Friday, November 16, 2012


I have mentioned that those of accustomed to living on boats may have an easier time than those who are only living on land after storms like Hurricane Sandy. That's because cruising on a boat like BIANKA involves getting away from land as much as possible. My boat is usually on a mooring or anchored off in some picturesque spot that pleases me. Very rarely will I tie up to a marina's dock. So one is well aware of how much power one can use and where it comes from. We sailors know it is not seemingly unlimited and always available at the flick of a switch. Millions of people who reside on land including the residents of lower Manhattan had a "reality bites" experience after Hurricane Sandy blew through the area. They might learn a thing or two from sailors like myself who have taken some of the technology that worked so well on board our boats and have transferred it sucessfully to land based structures. You can save quite a bit of power (watts), money  and have an automatic emergency back up system to illuminate the rooms in your house at the same time.  Like my whole house LED lighting system:

I have converted many of the lights on board BIANKA to energy efficient LED's from the masthead anchor light to the ones over the galley and cabin.   They worked so well in the boat I wondered how they would do in the house. So I went about building a simple system that would meet my needs. It's easy to do with off the shelf components the heart of which is a Morningstar SL-10L-12V SunLight 10 Amp Charge Controller LVD .

This unit does a number of things. 

1) It turns on up to 10 amps of 12 volt LED lights at dusk and off at dawn. It also has timed switched presets if you don't won't to have the lights on all night.  

2) It controls the charge to battery from the solar panel(s). It also has a jumper to select charge profiles for Flooded or Sealed batteries. 

3) It uses the output of the solar panels to sense when dusk begins and turns on the lights and also when dawn begins and turns them off. 

4) It has a low voltage disconnect it will disconnect the lights from the battery bank once the battery voltage drops below 11.8 volts to protect the battery bank until the solar panels once again are able to start charging the battery again.

Connections are simple:
Two terminals are for the solar panel connections.
The next two terminals are for the 12 volt battery
The last connections are for the wiring to the LED lights.

I use In-line AGC Fuse Holders on the output to LED lights and the battery to protect against a short circuit. It's for safety and I recommend it.
Two Siemens 12 volt 75 watt solar panels that were left over from a boat project that changed direction provide the charging for the batteries. I've mounted them on the south side of the house.

As you can see one has not yet tilted one of the panels for optimum sun exposure but, it's on the to do list though the system works fine as is anyway.  

 The batteries are two Sealed Lead Acid Battery (12V; 35 AH; UB12350) batteries connected in parallel. 

The only reason I am using two is because one arrived with the lug damaged and the other one was the replacement. So rather than just have one sitting around sulfating I put both of them to work on the LED house system.

I use two types of LED's in the system. One is a   Disc Type G4 Base Side Pin 6 SMD LED 10 - 30 Volt DC  unit. I like to use the warm white version.
It also has a buck regulator that keeps current regulated so that the LED junctions do not overheat and fail due to voltage or current fluctuations in the wiring. It's something you should look for in any LED's you use on board the boat or at the house as a slight variation in current or voltage can blow the LED electrical junctions destroying the LED.

The other LED light I use is the BEKA Light from BEBI Electronics. ( BLOG UPDATE: Bebi Electronics is no longer selling LED Lights )It was designed to be used on a boat as a cockpit anchor light. But, I use them in the house when I want to illuminate bigger rooms like the living room or dining area. I ordered mine with warm colored LED's facing downward and the bright white LED's for the outside  perimeter facing ones.  

 The downward facing LED's  provide a warm incandescent like look directed downward. While the bright white LED's bounce off the walls and illuminate the room with a bright indirect light.

Just about every room in my house is lit up by one of these two LED lights. They provide enough illumination so you can walk from room to room without ever having to turn on a light. Since they are charged by solar energy once the system is in place there are no additional costs and the rooms are lit from dusk to dawn. During Hurricane Sandy my neighbors wondered why I was the only one who seemed to have power when they saw my LED lights on. On the boat it's all about saving as much energy as possible by being as energy efficient as possible. On land this also has the added benefit of saving you money and also providing light when the electrical grid goes down as it did after Hurricane Sandy.  

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