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NickAndAnne

To charge, or not to charge?

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Hi there,

 

This is my first posting, although I have been following the site for some time.

 

I see there are many knowledgable people on here, so wanted to ask for some advice. We bought our narrowboat last February for leisure cruising, and have now settled her down for the winter in the marina.

 

I have shore power, and am thinking of running a low wattage heater as some kind of frost protection. Should I leave my inverter on all the time charging the batteries, or just switch it in to pass-through mode?

 

Can the batteries be damaged by being left on charge all the time?

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

Nick

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Hi there,

This is my first posting, although I have been following the site for some time.

I see there are many knowledgable people on here, so wanted to ask for some advice. We bought our narrowboat last February for leisure cruising, and have now settled her down for the winter in the marina.

I have shore power, and am thinking of running a low wattage heater as some kind of frost protection. Should I leave my inverter on all the time charging the batteries, or just switch it in to pass-through mode?

Can the batteries be damaged by being left on charge all the time?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Nick

It would help if you told us the make and model of "inverter", which is presumably a combined inverter and charger aka Combi. Most Combi have a setting that allows the mains to pass through whilst keeping the charger on. This is the setting to use. If you leave the inverter part on, if the shore supply fails it will switch to inverting the heater will completely flatten the batteries.

 

Edit: to answer your question about battery charging, if the charger is a proper multi-stage marine one (eg part of a Combi) it is designed to be left charging the batteries indefinitely.

Edited by nicknorman

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you might want to consider a low power multi-stage charger such as CTEK or NOCO just to keep your batteries fully charged, cost about £30.

 

Just plug it into an extension lead from a 240V socket and clip the leads onto your battery terminals, making sure that they can't slip off.

 

Then you won't need to use your inverter at all..

Edited by Murflynn

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Thanks for the prompt reply!

 

I can't remember the make of it, even though I looked this afternoon. Doh! Will write it down tomorrow.

 

It does have battery charging as well as inverting capabilities, one setting simply bypasses the inverter and supplies power directly to the sockets. The other setting is used when cruising to supply the 240v, but if the shore line is connected it works as a battery charger.

 

I appreciate your help.

 

Nick

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Thanks for the prompt reply!

I can't remember the make of it, even though I looked this afternoon. Doh! Will write it down tomorrow.

It does have battery charging as well as inverting capabilities, one setting simply bypasses the inverter and supplies power directly to the sockets. The other setting is used when cruising to supply the 240v, but if the shore line is connected it works as a battery charger.

I appreciate your help.

Nick

I'd be surprised if the "bypass" setting doesn't leave the battery charger in operation. That is the normal way these things work.

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Lets assume you do have a Combi (combined charger and invertor) which reading between the lines seems to be the case. When on shore power typically the multi-stage charger will be on, and can be left so maintaining your batteries on a tick over float charge indefinately to their benefit. Shore power will also be fed through the Combi to feed your AC distribution which will include in your case the heater you mention.

 

In this mode the inverter part will be automatically off. Important though that its permanently disabled via the appropriate switch. If not, when/if the shore supply fails the inverter will automatically take over and likely completely flatten your batteries in a very short time (with heater on)

 

Most Combi's have this inverter disable feature but the early Sterling (more than a couple of years old) Combi models don't, hence need to know which model you have. If the inverter can't be disabled you will need to install a second charger and feed it and your heater directly from the shore power input.

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I will grab a photo of it tomorrow when I go back to the boat.

 

It does have a three stage charger built in (bulk/absorption/float), but this only seems to happen when the switch is in the 'up' position.

 

Middle is off, and from memory (which you already know is poor!) in the 'down' position only one light comes on, leading me to assume that the battery charger is off. The Hoover works in this position which is why I think it might be a pass-through.

 

The good news for now is that it does no harm to the batteries leaving it on charge, it means that the automatic bilge pump should always have 12v available. I haven't fitted the heater yet, so there is no power draw, otherwise.

 

Thanks!

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Sounds like your inverter could be a Victron, (blue box). We've got one of them. Switch has three position, centre off, up for inverter on (green LED) and down for charger only (orange LED).

When we leave the boat I switch the 12v off but put the switch in the 'charger only' position. It charges the batteries and keeps them topped up.

The new CaRT/Metermacs website allows me to see what the electricial situation is on the boat, the charger seems to use about 30p worth per day.

 

As for leaving a heater on the boat in the winter, this has been discussed at length in previous posts with some people saying doing this might invalidate your insurance. FWIW we leave a pair of 500W heaters on a low setting when the boat is unoccupied in the winter months.

 

Welcome to the forum, BTW.

 

Oh, and what's this about 'settling down for the winter in the marina'! Winters the best time to cruise!! No one else about, empty moorings and no queues at locks.

Go on, give it a whirl!

 

smile.png

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Sounds like your inverter could be a Victron, (blue box). We've got one of them. Switch has three position, centre off, up for inverter on (green LED) and down for charger only (orange LED).

When we leave the boat I switch the 12v off but put the switch in the 'charger only' position. It charges the batteries and keeps them topped up.

The new CaRT/Metermacs website allows me to see what the electricial situation is on the boat, the charger seems to use about 30p worth per day.

 

As for leaving a heater on the boat in the winter, this has been discussed at length in previous posts with some people saying doing this might invalidate your insurance. FWIW we leave a pair of 500W heaters on a low setting when the boat is unoccupied in the winter months.

 

Welcome to the forum, BTW.

 

Oh, and what's this about 'settling down for the winter in the marina'! Winters the best time to cruise!! No one else about, empty moorings and no queues at locks.

Go on, give it a whirl!

 

:)

It is a grey, rather than blue box, and I am sure the name printed on it began with D...., but I didn't want to admit this earlier as it really is stupid to only know the colour!

 

The idea of putting the heater on board was actually so that we could continue to use the boat over the winter. I had this vague idea that it might prevent pipes and tanks from freezing, so I wouldn't have to drain everything down. However, as I have used up most of my leave for this year, we would only be able to do the odd weekends, or a Sunday lunch at Tixall, for example. But I do agree with you, winter is a great time to be out and about - we brought the boat back from Chirk to Great Haywood at the beginning of the year, and almost had the canals to ourselves!

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Welcome to the forum, BTW.

 

Oh, and what's this about 'settling down for the winter in the marina'! Winters the best time to cruise!! No one else about, empty moorings and no queues at locks.

Go on, give it a whirl!

 

smile.png

SSShhhhh..... Don't tell everybody!

 

 

The only boat I saw yesterday was a CRT workboat moored on the waterpoint for the weekend.

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A peripheral point about the repeated references to the shore power 'failing' and your batteries draining flat.

 

You may be thinking shore power failure is unlikely and can be broadly discounted, but 'failure' is far more common than you might think. Failure is actually the wrong word, I'd suggest.

 

The most common reason for unexpected loss of electricity supply is the electricity switching OFF when your meter runs out of credit because you've forgotten to keep it topped up. VERY easy to do!!

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A peripheral point about the repeated references to the shore power 'failing' and your batteries draining flat.

 

You may be thinking shore power failure is unlikely and can be broadly discounted, but 'failure' is far more common than you might think. Failure is actually the wrong word, I'd suggest.

 

The most common reason for unexpected loss of electricity supply is the electricity switching OFF when your meter runs out of credit because you've forgotten to keep it topped up. VERY easy to do!!

 

Or your breaker tripping

Or a fault on someone elses boat tripping a common breaker

Or someone unplugging your supply temporarily, accidentally or deliberately

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So it is a Dakar Combi from Mastervolt. I checked the lamps on it today, and it seems that it automatically switches between charging and inverting depending on whether the shore power is connected.

 

So based on the advice received:

 

A ) if I don't fit the heater, then I should leave it switched to charge the batteries.

 

B ) if I do fit the heater, then it would be better to switch it to remote, so that I don't drain the batteries if (when) the shore power fails.

 

I drained the domestic water supply and left the taps open. As the calorifier is now empty, does this mean I shouldn't run the engine or heating as both supply hot water, or doesn't it matter?

 

Thank you everyone for your helpful comments.

 

Nick

post-25427-0-27614000-1447591822_thumb.jpeg

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I have seen many batteries survive over winter with just a charge every month or two. Obviously that requires the batteries to be left fully charged and nothing drawing current. Maybe a bilge pump that operates infrequently, but nothing that would cause any significant drain. I prefer to separate batteries in a bank because one that is self-discharging can drain others that are in good condition.

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So it is a Dakar Combi from Mastervolt. I checked the lamps on it today, and it seems that it automatically switches between charging and inverting depending on whether the shore power is connected.

 

So based on the advice received:

 

A ) if I don't fit the heater, then I should leave it switched to charge the batteries.

 

B ) if I do fit the heater, then it would be better to switch it to remote, so that I don't drain the batteries if (when) the shore power fails.

 

I drained the domestic water supply and left the taps open. As the calorifier is now empty, does this mean I shouldn't run the engine or heating as both supply hot water, or doesn't it matter?

 

Thank you everyone for your helpful comments.

 

Nick

 

The inverter needs to be disabled when leaving the boat as you intend. Both charger and inverter modes are On by default although obviously the inverter won't be running with shore power present.

 

I only have access to the manual for the Power Centre Control remote panel but disabling is acheived on that by selecting Inverter Mode under the Advanced Menu and turning it Off. Make sure Charger Mode under same menu is left On though (which it should be by default).You will probably have similar controls on the main unit if you don't have the panel I refer to - check your manual.

 

Once the inverter is disabled in this manner you will have no worries about the inverter unintentionally cutting in if shore power is lost, and your heater can be left on. You will need to turn Inverter Mode back On when returning to the boat though if you want to use it whilst cruising.

 

ETA: As bottle points out the selection switch on main unit has a Remote position. In this position the remote panel controls the unit. Can I assume you have this remote panel referred to above?

Edited by by'eck

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So it is a Dakar Combi from Mastervolt. I checked the lamps on it today, and it seems that it automatically switches between charging and inverting depending on whether the shore power is connected.

 

So based on the advice received:

 

A ) if I don't fit the heater, then I should leave it switched to charge the batteries.

 

B ) if I do fit the heater, then it would be better to switch it to remote, so that I don't drain the batteries if (when) the shore power fails.

 

I drained the domestic water supply and left the taps open. As the calorifier is now empty, does this mean I shouldn't run the engine or heating as both supply hot water, or doesn't it matter?

 

Thank you everyone for your helpful comments.

 

Nick

 

Reading the manual available here Link,

 

It appears you have no choice it is either ON or OFF the 'remote' setting is only if you have a remote control centre.

 

The remote control is needed to adjust some settings, ie to limit load on the shoreline.

 

Note: this manual does not actually mention your particular model, I suspect it may be discontinued.

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ETA: As bottle points out the selection switch on main unit has a Remote position. In this position the remote panel controls the

 

 

 

No I don't have the remote. I am sure you are right about the model being discontinued. I think it was fitted in 2002.

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Hi Nick,

 

The calorifier has a heating coil (pipe) inside it from the engine. Normally this coil is connected to the cooling engine cooling system and is still charged with coolant and you can run the engine. Has the engine got anti-freeze in the coolant? How do you know?

 

Heating? pressumably you mean radiators. Same reply as above almost - read boiler for engine. Same anti-freeze questions?

 

Drained water system. I get neurotic about freezing pipes - bad experience at home as a child in 1963 and on my 1st boat in 1981. As a result I always drain the pipes out as much as possible after I have done the main drain-down. I take the top off the raw water strainer and then run the pump on air for a few seconds to drive the last of the water through. My plumbing is plastic so I also crack a few joints near the pump to protect that.

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Hi Nick,

 

The calorifier has a heating coil (pipe) inside it from the engine. Normally this coil is connected to the cooling engine cooling system and is still charged with coolant and you can run the engine. Has the engine got anti-freeze in the coolant? How do you know?

 

Heating? pressumably you mean radiators. Same reply as above almost - read boiler for engine. Same anti-freeze questions?

 

Drained water system. I get neurotic about freezing pipes - bad experience at home as a child in 1963 and on my 1st boat in 1981. As a result I always drain the pipes out as much as possible after I have done the main drain-down. I take the top off the raw water strainer and then run the pump on air for a few seconds to drive the last of the water through. My plumbing is plastic so I also crack a few joints near the pump to protect that.

Thanks for this.

 

I had the boat serviced a week ago, and had them check and replace the antifreeze for the engine and the radiators.

 

I will do as suggested for the pump.

 

Nick

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ETA: As bottle points out the selection switch on main unit has a Remote position. In this position the remote panel controls the

 

 

 

No I don't have the remote. I am sure you are right about the model being discontinued. I think it was fitted in 2002.

 

Its a shame that you don't have the remote control panel, which is particularly surprising because the manual, downloadable here indicates that its included with the main unit as supplied new.

 

Can confirm this is a discontinued unit and that apparently the remote panel is the only way of controlling the inverter mode on/off function.

 

Seems the only solution to leaving the boat unattended is to switch the Combi off completely and arrange for heater to be fed directly from shore supply and not via the Combi. A second small multi-stage battery charger could also be fed from same direct supply to ensure batteries are left on float.

 

Of course if you could obtain/find the remote panel as shown below then all your problems would be solved since it just plugs into the main unit.

 

post-13525-0-12894000-1447607061_thumb.png

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Its a shame that you don't have the remote control panel, which is particularly surprising because the manual, downloadable here indicates that its included with the main unit as supplied new.

 

Can confirm this is a discontinued unit and that apparently the remote panel is the only way of controlling the inverter mode on/off function.

 

Seems the only solution to leaving the boat unattended is to switch the Combi off completely and arrange for heater to be fed directly from shore supply and not via the Combi. A second small multi-stage battery charger could also be fed from same direct supply to ensure batteries are left on float.

 

Of course if you could obtain/find the remote panel as shown below then all your problems would be solved since it just plugs into the main unit.

 

attachicon.gifScreenshot_2015-11-15-17-02-24.png

Anything here to do the job http://www.living3000.co.uk/shop/search/?q=mastervolt&campid=5337442535&gclid=CLfbnvj4kskCFSgFwwodqTsG7Q

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Not there according to search, but they have sold recently on eBay. If the OP is interested Google Mastervolt Dakar Power Centre Control

Thank you! I will keep an eye out on eBay.

 

Nick

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Hi there,

 

This is my first posting, although I have been following the site for some time.

 

I see there are many knowledgable people on here, so wanted to ask for some advice. We bought our narrowboat last February for leisure cruising, and have now settled her down for the winter in the marina.

 

I have shore power, and am thinking of running a low wattage heater as some kind of frost protection. Should I leave my inverter on all the time charging the batteries, or just switch it in to pass-through mode?

 

Can the batteries be damaged by being left on charge all the time?

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

Nick

Here's what I do.

I have two 240v 500 watt convection heaters, one placed in the vicinity of the bathroom, the other in the galley area.

 

In my experience the "frost" setting on the heaters' internal thermostats is very inaccurate and will result in silly 'lecy bills, so I control the heaters with digital thermostats set at 3 deg C.

 

I have a Sterling 20A charger which is left permanently on. My batteries are from 2007 and still work well.

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It seems that I usually have to give this earning at this time of year. We have had an instance reported of one insurance company having a clause that said they would not pay out in respect of damage attributed to heaters NOT certified (CE marked) as for marine use. It is almost certain that any heaters supplied for domestic or greenhouse use not be so certified, especially if any extra controls have been added.

 

If you intend to use electric heaters when you are away from the boat please read your insurance policy carefully to make sure you will be covered.

 

Personally I think this might have been from an insurer more used to dingy and lumpy water insurance who do not understand narrowboats but better safe than sorry if the worse happens. My policy does not seem to include such a clause. I think the insurer in question was the one who would not cover me and the boat for use without payment by members of my family.

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