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Fitting flexible solar panels to a narrowboat

Fitting flexible solar panels to a narrowboat

This is a short guide to installing flexible solar panels to a narrowboat.

Background

I’ve lived on my boat for 2 years. When I first started, I was located in a Marina. Everything was laid on, showers, water, electrical hook-up.

It reminded me of a high-rise flat for boats. After my boat was painted, I took it up on a journey to the most Northern and Southern reaches of the UK canal system.

It was called Bonnie Journey, in the name of the boat. You can read about it here.

It included some cycling, which I had to postpone due to injury. Whilst I was waiting for my injuries to recover, I stationed myself on the Kennet and Avon.

Kennet and Avon

Burbage wharf
Near Burbage

As visitors to this waterway will know. Kennet and Avon Marinas are few and far between.

I decided to try continuous cruising. When you’re continuous cruising, all your energy has to be self generated.

You’re entirely ‘off grid’. In winter, generating power was a case of starting the engine.

As the sun began to shine, in the run up to spring, I began to think of the advantages of solar.

After my boat was fully painted, I decided that the next job to be done, was to fit some solar panels, and take advantage of the free energy!

I’m now in a position to do that.

Researching

Most people are going to find that this is the most lengthy part of the process.

Before you shell out large sums of money, you want to ensure you’re getting something which is fully compatible with your needs.

The first question you need to ask yourself before fitting solar is –

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Adding to narrowboat battery bank

Adding to narrowboat battery bank

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been planning to upgrade the electrics of Bonnie Lady narrowboat.

One of the first jobs has been to add to the battery bank

Battery Bank

Is a collection of batteries which feed the boat and all the appliances on it.

Currently, we have 2 AGM 120ah leisure batteries in the bank. (There’s a starter battery, since none of the appliances run off this, I’ve not included it. It starts the engine. End of).

agm-leisure-battery-lp120
Due to the ‘live-on’ nature of the boat, this really isn’t enough:-

  • If you want to watch telly
  • If you want to be able to charge your computer, run printers, charge hoovers etc.
  • If you’re planning on having solar panels fitted

Solar panels will charge 4 leisure batteries during the course of a sunny day and less on more covered, cloudy conditions. The more batteries in the bank, the more cushion you have to soak up and store excess energy when it’s available. This may be through running the engine, or through the solar panels. When it’s raining, and you end up sitting around the boat all day with the lights on using the internet, you’ll really appreciate the difference!

Adding batteries to the battery bank

Major considerations are:-

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ABS Review – Leisure batteries for a narrowboat

ABS Review – Leisure batteries for a narrowboat

The story….

Purchased these batteries on the 1st May, 2016, most specifically because of their ‘3 year warranty’, (which has now risen to 4!).

Great deal for £70 each, you would think.

Here’s the bumf I read before buying the batteries for my narrowboat.

abs LP110 Leisure battery review
abs LP110 Leisure battery

A 4 year warranty!

abs LP110 Leisure battery usageNo ‘huge demand’ appliances, such as heater or large wattage equipment.

My 35w fridge and a few 20w lights and the occasional 32w TV would be fine, you’d think…..

It’s not the case.

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