ONAN replacement or not?


Alexander Ramseyer
 

Dear Amelians,
my MDKAW is on ca 8000 hrs and I'm thinking about a replacement before sailing to the Pacific. The new 9 kW model (Marine QD space safer) MDKDL was offered to me for USD 12'195 - no discount. So here are my 2 questions:

1. Does anyone know a source that sells ONAN at a discounted price? If necessary please use private e-mail (alexramseyer@...)

2. I understand that the diesel part of the generator should be good to be used up to 12000 hrs if maintained well. The electricity generating part however seems to be pretty much end of life at around 8000hrs. Does anyone have experience with renewing the electrical part? Does it makes sense to do that considering part and labor cost, assuming the revised gen-set will run at least another 4000h?
Thanks for sharing your experience,
Alex
s/v NO STRESS
currently in Carriacou


Ken Powers SV Aquarius
 

You asked for opinions.....

With new solar, and lithium batteries the future of gensets has almost come to an end.  You can put 2KW of solar on deck with 900AH of LiFePO4 batteries (at 24V).  This would life better than getting a new GenSet.

Keep the genset though, you might use it about 50 hours per year, max, with the set up above.   And you might even get another 10 years of life out of that Onan.  Onan's are very good gensets!

Ken
Aquarius
SM2K#262


Germain Jean-Pierre
 

FWIW, I would proceed exactly as suggested on Aquarius 

A top tier lithium setup should not cost you as much as a new genset 

Good luck

Jean-Pierre Germain, Eleuthera, SM007, NZ



On 1/12/2020, at 9:00 AM, Ken Powers SV Aquarius <ken@...> wrote:

You asked for opinions.....

With new solar, and lithium batteries the future of gensets has almost come to an end.  You can put 2KW of solar on deck with 900AH of LiFePO4 batteries (at 24V).  This would life better than getting a new GenSet.

Keep the genset though, you might use it about 50 hours per year, max, with the set up above.   And you might even get another 10 years of life out of that Onan.  Onan's are very good gensets!

Ken
Aquarius
SM2K#262


Mike Ondra
 

And maybe without the genset the mast would be vertical!   ; )

Which brings up the question of the weight of a full bank of lithium batteries?

Mike

ALETES SM#240 Rock Hall, MD

 

From: main@AmelYachtOwners.groups.io <main@AmelYachtOwners.groups.io> On Behalf Of Germain Jean-Pierre
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2020 3:34 PM
To: main@amelyachtowners.groups.io
Subject: Re: [AmelYachtOwners] ONAN replacement or not?

 

FWIW, I would proceed exactly as suggested on Aquarius 

 

A top tier lithium setup should not cost you as much as a new genset 

 

Good luck

 

Jean-Pierre Germain, Eleuthera, SM007, NZ

 



On 1/12/2020, at 9:00 AM, Ken Powers SV Aquarius <ken@...> wrote:

You asked for opinions.....

With new solar, and lithium batteries the future of gensets has almost come to an end.  You can put 2KW of solar on deck with 900AH of LiFePO4 batteries (at 24V).  This would life better than getting a new GenSet.

Keep the genset though, you might use it about 50 hours per year, max, with the set up above.   And you might even get another 10 years of life out of that Onan.  Onan's are very good gensets!

Ken
Aquarius
SM2K#262


Arno Luijten
 

You can also consider buying a smaller genset. We have the 11kVA Onan and my biggest problem running it is creating enough load for the beast to keep it happy. If your interest is just to charge the battteries and run the watermaker a 4kVA should be sufficient. That saves money as well.
Overhauling the alternator alone does not make much sense. The engine @ 8000 hrs is likely to become a cost liability as well, even if the expected lifespan is 12k hrs. Don’t forget the age of the system also causes risks, not just the running hours. Things like exahaust elbow, heat exchanger, seal-rings, etc. age not just by running hours.
My guess is that a full overhaul is not economical viable unless you have access to cheap parts and labour.

Regards,

Arno Luijten
SV Luna 


Karen Smith
 

This year we decided to bite the bullet and replace our Onan.  Not because of intrinsic reliability issues, but because of a lack of spare parts availability from Onan.  We had several major routine maintenance issues coming up, and it was clear that parts just were not going to be available.

We looked at deck mounted, "walk-on" solar panels, but at a cost of about $10 a watt (!) the cost was very unattractive for a solution that still wasn't sufficient to meet all our needs.

You can find a detailed description of our logic and design process here:

https://fetchinketch.net/boat-projects/power-to-the-people/

The short form answer:  We analyzed how we use our boat, and our electrical needs, and came up with what has seems to be a very good solution for us.  A DC generator from Whisper-Power.  It is smaller, lighter, and much more efficient than the Onan (Light enough that the permanent list to port is GONE!).  It is the last piece of a long, steady modernization of our boat's electrical system.

With the addition of this generator, and a Victron Cerbo GX monitoring system, we finally see our systems set for comfortable, simple, extended off dock cruising for the foreseeable future.

Maybe the next time we need batteries (in 8 to 10 years), we will jump to a Li system, but for now we are staying with our Firefly Batteries that seem to give us 90% of the benefit for 50% of the cost.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.


Mike Ondra
 

Hi Bill,
Why does the Victron design with shore power feeding directly to the charger component need isolation while the previous scheme, also feeding only the charger, does not? It seems at least schematically that the isolation issue is the same in both configurations.
Mike Ondra
ALETES SM240



On Nov 30, 2020, at 10:59 PM, Karen Smith via groups.io <karenharmonie@...> wrote:

This year we decided to bite the bullet and replace our Onan.  Not because of intrinsic reliability issues, but because of a lack of spare parts availability from Onan.  We had several major routine maintenance issues coming up, and it was clear that parts just were not going to be available.

We looked at deck mounted, "walk-on" solar panels, but at a cost of about $10 a watt (!) the cost was very unattractive for a solution that still wasn't sufficient to meet all our needs.

You can find a detailed description of our logic and design process here:

https://fetchinketch.net/boat-projects/power-to-the-people/

The short form answer:  We analyzed how we use our boat, and our electrical needs, and came up with what has seems to be a very good solution for us.  A DC generator from Whisper-Power.  It is smaller, lighter, and much more efficient than the Onan (Light enough that the permanent list to port is GONE!).  It is the last piece of a long, steady modernization of our boat's electrical system.

With the addition of this generator, and a Victron Cerbo GX monitoring system, we finally see our systems set for comfortable, simple, extended off dock cruising for the foreseeable future.

Maybe the next time we need batteries (in 8 to 10 years), we will jump to a Li system, but for now we are staying with our Firefly Batteries that seem to give us 90% of the benefit for 50% of the cost.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.


Alexander Ramseyer
 

Bill,

I’m in the process to order Firefly batteries right now. Are you still as excited as you were when you bought them? Also, I read from Scott that they re-wired their A/C, so that they can use it from their lithium battery bank. Given your experience, do you think that is also doable with 10 Firefly units (which I currently plan to buy but I could go up to 12)?

I went on the whisper power website and asked for a quote for the same unit (+ the part to support 24V board systems) to get an idea of the savings potential. My most critical part is the Bauer Junior dive compressor and I will have to find out how much starting/running power that system needs before I take decisions.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge,

Alex

 


Karen Smith
 

Alex,

Yes, I am still a fan of Firefly batteries, but a caveat or two is worth mentioning.  Like any relationship, there has been a bump or two in the road.

Twice we have had a battery develop an internal short.  The first time we discovered it quickly, and it was immediately replaced by Firefly.  The second time, our monitoring system wasn't good enough to catch the issue, and we developed a chronic imbalance where half the bank was overcharged, and the rest undercharged.  By the time the issue was apparent, permanent damage was done to all the batteries.  Firefly stepped up an replaced the whole bank within the terms of the warrantee--keeping us happy.

We learned. It is quite likely that if we had seen the issue early on a minor change in charging procedure might have alleviated the issue, but we'll never know for sure. We have since significantly upgraded our electrical system monitoring system, and a minor imbalance is not going to sneak up on us again.

As for running A/C from the batteries, sure it's possible.  One of our A/C units draws about 850 watts when running. That's about 4 times our normal house load.  That is easily supplied by our 8 battery bank and 3kW inverter. In the absence of any solar power, we'd need to run the generator twice a day for 3 hours instead of once a day for 90 minutes.    It is important to remember that it doesn't matter what kind of batteries you have or the size of the bank.  Batteries do not make power they just store it.  A bigger bank means you can reduce the number of times you start the generator, but your total run time will be about the same.

All that said, in 5 years of full time cruising we have run the A/C units while away from shore power exactly once, so it was not a priority in our design decisions.  If your plan is to run A/C units regularly off the grid, a larger system than we have might be needed.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA


Matt Salatino
 

Firefly had a production issue a couple of years ago, when moving production from the US to India. They lost the recipe in India. It took a while, testing every battery extensively before shipping, for a while. Certainly, during that time, they shipped some defective batteries. I believe they worked out the issues a year or more ago. When did you get your batteries?

~~~⛵️~~~Matt Salatino, s/v Speed of Life, A50#27

On Dec 1, 2020, at 7:09 PM, Karen Smith via groups.io <karenharmonie@...> wrote:

Alex,

Yes, I am still a fan of Firefly batteries, but a caveat or two is worth mentioning.  Like any relationship, there has been a bump or two in the road.

Twice we have had a battery develop an internal short.  The first time we discovered it quickly, and it was immediately replaced by Firefly.  The second time, our monitoring system wasn't good enough to catch the issue, and we developed a chronic imbalance where half the bank was overcharged, and the rest undercharged.  By the time the issue was apparent, permanent damage was done to all the batteries.  Firefly stepped up an replaced the whole bank within the terms of the warrantee--keeping us happy.

We learned. It is quite likely that if we had seen the issue early on a minor change in charging procedure might have alleviated the issue, but we'll never know for sure. We have since significantly upgraded our electrical system monitoring system, and a minor imbalance is not going to sneak up on us again.

As for running A/C from the batteries, sure it's possible.  One of our A/C units draws about 850 watts when running. That's about 4 times our normal house load.  That is easily supplied by our 8 battery bank and 3kW inverter. In the absence of any solar power, we'd need to run the generator twice a day for 3 hours instead of once a day for 90 minutes.    It is important to remember that it doesn't matter what kind of batteries you have or the size of the bank.  Batteries do not make power they just store it.  A bigger bank means you can reduce the number of times you start the generator, but your total run time will be about the same.

All that said, in 5 years of full time cruising we have run the A/C units while away from shore power exactly once, so it was not a priority in our design decisions.  If your plan is to run A/C units regularly off the grid, a larger system than we have might be needed.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA


Dean Gillies
 

I hear and read about so many cruisers with defective Firefly batteries. Its also clear that the manufacturer has usually replaced them under warranty after sending the customer through some testing hoops.

I have also heard the stories about previous production problems that are now 'fixed'. What evidence is there of this fix? Is there anyone on this forum that can report an incident-free experience with Firefly batteries for say two years or more? If not then I'd have to suggest that the jury is still out on reliability of Firefly batteries. 

it's good that the company has been honouring the warranty, but personally I'd prefer not to interrupt my cruising season trying to manage the logistics of getting specialist batteries replaced. 

I'm still considering my battery replacement technology.

Cheers, Dean
SV Stella A54-154

 


michael winand
 

I have a set of 8 on a sm2000. 
No issues so far  just on 2 years.  Around 300 cycles, average discharge is 135 amps. Deepest 325amps.
I have battery balance via victron. Sometimes I will see the balancer kicking on,   its only doing it's thing for a few minutes. 
Charging  via a victron quattro 120amp charger. Solar 1kw. Engine 150amp Alternator. 
Have left them disconnected for 3months. And connected with no charge for 2 months.  
They were all in a excellent state of charge when put back into service. 
Just to remind everyone lithium have a few things that are not ideal. Cold service is one. 
Michael Nebo sm251 


On Wed, 2 Dec 2020 at 5:17 pm, Dean Gillies
<stella@...> wrote:

I hear and read about so many cruisers with defective Firefly batteries. Its also clear that the manufacturer has usually replaced them under warranty after sending the customer through some testing hoops.

I have also heard the stories about previous production problems that are now 'fixed'. What evidence is there of this fix? Is there anyone on this forum that can report an incident-free experience with Firefly batteries for say two years or more? If not then I'd have to suggest that the jury is still out on reliability of Firefly batteries. 

it's good that the company has been honouring the warranty, but personally I'd prefer not to interrupt my cruising season trying to manage the logistics of getting specialist batteries replaced. 

I'm still considering my battery replacement technology.

Cheers, Dean
SV Stella A54-154

 


Dean Gillies
 

Thank you Michael, that's good to hear.
Regards, Dean
SV Stella A54-154


Matt Salatino
 

Yes.
I installed Firefly Batteries in 2017. Still doing fine. The boat was sold, but I’m in touch with the new owner.

~~~⛵️~~~Matt Salatino, S/Y Speed of Life, A50 #27

On Dec 2, 2020, at 2:17 AM, Dean Gillies <stella@...> wrote:

I hear and read about so many cruisers with defective Firefly batteries. Its also clear that the manufacturer has usually replaced them under warranty after sending the customer through some testing hoops.

I have also heard the stories about previous production problems that are now 'fixed'. What evidence is there of this fix? Is there anyone on this forum that can report an incident-free experience with Firefly batteries for say two years or more? If not then I'd have to suggest that the jury is still out on reliability of Firefly batteries. 

it's good that the company has been honouring the warranty, but personally I'd prefer not to interrupt my cruising season trying to manage the logistics of getting specialist batteries replaced. 

I'm still considering my battery replacement technology.

Cheers, Dean
SV Stella A54-154

 


Alexander Ramseyer
 

Bill,

thanks for the information. Currently I still have the OEM Xantrex device that came with my 2005 AMEL54 to monitor the battery bank. Did you install a new one that goes down to each battery separately? What's your recommendation in that regard?

Best, Alex


Karen Smith
 

Alex,

Our electrical monitoring equipment now is a Cerbo GX system from Victron.  Pretty sophisticated, and the amount of data that it keeps track of can keep a data nerd like me entertained endlessly.  

We of course know the usual stuff, battery voltage, power draw, State of Charge.  But also our the AC power usage from either shore power or inverter.  Battery charge and discharge current.  Solar production. Battery temperature. All the status data from our Victron MultiPlus and solar controller are available.  It controls the MultiPlus functions. It is connected to our NMEA 2000 network so it knows where our boat is, and the data it collects is available on our MFD.  When an online connection is available, all data collected is uploaded to Victron’s servers, so is available online even if we are off the boat. You can even control it from “the cloud.” You can request it to send you an email if there is an alarm. It can start the generator automatically based on state of charge, voltage, or current draw, and then shut it down when no longer needed.  All the data and status information is presented in a clear unified context.

We have been really happy with the Victron “eco-system” of products.  They have all performed flawlessly, and it seems every software update bring some cool new feature. I am pretty sure if they had offered a generator, we’d have installed that.  It does play well with our WhisperPower unit, however.  

One of the key parameters for us is to watch the difference between the “high” and “low” halves of the battery bank.  If they drift apart from being identical (half the nominal 24V total) that is an alert to a problem.

One of the keys to keeping a Firefly bank happy is to follow their current user manual very closely.  You have to occasionally do a deep discharge (all the way down to 21 Volts) then charge to full at 0.2 to 0.5C.  For our 464 A-hr bank, that is between 93 to 232 Amps. My understanding is that this is the Firefly equivalent to the equalization charge used for an FLA battery. We have done one of these full cycles since we installed the new system, and we got a little bit more than name plate capacity out of the batteries.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA


 

Bill,

I am a big fan of Victron and I am really impressed with the Cerbo GX. Here is a short Victron video which explains the enormous capabilities of the Cerbo GX: 
CW Bill Rouse Amel Owners Yacht School
Address: 720 Winnie, Galveston Island, Texas 77550 
View My Training Calendar


On Wed, Dec 2, 2020 at 10:52 AM Karen Smith via groups.io <karenharmonie=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
Alex,

Our electrical monitoring equipment now is a Cerbo GX system from Victron.  Pretty sophisticated, and the amount of data that it keeps track of can keep a data nerd like me entertained endlessly.  

We of course know the usual stuff, battery voltage, power draw, State of Charge.  But also our the AC power usage from either shore power or inverter.  Battery charge and discharge current.  Solar production. Battery temperature. All the status data from our Victron MultiPlus and solar controller are available.  It controls the MultiPlus functions. It is connected to our NMEA 2000 network so it knows where our boat is, and the data it collects is available on our MFD.  When an online connection is available, all data collected is uploaded to Victron’s servers, so is available online even if we are off the boat. You can even control it from “the cloud.” You can request it to send you an email if there is an alarm. It can start the generator automatically based on state of charge, voltage, or current draw, and then shut it down when no longer needed.  All the data and status information is presented in a clear unified context.

We have been really happy with the Victron “eco-system” of products.  They have all performed flawlessly, and it seems every software update bring some cool new feature. I am pretty sure if they had offered a generator, we’d have installed that.  It does play well with our WhisperPower unit, however.  

One of the key parameters for us is to watch the difference between the “high” and “low” halves of the battery bank.  If they drift apart from being identical (half the nominal 24V total) that is an alert to a problem.

One of the keys to keeping a Firefly bank happy is to follow their current user manual very closely.  You have to occasionally do a deep discharge (all the way down to 21 Volts) then charge to full at 0.2 to 0.5C.  For our 464 A-hr bank, that is between 93 to 232 Amps. My understanding is that this is the Firefly equivalent to the equalization charge used for an FLA battery. We have done one of these full cycles since we installed the new system, and we got a little bit more than name plate capacity out of the batteries.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA


Dean Gillies
 

Thanks Matt, much appreciated. 

Did you install Firefly batteries in your new A50 or did you make the leap to Lithium?

Cheers, Dean
SV Stella A54-154


Alan Leslie
 

Thanks Bill,

Very interesting...You said "One of the key parameters for us is to watch the difference between the high and low halves of the battery bank.  If they drift apart from being identical (half the nominal 24V total) that is an alert to a problem."

Do you  not have a balancer across the 12V battery pairs to keep the voltages the same?

We have 3 parallel strings of 4 x 6V AGMs in series with balancers across the 4 and the voltages on each battery stay the same within 0.02V and have done now for 4 years.

Cheers
Alan
Elyse SM437


Matt Salatino
 

I tried to get Amel to install them. They would not, as they had no familiarity with them.

~~~⛵️~~~Matt

On Dec 2, 2020, at 3:06 PM, Dean Gillies <stella@...> wrote:

Thanks Matt, much appreciated. 

Did you install Firefly batteries in your new A50 or did you make the leap to Lithium?

Cheers, Dean
SV Stella A54-154