“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


Chinese Knock Off Solar Panels

Here is an excellent article about comparing the real deal Solbian with genuine SunPower Cells vs the Chinese knock offs.  Must read for anyone considering going this route if you want to make an informed decision.

Essentially there are a lot of panels that look like the SunPower Cells but they are not all made with the same quality controls and they don’t  handle the bending as well.  Articles like this is why we struggle with the decision to go with a lesser brand vs. the Solbians.  In the end we went with Renogy semi-flex panels ordered from Amazon that were Prime eligible for free shipping.  We paid $197 each for two 100 watt panels.  More panels will be added in the future but these are the two to go on the bimini.

One thing my research pointed to was that testing the panel once you get them is imperative to getting good performance out of the array.  On line I have read reports of people ordering two panels and getting one in excellent shape while the other had oxidation and damage.  Others had received panels that looked the same but performed very different.  So I did a thorough inspection of the panels when I got them.  One thing I noticed right off the bat was that the connection on the Renogy panels, compared to the Solbians I had seen at the boat shows, were a little underwhelming.  The Solbians have a nice junction box but the Renogy had a cheaper plastic connection filled with sealant to make it waterproof.  I like the Solbian approach better but you get what you pay for.

IMG_2963 IMG_2964

After I was satisfied with the initial inspection, I moved on to testing the performance.  It took a couple of weeks to finally get

IMG_2965 decent enough weather to do the test.  It was cold and very sunny when I set up the panels for testing.  Using a saw horse I angled the panels towards the sun and ran a couple of tests.  The open voltage readings (multimeter connected directly to the MC4 connectors for the panels) on the panels were 23.4 and 23.5 volts.  Next I hooked them up to a Group 27 AGM battery we had for work.  The battery had been depleted to roughly 50% state of charge.  The negative lead for each panel was connected directly to the negative battery post.  The positive leads went to a cheap “A/B” style switch I had for work stuff.  The common side of the switch was connected to a multimeter positive lead and the negative lead was connected to the battery post.  A second multimeter was connected to the battery to get voltage readings. This setup allowed me toggle between each panel and see if they were performing the same.  (Sorry, its unlike me but I forgot to photo the setup.) For both panels I was getting 16.2 volts at the batter with a current of 6.3 amps.  I let each panel run to the battery for about 15 minutes before recording the reading.

These results put my readings slightly above the I-V Curve published by Renogy.  I wasn’t too surprised to out perform their curve because it was only 20 degrees F when I was doing the test.  The published curve is for 77 degrees F.  And since heat reduces the efficiency of the panels I expected to be on the high range of the curve, being just outside the curve gives me some hope to get close to the curve in a real world application.

Next step will be to mount the panels to the bimini and wire them up with the charge controller.  Unfortunately that will have to wait another month or two.  My Bride has been working to replace the window in the bimini that broke last year.  That is complete and she has repaired some other areas as well.  But we can’t put the bimini up to check the panel placement until we take down our winter biodome (aka clear shrink wrap).  In the mean time I can work on installing the charge controller (I was able to get one of the last Rogue MPT-3048 charge controllers available thanks to Compass Marine) and getting the rest of the install ready.

In the meantime, onto to other projects on the Epic To-Do List.  This weekend I will be changing the macerator pump.  That will be a shitty job (pun intended).

Testing results



Attire: Upscale-Business Casual Required

wrinkle pic

I  do not work from the boat (unless it’s another blizzard or nor’easter like today).  My company required dress attire is “upscale-business casual”  which means I pretty much have to wear a suit or similar to work. So needless to say, I have an entire wardrobe of soon-to-be useless clothes on board that I need to keep in wrinkle-free condition so I can wear them to work. Probably one of my biggest battles with husband before we moved aboard was in regards to my clothes iron.  I stood my ground and we have an iron on the boat. I do take my clothes for dry-cleaning but I also am trying to save $, so I try to get at least 2-3 wears out of my dress pants, skirts, and jackets before I bring them in to be cleaned again.  So, between the multiple wearing and my clothes being crushed into my sort-of-hanging closet (I commandeered the 2nd state-room and hung a shower rod across a section), I need to liberate the wrinkles from my clothes before wearing.  I have an area just past the galley that I hang my clothes and steam them each night; I crack the hatch so the steam flees Smitty and I have a dehumidifier running at all times (pretty much required for winter living on a boat in Boston).  This has worked out well for me.  Come fall, when we quit our jobs to head south on our next part of our life journey, I will pack up all of these suits and send them to my mother’s attic, as I do not know what the future holds and it would not exactly be cheap to have to replace these garments. In regards to shoes, that was much easier to deal with.  I did consolidate the shoe collection down quite a bit (I’m sure husband would not concur). All of my heeled shoes are in a large drawer in my office.  So, when I have a formal non-work event, I just bring a pair of shoes home – which then stay in the car until they go back to the office. I am not so good at going up and down the dock in my high heels – I snag a heel in-between the wood dock boards every time!  Most of the heels will also be making the pilgrimage to my mother’s attic when we cut the lines this October 2015.

For those of you who do not want to deal with ironing, here is a helpful link:                                                                                      How to Remove Wrinkles from Clothes without Ironing