Problems with power outages

I haven’t mentioned it in my blog, but the last few weeks have been painful. Sans Souci has been sitting in Costa Rica for months, and as the rainy season there has started, the quality of the power has deteriorated. I’m seeing power failures 10 and 20 times a day. With no power, the air conditioning stops running, and with the 90 degree heat, and 90% humidity, that’s hard on the boat. Also, the power has stayed off long enough at times that the batteries almost fully discharge. Earlier today my batteries were at 12 volts — which for a 24 volt battery bank is horrible. Discharging to that level can permanently harm the batteries.

This is a real issue for us. We plan to circumnavigate, starting next May, in small steps. We think of it as a 10 year circumnavigation, with the boat sitting still for six months each year. Here in America we have been spoiled by fairly stable and predictable power. That will not be true in most of the countries where we will be leaving the boat.

One of the things I want to “tweak” on my electrical system this winter is to add a way for the generator to kick in automatically should the shore power fail. I don’t like the idea of a generator running when I’m not on the boat, but what choice do I have?

-Ken W

3 Responses

  1. Too bad you didn”t go with a hard top….it would have been a good place to install all those solar panels! 🙂

    John S.

  2. Kent: I have thought about solar panels and windmills .. but, they really aren”t practical for a boat like mine. My boat is power hungry, even without the air conditioning. My guess is that I could get the boat down to 4 or 5 amps, if sitting at the dock, with no one on it, and the refrigerators shut down .. but, these are 240 volt amps. At 24 volts, I would be consuming 40-50 amps.

    To compare this to a solar panel, and assuming my math is right (which is never a safe assumption), I did a little research. This panel: http://www.mrsolar.com/pdf/ (http://www.mrsolar.com/pdf/sharp/Sharp224.pdf) costs $1,000, and is roughly four feet by five feet, and on a nice day it puts out about 5 amps at 24 volts. In other words, I would need ten of them! There”s no way I could find that much space.

    Of course, even if I had the space, there are other concerns: If I am someplace warm, I really need air conditioning. My boat just isn”t set up to be in a warm climate without air conditioning. The humidity is hard on the electronics. With air conditioning, I”d need closer to 350 amps (at 24 volts) — or, 70 of the panels, which would require towing a barge.

    Hopefully someone will write and say “Ken your math is all screwed up. With one pizza-sized panel you can run the whole boat, and with two you can run air conditioning.” But, I don”t think so…

  3. You may want to invest in solar panels and a wind generator if you are going to leave the boat and don”t want the diesel generator to turn on.

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