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Old 12-01-2019, 10:28   #1
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Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Hi all

I own a 38' feet cat which is currently being upgraded for water sailing">blue water sailing and live aboard purposes. One of the planned upgrades is the electrical system. I will only sail her for a few weeks a year until 2021 and then move on board and sail full time after that. So I need to plan my upgrades accordingly.
So for the beginning I will only do limited changes, but thise should not interfere with my future plans.

Current setup: All conventional maintenace-free batteries - two starter and two household of app 100Ah each and two flexible solarpanels of app 60 Watts each.

Intended upgrade this year:
- Add two new conventional starter batteries of app 60 Ah each and connect the remaining four (identical) batteries together for a bigger (Ie 400 Ah) household bank
- Add app 400 Watts of solar and additional MPPT solar-regulators

This should hopefully bring me through the next two summer cruises in the baltics.

After that live aboard. Boat usage: Tropical cruising 1-2 persons, I will manly keep away from marinas and need to be self sufficient in terms of energy. My main consumers 1-2 fridges, a 12V watermaker (not yet decided what model or make yet) electronics, light and music. No generator, no air-con. Conventional cooking and diesel propulsion. No running of engines to generate electricity

As a preparation for that I'm thinking of a replacement of the household bank (will be quite old by then anyway) and an increase in charging capabilities (more solar, maybe 800-1000Watts, wind generator and possibly a water generator) The starter batteries should remain as they are.

I want a simple and reliable system with as little electronics as possible, but I believe a lithium houshold bank would be a good idea the get as much capacity as possible with the limited space I have and with the weight concerns with a cat.

Now my questions:
- How do I prevent buying regulators etc now which I will not be able to re-use later on with a lithium bank?
- I'm not at all an electrician let alone like to fiddle around with that - so what bulletproof and simple lithium setup should I look at?
- Any (vendor neutral) source of information for lithium newbies available?

Thanks for any feedback!
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Old 12-01-2019, 11:32   #2
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Where are you located?

In the U.S. contact Bruce @ OceanPlanet, either Victron or Lithionics packaged systems are pretty turnkey, minimal user training needed. But lots pricier than DIY of course.

Voltage-adjustable charge sources are critical if you want to optimize for longevity, don't bother with gear's LFP ready labels or canned settings, way too high.

Note nothing is truly bulletproof, and the more you spend the longer and riskier the ROI compared to the cheaper alternatives.
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Old 12-01-2019, 12:19   #3
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Where are you located?

In the U.S. contact Bruce @ OceanPlanet, either Victron or Lithionics packaged systems are pretty turnkey, minimal user training needed. But lots pricier than DIY of course.

Voltage-adjustable charge sources are critical if you want to optimize for longevity, don't bother with gear's LFP ready labels or canned settings, way too high.

Note nothing is truly bulletproof, and the more you spend the longer and riskier the ROI compared to the cheaper alternatives.
Glad to hear youve had good dealings with Ocean Planet.
My experience is he only seems to be interested to deal with customers who want to spend a lot. Hes not interested in us little guys.
He tried to upsell me on a 350 A small frame alternator in place of my large frame 200 A when I asked about a Serpentine drive kit. The reasons I was given were pretty flimsy. He declined to sell me the drive belt kit because I wasnt interested in his small frame alternator. I wouldnt have minded so much if that had been an upfront condition but this was only mentioned after many back and forth emails and not insignificant time waisted.
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Old 12-01-2019, 13:50   #4
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

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My experience is he only seems to be interested to deal with customers who want to spend a lot. He's not interested in us little guys.
Well survival in business means defining your business model precisely and staying in your target niche.

Saying no to less profitable customers, so you can afford to focus on giving stellar service to the ones that keep you afloat, is **the key**

when your very limited time is your main value-add.

The OP says they want turnkey, not a DIYer.
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Old 12-01-2019, 14:36   #5
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

There are drop ins with BMS, intermediate in price and life expectancy, but if you not want, or not can to DIY, and also not want to spend $$$$$ on victron or mastervolt lfp ecosystems, that may be a good compromise, let them check and adjust your charge settings. Eventually some few logic needs to be added or replaced after the review, but cheaper than going all in.

There are many capable small companies, than can help you when ready to go.

Some companies create their own packages with all the electronics and solenoids around with the same advantages of a DIY solution as drop in too. Could be also a great alternative, see some of the catamaran vlogg in YT...
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Old 12-01-2019, 15:09   #6
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Cruiser AD

Been lving aboard for 2 years now and my current set up is similar to your projected, 345 ah agm and starter battery. We currently have 400w of solar and have quite low energy usage at anchor with the main draw being 130l fridge with small freezer compartment. we have been able to make hot water via inverter on good sunny days for wasing up/showers. Portable gen run 1 a week or when cloudy
Just about got away with FULLY charging batteries 2 - 3 times a week.There was abit of paranoia about using high current after about 1pm so that batteries would get "fully charged"
For next year we are upgrading to a freezer and SHMBO is insisting on more hot water!
Have just purchased 260ah of winston Lifepo and a B2B charger for better harvesting of fitted solar capacity. Even with the higher energy budget we are hoping to use Gen less and not having paranoia about using energy later in the day.
I think that lifepo gives you a bit more of that manyana feeling as getting full is not required or even desirable.
Will let you know next autumn how we got on!!
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Old 13-01-2019, 02:15   #7
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Well survival in business means defining your business model precisely and staying in your target niche.

Saying no to less profitable customers, so you can afford to focus on giving stellar service to the ones that keep you afloat, is **the key**

when your very limited time is your main value-add.

The OP says they want turnkey, not a DIYer.
True. But it he could be upfront and say that instead of waisting both out time.

I was a bit suprised by this as all the vendors I have dealt with have been great. So when I do need the bigger items I will get them else where. I have bought a lot of electrical components from PKYS and CruiseRO and I can not talk highly enough if them.
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Old 13-01-2019, 03:10   #8
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Maine Sail of course should also be supported, and Alan at Bay Marine is also great, very helpful.
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Old 13-01-2019, 11:29   #9
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Mention Maine Sail. Rod has this to say about lithium. Well worth the read. https://marinehowto.com/lifepo4-batteries-on-boats/
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Old 13-01-2019, 11:44   #10
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Well survival in business means defining your business model precisely and staying in your target niche.

Saying no to less profitable customers, so you can afford to focus on giving stellar service to the ones that keep you afloat, is **the key**

when your very limited time is your main value-add.

Derail, but that's not a great business strategy. The happy belt customer today is often the one who returns tomorrow for a full system. And how successful is a strategy that results in a disappointed potential customer badmouthing them in a forum?
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Old 13-01-2019, 12:53   #11
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

It's not a popularity contest, trying to please everyone is a sure path to ruin for a small business. These days you have to stick to your niche and hope the huge monopolists don't bother crushing you.
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Old 13-01-2019, 13:29   #12
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

As the unhappy poster said, announcing this up front would have been wise. Business owner doesn't have to waste time communicating with a non-customer, and customer can move on to find what he needs, and isn't disappointed in business.

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Old 13-01-2019, 13:39   #13
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

Simplest way is to buy "drop in" replacement 12 volt batteries with built in BMSes.

And some of these are becoming more affordable, some offering reasonable warranties too, 3-4 years.
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Old 13-01-2019, 14:14   #14
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

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Hi all

Now my questions:
- How do I prevent buying regulators etc now which I will not be able to re-use later on with a lithium bank?
- I'm not at all an electrician let alone like to fiddle around with that - so what bulletproof and simple lithium setup should I look at?
- Any (vendor neutral) source of information for lithium newbies available?

Thanks for any feedback!
Solar controllers that are cheap and available today will charge any type of typical battery that you will come across including Lithium variants. I went with 4 big panels and 4 Victron Smartsolar controllers for redundancy and maximum harvest.

It's good you have plenty of time as you will either need to open your very large wallet or open your mind to learning all about what you want to do and how to accomplish it. I think this applies to just about anything expensive and technical in nature. As far as I can tell, there is nothing simple with Lithium as you have to have two fail safes to protect the expensive bank from ruin.

Maybe simplicity will enter the market by the time you need them. I wouldn't count on it.
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Old 13-01-2019, 15:32   #15
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Re: Simple and Bulletproof Lithium Upgrade for Cat?

As long as the LFP stay between 20% and 95% SOC, they are very robust and maintenance free.

The BMS takes care on balancing and watches the SOC plus protects the bank. There are very few components needed.
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