At Anchor

At Anchor
Whiskyjack at anchor in Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Electical System Upgrade

The way it was.

The recent work on WhiskyJack's engine and the engine monitoring system brought me to add an oil pressure gauge and to replace the old temperature gauge with a new one.  There was a backing plate under the old temperature gauge that need refurbishing or replacement and a voltmeter in the dash that did not work.  I also had a burning desire to install a Link 10 battery monitor that I had purchase several years ago.  It was time to play musical gauges.

New backing plate

I removed all of the gauges, replacing the old temperature gauge with a new one and adding a new oil pressure gauge.  When I removed the old temperature gauge I found that a previous install had required a larger cut-out and that was the reason for the backing plate under the gauge.  It was my intention to put the Link 10 in this place, so I decided to construct a new backing plate.  I also wanted to be able to measure the voltage of the starting battery and therefore, I added a single pole, double throw, momentary push button switch in the backing plate to accomplish this.  I machined the backing plate from black plastic engravers stock.  The voltage sense wire from each battery is led to the push button switch and then to the Link 10.  While the Link 10 is displaying voltage, if I want to know the starting battery voltage, I simply push and hold the black button to the left of the gauge and the voltage is displayed.  Releasing the button and the Link 10 to displays the voltage of the house battery.

The shunt for the Link 10
The Link 10 uses a shunt to calculate the amount of current (amps) that the system is using.  The shunt was placed on the engine room bulkhead in close proximity to the house batteries.  A wiring harness of wires is led to the gauge.  A simple explanation of the Link 10 is that it displays voltage, amps being used, amp hours remaining, along with a LED bar graph showing the amount of energy left in the battery bank.  The complete description can be found here.  The beauty of it all is that there is no more guessing about how much current is going into our out of the battery bank or what the state of charge is.

Balmar 70 amp alternator and ARS-5 regulator

The "guts" of the electrical system is the 70 amp Balmar alternator and it's companion, the ARS-5 alternator regulator.  The alternator is designed for continuous output in the marine environment.  The ARS-5 controls the alternator and provides a multi-step charging regimen.  This allows the batteries to be charged at the fastest rate possible for the battery type without damaging the batteries.  More on multi-step charging here.
Small Engine Mode switch

The ARS-5 regulator has a "Small Engine Mode"  that reduces alternator output to 50% so that more engine horsepower is available for propulsion.  I added a switch on the dash to control this function.  (The location is not one I would pick, but fills an existing hole that was no longer need.)  Now, when I'm underway I will can reduce alternator output, but when anchored I can use the the alternators capacity to more rapidly charge the battery bank.

Flow-Rite Qwik-Fill

Last fall I added a Flow-Rite Qwik-Fill battery watering system that allows me to keep the battery fluid at the proper level without opening each cell or trying to get my head (or a mirror) over the top of each battery.  The system works by drawing water from a container with a small hand operated pump and delivering it to each cell.  This is the easy way to keep your batteries topped off.

 And last, this winter I added a BatteryMINDer onboard desulfinator which uses high frequency pulse desulfination.  It is powered by the 12 volt system but is only active when the system is charging.  The jury is still out on this item.  It will take a year or two before I know whether it is keeping the batteries desulfinated or not.  My hope it that it will extend the battery life.

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