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Canal Boat - - This Month - A CLARKE, via email

Seek­ing to go so­lar; whose loo is it?; prim­ing a fil­ter; check­ing a Lis­ter; fre­quent stalls; bat­tery drops; a click­ing start; to prime or not to prime?; gland re­lief; drain­ing ra­di­a­tors

QWhat type of so­lar panel on my boat will get the best re­sults, given the Bri­tish weather? Can you ad­vise on a sup­plier?

ATONY REPLIES... There is a wide va­ri­ety in use: I sug­gest you Google ‘12v so­lar pan­els’ and then check the size, type of mount­ing and spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The smaller pan­els with the higher out­puts will be the most ef­fi­cient types, but if you have space for more (or larger) less ef­fi­cient pan­els, you could get the same out­put at less cost.

Flex­i­ble stick-on pan­els seem a good idea but when I looked into them, users’ com­ments showed some suf­fer­ing from de­lam­i­na­tion soon af­ter the manufacturing de­fect guar­an­tee (which is much shorter the 20-year guar­an­tee that they will still have 80 per­cent of their out­put) ex­pired.

I must stress that I do not rec­om­mend ven­dors, but many speak well of Bim­ble and Sun­shine So­lar.

You also need to con­sider the type of so­lar con­troller to use. With a sin­gle panel of up to about 100 Watts a PWM con­troller will do; an MPPT con­troller won’t give a sig­nif­i­cant ex­tra out­put for the ex­tra cost. If you fit an MPPT con­troller and pan­els wired in se­ries (which means thin­ner ca­bles for the same to­tal wattage) you will need to de­cide in ad­vance how many pan­els you will fit, oth­er­wise you could ex­ceed the con­troller’s in­put volt­age.

Avoid un­known eBay bar­gain MPPT con­trollers: some are very sus­pect in what they ac­tu­ally do. Stick with well-known brands such as Morn­ing Star, Stecca and so on.

If you are a live­aboard, be cau­tious of sup­ply­ing all your elec­tri­cal needs by so­lar in win­ter: you might not fit enough pan­els on the roof.

How much room do you have on your roof for so­lar pan­els?

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