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Old 21-11-2016, 17:51   #1
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Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

There was a VM Little Wonder water maker installed on my boat when I bought it, one that the previous owner had never used, having been told that the owner before him had left pickled. The whole system looked dodgy, so I removed it from the boat this weekend so that I can either repair or replace it. After finding the manual online, it appears that all of the components are there, and while they need a thorough cleaning they do appear functional. When removing the system I noticed two distinct smells - first a strong vinegary smell that I assume was the pickling fluid, and the second a distinctly foul odor that probably means that the RO membrane is dead.

I stopped by the local VM dealer today, and they concurred with my assessment. It also turns out that, as part of refurbishing the unit for me they can replace the motor on the high-pressure pump, and the low pressure boost pump, and I'd have a 12 VDC water maker rather than the current 110 VAC model. To refurb (including rebuilding the HP pump and replace the RO membrane and filters) and convert to DC would come in around $700-$1000.

Seems like a pretty good deal to me, but am I missing anything? Seeing that I thought the existing system was dead, I could end up with a functional 6 gal/hr water maker that I can run off solar or batteries (or generator in a pinch) for under $1000.

Thoughts?

-David
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Old 21-11-2016, 20:17   #2
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

We got a new Little Wonder this year. It works well. Yes, you can run it off solar if you have the panels. I would just spend the $1000 and get it fixed up, especially the 12V conversion. What you don't want is to find yourself worrying about whether it is going to fail at the worst possible time.

I believe the manual notes that the foul odor - hydrogen sulphide - is very damaging to the membrane. Also note that the pickling solution is only good for 4 months - 3 in the tropics, per the manual. You probably have no idea how long it was pickled for?

Also, starting with a "new" system means you can carefully observe how it behaves, in particular the throughput, and not have to guess whether what you are seeing is the way it is supposed to work, or just the way it does in the unknown state that it is in. This is important because part of owning one is monitoring it - and deciding whether changes are due to things going wrong (like the membrane getting dirty) or due to changes in temperature and water salinity (both are very important factors), or due to variations in the applied voltage (12.8V is different to 13.8V of course).

Good luck!
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Old 22-11-2016, 18:50   #3
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

Thanks, Toaster! Appreciate the info. Yeah, no idea how long the system was pickled, but it has been years rather than months. Pretty safe to assume that the membranes (2x 23" pressure vessels) are toast (no pun intended...). The guy at VM suggested dropping one of the pressure vessels as it only adds about 0.5 gal/hr in capacity, but doubles the cost of maintenance.

Planning to install as close to 1000 watts of solar as I can on the top of my hard bimini, so I should have enough juice to run the water maker every day or two to top off the tank which holds 90 gal. With 2 of us on board, I'm estimating 5-10 gal/person/day for cooking, drinking, showers and the occasional deck/equipment wash down. Hopefully I'm in the ballpark, but even if I'm off by a factor of two, I could still replenish the tank with about 6.5 hours of running.

Again, thanks for your input. Good to hear from someone with a very similar setup to what I'm likely to end up with :-)

Regards,
David
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Old 22-11-2016, 19:16   #4
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

Sounds like a pretty good deal from the Ft Laud shop. They know these LW well. FYI you'll be using 17 amps on the DC system, so you need a fair amount of solar. Also, you could swap over to a single full sized membrane and mount it external.
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Old 23-11-2016, 07:15   #5
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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Sounds like a pretty good deal from the Ft Laud shop. They know these LW well. FYI you'll be using 17 amps on the DC system, so you need a fair amount of solar. Also, you could swap over to a single full sized membrane and mount it external.

I think I can fit about 1000 watts of solar on my hard top bimini, that's roughly 83 amps at 12 volts without taking any shading into account. Let's say half capacity due to shading, etc, and I still have a little over 41 amps to drive the water maker, charge batteries, and run the fridge compressor. Worst case scenario I can fire up my 8kw diesel genset, but I'm trying to reduce my reliance on fossil fuels as much as reasonably possible. Are my numbers in the ballpark, or am I missing something important?

By full sized membrane, are you referring to the 40" pressure vessel? What are the possible orientations in which you can mount them? Do they have to be horizontal? The space where the two 23" pressure vessels were mounted is very cumbersome for maintenance, so I'm considering alternative for when I reinstall the system.

Regards,
David.
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Old 23-11-2016, 11:37   #6
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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Originally Posted by Davidhoy View Post
I think I can fit about 1000 watts of solar on my hard top bimini, that's roughly 83 amps at 12 volts without taking any shading into account. Let's say half capacity due to shading, etc, and I still have a little over 41 amps to drive the water maker, charge batteries, and run the fridge compressor. Worst case scenario I can fire up my 8kw diesel genset, but I'm trying to reduce my reliance on fossil fuels as much as reasonably possible. Are my numbers in the ballpark, or am I missing something important?

By full sized membrane, are you referring to the 40" pressure vessel? What are the possible orientations in which you can mount them? Do they have to be horizontal? The space where the two 23" pressure vessels were mounted is very cumbersome for maintenance, so I'm considering alternative for when I reinstall the system.

Regards,
David.
A 1000 watts is a ton of solar. As long as you have a big battery bank to go along with it you should be fine.

Since the membrane vessel is under high pressure, I don't see why orientation would matter. Just make sure you use the VM membrane and not a third party, they are different. You can use a third party HP vessel, but the 40in membrane for the VM is a low flow version, at least on my LW.
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Old 23-11-2016, 11:48   #7
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

The RO Membrane pressure vessel can be mounted in any orientation, so that doesn't matter.
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Old 24-11-2016, 06:03   #8
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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The RO Membrane pressure vessel can be mounted in any orientation, so that doesn't matter.

Thanks, Rich! I was planning on chatting with you at the Miami Boat Show about a new system, but it looks like I can resurrect the existing one on my boat with a relatively small investment. I'll still drop by to say hello. I must say that your advice on the various watermaker threads have been very informative :-)
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Old 04-12-2016, 09:21   #9
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

We have a Village Marine Little Wonder VIP 200 12V. Works great. We have 800W solar and 400ah lifepo4 battery.

We were able to keep everything going with that setup. I couldn't clean the bottom (running a compressor) and make water in the same day without putting a big hole in the battery bank, but if it wasn't cloudy we could make water and still get the bank up close to 100% by sundown.

When the membrane goes I'd like to put a generic housing on if it's cost effective, but I read the way these are designed there might be issues going from 2 small to 1 larger. Not sure where that thread is, but I researched it right after we bought it.
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Old 04-12-2016, 12:25   #10
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
We have a Village Marine Little Wonder VIP 200 12V. Works great. We have 800W solar and 400ah lifepo4 battery.

We were able to keep everything going with that setup. I couldn't clean the bottom (running a compressor) and make water in the same day without putting a big hole in the battery bank, but if it wasn't cloudy we could make water and still get the bank up close to 100% by sundown.

When the membrane goes I'd like to put a generic housing on if it's cost effective, but I read the way these are designed there might be issues going from 2 small to 1 larger. Not sure where that thread is, but I researched it right after we bought it.
I have the same unit and made the transition to a single 40 in membrane. It didn't go smoothly. I bought the membrane vessel from CruiseRO, had them make up the high pressure hoses and fittings and bought a membrane from them. The setup would not get below about 800ppm TDS. CruiseRO said I messed up the install on the membrane and should buy another new one from them. So I did. It had the same high TDS. I was in Ft Lauderdale at the time and took the whole unit into the Parker-VM store there. We pulled the standard the membrane and put in a Parker-VM 40 in membrane. The system worked like a charm at under 200ppm. The Parker-VM membrane is a low-flow membrane and is actually shaped differently past the end pieces. So I pissed away near usd$500 on membranes that I couldn't use, but now have a setup that works fine with one Parker-VM membrane and a third party vessel housing.
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Old 04-12-2016, 13:30   #11
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

I have the LW 200, 12 volt, but with a single 38 inch membrane. It's been a great unit. We estimate we've made between 60,000 and 80,000 litres of water over the last 6 1/2 years. A very reliable unit. 99% of that time our 800W solar runs it fine.


I'd try the membranes first, before replacing them. I say this because a friend bought a second-hand watermaker, whose membrane had been left dry for a couple of years. We assumed the membrane would be knackered, but commissioned the unit anyway just to see if everything else worked OK before he replaced the membrane. Amazingly it makes good water ~ 200ppm with the membrane we'd thought must be ruined.
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Old 04-12-2016, 16:32   #12
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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I have the LW 200, 12 volt, but with a single 38 inch membrane. It's been a great unit. We estimate we've made between 60,000 and 80,000 litres of water over the last 6 1/2 years. A very reliable unit. 99% of that time our 800W solar runs it fine.


I'd try the membranes first, before replacing them. I say this because a friend bought a second-hand watermaker, whose membrane had been left dry for a couple of years. We assumed the membrane would be knackered, but commissioned the unit anyway just to see if everything else worked OK before he replaced the membrane. Amazingly it makes good water ~ 200ppm with the membrane we'd thought must be ruined.
There's always the exception to the rule. I wouldn't have said "knackered" But I like it so I'm going to start saying it from now on. I would have said that word that starts with "F" and ends in "K",...you know Firetruck.

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Old 04-12-2016, 16:39   #13
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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I'd try the membranes first, before replacing them. I say this because a friend bought a second-hand watermaker, whose membrane had been left dry for a couple of years. We assumed the membrane would be knackered, but commissioned the unit anyway just to see if everything else worked OK before he replaced the membrane. Amazingly it makes good water ~ 200ppm with the membrane we'd thought must be ruined.

I'd say that the foul odor that I smelled while disassembling the unit is a good indication of a membrane beyond saving...
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Old 04-12-2016, 17:03   #14
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

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I'd say that the foul odor that I smelled while disassembling the unit is a good indication of a membrane beyond saving...
It probably is. But I'd have said this guys membrane would have been 100% certain to have been wrecked.

It had been leaning against a wall in his shed, in it's pressure vessel with no plugs or hoses attached, for years. Was probably bone dry.

But it works fine. Just making the effort to test it before replacing it saved him $400 - $500.

As you say your membranes are most likely no good.
But after this experience I'd try them before chucking them.
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Old 04-12-2016, 18:10   #15
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Re: Village Marine Little Wonder water maker.

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT familiar with this particular brand and model of watermaker, so if there is a functionality peculiar to this type, my comments may not apply. However, I have had RO watermakers (3 different ones) on my previous boat for 21 years. The first was a 12v unit that had a small, half height prefilter that needed replacement after each use and were difficult to source. I eventually replaced that with a used SeaRecovery 600 gal/day IIRC that I kept for several years but decided to replace when the electronics and auto functions crapped out. I replaced it with a ProWatermaker, 500 gal/day, single membrane, totally manual unit which performed very well. A couple of comments you made in one of your replies to someone may be inaccurate. You state you were told that removing one of the membranes would only result in a 0.5 gal/hr reduction. My understanding is that you can stack multiple membranes to double or triple output (provided you have a pressure pump and motor that can handle the extra load. So, removing one membrane, in your case would result in half your current output. Also, the only time there would really be double the maintenance cost would be if you replace 2 membranes instead of one. Normal membrane cleaning, pickling, etc won't require any more material than it would to do one membrane. If half the output suits your needs, then you can save $ in replacing the 2nd membrane.
There is one other cause of the foul smell. Sea water contains plankton in it. Even deep sea, dark blue ocean water. The pre-filters get most of this before the water makes it to the membrane. After each use I would pull the filters (20 micron and 5 micron) and wash them thoroughly in fresh water, put them back in the filter canisters and fill them with fresh water. I would also use some fresh water from the tank, run through a carbon filter and flush out the membrane. If I didn't wash with fresh water, and I didn't use the RO machine for a week or more, then the plankton in the sea water surrounding the filters and membrane would start to rot and smell and turn the filters black.
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