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Solar power setups simplified for boats!

January 22, 2018   |   By Liam Arthur Solar power setups simplified for boats! - image Capture-73 on https://www.4wdsupacentre.com.au/news

Portable solar power is the perfect silent and virtually cost free power source that is ideal for topping up 12 volt battery systems.

When talking about portable solar power many people instantly think of their favorite campsites and caravaning locations, but forget about one of the most important and safety critical applications of a high efficiency 12 volt solar panel system, and that is within the boating community.

Many cruising power boats and sailboats have power thirsty 12v safety systems that are critical to navigation and safety, like an AIS (Automatic Identification Systems), GPS navigation, GPS chart plotters, Autopilot setups, UHF, RF and VHF Radios, operational navigation lights along with 12 volt Fridges and a range of entertainment units such as stereo sound systems and laptops, etc.

To keep all of these accessories running smoothly and fully functional, boat owners often fit large battery bank systems of 2 or more 12 volt AGM deep cycle batteries. These look similar to a standard crank battery but can be drained further and recharged with next to no damage done, this cycle can all but destroy a standard crank battery fitted as standard to in most cars.

Any battery bank system is best managed by the same technology that is commonly used within the 4WD community to manage solar power or regulate alternator voltage for charging a dual battery system.

Solar power setups simplified for boats! - image Capture-74 on https://www.4wdsupacentre.com.au/news


There are 2 main types of voltage regulator that have been designed for 12v applications;

The first is PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) this is a cost-effective regulator that is ideal for smaller output systems and can deliver up to 83% of the solar panel’s rated potential. It regulates the voltage output to suit the requirements of battery systems and provides simple circuit protection and overheat protection.

The next is MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) this is a more complex alternative to PWM regulator. The added benefit of using an MPPT over a PWM is that it can deliver up to 96% of the solar output meaning you get more power back into the batteries and can get more usable amperage from a days’ worth of sunshine which equals power for more toys!

Clever battery management devices like the CTEK D250SA have an integrated MPPT regulator and can intelligently direct and divert 12v charge from an alternator or an auxillary power source like a wind generator or solar panels and optimizse it into maximum efficiency DC charging power!

A good quality monocrystalline solar panel combined with one of these clever battery maintenance systems make a very smart investment, particularly in sailing applications, where a motor may rarely if ever be started and in some smaller trailer sailor applications may not even be connected to a battery bank.

The lack of alternator input, means a high efficiency solar panel system has become a basic necessity and a standard upgrade on nearly all sizes of cruising and sailing boat

As with any technology, solar panels aren’t just solar panels, they are made in many different ways, from varying quality materials and depending on the solar regulator can provide excellent amounts of power, or if wired wrong can end up being a bit of a dud!

So to get the most out of your solar setup 4WD Supacentre, put in the hard work to make sure you get the best bang for buck possible.

On offer from 4WD Supacentre is a full suite of solar panels, solar regulators, AGM Batteries and a range of Battery Charge Management Systems all of which can suite your setup whether you have an offshore cruiser, a trailer sailor or a fishing dingy.

Depending on your budget you can install a simple self-contained Adventure Kings 160w folding panel with an integrated IP68 waterproof rated PWM regulator and connect it directly onto a 98ah AGM Battery. This simple setup should be adequate for smaller vessels that run GPS systems and led lighting and can even run a 40lb thrust electric trolling motor for about 2 hours a day with a full summer day of good sunlight – how’s that!

If you need even more 12v power on tap there is no doubting that something like the Adventure Kings 250W Solar Panel with the optional MPPT Regulator you can get up to a massive 13 amps of peak charging power, and on a long sunny summer day can output a total of 182 amp hours which connected to a small battery bank is enough to run fridges, GPS Systems, led lighting and much more, without any extra efforts.
Solar power setups simplified for boats! - image Capture-75 on https://www.4wdsupacentre.com.au/news


As always, the more the merrier, if your setup needs more juice, its simple you can add more solar panels and batteries to your setup, but it is important to use only one voltage regulator for the whole system.

If you have purchased a panel with an integrated regulator, you will need to bypass it if you are plugging your panel system into a DC to DC charge system system or into a battery that is being charged by another regulated circuit.

Multiple regulators can confuse each other and if fitted circuit protection will kick in resulting in 2 or more panels outputting nothing at all.

For custom setups it is always recommended to seek professional advice, they will help you figure out how much juice all your accessories need and the best way to hook everything up, but don’t look past the value for money the Adventure Kings range of solar panels and 12v battery systems can offer your boating setup!