I'm not sure. In any case, I went back to the boat yesterday afternoon and the voltage was 14.4 on a fairly sunny day. On the other hand, my digital voltmeter cost 7 euros. Good idea to keep an eye on the electrolyte. By the way, my house battery (the regular type) is about 7 years old. The secret is to keep it charged most of the time, which is easy on a naked boat.

  3. Ahh.... see how good it feels! Free energy is a good and wonderful thing. Unfortunately wiring spaghetti on a boat stinks!
    14.6V seems a bit much. I think mine are 13.8 and I hardly loose any battery fluid. I'll have to check. But whatever.... enjoy the cold beers and crank up the music!

    1. I was at the boat today and read the manual more carefully: 14.6V for the equalizing charge; 14.4V for boost charging; and 13.7V for float charge.
      So now I can sleep well while the regulator does its thing.

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