After a few sailing trips we decided this sailing thing was perfect for us. We now had to figure out how to make it work. That sounds easier than it was. Oh sure you can recharge the boat’s battery, but not when you are out on a lake. Electricity was something I couldn’t pack to take with us. Too many batteries equals too much weight.
Of course, we would need things like food and a way to cook it. However if we wanted to stay out on the water for weeks we would also need a way to connect to the outside world. This chick needs her electronics… IPad, IPhone, Mp3, DVD player and Kindle. I needed electricity.
A 21st Century Girl Needs Electric
The electric in our boat had never been used. The previous owner hadn’t even installed a battery. He had no use for electricity. We did research and decided we wanted to convert everything to LED. Not only do LED lights last for years even decades but they take little to no electricity to run. This is a plus in a sailboat.
Dave got ready to install LED lights and discovered our wiring was rotting and corroded. He replaced all the wiring and installed new fuses. We went to Menards and bought two Exide Marine batteries. They cost bought $80.00 each. Dave placed them on rubberized shelf liners so they didn’t slid around in the compartments.
Dave understood my need for electricity, but he wanted to balance it with our safety. For some reason, he was worried I would use all the power and we would be stuck in a shallow area because the depth finder didn’t work. I guess he knows me pretty well after all. It was decided that we would hook one battery to the depth finder, mast and running lights, GPS, and Marine Radio. The other battery would be hooked to all the lights in the cabin, fans and electrical outlets for my toys. This way if I got carried away with charging my laptop and watching videos we still had power for the essentials.
Now it was time to replace all the light fixtures with LED replacements.
Navigation and mast lights were next. We needed them to be energy efficient. We ordered the mast lights and the running lights below.
We had another board meeting and decided that we needed fans. Of course, the cabin has no air conditioning and it can get pretty stuffy at night.
We installed 12 volt fans and it made a huge difference. Even during the day it can get pretty hot down below.
There was still the problem of my electronics. 12-Volt outlets were a must. The end of the seats seemed to be the perfect place to install them.
We also put one on the back of the stair shelve to plug our DVD player in to.
We have 6 of these type plugs all around the boat.
So, we now had the boat more efficient. The batteries could be 100% charged when we left for trip. But, what if we were going to be gone for weeks? What if we didn’t have a dock with electric to recharge the batteries? These questions were why we decided on solar.
With the solar collectors installed we have gone for 9 days and returned with almost full batteries. Remember, as far as sailors go, I am an energy hog.
We knew we needed to install them on the deck and that they needed to safe. Tripping over them while raising the sails was not a good option. We decided to go with Ganz Solar panels because you can walk on them. It is recommended that you try not to place them in a high traffic area.
It was hard to figure out what we needed so, we sort of based our decision on what would look better. We could have easily met our needs with just one. Dave wanted the meter so we could monitor our usage. Since we were using two batteries we needed the controller.
If you have one battery all you would really need is one solar panel.
Here is exactly what we installed.