Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Powered by the sun...or not
Since we left the dock over a month ago, all our power needs (other than the engines and cooking) have been met with solar panels. This includes our freezer, fridge, toilets, lights (mostly LED), and various tech toys (auto-pilot, AIS, laptop, pads, phones). We have been off the grid and, we are coming to find, we have been spoiled a bit.
Our four panels (820 watts total) have more than satisfied our needs. By early afternoon on most days, our 12v battery bank (which holds 840 amp hours for those of you who care about such things) is fully charged. When the panels are really cranking, they give us an output of 55-60 amps, which in non-technical terms is "really good." Even on party cloudy days we get good output (in the 30s).
However, most of our weather in the Bahamas was sunny and cooler (70s and 80s), which are ideal conditions for the panels. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, we had one completely overcast rain-out day and several mostly overcast days where we did not fill up the batteries. The boat did get a nice freshwater rinse, which was long overdue. But we were concerned for a day or two that we might get too low on the batteries.
Once our generator is fixed (which we need to use for our water maker and dive compressor), that will be our backup power source. Many cruisers use wind generators but we will forego that expense for now.
The obvious solution is to stay in locations that are nice and sunny. So we're working on that avenue.