LiFePO4

LiFePO4 Batteries

LiFePO4 vs. AGM

Plan A for our batteries were the Firefly International Energy AGMs (absorbed glass mat). Earlier this year we heard about a this newer technology for AGM batteries called Microcell which is a carbon foam.  Originally it was developed by Caterpillar, Inc. for their heavy machinery.  They sold the patent to Firefly International Energy who started manufacturing them in India.  Supposedly, they recover to full capacity after discharge and they operate in partial state of charge for days without loss of capacity which has always been a big downside to regular lead acid batteries.  Once regular lead acid batteries are discharged too low, some of the original capacity is lost forever.  The Fireflys have a longer cycle life and resistance to sulfation.  They are a little more expensive than a lot of other AGMs BUT they are a lot less expensive than lithium batteries.  They seemed like a great compromise between price and performance.

We called a local Firefly vendor and they said they only get them sporadically.  They had no idea when the next shipment would be.  And they didn’t have a waiting list we could put our names on. So we resigned ourselves to ordering them online and paying an arm and a leg for shipping.  But again, we couldn’t find anyone who had them available.

Then in April at the boat show in Richmond, Rich attended Nigel Calder’s boat electrical seminar.  Nigel was who we had originally heard about this great AGM technology so we were interested to hear what he had to say.  The bottom line is he said the technology is “a game-changer.”  However, since the manufacturing process was moved to India the quality of the batteries has suffered.

So on to Plan A version 2.0

For about 5 months we were planning to buy regular AGM batteries.  We just needed to figure out which brand and how big.  Our two big hangups with AGMs is that you only get about 50% useable amp hours and they weigh a lot.  So if you buy a 150 amp hour battery, you can plan to get 75 useable amp hours out of it before it needs to be charged.  The area for our batteries is SMALL, which means we have to cram as many amp hours into it as possible.  Neither of us were really happy with the choices of AGMs.  Plus, we had to consider the weight of the batteries since they are located on one side of the boat.

Fortuitously we dragged our heels on buying batteries.  I guess we were distracted by all the deck work we were doing this summer.  When fall came around we started shopping around for a Victron battery charger/inverter.  There are a few local (Bay Area) shops that sell them, but their online stores are non-existent and we avoid going to the Bay Area if we can help it.

Then I found a place in San Diego called Bay Marine Supply.  They had a great online store and they sold the Victron we wanted.  They had an electrical “kit” for sale with a few options to select from.  Rich called them up and spent over an hour on the phone talking to one of their technicians about what would work best for our boat.  They were SO helpful.

Plan B is born

They also sold a brand of LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) battery I’d never heard of called Battle Born.  I looked them up and they’re in Reno, Nevada (relatively close to us).  The batteries are 100 amp hours each, weigh about 30 pounds and are the size of a Group 27 battery (a little smaller than the Firefly and smaller than other comparable lithium batteries).  The great thing about lithium batteries is that they can be discharged nearly all the way down without losing any capacity.  Of course that’s not the best way to manage the batteries, but in general they have more useable amp hours than AGMs. 

For example, with five 100 amp hour AGMs you can rely on about 250 amp hours before they need to be charged.  With five 100 amp hour LiFePO4s you can rely on closer to 400 amp hours before they need to be charged.  And the weight savings is huge.  The Firefly AGMs weighed 75 pounds each!  That’s 225 pounds more than five Battle Born LiFePO4 batteries.  That’s a big deal when all that weight is on one side of the boat.

Our original reason for not wanting lithium batteries was the cost.  The cheapest we’d found was around $1300 each or $6500 for 500 amp hours.  And we didn’t think we could even fit 5 of these batteries under the quarter berth.  The Battle Borns were $899 each which is about $400 more than the Firefly AGMs and $400 less than other lithiums.  Plus, they have a 3 year warranty, the technician at Bay Marine spoke highly of the Battle Borns and they’re made in the USA so that’s bonus.  If we do have a problem with any of them, we can drive them up to Reno if we have to.

Our second reason was the safety issue.  Lithium batteries can be prone to thermal runaway reactions.  On a sailboat that means your boat ends up at the bottom of the ocean.  Advances in lithium battery technology, such as using safer and less reactive cathode materials (e.g. lithium iron phosphate) has greatly improved the safety of the batteries.  On top of that, most LiFePO4 batteries have a battery management system (BMS) built into the battery.

All Battle Born Batteries use the safest and most stable components, including a LiFePO4 cathode and a built-in Battery Management System (BMS). The BMS protects the cells against excessively high or low voltages, high currents, short circuits, and excessive heat or cold. These are the most common causes of battery failures, and we have taken every precaution to mitigate these risks in all of our batteries. In addition, all of our cells are manufactured in a state-of-the-art automated facility, and each cell is cycled multiple times to ensure quality and consistency.

Li-ion batteries can actually be safer than Lead acid batteries, which have no protection against ground faults. Our batteries have a built-in BMS that protects against ground faults.

It didn’t take much to persuade Rich to consider the Battle Born LiFePO4 batteries.  There were too many upsides to consider.  The only real downside is the cost.  Plus, with the complete overhaul of our electrical system, it’s the best time to make the switch from lead-acid to lithium.  We had to buy all new equipment anyway so why not get stuff compatible with lithium batteries.

water tanks

Installing Water Tanks

When we bought SVRO it had one stainless steel water tank with about 100 gallons capacity.  Unfortunately, it leaked.  Before we moved onto the boat full-time we took the leaky tank out and ordered two poly roto-molded tanks from Ronco.  Time ran short and we never fully installed the water tanks.  (more…)

perkins

Perkins 4-108 Diesel Update

Here’s a quick update to some work we did on our Perkins 4-108 diesel.  We recently had two different people ask us the same question about the K & N filter we put on the air intake of our Perkins 4-108. After looking into it, it’s obvious some info was left out on the description of how Rich installed it. It wasn’t as easy as slapping it on and walking away. (more…)

Lifeline gates

Lifeline Gates

I feel like I’ve complained about the heat a lot, but then again I’m sure this has been the hottest summer on record.  Just this past weekend we hit 110 degrees – miserable.  A holiday weekend and we did virtually NOTHING.  We hid in the boat with the AC on full blast. (more…)

stanchions

Bedding Stanchions

Have you ever worked really hard on a project and then when it was done you just couldn’t get off your lazy butt to do much of anything?  Well, that’s where we’ve been for the past couple of weeks, on our lazy butts. (more…)

New Chainplates – Not as Hard as We Expected

We finally finished installing the new chainplates!  We’ve been dreading this project since Day 1.  What we thought was going to be a huge, fiberglassy mess inside the boat turned out to be a small fiberglassy mess inside the boat.  With two of us working together, one on the Fein Multimaster and one on the vacuum, we were able to cut out the old chainplate knee-blocks fairly easily.  The scary part was securing the rig while taking it apart at the same time. (more…)

Electrical

Electrical Project Part IV

DC Electrical Update

We finally finished the electrical project!  Of course it seems nothing is ever completely done.  We’ll have to revisit the electrical when we get new batteries and when we take down the mast to rewire it.  But for now, we are checking this one off the list.  The best part is we get to start working outside again. (more…)

chainplates

What about those chainplates?

As you may have noticed we haven’t updated our website for little while, but we have updated our YouTube channel.  That’s where the most recent information will be, so if you think you’ve missed something, head over the YouTube and subscribe.  I have one (maybe two) more videos to finish putting together for the Electrical Project and then that project is basically DONE.  Rich also finished up the exterior teak trim so there will be a little video on that too (eventually).  In the meantime, we’ve moved on to a new project…CHAINPLATES! (gulp) (more…)

Batteries

Electrical Project Part III

Moving Batteries

Inch by inch we’re getting closer to installing some new batteries.  This past weekend we moved the old batteries from under the quarter berth to the engine room.  They now temporarily sit where the old water heater was located.  Over the next few weekends we plan to tear out the old battery box and redesign it to fit our new batteries.  We’re hoping to make it big enough to fit more than just the three we now have. (more…)

Isotemp water heater

Another Project Bites the Dust

We had a good weekend knocking out another project.  We installed the new water heater and removed the old one from the boat.  I think this is one of the few projects we were able to complete in ONE DAY.  Surprising too, since it not only involved plumbing, but electrical and some structural engineering for mounting it to the bulkhead. (more…)

Electrical Power Lugs

Electrical Project Part II

Electrical Project Part II

We uploaded part 2 of the electrical project.  In this video we install the new breaker panel and briefly talk about upcoming projects.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date with our boat projects. (more…)

AC Wiring

AC Wiring Done Right

We haven’t been doing many website posts lately, but we HAVE been uploading recent project videos (and some old videos too) to YouTube.  So if you’ve wondered where we went, head over to our YouTube channel or you can watch videos on our website as well. (more…)

changes ahead

Changes for the New Year

I think when you have a huge, multi-year project you’re working on (like we do), it makes it easier on family when they ask you what you want for Christmas. We have a huge list of boat projects that all cost money, so we’re never at a loss for things we need. Amazon, West Marine gift cards and good old cash have been the staple for gifts for the past few years. But this year, Rich and I really couldn’t think of anything we needed for the boat. Yes, we still have a shit-load of projects, but asking family to buy you a battery for your boat is not what they want to hear.

Rich is terrible at thinking of gift ideas for himself (mainly because he gives it no effort). I, however, have no trouble coming up with things I need or want. Throughout the year I routinely see or hear about things I would like.  I find them on Amazon and add them to a wish list. Then before Christmas I move some of those items to a Christmas wish list I share with family. So far it’s worked out great and if I get a gift card or cash, then I can always buy the stuff off my wish list.

The Change

All this leads into a couple of changes Rich and I are going to try. We’re both a little burned out on writing blog posts.  I’m also burned out on nagging Rich to write something (which is obvious by the lack of posts since November). So this year, Rich and I have decided to try making more videos of our boat projects. I know we have some, but they’re not edited very well (or at all) and really don’t give a lot of useful information.

The Platform

We’re also going to switch from Vimeo to YouTube. I really like the Vimeo platform, but I’m not super stoked about paying for it, and the free version isn’t great. I’ve never really watched anything on YouTube other than the occasional funny cat video and for the past month or so I’ve been vegging out watching researching YouTube videos that I think are well done. I’ve even started a YouTube channel with a couple of old videos that I spruced up a little.

Why Our Old Videos Suck

One of the reasons we never did much with video was our computer situation. My old 2009 MacBook Pro could barely handle basic functions like checking email and so that meant Rich would have to edit any videos on his computer and he’s not very motivated to do that too busy working on projects for that. Now that I’ve upgraded my computer I can do the editing. Also, Rich was using the GoPro editing software which he found difficult and frustrating to use.

So while I’ve been “researching” on YouTube, I’ve also been trying to find video editing software I like. I never really liked iMovie and I didn’t even want to attempt the GoPro software. What I finally settled on is Filmora by Wondershare. It has a lot of functions; it comes loaded with a lot of free elements (like music, transitions, bottom thirds, etc.) plus other ones you can buy; it’s really easy to use and it just seems to work without any glitches.

I also started using Canva.  It’s an online graphic design app that’s really easy to use.  It has a drag-and-drop interface and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts.  It’s also used for both web and print media design and graphics.  It’s one of my new favorite websites.

Equipment

My Sony a6000 camera takes great video and one of the things I received from my Christmas wish list was a Sony zoom microphone. It attaches to the hot shoe and picks up sound a lot better than the built-in mic. I will eventually buy a “Dead Cat” wind muff, but now I don’t think I need it. We’ll also still use the GoPro and our cell phones.Sony zoom mic

 

I also got Sony Bluetooth headphones. They’re really comfortable and one charge lasts about 20 hours.  Plus Rich won’t have to listen to me fumble around editing the video (that’s pretty annoying).

Sony Bluetooth headphonesWith an Amazon gift card I bought myself a laptop desk. Rich’s computer is at the nav table and mine is relegated to the salon table. Unfortunately, the cushions in the seating area are god-awfully uncomfortable for anything longer than about 2 minutes. I get a terrible back ache every time I sit at my laptop so now I sit on the settee with my new laptop desk. Side note: We’re hoping to get new cushions and upholstery eventually, but might wait until we head to Mexico where we’ve heard it’s a lot less expensive.

laptop deskWe also have a variety of tripods, selfie sticks, a chest harness and other miscellaneous gear that we’ve had for a while. I may have to get a wireless mic for times when we have to shoot too far from the camera for the mic to pick up the dialog.  I was thinking about getting a basic LED light that fits into the hot shoe as well.  Lighting conditions in the boat, especially in the winter, is pretty low so an LED light might do the trick. Side note: Buying a drone is probably in our near future. We’ve seen some amazing drone video footage from some of the YouTube channels we’ve been watching.

We also got some cash for our anniversary and Christmas so we splurged on a new Froli system for our mattress. We had been using Hypervent which worked fine for keeping the moisture under the mattress at bay. But lately Rich and I both wake up feeling terrible with achy backs and sometimes waking in the night with sore hips and shoulders. I don’t know if our mattress is just breaking down (it’s about 3 years old and should last about 10), or if we’re just getting old. Anyway, I thought I would give Froli a try since there’s a 30-day money back guarantee.

Our mattress is so thick (6 inches total) I didn’t think we would be able to tell the difference, but I noticed it almost immediately. When I installed the Froli system I set everything to the middle setting.  There are three settings and Froli recommends the middle one for average-sized people. We slept on that for a few days and did feel better; however, I like a softer bed.  I adjusted my side to the widest setting and added a couple more of the softer (light blue) springs and it’s made all the difference. The mattress is so much more comfortable now. If anyone is wondering the Froli Travel V-berth Large Kit with one 12-pack expansion kit fits our V-berth with just a couple of pieces left over.

Froli Delivered
Laying out the Froli grid
Height of the Froli
Froli installed

Finally, not really a Christmas present to us, but we recently bought a Honda 2000 watt generator. We were always going to get a generator and northern California has finally been getting the rain it desperately needs. We’ve lost power a few times, but never for very long.  We live in a rural, flood-prone area (it’s all islands and levees in the Delta).  So we figured it’s a good idea to just get it now. Of course, since we bought it we haven’t lost power once.Honda generator

Speaking of power, I should have a video of Rich’s rewiring of the AC on the starboard side. He also cut open some dead space and made new storage areas under the nav station.  There might be an upcoming written post about that. Up next he’s FINALLY going to tackle the breaker panel (Yay!)

Sink drain that's clogged

Drain Bamage

A month or so ago I decided to clean out the kitchen and bathroom sink drains with vinegar.  I’ve done this one time before and it worked great.  Because there is no p-trap the sinks can get a little stinky and cleaning them with vinegar makes them nice and fresh again.  The process is simple.  (more…)