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From the shower to the lights, how the Sun makes us save energy

Those who love long sailing navigations and spending nights in roadstead, know that the first problem to face and solve regards the electric power saving, which is crucial for the proper functioning of all, or at least almost all, of the on-board equipment: from the electronic instruments, to the plumbing. From the electrical system, to the simple night lightning of the boat cockpit, the cabins and the seating area.

After much thought about number and type of batteries and regarding the charging systems for which everyone has their needs and preferences, you can move on to the actual management of on-board consumption, whose ranging depends on the habits and the number of people aboard.

What is certain is that, thanks to the technological progress, the possibilities to reduce consumption have multiplied over the past few years.

The spread of an infinite number of equipment powered by solar cells made this possible, or at least by the Sun’s heat, which can also improve effectively eventual solar panel’s work. From the shower to the phone and tablet’s charger, from the lights to the cameras, the possibilities to save the batteries’ valuable energy, without giving up the comfort or the entertainment, are many and available to everyone. Sometimes a bit of imagination can be useful.

The first step regards water: the many who decided to install a foot pump, alongside to the classic on-board plumbing, are saving both the energy necessary to start the classic pump at 12 V and the precious water reserve.

The installation is accessible to everyone and this change allows, not only to manage with parsimony water’s consumption, but also represents an emergency system which could turn useful in case of electrical failures of the principal system.

Staying on the theme of water, the installation of solar power showers, maybe you have already filled it at the quay to avoid using the on-board saving, prevents using the boiler and it has already become a habit for many sailors. These showers are made in PVC, so they are easily foldable when not used, and they usually are available in sizes of 10, 15 and 20 litres, enough for many showers, equipped with a pipe and a dispenser and they’re very practical if hung on a roll-bar. Here’s an example in which the water falls in cascade:

Other models also allow to pressurize the water with a little equipped pump.

When talking about lights, solar energy is the host. All of the on-board lights, and they are many, can easily be left aside and you can find as an alternative the little rechargeable lamps that you can easily find on the market: hung from the lifeline wire in the morning, they provide a great and free lightning on board when the sun goes down. As an alternative, equally valid, you can find battery powered LED lights: they work with a pair of basic AA batteries and you can place them everywhere.

Many shipowners have already replaced their below deck lightning system with the solar energy one, especially since there are neither wires to connect, nor light bulbs to replace, so that you can avoid every problem regarding oxidation, failures and so on and so forth.  

Solar energy comes also to our aid for what concerns the chargers, and by now the market offers above and beyond: phones and tablets can comfortably be connected to solar power supplies which, not only guarantee the functioning of principal communication tools, but also can be excellent power banks. Therefore, you can connect them to 12 V other devices that you can install on-board.

For what concerns below deck comfort during warmer months (and a proper ventilation during cold months), with modern solar cell powered areators the energy consumption is zero. Here’s an example:

In conclusion, using such a natural energy as the solar one has now involved even the navigation equipment with Raymarine’s Tacktick wireless system powered with solar cells:

Technology offers, therefore, infinite possibilities to implement on-board energy supplies with free solar energy. To each, his own choice, based on their needs.

Stefano Sergi