Keeping Up With PRACTICAL Aplications Tech

Ever wonder just what Steve Unruh reads to keep applied DIY energy current?

Boat electrical repair manuals.
Think about it, and these have the most relevant experiences to home DIY powering.
Live-on boats have to have lighting, cooking and food storage, sewage systems, water purifying/storage/delivery, space heating, cloths washing, etc.
Motor homes do not do many of these. Rely on easy sewage store&dumps. Do not purify water - just stop and top up. Fuel? Top up also on the next road stop. Complain about the price. Cloths washing? Use the night-stop laundromat.
Problems? Just drive to the nearest service center. Complain about the price.
Consequently factory installed energy systems are built-down to a price and shallow on capacity.
Aircraft energy systems even more dependent on with-in hours dump-outs, replenishes. Lots of specialist out-of-use maintenance.
Glorified trasit buses that fly. Of course flying system do have to be robust, isolate-able, or as much-as-possible user repairable because you just cannot call a service/tow back truck.
Even home energy systems based on over-the road truck and trailer refrigerator units do not have to meet the same standards as live-on boats.
Can’t jump start a boat. Can’t pull start them. Stand beside, and hot swap out batteries.

There has been three updated series of boat electric systems/service manuals available:
“The 12 Volt Boatowner’s Guide.”
“Boat Electrical Systems”
And the very best of the lot Nigel Calders
“Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual”
four updated versions, 1989, 1996, 2005 and 2015
I’ve read and studied these since ~1990.
Excellent. Mr Nigel is a UK man so his boating experiences world wide he writes in both American and EU/metric. He can mix on the same boat 50 and 60 hertz usages. 12VDC and 24VDC systems. With low and high AC voltages. With lot and lots of expensive sensitive electronics system on board all modern boats anymore.
Ha! Just what we all use today in-home.
First chapter of this new version is “Establishing a Balanced Battery-Powered Electrical System” 61 pages of pure use-learned Gold there. Ha! Ha! Stories. A boat owner started experiencing “house bank” battery systems going slowly discharged flat. New batteries. Still a problem. One, by one then added 5?6? more battery’s.
Problem? Mainly an old, freon leaked off, inefficient power-gobbling refrigerator being used a lot more. Mr Calder very experienced did not stop with just refrigerator replacing, though. What is the engine driven recharging capability versus actual engine run time? Installed a larger alternator. Installed a second alternator. Got all of the batteries relocated into one space for keep and eye on cable/terminal/electrolyte maintenance. BALANCING the system!
He explains in detail BALANCING the recharge, versus storage, versus electrical consumers optimizing.
Chapter 1 he goes over in detail the newest practical-usable lead-acid storage batteries available. Pro’s. Con’s. Of each type.
That is the newest woo-wooTech blindside. Old tech does not stand still, but keep evolvoling to better and better too. Make a higher and higher hurdle for the new-boy wonder tech to have to immediately come up to.
W-h-a-t? You may ask. O.K.
A flat head IC engine really was only in the 20’s percent efficient. Go overhead valve and able to break up into 30% efficiency. Ive it EFI on the fuel side; active, variability on the igntion/FI side. and gain some more then up into the high 30% efficiency.
Now add variable valve lift and timing and gain up into the 40% efficiency range. These are production use engines.
The same with production use automotive alternators. 1960’s 40% efficient. 1980’s 50% efficient. 1990’s and on dual internal fan units are 60-70% efficient.

His chapter 2 is
“Efficient and Cost-Effective Electrical Systems for Energy Intensive Boats”
This is where he goes into detail about actual in-use Lithium Ion battery banks. Page 74, after listing their advantages, “However they have a greater potential to self-destruct than lead-acid batteries,including catching fire.” He shows pictures of the Boeing battery-bank fires having used using a lighter more energy dense Lithium-Ion chemistry… Then says marine has settled on a slightly heavier bulkier lithium-ion-phospahate (LiFePO4) as more “intrinsically safe” and then shows a boat melt down with that. Four pages with pictures on that. I will not re-write his book here.
By the way he now prefers and personally uses carbon enhanced AbsorbedGlassMat (AGM w/TPPL) batteries. Highly recommends these if you can get, and afford them.
Every chapter this guy is big on getting the very best use out of every source of input energy: engine, stand-alone generator, PV solar, Micro-wind, dragged prop, expensive-to-pay-for Shore Power (grid)

Lots of pictures, charts and use-proofed graphs throughout.
Ever want to know just how many grams in one US gallon of fuel?
Page 65 sidebar Power and Energy Conversion Formulas
1 U.S. gallon = 3.785 liters = 3,180 grams of “Standard” weight diesel
All engine manufacturers who publish are now showing their fuel consumption graphs in grams use per horsepower(or Kw) per hour.

This book from the library system is Dewey 623.85 IBSN 978-0-07-179033-8
New from the publisher $60. USD
Amazon and other sold for ~43. USD

So put down the Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Popular Electronic, auto enthusiasts mags, alt-energy enthusiasts rags and get some real meat in your reading.
The guys writing/publishing these three series of books are not selling advertisers systems.
Not selling soft-bubble, trust-me, woo-woo solutions soaps.
But been down and dirty to the bottom with bilge slime experiences.
These three book writers not selling belief system.
Or selling themselves as your-one-stop solve-all-your-problems guru.

Ha! Anybody able to Fantasy-team build can read and understand these books.
Maths are just addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

J-I-C Steve Unruh


You truly are the man with all the answers ! I hope you realize how much you are appreciated around here.


Thanks all for the patience trying to read my now hen scratching.
Finally hit a good time to get back and edit correct the above.

The full front page cover title to Nigel Calders book is;
“How to Maintain, Repair, and Improve Your Boat’s Essentials Systems”
“THE Guide to Fixing Everything on Your Boat”

You always want the most currnet revised edition!! Now it is Fourth Edition published in 2015.
Just this morning I was reading Chapter 7 AC Generators,DC Generators, Electric Motors (AC and DC), and Electric Lights
Inhis pages on LED lighting he explains the generational changes in LED lights from 2003 to 2015. Info NOT in the 2005 book edition. He expalins why even 2800K color scale LED’s can have a “flat” illumination. For marine charts LED illumination with lots of red on them you need to use RGB white-light LED types using Linear regulators as having the most robust acretecture and least emitted RFI. Bit more watts usage for the least problems.

As the cover says this manual is meant to be user, used off-shore with hand tools.
Each chapter begins with systems why’s and wherefore explains. Then a story or two of been-there, seen-that, Opp’s. Then right into pictures step by step testing and repairs.

Ha! What Steve Unruh reads to find sence in a gone, chitter-chatter, woo-woo, world.


I purchased my first LED bulb this spring when I went off grid for the summer. It was a cheap 60 watt equivalent from Walmart. I put it in an aluminum reflector from the chicken coop. I ran it off an inverter on a car battery along with a car stereo. I got much radio interference when I turned on that light bulb. I have since been spending a little more and buying 100 watt GE brand. I have not tried the stereo with them to check for the radio interference but they are brighter than the Walmart GV brand 100 watt bulbs in a side by side test. 1600 lumens compared to 1500 according the labels. Pandora on my cellphone is a much more energy efficient solution to music anywhere and is not effected by led’s. I will have to check our library for the manual.


The cheaper ones are usually rated for less lumens and usually aren’t dimmable. The first led I got was a 75w philips (the biggest they made) for 30 dollars about 10 years ago. It is still going. The last one was a Meijers brand 100w one I bought was 4 dollars on sale.

You might actually want the 65w floodlights which around here are because of the utility rebate are like 3 for 5 bucks for the meijer brand.