Exploring the alternative power sources that could save your equipment (and potentially your job!)
The main electrical power on board a yacht is not always as stable as you would expect. In fact, whenever a large load starts the voltage from the generator can momentarily fall. These large loads can be anything, from the air-conditioning chiller, to the pumps or windlass motors. And similarly, when these large loads stop, the voltage can suddenly rise. The amount that this fluctuates varies, depending on the size of the load and the type of regulator on the generator. This fluctuation can wreak havoc with the systems on board.
The good news is that most of the electrical equipment on a yacht is not affected by these fluctuations. The advent of LED lighting has meant that, for the most part, these voltage changes cannot even be seen on board. Gone are the days when a crew member bumping the windlass to tighten the mooring lines would cause the lights to flicker yacht-wide, to the annoyance of the owner and their guests.
However, the technology revolution has also meant there is generally a great deal more technology onboard today’s yachts. These hi-tech vessels have a high level of sensitive electronic equipment that can easily be damaged by these fluctuations in power. Audio visual gear, entertainment servers, computers and phone systems are designed to operate from steady power with minimal changes, and do not cope well with instability.
A solution to this problem is to move these sensitive high value loads onto a separate power bus, supplied by a power conditioner. Power conditioners create clean, highly-regulated power which they output steadily regardless of any changes at the input. They act like a large surge suppressor, rebalancing the generator’s power so that it can then be safely distributed around the boat. For the yachting industry, Atlas’ ShorPOWER® Ultra PC is currently leading the market with its advanced state-of-the-art IGBT semiconductor technology and pulse width modulated (PWM) control system.
If you are using a power conditioner, the next logical step is to add a battery pack. This provides an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to the critical loads in the event of a loss of power on the main bus. This loss of power can occur for a few reasons – an unexpected generator failure may cause a dip, or more commonly stormy weather may affect a yacht’s power source at the marina – but whatever the cause it can do damage. A UPS ensures all the equipment is protected no matter what. It also removes the annoyance of having to reset all the onboard systems after a power outage, saving the technical engineer’s valuable time.
Some boats are tempted to opt for multiple small UPS spread around the yacht, but having one single unit is much more efficient. All-in-one conditioners like the Ultra PC are designed to supply full power for much longer periods of time than you would get from a smaller unit. Atlas’ offering can provide 15 minutes or more of uninterrupted power and will instantly switch to this battery power in the occasion of a loss. Then, when power is restored, the unit automatically returns to the main input and recharges the batteries ready for the next outage. This means no need for any manual intervention, and so effectively no more need to worry about the onboard power.
Apart from protecting sensitive equipment, a power conditioner can also be used for a range of additional functions to make life on the yacht easier. It can create a power different to that of the main source; for example, single phase power from a three-phase bus. This is very useful for yachts with an ungrounded three wire distribution system, as it means all three phases of the main bus receive a single-phase load rather than a problematic imbalance on two phases. Conditioners can also create power that is of a different frequency to the generator’s, such as American power on a yacht with European power. This means that guests can have an outlet for both European and American power, with 120V and 60Hz power distributed to the staterooms. This power can also be used for specialist equipment. If your European yacht is cruising in the Caribbean and you want to bring a local DJ on board with his equipment for a party on the sun deck, it’s all possible with no extra fuss.
So there we have it; how to protect the sensitive electronics onboard and benefit from a happier owner and guests, and an all-round easier life. It’s worth noting that not just any conditioner will do all this. And since a power conditioner powers critical equipment, do your research beforehand to ensure that you are selecting a quality product from an experienced marine manufacturer. Brands with a long history of design experience in the marine power conversion market and a list of satisfied customers are the ones to look for. Then, once you’ve made your selection, get ready to feel the power of stable, worry-free power.
Want to hear more from Superyacht Technology News? Subscribe to our magazine free!