NoLand RS11, analog to NMEA 2000 engine monitoring

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

27 Responses

  1. Adam,
    congratulations on this great, and detailed not only presented but more important tested RS11.
    Thanks!

  2. Well done!
    AND thank you for your contribution!

  3. pascal says:

    hey adam
    i just install this unit also
    i have serie number 37 haha just 2 below you
    every thing works fine i think
    i instalt it on a old perkins moter on a sailboat
    but i have have only engine temp and not his water temp so my data comes in a other gauge in the display
    for the rest i need to finetune it
    rpm i have almost good
    engine temp i copy the preset settings
    oil press also to bad that it dont have bars
    engine volts this i dont have yet working (dont know why yet)
    and i testit on a gmi 10 and soon on a gpsmap 5012

  4. Kees says:

    Adam,
    Congrats on getting this working.
    However, I am a bit worried about the way the Noland uses the N2K 0V level as ground reference. Certainly it could be the case that the 12V supply to the CANbus is at a different potential than that of the engine. In my boat this is certainly the case as the 12V supply is generated by a DC-DC converter with floating output. Also, all three inputs need to have the same ground reference. I don’t think the NMEA approves of this, and I’d have to agree with them.
    The diagrams for the ALBA Engine indicate that they do it correctly i.e. have separate wiring inputs for all negatives.
    IMO the added safety and reliability the more elaborate circuit in the ALBA engine provides would be worth the price difference.

  5. The RS11 looks like a very interesting piece of equipment for those of us with analog gauges. However, as a software developer I can’t understand the seeming oversight of not designing the thing with enough memory. Memory is about as cheap and dense as it has ever been and there is just no reason for them to skimp in that department. It’s things like this that make me hesitate to buy something from a company. If they cut corners on memory capacity, where else did the cut corners?

  6. Adam says:

    Kees: I hear what you are saying and I was indeed a bit surprised to find that the RS11 was designed this way. In fact, I had to call NoLand to ask where the ground references were! So far I have not seen a case where a deviation between ground voltages caused a gauge inaccuracy. However, I could see this being of particular concern if you were using the RS11’s output as a primary indicator on a critical system. It’s not clear to my why NoLand would make this choice, unless there are simply too few A/D inputs on whatever chip they are using.
    That kind of ties into sailoutbound’s comment. I should note that if I understood correctly, the NoLand engineer was explaining that much of the chip memory was used to store the conversion algorithms needed by the various PGNs (different units of pressure, temperature, etc.). Upon reflection that further confused me, because I thought that N2K allowed a sentence to be specified in a single unit (Celsius or kPa, say) and that the display (listener) was responsible for any unit conversion. If that is indeed the case then it seems all of the calibration could be done in the RS11 config utility.
    Perhaps NoLand can comment, if they read Panbo.

  7. Adam says:

    Pascal, if the config utility doesn’t have bars you should be able to pretty easily use another unit. I think it has kPa and 1 bar = 100 kPa.
    As for voltage, I’m surprised you’re having an issue as voltage is the easiest calibration to make as it’s 1:1 between input and output. I didn’t bother measuring voltage, just entered 0:0 and 20:20 as my voltage/value pairs.
    I should also mention that the first step in the system calibration is choosing the voltage range for your gauges and then setting the voltage divider jumpers on the circuit board to match. The voltage ranges for the gauges can be set to 5V, 10V, 15V, 20V, or 30V. I used 0-10V for everything except my alternator output, which was 0-30V.

  8. It should be noted that the RS11 is not NMEA 2000 certified. That doesn’t mean it won’t work without problems, but it does mean that it hasn’t been tested with NMEA’s certification software and that it may do things in ways NMEA doesn’t approve of.
    I just emailed NoLand, hoping they’ll participate in this conversation one way or another.

  9. Pat Harman says:

    Thank you Adam. You have given me hope to do a similar project on my boat after I return From Alaska and the Inside Passage in September.
    My situation is different in that I have a modern electronic Cummins engine, a Raymarine E120 chart plotter, and SmartCraft gauges. It may be modern, but I have no documentation, the customer support is friendly, but they do not have a clue.
    Some where on the engine is a place I can tap into the J1939 data, I was told by Cummins support that there was a NMEA plug on my SmartCraft harness. Getting the NMEA 2000 data into the Raymarine E120 display looks simple, but expensive as I do not have a NMEA 2000 device.
    So I am taking a break enjoying the fishing and crabing.
    Patrick Harman

  10. Peter says:

    Kees – I have worked on numerous diesel engines and my recollection is that none of them have the negative side of the instruments flowing through the engine for analog gauges. Most of the time the negatives for the gauges are bussed together close to the instruments. It appears that even your boat has a separate negative reference. Provided the negative reference does not float separately from the positive it should provide accurate data for the instruments. I can also see a major problem with multiple separate negative leads terminating into a single piece of equipment. There is the possibility to have a difference (potentially significant difference) between the potential on the different grounds. This can cause all types problems (many unintended) with the equipment.
    A single ground reference is a good idea. With that in mind I am not clear if the RS11 has its own ground or it takes it from the data bus. If it takes it from the data bus I would have concerns. In essence you would be connecting your gauges to your data bus (on a diesel it would even include your alternator!).
    With that said – I will probably buy one of these. They look cool!

  11. Pat, I’ve heard repeatedly that the SmartCraft MercMonitor (and N2K gateway) does an excellent job of converting lots of engine data into NMEA 2000 PGNs. But I think you’ll find that your E120 can only display a limited subset of those messages, though they are the major ones like RPM and oil pressure.
    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2009/12/smartcraft_nmea_2000_gateway_looking_good.html

  12. pascal says:

    hey adam
    thanks for the info
    it is now set on psi but i will change it to kPa
    in the final conf. this will be when i can hook up the 5012 gps because the gmi10 where i did the test with is not going to be installt on this boat (not yet )and just the pre-set from noland
    about the volt problem, in the setup i put it also 1:1 this engine is 12V (so 15v with the jumpers to no blow it up)but thit not hock up my fluke on it to check if i have 12v on it (not enaufh time for it )
    so i will run every thing agian check volt before and during running and make the final conf for it

  13. Hendrik says:

    While Maretron won’t interface to my yamaha diesel, and Albatross needs and expensive configuration interface I go for the RS11 tot connect to my Simrad NSE.
    Kees, can we buy 2 and split the transportcost to the Netherlands?
    Hendrik

  14. Actisense Tech Support says:

    If the RS11 is really taking it’s reference from the bus, then this breaks the NMEA 2000 rule requiring isolation between the bus and the outside world. If true, the RS11 can never be NMEA 2000 certified. The NMEA did not add this requirement to make it difficult for manufacturers, but to make it safer for the end-user and this point should not be overlooked.
    The NMEA 2000 bus is intended to have a single ground entry point, so any product adding another entry point will be breaking this rule. Data corruption on the bus could occur with multiple ground connections, resulting in increased bus loading as error messages are generated and the associated resending of messages occurs.
    Any spikes from alternators or RF interference could use this new ground point to interfere with devices on the bus. Small installations may still work with multiple ground connections (due to the robustness of CAN bus), but as the network grows, these rule breaking connections will become more of an issue. If your bus starts acting strangely I’d disconnect any products breaking this NMEA rule first.
    One final point, the NMEA 2000 spec. does not allow daisy chaining:
    http://www.nmea.org/Assets/20100414%20daisy%20chainnetwork%20design%20drawing%202.pdf

  15. Kees says:

    Hi Hendrik,
    For the reasons stated above by me and Actisense, I won’t buy this product. The integrity of the bus is too important for me.
    Besides, the engine harness is one of the few things I’m leaving alone. I don’t care to see oil pressure etc. repeated, I’ll do with the engine controls.
    I _am_ doing fuel measurement by having two inline flow sensors (one for fuel in and one for the return line), and that’s all I need for my purposes.

  16. Adam says:

    Actisense Tech writes, “The NMEA 2000 bus is intended to have a single ground entry point”.
    I don’t see how the RS11’s use of bus ground as a reference for its voltage sensing violates this requirement. If the RS11 were tying bus ground to engine ground (which it isn’t; see above) that could definitely be a problem. But the only risk I see in NoLand’s approach is that if bus and engine ground deviate, the voltage detected by the A/D converters would be off, and the RS11 would send out PGNs with erroneous engine data.
    Am I missing something?
    Also not sure why Actisense Tech mentions daisy chaining.
    /afb

  17. Andy Campbell says:

    Hi Adam,
    Great article covering a potentially complicated subject very well.
    If I can speak on behalf of Vlad, our “Actisense Tech” engineer, he is making the assumption that the RS11’s analogue circuitry does not use a high-impedance op-amp to help separate the single-wire gauge connection from the NMEA 2000 ground (reference). This is a good assumption as it is normal to us a professional differential two-wire connection when an op-amp input is used.
    If the input is not high-impedance, then it is purely the resistance of the gauge (which will be fairly low), the input impedance (fairly low) and the cable resistance to the RS11 that is separating the ground of the gauge from the NMEA 2000 ground.
    The lack of isolation between the NMEA 2000 power connection and the analogue inputs will prevent the RS11 from ever being NMEA 2000 certified.
    You are also correct that any ground difference between the NMEA 2000 ground and the ground of the gauge/engine, will result in erroneous values being sent to the NMEA 2000 bus. I would suggest that a ground potential difference is more than possible, especially as your NMEA 2000 network grows and you add more power thirsty devices.
    Vlad included the ‘daisy-chaining’ comment in this thread by mistake – it was intended for the “N2K network plan feedback 34′ sail boat” thread instead. Sorry for the confusion.

  18. Patrick says:

    “If I can speak on behalf of Vlad, our “Actisense Tech” engineer, he is making the assumption that the RS11’s analogue circuitry does not use a high-impedance op-amp to help separate the single-wire gauge connection from the NMEA 2000 ground (reference). This is a good assumption as it is normal to us a professional differential two-wire connection when an op-amp input is used.”
    The analog inputs are high impedance. Better to read the documentation than to assume.
    Yes, things would be a bit more accurate if there was a reference ground input for all analog inputs, and even moreso if there were 1 for each input. However in practice this may not matter. My bus is powered from under my instrument cluster, so it’ll be fairly easy to verify the accuracy.
    “The lack of isolation between the NMEA 2000 power connection and the analogue inputs will prevent the RS11 from ever being NMEA 2000 certified.”
    Tying an external power or ground to the bus would cause an issue with compliance. This setup should be compliant, at least in what we’re currently discussing.

  19. Andy Campbell says:

    Thank you Patrick, I stand corrected on the input circuitry details. However, these inputs still fail to provide the required isolation that the NMEA 2000 specification requires.
    The issue of ground potential difference is an important point when it’s being included in the measurement circuit, especially as the NMEA 2000 network grows and more current is being taken from the NMEA 2000 power entry point. In a simple installation example I witnessed a ground difference of more than 2 volts between the NMEA 2000 ground and the ground of an NMEA 0183 device we were connecting to our gateway – which I would say is not exceptional case at all. As everything was isolated and a two-wire differential input was used, this ground difference was nullified and no issue resulted. How much difference to the reading would a 2 volt difference make?
    The NMEA have stated that the term “NMEA 2000 compliant” is not valid and should not be used by any manufacturer. A product is either NMEA 2000 certified or it is not, there is no third option.
    The NMEA understands that any device that reduces the isolation of the NMEA 2000 bus always has the potential of becoming a problem for the whole bus, and they are trying prevent this in an attempt to keep NMEA 2000 easy for the end-user. They’re trying to learn from the much lower level of enforcing that they were able to do with NMEA 0183, which can become a real mess isolation wise very quickly.

  20. timbo says:

    Hi Kees.
    What flow meters are you using? I want to take flow data from a Nanni diesel into my NMEA 2000 bus, but the engine has no digital output capability.
    Thanks?

  21. crmascarenhas says:

    Hello everyone,
    Here’s something you might want to check out:
    NMEA 2000® Universal Engine Gateway/ Monitor by [URL=”http://www.v3instruments.com”]Veethree Instruments[/URL].
    Quick Facts and Features:
    – Converts Analogue signals and J1939 to NMEA 2000
    – Display include Engine, Fuel, Trim, NAV, Alarms, Rudder Angle, Depth etc.
    – Compatible with all engine types with or without an ECU
    – Intuitive “on screen” user and set-up menus
    [ATTACH=CONFIG]12758[/ATTACH]
    As an analogue to NMEA2000 “gateway” the Engine Gateway Monitor (EGM) replaces the need for expensive dedicated converter modules and provides the user the advantage of a full colour interactive engine monitor screen that can be used in place of or alongside traditional gauges.
    Click on the link for more information – http://bit.ly/X9xNWN
    Please let me know what you guys think.
    Have a great day!

  22. Mikkel Mandrup says:

    That looks very interesting, have been looking at the actisense emu1 box, but with this solution I also get a display 🙂
    But haven’t been able to find any details or price information yet,,,

  23. Hendrik says:

    Couldn’t find more than some PDF’s until now.
    We need more info first.
    Maybe you can contact the company and give us some more info.

  24. jviss says:

    I think it’s a bit amusing that there’s so much criticism of the Noland device, without taking into consideration that it is nearly half the price of the alternatives. I have been waiting for a device like this, at around this pice point. But, I’m in that funny place, with a sailboat with a diesel, and not everything available for it all caught up on NMEA2k and what people really want and need on these boats. For example, I can’t find an image of what the B&G Triton display looks like when displaying engine data. However, I may try one of these anyway. Does anyone have any recent experience with one?
    Thanks,
    jv

  25. Bill Lentz says:

    I am taking on a new project I am upgrading and modernizing a Gulfstar 36 Mark II trawler. The boat is equipped with 2 Perkins 4-236 diesels. I would love to convert engine monitoring (analog) to NMEA2000. Is there anything new since this article for converting older analog diesels engine sensors or their analog display to NMEA2000?
    I will be installing an extensive Garmin network with Garmin plotters on the vessel. I would like to get pointed in the right direction to be able to monitor both engines and the generator over my NMEA2000 network.
    Thanks
    Bill
    MV; Wireless One
    40 Mainship Sedan Bridge
    Soon to be on the market

  26. Bill, there’s lot of activity in analog-to-N2K engine translators. Check out my experience with Actisense EMU-1 here:
    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2013/10/actisense_emu-1_analog_engine_gauges_to_nmea_2000_happiness.html
    But note in the entry that the Noland is improved and NMEA 2000 certified. Note too that Alba has a very interesting device with Ethernet built in so no separate gateway is needed. And there’s a fourth one I’m trying to get more information on.

  27. Kenemon says:

    Great writup. I am installing one on an old a4, and i find the instructions alittle vague about the tach. Hooking up the rpm+ to the coil. I have seen many diagrams where tachs hook up to the negative terminal on the coil, but my gut tells me the + side of the coil where the lead comes off the alternator. Can anyone explain this to me and tell me if i am doing this right?
    Thanks in advance

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