I don’t get it...

Canal Boat - - Back Cabin: -

I am buy­ing my first boat and feel I’m be­ing blitzed by peo­ple talk­ing about in­vert­ers, power man­age­ment sys­tems, so­lar and wind power etc.

I’m not yet look­ing for spe­cific ad­vice, rather a begin­ners’ web­site or pub­li­ca­tion. Although I have rewired a house, ev­ery­thing I’ve found so far is be­yond my ex­pe­ri­ence. ANTONY BESWICK, via email

TONY REPLIES: I tried to write my Elec­tri­cal Course Notes on TB-Train­ing. co.uk for begin­ners. They cover most of the ba­sic stuff and most im­por­tantly how to do a power au­dit (with your qual­i­fi­ca­tions the cal­cu­la­tions re­quired are very mi­nor) and bat­tery ca­pac­ity cal­cu­la­tion. Do this be­fore you think about in­vert­ers for much else than charg­ing mo­bile phones and dry bat­ter­ies, be­cause it is easy to over-dis­charge and destroy a bat­tery bank within weeks if you never get them well enough charged.

For a hol­i­day boat, a so­lar panel of about 40 Watts will prob­a­bly keep the bat­ter­ies well charged dur­ing the win­ter and when you are away. For a liveaboard and when out cruis­ing for sev­eral days you will need far more.

Mod­ern al­ter­na­tors reg­u­late at around 14.2 to 14.5 volts or more, so as long as the charg­ing sys­tem is in good or­der, fancy charge con­trollers are not usu­ally needed. Bat­tery mon­i­tor­ing is im­por­tant for a long bat­tery life but a dig­i­tal am­me­ter and volt­meter will do the job once you learn how to in­ter­pret them.

A big in­verter will re­quire large bat­tery banks to min­imise the volt-drop when sup­ply­ing high loads, and it would be very in­ef­fi­cient when be­ing used for small loads.

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