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Tom and Bex

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About Tom and Bex

  • Birthday 10/31/1975

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  • Occupation
    Emergency Care Assistant
  • Boat Name
    Diesel & Dust
  • Boat Location

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  1. Tom and Bex

    Cost per kw/h

    I think I'll be sticking with my lithiums😀 Down to 9% today after 4 days usage, ran engine for a couple hours, now back up to 61%. That'll do now for a couple days or so😁
  2. Tom and Bex

    Lithium battery install

    Inverter was given to me by a previous neighbour who was going to bin it after "upgrading" to a modern Victron one😂 Total capacity is 320AH, of which I've used 220 between charges, and could probably push that towards 250 usable AH if I needed to. Batteries themselves cost £600 with all bolts and connecting straps, but were old stock that although tested as still having very good capacity, dropped voltage slightly at high currents (over 200A) so not ideal for electric car use. I've retained the lead acid starter battery and alternator as standard, just with the addition of a split charge relay to make best use of the spare alternator capacity. I did consider getting rid of the starter battery and running everything from the one bank, but decided against it in the end. I do have an emergency start switch though to start from the lithium bank if required, as I did with domestic bank on my last boat. It's quite noticeable how much faster the engine turns over on the lithium, and how much easier it starts due to their ability to deliver high currents with very little voltage drop.
  3. Tom and Bex

    Lithium battery install

    We've had our lithium batteries installed for nearly 2 months now and very happy with them (by lithium, I'm talking specifically LiFePo4 as the only suitable type for our usage). Massive reduction in engine running, and due to charge efficiency makes very little difference if you use high power appliances such as washing machine etc with engine on or off. Never going back to lead acid now. Just spent 3 days moored in Birmingham, and didn't need to run engine once, batteries went from 97% to 28%, and charged back up after 2.5hrs cruising. As far as I can make out from reading lots of articles and posts about real world experience using lithium, this whole not charging to 100% is a bit misunderstood. It's ok to charge to 100% if your going to use the batteries straight away, but not keep them there (although we don't generally charge them to that unless going away and leaving fridge on as not usually needed). Probably not best practise to do this daily, and might give slight loss of capacity over a long time, but generally insignificant in the overall picture. Our set up is probably more complicated than needs be, and would be tempted to simplify it if starting again. Having said that, so far it's working flawlessly. Our setup is as detailed below, and as said, so far is working really well. Could be tempted to just use the alternative 1 - lead- lithium hybrid method as detailed half way through this article next time, as would be simpler and cheaper (lots of good advice and information about lithium installs on that site). Batteries and control: We've used 8 Thundersky 160ah cells from this guy who I found very helpful. The BMS I used was this from Australia, nice and simple to install, and gives cell level voltage protection. Batteries are monitored using a Victron BMV-701 for SOC, and this device to monitor cell voltages, and set alarms for high and low voltage, and cell voltage difference (alarm is surprisingly loud for such a small device!). High and low voltage cut is achieved using 2 BEP-701 motorised battery switches, one for loads and one for charging sources. Alternator Charging: Alternator is controlled using this regulator which is completely programmable for different parameters. Alternator does need modification, but controller handles split charge relay so start alternator contributes to initial charging, has ability to end charging based on current into batteries, and switches to float mode that keeps current into batteries as close to zero as possible. Alternator controller is set to charge at 14v until current drops to 15A (5% of battery capacity) which we treat as fully charged. It also has a switch to force it to operate in float mode - ideal for long cruises e.g. (BCN Challenge!) to keep batteries from spending too long at 100%, and alternator and battery temp sensors to reduce alternator overheating, and prevent charging if batteries are below freezing or above 50c (defaults to float mode). Other charging: 500W solar is via Tracer MPPT controller, with bulk set to 14v, absorption duration set to 60 mins, and float set to 13.3. This will be monitored and might need tweaking next summer, but we've not been overly impressed by solar this year due to shading from trees. Sterling pro charge ultra is set to bulk 13.9v, float to 13.2v, but received very little use as is limited to 30A on generator whereas engine can easily put 110A in! Total cost a bit over £1000, but includes several improvements and rewiring that was badly needed anyway. Happy to answer any additional questions on our install if wanted.
  4. Tom and Bex

    Solar Thermal Hot Water System

    I did see that one when looking around for ours, but decided it was not big enough on it's own so would have needed 2. Would ideally like one that's more robust than our current panel, but very happy with our setup other than that. I did see that one when looking around for ours, but decided it was not big enough on it's own so would have needed 2. Would ideally like one that's more robust than our current panel, but very happy with our setup other than that.
  5. Tom and Bex

    Solar Thermal Hot Water System

    Very interesting to see that Bimble kit (although not cheap). I wonder what panel they use? Can't see it listed separately on their site. Flat plate panels (particularly robust ones) are not common but definitely better suited for boats. We've installed a thermal panel earlier this year, using a second hand flat panel from eBay just resting on wooden bearers on the roof, this controller, and this pump. All connected using 10mm plastic push fit pipe and fittings from toolstation. Unfortunately we have no spare coil in calorifier, and no immersion heater boss to fit one, so had to plumb it direct. This means we can't use antifreeze, so have to drain down for winter (although the controller has an anti freeze setting that circulates water in freezing conditions - ideal for cold nights in spring/autumn but you lose any remaining hot water). Using push fit plumbing, lever valves, and a waterproof plug for panel sensor, it's quick and easy to, turn pump off, disconnect panel, and remove it (5 mins max). We often remove it when cruising as it's very fragile, and already had one panel broken in Birmingham, that's why I'm interested in alternative panels that may be more durable. All that's left on roof when removed, is a small black box with a plug, and couple 10mm pipe stubs showing. All in all a very worthwhile investment, particularly this summer! We had tank full of piping hot water most days, even after doing couple loads of laundry. Combined with solar PV we could go for week or more without running heating or engine (except to fill up with water!) Tom
  6. Having been in a similar position but as the seller, here's our story to give you some balance from the other side (and hopefully reassurement that these deals can go well at times). We were also in the position of needing the money from selling our old boat to finance our new one (by new boat I mean new to us). We met the buyer on our moorings a couple of times (and in fact turned down a higher offer that was conditional on survey). We agreed a 10% deposit which enabled us to move forward with our new boat, and asked for cleared funds in our account on Monday ready for the new owners to pick up the boat on Tuesday. We could then ensure we paid for our new boat in plenty of time to collect it Wednesday (stayed overnight Tuesday with parents). All our personal possessions were left on the bank under tarps until we could get our new boat back to the mooring. You need to remember the seller is also taking some risk that you will complete when you say you will. If our seller had let us down, then we'd have been unable to complete on our new boat and been significantly out of pocket - money we definitely could not afford to lose. Unfortunately not everyone is in a position to take a short term loan or overdraft to cover any gap as suggested above. I would caution on relying on internet bank transfer on the day. I was somewhat surprised that our initial transfer from our Santander account to pay the first payment on our new boat appeared to go though fine (and we had confirmation it had been sent), but over 24hrs later we had a phone call from Santander questioning "unusual activity" on our account and informing us the traction had been cancelled and would be refunded. We had to wait until the next working day for the money to be available to complete the transfer again (which went through successfully). I was surprised they cancelled the transaction and not just phone for confirmation. On the subject of bank transfers, it is always worth transferring a token amount (say £1) and confirming with the intended recipient by phone or in person that it has gone through. That way you can use the same details for a repeat transfer of a larger amount. If for example you enter the wrong account number by mistake, someone may get an unexpected bonus, and as you authorised the payment the bank will do nothing to help you recover it. As to surveys, we did have a pre purchase hull survey on both our current and previous boats. However it was a 50/50 decision this last time, and I will probably proceed with no survey next time. Would depend on my gut feeling of the seller and boat though. Both our previous 2 hull surveys showed nothing I had not already picked up and factored into my offer. You obviously can't examine the complete hull whilst in the water, but can get a good idea of general condition of blacking and any pitting around the waterline. You can also check for significant play in the stern gear and several other survey items with little difficulty. If the price is right you have a contingency anyway (and the money saved on survey and slippage fees would pay for a lot of repairs). It would be very unlucky for a boat in reasonable condition, with no significant waterline pitting, and no significant rust in the bilges to need a complete overplate. Most other repairs could be paid for with the savings from not having a survey! Best of luck with your purchase. Tom
  7. Tom and Bex

    BCN Challenge 2018

    We haven't had anything.
  8. Tom and Bex

    Monitoring lithium batteries

    I'd be interested to hear what you've used for this. It's always good to see how others have tackled the same problem. Besides I've still time to change parts of my design! As to the Valence batteries, they are certainly expensive new! Glad they are working well. I did look at these when they first became available used, and was very tempted, but was unsure as to how the inbuilt BMS would work without the (expensive) Valence external parts. Also wasn't really ready to move forward at that time, and since then most of the reading I have done about existing installations seem to relate to the large format prismatic cells, albeit with new not used. Please keep us updated how they continue to perform, be interesting (to me at least!) to see if there is any difference long term between the 2 types. Tom
  9. Tom and Bex

    Monitoring lithium batteries

    I've yet to find a supplier in this country too! Panning to use this BMS from an Australian company: 8-cell Battery Monitor Module V2 coupled to a BEP remote battery switch for low voltage cut, and a yet to be decided relay/contactor/switch for high voltage cut. Alternator regulator is this one: VSR Alternator Regulator. As Nick says, if it reaches high voltage cut then the charge device has already failed, the high voltage cut is a last ditch fail safe to protect the batteries from potentially dangerous overcharge. As Nick suggested, flat lithium would easily still start a diesel engine so one possible idea is to eliminate the start battery and just run from a single lithium bank. This would simplify the install, and with options to charge from solar and generator, very unlikely to leave us stranded. Just a thought at present, and most likely stick with FLA start battery for now. Planning on using 8 used Thundersky 160ah large format cells, as I believe this type of battery to be the most suited for off grid energy storage, but either battery type would probably suffice. These are costing £600. I was also considering 4 used CALB 210ah cells for £400. Finally one potential supplier of new cells and monitoring is https://www.ev-power.eu. It's not UK based, but at least EU based so avoiding import duty and taxes (for now at least!). I particularly like their BMS123 Smart, a Bluetooth BMS system. Slightly out of my price range though. Tom
  10. Tom and Bex

    Monitoring lithium batteries

    I've not been reading the forums much recently as life and work have been getting in the way so missed this thread! Apologies if this post ends up a bit long but just finalising sourcing all the bits needed for upgrading to LiFePO4 batteries as I type, so here's my thoughts on some points raised in this thread. Firstly a general comment. There are still some people (not necessarily here, but certainly other boaters) who see lithium batteries as high risk and dangerous to use on boats. There are several types of lithium batteries, and the only type suitable for boats are LiFePO4. These are not at risk of exploding, fire, or thermal runaway if overcharged unlike other types, and many people believe them to be as safe or safer than lead acid. Having seen the results of a stray spark near a badly overcharged lead acid battery in my camper I'm inclined to agree - lead acid certainly has it's own dangers! The main thing that damages these batteries is over charging, over discharging, and storing at full charge. I don't believe there is much harm to charging to 95-100% provided the batteries are in use and not kept at that level, or kept on float charge, although you do run the risk of over charging. In our type of low current usage they prove very resilient - remember they are designed (and all testing and specs are geared towards) electric vehicle use with far far higher change and discharge currents than ever likely to be seen on a narrowboat. The BMS in the type of battery that Peterboat has that is made up of multiple small cells, only monitors each bank of parallel cells. It's impossible to monitor each individual cell of a parallel group as they will always be at the same voltage. Now to my proposed setup. My budget is £1000 to include batteries and all extras. So far I'm looking like being slightly over this, but with slight increase in original planned capacity from 210ah to 320ah. My charging will mainly be via solar and engine. Solar controller settings still to be decided on, but likely 13.6-13.8v bulk, dropping to 13.3ish float. Alternator charging will likely be at 14.0v until current drops to a set level, then charging will stop and voltage held at a level that provides 0A into or out of the batteries - thus powering all loads, but not putting any more charge in. This will be via external alternator controller. Monitoring will be of individual cell voltages with over and under voltage alarm, and charge level by AH counting gauge. There will be a BMS to monitor cell voltages, and provide a high voltage cut off for all charging sources, and low voltage cut for all loads. No automatic balancing. I expect them to stay fairly well balanced after initial top balance, but will monitor cell voltages and manually balance if required. The main decision still to be made is charging of the start battery. I'm concerned that just paralleling it during charging of the LiFePO4 will not result in high enough charge voltage. I have twin alternators but want to maximise their output to charge the LiFePO4 batteries (although currently only have a single controller). Not sure what will happen if I use the one controller for both alternators, but the designer can't see a reason it won't work and said to try it and see, but with the high probability of 1 alternator working harder than the other. Also not sure yet if either and/or both can even be modified to use just an external reg! Current favourite is a battery to battery charger for the start battery, but this part of the install is still undecided. Part of me is tempted to eliminate the start battery completely and rely on just the lithiums, but think that's a step too far at this point! Another option under consideration is one alternator connected to each battery, and parallel the banks for extra charging of the lithiums if required. The biggest problem with this option is overcharging. As the start alternator would be relying on usual regulator, would need to have a way to automatically split the banks again as the LiFePO4 batteries charged. The rest of the design and parts is pretty much finalised. If you've managed to read this far well done! It does help my thought processes to get ideas down in writing so hope I've not bored too many people! If anyone has any questions or wants more details of the components I'm using just let me know. I'll post an update somewhere with my experiences when the install is complete, hopefully by the end of next month.
  11. Why? When out and about we're regularly cruising after 6pm and usually don't moor up until 8 or 9pm or later. We rarely set off much before 10 as being on holiday like to enjoy a nice relaxed morning together, and if visiting an area will usually visit in the morning and not set off until mid afternoon. Restricted evening hours really affects our cruising plans.
  12. Tom and Bex

    Starter motor current (Bukh DV36)?

    I think you're probably right regarding quality being luck of the draw. I was quite surprised it's failed so quickly though considering the rating. Must admit it was a bit of a shock when the inverter cut out and I was met with clouds of smoke coming from the engine bay!
  13. Tom and Bex

    Starter motor current (Bukh DV36)?

    I fitted one of those for the same reasons, but melted it within a couple of hours intensive inverter use (1600w) prepping boat for painting. Fitted a blue sea one and had no problems at all with similar usage since, even though it's got a lower rating! Managed to just fit it in the same location - it's not as big as it looks, only just over 2 inches square. This is the one I used: https://www.cclcomponents.com/blue-sea-system-m-series-mini-on-off-battery-switch-with-knob-red
  14. Tom and Bex

    Water from tank

    You don't get these problems drinking the water straight from the tank..... Personally I'd be more worried about bottled water growing stuff in this weather than water from our stainless steel tank. As for filter jugs, I've seen enough green filter jugs to give them as wide a berth as possible!
  15. Tom and Bex

    Registering for school without an address

    Not school as such so possibly slightly different, but we had no problems with our daughter attending the local pre school. We do have a permanent mooring, although not residential and no postal address. We used the local post office as a contact postal address, and they needed the address of our mooring so gave them the nearest postcode we could find, our boat name, and the street name of our mooring. We had to make it quite clear to them not to send post to that address which they were quite happy with. So far no problems at all. Apparently they needed the mooring address in "case of emergency" but any communication has correctly been sent to the post office. Tom

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