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From scratch
Big decisions for a newbie.
Sunday,28 September, 2014
3:09 pm
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Hi guys,

I am starting out on the fit out of my boat, currently a metal shell with an engine in , but you’ll know her when you see her as she will be the most beautiful boat on the cut! 

Before then I have some decisions to make and I have been away from the cut for awhile, so I thought I’d get in some basic advice. When I say basic I mean that I am pretty useless with electrics (great with decor mind) so keep it simple please!

First decision – generator.

Diesel, Petrol or dual fuel.

Does dual fuel have any advantages? If you have to get the LPG in bottles then you loose any savings. Diesel generators can run off the main tank which is very handy (I know about the EU threat to heating oil on boats by the way), but they are quite pricey or petrol?

 

The boat is going eventually to be liveaboard, will have the usual TV, DVD, computer and general electric requirements, also a washing machine. I know I will also need an inverter. There will be solar panels to keep the composting toilet alive! The engine is a reconditioned two cylinder Lister

So, if you were starting from scratch (with a budget), what would you do?

Thanks in advance.

Wychwil

Monday,29 September, 2014
5:44 am
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Hello and best wishes for your fit out.

I’m quite new to this, have had my boat for about 6 weeks but have packed a lot in! Mine is old but sound, just needs rewiring, refitting inside, new stove, painting, blacking etc…… I live and work aboard, planning on doing most of the work myself a section at a time. Have an office/ workshop and half a galley so far.

My main contribution to yours is generator. After much internet perusing I bought a Hyundai 2kw generator which will run off petrol or LPG. I would have liked diesel but came to the conclusion that for the time being this was my best option. It is a great machine – a large heavy suitcase but pretty quiet. I put it out on the side of the towpath generally (chained up) and can barely hear it when in the boat. Have it running for about 4-5 hours while I work (computer driven engraving tables, drill, swarf extractor etc) and also charge up all my gadgets and batteries if necessary. Unfortunately I think mine was built on a bad day and I have never been able to get it to run off gas successfully, as well as a few other small issues so I’ve had to go into a marina for a week (for power) while it goes back for service. But I have to say that Hyundai’s customer service has been excellent and I have every confidence it will run properly on gas when it comes back. Advantages being it will be quieter and more economical and it won’t run out of fuel after 4-5 hours, which is very annoying if you’re half way through something on the computer or have just sent an intricate job to an engraving table…..

So for just under £800 I think I will be very happy with it once it’s running properly.

My boat’s 12v electrics are a joke but when I get it rewired I’m going to put in Trojan 6v batteries in pairs. These will apparently last for years if well cared for. Twice the price but should be worth it in the long run. I’ll run guzzling devices off the generator when it’s going so will only need to power lights, tv and fridge so should not need a huge bank. I put two 100watt semi flexible solar panels on the roof which are great. Look neat and do a good job. Will probably add another 2 at some point. They were under £100 each (replaced old ugly ones so already has controller, wiring etc)

Monday,29 September, 2014
7:17 pm
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Hi Wychwill and welcome to the forum. If you want to find out more about narrowboat electrics, this post will point you in the right direction. There are two posts about on board electrics. Make sure you read both of them and then if you want to know more, consider buying one of the books linked at the end of the second article.

Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”

Wednesday,1 October, 2014
6:19 pm
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Hi Price,

Thanks for your mail. We are looking at the Hyundai 2kw too so it’s good to get some feedback from someone who actually has one. I presume you have an inverter with that? What sort of panels do you have?

Wychwil

 

Friday,3 October, 2014
4:05 pm
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Hello everyone,

Does anyone have a diesel generator? I have been looking at the Whisper 3kw. That should be enough power at 3000rpm surely. Louder at 56db but cheap to run. 

Thoughts?

Wychwill

Saturday,4 October, 2014
10:28 am
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We have a Cummins-Onan 7kva diesel generator. Electronically controlled to 1500 rpm so strict 50hz pure sine wave and steady 230 volts regardless of load. Has two silencers so very quiet outside and perfectly acceptable inside.

Our previous generator was a Vetus 3000 rpm unit. Much more noisy inside the boat, needed servicing twice as often and only mechanical control over its speed. This meant that you needed to have some sort of resistive load on all the time the generator was running to keep some sort of control over the speed when running things like the washing machine to ensure the machine didn’t stop at odd times. The problem being that as the load was increased the speed decreased and so the the mains frequency. Any domestic appliance with electronic control objects to this. 

Our first washing machine was a washer/dryer which would work sometimes. When we changed this to a compact machine it wouldn’t work at all. The dishwasher would work provided we had another load on as well but its electronic control gave up after 2 years. The charger for my battery drill also stopped after a while.

If you are going down the 3000 rpm route get some sort of guarantee that the things you have or want will work. Otherwise, if you want a small diesel generator, and the convenience of just pressing a button in the kitchen,  have a look at the inverter models made by Mastervolt or Fischer Panda.

Living retirement in the slow lane.

20 years hiring, 6 years of shared ownership and a Continuous Cruiser since 2007 but still learning!

Monday,6 October, 2014
3:49 am
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Wychwil said

Hi Price,

Thanks for your mail. We are looking at the Hyundai 2kw too so it’s good to get some feedback from someone who actually has one. I presume you have an inverter with that? What sort of panels do you have?

Wychwil

 

Hello there. Am actually pleased with my generator even if it was built on a bad day! It’s due back today and should be running perfectly. There was a problem with a gasket. It did run well on petrol but not the point when I wanted to use gas. Customer service has been exceptional – you get to speak to a real person in seconds, they ring back when they say they will and collected/ returned on day specified by me.

Reasons I chose the Hyundai – price is good for lpg conversion, has electric start so no heaving on a pull cord. It is heavy but movable. Copes really well with heavy loads – have had 1300w Henry vacuum going as well as pc, engravers etc. 

I wired in a seperate 240v ring as my boat’s 12v wiring is a joke. Don’t use an inverter at present but will put one in when the 12v is rewired. But only for tv at night etc.

My panels are Baird 100w off ebay. Around £90 each. They are about 3mm thick. Very easy to fit. I used foamy exterior double sided tape so l can run Stanley knife under to remove for painting etc. They just sit along the top of the roof, very unobtrusive.

Monday,6 October, 2014
8:34 am
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You might find that the double sided tape will give way over a short time. My first semi flexibles where stuck down with Sikafkex as recommended but after 3/4 years the water gat under them and lifted the paint. I then stuck them down but being aluminium, they expand far more than the steel and so again the tape gave way. So now they are drilled and screwed to the roof and I just get used to them buckling slightly in very hot weather.

Living retirement in the slow lane.

20 years hiring, 6 years of shared ownership and a Continuous Cruiser since 2007 but still learning!

Tuesday,7 October, 2014
3:14 am
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Price said

Wychwil said

Hi Price,

Thanks for your mail. We are looking at the Hyundai 2kw too so it’s good to get some feedback from someone who actually has one. I presume you have an inverter with that? What sort of panels do you have?

Wychwil

 

Hello there. Am actually pleased with my generator even if it was built on a bad day! It’s due back today and should be running perfectly. There was a problem with a gasket. It did run well on petrol but not the point when I wanted to use gas. Customer service has been exceptional – you get to speak to a real person in seconds, they ring back when they say they will and collected/ returned on day specified by me.

Reasons I chose the Hyundai – price is good for lpg conversion, has electric start so no heaving on a pull cord. It is heavy but movable. Copes really well with heavy loads – have had 1300w Henry vacuum going as well as pc, engravers etc. 

I wired in a seperate 240v ring as my boat’s 12v wiring is a joke. Don’t use an inverter at present but will put one in when the 12v is rewired. But only for tv at night etc.

My panels are Baird 100w off ebay. Around £90 each. They are about 3mm thick. Very easy to fit. I used foamy exterior double sided tape so l can run Stanley knife under to remove for painting etc. They just sit along the top of the roof, very unobtrusive.

Just to say I got my generator back and it’s now running beautifully on gas. So we’ll be heading out into the great beyond later today. Have so much work in we won’t be going far, just heading in the general direction of a boatyard where I can hopefully get the 12v electrics rewired and bottom blacked over the next few weeks once I’ve tackled the work mountain. 

Thursday,9 October, 2014
2:03 pm
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Wychwil said
Hi guys,

I am starting out on the fit out of my boat, currently a metal shell with an engine in , but you’ll know her when you see her as she will be the most beautiful boat on the cut! 

Before then I have some decisions to make and I have been away from the cut for awhile, so I thought I’d get in some basic advice. When I say basic I mean that I am pretty useless with electrics (great with decor mind) so keep it simple please!

First decision – generator.

Diesel, Petrol or dual fuel.

Does dual fuel have any advantages? If you have to get the LPG in bottles then you loose any savings. Diesel generators can run off the main tank which is very handy (I know about the EU threat to heating oil on boats by the way), but they are quite pricey or petrol?

 

The boat is going eventually to be liveaboard, will have the usual TV, DVD, computer and general electric requirements, also a washing machine. I know I will also need an inverter. There will be solar panels to keep the composting toilet alive! The engine is a reconditioned two cylinder Lister

So, if you were starting from scratch (with a budget), what would you do?

Thanks in advance.

Wychwil

Hi Wychill – so many variables so difficult to answer your question without further info.

Are you going to be living aboard full-time?

How much cruising will you be doing, since the main engine can be a useful supplier of electrical power?

Will the boat be kept at marina or other mooring with AC shorepower and if so how often?

Generator considerations:

Onboard plumbed in diesel generator essential if you have a gas free boat. 1500rpm versions much quieter and more reliable than 3000rpm versions, but considerably more expensive and not available below around 5kW rating. 

Suitcase petrol inverter/generator very useful otherwise. Available up to around 2.5kW continuous output with clean AC output that will happily run a washing machine, power permitting. LPG conversion for most that could use the same propane cylinders as those for hob/oven. Stowage for two say 13Kg cylinders essential in this case though.

I would guess your two cylinder Lister won’t have much spare horsepower although you didn’t mention which model. Nevertheless a TravelPower alternator kit could be fitted to provide AC directly, saving the need for a separate generator although obviously the main engine will need to be running and at above idle to provide full power.

Other considerations:

An inverter will be needed to supply AC power when generator not running. A larger output one, say 2.5kW or greater with pure sine wave output will be required to run a washing machine together with say at least four 110 amp hour batteries (or equivalent) in parallel to supply it. Even then I would recommend the washing machine is only run from the inverter with engine running. The engine alternator(s) (another consideration) charging the same service battery bank that runs the inverter will then offset the considerable power draw from them by the inverter whilst w/m is running.

On the subject of inverters many buy a Combi (combined charger and inverter) that allows AC supply (from generator or shore supply) to be passed through the unit to power all your onboard AC sockets as well as running the built-in battery charger, with automatic switch over to inverter to power the same AC sockets when AC input supply not available. The popular makes are Sterling, Victron and Mastervolt in order of price.

Regards – Richard –
Ecky Thump

Monday,20 October, 2014
4:31 pm
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Price said

Price said

Wychwil said

Hi Price,

Thanks for your mail. We are looking at the Hyundai 2kw too so it’s good to get some feedback from someone who actually has one. I presume you have an inverter with that? What sort of panels do you have?

Wychwil

 

Hello there. Am actually pleased with my generator even if it was built on a bad day! It’s due back today and should be running perfectly. There was a problem with a gasket. It did run well on petrol but not the point when I wanted to use gas. Customer service has been exceptional – you get to speak to a real person in seconds, they ring back when they say they will and collected/ returned on day specified by me.

Reasons I chose the Hyundai – price is good for lpg conversion, has electric start so no heaving on a pull cord. It is heavy but movable. Copes really well with heavy loads – have had 1300w Henry vacuum going as well as pc, engravers etc. 

I wired in a seperate 240v ring as my boat’s 12v wiring is a joke. Don’t use an inverter at present but will put one in when the 12v is rewired. But only for tv at night etc.

My panels are Baird 100w off ebay. Around £90 each. They are about 3mm thick. Very easy to fit. I used foamy exterior double sided tape so l can run Stanley knife under to remove for painting etc. They just sit along the top of the roof, very unobtrusive.

Just to say I got my generator back and it’s now running beautifully on gas. So we’ll be heading out into the great beyond later today. Have so much work in we won’t be going far, just heading in the general direction of a boatyard where I can hopefully get the 12v electrics rewired and bottom blacked over the next few weeks once I’ve tackled the work mountain. 

Having fitted a 60 x 10/6 wide beam from a steel shell with no engine which a project we began 10 years ago, doing the same today I would make my main priority the fitting an adequate solar supply future proofed for future requirements. When we began our project solar was a prohibitally expensive option, today it’s cheap as chips. We have a small generator now living aboard but it’s basically there to supplement solar through the winter. We also hardly ever run the boat engine for energy between early March and end Nov

The thin flexi panels you mention do seem a great option, we were planning on adding 3 of those to our current 740w array, some plans have changed though and we’ll be in a marina this winter so the additional panels now not necessary. We did a lot of fitting our on the water initially relying on generator and engine running, so having solar available would have given us a lot of useful energy without the hassle of generators and expensive fuel for engine running. Our current array consist of 3 x larger 250w panels run through an Outback MPPT controller. I would highly recommend A MPPT controller too.

Good luck with the fit out, we found it in the most part very enjoyable.

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.

Monday,20 October, 2014
7:16 pm
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We originally had two 40 Solara semi flexible panels that I fitted in 2007. Quite expensive then. In 2012 we bought two 80 SeaSpray semi flexibles that I mounted so I had 2 strings of a 40 watt and 80 watt panel wired in series, with the 2 strings wired in parallel feeding into a MPPT controller.

Last year I altered this, moving the Solar a panels to the front and connected to the bow thruster battery then added another 80 watt SeaSpray panel in series with the other two. I have now ordered a 4th panel at about half the price of the others to give me 320 watts. 

I’ve then run out of roof spaceif I want to stay with the semi flexibles.

Living retirement in the slow lane.

20 years hiring, 6 years of shared ownership and a Continuous Cruiser since 2007 but still learning!

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