Fire Extinguishers and your Boat

Fire extinguisherNothing causes as much concern for a boater than a fire aboard while underway. Here is what happens in a boat without an automatic engine room extinguisher. Most boat fires start in the confines of the engine room, killing engine and electrical power to the vessel. One or two 2BC extinguishers cannot put out the enclosed fire.  The fire then spreads quickly to the rest of the vessel through all the flammables that are readily available, such as the wood trim and foam cushions. Soon the very fiberglass the boat is built from is burning. Ultimately, leaving no alternative but to abandon the vessel. The vessel burns to the waterline.

The key to fighting a boat fire is done at the dock before you leave the marina.

Here are the USCG minimum requirements for fire extinguishers onboard pleasure craft

  • For boats under 26′ – At least one B-I type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.
  • For boats 26′ to 40′ – At least two B-I OR one B-II type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.
  • For boats 40′ to no more than 65′ – At least three B-I OR one B-I plus one B-II type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.

Keep in mind that these minimum requirements are exactly that; the absolute minimum. A B-I type extinguisher equals 2 pounds dry chemical. A B-II type extinguisher equals 10 pounds dry chemical. These portable fire extinguishers are also rated to the class of fire they will be able to put out.

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustibles Includes wood, paper, cushions, canvas, fiberglass, rubber, many plastics, and other materials that burn easily and account for many boat fires. These can be extinguished with water.
  • Class B: Flammable Liquids Includes gasoline, propane, diesel fuel, oils, grease, paints, tars, lacquers, and flammable gases.
  • Class C: Energized Electrical Equipment Includes wiring, fuel hoses, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances.

You will likely be using an approved BC Class (although it may be ACB) extinguisher. Using a portable dry chemical extinguisher will allow you to fight a fire ONLY if it is in the first couple minutes of a burn and you can spray the extinguisher at the base of the fire; after that, you are using the extinguisher to fight the fire as you exit the vessel. A portable fire extinguisher should be kept handy between the galley and the exit and a second one near the engine room.

Now for the engine room. Because of it’s caustic, noxious agent, discharging a dry chemical extinguisher into a fire may cause damage or even destroy the items that you are trying to protect. There is a superior, modern extinguisher medium (agent) called FM-200. This unique product leaves no residue and is safe to discharged near any electrical or mechanical equipment. FM-200 is even safe enough for discharge in occupied spaces! FM-200 systems reach extinguishing levels in 10 seconds or less, stopping ordinary combustible, electrical, and flammable liquid fires before they cause significant damage.

For use in enclosed spaces like an engine room, there are two operation modes available for Sea-Fire FM200 systems; automatic and manual / automatic models. A Sea-Fire automatic extinguisher is activated by the attached temperature sensor valve. Discharge will occur when the sensor valve temperature rises to the system activation point as shown in the specification table and on the label attached to each unit. The manual / automatic offer the ability to lead a manual discharge cable to a position outside the enclosed compartment (often the helm station) so that the extinguisher may be operated remotely. If an automatic / manual extinguisher is not activated manually, it will work as a normal automatic model and discharge when the system activation point is reached.

Sea-Fire manufactures FM-200 FD Series manual and automatic fire extinguishers for areas as small as 175 cubic feet and up to 1500 cubic feet.  The Sea-Fire FG Series are made to fit small engine rooms an other closed areas, from 25 to 240 cubic feet. Sea-Fire also manufactures the FT Series which are supplied with long, flexible narrow tubing that can reach into hard to access areas; such as the backside of electrical panels for spaces from 25-150 cubic feet.

In summary, dry chemical fire extinguishers are fine for trying to put out a fire on the stove, heater or open area. Sea-Fire FM-200 extinguishers are useful in enclosed spaces, occupied spaces and hard to reach spaces.

Shore up your battery for winter storage

shore up your battery - trickle charger

Shore up your battery for winter storage.

Shore up your battery for winter storage. When prepping your boat for winter storage don’t neglect your marine battery. Battery care in the off season will increase the useful life of your battery and get you out on the water faster come next season. You will want to protect your battery from freezing, corrosion, and storage discharge.

Weather you remove your battery or store it onboard you need to keep it from freezing. A charged battery is less likely to freeze that a discharged one so connecting a maintenance or trickle charger helps prevent a frozen battery but in extreme cold weather a heated storage area is needed.

It is best to disconnect and swab down your battery even if you store it on your boat. A disconnected battery is safe from any slow power draws that may exist on your boat. A good wipe down with baking soda water followed by a good wipe dry cleans things up and neutralizes any acid build-up.

Along with disconnecting your battery, putting it on a maintenance charger prevents storage discharge. Also known as, float, slow, or trickle chargers, these units will keep your battery topped off without over charging your boat battery.

Follow these tips and as long as you have a good battery this fall you should be able to reconnect and turn your engine over for a roaring start to the next boating season.

An added benefit to maintenance chargers is their ability to prevent sulfation, the buildup of sulfate crystals on the negative plates of lead acid batteries, that will shorten the useful life of the battery. Lead acid batteries benefit from regular full capacity charges that reduce and slow the inevitable sulfation and the resulting loss in performance.

How to Select a Balmar Charging System

alternator

 There are numerous reasons to upgrade your charging system. Here are some common complaints:

  • I can’t keep my battery charged!
  • My current alternator does not keep up with my electrical requirements/load.
  • I don’t want to run my engine just to charge the batteries.
  • I don’t want to run my generator to charge the batteries when my engine is already running.
  • I’ve added several batteries to my house bank, but I don’t think they are being charged effectively.
  • I operate predominantly at idle speed, but my battery bank doesn’t charge at idle.
  • I keep burning out alternators and/or batteries.
  • I have two engines, but my alternators don’t work together to charge the battery bank effectively.
  • My alternator charges my house bank, but I want to charge the engine start battery too without remembering to flip a battery switch.

Balmar Charging Systems can solve all these problems and more…

Selecting a charging system upgrade for your vessel can be a confusing task, as there are many inter-related variables to consider. The following guide steps you through a logical progression of questions and choices which must be made to select the best charging system for your needs. The selection process includes the following steps:

Step 1: Determine Your Vessel’s Electrical Load
Step 2: Identify Your Existing Battery Bank Technology and Capacity
Step 3: Select Your Optimum Alternator Output

Step 4: Identify the Alternator Mounting Style Present on Your Engine
Step 5: Determine your Belt and Pulley Requirements
Step 6: Select Additional Charging System Options

These 6 important steps are fully described below – Read on!

DC Load ChartStep 1: Determine Your Vessel’s Electrical Load
Skip this step if you are confident in your house bank’s ability to service your existing vessel loads
.

Accurate load calculations require precise measurement of your vessel’s equipment. Refer to equipment manuals for actual load ratings or consult with a qualified marine electrician to determine your actual needs. The chart at the right provides typical DC marine loads and an example of load calculations. Use this example to configure and calculate your vessel’s electrical load. Click here to upload Balmar’s interactive Load Calculator and save it for your personal use.  You can manipulate the Load Calculator in either Microsoft Excel or Google Docs.

(Device Load x Duty Cycle) x (# of Devices) = Total Load

House battery capacity is typically derived based on the ability to meet approximately 24 hours’ worth of typical demand, but could be longer if you don’t expect to be connected to shore power for extended periods. For example, if your vessel’s typical daily electrical load is 300 Ah, then your battery bank should be sized to provide 300Ah of power storage. Since your batteries will be damaged if you discharge them beyond a 50% State of Charge (SoC%), then 600Ah of rated storage is required.

Add batteries to your bank if you need them!

Step 2: Identify Your Existing Battery Bank Technology and Capacity

Battery bank capacity has a dramatic impact on the size and type of alternator required to keep the batteries healthy. Identify your battery bank technology and capacity, then calculate an acceptance requirement.

(A) Standard and Deep Cycle Flooded Batteries can accept a charge load up to 25% of their capacity.
(B) Gel Cell Batteries can accept a charge load up to 35% of their capacity.
(C) AGM Batteries can accept a charge load up to 40% of their capacity.
(D) Lithium Batteries can accept an almost unlimited charge load.

Contact your battery manufacturer to confirm their recommended charge loads and profile.

(Battery Storage Capacity) x (Battery Charge Acceptance Rate) = Maximum Alternator Output Current

For example, a bank of 3 AGM batteries, each with an individual capacity of 100Ah provide a total capacity of 300Ah. With an AGM acceptance rate of up to 40%, a 120A charging alternator could be utilized (300 Ah * 40% = 120 Ah). If you have a really large bank or a battery technology that calls for an alternator output that exceeds available alternator technology, then it will just take longer to charge your bank. Simply choose the highest alternator power which meets your budget and pulley constraints.

Mounting StylesStep 3: Select Your Alternator Output

Now that you know the battery bank technology and charging profile, you can choose an alternator output which will optimally charge your bank. The chart at the bottom of this page shows Balmar’s most popular range of small-case, high-power alternator choices for your vessel, along with an appropriate multi-stage regulator and related temperature sensing cables. (Balmar provides a discount when you buy the package).

For 70A – 120A requirements, choose a 6-Series Alternator Package.
For 165A – 200A requirements, choose an AT-Series Alternator Package.

Step 4: Identify the Alternator Mounting Style Present on Your Engine

It is critically important to determine how your existing alternator is mounted to match with the alternator you have chosen. Marine alternator mountings generally fall into one of four possibilities:

(A) 1″ Single Foot “Spindle” (Motorola-style – Westerbeke, Lehman, Hino, Pathfinder)
(B) 2″ Single Foot “Spindle” (Delco-style – Volvo, Deere, Perkins, Mercruiser, GM-based)
(C) 3.15″ Dual Foot “Saddle” (Hitachi-style – Yanmar, Westerbeke, Lehman, Perkins)
(D) 4″ Dual Foot “Saddle” (J180-style – John Deere, Cummins, Caterpillar)

Examples of these mounting styles are shown on the right. Review your existing alternator mounting to determine the appropriate mounting for your upgrade. Each Balmar alternator mounting style is identified by a unique part number.

Step 5: Determine Your Belt and Pulley Requirements

Engine drive belt style and width is also a critical factor when selecting a Balmar replacement charging system. Higher output alternators require more drive power to be taken off the engine. All belts have specific limitations regarding the amount of power take-off (“PTO”) loads they can support. Failure to specify an adequate belt/pulley system could result in premature belt wear, belt slippage and potential damage to the alternator and engine. Balmar alternators are shipped with pulleys which are appropriate for the alternator’s output.

6-Series Alternators from 70A-100A can ship with either a Standard 1/2″ Single Deep Vee, Dual Deep Vee or K6 Serpentine Pulley.*
6-Series Alternators from 120A-150A can ship with either a Standard 1/2″ Dual Deep Vee or K6 Serpentine Pulley.*
AT-Series Alternators can ship with either a Standard 1/2″ Dual Deep Vee or K6 Serpentine Pulley.*
Pulley Kit* Note: Balmar’s 1/2″ Deep Vee Pulleys (Single or Dual) can accept a 3/8″ and 7/16″ belt.

Identify the pulley style and size present on your engine and water pump before upgrading the charging system. If the alternator output you have chosen exceeds the capability of your existing belt/pulley system, you can upgrade the pulley system using one of Balmar’s patented Altmount Pulley Conversion Kits. Click here to find the applicable AltMount Conversion Kit for your engine and alternator choice. Here are some additional rules-of-thumb to guide your choices:

  • Balmar 6-Series Alternators from 70A-100A can perform with a 1/2″ Single Vee pulley. If you need to charge above 100A, then you will need a Dual Vee or K6 Serpentine pulley system to be present on your engine to avoid a pulley upgrade. If a Dual Vee or Serpentine is not present, then an AltMount Conversion Kit is required.
  • Many boaters choose to limit their charging system upgrade to a 100A 6-Series Alternator Package to avoid the additional purchase of a pulley conversion.
  • Unless you own a recently produced engine which already contains a Dual Vee or Serpentine pulley system, the superior power afforded by the AT-Series Alternator Package will in most cases require an AltMount Conversion Kit upgrade.
  • Choose wisely! Need more help? – call Go2marine Technical Support to review your existing configuration and needs.

With the completion of these 5 steps, you have reviewed all the critical variables required to choose the correct charging system upgrade for your vessel. The chart below identifies common small case configurations of 6-Series and AT-Series charging systems. Use our interactive Charging System Configurator to determine your exact needs.

Small Case Alternator Kit Selection Chart – Common Configurations

Balmar Product Family Output Power Take Off Mounting Alternator Part Number Balmar External Regulator Temp Sensors Alternator Kit Number AltMount
Pulley Kit
Required?
6-Series(2) 70 A 2.8 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) 621-70-SV ARS-5-H(1) MC-TS-A & MC-TS-B 621-VUP-70-SV No
621-70-DV 621-VUP-70-DV
621-70-K6 621-VUP-70-K6
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) 60-70-SV 60-YP-70-SV
60-70-DV 60-YP-70-DV
60-70-K6 60-YP-70-K6
100 A 4.0 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) 621-100-SV 621-VUP-100-SV
621-100-DV 621-VUP-100-DV
621-100-K6 621-VUP-100-K6
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) 60-100-SV 60-YP-100-SV
60-100-DV 60-YP-100-DV
60-100-K6 60-YP-100-K6
120 A 4.8 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) 621-120-DV 621-VUP-120-DV Yes

If a Dual Vee or
Serpentine Pulley
is Not Already
Present

See the
AltMount
Conversions
Page

621-120-K6 621-VUP-120-K6
621-120-J10 621-VUP-120-J10
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) 60-120-DV 60-YP-120-DV
60-120-K6 60-YP-120-K6
60-120-J10 60-YP-120-J10
70A, 24V 5.6 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) 621-24-70-DV MC-624-H 621-VUP-24-70-DV
621-24-70-K6 621-VUP-24-70-K6
621-24-70-J10 621-VUP-24-70-J10
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) 60-24-70-DV 60-YP-24-70-DV
60-24-70-K6 60-YP-24-70-K6
60-24-70-J10 60-YP-24-70-J10
AT-Series 165 A 5.2 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) AT-SF-165-DV MC-614-H AT-SF-165-DV-KIT
AT-SF-165-K6 AT-SF-165-K6-KIT
AT-SF-165-J10 AT-SF-165-J10-KIT
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) AT-DF-165-DV AT-DF-165-DV-KIT
AT-DF-165-K6 AT-DF-165-K6-KIT
AT-DF-165-J10 AT-DF-165-J10-KIT
200 A 6.0 HP 1-2″ Single Foot (Spindle) AT-SF-200-DV AT-SF-200-DV-KIT
AT-SF-200-K6 AT-SF-200-K6-KIT
AT-SF-200-J10 AT-SF-200-J10-KIT
3.15″ Dual Foot (Saddle) AT-DF-200-DV AT-DF-200-DV-KIT
AT-DF-200-K6 AT-DF-200-K6-KIT
AT-DF-200-J10 AT-DF-200-J10-KIT

UBB (Rotate)(1) An MC-614 Regulator can be substituted for the ARS-5 when support for a second alternator or twin engines is required. Smartgauge
(2) 6-Series Alternators are “Smart-Ready” and can be installed with or without a Balmar Multi-Stage Regulator.

Step 6: Select Additional Charging System Options

Now that you have selected an appropriate Balmar Alternator Kit, complete your purchase by adding a SmartgaugeTM Battery Monitor and a Belt Buddy Tensioning Kit!

Putting out Fires with FM-200 – Safe, No Residue, Non-toxic & Eco-Friendly

Sea-Fire Marine manufactures a unique fire suppression system that utilizes FM-200,  the most accepted and safest extinguishing agent on the market.

FM-200 Offers:

  • Safe for use in occupied spaces
  • Will not cause thermal shock damage
  • Residual free
  • Electrically non-conductive

Sea-Fire extinguishers are available in sizes to accommodate any vessel, engine room, pilot house or cabin. The fire extinguisher is available in either automatic, or manual automatic. The corrosion resistant container is covered with a 3 year warranty and is USCG, Transport Canada,  South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) approved. Sea-Fire builds extinguisher systems for marine, galley, server room and race car applications.

FM-200 is the most accepted and safest extinguishing agent on the market. FM-200 is safe for use in occupied spaces and engine compartments, it is the same compound used in pharmaceutical asthma inhalers. FM-200 is electrically non-conductive, residual free and will not cause thermal shock damage. It is also environmentally safe; it is accepted under the U.S. EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy and is an accepted replacement for products banned under the Montreal Protocol. FM-200 has zero ozone depletion potential and is recoverable and recyclable at the end of its useful service life.

Because of the unique nature of the extinguishing agent, FM-200 is only factory refillable.

Amp Up with a Marine High Output Alternator

alternator

alternatorHave you recently added to your boat’s electronics inventory or have you installed a mega-watt stereo system and lights on your boat?  Have you added to your vessel’s battery bank and now finding that your batteries are not getting charged fully, or that they take an extremely long time to achieve a full charge?  If so, consider the best approach to upgrading your electrical system-increase your electrical production! The alternators supplied with most small marine engines – whether gas or diesel – are usually 35 to 60 amp automotive alternators.  Late model marine engines could have 70 to 80 amp automotive alternators.  A heavy duty marine high output alternator produces more power at lower rpm, instead of high output at high rpm- freeway speeds for an automobile.

BALMAR produces a series of high output marine alternators.  The most popular for small marine gas and diesel engines is the BALMAR 6-series alternator, which is available in outputs of 70, 100, 120 and 150 amps.  If your engine is equipped with a single 3/8″ wide alternator belt you will be restricted to a maximum of 70 amps.  A 1/2” belt will work for up to a 100 amp alternator.  If your engine is equipped with dual v-belts or a single flat belt, you could use the 120 or 150 amp 6-series alternator.  Even if your marine engine is equipped with a 55 amp alternator, which is a commonly used size, the 70 amp version of the 6-series will produce far more power even though it is rated at only slightly more than your current alternator because it is producing higher output at lower engine revolutions.

The 6-series alternator is available in a variety of mounting styles to fit most marine gas or two to four cylinder marine diesel engines. The BALMAR 6-series alternators have a long history of providing reliable power and are found on sailing and power vessels around the world.  The compact size of this alternator often is smaller than the lower output alternator it replaces. This alternator has a built-in voltage regulator, but if your boat has multiple batteries or battery banks, a BALMAR external voltage regulator must be used for maximum charging efficiency. This also gives the benefit of redundancy, if one regulator fails, a flip of a switch can enable the other regulator.

BALMAR produces marine high output alternators from 60 to 310 amp outputs.  The lighter duty 6 and 7 series are built for marine diesels such as Yanmar 2, 3 and 4 cylinder engines and gasoline marine engines.  The heavy duty 94 and 95 series alternators are for engines such as the popular Cummins 6BT5.9L.  The extreme duty 97 and 98 series, with output up to 310 amps, are for very high output marine applications.

There are BALMAR alternator and regulator kits available, with different kits suitable for a variety of engine makes and models. The kits are available with either BALMAR’s top of the line Max Charge MC-614, or the BALMAR high performance ARS-5 regulator. The kits also include temperature sensors for both the alternator and battery, which help the regulator determine the appropriate steps in the charge cycle, and assures that the batteries are charged quickly and safely. The BALMAR 6-series alternator and a BALMAR external regulator is the best, easy to install addition to maximize your vessel’s electrical power needs.