Re: Gel batteries, solar panels and inverter - an experience


Danny and Yvonne SIMMS
 

Hi David, for your cruising profile it sounds really good. Then I looked at your photo. In my opinion don't ever get caught in a major oceanic storm with that lot up there. Until you have experienced huge waves breaking over your boat you cannot imagine the forces involved. Deck and rail mounted life rafts are often ripped off. A tall solar arch such as yours looks really vulnerable. But for med cruising and inshore/  Perfect.

Kind Regards

Danny

SM 299

Ocean Pearl

On 21 October 2021 at 05:20 David Crisp <david@...> wrote:

A lot of really helpful information has been written and shared about converting to lithium batteries and the benefits thereof (thank you all). Compared to my experience 20 years ago, when I lived aboard my SM for 3 years, lithium batteries with a large inverter and solar panels sounds like paradise.  In 2019 I was on the verge of going this route but delays caused by the Covid pandemic caused me to follow a compromise route and to drop the lithium battery element. 

 

My route has been to replace the old Dolphin 100A charger with a Victron 24V/3000/70A Multiplus inverter/charger along with 990W of solar panels (three LG Neon2Black (LG330N1K-V5)) managed by a Victron Smart Solar MPPT 100/50. A Victron VE Smart Bus provides voltage and temperature data to the MPPT. I also replaced the old battery monitor with a Victron BMV-712.  The solar panels are mounted above some Simpson electric davits I had installed at the same time.  This year the batteries that came with Wilna Grace gave up the ghost and I replaced them with Victron Gel 110AH instead of going over to Lithium.

 

My cruising plans are to remain in and explore the Mediterranean, spending ~6+months aboard each year. Consequently my demands, and the cost vs. benefit analysis, are perhaps not those of a live aboard round-the-world cruiser. 

After my first season aboard with the new setup I am very very happy. Thanks to the inverter I have good 220V power available on demand, from boiling a kettle (v important to the British) to running the microwave or coffee machine plus my partner can blow-dry/straighten her hair (unfortunately I lost the need to do that some years ago).  Aboard Wilna Grace we run two fridges and a freezer.  On a typical day the batteries are at 90% first thing in the morning and in absorption mode by early afternoon.  The only reason we run the generator is to cook (we have an electric stove (infra-red not induction) but on the plus side running the generator provides hot water.  

 

I’m hopeful that with such shallow cycling the Gel batteries should last 6+ years, not as good a Lithium but not bad.  I’ve only had one season’s experience with this setup, but at the moment the only reason I would change to lithium would be to run an induction stove or to run an air conditioner.  I’m not ruling out lithium, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about the benefits; should my cruising plans/needs change I will install lithium in the blink of an eye.

 

For someone on a limited budget and with my type of cruising profile I would prioritise the key elements in the following order: (1) large solar array.  (2) large inverter.  (3) lithium batteries.

 

Attached are some photos of the installation on Wilna Grace and drawings of the solar panel array. From this installation I have had two learnings: -

  1. Make sure you buy a long enough RIB otherwise the spacing of the davits is too long.  I have a Highfield C290 with a Honda 15HP outboard and wish I had bought a longer dinghy.
  2. My panels are completely horizontal so the rain pools on them (assuming we are not rolling at anchor).  In future I would having them slope backwards by ~5 degrees towards the stern. The rain will run off and maybe also wash off dust!


Final share:

We had two other mini-projects this year which have also delivered big benefits. 
(a) Replaced all the halogen bulbs aboard WG with LED (wow does that save power!).
(b) Installed a Caframo Sirocco 2 fan above the aft berth – it provides wonderful relief on a hot August night in Greece, removes the need to run a/c. This fan consumes very little power and is much quieter than other fans I have used.

 

 

Hope it is helpful.

 

David Crisp
SV Wilna Grace
Amel 54 #58

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