Before we left on this journey, we spent lots of time, reading other peoples blogs, most of whom were in front of us doing what were doing now. For us reading other cruisers blogs was to get a feel as what it was like, get great ideas and generally learn from their mistakes and try and provision for it on Allegrini.
So to many of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that Allegrini, has from an engineering stand-point, had pretty much all the bells and whistles and probably a few more to many to mention fitted to her before we left the UK, some of those, like the solar panels and the batteries are coming up to 5-6 years old now, which for Lead Acid batteries is probably towards the end of their life expectancy, plus since fitting our panels, solar technology has came on in leaps and bounds too.
So what are we up to? Well we currently (excuse the pun) have four big heavy duty 250ah Sealed Lead Acid leisure batteries giving up a total of approx 1000ah, but due to the complexity of Wet Cell technology you effectively should only use 500ah of that. These batteries sometimes through an inverter (something that converts 12vdc to 240vac ) are what give us the capability of being at anchor and still have some of the luxuries of land, like fridge, freezer, TV, fans and of course lighting. Although we have 1000ah bank, wet cells do deteriorate over time as they get charged and discharged (cycles) if you maintain a strict regime and only ever discharge your lead acid 50% they should last you 400-500 cycles, as ours were regular maintained and for the first few years of their life never really discharged (sailing in the UK it was generally marina to marina, so at the end of each trip plugged back into the mains) they’ve only really been worked hard over the last year/18-months, so they’ve probably lasted longer than they normally would.
So having been keeping a watchful eye on Lithium technology (its a lot safer now)and having recently observed one of the blogs I’ve ben following since they set sail, fit lithium to their boat (SV Delos) I thought it time to bite the bullet and do the same to Allegrini. So when were in Jacksonville were swapping our Lead Acid for Lithium Ion (LiPo4).
Why Lithium Technology? Well LiPo4 technology gives as many Advantages with only one real disadvantage, lets deal with the disadvantage first! Cost, the cost of LiPo4s is generally 3 nearly 4 times the price of a decent equivalent Lead Acid, so for us its an ultimate inevitability, but not really justifiable yet for the weekend cruiser. For that investment you get any more cycles in some case 3000-5000 cycles, the discharge percentage is better, virtually 80-90% they weight at least half, if not more of the weight (always an issue on a boat and ours is way to heavy) they charge much much quicker (approx half the time), but the most important feature is that unlike lead acid batteries that as they discharge the voltage drops, with liPo4s the voltage hardly ever drops, which as anyone with a boat or caravan will testify is the real issue as, fridges water pumps and kit stop working when the volts drop. LiPo4s maintain voltage high to the end and then just switch off.
We’ve decided to use a company called Battle Born Batteries they’ve developed a 12v 100ah drop-in battery with its own built in BMS (Battery management System) which means you can’t over-charge them, they can’t ever completely discharge and more importantly it stops them overheating or catching fire. (a problem with earlier manufacturing) Were going to stay with 1000ah, we could actually only install 500ah as that’s effectively what we currently have available now, but as we don’t want like for like, we want to improve the time between running the generator to top them up. Well have to do some jiggery pokery to fit ten 100ah in the space of three 250ah but we should be ok.
The second job is to swap out our four 150w solar panels and replace them with three 330w (the same width, so no framework mods) this will increase our available solar power from 600w to 990w,
the juries out as to whether we keep two of the 150w’s and fit them to the side of the boat on a hinge type arrangement like on Spirit of Argo. or just sell them on eBay?