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Green Houseboat Living - how to use Wind and Solar Power for Weekends?

by Jeff
(Louisville, KY)

Green Living Houseboats - using Wind and Solar Power

Green Living Houseboats - using Wind and Solar Power

We're going to rebuild our houseboat and go green, with wind and solar power, for living on during the weekends out at anchor.

We just purchased a 1969, 43ft Nautaline houseboat. and our intention is on that Friday's we'll move the boat from the dock, and go to a cove and return on Sunday afternoons.

Any running around the lake will be done in a small boat or jet ski's. I would like to depend on wind and solar power for the AC, refrigeration and lighting.

The houseboat is equipped with twin V8 318's, dana outdrives, and an Onan generator, and all will need going through. I will be doing some transom work and I'm sure some of the stringers as well.

My ideas are to remove the two old engines, outdrives, and generator, and in its place installing one modern engine and outdrive with electric thrusters.

The extra space and loss of weight would allow for battery banks on each side. The houseboat has no flybridge, so that space could be used for solar panels and wind generators.

Is this possible and how many watts and batteries would I need.

I also plan on heavily insulating, and possibly adding a mini split ac/heat pump.

Thanks, Jeff.

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Reply - Answer
Well Jeff, welcome to the houseboat forums, and congratulations on your plans of rebuilding, and going the green houseboat route.

I can't get into all the technical details, however I can give you a general overview of what I see needs to happen.

* To save yourself some engine & outdrive installation work, you may want to look into getting a suitable outboard engine, and mount it on a external bracket.

* When it comes to powering high current items (ac, electric stove, heat pumps, microwaves..) with wind and solar power, you may find that you need a very very LARGE system. (very costly)

You have two choices:

1) Build a large costly system, a large enough Self Sufficient wind and solar panel system, that is big enough to handle all of your electrical consumption, and yet has all the charging capabilities.

2) Build a smaller less costly system, to handle the lower power consumption items, and use a generator for the high current, high demand items.

There is so many different ways to do it all, and there is no clear cut answer as to how much wattage you will consume, or how many batteries in your battery bank you will need.

* I have now updated the Wind and Solar Powered Houseboats page with a link to help people learn How to Calculate the Load, Size & Power Requirements.

So Jeff, you definitely have some homework to do before you run out and start buying things. I would ask you to take some pictures, and share your Green Houseboat project here with us, as I am sure that you have inspired may other houseboaters to consider turning to green, wind, and solar powered houseboats.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their solar, wind, and green living houseboat experiences. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Green Houseboat Living - how to use Wind and Solar Power for Weekends?

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How big or how many on a houseboat?
by: Anonymous

We have a 16 x 75 Stardust with plenty of roof and always in the wind. How many panels / wind turbines does it take to run everything? How may batteries and what are the best to use. You would have to have 15 hours of run time on the batteries, right?

Solar Houseboat Tips - keeping cool with solar fans
by: Riverrat

No it takes a lot of surface area to power a medium sized AC unit, so don't even try. There is a trick I use in the CA Delta. In many lakes and rivers the water that's near the bottom can be quite cold.

I run a long thin wall 2" flex hose to the bottom. The end has a large strainer with screen door mesh over it. Just above the strainer is a small float and a short tether to a snider block. This holds the intake about a foot off the bottom.

On-board there's a solar powered pump which brings water into the bottom inlets of two large used automotive radiators in parallel. The water is than dumped overboard.

Solar powered radiator fans are used to finish the job.
Works so good even on a hot day, I have to turn the voltage to the system down to keep from getting too cold!

Rainy days on houseboats
by: John

I was thinking of powering my houseboat with solar, and wind, but I guess not. How do you power cities and cannot power a 14x60 home? Thanks for the info anyway.

Green Power for Houseboats
by: Old Houseboater

On a 43 foot boat you don't have enough available surface area for solar panels to support or power some air conditioning. You will be able to cover the fridge, lighting, and a TV with solar panels.

However: this will require a sizable array and battery capacity. Make sure it will not cut into people space that you might want to use.

Go into this project realizing that it is going to cost you MUCH more than you will possibly save, no matter how many years you own the houseboat. It will also probably make the boat un-sellable.

Solar means you are sitting out in the sun. Sitting out in the sun without air conditioning for extended periods is not something humans like to do. To have air conditioning on a boat, you need to have a generator.

The 43 Nautaline was/is a very liveable houseboat. You would be farther ahead, moneywise, to restore it to it's original configuration. The money you save would buy fuel for a number of years, and you will have something saleable at the end of your ownership period.

Not trying to rain on your parade, but know what your getting into and the costs involved.

If you are doing this for a "Green" demo project please document it, with pictures, and keep us up to date as a LOT of people are interested. Old Houseboater.

Reply - Answer
Old Houseboater, you did a very good job of explaining the drawbacks when it comes to powering Air Conditioning with a Solar Power or Wind system.

IAN from

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