One particularly neat aspect of living afloat for me, is being able to live completely off grid, using only solar energy for our electricity. Houses can of course be
set up to run completely off solar, but it is a bit of a larger undertaking as conventional houses tend to have a lot more appliances and consume a lot more energy than boats. Some boats seem to be on that end of the spectrum as well, with TV’s, microwaves and all kinds of energy gobbling conveniences. We don’t have many of these things on Mamaku, but I don’t think we live an overly spartan lifestyle. The electricity we get from our three solar panels seems to meet our basic needs, including running a freezer/refrigerator (a luxury many do without), charging the computer, running a stereo and the lights. At this point we’ve replaced all of the lights inside the boat, as well as the anchor light at the top of the mast with new LED bulbs, which use nearly a tenth of the energy as the old incandescent bulbs.
When we moved onto the boat we bought two 100 watt solar panels and an 300 watt inverter, we just recently installed another 100 watt flexible panel. The original two panels are mounted on the outside of the stanchions towards the stern. The new flexible panel is mounted on top of the hard dodger.
The only time the solar panels don’t meet our demand is in the winter, when the extremely damp and chilly Pacific Northwest winters have meant we’ve
wanted to run a de-humidifier and an additional electric heater. To meet that requirement, we plug into hydro while on the dock in the winter. If we do manage to install a wind generator one of these days, and an inverter with a larger wattage then we may no longer require plugging in in the winter to run these. Although, as friends who have had them have told me, wind generators can make a lot of unwelcome noise. We could always choose to do without those things, but the dehumidifier is such as blessing for keeping things dry, and the extra heater is definitely appreciated.
I’ve noticed since we began using solar that by necessity I’m much more aware of my energy consumption in ways that I previously would never have considered. While living in a house I certainly never though about what an energy guzzler something like a hair dryer is. On the boat I occasionally use the hand blender or coffee grinder, but these things max out the inverter and draw quite a bit. The wattage of your inverter governs what you can run. We met one fellow liveaboard this week who has a 1200 watt inverter and runs power tools off it regularly. We’ve chosen to make due with 300 for now and it seems to suit us just fine.