Go Go Gadget… House Batteries!

It was winter time and thus it was project time, I had already torn out my chart table and was under mid construction when I decided to keep tearing things apart!

I left the Cinderella unplugged for two days and I had killed the house batteries. Granted the AGMs are nearing 20 years of age, but Ava and I sailed to Vancouver and through all of those islands without running out of juice for days, what gives? To answer the question I had to do some crawling.

Chart Table

Do you see that Aluminum box in the left corner of the screen? Well behind that box (the fuel tank) lived the batteries. You couldn’t see back there without a flashlight, and a gain it took a gymnast to get anywhere near that setup. I was frustrated in short order. What do I do when I get frustrated? I tear things apart. Out with the tank, out with the batteries, and out with the old breaker panel! It was time to bring Cindy’s electronics up to snuff.

Ericson 35-2 original breaker panel

The old breaker panel not only was in the most inconvenient location, but it left plenty to be desired. So I did some online shopping and landed on a new panel from Blue Sea Systems up in Bellingham, they had the best price for what you get, and a great customer care department that shipped me a new breaker when one was damaged during installation.

I knew I was going to have both a 110V AC circuit and a 12V DC circuit, and with plans to leave the country, I was not overly focused on 110V, but I knew I needed something for the next two years. I settled upon a uit that had 15 DC breakers, and 5 AC Breakers, the panel also had a voltage meter for the AC shore power, a ammeter for the DC system, and a battery voltage monitor for up to 3 batteries banks. The ammeter really opened my eyes to how much electricity a single light bulb can draw, LED is the future.

Blue Sea System, sailboat power supply

I had a box laying around that came from a gift I was given from my sister and her boyfriend in Vancouver. It turns out, the box fit the panel almost perfectly, it even had hinges, which would allow me to gain access to the panel in case I had to troubleshoot or add new functionality. A few minutes with the dremel, and it fit perfectly.

When I tore the old panel out, I also moved the batteries. There were previously under the sink and taking up valuable space that was going to be a water tank. I made a frame out of scrap wood I had laying around and mounted the batteries below the port settee. Along with moving the batteries, I also move the selector switches and the charge controller to a more user friendly location, below my desk.

 

After I spent countless hours going through all of Cinderella’s wiring and routing it through the new panel, it was time to play with the switches. When I was flipping the switches, I noticed something very alarming, the running lights drained a lot of juice!

When I flipped on the running lights, I saw the meter ammeter climb to nearly 15 amps, for 3 light bulbs! No wonder I drained my batteries after a full two days of sailing. Fortunately several advances in technology have happened since the 70’s, and in the category of lighting we have advance substantially over the past 5 years.

I walked down the street to Fisheries Supply and bought new LED alternatives to the bulbs that were in the boat. Not only are LEDs substantially more energy efficient, but they also last much longer, as they have no filament to burn out.

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After replacing the light bulbs, those same three lights hardly made the needle of the ammeter budge. I would say lighing is the most substantial upgrad you could make in terms of energy efficiency in a boat.

Pro tip – you can buy many of the new LED bulbs online these days at a fraction of the cost.

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Ahhh, the feeling of a job complete and one less thing to worry about!

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