Friday, May 10, 2019

Albin 28 Solar Panel Installation

Compadre at the public dock in Long Beach
Like most Albin 28's, Compadre is fitted with a Group 31 starting battery and a single 8D house battery. This is enough reserve power most of the time, but there are occasions when we need a bit more, like when we're on the hook for three days or four days at a time. As a staunch "Keep-it-simple" kind of guy, I don't have a generator aboard so that means we've had to run the diesel to top up the batteries whenever we're anchored out for more than a couple of days. To help solve that issue I decided to install a solar panel.

I chose a 50 watt kit from GoPower. The kit includes a flexible panel, controller, wiring and fasteners.
A panel this size won't meet all of our power needs but I'm interested only in augmenting our battery power, not replacing it and this is an economical starting point that I can expand by adding another 50 watt panel if necessary.
Cost of the GoPower 50 watt kit was just under $400

The installation was straightforward. The first step was to determine the best place to locate the panel. I chose the area aft of the radar arch because it's pretty much out of harm's way there, and it would be easy to route the wiring from there to the battery. Once that decision was made I did the wiring, running the wires down the starboard cabin-side to the engine compartment, across the boat and up to the the DC panel above the galley where the controller would be located. Then came the fun part.

I wanted to fabricate a box that would accommodate the controller along with a USB charging port and a 12 volt outlet as well. We always seem to need more charging ports for phones, Pads, etc.
I edge-glued strips of 1" x 3/16" teak to make an 8"x 16" panel. The reason for this is because the controller and some of the other components could not accommodate a thicker panel. I then glued together a teak box and assembled the panel to it. The edge-glued surface made for an interesting grain pattern.

Laminated panel front.

Rear of the panel reinforced with 1/4" plywood

Box is assembled and ready for varnish.
The depth of the box accommodates the various components. 

First coat of varnish applied. The box would receive a total of seven
coats of Epifanes high gloss.
While the varnish work was going on I finished the installation of the solar panel. For safety I mounted it on 1/4" spacers. It can be a fire hazard to mount the panel directly to the cabin top. Feeding the wires through the cabin top required a custom feed-through block, which I made from Starboard.

Solar panel is 45" long and fits nicely aft of the radar arch.
Feed-through block accommodates heavily insulated wires and butt
connections to #10awg Ancor wiring. I drilled a 9/16" hole through
the cabin top and installed plastic races leading to the support pillar
to conceal the wires on the underside of the cabin top.

Wire race on the underside of the cabin top.
The wires feed through the top at the upper left end of the race.

Wires enter the cabin side here.

Installation complete.
The rocker switch on the right energizes the USB and 12v ports.
The toggle switch on the left connects the solar panel to the charge controller.

For a clean  installation, I epoxied a pair of  #10-24 threaded rods into the rear of the box and bolted it to the bulkhead from the inside.  I removed the DC panel to gain access to this area. One interesting glitch in the installation is that the bulkhead where I wanted to mount the box is not flat. It's warped about 3/8" from corner to corner. Other than that, it was a fairly easy project to complete.  We're headed over to the island soon and will find out if the 50 watt panel adds enough power for our needs.