Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Solar Panel, Nav Station and LPG Install

I know I said I was getting away from the refit stuff going forward, but I have had quite a few people ask about the nav panel, solar and LPG tank install, so I figured I would end out the refit chapter with a bang. Everything we set out to do is complete and I am ecstatic. Thank you Ralph for all the incredible work you have done, which of course was pretty much everything!

Solar Panel 

After doing a lot of searching online, I decided to go with a 100 watt panel from sunwindproducts. I was very happy with the customer service, prices and options. If you are in the market for solar or wind products, check them out. It's early in the game, but the panel seems to be doing exactly what it says it would and is putting the amps into the batteries as expected.
We decided to mount the panel to the stern rail with hinges that will allow it to be swung down in bad weather. Used a deck fitting for the wires, but other than that, it was straight forward.
The charge controller is a basic 7 amp unit from Sunforce. Since I only have the one panel generating less than 7 amps, I didn't see a need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bigger unit. It fits nicely behind the nav station making it easier to hook into the system. Both the solar panel and wind generator can be set by the main battery switch to charge what ever battery bank I want. Of course the house bank gets most of the juice, but in an unforeseeable happenstance that both banks are drained, I can send all the power to the starting battery and get the engine running.

Nav Station

The final components to the Nav Station have been added. All the wiring has been replaced with proper gauge, tinned marine wire and connections. A new 4 stage Protech 1220i battery charger was installed behind the panel as well as the 7 amp solar panel charge controller. Included in the panel is the LPG solenoid switch, VHF, stereo/CD player, amp meter for the wind generator and wind generator control switch, Raymarine chartplotter, 120 AC breaker panel and the DC 12 breaker panel* with built in volt meter.
These were all placed in a custom built panel that was mounted on the starboard side shelves above the quarter birth. It's a great feeling to know that when I flip a switch, it's going to work. It was a big job sifting through the rats nest that was there, but Ralph knocked this one out of the park.
As you might have noticed, I am still waiting for the new breaker panel labels to arrive. I promise there are no trim tabs on Skylark.

LPG Solenoid, Switch and Tank Locker

Skylark did not come with a propane tank locker, so we had to build one. Actually, we were able to get a "tub" that would fit a 20 pound tank that was left long ago and sitting in the marina. From there, Ralph cut a hole in the aft "seat" behind the tiller and mounted the tank from underneath. There was plenty of room below that area in the locker, so it was the perfect place for it. A spill hole, tube and through-hull were installed to get the propane gas overboard in case of a leak, the purpose really for the locker in the first place. A square water proof hatch was then installed over the tank making it very easy to replace when necessary.
In addition, a solenoid control switch was installed in the galley which operates the solenoid valve attached to the tank. This is a safety feature that allows you to easily turn the propane off from the galley as well as monitors pressure from the tank.

So that's it, time to start enjoying the fruits of out labor.


  1. Great post, thanks for all the info and pics! Looking good, fair winds this summer.


  2. Wow you do great work.... if only I could get you to work on my boat.

  3. Thanks for sharing Excellent blog on solar panels and what is needed to make it work. Thanks for sharing

  4. Thanks for the sunwindproducts tip Jim, and good luck on your new panel.

    The 100 watt panel at sundwindproducs is listed for $295 free shipping. I re-checked and found a 150 watt panel there for $187 plus $60 shipping, single panel price. There's got to be more to it. What is it that made you like sunwindproducts?

  5. Hey Dick,
    When I was looking, never made it to my list for some reason. I went with the 100w panel as the dimensions were what I needed for the stern rail. You flipped the numbers on the price as it's listed for $259 and free shipping not $295. In addition, I wanted monocrystalline cells over the others. When I ordered the panel, they offered to upgrade me to the 140w panel for the same as the 100w, but it wouldn't work where I was going to put it. Might be worth a try. :)

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  7. It’s definitely a smart investment to install a solar panel on a boat, given that you’re likely to receive lots of sunshine while you’re out on the sea, which means you’ll be able to gather a considerable amount of energy while you’re out and about. That wind generator can be a big help too! With that and the solar panel, you can definitely make use of a lot of your electronics in there without consuming fossil fuel.