The BeBop Electric Light Company......
It's been a great week here working on BeBop. All the bits and pieces I needed to install the solar panels and charge controller arrived one box at a time and work began early Friday. By Sunday it was all installed and working fantastic. It's a weird feeling being essentially your own electric company. Yessire, I now have 86 watts of solar powered goodness to recharge my twin deep cycle batteries with a total capacity of 180 amps. In a emergency I have a additional unmounted 5 watt panel and the outboard can recharge a tiny bit too. I just might have the smallest electric company in all the world eh? ^_^
First thing Friday was to fabricate the additional aluminum framework so that I had something to attach the universal stainless steel mounting brackets to. I picked up 2 pieces of square aluminum from Lowe's for this. Looking back at it I should of tried the marine salvage yard first and I might of been able to save some needed money but I knew they had what I needed. Anyway, I used a chopsaw to cut them to the proper length and hand filed the ends clean. A drill press was used to make the holes and the hardware used is stainless. I coated the hardware with anti seize compound to help prevent galvanic corrosion because we are mixing metals here. Here is a picture of the front of one panel and the fabrication work on the back of the 2nd completed. It took about 5 hours to complete both of them. I'm pretty proud of this work, you can't tell it didn't come out of the box this way. You can also see I was trying to charge the panel on the left with the camera flash. I was unsuccessful in getting Rich to hold both the positive and negative terminals on his tongue to see what would happen lol.
This next one is a close up of the box located on the under side of the panel(s). Normally I wouldn't show such a thing but Rich commented on the fact he was unable to locate a picture like this while investigating the mysteries of solar goodness. Therefore I'm putting it up in case anybody wants to see what it looks like. You can see the positive and negative connections, 10 gauge wire was used and zip ties fastened around them so you can't yank them out. 3M 5200 was used to seal the box where the wires come out. Ah reminds me....Lowes...the blood suckers...wanted .40 cents a foot for 10 gauge wire. Rich being quite clever, remembered that the jumper cables that the ghetto marine store....er....I mean Big Lots sells is 10 gauge with heavy insulation and they sell for 5 bucks each. I know it's not marine grade but I figure this is the next best thing and it should last at least a couple of years before I have to rewire it and it's still better than the stuff Lowes was trying to push off at highway robbery prices.
The batteries mounted overtop of the tiny little bilge located under the cockpit wired in parallel using the same 10 gauge jumper cable wire. The autoparts store wanted something crazy like 15 bucks for two feet of the stuff. The battery box tops are off for the photos and I will have them secured in the next day or two too.
The new bus box that everything runs through. It used to be wired directly to the batteries which was such a pain to deal with. I know it still looks like a wild nest of cables but this is a incredible improvement over how it used to work. I'll clean this up with some zip ties soon too.
This is the newly mounted charge controller next to the main switch panel. Yeah I know I need to label all the switches again and make it neater but if you look real close you can read the face on the controller and it's charging the batteries at about 2amps. (the sun was not at a optimal angle around 5pm.....maximum charge rate is about 4.9amps/hr) This baby is great. It will tell you how much power the panels are putting out, how much the battery is taking as a charge, the total amps input into the batteries over their lifetime, the power in amps currently being used onboard, the voltage of the batteries, the % of current charge and it has a built in diode to prevent the panels from discharging the batteries at night. I'm sure I'm forgetting some other things it does but it stops just short of making breakfast so I would say I'm rather impressed with it. Thumbs up from me.
Here is one of the two panels mounted on the stern push pit. I used the nylon line to add support to the single mounting point and it helps stabilize the panels nicely. I want to dig up some extra framing material used to build bimini's at Don's Salvage and add a 2nd support if I can come up with the extra cash. What I've done here works but stainless don't chafe through in heavy weather ya know. You can see how I routed the wired down the push pit. What you can't see is where I drilled a hole going into the cockpit locker and another leading into the bilge, two for each side. They were all sealed up tight using 5200 the next day after everything checked out ok. I will replace the nylon zip ties with riggers tape when I get some more as I ran out the day before, but I needed something to secure the wire with in the meantime while the 5200 sets.
We moved Bebop into a bow in position at the slip so we could keep the panels deployed (I can fold them down or even disconnect them in heavy weather) and the batteries charged. They would of hit the dock otherwise and I rather like it better this way since when your sitting in the cockpit your facing the water not the underside of the dock. You can see the finished lifelines now and the modified boom tent with broomsticks. It ain't that pretty to look at but it's working real nice now and it cost under 10 bucks total! I had a hard time getting a good overall picture of both panels mounted on the stern but you can see them. They look hardcore along with the safety netting and it drew a lot of comments from other people on the dock. I'm proud of how it all came together. I really need to add a big thanks here to Rich for doing the wiring work since it's something he's better at than I am. I must say that I learned a lot though.
I can't really describe just how cool it is to have the panels mounted and working perfectly. Before everytime I turned on a fan or a light all I could think of was how much quicker I was going to have to remove the batteries and charge them at the house again. Now the sun does it for me when I can't even be there. Plus when the batteries are at 100% like today, I can run the VHF (I like to monitor, might just learn something) and the fan directly off what the panels are kicking out without discharging the batteries at all. It's really like having your own electric company without the bill each month....sans the high installation fees. Think I'm going to call it a night now, kinda wrenched my neck drilling the holes in the cockpit lockers so I wanna go rest now.
Next week will be the first overnight offshore (learning) trip....exciting isn't it? ^_^ Until next time Fair Winds......