What type of gen­er­a­tor for a live­aboard?

Canal Boat - - Back Cabin: - TCURTIS165, TONY REPLIES… CB

QI’m look­ing to fit a 4kW pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled co­cooned type diesel gen­er­a­tor in my live­aboard boat. What type would fit on the top of a cruiser stern swim? I am also go­ing to in­stall so­lar pan­els. What bat­tery charger, bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tems etc would I need to get the most out of the so­lar pan­els and bat­ter­ies?

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We don’t usu­ally give ad­vice on par­tic­u­lar makes, but it would need to be small enough to fit on the swim and un­der the deck boards. If your in­staller of­fers you a choice, look at the cost of spare parts.

The so­lar pan­els will re­quire their own charge con­troller and an MPPT type is the most ef­fi­cient at max­imis­ing charge.

A 4kW gen­er­a­tor will drive al­most any sized bat­tery charger, but the ideal type would be a marine multi-stage charger de­signed so that it can­not over­charge the bat­ter­ies, can be left run­ning for long pe­ri­ods and is mois­ture-re­sis­tant.

If shore­line-pow­ered, a mod­est 10 to 20 amps would be fine be­cause it could be left on 24/7; the gen­er­a­tor com­pli­cates things be­cause it is un­likely to be run­ning for many hours at a time. The op­ti­mum size de­pends on the bat­tery bank size and elec­tri­cal de­mand, but some­thing around 30 to 40 amps should be fine. Again your in­staller should be able to ad­vise.

Do you have an in­verter to pro­vide 240v AC away from a shore­line when the gen­er­a­tor is not run­ning? If not, you can buy combi-units (pic­tured, left) that com­bine charger and in­verter – and pos­si­bly pro­vi­sion for so­lar charg­ing con­trol too. On the down­side, if one part of such units fails you might lose all func­tions.

Do a power au­dit and charg­ing cal­cu­la­tions to en­sure your bat­tery bank is large enough and can be recharged within the time lim­its ( 8am to 8pm) CRT al­lows for en­gine run­ning (in­clud­ing gen­er­a­tors) while sta­tion­ary.

Ideally, you will have a means of mon­i­tor­ing the bat­tery charge: the sim­plest is a Smart­gauge. Other charge me­ters can drift out of true over time, un­less you very reg­u­larly get the bat­ter­ies to very nearly fully charged, and can tell you the bat­ter­ies are far bet­ter charged than they re­ally are. Such me­ters need set­ting up prop­erly and reg­u­larly re-syn­chro­nis­ing with the bat­tery banks’ ever-de­creas­ing ca­pac­ity. As they dis­play amps and volts, an ex­pe­ri­enced per­son can es­ti­mate the bat­tery charge.

There are en­trenched views about the dif­fer­ent types of me­ter but, for an in­ex­pe­ri­enced boater, I feel the Smart­gauge prob­a­bly has the edge.

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