Posted on 2 Comments

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) Battery Upgrade To Dazzler

There I was all alone in the grey hues of the early morn, when the lord called my name. It was exactly like the sound of a water kettle whistling. I answered, “Yes, Lord?” and suddenly the coffee was done.

First of all, I must give credit and thanks to my good friend Dan Berkey, SV Karvi. His level of electrical theory and understanding has been a huge influence in my decision to upgrade to this new technology. His knowledge, support and assistance is greatly appreciated.

The discussion of changing existing conventional lead acid batteries to LiFePo4 type batteries began in late 2015. During the early months it seemed like more talk than an actual reality. Part of that is to due to the mystique and my lack of knowledge about LiFePo4 battery systems.

I was still in Puerto Vallarta with plans to return to San Diego, CA for some maintenance and system upgrades including a battery system change over. Honestly, the more I read and researched the LiFePo4 possibility, the more excited I became over some of the great physical capabilities of this technology.

After arriving in Southern California, I began researching everything I could about how to install these new batteries on Dazzler. I learned much from my research and information from Dan. Over voltage and under voltage protection was a must. Elite Power Solutions did sell an Energy Management System (EMS), cell sense boards and a video monitor for visualizing what the system is doing in real time. It had become clear that other equipment not offered by Elite Power Solutions had to be acquired prior to doing the installation.

Before making my installation, I decided to draw a schematic of my installation to make Battery Layoutsure I didn’t forget anything and to help in estimating lengths of wire, cable and parts needed for completion. Luckily, I have been upgrading many charging systems over the last few years. Those upgrades included a Victron MultiPlus 3000 inverter charger, Victron MPPT solar controller and a new Balmar MC 614 voltage regulator. All of this equipment has great flexibility to be configured for a wide range of battery types including LiFePo4 batteries.

We discovered several different sources of LiFePo4 battery distributors in the US. Due to open communications with Elite Power Solutions located in Arizona, we discovered that grouping a purchase of LiFePo4 batteries and related equipment could save us some $$ off the overall investment. We gathered a few friends together and discussed the benefits and potential problems with LiFePo4 batteries and we all decided to group together and increase our purchasing power with Elite Power Solutions. We decided to place the order in late September 2016. The order was freight shipped on a pallet to San Diego.

Equipment Obtained For Dazzler:

  • 4 each LiFePo4 100 amp hour battery packs
  • 4 each sense board strings that attach to each of the 4 cells in each pack
  • 1 each EMS CPU
  • 1 each shunt
  • 1 each video monitor
  • 30 feet of red and yellow 2/0 battery cable
  • 14 and 16 gauge wiring for miscellaneous connections
  • Lots of 2/0 battery lugs
  • 2 each Gigavolt GV200MA solenoids
  • 2 each Bosch style relays
  • A heavy duty positive Bus Bar

So this was my simple sketch of my instillation on Dazzler. I did not install the heavy amp on/off switches as I decided to use small on off switches to control the Gigavolt solenoids.

Lucky for me, I was able to help install Larry Camp’s battery system on His sailboat Jana located in Ensenada, Mexico. The installation took all day and occurred without incidence. The largest consumption of time was the cut to fit 2/0 cable and crimping on the battery lugs as you go along. If you are very good at measuring and cutting the cables you could probably make all of these cables prior to installation. But, due to my excellent understanding of Murphy’s boating rules. I cut and measured as I did the installation to avoid those “Ahhh Sh**” moments and the wasting of parts/materials or excess money. The Gigavolt solenoids were used as over voltage and under voltage control via the EMS CPU.

After the system was installed everything worked as expected.

Fast forward a few more days and it was time to install the LiFePo4 batteries on Dazzler. I invited my friend John Gingold of SV Silver Seas to assist with my installation as he was also going to install LiFePo4 batteries on his boat. Having all of your parts and supplies ready to go before you start saves valuable time from having to stop and run to the store for something needed to complete the installation. The installation took all day and was operating successfully at the end of the day. Again, I prefer to cut the 2/0 cable and install as I go to have a custom fit and look when the installation is complete.

Unlike Larry’s system, I had to account for four different charging sources. The Alternator, Solar power, Wind power and The Victron charger/inverter. I used a heavy gauge bus bar for connecting the charge sources and then connected it to the battery through one Gigavolt solenoid for over voltage. My Victron charger/inverter has to be run directly to the battery. The problem in doing that is it is not controlled by the EMS CPU directly. Victron technical support was contacted and through the use of two relays from the EMS CPU over and under voltage circuit, the Victron charger/inverter can be controlled simultaneously to shut off the charge function or inverter function as needed by the EMS CPU. This step allowed the Victron charger’s over and under voltage controls to be controlled by its own built in software set points.

After 10 months of operation onboard Dazzler, I am absolutely happy with the results of making the conversion to LiFePo4 battery system. I chose to make one bank to simplify the installation. It is possible to have a separate start bank, but there is some additional equipment you would need to install to isolate the two banks and charge appropriately. You can even use a lead acid start battery, but keeping things as simple as possible was my goal.

Battery management has never been easier. The fact of not having to top off batteries everyday has also added to the pleasure of power management. The voltage does stay around 13.2 volts for daily usage. All the way down to 80% of capacity. If a cloudy or no wind day happens that is no sweat for the system.

Setting the charging parameters on your different charging systems takes a little time, but well worth the investment. Balmar regulators can be setup to handle the bulk, absorption and Float charge set points with ease. My solar charge controller also had the ability to configure easily. For the last two years I upgraded charging equipment and regulators with the intent of changing to the LiFePo4 batteries. That made my investment easier because the costs were spread out over time.

Doing your homework and preplanning your system makes it much easier for installation. Yes there are some technical issues that need to be thought through. There is other charging equipment that will work with the LiFePo4 batteries, but either you or an equipment technician may have to configure your charging set points. With the Victron equipment, I was able to configure all the settings myself. I can also change those settings as needed in the future. Using older charging systems could possible add a level of frustration I did not want to deal with. Contacting manufacturer’s tech support to find out how you can modify or update older equipment for LiFePo4 may be something you don’t mind doing. I have had many instances with different manufacturers that result in finding out that my older equipment would not be compatible or not able to be modified for LiFePo4 batteries.

Last year several computer and cell phones using Lithium batteries overheated and caused fire and or damage to electrical equipment. I understand that the lithium batteries used in those applications was not as stable as LiFePo4 battery chemistry and thus are susceptible to charging, overcharging or heat anomalies.

That’s the story, the whole story and nothing but the story from the equipment installations on Dazzler.

Fair Winds, tight lines, fish filled freezers and following seas.

Captain Dan
SV Dazzler

My source of LiFePo4 equipment came from Elite Power Solutions in Arizona.

Elite Power Solutions
335 E. Warner Road Ste 3
Chandler, AZ 85225

Posted on 3 Comments

Perfectly Wild

Nearly all days on the water are amazing but every now and then you have a once in a lifetime adventure. This was the case for us a few days ago. We awoke early in San Nicolás to find two dolphin swimming just a few feet off our starboard beam. It’s always a treat to see dolphin and watching them play at sunrise is no different. After a brief encounter with the dolphin we loaded the dink on the forward deck and prepared for our 30+ mile journey north to Santo Domingo at the mouth of Bahía Concepción.

It was a beautiful morning with 10-12 knot winds so we hoisted the sails, shut down the engine and enjoyed our morning coffee as we glided through the blue green waters of the Sea of Cortez. There is something so soothing and peaceful when your boat is running six knots and the only sounds you hear are the water splashing along side of the hull and the wind across the sails.

We had a lovely morning sail before the winds died off, the seas turned to glass and we had to fire up the engine. A longer sail would have been nice but hey, we were still on a boat in paradise. It’s hard to find anything bad to say about it.

img_0417.jpgIt wasn’t long before we had visitors flying about the boat. Four brown Boobies began swooping around the bow attempting to land on the pulpit.  After multiple attempts one finally landed on the rail. Within minutes all four had successfully landed and were enjoying a ride on the good ship Dazzler.


I went to the bow to get a closer look and snap a few pictures. They absolutely showed no fear. They even let me get on the pulpit with them. Every so often one would lose its img_0476footing and fly off but soon he’d return. There was one that was a bit bossy. We named him Jefe (boss). When others would try to land he would squawk at them and flap his wings to prevent them from making a successful landing. When they swooped in to land the tips of their wings brushed my shoulders. That’s how close they let me get. I could literally look directly into their sparkling grey blue eyes. It was so awesome to be so close to these birds.

Just about the time I was getting used to the Boobie family being aboard I looked off the port bow to see a large pod of dolphin heading our way. I grew up on the water in img_0643Bradenton, Florida and I’ve seen thousands of dolphin in my life but there is something absolutely magical about seeing a few hundred dolphin all at once. So here we were cruising and we had Boobies on the bow and dolphin in the water. I was thinking to myself that life just doesn’t get much better than this.

The dolphin didn’t linger too long, They were just passing through on their way to some other watery locale but I was grateful for their visit. I left the Boobies on the bow and retreated to the cockpit to study my Spanish.

A half hour or so went by when Dan saw something in the water about a mile off the port beam. It was a large black fin sticking above the water. Instantly he knew…it’s an Orca!
He pulled the wheel hard to port and off we went to see them. I could barely contain myself. Of all the animals we could encounter in the sea, the Orca topped my list of “wants”.

Before long we had five or six of these magnificent creatures swimming along side of Dazzler. I was so giddy with excitement I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Each time they surfaced I giggled and screeched with pure joy.

Dan and I were on the bow taking pictures and video of our new friends when a juvenile Orca about fifteen feet long separated from the pod and came swimming right toward our bow. Before we knew it he was riding the wake on our bow like a dolphin would do. Oh my God! This was a sight to behold. I can’t even explain the level of excitement we felt.

The next thing we knew he is swimming upside down under the keel. We could see the white of his underside as he went from side to side. He came up along side of the boat, surfaced and shot water out of his blowhole all over us and the boat! Never in my life did I dream I would get sprayed by an Orca in the wild! THIS IS AWESOME! My very best day ever!

As I do with all the wildlife out here, I gave him a name. He will forever be called Buddy. Why Buddy you ask? Well, you know when you meet someone for the first time and you feel an instant kinship? You just know you will be friends? That’s how Buddy made me feel. He was playful and fun and the more we cheered the more he played. He must have sprayed us four or five times and easily stayed and played for a good ten minutes. There’s just no perfect way to describe what it feels like to be so close to these amazing creatures. We enjoyed their presence around us for an hour or so. Ultimately there were about a dozen Orcas swimming all around us. Some were up close like Buddy and others could be seen in the distance. Alas, the time came for them to move on and they all started to swim away. I just stood on the bow and watched until I could no longer see their dorsal fins above the water. “Goodbye dear friends. Thanks for the memories!”

Like I said, this was truly a once in a lifetime day….from up close encounters with the Boobies to the dolphins and finally the Orcas I seriously don’t know that we will ever experience another day filled with so much amazing wildlife. As I say all the time, Dan has given me the world and each day I wake up I am getting to see more and do more than I ever dreamed. La vida es grandiose! (Life is Grand!)

We’ve posted a video of our day filled with wildlife on YouTube…Click on the link below to view it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time…


Click Here to See Our “Perfectly Wild” Video With Birds, Dolphin & Orcas!