Paul is over the moon with his new solar regulator, so much so, he has written all about it for you. We use our phone and the Ipad for a lot of the tracking and planning and weather watching because we can do it anywhere in the boat, and we don’t have an inside navigation station.  We will also add more information about our apps and other trackers in the boat manual. 

Maximum Power Point Tracking Solar Charge Controller

 

Paul’s notes:
“When we purchased TopCat she had already been fitted with 7 x 100W photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and a PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation) solar charge controller.

Now, at first glance you would think this arrangement was ok and to be fair we put up with it for the first 18 months of cruising. The downside is that even in the strongest sunshine the batteries (which were replaced 1 year ago with good quality AGM (https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/absorbent_glass_mat_agm for more info on AGM’s)

batteries would only last 3-4 days without the need to either start the engines or run the generator to charge the batteries.

Quite regularly we would wake in the morning to find the battery voltage under 12v having kept the fridge and freezer running overnight with no charge input… time for a change me thinks!”

 

After much investigation on the ‘inter web machine thingy’ it became more and more clear that the only way to go is an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar charge controller. For the uneducated in the delights of solar regulators a PWM is basic, no frills, no bells or whistles kind of device while the MPPT is an intelligent device packed with bells, whistles and other gizmos and boasts it will harvest up to 30% more energy than it’s dumb brother PWM.

So, having come to the conclusion that MPPT is the way forward, which brand to buy? This, is what the Americans term as a ‘no brainer ’… The Dutch company Victron Energy was the best choice. Easy you think! No! Now the hard part, which of their seemingly hundreds of different models to choose from?

 

 

Looking at the specs of our solar panels (PV’s) the choices diminished down to two, the one with built in Bluetooth or the one without? Being a techie, gadget sort of guy (most men are I find,  just saying ladies) I opted for the all singing, all dancing one with optional remote display, well, you would wouldn’t you?

When the solar controller finally arrived (see blog 46) it was fitted in minutes amidst much cussing about boats and who’d have one… to find that the claims from Victron are spot on. As the man with the neck brace once said “I’ve never looked back”…. joking aside, what a piece of equipment, I can’t speak highly enough of it, the batteries are happy, the fridge and freezer are happy so the captain and crew are happy.

I love my solar charge controller 🙂

Mary here again
So now we have enough solar to run our fridge and freezer through the night, to power our computers, iPads and phones, to run an electric kettle, a microwave and a blender occasionally, to run our lights in the evening and to charge our toothbrushes we (the crew) are very happy.  We eventually found a toothbrush charger which works with 12volt which is perfect for us.  But guess what?   We just went to visit a boat which has a washing machine working off their inverter !!!   Paul???

Just in case you haven’t ever had to run your home from an inverter … Paul has written a bit about here.

“An inverter is a device that uses the 12 volts DC from a battery bank and cleverly produces 230 volts AC to run domestic appliances. The one fitted in Top Cat can produce 2kW of power but we tend to only run it at half that amount because at 2kW, the inverter is taking a whopping 173 amps out of the batteries! So we only use the inverter for short periods of time like using the microwave or boiling the kettle… we bought a camping kettle which is 1kW rather than a standard domestic kettle which is either 2.2kW or 3kW. The other clever thing about our inverter is that when the boat is plugged into shore power or we are running the generator it becomes a battery charger.

And no Mary you can’t have a washing machine, we have one any way, she is our washer woman and she makes a mean tzatziki as well!”

Other technology 

We like our Anchor Pro APP which we use every time we anchor.  It uses GPS to tell us how the boat moves.   You have to keep the screen open during the night to ensure it lets you know if you go outside your set area, but it works well and at least we can hear it 

going off because your phone is a whole lot more portable than the electronics in the nav station or driving position.

We can set up the app to sound an alarm when the boat moves out of your set area. So if we let 40metres of chain out, in theory we can move up to (roughly) 35metres in any direction … so about a circle of 70m circumference.  You can see the track it makes over a few hours.

However, because we usually are not sat over the anchor when we set the alarm, we set it with a circumference of 40m which means we will also get an alarm when there is a change of wind direction.

We have now mastered the art of checking our position when the alarm goes off during the night.  Paul jumps out of bed to check our physical location and I either increase our circle or reset the anchor.  If it goes off again within a few minutes, I know we have a problem.  If we are just hovering on the 40meter mark we now have a fair allowance around the anchor position I have set.

The problem Paul has in the middle of the night is seeing the buttons to press without his reading glasses.  Therefore we now have a solution that suits us both …ie/ I don’t have to jump out of bed and Paul doesn’t have to curse at the phone because he cannot silence the buzzer.

 

 

 

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