Friday, March 24, 2006

Changing the Lighting

Part of the comprehensive program to manage power is to reduce loads. Although we tend not to think about it, because they're so small, is lighting. An incandescent bulb uses a lot of power. Since installing the Xantrex battery monitor, it's easy to see how much current is being drawn and how much time I have left before needing to recharge the house bank.

Also, until now the cost of white LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights have been prohibitive - but one of our sailing buddies has found the Super Bright LED site where you can purchase LED bulbs for interior lighting up to and including navigation lights. Laura is replacing her low down lamps which draw 25 watts each (or a little over 2 amps each) with LEDs that draw .2 amps each! That's some savings - especially when overnight racing.

Another incentive to change the lighting is that one of my overhead lights' bulb burned out and in the process of replacing it, the whole thing fell apart. Since I had to replace the fitting anyway, I thought I'd try the LED thing, which is less expensive by an order of magnitude than replacement of the fitting.

Above is an example of the kinds of power saving possible - at least with a spot/reading lamp. The first picture is of the Xantrex reading with the incandescent bulb, and the other with the LED. To get the thing to work, I had to rewire the lamp because the LEDs are polarity-sensitive. This is important, because I thought the bulbs were bad, but when all three didn't work, I knew that wasn't the case. But these bulbs (bayonette, one contact) are $9.99 each and they last for 10,000 hours.

You can see the difference is marked - 1.5 amps to .3, and this is the biggest brightest bulb I could get (19 LEDs as opposed to 12).

So, I removed all the other lighting fittings and brought them home so I could work in comfort. First, I disassembled the lamps. They're typical Guest lamps. They're cheaply built, and have only been saved from certain corrosion into oblivion by the fact that Herb and I keep a really dry boat. The only thing I kept from the fitting was the switch. This picture shows the fittings beforehand. Notice I'm replacing those silly bulbs with a 36 diode array. Also notice the array has a socket on it, which I'm going to remove. The bulb in the fitting is held by two cheap clamps, and they fall apart when you remove the bulb.

The first step is to remove everything and clean up the fitting. I used a drill to remove the remaining bulb holders, and de-soldered the switches. It turns out the wiring was all cheap - like speaker wire, and showed corrosion inside insulation. So, here's what I have to say about that: I hope Guest has upgraded their manufacturing. If they're making stuff for the marine industry, they should be doing it right with tinned wire.

Although you can't see it, the sockets are off the LED panels.

I drilled holes in the center of the fitting to run the LED's leads through. Next, I used a really terrific product, called 'AquaMend', an epoxy stick, that I got from West Marine, to attach the LED panels to the reflector side of the fitting. This stuff hardens in 5 minutes above the water or below! Everyone should have some. I made 1/2" balls and pressed the circuit board into them leaving the board slightly above the surface of the fitting to ensure there won't be any shorting.

Finally, on the other side, I soldered the red lead to the switch, extended the black lead, and soldered a new red lead to the switch. Then I tested the light with a 12V power supply. The last thing was to put a dab of 3M 5200 where the leads come through the reflector so that if the lamp hangs on the leads, the stress isn't on the solder joint on the circuit board.

I also crimped on spade fittings so that the next person to remove these lamps doesn't have to cut the wires.

I've reinstalled all these lamps and here's a picture. I think they will provide more light, and a much pleasanter white-blue color. I happen to like it, but not everyone will.

The last light, the spot, is pictured here all rewired.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

There's Lots to Report

Ok, the solar panels are still waiting - I haven't received the wire I need to do the job, but everything else is here. These weeks in March are marked by 60 - 70 degree weather or 30 degree weather. And windy? Gale warnings almost all week.

Last weekend, though, Herb and I installed a new battery by cutting a hole in the area next to the current batteries (I explored that by cutting a small hole), installing a mount and hatch, setting the battery in, and wiring it up. Easy, huh? I thought it would be a couple of hours - it was all day, like 6 hours!

To review, I made the currently installed batteries a single bank (1), and the wire from bank 2, now is removed from the battery box (you can't see it, though).

First, I got a latching hatch cover from Defender, traced the opening, and cut it out. After making sure it fit, I epoxied the edges because oddly enough, that deck is balsa core. Who'd think it? Anyway, this particular hatch is strong, latches and is waterproof. Not that I need it there, but if you're thinking of putting one in your deck (for through cockpit sole engine access) this is a good one - the opening is 10 x 12", big enough for batteries...

Finally, using adhesives, marine putty and epoxy, mahogany bars, and some ingenuity with a sabre saw, I made a frame that will hold the battery level. I 3M 5200'd the battery holder to the frame, installed the battery, and wired it up. Cool.

This week, Laura and I are installed the Echo Charger from Xantrex. What it does is charge the starter battery when any charger source is on and the voltage is low on the starter battery. It's all automatic. And it isolates the charging systems from any of the load busses, which was one of the points of this exercise. The other, of course, is to make sure that even if I run the house batteries down, I still have power for starting the motor.

Mount the box somewhere (you can see I mounted it near the starter battery on the forward bulkhead of the new storage area. The rest turns out to be a simple three wire set up. Run the red to the main bank, run the white striped red to the starter battery, and the black to ground. Badaboom, badabing! Fuggeddaboudit!

Last Monday, my friend Leigh and I went for a hike in Tallman State Park, from Stateline Lookout in New Jersey to a very pretty little waterfall near Lamont Dougherty Geological Laboratory. It's a great little walk along the Palisades with excellent views of the lower Hudson River.

It was such lovely weather I had to take my shirt off! Beautiful!

I know you're getting tired of seeing Inertia at a dock, but Friday night I made patterns for the letters to the name and cut them out of self-stick UV treated white dacron. I'm happy to tell you all the technical crap, but I believe even you all have a limit... Anyway Martin of Somerset Sails offered a free riding sail, and so, there it ia along with the new sail cover.

If you don't know what it's for, it's for being at anchor or mooring. You set it to help stop the boat from 'sailing at anchor'. Most boats without full keels do that. You could also use it in the case that you're deploying a sea anchor to prevent the same sailing about it, too.

Monday is the first day of spring, so I'll be seeing you on the water real soon now!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A New Battery Monitor and News From Across the Pond

Before I go into this much, I have to say, I have some pretty terrific friends! Today Herb, Laura and I installed a new Xantex Battery Monitor from Jack Rabbit Marine on Inertia, and rewired my two batteries to be one bank. I purchased a new starting battery from West Marine to be my reserve on bank 2.

Rewiring the batteries was a snap - a couple of minutes. But getting the sensor/power cable from the power panel above the nav station to the batteries was a horror show - Herb took the whole lazarette apart to find a path for the thing, and finding that wasn't necessary, put the whole thing back together again!

Laura is doing essentially the same upgrades to her boat so was interested to see what this was all about, and got some pointers on how to do the wire crimping and so forth. And she has an incredible curiousity about all things mechanical/electrical on a boat. She's an awesome surgeon, yet thinks mechanical stuff is a mystery. Anyway, I'm glad to be able to impart some small wisdom to her.

Here are some quick pictures of the project.

Here's the nav station with the main board out, getting ready to cut a hole for the monitor. I decided to put the monitor below the 120v plug so I leave what little real estate I have in the removable panel for something special, like a radar display.

I really hate cutting holes in the boat - it seems so final. You really can't put the plug back in. Using the supplied template, I marked the center and the 4 screw holes. A 2" hole saw, and ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing, fuggeddaboudit!

Laura and Herb wired up the head (meter, whatever) according to the instructions. I was working in the battery well, so here's a picture of it wired. It turns out the terminal screws are little tiny screws - Laura volunteered to run to Grand Union and pick up an eye-glasses screwdriver for the task. Jack Rabbit provided 25 feet of 8 conductor cable for the installation - you only need 5 conductors unless you install the optional battery temperature monitor.

Here is the whole panel back in with the Xantex monitor on and functioning. Woohoo. The thing is incredible - it measures battery load down to .1 amp, and keeps track of amp hours used, number left (you have to tell it how many you have to begin with). And a whole bunch of other stuff. It's the beginning of an integrated power management system.

The batteries are two group 29's (an odd size, I'm told, but they really are. It says so right on the battery). Ok, so the battery farthest away is battery #2, and nearest, #1. If you take the time to follow the wires, you'll see there's two big red wires and one black that connects both grounds. Hence, two banks of one battery each.

Now, the batteries are paralleled and connected to the battery switch's #1 position for a big house bank. The other red lead is actually laying in the opening at the left. I was thinking of putting the started battery in that hole, but it crowds the stuffing box. So not there - as it turns out, there's a huge area to the right of the battery box that can be, what else? A new battery box. I'll install a 12" x 15" hatch. I don't understand why this wasn't made a storage locker when the boat was built.

Finally, the device you see before you is the heart of the battery monitor - basically it's nothing more than a really big low resistance resistor. The monitor monitors the current across it. (Actually the voltage drop, but close enough. It can calculate the current from that.) That big yellow wire is the ground - new marine wiring standards suggest the ground in boats should be yellow on 12 volt systems so the black doesn't get confused with black hot in AC systems. A great idea.

After a hard day's work on this completely successful installation, Gina had a wonderful turkey dinner ready for us! A couple of glasses of wine, great food, and summer plans. Also - Laura and I are replacing our interior lamps with white LEDs. There's a company Super Bright LEDs that has really good prices for the bulbs - and they have 1/10 the power requirements of incandescent bulbs. So I'll let you know about them.

Now for something completely different. Renee has tackled a huge project that seems to include ripping out her heating system and well, apparently the whole interior as well. I'm dying to see what it looks like, so I surely do hope she sends some pictures along. Big job, and she's indicated that sometimes you can have too much help!

Well, next week I'll be installing solar panels, I hope.

See you on the water!