Thursday 3 August 2017

Back on line!

Power has been restored
August 2017

Well, that was a long two weeks. 

We have finally had a new main alternator installed, which is delivering full charging capacity to our battery bank and life returns to normal, including the use of my rather power hungry laptop.

Its been an interesting period during which we had to implement some severe power saving measures, but relying on solar power alone certainly put the system to the test and highlighted the benefits and limitations of solar. Put simply, with it we were able to continue whereas without it we would probably have to have left the boat.

The two big energy consumers are the 12v fridge and the 32ltr 12v freezer, and as soon as we lost the alternator we gave up on the fridge and accepted that we would have to live with foods which could exist at ambient temperatures. A little challenging but still possible. However, we did want to keep the freezer running on account of all the food we had stored in it. We managed ok for a week with the solar panels just about keeping up in spite of rather cloudy conditions. The unit only uses about 25 amp hours a day which can be collected in two hours of bright sunshine, but then we need some more to power the lights and pumps so really we are looking for 40 amp hours which is ok on sunny days but not so achievable during day after day of rain with no sunny spells. I know that this all sounds a bit like Apollo 13 but when power is in short supply you start to consider everything in terms of amp hours used.

We managed to trade at Cosgrove two weeks ago, achieving a very good level of sales in between trips back and forth to Aldridge when stock was made, new glass delivered and most importantly, a new grandson born. Then it was back to the boat for a two day journey south to Linslade. During the journey we ran the generator in the butty and, via a trickle charger and a bit of sunlight, managed to get some life into the batteries. But then we stopped, the sun went in and the pumps ground to a stop. 

Sandra and Barry came to the rescue and fired up their unused freezer allowing us to turn ours off. Almost immediately our battery levels started to rise and by the end of the event they were topped up to maximum. And so the story should have have had a happy ending - but alas, no. 

RCR fitted our new alternator on Tuesday morning and as soon as Dan and Becky had joined us we set off to the Globe pub to pick up the frozen food. Barry opened the freezer and discovered that at some point the freezer had stopped and everything had thawed out after all. They have been having trouble with their cooling system and its likely that the battery levels dropped and the freezer cut out, but who knows.No matter, these things happen.

We are now in Fenny Stratford and were planning to trade at their small canal festival at the weekend. However, the long haul up from London and two very busy weekends in a row have taken their toll on Helen, who is still recovering from her treatment. We have therefore decided to skip Fenny Stratford and instead make a slow run to next weekend's festival in Blisworth, making lots of Blackberry Wine and Cherry Plum Jam as we travel.


D Baynham said...

I feel your pain, our inverter blew, so I bought a new victron, we went out for a few days, but our batteries went after 5 hours!!!!! That's 4 year old 120 ah batteries????? A great chap came out checked everything, couldn't find anything, but made all new connections. So we tried again for an overnight....yup they went again.

I bought the victron battery readout, this tells you the amps being used, so now I'm trying to find out what's eating our batteries? Interesting that your 12v fridge is a heavy eater, we have a 240v fridge, that uses roughly 1ah when not cooling and 5ah when cooling?

Andy Tidy said...

That's bad news Dave. I have to admit that I didn't do much research re the new shoreline fridge because we had to buy it the evening we arrived at the boat and the old one didn't work. I am basing the assumption purely on the fact that it kicks off heat and heat means power.... my guess is I could run the fridge or the feeezer from solar but not both, depending on the amount of sunlight available. Are your batteries 4 years old? If so they are probably nearing their replacement life as you use them a lot.

D Baynham said...

No our batteries are just a year old, I have programmed the victron battery thingy saying we have 400ah not 480ah.
Something is draining them, my guess is it's around the TV area, might be the industrial lathe or the 24 tanning salon?

Naughty-Cal said...

Agreed. Four years is not bad for a set of batteries.

Dave. How long does your 240v fridge spend cooling per hour?

If it is say 20 minutes per hour then that is using 2.66 amps per hour or 64 amps each day which seems a lot!

Our 12V fridge uses 2.4 amps per hour when running and runs for about 30 minutes in every hour which gives 31 amps each day.

Andy Tidy said...

Ah - the batteries should be ok then. Maybe it's that arc welder?

Andy Tidy said...

That's interesting - the depletion of the batteries suggested that the fridge was a bigger drain than the freezer- probably made worse by the fact it's open and closed a lot more than the freezer.

D Baynham said...

Our batteries are just 12 months old, the fridge seems to be on a max of 15 minutes a day. Nothing seems to be big in consumption (apart from 19th century people) I thought it might have been the Sky TV box, but no it hardly registers.
I'm flummoxed at the moment?

Andy Tidy said...

It could be a faulty cell in a single battery

D Baynham said...

I mean a max of 15 minutes an hour, the biggest user? I really don't know I'm hoping this gadget will let me know.

D Baynham said...

We checked each battery after 5 hours off charge and each one seemed ok?nowt is simple is it?

Dave Ward said...

Did you not consider an "emergency" link between the domestic & engine battery? The engine alternator is probably in the 40-60 amp range, and does virtually nothing when you are motoring. When I worked at a boatyard we offered an extra isolator to parallel the two battery banks. Alternatively, a single "jump lead" between the respective positive terminals would do the job. BUT.... remember to remove the link when you stop the engine!!!

Andy Tidy said...

Dave - I was told about that option yesterday! I didn't timker myself for fear of killing the starter battery on the process.

D Baynham said...

Andy, my sparky fitted a crossover on my trickle feeder, it monitors my starter and when needed charges that up instead. It's made by Victron too and does seem to work.

Dave Ward said...

You can't possibly take enough charge out of the starter battery to "kill" it in the space of a few seconds! So long as the domestic isn't completely dead connect the link before starting the engine. That way both batteries will be at similar voltages to start with, and there's less chance of a big spark if using a jump lead. This also means the (engine) alternator isn't hit with full load while it is already running. Of course you can use this process in reverse if the engine alternator ever packs up.

Quite frankly, I'm amazed that no boat builders appear to offer an extra isolator to parallel the battery banks - the cost is negligible, and could easily be incorporated in the build. With a bit of ingenuity you could arrange a lead or lanyard secured to the emergency switch handle, which can be attached somewhere you won't miss it. That way you wouldn't run both batteries down. For a real "belt & braces" solution you could install a heavy duty contactor (a "relay" isn't really up to the job), and have a 3 position switch to energise it from either battery bank. That allows you to get going which ever one is flat, and with a double pole switch, you can also have a bright warning light on the panel.