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Old 25-04-2014, 15:33   #181
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40



It begins!
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Old 28-04-2014, 14:09   #182
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Today I tore apart the OEM solar vent fan that is mounted on the forward head's shower stall. Turns out the previous owner tried to jury-rig it with solar panels taped to a ricotta cheese lid. I bought and installed a Nicro solar vent fan, which fit the existing 4" factory cut hole perfectly.


Old SS housing


Close-up of old solar panels attached to topside of the fan unit


Inside of the previous fan unit, yummy!


Existing hole


New unit installed. It is a tiny bit larger than the previous unit, requiring 3 holes to be drilled into the cabin top. The Nicro unit, despite the bad reviews I've read, seems like a very nice unit and is much better built than the OEM unit, especially after the previous owner tried to fix it himself.
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Old 28-04-2014, 14:24   #183
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Two photos of the progress of the arch:



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Old 28-04-2014, 14:51   #184
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Looks nice. If you can afford it, I would use welds instead of green tape. If you can't afford it, the blue tape is better than the green

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Old 28-04-2014, 15:02   #185
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Haha! Yeah the green tape isn't as rigid as I'd like it to be.

I'm really excited about the arch design. The end result is going to have three 140W solar panels mounted aft of the arch, covering the dinghy and davits, and two stainless steel backstays from the davits to the top of the mast for additional support.
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Old 29-04-2014, 10:40   #186
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

DDabs, Just curious. I didn't see any mention of LiFePO4 batteries. Were they never a consideration? Where they considered and rejected? How long do you anticipate owning your boat? This question may sound strange but LiFePO4 batteries are reputedly more expensive in the short run but cheaper in the long run.

Thanks,
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Old 29-04-2014, 10:46   #187
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Doug, I am actually still in the process of designing an electrical system. It is the last piece of the outfitting puzzle that I cannot make up my mind on. Lithium is definitely something I would love to invest in, but I'm already reaching the top of my budget and I don't know if I should be dumping a ton of money into a battery system when I can be well off with a simpler lead acid bank.
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Old 29-04-2014, 11:29   #188
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Thanks DDabs for the quick response. I am not an expert, certainly when compared to many of those who comment on this blog. For what ever it is worth they all agree that LiFePO4 systems are simpler, safer, lighter, and more reliable than any form of lead-acid battery. I would emphasize simpler. However, my back of the envelope calculations say that the financial break even point comes when you have to replace your first set of LA batteries -- which is why I was curious about how long you had planned to keep your boat.

What ever you choose, I admire your very sophisticated way of selecting electronics.

Happy cruising!
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Old 29-04-2014, 11:46   #189
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Doug, thanks for the kind words. I have sailed since I was a kid, but all of this is very new to me (purchasing a boat, selecting electronics, having to figure out a battery system, etc.) so that means a lot, thank you.

I would totally agree that lithium batteries are the future, and I intend to keep this boat for a very long time, sailing to as many places in the world as I can with her. Do you have any experience with a LiFePO4 setup that might be applicable to me? I have read the few long threads in the electrical forum regarding the batteries, and I have to admit they are extremely overwhelming. I'm learning as much as I can but electricity is not my strong suit unfortunately.
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Old 29-04-2014, 13:38   #190
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

DDabs, I need to be up front with you. My knowledge is based on what I have read here, Wikipedia, white papers, etc. Not practical experience. But having opened Pandora's box, I feel obligated to tell you what everything I have read agrees on.

LA (lead-acid) batteries need to be charged in a rather complex way to get the maximum number of charge / discharge cycles before they give up the ghost. That number is measured in the hundreds. If you charged with solar cells during the day then discharged at night, you would be facing a maximum of 365 cycles in a year of cruising. Not good.

Taking a LA battery below 50% is damaging to the battery. They cannot be charged quickly because of their high internal resistance. This high IR also reduces their efficiency to giving back at most 80% of the energy put in. They are heavy and contain two very toxic substances: lead and sulphuric acid. They give off explosive hydrogen gas when being charged. A hydrogen flame is invisible making it particularly dangerous.

In contrast a LiFePO4 (not to be confused with several other lithium-based batteries such as a lithium-cobalt battery) is not subject to thermal run away, weights one third of a lead battery, has no toxic chemicals, does not out gas when being charged, works just fine completely submerged or in any orientation, has almost no internal resistance -- meaning that it can be charged many times faster than a LA battery and is almost 100% efficient. They are happy if never discharged below 20% or charged above 80% giving them a greater usable charge than an equivalent amp-hour LA battery. In this mode they are usually guaranteed to over 2,000 charge / discharge cycles. Some variations are good to 6,000 cycles if never discharged below 30%.

A strong point and weak point is that a LiFePO4 battery maintains nearly constant voltage until it is almost completely discharged. That means that ideally you would have some sort of meter that knows how many amps have left the battery and protects the battery before it is taken too low. The more common solution, since the voltage does drop somewhat, is a low voltage warning and cut off device. The good news is that these meters do exist and are recommended for LA batteries as well. In contrast, with a LA battery, the state of charge (SOC) can be determined simply by looking at the voltage across the terminals. The advantage of this nearly constant voltage output is that it is much easier on your electronics.

Another consequence of this steady voltage output is that your charging electronic controller is simpler. But the voltage does raise with SOC. So it is possible to have a high voltage cut-off (HVC). Once again, these devices are available and some of those used for LA batteries can be configured for the LiFePO4 batteries.

As I understand it, a LiFePO4 is even more vulnerable than LA to being charged at too high a voltage or trying to cram too many amp-hours into it.

Another quirk of the LiFePO4 batteries is that their low IR means that there is no reason at all for 'deep cycle' vs. 'starting' batteries. They all can produce prodigious wattage without over heating or being damaged. This also means that an accidental short of even a small LiFePO4 battery could be quite damaging.

The charging voltage, depending on manufacturer, varies from 3.75 to 4.0 per cell, as I recall. Once charged, they hold their charge for years. In fact a trickle charger would damage them. Their voltage, when not under load or being charged, is nominally 3.2 volts. This means that a 12 volt battery would need 4 cells in series. That puts its output in the high 12 volts, much like a freshly charged, healthy six cell LA battery.

If you read some of the threads on this forum, you will find a discussion about balancing the cells. Don't be put off by this. LA batteries should also be balanced. If one cell is more fully charged than the others when the charging starts, it could be over charged before the other cells reach their full charge. To prevent that, part of the installation procedure is to insure that all cells are at the same SOC before being put into service. This is no different than LA batteries. It is just that you can buy one cell at a time with a LiFePO4 allowing you to balance the cells. You may not be able to with a multicell LA but you probable should with a bank of batteries.

In LiFePO4 batteries and their one cell at a time offering, it is easy to build circuitry that monitors each cell and shunts some of the electricity around a fully charged cell so the remaining cells get charged without over charging the already charged cell. This would eventually 'balance' or match the SOC of all the cells after a few cycles.

Well, there's a brain dump. I hope is makes sense and is correct.

Best of luck,
Doug
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Old 29-04-2014, 14:21   #191
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Doug, awesome info, thanks so much for taking the time to post that. I am going to have to possibly re-evaluate my bank ideas, since I was planning on a very large bank with LA (900AH). This would be much too expensive with lithium but perhaps I could get by with a smaller bank. They only main battery uses are going to be autopilot, electronics, fridge, and windlass. The boat will have three 140W solar panels on the arch, and possibly a wind generator added later for a transoceanic passage. I am confident that three panels will be enough to run my refrigeration, a through-hull cooled Isotherm unit, and my electronics, which are B&G 8" display and two Triton LED displays. This shouldn't be an enormous consumption on the house bank. Perhaps I could design a lithium system somewhere around 400-500 AH?
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Old 29-04-2014, 14:29   #192
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40



Another photo of the arch. Came off the boat today, going into the shop for more welding.
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Old 29-04-2014, 14:30   #193
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

My gut feeling is that 400 amp-hours would work. There are poeple in this forum that could advise you much better than I.

The URL to that thread is:
LiFePO4 Batteries: Discussion Thread for Those Using Them as House Banks

You might consider simply posting your question to that thread as see who comes out of the woodwork. My guess is you'll get as good advice as any place on the planet.
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Old 29-04-2014, 15:01   #194
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40



Fiberglass shelf being made for autopilot drive.
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Old 30-04-2014, 02:28   #195
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Re: Complete Electronics Outfit - Caliber 40

Nice...an autopilot drive mount can NEVER be too strong!
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