Boat (and RV) Electronics

Posted By: Al

Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/04/19 01:40 AM

The LED thread reminded me to bring everyone up to date on my adventures. For the last two years, I have been doing a lot of work in RV electronics - which has a strong parallel to boating electronics, and you might find some of my projects useful.

I started it off with designing a battery monitor. Actually I had this project in mind when I had a boat, but didn't get around to it until a couple of years ago. The monitor provides a direct LED readout of not only the battery capacity, but also if the charger is in Trickle, Normal, or Bulk mode. Typically you have to use a voltmeter to do this and remember what the speciffic voltages are for each state. But I simply used a set of LEDs to show the state.

I have also been working on "home automation" for my RV - again, this can be done with boats. I have wirelessly remote controlled my awning, LED lighting for the bedroom and living room, remote controlled a backup camera, exhaust fans, and other devices. Of course, many of these projects can easily be adapted to boats (remote control of the windlass, spotlight, and so on). The index for these projects is here:

I also designed and built a cool water alarm that has multiple zones. You can build several sensors and put them in the bilge in various areas, and they are all controlled by a central unit:

I have also done a lot of research on LEDs, and designed a dimmer (I call it a "SuperDimmer"). In fact, one RV company wanted me to make 300 a year for them, but as I am retired, I have no interest in starting a company to build them. Again, the LED dimmer can be used in a boat as well:

I also have done some research into DC surge suppression - or more accurately - how to prevent damaging voltage transients on your DC bus. We all know the need for AC circuit suppression, but DC suppression is required as well, and it is damaging equipment if you don't have any protection:

All of these projects can be built by the boat or RV owner. I provide a parts list, instructions, and source to have a custom circuit board made. I make no money on these items - they are free to download and build as long as it is not a commercial entity.

I have yet to buy a boat, mostly because I have no room to store it at my house, and no way to haul it behind my RV. But my brother bought a boat last year, so I am boating with him by proxy.

Anyway, I have been fairly busy since retirement. My Dr told me to keep my mind young, and I will keep my body young. So what better way than designing and building stuff?

One of the projects on the docket for this year is designing a tank monitor. I plan on networking all of the monitor units at the tank to a central display unit using CanBus. Canbus if you don't know is a Controller Area Network, and NMEA2000 is based on it.
Posted By: WayWeGo

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/04/19 10:17 PM

Al, your site is quite entertaining to read!

I have been playing with home automation using a Raspberry Pi Nano to control X-10 modules that I have had in use for about 25 years. I almost gave up on this old technology but had too much of it hardwired into our house, so I gave it one last try and have been happy with the results.

I know you like designing your own solutions, but have you looked at Noland Engineering's RS11 CanBus interface? A couple of years ago, I bought a RS11 to install on our boat to replace the flybridge helm gauges that have become somewhat inaccurate over time. Back when I first looked into digital instrumentation through NMEA, there was not much info available, but now it looks there is quite a bit. Are you going to use an Arduino and CAN shields or design your own shields?
Posted By: Jack T

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/05/19 06:04 PM

I sure wish I knew what you guys are discussing. ????
Posted By: WayWeGo

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/05/19 06:05 PM

Techno-babble... rofl
Posted By: Al

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/06/19 12:29 AM

For the sensors, I figured I would incorporate the CANBus ICs into a small circuit board with an ATTiny85 rather than shields. Honestly, the Arduino Uno footprint is pretty hard to stuff into small enclosures.

Something like these guys:

[Linked Image]

The display unit will likely incorporate an Arduino Mega 2560 due to the amount of memory needed for a color LCD display. A Chinese clone RobotDyn makes a small footprint Mega that I am using for a project I am just about finished with.

Since I am sending proprietary data through CANBus, I don't need to worry so much about the packet formatting and such.

Another option is to use ESP32 boards and go wireless.

I get my circuit boards made by a company called OSH park. They charge $5 per sq in for three boards (3 for $5 per sq). Not as cheap as some of the made-in-China mfgs. but they have a quick turnaround.
Posted By: Al

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/06/19 12:38 AM

This one is for Frantically Relaxing. I had a new control panel built for my RV:


[Linked Image]


[Linked Image]

Yea I know... no rack handles (yet).
Posted By: GoFirstClass

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/07/19 01:53 AM

I was kinda wondering where the rack handles were going to be put on new layout.
Posted By: Silverbullet

Re: Boat (and RV) Electronics - 02/24/19 06:59 AM

Originally Posted by GoFirstClass
I was kinda wondering where the rack handles were going to be put on new layout.

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