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Marine Electrical Systems – Part II

This continues our look at improvements to marine electrical systems. Following on our feature on new battery technology, here we review re-charging those batteries, starting with shore cords and isolation transformers. We’ll follow with a subsequent review of generators as well as alternators, dynamos, solar panels and fuel cells. As we noted in the April 2012 Canadian Yachting on page 50, new battery technology is increasingly common in marine applications, but new technology batteries need to be well matched to charging systems and first, you need a power source.

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Staying Warm or Keeping Cool

Heating and cooling systems add immensely to cruising comfort, whether you boat in cool shoulder seasons or contend with hot, muggy summers. Most boaters learn quickly that extending their season is ideal – Canadian summers are so short, whether you’re on the west coast or the Great Lakes. In central areas, summer is short but it can be hot and humid, and winter is too cold for much cruising in all parts of Canada. Extending into spring and fall makes boating so much more enjoyable, to say nothing of helping justify the costs.

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New Technologies Improve on the Flooded Marine Battery

Batteries lie at the heart of most boats. We need them to start our engines, power our electronics, chill our food and sometimes cook our meals. We rely on them but often don’t give them much thought until they fail. Or outlive their normal lifespan of about five years and need to be replaced. With major advances in new technologies reaching the marine marketplace, let’s take a look at alternatives to the traditional lead-acid battery.

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With a source of external power, shore-cord or generator, current still needs to be fed back into your battery banks to reset their chemistry and return them to full electrical output. This requires a battery charger. Here most boaters can rightly claim to confusion. There are dozens of brands available and most products are a “black-box” with little to distinguish one from the others. There is nothing to show a quality comparison or actual performance, save massive ‘spec’ sheets that tell us too much, usually in techo-talk; incomprehensible without an advanced degree.

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Searching for the Ideal Engine Room

So, I have to open with a joke. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide all the other people in the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. For the purposes of this article, I do! To be more specific, I divide boaters into two kinds of people: those who want to play in the engine room and those who don’t. Whether your boat is power or sail, you are almost certain to have an engine and every engine needs maintenance and occasional repair.

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