Reduced power needs with better performance sounds like a formula for a great future. Less draw on a boat’s batteries means increased battery life and reduced genset fuel consumption, both factors that will pay long-term dividends for the owner both financially and environmentally. And it doesn’t hurt to begin monitoring those levels now.
“CZone from BEP uses digital switching — it’s a CANbus system — and it allows us to monitor any AC or DC circuit on the boat and also monitor tank levels and fuel usage, and switch components on or off,” says Dennis Hogan, product manager with Simrad (www.simrad-yachting.com). “But it also measures the load of each circuit, and whether it’s powered or not powered, it will display the load on the circuit.” CZone works with Simrad’s NSE multifunction displays to create customized pages that let users set the components they want grouped together, and control them that way, or individually.
CZone works over the NMEA 2000 protocol. While digital switching has been around a while, it’s a brilliant fit when used hand in hand with monitoring of numerous electrical components (one way to describe a helm setup). Knowing the power f low of each unit can tip you off to potential problems in the system or weak points in the connections and wiring, and allow you to head off problems before they begin to interfere with your time on the water.
What kind of problems can arise when power flow to the helm is disrupted? “A microprocessor-based electronic device must protect itself from low-voltage conditions in order to prevent improper functions,” says a marine engineer from Garmin (www.garmin.com). “A microprocessor system has a system monitor to ensure it doesn’t operate when the voltage is too low. For example, devices with memory (i.e. waypoints) could be in the process of updating that memory when power fails. In this example, an important waypoint could be lost, or even worse, saved incorrectly. As the power drops, ‘keep alive’ circuits and software algorithms can be used to prevent the loss of data. These circuits are rigorously tested to minimize the chance of any data loss.”
Valuable data should be backed up regularly to protect against permanent loss. The manufacturer of your unit will be able to tell you the best way to go about it, but, even if you need to buy a peripheral device, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Today’s helm electronics put new technology right where boat owners want it, with capabilities that astonish and amaze. But they can’t perform without a smooth, uninterrupted flow of electricity. Pay attention to the details during installs, upgrades and repairs, and your helm will work when you need it.