After several seasons of stalwart service, all-weather exposure, and an occasional dunking, Whiskeyjack's little 15 watt solar panel had finally tapped out. We had been planning to install a second 15 watt panel and a charge controller this winter, but the demise of panel #1 altered our energy management plan, our timetable and our budget.
It's time to explore the options.
Fellow blogger Dan Kim has written an excellent overview of solar options here:
Sailing Dog's Solar School
So, since he has done all of the heavy lifting, research-wise, I don't have to. Cool.
After weighing all of the options, including power output, weight, dimensions, delivery time and budget, we purchased a 40 watt amorphous panel/charge controller kit from our local Canadian Tire Store . It was on sale for $149.99 (50% of the regular $299 price tag), putting it over the "Low-Buck" threshold, but still inside our solar power budget.
Opening the box, I unpack sufficient cabling, an aluminum-framed panel approximately 3' x 2', a sufficient assortment of connectors, and a rudimentary (but sufficient) charge controller, and sufficient installation instructions.
Nothing impressive, nothing that screams "secret awesome deal!" Sufficient value at a hundred- and- a- half bucks, but not worth twice that price.
Installing the wiring and the charge controller took about 20 minutes. Figuring out why the battery wasn't getting a charge took twice that time. Turns out one of the sufficient number of connectors was insufficiently soldered. With that problem solved, the panel took up temporary residence atop the bimini while a permanent location was pondered.
Last week, I finally had the necessary convergence of available time, available parts, flat water and an empty neighbouring slip to finish the job. Earlier than I am normally ambitious, I cast off lines and warped Whiskeyjack out, around and back. Below, you can see the panel lounging on the bimini, and also it's new home- atop the davits.
First, another tie bar had to be installed, but only after carefully scattering an assortment of tools on the Dock, largely out of the way of the work area....
A few minutes of cutting and caulking and drilling and screwing had the additional tie bar in place.
After some measuring and remeasuring and some more drilling, this time into the frame of the panel, u -bolts were installed and nuts snugged down and the panel was firmly attached to it's new home. The panel can be removed along with the tie bars for winter storage by simply undoing four machine screws and disconnecting the cabling.
The wiring was routed and secured and a shakedown cruise was taken.
Nothing fell off. Mission accomplished!
So far I am satisfied by the result. I'll keep you updated on performance over the next few seasons.
Total cost, including tie bar materials: $194.37
Total time: 3.5 hours.
Total tools sacrificed to lake: 1 hex key.
"Talk the Dock!'