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Old 01-15-2015, 10:44 PM   #21
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MurrayM- check out Bloom boxes from Bloom energy. I don't think they will work on a boat but very cool stuff. Also, I think the propane tank I exchange at my local grocery store is, in fact, only 18 lbs although we still think of them as 20 pound bottles. If filled with 20 lbs of propane that is 4.7 gallons.
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Old 01-16-2015, 07:29 AM   #22
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The tank measurement varies with your ruler.

I see a 20# tank as a month of silent refrigerator and frozen food , no dead batts , no noisemaker , all for about 50c a day.
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Old 01-16-2015, 09:18 AM   #23
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MM, your quest is a familiar one to me. I went through exactly the same thing with my last boat which didn't have a generator, including all the calculations just as you have done. I found that all my work with the calculations didn't mean anything in the real world, many things can affect a batteries ability to take a charge.

We like to find a nice spot and stay for extended periods of time so the power availability was critical to our boating enjoyment.

Back then fuel cells were like some science fiction futuristic thing that I lusted about, but it was never a serious contender. I'm not sure much has changed there over the years. There was an article in Pacific Yachting some time ago that tested 3 fuel cells. I remember reading it with interest because it never leaves you once you start a quest, you'll always be interested. I can't remember product names but do recall the numbers. Each one was methanol based and ranged from 165 to 225 amp/hrs per 24 hour period. This seemed perfect to me since most boats with smaller refrigerators and a crew with conservation in mind would probably be able to get by with that or at least extend your periods between charging to a reasonable or acceptable level. They were expensive though, I think $4000 for the 225 amp/hr cell plus methanol. I don't recall what the methanol consumption was but I remember that it seemed high to me so probably would require a lot of storage area for fuel.

In the end I went through the boat and changed all the lights to LED (which were very expensive at that time), got a better refrigerator and finally got a Honda generator. It was a beauty, fire engine red, started first pull, until I needed it that is. Should have kept fresh gas available as 2 year old gas doesn't work too well. I considered the propane fridge as FF suggests but couldn't find an insurance company that would cover me so that was out. I bought solar panels but didn't find them to be very useful, they were big and difficult to mount, not much gained from them.

With all that said, what worked best for us was conservation, do whatever you can to conserve and when it's time to charge up, move to another location and charge your batteries as you travel. Change your alternator to a Balmar c/w a 3 stage regulator as suggested. Start with the cheaper things and make your boat as efficient as possible. In the end it seemed the most practical way for us.

Good luck with your quest.
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Old 01-16-2015, 09:55 AM   #24
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With all that said, what worked best for us was conservation, do whatever you can to conserve and when it's time to charge up, move to another location and charge your batteries as you travel. Change your alternator to a Balmar c/w a 3 stage regulator as suggested. Start with the cheaper things and make your boat as efficient as possible. In the end it seemed the most practical way for us.
I'm sure you're right. But just like in epic fantasy tales where someone goes on a quest and comes back empty handed, the real treasure ends up being the knowledge gained on the quest...at least I'm beginning to wrestle out a better understanding of marine electrical systems and battery banks

Oh, and they're still writing about those methanol fuel cells in boating magazines;
Pacific Yacht Systems - EFOY Fuel Cells
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Old 01-16-2015, 10:15 AM   #25
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The safest and most cost effective portable energy generatingl technology developed by mankind is ably demonstrated by the 100s of millions of internal combustion engines happily at work around the globe.

Given the continual excess of natural gas around the world, whether an IC engine or a fuel cell, the cleanest (non nuclear) fuel generated energy today seems to be methane gas related. Getting the cost effective twain to meet has been an issue for hydrogen fuel cells as liquid energy costs remain low due to increasing supply.
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Old 01-27-2016, 10:34 AM   #26
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Bump...

They keep squirreling away...this one uses malic acid that is shipped in powder form;

Hydromax 150 Fuel Cell - Hydrovane
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Old 01-28-2016, 08:43 AM   #27
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"I'm not a big fan of running propane plumbing through out the boat. Too much chance of an undetected leak with dire consequences.


There are sniffers , or you can do as we have , install the reefer on the after deck with the bottles there too.

Self draining. only one connection and hose.

The Brits used the best stove , mantle lamp or reefer fuel,,, Acetylene, which is lighter than air, so a leak does not fall to the bilge.

Sadly in the USA the buroRats decide who can purchase the gas.

I tried for a couple of years to create a safe acetylene generator for stove use , just carry some cans of calcium carbide and a bit of water , but I could never get it foolproof enough.
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Old 02-02-2016, 07:17 PM   #28
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I saw one of the EFOY fuel cells at the Fisheries booth at the Seattle Boat show this past weekend. The largest one (210 watt) was quoted at ~$6k so the price is coming down, just not far enough for me to replace the generator yet. Interestingly enough the guy I talked with was not positioning it as a replacement for the generator but as letting you have a smaller house bank.

I have to admin that I did not investigate very far since I am not in the market for anything like that at this point. The idea of have a silent (or at least very quiet) source of power production was interesting.

Marty....................
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Old 02-03-2016, 01:22 AM   #29
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The fuel cell charges continuously. It does not come on like a genset, as soon as it detects a draw it comes on so you don't need a huge pile of amps like a genset to charge half-charged batteries as they are constantly being topped up, just like your main engine and your start battery. A 2 US gallon methanol tank lasts from 20-30 days with continuous running (you are on the hook running your fridge or inverter) and the end result (exhaust) is about a litre of distilled water that you can put in your batteries. You do not need a battery charger for the battery bank, you connect the cell directly to the batteries.

A tank of methanol is about $75 and for a summer, I would guess you might use three? No burnt diesel, no engine parts, engine maintenance, noise in an anchorage or smoke. No oil changes, water pump impellers, zincs, filters etc. etc.

You can put it anywhere in a boat and the engine room too if its not too hot. Needs cooling air, all you hear is a small cooling fan and a fuel pump. Weighs about 10#. It shuts off automatically if you start another charging source so it will last a lot longer than a month if you are on the move lots. I would mount mine inside the old Onan sound shield and pipe fresh air into it.

I would kill for one! My Onan would just be a couple of bubbles rising in the water next to my slip. In Canada, they are about $7000, which is still too high, but the day is coming...I will also figure out a way to refill the methanol tank too. I'll bet with all the ethanol in the US being made for gasoline for cars it will be possible to get it in bulk too.

I wrote something about this a while ago and I was interested then. I'm knocked out now!
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Old 02-03-2016, 01:46 AM   #30
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The Largest of these fuel-cells are 210 amp hours per day or 8 amps DC at 12 volts.

My guess is that most boats in the 40+ foot range draw much more than that on average.

I know mine does.

Not much chance of deep sixing the generator just yet guys

Just as a comparison my 9 kW generator runs my 150 amp battery charger, and the stove, and the water maker, and the washer/dryer all at the same time.
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Old 02-03-2016, 01:57 AM   #31
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Not much chance of deep sixing the generator just yet guys
Mule skinners used to laugh at them thar new fangled otto-moe-beels struggling through muddy wagon ruts too.

Today I could see one of these coming in handy on an energy efficient boat with low power demands when the wind isn't blowing and it's been cloudy for a couple days.

In the future...who knows?
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Old 02-03-2016, 11:18 PM   #32
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There are lots of people without high power needs where solar and/or a fuel cell may make sense especially if one is trying to stay a few extra days and ol sol is not cooperating.


I'm not knocking a generator but simply do not want one, cannot afford one and would need another boat to fit one. None of which is going to happen.

Mind you the fuel cells are still not in the picture for me due to cost but that will change.
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Old 02-04-2016, 01:23 AM   #33
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Today... Not the future...

The commercially available, made for marine use fuel cells do not supply enough power for a larger cruising boat, and by larger I mean 40' plus.

Yes there will always be that off case of someone that can eek by on a minimalistic existence and that person is sure to pipe up here and say "but... I can do it" Great, but for the vast majority of folks with cruising size boats 8 amps is just not enough.

Tomorrow, some day, maybe not all that long in the future... Fuel cells might be available that will fill the need.

But me, I live in a world of today. I do not live in the past clinging to my reciprocating engine generator. No, I use the tool that is available today. Today, I can make a phone call and buy a generator that will power my boats needs. The same cannot be said of fuel cell technology.

So before anybody further paints a picture of me likening my image to some behind the times old fart that won't look at technology, think about just who you are addressing here. I'm the guy promoting advanced networking and alarm systems on boats, doing things that are at the leading edge of that arena.

If fuel cells made sense for a larger boat, believe you me, I'd have one gentlemen.
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Old 02-04-2016, 01:36 AM   #34
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210 amps? Sorry, that would be me. In fact, I could get double the methanol use if I use 100 amps per day. I run the genset powering a 125 Amp charger, for about 3-4 hours to charge the batteries.

That would be enough for me. Refrigerator, 40 amps. Some led lights, 5 amps? Stereo, 10 amps, water pump 40 amps... no inverter, propane stove, no battery charger needed, no washer dryer, no AC.

No more 8KW Onan clattering up the anchorage (shhh, don't let it know I said that).
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Old 02-04-2016, 06:26 AM   #35
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Four observations:

1 Popular Mechanics made great reading at the barber shop when I was a teenager
2 The perfect solution for a problem that doesn't exist.
3 With a small solar array a fuel cell has more than met its match.
4 Is this an ADM methanol marketing ploy?
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Old 02-04-2016, 07:08 AM   #36
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If fuel cells made sense for a larger boat, believe you me, I'd have one gentlemen.
this looks interesting, it converts diesel fuel.

PowerCell - PowerPac
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Old 02-04-2016, 10:07 AM   #37
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So before anybody further paints a picture of me likening my image to some behind the times old fart that won't look at technology, think about just who you are addressing here. I'm the guy promoting advanced networking and alarm systems on boats, doing things that are at the leading edge of that arena.

If fuel cells made sense for a larger boat, believe you me, I'd have one gentlemen.
Sorry if I tweaked a nerve there...it wasn't intended

If you re-read the second paragraph in my post, you'll see that I said these emerging fuel cells are more for boats where fuel efficiency and low power demands were a priority.

The Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stones, it was because a better technology came along...lots of people squirreling away at that one these days!

Here's an interim solution Eberspacher is working on, using diesel in their fuel cell;

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Old 02-04-2016, 10:27 AM   #38
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Looking at the Efoy web page I see a few things that are interesting. Their consumer line tops out at 105 watt maximum output (8.8 amps at 12 volts) and costs about $6,500. The methanol fuel comes in 2.64 gallon (10 liter) containers for $71 (Fisheries Supply price) and is good for about 11 kilowatts of power. That means that the M10 fuel container would last a bit over four days of continuous full power operation for the 105 watt fuel cell. That is a pretty pricey battery charger to operate ($6.50 per kilowatt). A kilowatt of solar would stay ahead of the fuel cell even on cloudy days for 1/6th the initial cost and no operating cost.
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Old 02-04-2016, 10:50 AM   #39
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...the M10 fuel container would last a bit over four days of continuous full power operation for the 105 watt fuel cell...
You're putting a square peg in a round hole aren't you, as that is not its intended use. More of a 'top up' unit (but obviously not to 100%) when solar and wind aren't enough, don't you think?
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Old 02-04-2016, 11:07 AM   #40
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Sorry if I tweaked a nerve there...it wasn't intended

If you re-read the second paragraph in my post, you'll see that I said these emerging fuel cells are more for boats where fuel efficiency and low power demands were a priority.

The Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stones, it was because a better technology came along...lots of people squirreling away at that one these days!

Here's an interim solution Eberspacher is working on, using diesel in their fuel cell;

Yes, some day...

Eventually the need for the reciprocating engine driven generator will go away, replaced with fuel cells or some other not yet invented technology.

Espars approach, using diesel fuel as the source is a step in the right direction. Simply because it utilizes a fuel source (diesel) that is commonly available to extract hydrogen (what a fuel cell uses to produce electricity) from. That concept of using a commonly available fuel source cannot be overlooked. That single concept will lead to acceptance of the product. Also Espar's market segment of large trucks systems provides enough market size to justify the R&D dollars necessary to bring a viable product to market.

It will become marketable when the lifecycle costs equal the lifecycle costs of a reciprocating engine prime mover driving a synchronous generator end.

If I had a need today I would not wait on a purchase, thinking "next year" because it will not be available next year. Maybe a decade, but not this year, and not next year. For folks dreaming of a cheaper alternative, that's not going to happen. The unit will be priced no lower or not much lower than it's competition. That would just make good business sense.
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