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Getting Juiced Up!

You know, electrified! On the boat! We have shore power on our boat, but no generator. This has limited our overnight stays on the hook to only a handful since owning this boat since 2003. A hot meal would be nice sometimes, coffee, cold milk too. How about running the air conditioner? That would be just perfect. Less than a year ago I became aware of what are called “solar generators”. I am not sure how long they have been around, but there are many brands available and they come in many capacities.
Basically, it is a battery with a built-in inverter. They can supply 12 volts and 120-volt power. They can be charged from your boat battery, from household current, and yes, by solar panels. When I purchased mine, I was looking for a generator that could run our boat air conditioner for an overnight stay. And maybe with some judicious use, I could stretch out the power to last until morning to brew some coffee for my wife. I don’t drink coffee but I do like a cold glass of orange juice in the morning, so it would have to keep a refrigerator running also. As an added duty, I wanted it to be able to run a small electric grill so we could barbeque. Nothing like a hot burger or hotdog when at anchor.

So, after a lot of research and a sale, I purchased a solar generator from Bluetti. I am not promoting any one brand, this is just the one I got. It was delivered at the end of last winter and came charged to about eighty percent. Since the boat was still shrink-wrapped, I wanted to start testing it.
The first test I could come up with was a grill. Since I did not have an electric grill, we went out and bought a George Foreman grill. The unit itself has four twenty-amp outlets, so there are plenty of spots to plug in. I had the unit out in the shop and one rainy evening we used the solar generator and the grill to cook up some burgers. The first step was successful and the meal passed inspection by the boss.

The next step was to plug the solar generator into the receptacle I have in my shop and see how it would work powering our house. For this, the unit has a thirty amp. outlet (like a clothes dryer) and with a cable I ordered online I plugged it in and turned on the generator feed at our main electrical panel. Granted, it will not handle our oven or any other 220-volt appliance. But it does keep the lights going, and our refrigerators and other 120-volt needs. Obviously, the more appliances you have turned on the shorter the time you would have keeping the lights on. But if you use only what you need, and limit the opening of refrigerator doors it may last long enough in a power outage. One thing I did not mention is the ability to hook up two extra batteries to the unit to triple the power available. I purchased one extra battery. The main unit has 2048 watts/hours and the second battery doubles that to 4096 watts/hours. This could be enough to keep you comfortable at home using just what you need. It is also not something you want to move more than necessary, weighing in at sixty-one pounds. The extra battery weighs forty-seven pounds. I did not bring the extra battery when I used the generator on the boat.
After getting the cables I needed to hook this up to the boat’s shore power receptacle, it was time to try it out on the boat. The cable plugs into the 30-amp outlet on the solar generator and connects to the shore power receptacle on the boat. It is fifteen feet long so that it can be kept up by the helm area staying dry while we swim and hang out at the stern of the boat. I was a little concerned about the surge rating of the Bluetti at 4800 watts but that is not an issue with our air conditioner on the boat.
I got everything all set up and turned on the unit. Then I went below and turned on the air conditioner. It came on just as it was supposed to and with the thermostat set for sixty-eight degrees it kept on running. I think I was asking too much of it because it never cycled off and on. The cabin never got below seventy-two degrees. With the air conditioner and two refrigerators running the battery power level went from one hundred percent down to sixty-eight percent in two and a half hours. At first, I was disappointed with that until I realized I had set it way too cold. Next time we go out I will set the thermostat at seventy-five degrees and that should allow it to cycle on and off. At night time it should be even easier to maintain that temperature without using so much power from the generator. And if I bring the second battery there should be no question about that and having some power for coffee and other things.
Now you might say that this is a big hassle and not worth the effort. Why not get a small gas-powered generator and keep it on the swim platform or the cabin top? I’ve seen it done both ways but it’s not for me. The swim platform could easily get washed by a passing boat’s wake and the cabin top is just…dangerous. At least once a boating season we read an article about someone placing their generator on the cabin top and getting sick or even worse, dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. I am not willing to take that risk with myself or my family.
A diesel generator was an option on my boat when it was built and I am glad the original owner did not get one. As it is the engine room is very tight for me and with a generator installed, I don’t see how I could get any work done. Solar generators come in many capacities, this one seems to be the perfect solution for us, and maybe just what the doctor ordered for your needs onboard also.