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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Solar panel experiments

It is over a month since I fitted a solar panel to the roof of my boat and in all that time there has only been two fully sunny days!! However, in the last couple of weeks I have been recording how much sun we have had, what the percentage charge of my batteries are at the lowest point – in the morning after using power the previous evening, no sun overnight and the fridge running. Then I record what it is when I return from work, how long I then run the engine for to top the batteries up and what it shows after TV time when I go to bed.

It all sounds a touch anal, but my discoveries will hopefully ensure I only run the engine for as long as I need to in order to keep my batteries happy and thereby save money on diesel and engine wear. It will also ensure I don’t over estimate what the panel is doing and then run my batteries down too low.

For those of you who don’t know about leisure batteries and haven’t yet fallen asleep through boredom, I shall explain how to treat them nicely so they last as long as possible. This is important because a set of 5 good leisure batteries can cost around £350 to £400. Batteries have a limit of how many times you can charge and discharge them. It’s around 200 full charges and discharges. However if you don’t let the batteries discharge more than 50% of their power, you can double their life span. Ideally you want to keep them at between 60% and 80% although a friend who knows about these things told me yesterday that it’s OK to let them go to 50% but no lower. If they are consistently run down too low then they suffer sulphation and die quickly. for people living attached to shore power in marinas etc. their batteries could last for years and years. But for us hardy people who are permanently generating our own power, apparently we are doing well if our batteries last much over two years.

Right, end of technical stuff. I also wanted to mention again how close to Heaven Fradley Junction is for Bonny and I – particularly because of the plethora of walks there are on our doorstep. One of our favourites is around the grounds of a wedding and conference venue called Alrewas Hayes. It is a lovely old house surrounded by farmland. The whole atmosphere of the place is peaceful and welcoming. They don’t seem to mind us walking anywhere outside and I always get a friendly wave or thumbs up if I see the people who run it. The house signs show a motto which I assume has lasted since it was a family home. It is “To be rather than to seem”. I love it and think about the meaning of this for my own life while I walk. It’s not a cheap venue but if you are looking for somewhere beautiful, then check out their website.

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