Panbo

Victron Multi in, Onan genset out...a greener Gizmo?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 25, 2012
Victron_MultiPlus_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpg

This is not the scene most boaters want to see in the middle of their salon going into Memorial Day Weekend, but at least I can look forward to checking out how well that Victron MultiPlus 12/2000/80 charges and inverts. It may seem crazy to replace the perfectly functional Xantrex Freedom 25 that used to occupy this spot, but it's part of an aggressive "re-power" plan that's had me busy recently. Besides the Xantrex has already replaced the broken one on my in-law's M/V Brilliant -- which partially subsidized this upgrade -- and I'm nearly as happy pulling cables as I would be lounging on the fine settee that will eventually go back here...

The goal -- partially to suit my personal cruising style and partially to fufill Gizmo's test boat role -- is to get her DC and AC power systems as efficient and up-to-date as possible. I suspect that there are numerous good choices for charger/inverters but Victron Energy had a leg up because my "power guy" Alden Cole -- who now works at Wayfarer Marine and is supervising my installs -- has had positive experiences with their gear and because the U.S. distributor happens to be just down the road in Thomaston.
   But at least equally important to my buy decision is the fact that Victron is getting fully aboard the NMEA 2000 bus. The company has developed many products serving many markets and hence has numerous data protocols, but here's what you'll find in their latest data communications paper: "Canbus is the preferred protocol for third parties to communicate with our products. Our CANbus protocol is based on the NMEA2000 and J1939 protocols. We are using proprietary PGN's for all information that does not have a standard PGN available."
   Victron already has a certified NMEA 2000 interface for its well-regarded BMV battery monitor and has one in the works that will interface with the Ethernet-like VE.Bus that's on my new inverter/charger (and which must remain proprietary as it can be responsible for tricky stuff like synchronizing AC streams). In fact, Victron's Matthijs Vader told me that once NMEA finally finishes the power control PGN set -- please! -- third party displays will not only be able to monitor what's happening in the Victron power products but also control them. Apparently Victron is also working on a new generation of solar panel controllers and I'm hoping that they too might have a VE.Bus and N2K relationship.
  But before experimenting with some of this power monitoring and control gear -- Maretron, C-Zone and maybe others will be included -- I felt the need to further untangle the systems Gizmo came with. A big step in that direction was removing the Onan 6.5 kW genset that my "engine guy" Pat Ricci lifted off the back of my truck yesterday...

Gizmo_Onan_GenSet_w_Pat_Ricci.jpg

Pat's going to refurbish the Onan before it hopefully finds a better home -- see Panbo Classifieds soon -- while I try to get along with my improved main engine alternator setup and the solar panel setup that's still in works, plus the reduced loads generated by strategies like LED bulb and fixture replacements. I don't think I'll ever be able to call a 450hp boat "green" but she is getting greener. Not to mention quieter, and lighter, and easier to understand and troubleshoot.
   So yours truly has spent a lot of time recently in dark, dirty places happily disconnecting and stripping that generator and removing significant quantities of wire. That pile of cut cable ties below also represents the earlier extraction of other unwanted gear -- like one of the two air conditioners and the associated second 30 amp AC inlet -- but I think I humped about 75 pounds of no-longer-needed battery and AC cables up the ramp yesterday. I wish I had similar energy to put toward slimming my own self down!
   This is also why I've been a bit of slacker with Panbo entries recently. But I am enjoying a newly installed Fusion IP700 while I work and I've been testing a B&G Triton instrument and autopilot control that will go in the boat soon, along with a few other new goodies. Patience please, and I will report on the Victron start up testing over the weekend, which I hope you enjoy even if you have to go boating ;-)

Gizmo_old_cable_ties_cPanbo.jpg

PS 5/28: Happy to report that the install has gone well, the Multi is working well, and the settee is back in place and quite loungable. Below is screenshot showing how I've installed Victron's VE Configure II software on Gizmo's Datalus computer (with the help of the MK2 USB converter borrowed from Alden). I've already used it to set up the low inverter standby power "search mode" and maybe with some help can refine the battery charging profile seen on this page (though my sense is that it doesn't need much refining).

VE_Configure_II_on_Gizmo_Datalux_cPanbo.jpg

Comments

Incidentally, tip-of-the-hat to Covey Island Boatworks for making much of Gizmo's fine joinerwork fairly easy to dissemble, and also for over-sizing most of the wiring. As much as I enjoy getting rid of cables that aren't needed, I also appreciate "ampacity".

http://www.coveyisland.com/

Posted by: Ben at May 25, 2012 11:21 AM | Reply

So how are you planning to heat water for showering? On my boat the genset's job is powering the hot water heater, (a 70 min. job each day). If I could figure out a safe place to put an on-demand propane water heater I'd do that, but so far, no go.

Posted by: Bob Torson at May 25, 2012 1:05 PM | Reply

Very timely post. A new Victron Multiplus is on my short list too. But from the picture it looks like you are mounting the Multiplus on its back below the salon floor. I was under the impression that these had to be mounted vertically for adequate convection cooling.

Posted by: Rick R at May 25, 2012 1:27 PM | Reply

We put two Victron MultiPlus 24/3000/70 inverter/chargers aboard Visions of Johanna last year in a split phase 120/240 arrangement and have been incredibly pleased with the flexibility this has provided. When the Genset died in Milford Sound, one of the most remote places you could have such a failure in New Zealand, we were able to run all our bigger AC loads like the 75gal/hr watermaker, dive compressor, washer, & dryer through the Multi's for the next 2 months until the genset could get rewound.

Only downside is that as both units turn on together, our low load inverter overhead waste is a bit higher then when we ran just one inverter, but if you drop the AC load down to zero or near that, they go into a great standby mode that keeps consumption down quite a bit.

We also have a Victron Skyla 24v/100a battery charger for a combined 240a of charging capability with the two 70a multi's. It took a bit of adjusting to get the two multi's and the Skyla to work well together and the most we get out is about 210-220 amps, but that does help keep our genset run times quite a bit lower.

Posted by: Gram Schweikert at May 25, 2012 7:59 PM | Reply

Victron is top of the line kit. Excellent stuff. Calder really likes it. It will be interesting to compare your impressions with his.

Posted by: bosunj at May 25, 2012 8:56 PM | Reply

If you have (enough) solar use the diversion load to heat water.

Posted by: bosunj in reply to Bob Torson at May 25, 2012 8:57 PM | Reply

The Multi has two fans on the top, so it will stay cool when mounted on its back.
But the manual says to mount it vertically, and also the supplied mounting bracket only works in a vertical installation.

Anywho, on a vessel with both shore connection and genset, I would go for a Victron Quattro , I have installed them on several vessels, saves me the need for a shore/gen selector switch, and it can also be set up to automatically start the generator when the battery voltage gets to low.

Example: When the boat is at anchor, you get your 110/220v from the batteries via the inverter, and when the battery voltage gets to low, the generator starts up, charges the batteries until they are full, and than stops the generator.

also when you use alot of power from the inverter for a long time, the quattro will start up the generator, as its better to use the generator for that :)

Posted by: Aleksander in reply to Rick R at May 26, 2012 7:21 AM | Reply

No worries on the physical installation of the Multi, gentlemen. I have room there to mount it vertically (on an added panel dropped from the cabin side); or horizontally as shown above, though perhaps on blocks for more circulation to the back; or I could build a sled that tilted the top maybe 30 degrees up. The included fastening system -- a separate hanger that catches a lip on top and thru screws at bottom -- can be made to work OK in any of those positions.

The Quick Install manual definitely illustrates a vertical mount with a minimum 100 mm space (4") above and to the sides, but in my case a vertical mount would put the top behind the settee back and hence out of the best air flow.

At any rate, I'm going to consult with Victron, because I certainly don't want to void the warranty, but Alden tends to agree that even the on-the-floor position shown above would work fine as that outboard underdeck space is open about half the length of the boat, with numerous ventilation points. It's also quite dry and insulated from engine room heat by that fuel tank and a longitudinal bulkhead.

We did an initial start up test last night and so far so good. Alden has the Victron Interface MK2-USB (actually RS-232 in Ethernet disguise) so we could see how much the Multi knows about what's it doing -- a lot! -- and how configurable it is, all on his laptop running VEConfigure. It handled about 60 amps of bulk charge and Gizmo's microwave no problem, and I for one really like the current limit feature on the DMC 200 control panel. If you don't like the looks of a shore power outlet you can just dial down the max load on the DMC and the Multi will handle it.

I also like the fact that I can set/customize the Multi's "search mode" which will greatly reduce its already low inversion load if no AC device needs juice. And, by the way, apparently the Multi can start a generator like the Quattro.

Posted by: Ben at May 26, 2012 8:57 AM | Reply

I have a 15 year old Freedom 20 inverter/charger that is a modified sine wave unit. It still functions, but has always emitted an enormous amount of radio interference for both the VHF and SSB. I would love to make the switch to a new pure sine wave inverter to power electronic devices, but need to be sure any new unit is well engineered against emitting RFI.

How does the Victron Multi Plus stack up in this area?

Posted by: Richard C at May 26, 2012 9:22 AM | Reply

So far, so good, Richard. The Garmin VHF 200 installed about eight feet from this inverter/charger spot always hummed a bit when the Xantrex was on but doesn't hum with the Multi. Note that I never tried ferrites on the Garmin to fix the interference, and a Standard Horizon GX2100 mounted right next to the Garmin last season was unaffected by the Xantrex...

Posted by: Ben in reply to Richard C at May 26, 2012 9:54 AM | Reply

I have been using a Victron Multiplus 12/3000/120 on Winds Aloft, my Lagoon 380, for almost 4 years now. It was the first thing I installed on the boat when I bought her in France. This unit has been completely trouble free the entire time. And, yes, I installed it myself with no previous boat electrical system expertise! Any issues I've had with the AC system were a result of other components in the system. It will power everything on the boat (air conditioning, washer/dryer, hair dryers, etc) except my oversized watermaker motor, though not necessarily for a long time due to battery capacity constraints! It will also auto-start the genset should you want. I opted not to, since for me noise is an issue. I like to be in charge of when noise happens...
And, Ben, mine is installed on it's back just like your photo...
I love my Victron!

Posted by: Casey at May 26, 2012 11:02 AM | Reply

Regarding the desire to go green and safe, I have installed the following on my 46' Wilbur to decrease power needs and eliminate all propane:

1. NO generator
2. Diesel hot water and cabin heater (ITR)
3 Diesel stove (Wallas)
4. Inverter with large battery bank (Xantrax-could be better)
5. Solar panels (Kyocera 4x160 watts-works great in semi-cloudy Maine day with surprising output)
6. Fuel Cell (EFOY) when the sun don't shine (and nights)
7. Minimize use of electric motors: engine hatch weights 300lbs, it is raised with system of pulleys
Counter top box raises with hidden counter weights
8. All LED lighting inc Nav and anchor lights
9. Gravity drain rather than sump pumps
10. Recycle gray water into special tank for flushing head
11. Would have put in manual head but my wife strongly objected!

I calculated inverter loads based on daily use of hair dryer for 20 min (wife not me), coffee pot and microwave several times per day, TV (120V not 12 V) for two hours daily with room (amps) to spare

In the event of battery drain, engine start batteries are completely isolated of course, but can easily be tied into fuel cell on dark days.

Into third year of Maine cruising from May to October without problems yet.

When I built boat, was not confident of above, so left space and put in wiring for generator, just in case. Still empty space to sit and gaze at single CAT.

Yes, that is other savings..one big single diesel. No need for second engine just to be able to dock and better backup solutions for lost engine at sea than a "spare".

Posted by: Keith at May 26, 2012 11:08 AM | Reply

Is the Victron a FCC Class A device? The only inverter I've found so far that is the ProwWatt SW - pure sine wave, inexpensive, and apparently very low RF. But I have not yet spoken to anyone who has installed one.

Approvals: UL458, CSA 107.1-01, EMC: FCC Part 15, Class A

Posted by: svHaven at May 26, 2012 11:59 AM | Reply

Ben,
Excellent choice of inverter – I’ve been really impressed with their product line for some time now. I think it’s note-worthy that they are the only inverter (that I know of) with the unique ability to simultaneously invert DC-AC and also pass-thru AC current from shorepower or a Genset. Typically you’re either in invert mode or charge mode, there’s no “in-between”. The benefit (as Victron explains in detail in their extensive and top-quality literature) is the ability to accommodate surge/start-up AC loads without carrying excess (or any!) generator capacity, by using the battery bank as a reserve to supplement the shore or Genset current. This is really efficient, intelligent design and I’m glad to see Victron recognized for its excellent product – looking forward to your reports!

Posted by: Grant at May 26, 2012 1:35 PM | Reply

Ben – I no sooner got done extolling Victrons unique features, when I follow your “power guy Alden Cole” link, and stumble on this quote from CharlieJ in July, 2010:
“11. Unfortunately, the Victrons ability to supplement shore power or generator output under heavy electrical loading is not in accordance with the latest ABYC Standards which currently prohibit paralleling two sources simultaneously to supply one load.”
Huh? Tell me it isn’t so! Maybe THAT explains why Xantrex, Magnum, Outback etc., haven’t adopted this “unique” feature, rather than patent considerations! What say you or your “power guy” to this?

Posted by: Grant at May 26, 2012 2:01 PM | Reply

Ben,
This is a good opportunity to use a Maretron temperature sensor to monitor the ambient temperature around the Victron.
Without active ventilation of the enclosed space, I would expect the temperature to rise fairly rapidly with the effect of de-rating the performance of the unit.

Posted by: outbackgary at May 26, 2012 5:20 PM | Reply

Grant-Help is on the way! ABYC Standard "A-32, AC Power Conversion Equipment and Systems" is in the works and it does allow load assist by inverters that match waveform, frequency and voltage. Not "legal" yet, but it is coming.

Charlie J

Posted by: Charlie J at May 26, 2012 8:32 PM | Reply

I've had dual Victron 3000/50amp mutlis set-up in split phase over 3 years. When they work as designed they offer many conveniences when cruising however are very sensitive to temperature. Your mounting location not in the engine room is a good choice as long as there is ventilated space. They generate alot of heat when in bulk charging mode so don't let it be trapped in the compartment to build up. Performance drops significantly as they heat up.
Victron no longer has a service rep or center in the US and all tech questions go to and from Holland. 6 hours time difference and terminology can be a problem as many issue are not explicitly addressed in the manuals. Hopefully they will hired a replacement for Chris Richmond who left Jan.1 this year. The Thomaston location is simply the distribution (shipping center) and Justin refers all service tech questions to Holland.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 27, 2012 9:28 PM | Reply

Our little Sofia has a Heart 2.5KW inverter and the first time we lit off the coffee machine I about freaked seeing the batteries jump up to 85 amps I could feel the plates just going uffffff. I will admit, we do have 2 banks of 4 D and one 8 D at 270 Amps each. So plenty of power for a couple of days of running the freezer, fridge and lights.

I would , however, like to more about the Geny you pulled off..

Have fun
Devon

Posted by: Devon Liles at May 27, 2012 10:02 PM | Reply

Victron said it was fine to install the Multi on its back, adding that:

"First if of all, there are temperature sensors at many places in the Multi. Inside the transformers, mounted on heatsinks, etc. The worst thing that will happen when mounted in a bad ventilated place is that it will ‘derate’ a little bit quicker. This means that it will reduce charging, or go into a temperature alarm.

"When mounted vertically there is more natural convection as compared to a horizontal mount. Therefore the fans will start running (a bit) later, and total available cooling might be (a bit) less.

"But these differences are not significant and rather theoretic. And especially since you mentioned that this place is better ventilated it should be fine to mount it horizontal."

At any rate, the Multi is installed and working well, and I added a PS with a VE Configure screen shot to the entry.

Posted by: Ben at May 28, 2012 9:57 AM | Reply

Keith,

Would you mind sharing your experience with the Efoy unit you have. Such as load and how much methanol is used to maintain your daily/weekly draw? Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Anonymous in reply to Keith at May 30, 2012 4:22 PM | Reply

Ben,

Good luck, I have replaced a MP 50 amp pass thru model at least 3 times on one boat. These units had / have real design issues. Vitron says they have redesigned the unit but I'm not convinced. I use to be a blue box fan, I no longer recommend them. Try hooking 6 gage wires to the unit what a pain!Poor design all around.

Posted by: Phil Johnson at May 31, 2012 7:36 AM | Reply

Geez, I had not planned on taking a (rare) Panbo vacation this week, but it seems like finally getting the boat out of the yard and other activities have intervened. However, I did get a chance to work on a B&G Triton entry yesterday while the Victron Multi inverter quietly and efficiently powered Gizmo's Mac Mini setup out on her mooring float. Very pleasant! And maybe I can finish the entry in the airport or beyond later today...

Posted by: Ben at May 31, 2012 11:03 AM | Reply

I use about one ten liter container of methanol in a busy month. If it is reasonably sunny, the solar array shuts off the EFOY. Since I installed mine, they have come out with newer units.

Te containers are proprietary and you cannot just remove the intake tubing and fill it yourself, so you have to buy them from the US Distributor, which is US Marine. They are not always reliable in shipping on time, so I kept a minimum of two extra containers.

I decided to add an intake port to the container and use commercially available reagent grade methanol which is very pure and fill it myslf, which is significantly cheaper and a more reliable source of the methanol.

This of course will void the warranty, but what self sufficient boater ever worried about that.

Posted by: Keith at June 2, 2012 9:49 PM | Reply

I have one of the victron 24v/3000w/70 inverter chargers i bought as part of my extra "deployment" money. i finally installed it in march. this has been one of the best upgrades for my boat. completely silent. well worth the money. i primarily bought it becuase of its global reputation and the ability to add it to the nmea2k network. admittingly i have not had the opportunity to fully test it to its capability, but so far i am very impressed. i am thinking about changing my water heater to 240 and getting another unit for the added charging ability, but this may be to expensive and excessive for a 40ft cruising sailboat

Posted by: Robert at June 6, 2012 11:11 AM | Reply

Interesting: If you check out Victron's newly announced 150/70 BlueSolar charge controller you'll see that the interface protocol is NMEA 2000.

http://www.victronenergy.com/solar/solar-charge-controllers/

And apparently the same is true of their new Lynx 1,000A Shunt, though there's no data sheet for it yet.

Posted by: Ben at June 19, 2012 1:29 PM | Reply

Check out the impressive charge efficiency of the Flexcharge NC25A controller.

http://www.flexcharge.com/flexcharge_usa/products/nc25a/nc25a.htm

Posted by: bosunj in reply to Ben at June 20, 2012 8:49 AM | Reply

We put a Victron Multiplus Compact 2000 Inverter Charger on board in November 2010. Last night we had smoke and smelly electric burning and a dead Victron. It was showing bulk charging but nothing coming out. Nothing out of the ordinary was going on at the time.
Its some time since posts on this string. Anyone had any further experience.

Posted by: Taipan at December 5, 2014 2:27 PM | Reply

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