Many (if not most) boat owners face the problem of keeping the batteries charged. If you want your battery serves you for a longer period of time, you should ensure it is fully charged prior to using it. Half charging will shorten its life cycle and spoil your sunny days out in the ocean. Besides sun and wind, complete energy independence on board is probably every sailor’s dream. Is running the engine from time to time enough to feed your battery or should you think of an independent means of charging it? For keeping your batteries topped up you can, among others, use renewable resources and:
- buy marine solar panels and build your own solar power system,
- fit a wind turbine on board,
- build a hybrid system.
Charging with solar panelsSolar energy has always attracted visionaries and even adventurers. Yet, attempts to make photovoltaic principle and solar panels the primary charging system are unrealistic. Over the decades panels have become progressively more efficient. Today they are less susceptible to output drops when in shade and give good performance also in cloudy conditions. As solar panels will produce more power if they get direct sunlight, it’s good to mount them in appropriate direction even while sailing. Pros and cons for adding solar panels: + Suitable for a wide variety of boats and conditions. + Improving technology with reducing prices. + Reliability, nearly maintenance-free. – Insufficient physical space available for installation.
Marine wind turbinesWind generators are the second most used alternative energy sources. If you have wind on your sails, this is the most economical renewable energy source available. Electricity produced by wind generators can be used directly or it can be stored in batteries for later use. The technology behind wind generators is well proven and reliable. In general, wind turbines can be easily mounted on board. Nowadays windchargers are relatively rare. Pros and cons for adding a wind generator: + Producing plenty of power in strong breeze. – Noisy, creates vibration. – Reduced efficiency when sailing downwind. – Rotating blades could be dangerous. – Maintenance of the system is required.
Battery monitors for ensuring good battery lifeThe more power inputs and outputs there are on the boat, the harder it is to keep track of the battery state. However, managing all the power flows in and out of each battery bank is of crucial importance to keep the battery in good health. A battery monitor delivers in a clear and understandable way many important information like volts and amperes coming in, remaining ampere-hours, data about water, fuel and grey water, tank levels and temperatures. Using it brings many advantages:
- easy to keep track of power consumed,
- keeping charge levels above 50%,
- ensuring good battery life.