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Charging Batteries

By Little Gidding - Published January 09, 2006 - Viewed 533 times


From William:

Could you tell me what your battery set up is and how you keep them charged?

Hi William,
Our house battery comprises two 6-volt lead-acid Surrette batteries (made in Canada and marketed in the US under the name of Rolls) connected in series, delivering 410 amp/hours. They're fitted with "Hydro-Caps", which greatly reduce the amount of liquid that's lost during charging. We have a separate 12 volt lead-acid starter battery.

Most of our charging is provided by our wind powered generator and solar panels. The wind powered generator is a Fourwinds II made by Everfair, which puts out a lot of amps if the wind is blowing strong. That's an important "if". By definition, a good anchorage is one that is sheltered from the wind, which means that a lot of the time the generator isn't generating much when we're anchored. That's when the solar panels come into their own. We have a total of eight lightweight Solarex panels mounted on our canvas dodger and bimini, arrayed in 3 separate banks (isolated by diodes), and totaling 204 watts. It would have been more cost effective if we had installed fewer, larger panels, but they would have required a rigid structure for support. A Link 10 meter monitors the state of the batteries, letting us know how much current is going in or out at any given time.

The combination of wind and solar power works well in the islands and we are generally self-sufficient in terms of energy for weeks on end. When it's cloudy and calm for an extended period of time, we have to resort to running the auxiliary diesel engine to charge the batteries. For this purpose, we have a high output alternator (130 amps) and an external 3-stage "smart" regulator to enhance charging efficiency.

We should add that we have fairly modest power requirements compared to many cruising boats. Our small freezer/refrigerator is the biggest power draw, followed by our laptop computers. The HF radio sucks a lot of juice when it's transmitting, but not when it's receiving. Boats equipped with watermakers, microwave ovens, large freezers, washers/dryers, radar, and other energy hungry devices would probably need bigger batteries and more charging capability.

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