Sunday, September 26, 2021

Avoiding the bigger/more expensive death spiral...

On, "So It Goes" we have  a 400-amp hour battery bank made up of lead acid golf cart batteries with 350-watts of solar panels being the prime charging input. I should also note that I have two 50-watt panels that I have not included as they currently need repair (so much for lifetime warranties) that I have not got around to fixing yet and the jury is still out on whether or not I can actually fix them.

I mention this because, like most cruising boats, "So It Goes" could use a kiss more power generation and storage. Now, the current group-think mindset where power is concerned is to simply throw out the existing system and replace it with new state-of-the-art components. Which would entail..

  • Throwing out batteries that have at least two years of remaining life.
  • Buying new batteries/charger of the Lithium sort.
  • Buying new solar panels.

Now, I'll be the first person to admit that new batteries and solar panels have some real advantages. for starters, as solar tech continues to improve the size to power ratio, it would enable me to have more charging watts with a smaller footprint which is a big advantage in deploying panels on a 50-year old 34-foot boat. New batteries with a bit more capacity would be no bad thing and, while I'm impressed with the claims of Lithium performance, I can't quite get past the fact that I have to replace every six-months the lithium battery that powers the computer I'm currently typing this on. 

The fact is that replacing the current system would, at best, be a small improvement to the overall system that actually works pretty well. As it stands and as lithium, as a system, is still in flux with several alternative systems waiting in the wings I think waiting a bit since prices seem to be coming down on both solar and batteries are concerned makes some sense.

So, how do we improve the system in the meantime?

More on that soonish...

Friday, September 10, 2021

On that "Just use less" mantra...

Way back when, Jimmy Carter pointed out that it might make sense to turn your thermostat down a few degrees and wear a sweater as a means to save on fossil fuels.

Which, as it happens, was a very simple and elegant answer to a difficult problem of the then current oil shortage.

Just use less.

Of course, Americans as a group wanted nothing to do with such a solution and the political output of the whole "Wear a sweater" was, at best, negative and just the sort of political grist that found Ronald Reagan as the next President of the US of A.

Which has exactly what to do with cruising and VolksCruisers?

Well, for me at least, Jimmy Carter's advice to use less, struck a chord with me and has been one of my favorite mantras where most things are concerned. Which, admittedly, does not fly well in the face of the current consumerist mindset of most folks on boats where the answer to most questions is to go bigger and spend large.

For example, the other day I was reading about a boat's new electrical system which was powerful enough to run a a village. When I costed out the huge solar array, 16K genset and gargantuan bank of lithium batteries, I came up with a sum that I could cruise lavishly on for the next few decades. Now, while I admittedly found the cost to be appalling, my main reaction to the electrical system was that it was over-complicated and had so many potential failure points that could seriously ruin their day/week/year that it was just a power failure waiting to happen.

Apparently, the reason behind the huge electrical upgrade was they'd kept bolting on more and more appliances/systems to the mix. Since they felt the need to expand and since they were adding power they might as well add on some more electron guzzling systems while they were at it which resulted in a death spiral as far as common sense was concerned.

Just maybe, at some point they could have just said to themselves...

"It's a boat so maybe we should simplify things a little and not set it up like a house on the grid. Yeah, maybe we could use a bit less."

Right now, adding a heater to "So It Goes" is currently on my "I really should do this" project list and it's easy to be seduced to the dark side of just throw money at it consumerism. While I'll admit that a central heating system is appealing but, then again, it's expensive as well as requiring an uptick in electrical consumption.Which would require another solar panel (or two) and a bigger battery bank and since we only have a 34-foot boat becomes somewhat problematic in the grand theme of things.

On the other hand, a small used solid fuel heater is fairly cheap as are a couple of sweaters and a I've already got some good sleeping bags for those extra chilly nights. So it would seem that I'll be taking President Carter's advice as it makes the most sense.

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