Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Resurrection?

Pictured here is one of Wendy’s two ‘original’ batteries. Together they could theoretically produce 620Ah of power. The only problem is that as you can see from the strata of dust they’ve lain dormant through the whole rebuild- almost since we purchased the vessel all those lifetimes ago. The last time they were used was during our first tow from Plymouth to Southampton, when they powered a bunch of lights overnight. Indeed the only reason they didn’t get scrapped just like everything else was that they were just tooo heavy to move and we weren’t about to pay for more craneage, so I’d always just thought of them as handy ballast.

Anyway-because of things like wanting to get some sort of security lighting set up I’ve been sidetracked into the brave new world that is twelve volt power. I remember talking to Tim months ago about his batteries on board Lady Jane and have got around to wondering if there’s a way to save these old batteries of ours. Knowing that there was every chance that they might be buggered, last weekend I gave them a top up, tested them and discovered to my relief that they had about 9 volts in each of them so stuck a crappy little halfords charger on one for a day to see if anything would happen. Sure enough at the end of the evening the meter showed 11.5 volts. So it seems they’ll take a charge, and my hope is growing that they may indeed be salvageable. If they are it seems silly to go to the expense of buying new ones, when the answer has been under my nose all along. These batteries of ours might possibly be in fairly bad condition, or they may be fine- I dunno. So I’m wondering how best to proceed with the whole show of getting them up to scratch, and also just how long it might take if they are a bit on the knackered side.
There are obviously plenty of reasons to have reliable 12v power on board, and I’m practically salivating at the prospect of being able to run domestic lights and stereos without the expense of burning fuel oil. We have been lucky and have had a very cheap source of pink diesel lately but this will not always be the case, and because of our vessels location we need to be completely independent in our power generation. And although it’s nice to have an engine running on board, it’s also nice to enjoy my evening beer in peace and quiet with just the gulls for company.
So I’ve gone a bit mental on a well known internet auction site and bought various things, including a fancy automatic charger, then completely lost the plot and picked up a solar panel too- figuring that there’s plenty of sunshine available down in Littlehampton. This is the reason why Becky usually has to ban me from perusing ebay as I can’t help buying stuff. Now the only problem is that I’m a bit daunted about how to put the whole lot together. Yet another thing that I’m almost an absolute beginner at. Although I did study ‘electronics’ at school for GCSE technology, I’ve obviously forgotten pretty much the lot- but I do remember enjoying it, so that’s a start. This weekend I hope to at least put the basics together and get some charge into those big batteries. Hopefully it’ll grow from there.


Anonymous snowbiker said...

Saying you have 11.5 volts is a bit worrisome, actually. Check accross each cell with a voltmeter and see if they're all equal or if one dead as a doornail. That's the risk, that one has shorted out. Google has some tips for unshorting a dead cell, but it's hit or miss. I failed with my car battery... that one cell would start working for a while and then go dead again real fast. Not much is designed for a 10Volt battery. [including the charger, which is trying to jam in 14V, btw]

Good luck with those beasts. Lead acid batteries don't like to sit around uncharged, but maybe those are sturdy enough they could handle it? Only one way to find out.

-erik [in Boston USA]

5:11 am  
Blogger IsmilebecauseIhavenoideawhatsgoingon said...

Hi Erik,
Thanks for the advice, I'll check each cell individually before I do anything else.
Fingers crossed.

Regards, Seb

8:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Captain cautious here,In my day a well trimmed oil lamp was sufficient,the only draw back was you were constantly saying"who's that?" to shadowy figures in the could of course check each cell with one of those hydrothinghys.while on this note who is this longshoreman"google" he seems to be a right know it all!!
What in tarnation is this bit about BEER!!Being nowt but a young seapup I suppose I could allow you a dash of water in your rum,but Beer,that bilge is only fit for the focsle mark my words if you continue on that path it is a short hop to hand cream and eye shadow.Now you go and trim your wick and swig your grog,while I ruminate in me cabin for a while.

4:53 pm  
Anonymous Marc said...

Even think of Mrs. Ann ziping around with the help of an electric motor some day down the road?
She might make a good diesel electric ;)

Anyhow, I have a little 30W solar power system myself. Its fun to play around with and improve.

2:19 am  
Blogger Tim Zim said...

Hi Seb

First things first, make sure the plates are covered with de-ionised water before charging them.

Without water, the plates will buckle & the batteries will be useless.

Also, don't forget the battery refreshers I got - they have taken years but are continually restoring the batteries effectiveness.

Give me a call & fire away with any questions you have, the stuff is mostly straightforward.

I'll be happy to help.



2:36 pm  
Blogger rob said...

Hi ! an old boater I knew used to swear by taking the acid out of each cell and with proper protection (he used sunglasses) he would pressure wash inside the cells and tip the gunge out and pressure wash them again until he was satisfied they were clear of calcium! he would then "charge" them with just tap water ( and they did take a charge but not hold it) in the cells and then. drain them out and fill them up with the same acid that was origionally in them and top them up. he claims to have had the same batteries for more than twenty years? in fact he did some for me which I sold with the boat years ago!

8:40 pm  
Blogger IsmilebecauseIhavenoideawhatsgoingon said...

Hi guys,
An Update.
I've checked each cell on both batteries and they're all about equal, phew!
Spent a weekend putting charge into the first set with a twenty amp automatic charger, obviously still no 'full' light coming on but at the end of the experiment they were bubbling away nicely and showing just over 13v on the meter. Next morning though this had dropped to 12.4v. By yesterday (weds) the reading had dropped further to 12.1v, so I've a way to go yet. This weekend hoping to get a small load (our wheelhouse lighting) onto the battery and start giving it the workout. Tim has kindly provided me with info on a device called a battery refresher which looks like it'll help, so it's time for more judicious interweb shopping and I've made the mounting brackets for our fancy pants solar panel, so next week I hope to get that involved too..
I still haven't begun attempting to bring the other battery back from the brink, but all it's cells are showing an equal voltage too, it's going to be a long journey, so fingers crossed..

9:18 am  
Blogger Loz 'n' Moz said...


We're looking at supplementing (if that's the right word) our mains electric with batteries which we too inherited. Firstly as backup and then moving on to something like solar, can you give details of the automatic charger you bought? And if anyone is interested, ASDA are selling 12v-240v invertors for a fiver at the moment they might not be any use for large loads or long term but for that money it has to be worth investigating. We’ve got one which I’ll be experimenting with over the next few weeks.

1:01 pm  
Blogger IsmilebecauseIhavenoideawhatsgoingon said...

Hi L&M,

The charger was spotted on e-bay, sold by a company called Electroquest, try searching for 12v 20Amp fully automatic marine battery charger. I think I found it in the boat parts section. All else fails here's their phone number: 01492583444. Ask for Scott.
It cost me £50, so maybe it's not as fancy as all that, but it's a nicely built, rugged design so that's good, and it's supposed to taper the charge as the battery fills.
I went for a 20A charger because I was concerned that too vigorous a charge into the batteries might not be good after so long standing idle, but that idea may be bollocks. I'm a newbie to this.
As for cheap inverters, hmmm. At the moment the generator runs a lot so 240v juice is not a problem, but sod it, I'm off to asda for a look anyway, thanks for the tip.

kind regards, S.

9:55 am  
Blogger Loz 'n' Moz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:56 am  

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