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Old 08-15-2018, 12:14 AM   #1
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Power what while at anchor?

I have a new to me boat that is having power issues. We have gone out cruising for an afternoon and dropped anchor for a few (4-5) hours. I left all navigation systems on, not thinking, and then my engine wouldn't start without a jump...
My generator batter is separate (isolated?) so I could use that as a jump battery. I just replaced the generator battery on Saturday. Today I load tested the other 5 house bank batteries and all were good (I had the old generator battery tested too- I was told it was time to replace) I have an alternator and separate battery charger, so I wouldn't think a few hours at anchor would drain 5 batteries? What am I missing? I want to be able to spend several days at anchor (with occasional running of engine/ generator)
So what do you all leave on while at anchor? Nothing except what is being used? Only the refrigerator and radio? Do you constantly turn breakers on and off?
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Old 08-15-2018, 01:43 AM   #2
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What do I leave on,

Fridge
Freezer
Wine cooler
Sat dome
Tv/stereo
Two computers
Various lights

But I have plenty of battery power to support my bad habits.
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Old 08-15-2018, 02:27 AM   #3
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STD advice, get a copy of Nigel Calders, boat owners mechanical and electrical version 3.

Then, you need to do an inventory of your electrical loads and their associated amp and hourly amp hour demands. You really need to do this for your boat and your loads against your battery capacity. That will get you a start on the basic math. An anmeter that registers you boats loads as you turn them on/off is a huge help, but even without it one can generally do some inventory and math and come relatively close enough for planning purposes.

Immediately, you have a constraint to consider. Your house loads are not isolated from your start batteries. My design philosophy is that I am untrustworthy when relaxed and the system needs to be designed by me to protect mine own self from stupid moves or forgetfulness. I have a responsibility to those on board and not being able to start my engine at will constitutes an unacceptable danger. There is room for other philosophies, but this is mine.

You note you had the batteries load tested. I extrapolated this to mean that you took them to some kind of auto testing lace and they put a starting load on the battery and checked whether they could accept a charge. Such tests are better than nothing, but donít really tell you the capacity of the battery from a deep cycle perspective. Especially for batteries that have been run flat, which is very hard on those batteries.

Personally, I have a 1200ah house bank which many people consider to be sizeable, also fully isolated from my starting batts. My best biggest loads are my fridge and freezer, with the fridge consuming 90ah/day when the weather is hot and it is opened frequently. On the same day I might use another 40ah for the freezer. With small loads here and there I would easily hit 200ah/day minimum. If Iím only out for a night, Iím pretty relaxed. If Iím going to be out for more than two nights, I hawkishly turn everything off that is not being used. Use whatever you need. Waste nothing.

Anyway, figure out the amp hour capacity of your batteries when new, take a sizable amount away from that number. Figure our your biggest loads and start doing the math. Only plan to use about 40% max of your calculated capacity. Personally I would not count your starting batts and find a way to isolate those critical batteries from the recreational house loads.
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Old 08-15-2018, 02:38 AM   #4
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Apart from the dedicated genset start battery, are the other 5 all interconnected and serving as house and start? In other words, is there no dedicated start battery?
If that is affirmative,you still should not end up with insufficient in 5 batts to start the engine.
What size are the 5 batteries?
Are you sure they were all charged before you anchored?
My boat, like most IGs, lacks dedicated start batts,odd, but the system seems to work, for us and other owners.
Our backup is starting the genset and using the charger. I had to do it just once,right after we got the boat, soon realizing the batts needed attention. Using the genset should work to get you started.
Look at how much battery you have, and how much battery you are using. Add up your loads. If your batts can`t sustain 4-5 hours,accepting they are in good condition, and were actually charged,your demands on them are too great. You need less demand, or more battery,or both.
And look at your charging system(s),the adequacy/output of the alternator,and/or the dock charger, to ensure when you go out, you start with full batts.
Many boats have at least some solar power onboard,it`s a great asset.
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Old 08-15-2018, 05:08 AM   #5
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You currently have the system I preferred for 20 years. A house bank for both starting and house use and a single isolated battery. In your case the isolated battery starts the generator.

Have to ask the question of how did five batteries (your house bank) go flat in five hours. When you speak of navigation systems did that include radar?

Suggestion, get a Kill-A-Watt meter and find out how much power your refrigeration is drawing. Even an inefficient domestic refrigeration system (110v big box refrigerator) should not draw more than 17-18 amps per hour. That should not flatten fully charged batteries in so short of time.
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Old 08-15-2018, 06:54 AM   #6
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When anchoring almost EVERYTHING should be shut off with the exception of the bilge pump & alarm, the reefer , cabin lights at night , cooling fan in a cabin and FW pump.


Its the reefer that will probably kill the batts , so think upgrade when replacing it.
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Old 08-15-2018, 07:37 AM   #7
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With five house batteries if you anchor out for five hours and you can't start your engine, something is wrong: the batteries are bad, your start battery is isolated and it is bad or ????


Either study your boat's electrical system and figure out what is wrong with the help of Calder's book or get a marine electrician to help you with it.


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Old 08-15-2018, 07:42 AM   #8
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One question though, you have 5 batteries, but what type of batteries?

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Old 08-15-2018, 08:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawdaddy View Post
So what do you all leave on while at anchor? Nothing except what is being used? Only the refrigerator and radio? Do you constantly turn breakers on and off?

We turn off most of our nav electronics... although I might use one or the other again overnight for anchor (location) and/or depth alarms.

But generally everything else -- plus the anchor light -- is on (2 fridges), or can be on when necessary (microwave, coffee maker) or when/if we choose (TV, stereo, interior lighting, etc.). Then we run the genset (to cook) at least twice/day (assuming we aren't running the ACs) and charge batteries and make hot water then.

For best insight, confirm some other info:
- the 5 "house" batteries are also your start batteries?
- those 5 batteries are all in one bank?
- how many engines?
- what brand, type, size batteries?
- how old?
- what's your battery charger?
- were your batteries actually charged when you set anchor?
- and so forth.

In the meantime, an easy tip: convert all your interior lighting and your anchor light to LED... if you haven't already... and that'll probably cut your power requirements for lighting by about 95%.

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Old 08-15-2018, 08:03 AM   #10
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Something is wrong.
Nav systems? Does this mean chart plotter, radar, depth sounder, VHF radios, laptop, etc? Even if the load was 10 amps DC, then the drain was 50 amp-hours.
Refrigeration? A single frig draws about 5 amps, so that is about 25 amp-hours. Add a separate freezer is another 25 amp-hours.
Misc cell phone chargers and cabin lights with filament bulbs? Add another 25 amp-hours.
So the total for 5 hours is 125 amp-hours. That is about the 50% SOC for a single 8D battery or a pair of 6V golf cart batteries.
You should have had no problem starting your engines from that point.

So my guess is that your batteries are a long way from "good" or you have mixed battery types in your bank leading to circulating currents within the bank and going dead prematurely. Or there is a bad connection issue in one or more cable connections.

PS Welcome aboard!!!
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Old 08-15-2018, 08:35 AM   #11
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All good advice here. Just as a point of reference when we're at anchor with the refer, lights, radios, etc. on we draw about 9-10A during the day. At night with everything except the refer and anchor light off we draw an average of about 3-4A.


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Old 08-15-2018, 09:25 AM   #12
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I agree, something is wrong. How do you know that the batts were fully charged? How old are they? Most load testers aren't worth much. If they are wet cells measure the specific gravity.
Many boats have battery chargers attached to the genny and shore power so charging dead start batteries can be easily done. A set of jumper cables are nice to have.
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Old 08-15-2018, 09:35 AM   #13
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I shut down everything except the refrgerator. The cabin lights breaker is on so we can use cabin lights as needed. All my cabin lights are LED so they draw very little. We only turn the pressure water pump on when we need it. We let it pressurize the system then turn it off. All nav equipment and VHF radios go off as soon as the engine is shut down. I have two battery banks (a start battery and four house batteries) that are connected by an automatic charging relay (ACR), so once the engine is off and the sun goes down the two battery banks are isolated. When the sun is out my solar charges both banks via the ACR.
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Old 08-15-2018, 10:14 AM   #14
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Alot of great advice and how old are the batteries is probably the best one.

One thing we do to conserve power is we freeze gallon milk jugs and place them in the fridge, we leave off the frig overnight with no issues and over time we use the jug of water for cooking or the dogs.

Every new to you boat requires a little time to sort out everything, what you are going through is normal, enjoy!
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Old 08-15-2018, 11:00 AM   #15
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Welcome Crawdaddy.

Great advice so far. One thing that caught my eye was the idea that you could anchor out for several days and only run the genset ďoccasionallyĒ.

I have a decent sized battery bank of new batteries. I still run the genset for a couple hours in the morning and then again at night to keep the batteries charged.
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Old 08-15-2018, 11:15 AM   #16
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Are wind turbines not something trawler owners use? I've never had one on any of my sailboats (the only kind of boat I've ever owned), but they're common on cruising sailboats in conjunction with solar, especially since they can take advantage of wind at night and during periods of overcast skies. Storms, even.



Just wondering is all.
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Old 08-15-2018, 12:06 PM   #17
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A lot of good ideas here. For me the biggest improvement was getting a handle on my power usage. It turned out that some additions I had made over the winter was consuming about a 1/3 of my usable capacity. I had added some USB outlets to the boat to power my toys. This caused my inverter to stay on 24 hours a day drawing around 3 amps out of the battery bank (72 amp-hours). I never considered the effect of drawing 0.3 amps from the 120VAC system would have on the bank. Now when we are at anchor I keep the inverter off unless we need it.
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Old 08-15-2018, 01:23 PM   #18
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Why do you need your inverter to power a USB outlet?

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Old 08-15-2018, 01:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
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Why do you need your inverter to power a USB outlet?

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What I installed was 120VAC to USB adapters. No wiring required. At the time it just seemed so easy to plug the adapters into existing outlets.
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Old 08-15-2018, 02:01 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomandJeri View Post
Are wind turbines not something trawler owners use? I've never had one on any of my sailboats (the only kind of boat I've ever owned), but they're common on cruising sailboats in conjunction with solar, especially since they can take advantage of wind at night and during periods of overcast skies. Storms, even.

Just wondering is all.
For fair weather cruising I donít think they make too much sense, because underway the alternator is doing the work and we anchor as protected from the wind as possible.

In winter the winds around here would probably be strong enough, even in anchorages, for it to ďsometimesĒ help with charging.
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