Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Sell up and sail!

Well, that's it, the descision has been made and it's "SELL, SELL, SELL".

We have had many years in this beautiful place living on a brilliant barge but it's time to move on.  As detailed in my other blog, the little Fisher  25 sailboat has given us many many miles of lovely sailing but it is a bit small for those longer times away.  So we are looking for a Fisher 34 Mk II and will sell the barge and the little Fisher and leave for pastures new.  After all "We tread this path but once" and there is a lot more to do and see.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Barge mount for the LE 600 wind turbine.

It's that time of year again so greetings to you all from the misty marshes.

We had some kerfuffles with insurance over land mounting the LE 600 turbine so some thought was thoughted as the Navitron 300 was tried with an on board mount.  Mrs B's hair got to messed with having to wear ear defenders all the time so it didn't stay long.  That was a big heavy machine mind with a 2.5m diameter and it was mounted on the back edge of the wheelhouse which acted like a sound box.  Boy did that make some noise.

The idea was to mount a welded metal frame to the top of the mast using a softer than normal polyurethane goo.  The frame was sized to leave a 10mm gap all the way round  and this was filled with goo.  The cap top was filled with 20mm thick PU as this would be taking the weight of the frame, top pole and turbine, about 25kg in all.

Sections of 80mm pipe were welded to the frame, the bottom one having a capped base to take the top pole.  The 48mm dia top pole was gooed into these larger pipe sections with 25mm thickness in the bottom cap to take the weight of the pole and turbine.  The top and bottom mounts were held apart with 4x1 metre lengths of stainless studding.  Not pretty but it's what I had.

So the vibration is minimised by the 10mm thick PU on the mount to the mast and 15mm on the pole to the mount, giving a double isolation.  It works, the noise below is like a very quiet washing machine on a spin cycle.  Mrs B says it's fine so it can't be bad.

The data collected so far gives an average of 582Wh/day.  Early days but a goodly amount when the sun don't shine and it tends to blow more in the winter when the sun is shy.

Here is a wee vid of the sweet machine in action.  The RPM and frame speed have coincided and one can see the blade flutter.  A glance at the clouds shows it's blowing.  This is the direction of the worst turblence but the downwind turbine seems to cope much better.  There is no furling tail to bang and crash.

 Here's a couple of stills of the setup.  I should really have photoed the build, but, as nearly always, I forgot.

The portrait mount for the manually tracked solar array had stood up to the winds so far with 45kts as the highest gust. 


 This lump weighs in at nearly 100kg so a lowering mechanism utilising either pneumatics or hydraulics is being investigated.  Rams for either are not that expensive.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The turnip is dead, long live the turnip.

Well the Navitron 300 watt wind turbine certainly proved that wind power would make a significant contribution to our energy needs.  But....... it was a bit agricultural and needed to be looked after and when I am away sailing on the little boat Mrs B needs not to be bothered with agricultural things.

So one had a good look around and comes up with this......

A Leading Edge 600 Watt downwind turbine.  Ordered in December of 2014, it was built and arrived in mid January 2015.  Made in good old Blighty and doesn't it look sexy.  Well I think it does anyway, like an antenna off the Millennium Falcon ! 

First the blades are bolted to the back plate.

The nose cone, or should it be tail cone, covers rather nicely.

I had to take another piccy of the rather sweet plastic moulding......

 I guess this is cut by laser or water jet, sweet or what?

This is an axial flux three phase generator, as opposed to the radial of the old Navitron 300.

Now the Navitron was understated and the LE 600 is probably about right so they should produce about the same, well that's the theory anyway.

Here we go, start hauling on the tackle, having siliconed the connections under the bolted flange.

Le turnip flyet.  It's three phase three wire output travels down a rather beefy 10mm2 cable through a three phase 32 amp red connector and into the rectifier that comes with the machine.  From there it passes into a Watt meter to measure the output, thence through a 30 amp circuit breaker and into the the secondary distribution bus bars.  Where did the turnip come from, well I think this is the fault of the spell checker and me.  Easy mistake, turnip - turbine.


Friday, 23 January 2015

Heating Update, halfway thru winter.

Well I thought you might like to know what's what now that we've had time to get to know each other.  I so wish that I could have fitted this system when starting the build ten years ago.  Things have changed, condensing boilers are reliable and cheap, heating controllers have computers in them and can be installed easily.  All this means that your expensive fuel does the best job it can, and what a job!

Let's recap on the system -

Worcester Bosch Greenstar Danesmoor System Boiler 12/18 set up for 12kW/hr.  This was easily done in-house with the help of a pressure gauge from BES plumbing.

One zone is for the domestic hot water, with the tank thermostat set for 55C.  Any higher and the settings on the boiler means that it might not reach tank temperature and remain on all the time.  This zone is controlled by a programmable timer.   Legionella control is set on a separate timer to 60C via 1kW immersion heater.  It does this once a week.  Keeping the return to boiler water temperature near 50C means that it operates in condense mode thus reaping the economy benefits.  Too high a return temperature and it just operates like a normal oil boiler.  Even working in this mode it would still be more economical than the old drip feed.

Another zone is for the forward part of the vessel and is controlled by a programmable room thermostat.  On-call means we are up at night  or arrive back late or early sometimes.  We want the boat warm at three in the morning.  The thermostats have up to six timer settings for the temperature so we can ramp up or down how we want room at particular times of the day.

The third zone control is for the aft sleeping cabin and is set to suit but never gets cold or too hot, brilliant.

The old system used around 6 litres of diesel for a twelve hour overnight period and it was often too hot.  During the day if we  needed heat I would light the wood stove.  The new setup is averaging 4.2 litres per 24 hours during the cold months.  Remember the boat is now being kept comfortably warm 24/7.  A significant saving and perfect temperature control.  It is averaging 1kWhr a day of electricity to run it but with the solar power I can live with that.  Most folk would have the system off at night or have a lower temperature setting and have it warm up in the morning.

Next thing is to put some heating in the wheelhouse.  It did have a pipe radiator in there originally but it was too hot as the boiler flue also went though the space.  I took it out to leave the heat from the flue doing the heating.  Now with a balanced flue there is now heat loss and the wheelhouse can get a bit chilly.  Strangely the heat from both ends of the boat doesn't seem to rise into the wheelhouse, there is some sort of inversion going on, why I don't know.

I shall probably make a narrow type of towel rail radiator out of all the unused copper fittings and pipe offcuts and use the holes where the old pipe radiator came through.

If we want a proper fire it's there and the zone shuts down but the rest of the boat is toasty and the woodstove is still there as a back up.  Installing the domestic system is cheap compared to a marine one.  Ok the boiler is bigger but not that much, if it goes wrong and I can't fix it there are hundreds of domestic heating engineers who can.  Because there are thousands of these boilers around spare parts are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of too.  Noise wise I find it fine, actually it's rather comforting to hear it fire up in the background.  I mean they are fitted in kitchens on land so they can't be that bad.  I know a friend who mounted the boiler on rubber mounts on a oil tight sub frame with silicone hose on the pipe connections.  A truly immaculate installation and a steel boat can transmit noise but I didn't think I needed it and I still don't.

To summarise, a superb system that keeps us warm and is fully controllable and very economical.  With no wood chopping or humping sacks of coal, fantastic.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Heating update.

The original heating system was by a drip feed diesel Kabola E7, a reliable bulletproof boiler that was built for the sea.  It has gone to another barge via a well known selling website.

It ran an 1 1/4" large bore thermo-syphon feeding big cast iron radiators via 3/4" tails, thus no electricity for the boiler or pumps.

 At a later stage the multi-fuel stove had a back boiler fitted which was tee'd into the top end feeding the bathroom and office.  Whilst this kept the front of the barge nice and warm when the boiler wasn't needed, it did mean the stove ran cold and we had a lot of tar on the decks from the chimney.  Decommissioning the back boiler sorted that problem but did nothing to heat the front of the boat other than by the stove being in  the vicinity unless the central heating was fired up.

Fuel prices have gone up 400% since starting the barge, this means that the limited control drip feed boiler was proving rather expensive to run.  A new more up to date system was required.  Research suggested a Worcester Bosch condensing oil boiler might be the way to go.  So at the end of the summer and before any cold weather was due the old system was taken out.  Many meters of carefully crafted galvanised steel pipe were removed along with the not too old Kabola 7 kW drip feed.

The mount frame needed modifying to suit the new Bosch and copper pipework bent up to suit the new design.  The lower sub frame had to he heightened to match the one at the back so there was enough room to get the deeper boiler in.  There was just enough room to get the flue bends in!

The radiators had to be modified from top in bottom out to bottom in bottom out and a couple of traditional thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) used in the office and heads.

Three zone valves were used to separate the hot water, aft cabin and forward section.

This means that if we have the stove going and thermostat shuts the heating off then the bedroom in the aft section will still be heated on its own circuit as will the domestic hot water.

One of the engine room fuel tanks was drained and refilled with heating oil instead of diesel and plumbed into the new boiler via a CAV watertrap and filter.  And talking of filters, condensing boilers in particular don't like bits in them.  I fitted a magnetic swirly filter that can be "blown down" for cleaning.  Just below it you can see the condense pipe in white which empties via a Marelon skin fitting, again to avoid problems with metal and the acidic condense.

The boiler runs off its own dedicated 500 Watt  sine wave inverter with the option of shore power if available.

Programmable room thermostats are used in the saloon and aft cabin.

These are brilliant and allow the temperature to be varied at different times of the day and stops the barge losing too much overnight when it's cold.  Hot water is kept at 50C with a 60C anti Legionnaire's disease boost.

I used the flue system for the boiler.  It is a balanced flue which means the incoming air is drawn in around the exhaust pipe, so we don't need a barometric damper like the Kabola.  Weirdly the exhaust part of the flue is plastic, I guess in is cold enough being a condensing boiler and the acidic gasses won't harm it.


It is a neat system which neatly replaces the original Kabola flue almost exactly.  It was critical to get this right as it could have made a right mess of the wheelhouse.  The flue cap too is pretty neat.

I used to light the old boiler around 7 PM in the evening and run it overnight until 8 AM unless it was cold enough to have it running 24/7.  It used an average of 4-6 litres per day.  The multi-fuel stove kept us warm during the day if we needed it.  The last three months have averaged 4 litres per day with it running 24 hours a day.  The stove has rarely been lit.  This means that the new boiler is twice as efficient in keeping the barge warm.  OK we have not had a harsh winter so far and it does us quite a lot of our precious electrons for the pump and control valves.  This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that our water is no longer heated via the immersion heater at least in the winter months.  Initial measurements indicate that it is consuming around 1.4kWhrs over 24 hours.

Being a system boiler, the pump and expansion tank are inside the casing which is good because physically it is quite a bit bigger than the old one.  All the pipework had to be finished before sliding the boiler back for the final connections.  I was pretty easy to bolt the boiler down so it was not going to walk away in a sea.
Setting it up for the lower 12kW output was pretty simple as it only required changing the pressure jet and primary air mixture disk with a tweak to up the oil pressure a bit to 132 psi.  I didn't bother getting the flue gas analysed as the "magic eye" that monitors the flame has not sooted up and everything seems within limits.  True enough it is not as quiet than the old system as the pump, fans and motorised valves do make some noise.  Do I find it offensive, no, and I am fussy about noise.  It does use electricity and it is more complicated but it is so warm and easy to use.  Best of all there is no messing about lighting fires and boilers.  I almost wish I had fitted it from when the barge was new but then technology has moved on.  I now have an up-to-date and economical system and any domestic heating engineer can fix it if I can't, brilliant.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wind Power

Wind power is good.  I bought the turbine from Navitron in 2007 and, even though it was a bit large for the barge, mounted it on the aft edge of the wheelhouse.  The noise emanating from the constant profile aerofoil blades was deafening.  Fauna was devoid in a 500 meter radius, humans wept bitterly, holding their ears.

A new, silent, blade and hub set was ordered.  These proved more suitable for the location and folk started to talk again, but not to me.  This time the noise was inside the boat, the coils going through the magnetic fields made a knocking noise not too dissimilar to a machine gun.  Mrs B refused to wear the Peltor ear defenders that I kindly supplied.

Things went on hold for a while, while the turbine rested in the workshop.  I hired a post hole borer and a couple of one meter extensions with the intention of planting a redundant telegraph pole in the marsh, onto which I would nail the turbine.

Initial results from the turbine suggested that although it is rated at 300 Watts, it would actually produce nearly 1000 Watts in a gale, just before the automatic furling system started.  This is to slow the turbine in very high winds in an effort to stop self destruction.  It seems to work well but the Back Shed in Oz has some wise words to make this type of turbine even better.  It also tells you how to make the original howling blades quiet.

The post hole borer arrived but only with one extension.  The telegraph pole was planted with the help of the mainmast and a handy billy.  With a bit of hammering with a 56lbs weight on the top of the pole we managed to get it into the marsh about 2.6 meters.  The mast base was modified to act as a gooseneck and the turbine mast was fitted to this.

Several years later we have this.

The controller that comes with the turbine is not considered reliable.

Although it's been fine for me, so I now connect the wild three phase from the turbine to a home made bridge rectifier and then straight to the batteries.  It's quite important to make sure the turbine is not left to spin in an unloaded state.  This can cause catastrophic overspeeding.

When the batteries are full a  Tristar load controller diverts the excess power to a 24V immersion heater,  this is quite rare as we generally use all the power we can make.  We have an average windspeed of around 10mph.  At that speed the turbine will give us around 2 amps/hr.  That is enough to power the fridge and all the lights and pumps.  When the PV is less during the winter the wind will hopefully make up any deficit.  If not then the 24V diesel generator can be pulled in to help the batteries.  Naturally when the wind chuffs up a bit then we are cooking, bread making and maybe a bit of water heating too.  The days that can cause a bit of a problem are the calm, sunless days, particularly the short days of winter.

This type of Chinese turbine does require looking after, a bit like a steam engine.  Bearings need to be lubricated, it needs lowering if a gale threatens.  Leaving it up in strong winds is ok but does nothing to extend its life.  So we have decided that wind is good but we need a more robust and up to date tubine.  An LE 600 is being built for us as we speak.  You will see that it is a tailless downwind device which will hopefully better cope with our turbulent winds from the South West. 

 An adaptor piece has been constructed to fit the flange of the old turbine tower to the new turbine mount.

The three core 10mm has been threaded though the tower and a suitable 30amp three phase plug and socket has been added to the barge.

Its the one in red.  I could have used a 32amp single phase in blue or yellow but I really fancied red, it's not many boats with a three phase connection so there shouldn't be too many mix ups.  I got the wire and other hardware from electric  They were pretty reasonable and very quick getting it all to me.

I can't wait for the new turnip to arrive, I'll update when it's up.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Solar Solar Solar.

The amorphous panels went on a well know web sales site and a couple of Yingli 220 Watt panels from Navitron were bolted on instead.  So that is 440 Watts total now which has made a big difference.

I bought another two second-hand Yingli panels from Bimble Solar and put them flat on the wheelhouse roof.  They were fine in summer but lost the sun rather quickly as soon as we saw the autumn equinox.  So I reinforced the trackable mount and bolted the two extra panels on the sides of the original two.  I will post a photo as soon as the sun comes out again and the wind drops.  That now gives up 880 Watts which is a really useful amount of power.  On a fine sunny day that will give use 33 odd amps and regularly hits 20 amps on sunny days in November.

I found a good deal from Bimble Solar on there meters and the MPPT charge controllers by EPSolar, their Tracker range..

A deal was had for a 600 Victron battery monitor which replaced the simple Volt meter for the domestic battery bank.  It provides a fantastic range of information and has set up for alarms and external switches.

An hydraulic lowering system is being thought about at the moment.  I feel it would be prudent to lower the PV array when the barge goes out.

For the same area of panels it is now possible to get 1300+ Watts and I am sure they will improve all the time so it would be a simple job to uprate the system.