Friday, November 4, 2011

NKOTB - Power!


NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

For comfort on a sailboat, having power is pretty important!  After all, power is needed for lights, navigation instruments, music, watching movies, using our computer, running fans, etc.  If we're fortunate, we'll also need to provide power for refrigeration and perhaps a watermaker someday.  While we'd love air conditioning I don't think we'll have this additional luxury!  Since we plan on avoiding the marinas as much as possible in order to save money, we'll need to be self-sufficient and provide much of our own power.

We realize that having solar panels and a wind generator are a good start, but we really don't know much about the details.  For instance, how do those items actually power our sailboat and how much power can be produced in a day?  Since not all days are sunny or windy we'd like to have both solar and wind power on Nirvana.  We'd also like a small generator for the extra boost when we need it.

The Honda generator seems to be a staple of many cruisers, and it is definitely on our "to buy" list.  However, we don't want to make a lot of noise when we're in a crowded anchorage (or by ourselves for that matter) so we realize that we won't be running this everyday.


What gets really confusing to us is talk about inverters and batteries on the boat.  It seems that most cruisers have several batteries.  How many batteries do we need on a 30 foot sailboat?!   I recently purchased the "Sailboat Electronics Simplified" book for Ken's reading enjoyment.  Needless to say, this isn't an easy read and Ken hasn't read the book just yet.  However, Ken did look through the book and thinks it will be a great asset once he's ready to tackle this project.

So, we'd love to hear some "basic" tips on how to provide our own electricity on Nirvana.  Will two solar panels on the top of our future davits and a wind generator be sufficient?   What wattage would our solar panels need to be if we only buy two of them?  What's the quietest wind generator on the market that won't drain our cruising kitty?  Basically, how does all this stuff work?!

We like the thought of providing our own power since we'll not only save money, but we'll also be living a little "greener".  We think living on a sailboat will definitely be better for the environment!


Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

Note:  Here are the previous posts from this series.  Check them out and feel free to give us your advice.  We've really enjoyed reading your comments!

9 comments:

Sandee said...

Don't know anything about this because we have a power boat and it stops often for gasoline. The inverter is a must if you want to watch television and listen to music. I just don't know enough about sailboats to be of any help.

Have a terrific day and weekend. :)

Sandee said...

To back up your blog you need to go to your dashboard, then click on Settings. Now export your blog to your desktop. Put that blog into your documents folder.

You can also get a Wordpress account and import your blog from blogger to wordpress. You need to do both of these things at least once a week. Losing a week is far better than losing everything forever.

sundownersailsagain.com said...

This is way too huge a topic to tackle in a single comment posting. I'm not an expert, but I've read a lot. If you ever want to discuss it, come sail with us or lets have some drinks and talk about it (and other sailing stuff!) We could do a blog meetup.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Sandee.. thanks so much for responding to us regarding backing up our blog! We love your blog and appreciate the advice ... had no idea!

Sundowner .. we definitely need to meet up soon! We'll send ya'll a message when we have the chance (you do the same)!

Robin said...

Walk around your harbor on a weekend and find some sailboats of a similar size. Sailors love talking about their systems, and it's the best way to figure out how much power your luxuries and necessities will draw.

Have you picked up Annie Hill's book "Voyaging on a Small Income?" It's a good read, and for us it really helped with the low budget solutions to things we knew little about.

Carolyn Shearlock said...

HUGE topic -- we learned a lot in 6 years but it's all evolving. Much depends on where you'll cruise and likely weather. We had 453 watts of solar on QT in the Sea of Cortez (very sunny, but also hot and high load on refrig) and were fine if we motored in/out of an anchorage once a week -- that was with a 12 volt watermaker making 4 or 5 gallons a day and decent-sized refrig. On the generator, Honda is great and relatively quiet. BUT be sure that your charger is matched to it (check with your charger manufacturer, the first generator we bought was wrong) -- we have friends who only have a 30-amp charger but a 2000 watt generator, so they can't use all the power it's putting out and have to run the generator several hours a day. We had a 120-amp charger and even when we got no power from solar (rare -- during tropical storms) we only had to run the generator for an hour a day. Battery bank size is also important. We had 450 amp hours; I'd say that's about typical with watermaker and refrig, standard amenities. If you watch a lot of DVDs or want a lot of water, you'll need more . . . and more charging. Strongly suggest a decent-sized inverter -- ours was 2500 watts (actually, a charger/inverter) -- big enough for computer charging, microwave and hairdryer (no, not for hair but to defrost the refrig quickly). We didn't have coffeemaker, but that's a consideration for inverter, as is recharging drill batteries, large spotlights for dinghy, etc.

BOTTOM LINE: You'll use more power in real life than you think. Weather will be hotter and full-time life aboard has most people doing real-life stuff like spending time on the computer, downloading photos and editing them, etc. Don't know anyone who said they had too much power!

S/V Veranda said...

Put as much solar as will physically fit on your davits. If you can get 2 135's....great, 2 80's terrific, 1 80 & 1 135 then thats good too, maybe even a single 200. You'll have to measure how much room you actually have and buy the panels by their size rather than their output. Just put as much as will fit the space.

As far as wind generators go.....cheap and quiet don't seem to go together. We have the Rutland 913, quiet, but the output is disappointing. The D-400's are supposed to be great and I know that they're quiet but they're expensive compared to a lot of the market. The Air Marine's are cheap but loud. They do put out a lot of amps and there is an upgraded set of blades you can buy for about 200 dollars. Even with the new blades it still the best value for the money.

Troubadour Skipper said...

If you don't have Nigel Calder's book "Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual" you will want to get it. It goes step by step figuring out your loads and what you need to power it, including some economics on stuff like batteries.

The whole system needs to be considered: My inverter is big enough to power a microwave, my battery bank on paper should provide enough amps for a few minutes, but in reality I need the engine or genset running to use the microwave.

Get as much 12V stuff as you can: LED TV if you plan on a TV, car chargers for laptop, etc. To provide 110V, the inverter has internal losses to power these items, and then when you add a 110V plug in "wall wart" power supply on top of that, you're wasting a lot of energy. I cut off the wall wart and hardwire it to the boat electrical (through a switch and breaker, of course).

Leslie Payne said...

So glad others gave lots of input. All I would say is, "Ask my husband." LOL!

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