flame-ice-cubes-dreamstime m 7529210-640x425If you didn't know it already, the term Btu stands for "British thermal unit". I don't know what gave the Brit's the right to have their own thermal unit, but let's hope they don't ask for it back any time soon, as it is so much easier to comprehend than the metric equivalents using Joules, Calories, etc.

It's common to see the cooling and heating capacity of air conditioners, refrigerators, furnaces, etc., being shown by their Btu ratings or Tons (1 Ton of refrigeration = 12,000 Btu), but what exactly is this Btu? What does it look like? And does The Queen have one?

Simply put, one Btu is the amount of heat required to be added to, or extracted from, one pound of pure water in order to raise or lower its temperature by one degree Fahrenheit. This is about the same amount of heat as given off by a match that's used to light a fire.

So, if we have one pound of water at 100°F and add 40 Btu to it, its temperature will rise to 140°F. If we removed 40 Btu's from our one pound of water, its temperature will drop to 60°F. If you are all following this so far it's not too surprising, as what I've described above is known as "Sensible Heat", and, as you are already reading this, then obviously you are all very sensible people!

Now, if we keep on adding Btu's to our one pound of water, it will keep rising in temperature at a linear rate of 1°F for each Btu added until it starts to boil, which at sea level will be 212°F (100°C).

At boiling point something very interesting happens....

danfoss-secop bd compressorMost marine refrigeration, and all Frigoboat systems, use the Danfoss BD 35 and BD 50 compressors which are incredibly reliable machines and very robust. It takes a lot of abuse to "kill" one (they don't simply die from natural causes), so if you suspect that your compressor is faulty, it's important to know how these compressors work, how they can be damaged, and what symptoms to look for.

The Danfoss BD 35 and BD 50 compressors are identical except that the BD 50 has a little more cubic capacity and therefore a slightly higher Btu rating. The compressor and motor are hermetically sealed inside a steel canister and supported on vibration-absorbing springs. There is no shaft seal that could leak refrigerant.

COMPRESSOR – The compressor is a single-cylinder device with a crankshaft that when rotated pushes a piston in and out of a cylinder, compressing the gas. A simple valve plate allows gas to be drawn in on the down-stroke, and the gas to be compressed and then released on the up-stroke. The compressor assembly is mounted above the motor, and the vertical crankshaft is a continuation of the motor shaft.

MOTOR - The compressor crankshaft is rotated by means of a poly-phase inductively coupled motor that has no brushes to fail or wear out. There are three sets of windings arranged around the stator, and the ends of these windings terminate on a three-pin connector that provides for the electrical connection through the compressor shell. The rotor is built around the shaft that connects directly to the compressor crankshaft.

– Also known as a "module", this is a vital part of the compressor, and the motor cannot run without it. The controller is mounted on the compressor on a special bracket, and secured with a screw. It is electrically connected to the motor via a three-wire plug that is pushed on to the three-pin connector on the compressor shell. The compressor controller basically takes the 12v or 24v DC input and energizes each of the three windings in turn, causing the motor shaft to rotate. Varying the speed at which the windings are energized varies the speed of rotation of the shaft.

So what could possibly go wrong?

firefly-oasis-g31-psoc-agm-batteryWhat's so special about this pesky Firefly Oasis battery that I'm tripping over everywhere I go?

The word seems to be out about the Firefly Oasis battery. So much so, in fact, that we seem incapable of keeping them in stock, and the manufacturer is so swamped that they can’t produce enough of them!

What is it about this battery that has stirred up so much interest? Maybe it has the same sort of allure that the Ford Model T did back in the day. With a choice of just one size, it can be ordered in any color as long as it’s a rather fetching green and blue, something that wouldn’t look out of place on the mantelpiece at Christmas.

Or maybe some folk are keeping them as pets, showing them off to fellow boaters in between feeding them freshly charged volts and cleaning up their discharge.  No, there must be more to it ….

It’s a Group 31 AGM battery - Nothing ground-breaking there. It’s a  VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid), AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat), PSOC (Partial State Of Charge) battery, for all you AL’s (acronym lovers) out there. It’s a nominal 12 volt battery containing lead and acid and is no lightweight, weighing in at 75 pounds. It has comparable capacity to other Group 31 batteries and has similar charging requirements. No super-acidic acid; no extra heavy lead; no kryptonite or unobtainium. Pretty boring so far, so what’s the big deal?

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