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Old 23-07-2014, 16:49   #16
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

If you are deciding between the DC Spectra and the DC Echotec, there is no comparison - nothing else in DC besides the Spectra (or other energy-recovery units) makes any sense. We have also been down this road.

Mark

Thanks Mark. Can you elaborate on that a bit? I am trying to understand the pros and cons of each of them wrt:
1. reliability/quality - most important priority for us given remote destination cruising
2. Energy budget impact - I think this is the point you are making re amps consumed per 100 litres product
3. TCO re consumables
4. Ease of installation & operation

As far as I can determine, there are swings and roundabouts in units using Clarke pump technology to gain efficiency. It seems that you get better power used to product produced results, but at the risk/cost of pump reliability and significantly higher initial cost, about double the cost here in Australia.
The energy savings using high pressure recovery technology looks like about 20 amps for 50 litres H2O output (Echotec 12VDC 38amps; Cape Horn 12VDC 18amps). But with a reasonable solar panel installation, that is put back in the battery bank quite quickly.
So I am not seeing what is so great about the energy recovery types of watermakers on a multihull with decent solar input and battery storage.

The Ecotech have a great reputation among cruisers in the South Pacific re reliability, so that is what is influencing me at this point. They also seem better built, have low pressure boost pumps that can be field serviced easily, and use standard membranes that are available widely at much lower cost.

But I am at the beginning of my investigation on what unit to get so please correct me if I am missing something major to consider.
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Old 23-07-2014, 18:34   #17
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Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

I have not had any exposure to an Echotec watermaker but am experienced with Spectra.

Our system which is larger than the one that the OP is considering has worked faultlessly since installation and has produced over 50,000 litres of water in the 6 month period since it was installed in St Martin then on a Pacific passage and while doing charter work in Vanuatu.

It is also very quiet while running which a lot of visiting cruisers have also commented on when coming on board. One guy was so disappointed with the loud noise of his new watermaker, I don't recall the brand but definitely not a Spectra, that he was going to take it out & replace it with a Spectra unit.

I would be interested to hear from Echotec owners regarding the noise level of their systems.

The other thing that I would comment on regarding Echotec is that firstly they are based in Trinidad WI & their website shows only 1 service point in Queensland Australia while Spectra has 18 service points through all States of Australia. This is also a strong plus for Spectra having such a strong Dealer network in Australia and throughout the world.





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Old 23-07-2014, 19:09   #18
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Ozbullwinkle,

Thanks for the feedback on the operational quietness of your unit. I will add that to list of things to check.

Re your other point about the distribution network of Spectra, there is no question they are a more professional marketing & sales organisation than Echotec with a much bigger dealer network. But that comes at a cost as profitability also needs to be higher to establish and support it, hence the price differential to the consumer. And that does not necessarily equate to product superiority either.

Re support, I am happy if there is a reliable & knowledgeable support person who is customer focused, and can handle repair situations in a timely manner if needed. As a user, that's really all I'll need. If we were mostly coastal cruising, then the local support network could come in handy.
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Old 23-07-2014, 19:16   #19
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBeakie View Post
Thanks Mark. Can you elaborate on that a bit? I am trying to understand the pros and cons of each of them wrt:
1. reliability/quality - most important priority for us given remote destination cruising
2. Energy budget impact - I think this is the point you are making re amps consumed per 100 litres product
3. TCO re consumables
4. Ease of installation & operation

As far as I can determine, there are swings and roundabouts in units using Clarke pump technology to gain efficiency. It seems that you get better power used to product produced results, but at the risk/cost of pump reliability and significantly higher initial cost, about double the cost here in Australia.
The energy savings using high pressure recovery technology looks like about 20 amps for 50 litres H2O output (Echotec 12VDC 38amps; Cape Horn 12VDC 18amps). But with a reasonable solar panel installation, that is put back in the battery bank quite quickly.
So I am not seeing what is so great about the energy recovery types of watermakers on a multihull with decent solar input and battery storage.

The Ecotech have a great reputation among cruisers in the South Pacific re reliability, so that is what is influencing me at this point. They also seem better built, have low pressure boost pumps that can be field serviced easily, and use standard membranes that are available widely at much lower cost.

But I am at the beginning of my investigation on what unit to get so please correct me if I am missing something major to consider.
First, let me start off by saying I have no issues with Echotec - they make great products with good reputations. I talked a friend into buying one of their AC systems just because of much of the reasons you list. I also talked him out of one of their DC systems for the reasons I list below.

For DC watermakers, amp usage is the key. You may think you have enough solar (and you might actually!), but keep in mind that these outputs are rated at 13.8V, not 12V. So to get that output from a 38A unit, you will need to be running it when your solar is pumping in >38A. Few have solar arrays that do that.

Much of this, of course, depends on your power usage and generation capabilities. You might be surprised how much power you use daily while cruising - not including your watermaker. Your solar or other sources will need to keep up with this.

To give you our example, we were running a 17A watermaker making 6gph with 480W of solar in the tropics and struggling with power management. Laundry day had to be planned 4 days in advance and would bring us to the edge even then. We are not the most power-hungry boat we know - probably close to the middle.

If you are counting on a generator to make up some of the charging, then an AC watermaker makes more sense than a DC because you are running the generator anyway (a small Honda excepted - I mean a >3KW unit here).

Reliability of both units is very good, but like you point out, the Echotec uses bog standard parts that are easier to source. However, if you are worried about being somewhere very remote, you won't have parts for either anyway. Anywhere less remote, any special parts for the Spectra can be delivered easily.

And again, either of these units breaking down to the point of needing parts is very remote. If you are concerned about Spectra reliability, then do not get an automated unit. The vast majority of the problems I have seen with other people's Spectra units involve the automation. Even then, they are not dead in the water because it is very easy to jump over those automated processes and run manually until spares can be obtained.

For the issue of consumables, as far as I know, there is no difference there. The only consumables you should ever need are common filters and preservative agent and maybe some pump oil. All of these are found everywhere, and you can stock enough to never need to look for them again. Membranes for both are the same ones, and you will only go through those every 5-10yrs.

Ease of installation is a red herring. You are only installing it once, so "ease" is relative - who cares if it takes an extra 5hrs for one over another? Both have the ability to be modular, so you can put pieces where they fit best.

But it all comes down to power. There really is no way to describe it to someone who hasn't lived it, but power is more important than you could ever imagine. Yes, the numbers look fine on a spreadsheet, but in real-life, it doesn't look like that. Any more than 2amps/gallon just does not work unless you are sporting a solar farm with windgens in a windy area.

I repeat - it doesn't work. If you have a small unit that can run off solar, etc, it will not make enough water for your needs (if you are considering a water maker, you have needs). If you have a larger unit, it will use too much power and you will be constantly power-managing and planning.

I'm not being pedantic - just offering my experience. I won't be offended if you ignore it.

Now cost is something I can't comment on. If the Spectra is twice the cost of the Echotec, that is a budget issue and personal. In the US, I don't think the cost differential is that great.

Another thing to consider is how you will actually be cruising. The South Pacific is not entirely without its civilization, and few cruisers get lost in the most remote places for many years at a time. Maybe your worries about parts and reliability are a bit larger than they need to be? If a new watermaker survives its first month, the vast odds are that it will be trouble-free for easily the next 5 years, when it may need a new membrane and some basic servicing.

Mark
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Old 23-07-2014, 19:21   #20
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBeakie View Post
Re support, I am happy if there is a reliable & knowledgeable support person who is customer focused, and can handle repair situations in a timely manner if needed. As a user, that's really all I'll need. If we were mostly coastal cruising, then the local support network could come in handy.
Watermakers are not rocket science. Don't ever count on service people to handle problems. It takes only the smallest amount of effort to learn and understand how your system operates and be responsible for repairing it.

At this point, you only need parts. Any troubleshooting beyond your capabilities will be easily arranged with an internet connection or phone call.

You don't need a "support network" - you can learn everything you need to know easily, and there are no special tools or inside knowledge to work on one. If you have a basic set of tools - screwdrivers and wrenches - you are good to go.

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Old 23-07-2014, 19:41   #21
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Mark, that is great feedback! Gold. Planning the energy budget is what we are involved in right now, so this is really good information, much appreciated

I have met several cruisers who had issues with watermakers of various brands, some of them really expensive & complicated systems, so I might be a bit over cautious. But we will be going to remote regions at some point, and running out of water would be a very bad thing.

I want to keep it simple, and manual, and be able to fix things when we're out there. The build quality of the Ecotec seems impressive, and coupled with the feedback from some in the Island Cruising Association re reliability, I am tossing up between the Ecotec and Spectra.
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Old 23-07-2014, 20:29   #22
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Spectra also has "Roving technicians" in the field. These are cruisers that have attended a 1 week training course at the Spectra headquarters. A friend went through the course 2 years ago and is currently in La Paz, Mexico with the parts and know how to assist those that need help.
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Old 23-07-2014, 20:46   #23
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBeakie View Post

Re support, I am happy if there is a reliable & knowledgeable support person who is customer focused, and can handle repair situations in a timely manner if needed. As a user, that's really all I'll need. If we were mostly coastal cruising, then the local support network could come in handy.


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Old 23-07-2014, 21:58   #24
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

Thanks for all the great info in this thread. I've been a bit torn between the Spectra Ventura 150 and the EchoTec 200 for my boat. The EchoTec seems simpler and about as bulletproof as it gets, but as Colemj points out, the difference in energy consumption is dramatic:

Spectra V150 Current Draw 12V= 9 Amps
23.8 liters per hour

EchoTec 200-DML Current Draw= 19.8 Amps
32 liters per hour

In the end, the energy efficiency is just too much to overlook, particularly on a small boat like mine with limited energy inputs.
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Old 24-07-2014, 13:55   #25
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

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Thanks for all the great info in this thread. I've been a bit torn between the Spectra Ventura 150 and the EchoTec 200 for my boat. The EchoTec seems simpler and about as bulletproof as it gets, but as Colemj points out, the difference in energy consumption is dramatic:

Spectra V150 Current Draw 12V= 9 Amps
23.8 liters per hour

EchoTec 200-DML Current Draw= 19.8 Amps
32 liters per hour

In the end, the energy efficiency is just too much to overlook, particularly on a small boat like mine with limited energy inputs.
Here are two things that might help your decision.
The VT150gpd can be had in a VT200Tgpd unit as well. Same exact footprint.
The Clark pump, which is a proprietary part and the heart of the VT150/200T, is warranted to the original owner for as long as you own it.
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Old 24-07-2014, 14:34   #26
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

cant fault the spectra's on customer satisfaction and service. We wanted one but unfortunately in France/Europe VAT and transport kills them for price. We ended up going with a local french brand aquabase eco 65l watermaker review
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Old 24-07-2014, 14:37   #27
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

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Spectra V150 Current Draw 12V= 9 Amps
23.8 liters per hour

EchoTec 200-DML Current Draw= 19.8 Amps
32 liters per hour.
If you want a 12v water maker then in my experience of cruising and being a manufactuer and seller of water makers, the Spectra is the only way to go here! Unless you want to tie your water maker use into an engine alternator or generator run then you just won't be able to handle the 19.8A from wind and solar. I see it every day in anchorages and marinas throughout the cruising fleet.

We use the same Hp pumps (General Pump Company) in our water makers as EchoTec and get requests all the time to drive the non-energy recovery pump with a 12v motor rather than our 1.0Hp 9.3A 120v AC motor. We just won't do it. Sure I could bolt on a DC motor or set-up a 12v motor/pullley to drive the pump but the numbers just don't make power ballance sense. For clients that want to stay 12v and don't see the value in a 30GPH high output water maker ran by their generator for $5,250, then I send them to Spectra. I just know from experience that the "math" may work for that 19.8A DC water maker, but out here in the real world...well...I just don't want to be anchored next to my client when I know they won't be happy. Heck if you have to run a generator to make power to run your 12v water maker...then the entire argument for the 12v option falls from the spreaders and into the drink in my opinion.
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Old 24-07-2014, 15:02   #28
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

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The Clark pump, which is a proprietary part and the heart of the VT150/200T, is warranted to the original owner for as long as you own it.
Tellie I thought Spectra had discontinued this lifetime warranty on the Clarke pump (for the original owner) a few years ago. If they have switched back that is great news (although mine is old enough to be covered anyway)
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Old 24-07-2014, 15:11   #29
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

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Tellie I thought Spectra had discontinued this lifetime warranty on the Clarke pump (for the original owner) a few years ago. If they have switched back that is great news (although mine is old enough to be covered anyway)
They did drop it a few years ago. But with some gentle persuasion they have reinstated the policy. Those who bought a Spectra within the time that the lifetime warranty was not in place also have been included in the lifetime warranty so no original owner is without.
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Old 24-07-2014, 15:24   #30
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Re: Spectra Water Makers Advice Please

We'll done Spectra

The Clarke pump is the only complicated and expensive part at least in the basic manual units. So this lifetime warranty is very significant.

The low pressure pumps on the Spectra units are simple and relatively inexpensive. (If anything marine can be called inexpensive ).

The other parts like the filters and the membrane are items that will always need periodic replacement.
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