The email from Christopher at Green Yachting said "Congratulations you are one of five finalists chosen from many applications to receive a complimentary Solar Green 12 volt hot water heating package."
To say that we were excited at receiving that email is an understatement. We were stoked. Permanent hot water, even while at anchor, was going to be luxury… Sheer luxury.
How did it all begin?
It all began in April when our friend Mike gave us a heads up that a guy had put a post up on the Med Sailing Facebook group calling for people to help him promote his new product. In return for receiving the heating system for free the winners were asked to make a video of the installation process and promote it across social media. We could definitely do that.
Once we'd received the good news a few more emails went back and forth and we arranged to meet Christopher from Green Yachting in the harbour at Pythagorion on the Greek island of Samos on May 18th 2019.
On board Christopher's yacht he showed us the 12 volt heating element and the smart controller while explaining how the system worked. The element is exactly the same size and thread as a standard 220 volt hot water heating element, so it was a simple case of unscrewing and removing one and replacing it with the other. Simple is definitely not how it was and I'll tell you all about that later in this blog.
How does it work?
The requirements to make the system work are a minimum of 200 watts of solar panels and 200Ah of AGM or lithium batteries. On board A B Sea we have 600 watts of solar and for domestic use we have 285Ah of flooded lead acid batteries.
Our electrical power consumption is fairly low and each morning when I check the state of the batteries I have never seen less than 80% capacity still remaining. Couple that with our over specced solar input and usually on a sunny day our batteries are back up to 100% by 10.30am even during the winter months.
The Solar Green smart controller monitors the batteries and if they are less than 80% it will not heat the water. Once it sees that the batteries are back up to 100% it will begin heating the water up to 50C (122F) and then switch on and off as needed to maintain the temperature between 43 and 50 degrees, so power consumption overall is very low.
How long did it take to install?
Three days. But that has nothing to do with the product. That has everything to do with being on a small Greek island and not having the right tools for the job. Installation went like this;
Day 1: Empty the aft cockpit locker to get access to the hot water system. Empty the aft port side cabin to get access to the batteries and negative bus bar. Run a mousing line from the water heater compartment to the battery compartment to make running the electrical cables easy and to measure the distance so we knew how much electrical cable we needed to buy.
Day 2: I spent nearly all morning at the local chandler getting the correct gauge electrical cables cut to length and customising the cable terminators to be able to connect them to the smart controller, the heating element, the 35amp circuit breaker, the negative bus bar and the positive battery terminal.
With that completed it was back to the boat to remove the 220 volt heating element from the water heater. Not so fast there tiger. Nothing I had on board could get a firm grip on the hex shaped top of the element. A little research told me that the tool I required was a 55mm (2.16 inch) box socket.
Back to shore and after asking in the chandlers and every car hire place in town the answer was a big fat no. Luckily there is a marina not too far away from where we were anchored and I drove the dinghy over there and eventually found a marine mechanic who did have the tool but it was in his offsite workshop. I arranged to meet him again at 3.30pm to borrow the tool after he came back from lunch.
With the correct tool and once again back at the boat it was time to crack this nut (pun intended) once and for all. After 20 minutes of pushing and pulling and eventually breaking out the large rubber mallet the element decided to allow me a small victory as it reluctantly spun lose.
But the Universe decided that I hadn't been challenged enough. The gasket that helps create a water tight seal on the 220 volt heating element was toast, there was no way it could be reused and the new 12 volt element didn't come supplied with a gasket. Luckily I had in my tool kit a tube of liquid gasket compound that I'd bought in Spain so all was not lost.
With the new 12 volt heating element installed I motored back to the marina in our dinghy and returned the borrowed 55mm socket. By the time I got back to the boat I was feeling the need for liquid refreshment and needing to choose between a cold beer, or two, and scrambling around in a hot and sweaty locker caused the job to be suspended for the remainder of the afternoon.
Day 3: This was the easy bit. Cables were connected at various places, installation instructions and diagrams were double checked and the switch was ceremoniously flicked into the on position. There were no pops, bangs or sparks. Everything just worked the way it was meant to and the smart controller LED light informed us that the system was indeed heating our water.
Died and gone to heaven
We now count ourselves to be very fortunate to be one of the five boats chosen to receive a Solar Green 12 volt hot water system and it really is a luxury to have permanent hot water to wash dishes, have a shower and generally clean things on board. Thank you Christopher.
If you want to find out more about Solar Green or the other products offered by Green Yachting I've included the links below.
For transparency, we were given the 12 volt heating element and smart controller at no cost but with the understanding that we would write a blog and make a YouTube video about our installation process and also include links to Green Yachting and the Solar Green product on our website. We do not receive any commissions from sales of any Green Yachting products.