Friday, 31 July 2015

Sunshine now powering Our Dreamtime

July 31 2015
The last major upgrade on our to-do list before we cast off the lines and finally go cruising on Our Dreamtime was completed today. It was also one we have been looking forward to the most.  Thanks to three solar panels now fitted neatly on the cockpit roof, the majority of our electrical energy is now being harnessed from the sun.

Previously we had to rely solely on the two alternators hanging off the sides of our diesel engine to produce electricity once we left the marina. This is fine when motoring along but on nice sailing days when the engine stays off our batteries still need to be charged. Even worse, there is nothing more annoying than shattering the serenity of a beautiful anchorage by running the engine for a couple of hours morning and night solely to charge the batteries.

We were able to fit two Enerdrive 150watt and one 55watt panel very neatly on the cockpit roof and were extremely pleased that they blend in very unobtrusively. We really did not want panels hanging off all over the place spoiling the classic lines of our Whitby 42. They are fixed on mounts that provide an air gap between the panels and the fibreglass roof. That keeps both the panels and the roof cooler improving the efficiency of the system and our comfort.

We also included an Enerdrive ePRO monitor in the system which tells us exactly how many amps are flowing into or out of our battery banks, what voltage they are at, what percentage of full charge they are holding and how many hours of service remain available at the current rate of discharge. We won’t really know just how much of our power needs the solar will be able to provide until we try it in operational conditions when we set sail north in a couple of weeks but a test in the winter sunshine this afternoon with all our navigation gear, radios, and refrigeration running and our computers and i-pad charging, the battery charge percentage dropped by only about 5% over five hours which was very encouraging.

Our system was supplied and fitted by Electech Industries who are based here in Manly Harbour. We could not have been happier with the service provided by Daine Mulkeams and his team. On his first visit to our boat to quote on the job, Daine went to great lengths to understand exactly what we wanted to achieve rather than just tell us what he thought we wanted. His price was very competitive and we were able to achieve 355watts via three panels for only a few dollars more than others quoted us for just two 120 watt panels. We also took up his suggestion that we could save some money by doing some of the work ourselves such as running the cables from the cockpit roof down through the boat to the battery bank.

Now all we need is lots of sunshine.

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