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Old 27-01-2015, 11:15   #46
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Originally Posted by Captain Bill View Post
If the bricks aren't fried I don't see how the motherboards could be fried from a voltage spike from your charging system. It would seem to have to come from induced voltage. Do you by any chance have an SSB or HAM radio and if you do is your charging station anywhere near your radio, or antenna system?
This is not magic.

First, having read all the above, it is still not clear to me exactly what was plugged into what when it failed.

I know there are some obvious questions here, but let's not assume anything, OK?

I also do not think this is about your inverter. It doesn't matter what kind of wave it produces, it is going to an isolation transformer (presumedly) that should have been fried, if there was an issue.

1. The brick chargers you were using, what exactly does it say for their input and out voltage and freq?

2. The USB plug that was connected to the 12v system. What exactly was it connected to? What was converting the voltage? It should also list the input and output voltages.

ALso, every item you describe that got fried, should have been going through a transformer to convert the voltage. How it fries the end product and not the middle only seems possible, if there was no middle.?

If you can list the about specs that would help a lot.
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Old 27-01-2015, 11:23   #47
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

Without some sophisticated recording meters to see how your boat electrical systems are providing power it would be difficult to track down much less fix the problems you are reporting. There are some anecdotal issues noted over time though.

PC bricks and their ilk are not robust AC power conditioners. They take what is normally a stable pure sine 110-120v AC current and create a "stable" DC output at the required voltage. They are not designed to handle really variable AC voltage, especially spikes or drops, and they are not designed to produce DC power from non-pure sine wave current. You would not be the first, nor the last to have damaged electronics from that.

A pure sine wave inverter would be a minimum piece of equipment. It should be a high quality MARINE inverter. Certainly not a Home Depot or household inverter, for real dangerous to your health and your boat reasons, at least if the AC output side is hardwired to provide power to the boat and not just to a plug in the side of the inverter. It should be a pure sine wave inverter regardless and it should tightly provide AC voltage. The specs should say whether it does or not.

Some boats will have expensive power "conditioners" for ensuring a good clean unvarying DC power. You can get voltage changes unpredictably from just how the wiring of other unrelated systems of your boat is done. I am not an expert on this but it is there sometimes.

Power strips with surge protection are designed to prevent surges orders of magnitude larger than what can damage your equipment, e.g. from lightening strikes to the power grid.

Corrosion of the connections to and from the bricks to the laptops could also create problems. Make sure they are clean with no corrosion. Corrosion can dramatically reduce the voltage at the laptop DC input. Also while boards may be (or not) conformal coated, not all the wiring in the laptop to and from the laptops may not be. The half life of PCs and laptops on boats are smaller (in general) than in houses. Having said that I have had good luck with mine. But not with connectors.

As far as getting a boatyard electrician to come out and sort this out, that will be a crap shoot as many really don't have the experience or tools, and you don't have the money to pay, for them to help you. Some may have many don't. There are some cases where they might find some poor AC wiring that could have an impact if your inverter is hardwired in to your boat, but I hope you have not done that with your Home Depot or Costco inverter. Having a good inverter is the first place to start.
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Old 27-01-2015, 11:43   #48
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Originally Posted by George DuBose View Post

One shouldn't have these same problems connecting to the ship's batteries?


In chasing a ground problem with the ships batteries on a 500 million dollar vessel, we were sidetracked for 2 days by a laptops power supply that had a three wire AC plug.

A run indicator light on the local engine control operating on dc was corroded and due to the joining of the AC ground and the dc negative the throttle signal plus caused problems in many other areas.

The ground wire was connected through the power supply to the negative bus of an engine governor control panel via a DB9 serial port. A null modem cable.

If you have a 3 wire plug on your onboard electronics, take a pair of dykes or a hack saw and cut the round plug off.









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Old 27-01-2015, 11:52   #49
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

If you can mentally picture the circuits involved in a Cathodic Protection Rectifier and know the theory that makes one necessary then you have a grasp of the potential issues involved.

Regardless of understanding the complexities of the problem, the solution remains the same.

The AC, DC and earth ground need to be separated.


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Old 27-01-2015, 11:52   #50
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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My husband and I bought our first sailboat just a few months ago, and we are having problems with regulating our voltage as we charge our electronics.

We have fried the logic boards on both our mac laptop computers in the past week, and we could certainly use some advice. My laptop went first, and the tech folks at the mac store told us that the logic board was damaged due to surges in voltage. The battery on my sister-in-law's iPhone also somewhat exploded after a week with us on the boat.

We charge our batteries from three 90 watt solar panels and an Air Breeze wind generator. We have an Outback FlexMax 60 charge controller for the solar panels and the wind gennie comes with a built in regulator. When both laptops died, we were on anchor with very little wind, so it seems as though the wind gennie couldn't be the culprit. The engines weren't running while we were charging our laptops either.

After the first laptop died, we bought an extra voltage regulator from Home Depot and wired it into our 110 outlet. We bought a bar surge protector, just to be sure, and plugged our remaining laptop in this when charging from the 110 inverter. We've also be monitoring the voltage coming out of our 110 plug with our multimeter, and it's always between 110-115 while we monitor it.

The second laptop (a old, backup that we had left behind at home, but my father-in-law just brought us from the states) died with in 10 minutes of charging on our inverter, even with the extra surge protectors in use. Interestingly, we also had a kindle charging at the exact same time, and it's completely fine. Clearly we are having problems with surging voltage coming out of our 110 outlet, but we aren't sure where to start. I'll take a look at the exact brand and specs on our 110 inverter when I get back to the boat. Without a computer on board, we are finding ourselves in Internet cafes all too often now.

Is the voltage safer coming through the inverter or through a direct DC plug and car-charger type cord for a laptop? The Outback is brand new. The batteries themselves not-so-new, but limping along fine.

Any advice on where to start?

Thanks everyone! Any direction would be greatly appreciated.
I'm afraid I could not follow you. My best guess would be your inverter is a modified. What ever that means?
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Old 27-01-2015, 11:55   #51
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

This will probably have to be a slow process of elimination.

One thing you can determine is if there has been condensation. This is a "warranty void" situation for cellphones, and there are usually several white paper dots in the phone (rear cover must be removed, under battery, etc.) which actually turn bright red, permanently, if they have been exposed to moisture. So if you have any cell phones a board, try to find out if they have moisture tell-tales and if so, where those are. A phone "store" will say "Huh?" but an actual authorized repair station will know about this.

It is also important to know exactly what you have, precise names and specs, all the way through the system. Some major UPS vendors have said that having two surge protectors in-line (i.e., a power strip with a built-in protector, plugged into another protected outlet) can cause internal damage and fires. Since that's the same technology as inverters...You'd need to check any "special" configuration against the equipment makers' instructions.

Your best bet for running any gizmos safely, until it is resolved, is to keep one battery/bank charged, and then disconnect it from everything except one "known good" charger, to be used while the gizmos need power. Not a power brick plugged into an invertor, but one direct 12v charger. There are "airplane" and car adapters for this purpose, and they are not terribly expensive. They're also very efficient at using power, a good idea in any case.

Once you find out what is safe (or toxic) to use, you can put the system back together. But in the meantime, you should be OK if you just manually disconnect "everything" except one safe setup as you need it.
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Old 27-01-2015, 12:39   #52
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

Thanks for posting this issue. I will be spending time when I get the sailboat ready for longer voyages. Don't take it personal if I learn from your issue. I truly appreciate it.
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Old 27-01-2015, 12:47   #53
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Thanks for posting this issue. I will be spending time when I get the sailboat ready for longer voyages. Don't take it personal if I learn from your issue. I truly appreciate it.
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Old 27-01-2015, 13:42   #54
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

Do you have voltmeters or ampmeters to give continuous readout information while the refrigeration goes on/off, house battery charging goes on/off,etc., to see if there is a serious dip in DC output? Is there a chance of any shorting/reverse polarity stuff going on?

Gremlins?
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Old 27-01-2015, 14:22   #55
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cap Erict3 View Post
In chasing a ground problem with the ships batteries on a 500 million dollar vessel, we were sidetracked for 2 days by a laptops power supply that had a three wire AC plug.

A run indicator light on the local engine control operating on dc was corroded and due to the joining of the AC ground and the dc negative the throttle signal plus caused problems in many other areas.

The ground wire was connected through the power supply to the negative bus of an engine governor control panel via a DB9 serial port. A null modem cable.

If you have a 3 wire plug on your onboard electronics, take a pair of dykes or a hack saw and cut the round plug off.

Looking for another pretty place to work on the boat.

Cap Erict3, while I agree with your pointing out that (lots of) squirrely ground faults can cause some major headaches, I have to take exception to one of your proposed solutions, that of cutting off the safety ground terminal of equipment A/C cords.
Those various items having A/C cords, such as some laptop charging bricks, microwaves, coffeemakers, whatever, may also later be taken ashore and used in a more common environment where the valuable safety feature of that ground terminal would be negated. (Getting test equipment from the electronics pool that had the ground snipped off used to drive me acorns .)

A better onboard temporary workaround 'fix' for that possible ground fault would be to use some of those cheap little '3 prong to 2 prong' A/C adapters on the electrical equipment without cutting off the 'permanent' safety ground prong from the cord (the equipment safety ground would then not be extended through the adapter into the A/C receptacle/ships wiring).


Meanwhile, with respect to the SiL's iPhone battery 'exploding', I would completely discount this particular problem.
Cellphone batteries just naturally give out at certain ages/use factors, and one of the physical manifestations is sometimes a pronounced swelling of the cellphone battery prismatic package (which SiL might actually be describing).
Sil's iPhone battery demise may have been accelerated by it's usage aboard the boat, but it was probably overdue anyway (and a couple of airline flights were probably also an aggravating factor).


One more thing...I think Capt Bill (maybe him, can't look from here) mentioned if there might be some source of RF energy induction nearby aboard (SSB radio, etc).
I was going suggest that same possible factor too, but to extend it away from the boat (had wondered where the OP was moored, and the OP commented they were outside of a marina?).
Is there any chance that you (OP) are anchored near any powerful commercial or military transmitters, particularly AM radio or RADAR?
The emissions from such high-power sources can raise all kinds of weird inductive hell with (relatively) low voltage devices and systems.
If so, just waving an oscilloscope or spectrum analyzer probe around in free air would make for some interesting viewing...let alone wondering about any future reproductive success for any male crewmembers (to make a bad pun ).
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Old 27-01-2015, 14:46   #56
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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I'm afraid I could not follow you. My best guess would be your inverter is a modified. What ever that means?
PS, I do know. It all is a matter of how much a square wave is modified. There is modified and there is modified it's just a matter of money.
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Old 27-01-2015, 14:51   #57
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Originally Posted by Captain Bill View Post
If the bricks aren't fried I don't see how the motherboards could be fried from a voltage spike from your charging system. It would seem to have to come from induced voltage. Do you by any chance have an SSB or HAM radio and if you do is your charging station anywhere near your radio, or antenna system?
A few folks have posted how certain they are that the motherboard couldn't die without the brick also dying, but I disagree with this line of reasoning.

I'm an electrical engineer who designs consumer electronics for a living, but that's not even necessary to dispute this: The fact is we don't know how "beefy" the relevant items are - the power brick could have been up for the task, but the motherboard not.

Maybe a spike occurred, the brick didn't cook but it did have some higher DC output, and the wimpy bit of power supply on the motherboard got cooked by the higher dc output.

Or maybe noise (Though not intuitive, there are tons of high frequencies making up something like a triangle wave or square wave produced by a MSW inverter. This compared to the single frequency of a real sine wave.) makes it through the power brick and causes the motherboard's power supply circuitry to behave unexpectedly since it's input was unexpectedly noisy.

I hate my MSW inverter - power bricks and my GFCIs buzz like crazy, I'd lean toward that being the problem.
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Old 27-01-2015, 15:03   #58
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
One thing you can determine is if there has been condensation. This is a "warranty void" situation for cellphones, and there are usually several white paper dots in the phone (rear cover must be removed, under battery, etc.) which actually turn bright red, permanently, if they have been exposed to moisture.
Apple laptops also have several (5?) of these place around inside their cases.

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Old 27-01-2015, 17:07   #59
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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A few folks have posted how certain they are that the motherboard couldn't die without the brick also dying, but I disagree with this line of reasoning.

I'm an electrical engineer who designs consumer electronics for a living, but that's not even necessary to dispute this: The fact is we don't know how "beefy" the relevant items are - the power brick could have been up for the task, but the motherboard not.

Maybe a spike occurred, the brick didn't cook but it did have some higher DC output, and the wimpy bit of power supply on the motherboard got cooked by the higher dc output.

Or maybe noise (Though not intuitive, there are tons of high frequencies making up something like a triangle wave or square wave produced by a MSW inverter. This compared to the single frequency of a real sine wave.) makes it through the power brick and causes the motherboard's power supply circuitry to behave unexpectedly since it's input was unexpectedly noisy.

I hate my MSW inverter - power bricks and my GFCIs buzz like crazy, I'd lean toward that being the problem.
Having posted that, as an engineer, what is your opinion of the engineering behind a power brick that could take a spike but destroy the laptop that it powers?

I have never been a fan of Apple products, but even I am not sure that they are built that crappy.
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Old 27-01-2015, 17:35   #60
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Re: Two fried laptops later.

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Originally Posted by Tx J View Post
Cap Erict3, while I agree with your pointing out that (lots of) squirrely ground faults can cause some major headaches, I have to take exception to one of your proposed solutions, that of cutting off the safety ground terminal of equipment A/C cords.
Those various items having A/C cords, such as some laptop charging bricks, microwaves, coffeemakers, whatever, may also later be taken ashore and used in a more common environment where the valuable safety feature of that ground terminal would be negated. (Getting test equipment from the electronics pool that had the ground snipped off used to drive me acorns .)

).

Plastic power supplies do not conduct, leaving the internal transformer and the negative pole of the DC output the most likely connection for the ground wire.

I would not have believed had it not screwed me before but it is a common practice.

While isolation transformers are great, seldom do you see them in pleasure boats. Grounding your AC system leaves you vulnerable not only to issues on you vessel but to issues on other vessels connected to the same transformer.

Considering circulating currents caused by indiscriminate bonding of circuits is mind boggling once you start looking at the schematics.

It is best to avoid the issue altogether.

Done properly it can also protect your stuff from lightning strikes.




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