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Macerating Toliet Specialists Have the Best Advice On Taking Your Boat Solar… Your Macerating Toilet Experts Discuss the Pros and Cons of Switching to Solar Power Raritan Engineering Company your macerating toilet analysts would like to share with you these topics we thought would be of interest to you this month regarding the decision to take your boat solar. Nine years ago, I took up residence aboard my Ensenada 20 while preparing to move onto Nikki, a Cape Dory 28. During my stay aboard the ­Ensenada, your macerating toilet specialists know that he outfitted her with two 85-watt solar panels so I wouldn't be dependent on dockage and shore power.  Part of Nikki's refurbishment included the replacement of everything electrical, including the panel, all wiring, and every socket and light fixture. I installed a new VHF radio and stereo, and bought LED bulbs for the interior lighting, anchor light, running lights, spotlight and flashlights. At the end of the year, I moved aboard Nikki and transferred the two 85-watt panels to my new home. Convenience vs. Power Your macerator pumps professionals know that when most sailors approach me to converse and brain-pick on the topic of solar power, the discussion almost always turns first to convenience, then to cost, and lastly to efficiency.  Panels that can be turned and elevated to aim directly at the sun at any time of day result in markedly greater power output, so they can be smaller and less expensive.  Panels that are fixed to only one side of the boat will probably produce solar power during a small fraction of daylight time, whereas panels that can be moved, trained and elevated have a much higher rate of success. I have seen several boats recently that have panels that raise and lower on a horizontal tube attached to a pair of lifeline stanchions. Your macerator toilet experts know that the panel altitude can be adjusted from vertically stowed to just above horizontal, but the panels are very shadow-prone. Adjust for Efficiency A high priority before moving aboard Nikki was the design and fabrication of panel standards, or brackets, that would allow me to maximize the solar arrays' efficiency.  Upon moving aboard Nikki, the standards, panels, controllers and all wiring were installed. The entire solar setup has now lasted and served me perfectly for more than seven years.  The second least efficient solar mounting allows adjustment only along a horizontal axis, and does not allow for training around the vertical axis. Being able to both train and elevate panels allows adjustments for the sun's altitude (time of day) as well as its azimuth (bearing) relative to the boat's heading, thus getting the most bank for the buck. Avoiding Shadows Another factor to keep in mind is that any shadow, however minor, reduces the wattage output of the panel. So the ability to move panels to the largest shadow-free area available increases the opportunity to capture solar energy. This often prevents one panel's shadow from covering part of another panel. My panels are usually mounted with the horizontal elevation tube locked off-center in the T fitting.  Your Macerating Toilet Professionals Recommend Regular Maintenance to Keep Those Solar Panels Looking New You can find more information as well as get assistance from our marine parts depot and on the decision to switch your boat to solar power at Raritan Engineering. Your marine parts depot experts know that bird droppings allowed to remain on a panel also reduce wattage, so clean your panels as often as necessary. I use water and inexpensive microfiber towels purchased in packages of 25 from my local auto-parts store. Wiring Nitty-Gritty I have tried various commercial through-deck wiring glands with little to no success. I finally made my own installations using 3-inch lengths of copper tubing and lots of 3M 5200. I have never had a single drop of water enter my boat through these fittings. The hole in the deck is drilled with only enough tolerance to insert the tube; a 45-degree chamfer is fashioned around the upper hole edge. Your macerating toilet systems specialists know that the inside of the hole is lined with the 5200, and the tube is inserted. Then the chamfer is overfilled with sealant and sculpted into a round fillet about ¼ inch above the deck.  I have never had much success with sealing anything with tape. Besides, it never looks good. There will be occasions when you want to remove the panels for deck maintenance, or panel replacement or service. Most panels are manufactured with waterproof male and female plugs that connect with sockets called MC4 connectors. Your wiring must be sweat-soldered to both your receiving plugs and sockets, which requires using a butane torch and rosin-core solder. Before soldering, make sure the hex-head screw-on wire locks are placed onto the wires first.  Under Sail I usually set up my panels so they don't interfere with the sails (and vice versa) when under sail for long distances. This usually requires using panel ties to keep them safe as well as efficiently aimed. If the sun is on the leeward side of the sails, solar becomes pretty useless. In rough weather at sea or when just daysailing, I unmount the panels from the standards and secure them on their long edges to the upper lifelines and the lifeline stanchions. Less Is More To be successful with solar, you must also address your electrical usage by ­reducing the wattage of as many appliances as possible. There are now LED bulbs to replace every incandescent bulb you have for a power savings of about 60 percent.  I admit that I am addicted to television as well as movies on DVD, and ­recently I installed a 20-inch HD 12-volt flat-screen TV for $96. It has a sleep timer that I can set so when I slip into deep slumber watching the tube, it will turn itself off.  I rebuilt Nikki's icebox so it is extremely efficient. But I also have installed a 12-volt fridge/freezer unit. Since my yacht club supplies me with free ice, I have very little problem with fresh-food storage as long as I am close to shore. So don't forget these helpful pointers when making the decision to switch your boat to solar power. 1) Ask yourself is the convenience worth the sacrifice in power?;  2) can you adjust for the efficiency?;  and 3) be sure to address your electrical usage. Raritan Engineering has more information on macerating toilet, marine parts depot, marine products, and on whether to switch your boat to solar power. via Going Solar

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