The essential power system rework is complete. Now we're (finally) in a position to start adding new features. Until we replaced the old, out-of-date equipment, it was difficult to add anything.
There were really only two small things to replace: the diodes and the charger But there were a lot of side-tracks and a great deal of collateral damage. And a lot of cable ties.
Here's how it played out.
Shure isolator diodes. They robbed us of charging voltage. They had to go.
Guest 1-2-Both-Off switch. It worked, but without isolator diodes it presents a risk of failure. You need to fiddle with the switch. A lot. You need to switch from house to engine to start. And then you need to switch it so that you fully charge each bank of batteries. And you have to be sure never to switch both banks off while the alternator is running. There's no way to prevent this cockpit error.
- BEP 716 Voltage Sensing Relay with Emergency Parallel Switch. This involves sophisticated electronics (unlike the old diode and switch). However, it requires less intervention to get batteries charged. And there's no "don't turn the switch that way" failure mode.
This allows moving some wiring around and generally cleaning up. The idea was to move the wires just enough to add a new charger.
That's not how it played out, however.
CA's company gave her a free solar panel. See Free (and Not-So-Free) Power.
This is relatively easy to install. However, there will be additional charging sources in the future. So the wiring cleanup has to be expanded to include the solar panel. This turned a little cleanup into a lot of cleanup. It required expanding the ground bus from two parts to three parts.
- Coleman 58033 18W Solar Charging Kit. 18W is (at most) 1.5A; a trickle, really. But fine for topping up the batteries while we're away.
Interestingly, removing the isolator diodes revealed that the old 55A alternator had a shorted internal diode.
- Motorola 8MR2018K 55A alternator with internal "dumb" regulator. After the rebuild by Browning's, this is a handy-to-have spare.
- Balmar 712-110 alternator with ASR-5 "smart" regulator. Again, we're replacing simple electronics with much more complex electronics. However, we also get multi-stage charging that can be customized for our battery chemistry.
This allows moving even more wiring around and generally cleaning up. Upgrading from a 55A alternator to a 110A alternator means upgrading the old wiring from AWG #8 to AWG #4 to handle the increased current flow.
It meant removing an unfused current source for the oil pressure switch and alternator field. It also meant removing a long, confusing run from alternator to circuit panel and back to isolator diodes.
Back on Track
Now that we're done visiting the various side-tracks, we can get back to the rework.
- Triad-Utrad converter/charger. It was an inefficient constant-voltage charger with a 60Hz hum. We thought about trying to sell this at the consignment store. But realistically, it's just scrap metal.
- Mastervolt ChargeMaster 120/70A. Again, we're replacing simple electronics with much more sophisticated electronics. However, we also get multi-stage charging that can be customized for our battery chemistry.
Almost all we've accomplished is to replace "old and busted" with "new hotness".
We do get some desirable features as part of the rework.
We've gained multi-phase, high-voltage battery charging. This should make better use of our house battery bank by charging it more quickly and more completely. In the long run, that reduces our carbon footprint.
We've also simplified our operations. The only manual operation is the emergency parallel switch. We can operate this in the rare circumstance that the starting battery is stressed by a failure to start on the first few tries.
Now that we've simplified our power systems and organized our wiring, we're ready to look into adding new features.
An inverter so that we can run our few AC appliances (Mini-Me, in particular) away from the dock. The 1000W Xantrex ProSine inverter seems appropriate.
Full-sized (i.e. 200W or more) solar panels. Our energy budget is 70Ah per day. Ideally, 4 hours of perfect sun leaves us carbon-neutral. At a recent Whitby Family Get-Together, we learned about a popular installation.
DuoGen solar/towed charger. In wind mode it might produce 7-10 A; a breezy anchorage may be bouncy and rolly, but it also leaves us carbon neutral. In towed mode, it produces 10-12A, meaning we can sail and charge our batteries.
Small, two-stroke generator as a backup. We have a two-stroke dinghy engine. As long as we're carrying two-stroke fuel, it seems sensible to spend another $100 on a portable generator.
It's pleasant to have options.
Also—and perhaps more important—we've done the work ourselves. We know how it works, where it's installed, and how to diagnose and repair it.
While The Commodore isn't skilled in things electrical, she is critical of sloppy installation, confusing explanations, hard-to-read displays, missing cable-ties and the risk of operational errors. And she has the yoga flexibility to get into smaller spaces and apply the missing cable-ties.
This means that a critical part of the installation process is a final walk-through to see the pieces and parts in place. It forces me to have a tidy explanation of the technology with a focus on the operational and diagnostic procedures.