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Electrical leaks

Albin's "power cruisers"
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LopezMike
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Posts: 74
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:06 pm
Home Port: Lopez Island, WA. USA San Juan Islands
Location: Lopez Island, WA

Electrical leaks

Post by LopezMike »

For some time I've been bothered by the house battery bank in Caprice going flat over long periods of time. Like over months of idleness. The cranking battery can sit all winter while I flee to Baja to go motorcycling in the mountains but I come home in the Spring to dead house cells. So to action!

I charged up the house batteries, turned off everything, put an ammeter in line at the house batteries and marveled. Almost a third of an ampere creeping away. Out came the screwdriver and I started disconnecting things.

First, my nice new autopilot. Aha! the meter dropped from 297 mA. to 85 mA. A major advance. I'll route it's feed to a switched source. Onward.

The next culprit turned out to be my beloved new Chinese forced draft heater. Yes! Unplugged it and the reading dropped to 29 mA. This will be an issue since the heater instructions are full of dire consequences if one turns of the power before the unit has cooled down. Apparently a Chernobyl is possible! I will have to add a switch in a relatively inaccessible place with a warning tag.

Now I was a man obsessed. "Where is that last 29 mA. going?" It took some time but finally, as I was crouched under the nav station I heard a ticking. The nav station clock. Disconnected it and, voila! My meter was down to 9 mA.

This is the state of affairs. Somewhere in the labyrinth of copper that looks superficially like a boat, a trickle of electrons is trickling away. It's not catastrophic but in six months it does add up to the better part of 40 amp/hours. A third of the house bank's capacity. Perhaps a stray tent caterpillar has died across a connection. Perhaps I'll never find the leak.

If only electrons had a smell or made a hissing sound. Back to disconnecting my batteries when I'm away. Caprice does drowse away the Winter on a trailer so the temporary lack of a bilge pump is not critical.

"Pecked to death by ducks."

Mike
tribologist
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Posts: 1000
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:53 pm
Home Port: Groton. Ct

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by tribologist »

Nice! The AP and the NMEA2000 bus I keep on a breaker. I keep our boat plugged in all the time but its near the house. At some point I'm installing the pair of 100W panels we have laying under one of the bunks. I do tape one of them up when we are out but I need to make a highway windspeed proof install of them.

I keep a AC/DC Fluke clamp meter in the boat at all times. It would have found the AP but not the mA stuff. A process meter clamp on meter is easy $600.. A fluke 362 that is perfectly fine for testing and troubleshooting is about $150. Really valuable to have in the boat.
Driftless
A25 1971 #737
South Windsor, Ct
ssrig
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Posts: 289
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:14 pm
Home Port: ganges

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by ssrig »

Good sleuthing!
I fully charge my batteries then disconnect all leads to them before heading away for winters. I used to hook up small solar panels to maintain them but one year the charge controller on one malfunctioned and melted draining the battery dead never to return!! Has anyone seen the cost of batteries now!
Burton
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Joined: Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:17 pm
Home Port: Ellsworth, Maine
Location: Mid-coast Maine

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by Burton »

I also keep a Fluke clamp-on meter handy— the clamp on makes it nice to check current flow.

As to small current drains that may be in wiring, a small compass run along the wiring or wire looms can sometimes find the suspect area as the needle will move due to the current flow creating magnetism—but I’m not sure if 29mA would do it or not.
LopezMike
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Posts: 74
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:06 pm
Home Port: Lopez Island, WA. USA San Juan Islands
Location: Lopez Island, WA

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by LopezMike »

Great thoughts.

Most of the wiring where things come together is so jammed together that there is no way I could get my clamp on meter around only one wire so I'm reduced to just rigging my old Fluke 75 in series at the house battery.

Interesting how so many of us end up with Fluke meters. I used to limit my boat kit meters to cheapo ones from China but I soon discovered that there something a lot worse than no meter. An unreliable meter! And not so much the meter itself but the leads.

In the 30 years since I bought this meter I've only been stupid enough to pop a fuse once.

Soon I'll have my steam launch back in the water and say goodbye to electrical stuff.

Mike
WillieC
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Posts: 2275
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:48 am
Home Port: Hood Canal, WA

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by WillieC »

Steam Launch!? I gotta see that. I may have to walk on at Anacortes one of these days.
LopezMike
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Posts: 74
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:06 pm
Home Port: Lopez Island, WA. USA San Juan Islands
Location: Lopez Island, WA

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by LopezMike »

Off topic but there are four of them on Lopez Island. Two wood burners and two oil fueled. More fun than should be legal.
Mike
DesertAlbin736
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:58 pm
Home Port: Peoria, AZ USA

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by DesertAlbin736 »

Sticking with OT steam launches, have you seen the one that's up in Blaine? That's a nice one with awning & stainless steel boiler enclosure. Would post pictures but am currently away from home on vacation staying with friends in San Jose, CA & all my pics are on my desktop PC at home. We once got a ride in a steam launch at the Wooden Boat museum on Lake Washington in Seattle, but that was quite a few years ago now.

Back on topic, I have a Siemens 20 watt trickle charge solar panel mounted on the wheelhouse hardtop roof. It's routed direct to both start & house banks via an AGM compatible charge controller with on/off toggle switch. The controller has its own digital volt/amp meter that shows max/min/current volts, amp hours, amps for start & house banks, & solar panel real time output volts, amps, total amp hours (between manual resets). That does have a small milliamp drain on the batteries. When at home I go over & check the battery voltage every week or so & switch the solar panel on or off as needed. If away from home for an extended period like now & disconnect the positive battery terminals on all 3 batteries. We keep the boat dry stored on the trailer except for outings on the local lake in cooler weather or on the road for a "DA" road trip/cruise in summer. We live in an HOA tract neighborhood, so we can't park the boat at home & instead rent space at a non HOA residential acre "horse property" lot. Very reasonable rent, only downside is that it's a dusty dirt desert landscaped yard with no access to plug in power.
La Dolce Vita
1971 Albin 25 #736
Yanmar 3GM30F
Gig Harbor Boatworks Nisqually 8 dinghy
Residence: Peoria, AZ
Homeport: Lake Pleasant, AZ & beyond
LopezMike
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Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:06 pm
Home Port: Lopez Island, WA. USA San Juan Islands
Location: Lopez Island, WA

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by LopezMike »

That Blaine launch used to be here on Lopez Island.

I had one of those chargers but the instructions were in pigin norwegian and I never did get it to do anything but display voltage. I now have a simple ammeter and don't even have a switch to shut off the panels. 100 watts of panels laying flat doesn't have enough oomph to come close to overcharging a couple of golf cart cells.

I, too, disconnect everything when I head for Baja in the fall.

Mike
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Norseman
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Home Port: Palm Coast, Florida
Location: Marina del Palma
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Re: Electrical leaks

Post by Norseman »

Not Albin related, but on topic:
18 years ago I had a nice CSY 33 sailboat with 2 solar panels.
Never had an ammeter or a battery monitor before, until a friend bought me one after I secured his boat for one of the major hurricanes in SE Florida, probably Wilma.
After installing this new Xantrex gizmo I noticed a small drain that was on 24/7, even with everything off and a dead boat.
Kept scratching my head and spending days crawling all over the boat until I found it:
Drum roll...

An old stereo cassette tape deck was hooked straight to the house bank and the little motor was running 24/7, very quiet, no LED lights indication operation, no nothing.
Took me all of 5 minutes to rip it out and a day or two to find a modern CD player with AM/FM, then wired it over a breaker on panel.
Truly a joy to see 0 draw with everything off and the solar panels disconnected.
2001 28TE, 6LP-STE, 1,337 hrs, 19X18 four-blade wheel.
dkirsop
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Home Port: Pender Island, BC, Canada

Re: Electrical leaks

Post by dkirsop »

Some AM/FM radios need a separate battery connection to maintain the tuner presets. They come with separate wire for this connection to a non-switched source.
Hull No. 1013, 1971
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