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Batteries & charging


Ancient Mariner
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Although a newcomer to both narrowboat ownership and this forum I have spent some time looking through previous posts about batteries and charging and, whilst some of my information is a bit sketchy I have reached some conclusions on which I would welcome the panels views/comments/recommendations. It's a bit long winded but I've tried to give all the information I have.

Our boat is a 15 year old 57 foot Trad with an Isuzu 4LC1 engine and the following battery/charging set-up:-

6 x 12v 110 amp hour batteries make unknown (no labels) of 2007 vintage (yes 2007 as confirmed by the previous owner) plus one new 90 amp hour starter battery. There is an 80 amp alternator feeding through a sterling alternator to battery charger, a 3000w pure sinewave inverter made by EDPN Technologies (Singapore?) and a mains battery charger by Halfords when on shore power. The batteries gave us no problems during our 9 day trip from Mercia marina, where the boat was purchased, to her permanent berth at Crick marina but I am conscious that they must be reaching the end of their useful life.

Our usage of the boat is likely to be occasional week/weekend trips with possibly a couple of 3 to 4 week cruises each year. Other than that the boat will be in a marina on shore power.

As suggested by other posts I have attempted to complete a power usage audit as a result of which I am reasonably confident that, by changing to LED lighting our daily usage will be around 100 amp hours (no TV, diesel heating, gas cooking but with LEC 240v fridge!!). Screenshot attached

5a381786711fc_Powerusageaudit.png.d6660f274f748a9b98dfec8329aafddd.png

 

 

My thoughts are to change the 6 old batteries for 4 x 110 amp hour (Banner seem well regarded), replace the mains charger with an Electroquest 30 amp smart charger and buy some kind of battery monitoring system ( again recommendations welcome!). Please be gentle.

 

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Replacing the charger with a multi stage charger is good.  Change the batteries when they no longer serve your requirements when cruising.    Your on shore power for majority of the year and cruising the rest, you don’t need to go mad on batteries so 3 would be a good number.  Monitoring, unless your stationary regularly for a week or more I wouldn’t bother to be honest.   If your cruising for a few months and stopping for a couple of weeks at a time then monitoring the batteries and solar is good.

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10 year old Batteries suggest that the boat hasn’t moved away from shore power for long in its previous ownership and it appears that you’ll be repeating that regime. So...

Yes, a decent charger is a great idea. 

Don’t change the batteries until you find that they’re not lasting for your usage. Even something like 300 cycles to 50% (which is quite a poor spec) could well be only half used even at 10 years old, based on past usage. 

As regards monitoring I agree with Robbo, don’t bother. However I would suggest getting a clamp type multimeter that can read DC current such as the below for basic fault finding and checking general ‘stuff’. 

https://m.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-UNI-T-UT203-Digital-Handheld-Clamp-Multimeter-Tester-Meter-CE-AC-DC-Volt-Amp/222730126674?hash=item33dbc00552:g:G2UAAOSwt05Zp9KR

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2 hours ago, WotEver said:

10 year old Batteries suggest that the boat hasn’t moved away from shore power for long in its previous ownership and it appears that you’ll be repeating that regime. So...

Yes, a decent charger is a great idea. 

Don’t change the batteries until you find that they’re not lasting for your usage. Even something like 300 cycles to 50% (which is quite a poor spec) could well be only half used even at 10 years old, based on past usage. 

As regards monitoring I agree with Robbo, don’t bother. However I would suggest getting a clamp type multimeter that can read DC current such as the below for basic fault finding and checking general ‘stuff’. 

https://m.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-UNI-T-UT203-Digital-Handheld-Clamp-Multimeter-Tester-Meter-CE-AC-DC-Volt-Amp/222730126674?hash=item33dbc00552:g:G2UAAOSwt05Zp9KR

Agree with all this, especially the DC clamp meter, though I would consider adding a couple of hundred watts of solar for your 3 to 4 week warm weather cruising, that way you can stop for a day or two without whacking the batteries too much - so long as it's sunny of course.

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9 minutes ago, Chewbacka said:

Agree with all this, especially the DC clamp meter, though I would consider adding a couple of hundred watts of solar for your 3 to 4 week warm weather cruising, that way you can stop for a day or two without whacking the batteries too much - so long as it's sunny of course.

Yes. Good idea. Spend the money that you were thinking of spending on monitoring to get some Solar. You won’t go far wrong talking to Bimble. 

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 One small point. I'm sure you could use less power. On our boat if anyone has all the lights on board turned on they get shouted at!

Leds are great. If your fittings won't take led bulbs directly (e.g. the square florescent fittings i had in rear cabin) then it takes about 30 mins with a soldering iron to instal new holders,  using the flat disc type bulbs.

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33 minutes ago, Naughty Cal said:

I would ditch the hair dryer from that useage.

Big power consumers such as a hair dryer, washing machine or microwave can be limited to being used only when the engine is running, or if the batteries are well charged and you are about to go on a long run just before you set off.  As to LED lights, I find 3W a bit bright, and in your case with 9 in the saloon, all those on at the same time is 27W and that is going to be unpleasantly bright if LED.  Just noticed that between the saloon, galley and dinette you have 18 lamps, and that seems a massive number to me.  Maybe disable or remove some??

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Our boat (4 x 110Ah sealed lead acid batts) also spends most of its life on shore-power, and it always seems as though the batts don't function particularly well for the first couple of days of a cruise e.g. as though they are down on capacity. My guess is that being on trickle charge for weeks at a time makes them 'lazy' and they forget what they are there for!

Re your batteries, might be worth a quick look to see whether they are low maintenance or open lead acid batteries. If the latter, this might help explain why they seem to have lasted to well.

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41 minutes ago, Chewbacka said:

Big power consumers such as a hair dryer, washing machine or microwave can be limited to being used only when the engine is running, or if the batteries are well charged and you are about to go on a long run just before you set off.  As to LED lights, I find 3W a bit bright, and in your case with 9 in the saloon, all those on at the same time is 27W and that is going to be unpleasantly bright if LED.  Just noticed that between the saloon, galley and dinette you have 18 lamps, and that seems a massive number to me.  Maybe disable or remove some??

I think it is down to personal choice - I like plenty of light an not that 'warm yellow stuff' !

We have  (all LED) :

Saloon 10 x 3w recessed (wired in banks of 3, 4, & 3) and 4x 3.5w Spotlights

Dining room 2x 3w recessed and 3x 3.5 w spotlights

Kitchen 2x recessed 3w and 2x under cupboard / over worktops strip lights

Master Bedroom 6x recessed 3w and 2x bedside 3.5w spots and 2x strip lights over each dressing table

Bedroom 2 has 2x recessed 3w and a 3.5w spot above each berth

Reading in bed is now easier since I got an 'illuminated' Kindle.

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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5 minutes ago, Col_T said:

Our boat (4 x 110Ah sealed lead acid batts) also spends most of its life on shore-power, and it always seems as though the batts don't function particularly well for the first couple of days of a cruise e.g. as though they are down on capacity. My guess is that being on trickle charge for weeks at a time makes them 'lazy' and they forget what they are there for!

Yes, it’s not your imagination, it’s a well documented ‘feature’ of lead acid batteries. I recently read a paper that describes what happens chemically but my eyes glazed over. Suffice it to say that after a couple of cycles they’ll wake back up. If you can be bothered to Google it you can make your brain hurt. 

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If it was my boat I wouldn't be in a hurry to buy new batteries. They worked fine for the new owners first trip. Obviously LED bulbs are a no brainer but otherwise I'd just go boating. Also I'd point out that my wife uses a hair dryer with no problems, always when engine is on mind. I believe some things can be over thought. Enjoy your new boat. Ian.

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Thanks to all for the swift and very helpful responses ( I particularly liked Naughty Cal's suggestion about ditching the hairdryer ... but I can't afford the cost of the ensuing divorce!!!). So, I'll be holding on to the existing batteries until they start to play up, changing to LED's and taking care with their usage, investing in a smart charger and looking at the Bimble site for a suitable solar panel. Oh and a suitable clamp meter. Above all though I intend to take Ianali's recommendation and just get on and enjoy the boat. If you see Johel's Cut out and about give us a wave. Thanks again.

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8 minutes ago, Ancient Mariner said:

( I particularly liked Naughty Cal's suggestion about ditching the hairdryer ... but I can't afford the cost of the ensuing divorce!!!). 

I bought the missus a Vidal Sassoon hot air blowing brush style dryer from Boots for about 12 quid - which is apparently quite a lot cheaper than a divorce. I can't remember whether it's 120 or 150 watts, but it does to job at about a tenth of the current draw of a hair dryer, so she's welcome to use that on the batteries alone. For those times when only a proper hair dryer will do, she still has the option to use that when the engine's running or on shore supply.

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1 hour ago, Sea Dog said:

I bought the missus a Vidal Sassoon hot air blowing brush style dryer from Boots for about 12 quid - which is apparently quite a lot cheaper than a divorce. I can't remember whether it's 120 or 150 watts, but it does to job at about a tenth of the current draw of a hair dryer, so she's welcome to use that on the batteries alone. For those times when only a proper hair dryer will do, she still has the option to use that when the engine's running or on shore supply.

You can get gas powered ones like these:

https://www.google.co.uk/shopping/product/16080683969628926818?lsf=seller:2839496,store:3495191249945432583&prds=oid:9491088424405395256&q=gas+powered+hair+styling+brush&hl=en&ei=Fvs4WoewHIfcgAaJ7BQ&lsft=gclid:EAIaIQobChMIu6W0qv-V2AIVq5ztCh1G0wSJEAQYASABEgK5E_D_BwE#sgro=om

 

Replacement cartridges are available.

https://www.google.co.uk/shopping/product/17786240499625847025?hl=en&lsft=gclid:EAIaIQobChMIu6W0qv-V2AIVq5ztCh1G0wSJEAQYASABEgK5E_D_BwE&output=search&noj=1&lsf=seller:2839496,store:3495191249945432583&q=gas+powered+hair+styling+brush+cartridges&oq=gas+powered+hair+styling+brush+cartridges&prds=oid:18311346542748147644&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj8z73b_5XYAhUKIsAKHbQfCGYQ8wIINQ

 

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2 hours ago, Ancient Mariner said:

Thanks to all for the swift and very helpful responses ( I particularly liked Naughty Cal's suggestion about ditching the hairdryer ... but I can't afford the cost of the ensuing divorce!!!). So, I'll be holding on to the existing batteries until they start to play up, changing to LED's and taking care with their usage, investing in a smart charger and looking at the Bimble site for a suitable solar panel. Oh and a suitable clamp meter. Above all though I intend to take Ianali's recommendation and just get on and enjoy the boat. If you see Johel's Cut out and about give us a wave. Thanks again.

No need for a divorce. Just convince the OH that allowing the hair to dry naturally is better for it and it will look better in the long run.

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25 minutes ago, Naughty Cal said:

No need for a divorce. Just convince the OH that allowing the hair to dry naturally is better for it and it will look better in the long run.

Yeah but you can go quickly in your boat so that the wind dries your hair quickly, but it takes ages in a narrowboat at a maximum of 4 mph. :P

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  • 1 month later...
On 18/12/2017 at 20:53, WotEver said:

10 year old Batteries suggest that the boat hasn’t moved away from shore power for long in its previous ownership and it appears that you’ll be repeating that regime. So...

Yes, a decent charger is a great idea. 

Don’t change the batteries until you find that they’re not lasting for your usage. Even something like 300 cycles to 50% (which is quite a poor spec) could well be only half used even at 10 years old, based on past usage. 

As regards monitoring I agree with Robbo, don’t bother. However I would suggest getting a clamp type multimeter that can read DC current such as the below for basic fault finding and checking general ‘stuff’. 

https://m.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-UNI-T-UT203-Digital-Handheld-Clamp-Multimeter-Tester-Meter-CE-AC-DC-Volt-Amp/222730126674?hash=item33dbc00552:g:G2UAAOSwt05Zp9KR

If you are using eBay try and choose a Seller with good (and relevant) feedback for the item you are buying.  I ordered a UT203 in November and have just been refunded by eBay because the goods never arrived from China.  I will probably now pay a bit more and source one in the UK.

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On 23/1/2018 at 18:56, GRLMK38 said:

If you are using eBay try and choose a Seller with good (and relevant) feedback for the item you are buying.  I ordered a UT203 in November and have just been refunded by eBay because the goods never arrived from China.  I will probably now pay a bit more and source one in the UK.

This one is worth a look:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00V9VL9CC

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Thanks for the "heads-up" on this GRLMK38. I haven't got round to buying the meter yet so I'll check out the one recommended by WotEver. Just a brief update on progress so far. I bought the Electroquest charger and fitted it a couple of weeks ago. It promptly sorted the uncertainty over the batteries as one (of my six domestic) immediately boiled and has now been removed from the bank. The rest seem to be charging properly and readings from the hydrometer suggest these are all OK although I haven't been able to get back to the boat for a couple of weeks to check.  I also set about changing to LED's and bought some (relatively) cheap ones from LED Hut. Sadly these interfered badly with my DAB radio so I'll be going with Bedazzled EMI free ones in the near future. So, all in all things are slowly moving forward with many thanks to all for your help.

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5 minutes ago, Ancient Mariner said:

Sadly these interfered badly with my DAB radio so I'll be going with Bedazzled EMI free ones in the near future.

I have 2 DAB radios, one is a car radio, the other a portable and my LEDs which came from Bedazzled do not interfere at all so I would say this is a good way to go.

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