No I did not beat up another, no I did not got “even” with another. Even though the old motto during the Military Service was “Hij die de ouwes paalt, paalt zichzelf twee keer”. He who screws around with the ‘older one’ wil get screwed back twice. No the solar panels have paid back their investment.
The 2nd year of Jan-Kees we installed 4 260 Watt solar panels @ €130/piece. The marina charging the outrageous price of €0.40/kwh, most hoover around that price. In the beginning we stayed on shore power when in the marina. Last year I started to unplug us even when in the marina and only leave the barge plugged in while being away from the barge for a longer period. I had not asked Daniel to program the Victron Multiplus with assistants yet. Which resulted in about €20/mo.
As of today the four 260 Watt panels generated 1541 KWH and at the ‘Marina rate’ that would be €616.40. thus more than the €520 we paid for the 4 panels. O.k I do have add on the MPPT and the cables, which would run around $240. So as of 2021 Free energy from these 4. Now let’s see when the back panels (€220) have ‘earned’ their keep.
One thing we always need to watch is the temperature inside the engine room. Now we can be easy and just turn on a fan, and turn it of once we are done cruising. But why not make it automatic. We have arduino’s we have temperature probes….so lets do it, lets make it. The other advantage of this method is, if the temperature rises even more we can automatically turn on a 2nd fan, to blow even more ‘colder’ air into the engine room. This cruising year I’ll just watch how much the temperature handles and will decide then if I want the extra power blower option. But with the horrid warm temperatures like in the high high 30’s (C) we might need it.
Real simple to use are the DS18B20 waterproof temperature probes. They cost about $3-$5/ piece, are waterproof and are 3 wire. +5V GND and signal. The big advantage of these are that you can hook up a number of them on the same Arduino port ( -55C to +125C, with a 0.5C accuracy) . You can even get them with a BSP 1/2 Thread, like for your engine cooling circuit.
So I got a few of these on Ebay, connected them to the Arduino, used a 5K pull up resistor connected to the signal wire and +5V and first ran a program to get the Hex addresses, so I knew exactly which one was which one. (YES I copied and pasted it from the web !) Voila the code…
Now that I knew the addresses, I could slap a program together which has an outside temp probe (AOT, actual outside temperature) and a engine room probe (AIT actual inside temperature). All the speeches and articles I have soaked in about engine room cooling they keep talking about a DELTA of 25 F ( 13.8 C so 14C). So the fan should come on if the AIT > AOT+14 . We do not want the fan to turn off at the same temperature point so, we turn the fan off if AIT < AOT+5, the last one is just a personal choice. To control the fan I added a relay board on it , connected the control wire to digital 7 and the relay works like a charm.
So I started getting alerts from my Victron Multiplus….AC overloads. Well wat the Frell! So you go to the boat. open the hatch and you see flashing light, turn off the multi , wait a bit and turn it back on and all seems to be working fine and you go home. Later you get again a overload warning, so you use the VRM website to get into the Venus control unit remotely, and set the inverter to charge only. Drive back to the boat and recheck it…and the same problem …it ain’t working….so you call your dealer where you bought it, and hear…… “Most likely the AC board I have seen this before ” and he provides and RMA and yes he sends at the same time a replacement unit, since it is still under the 5 year warranty !! The new unit arrives. Plop it in its place and reconnect all wires, turn it on …and magically…the light work …..So you plug the table into the Venus and poof all goes dark. Ok …must have put it in the wrong input. ve.net, ve.can .ve.direct…..but NO it happens a few second after you plop the network cable in. This happened a year ago also , and then it was a software update on the Venus which did this. A call to Daniel…and I was gently reminded that the moment the Venus detects the multi it will set it in the function set in the Venus, which was not the same as the switch on the machine……so I get into the Venus control , set the Multi to normal and voila….as the professor in the movie the 5th element shouts…”Aziz . LIGHTS”.
So before thinking it was Victrons error…we just have to check the Venus settings.
Wow a nearly full fuel tank….well NO. When Lars installed the fuel sensor he mounted the float on the wrong end. It was kinda puzzling, since the Venus showed 100% full when first connected. So after discussing it with Daniel I fired off an email to Matthijs, who responded with the note that he nearly got a heart attack after his security officers told him they needed to reset servers for an update. But when Matthijs googled that update he found out it was already out for the last 2 months. So we exchanged some other incidents typical of working with Indians. Most fun was Matthijs telling me that even after the one Indian company has worked with them for over 20 + years they still do not follow up on what they promised to do. So an European setting is 1-180 ohm. I switched the reading to a US sensor (240 – 30 Ohm) and yes is showed a 135 liter value . (28%). So Lars had mounted the sensor in reverse.
Yesterday Ron and Jochem connected the Kabola to the main tank, so I have been busy with hoses to try to empty the antique fuel tank and dump all in the big one
well it really means..the boat is self sufficient with no shore power. This morning I disconnected shore power, so we are solely running on solar now. And ate 6 am the sun peeked around and started providing free energy. Now does this make the sun a socialist, or just a nice entity? I wil post usage screen shots on this page over the coming weeks. Jan-Kees was on shore power, just as extra precaution, since there was a period last year where there was not enough energy to keep up with standby demand. the inverter uses 25 watts for standby, plus the batteries always consume some trickle charge. The batteries always discharge a bit, and need to be charged to full at least once a month.
Since we arrived we have been floating all by ourselves. Not connected to the atom eating nuclear energy creators, or the coal from Limburg eating fossil fuel plants. Mr or is it Mrs Sun ( because she is so fierce?) has been filling the batteries of Jan-kees with her cheerful bright energy. At 7 am the batteries were ‘down’ to 97%. We consumed 2.2 Kwh yesterday and the sun refilled it .
Wen I looked at the Venus this morning at 7:20 the sun peeking from just above the horizon and was providing more than we are using. showing a small charge current of 3.7 A. This reminds me that I need more coffee and I need to clean the panels today. Btw today will be a ‘scorcher’ 28C . (which is 83F for the non-metic people) . After this 2 days 25 and then back to the 21 -19C . (71-68F)
For energy use we use about 5 hours/day for generation from about 10:00 – 15:00
And they keep ticking and running, ran the wetvac a few times, did some power sanding.
Nearly 18:00 and the solar still keeps the batteries up and fills al our other energy needs, like Coffee, vacuuming the top deck after part of it was sanded
So today it started with an overcast sky. We are still on mainly battery at 07:45. As you see the sun is providing some free energy, but the darn clouds act as a border wall patrol. Yesterday, about the same time we had about 150 Watts of solar already. BUT it is still early.
No not DEMONS..daemons………are small processes running in the background of a computer, doing all kind of tasks, like the teenager mowing the grass, the mailman delivering your mail. Well there are some of these running around in the Venus. They keep an eye out many things, especially the digital inputs. One of the nice items built into the Venus. The Venus has 5 of these inputs, which can be used for a bunch of tasks. The first ones which come to mind are bilge alarm (Ok/Alarm), smoke alarm (Ok/Alarm), fire alarm(Ok/Alarm), door alarm (Open/Closed), Pulse Meter (water volume pumped), generator (Running/Stopped), etc. And these ‘states’ are all visible on the screen.
The good thing about the Venus, just these 5 digital input alerts wil pay for the unit by itself, if you compare them to other boat monitoring systems, who have the ‘get rich scheme’ of charging monthly fees.
Now how do we get these to work?
We need to get the different signals to the Venus input, which is a RJ12 input, which is also used in multi line phone system, and had 6 wires. OHH you said 5 inputs, why 6 wires. Well wire #5 is Ground. (we will come to the why later)
The first thing we need to do is get access to these wires. Now the McGiver way is to get a RJ12 .phone cord, grab a big hunting knife and strip all the wires. A more ‘civilized’ way is to order a RJ12 Breakout board . ($5.99 to $12 on Amazon and Ebay)
With this setup we can already trigger alerts.
The pin out is
Pin 1-4 and 6 Inputs
Pin 5 Ground.
So lets configure Pin 6 as High water alert and connect a float switch. The float switch just makes a contact, thus to simulate that we just use a wire and connect pin 5 and 6 on and off and see the results.
Simple is it not? Let’s walk through the set up steps. Connect to the console, via smart phone, tables, or web browser when you are local through the Venus wifi. Later you can always connect to the console via VRM.
Digital inputs > set up > show name change, show difference inverted . on / off
These alerts can be triggered by just connecting the input to the ground. BUT not all alerts can be done that way !! Now Venus is kind of sensitive about the voltage it wil take. Yes I know the power input can be 8-70VDC, but that regulates it down to 5V and 3V3, the two voltages used with sensors and digital inputs. So we need to protect the Venus. We can do this 2 ways. A relay, where the input is 12DC or 24DC or 110Ac or 220AC and then close a contact, which connects the Venus signal port to ground. Most of these solid state relays are used to get a 110 or 220V connection triggered by a 5 – 12 or 24VDC input, so I have not tried these.
Otherwise an Optocoupler, one like this 4 channel one from Ebay for $12. This is a 24V DC Optocoupler, because Jan-kees runs on 24V DC.
Now one thing which worried me, was the voltage on the output side. I know the Venus is built on a heavily modified Beagelbone, which is a version or a Raspberry Pi. These units just like 3V3 DC as signals. Putting a 5VDC signal on there, even though it says so in the manual of the Venus, it had me worried. You are talking to person who in 1980 by sheer “mmmm I’ll show you how this works” blew up one of the first optical disk readers costing close to $10,000 by using the wrong input voltage. The good old laserprinter research at OCE ( Now Canon). But, since we are switching to GND only the input voltage matters. As you see the Opticoupler has on the output side GND and VCC, which is 5VDC here. BUT we ONLY connect the GND. so when the input gets “high” the Venus tells me there is an alert. This optocoupler has a 5VDC output, but the Venus wil also work with the 3V3DC output optocoupler, because we are ONLY using GND. NO I wil not make the Victron Engineers a compliment, they already know they are brilliant, selecting a very safe way. (Now you know why line 5 of the RJ12 is GND)
The settings for this input are…so check it a bilge alarm
Then via the main screen go to the bilge alarm and go to the setup screen and click invert ( when there is a voltage on the input of the optocoupler, the alert will go on. Because the normal ‘on’ state for the Venus is connect the signal to ground)
Now when I put 24VDC on my optocoupler input, the Bilge alerts jumps immediately to ALERT and the next screen is the ALERT screen and the buzzer goes off.
Here the bilge alarm is OK
The bilge pump goes on and 24VDC comes on the opticoupler input
And before I can blink twice the alert screen shows
More to come with the pulse counter
Do these alerts show in VRM…not yet, but they will, by Christmas…:)
Remember we had the big storms in January ( see Yes dear we do have storms in Holland) . Right around that time the Venus warned me that the shore power was AWOL. Well no Biggy was my reaction, the batteries are full , 800 AH 24V batteries ( yes Mastervolt, because I could get them really really cheap.) . so that is 25.44 * 800 = 20.35 KWH. That would keep the bilge pump and Venus going long enough.
So mid March a friend goes to Jan-Kees, they had a terrible flight, well they did book United! Had no luggage and then NO 220V. So some frantic texting , I suggested to look to the shore power , shore breaker, shore cable, breakers. Well after a lot of work , they found out it was only the 220V primary outlet breaker who kept tripping. Unfortunately, the shore breaker flips just before the panel breaker, so the harbor master was called a few times. All what had to be done, was, uncouple shore power and test it while on inverting. they exchanged breakers on the panel, but the problem persisted. Perhaps some condensation water. They gave up, did not wanted to listen to advise, because they knew how it all worked, and stayed on Jan-Kees without 220V for a month.
Then 3 weeks a Dutch friend goes to Jan-Kees, to do some cycling in the area. Marius was in the same research department as me in the 1980’s so I knew he would find the problem. We discussed it could be the Fridge or the outside light or outside motion light. When I got a notification of the Victron Venus that there was no shore power, I knew Marius was testing. the first thing he did was turn the outside motion light off, and VOILA…..Electrons were coming out of outlets. the Fridge got a shiver, and got cold. Marius went outside and inspected the light and yes during the storm it must have shorted. That is what you get with a cheap Chinese Led Motion sensor light in the mast.
So besides a breaker panel, we also need some switches to turn things on and off. We are using Carling Series IV switches
We need the following ones….
Nav Lights ( Running/Anchor)
Every day use
LED lights cabin
Rear deck lights
The head pump, pump out pump and the shower pump switches will be in the head itself, just as the switch for the motion light on the mast is next to the front steps.
Instead of routing out each switch opening it is easier to just buy a semi pre-made panel and mount it on the the wheel house console (newwiremarine.com)
I decided on 2 sets one for ‘every day use’, like pumps and lights , and the other for ‘cruising’, navigation lights, instruments, vhf , engine fans etc. So I found these panels with newwiremarine.
Now because we all like clean surfaces, Roy came up with the idea to make them ‘hidden’ so he drew a nice recessed way to mount them, and on top are two little lids with hinges, so only when you need to use the switches wil they be open/visible. I really liked his idea, but I also wanted these panels to be ‘laid in’ so they looked as if they were really part of the set up. Roy worried about not having the correct router, so I educated him him in how to handle a client in such a case…..subcontract that action, or charge enough to rent or buy the equipment. Which advise Roy followed and……
Roy made following
So all that was left is to mount it in the steering wheel panel and put a little hingeon it.. BUT WAIT…just like in the commercial………there is more. Roy came up with the idea that if the hinge opens, he might as well use the triangular space under the hinged panel to make a resting spot for an Ipad or Iphone, to be used with the Victron Venus, or Navigation
Here are the measurements. No the ‘stand’ is not done yet. Roy needs to take care of his study first!! But we have a few weeks to do this
During the day the solar panel reached a new record…
As you can see from the Victron Venus readout we are getting 823 Watts ..free sun energy !!!!!
Late afternoon Astrid and Marjan came for tea and dinner, which was lovely. One point which was brought up was the egg scare in Holland. We found out that each egg had their unique code, showing what kind of egg is, and which company it comes from