Master Alarm Panel

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Refit , Refit 2024

Welcome to the world of too many alarms on a sailboat. When we bought the boat, there were 4 different piezo alarms on the boat that all sounded the same. That was really confusing. To add to the confusion we added a very extensive NMEA 2000 backbone and Garmin Net ecosystem. We now have more possible sources of alarms then anyone can possibly deal with.

To solve our confusing alarm environment, I ran across a Alarm Button from Yacht Devices and installed and configured it – combined with the Yacht Device Run Time Indicator, it offered a very robust monitoring solution. We could set a different alarm for each issue. Sounds great – BUT now we needed a cheat sheet to tell us what each sound stood for. Still not very effective. So although it sounded great, in principle, it really wasn’t a good solution.

On an aircraft or spacecraft there is a Master Alarm Panel. This panel has lots of buttons or LEDs all labeled and corresponding to a different error / Alarm condition. But it has a single sound for the alarm and then the ability to mute the alarm.

Representative Master Alarm and Caution Panel

This is really appealing in our application. We have 16 unique systems that all generate ‘Alarm” signals. We also have all the digital based Garmin/ NMEA 2000 error conditions.

The below image shows what we are dealing with and the solution for each system:

Alarm/ Error Sources

There are multiple ways for a system to raise an analog alarm but all boil down to a switch that closes a circuit relay passing either Ground (-) or 12VDC (+) along to a receiver.

Engine Sensors

The engine sensors are all ground based switches. We have 5 engine monitoring sensors. Their functionality overlaps a bit, but they all will alert us to the engine getting ready to overheat and self-destruct. We also have 3 NMEA 2000 based engine sensors that provide us discrete values for Oil Pressure, Coolant Temperature and finally Vacuum pressure level on the engine side of the Racor Filter (planned for Fall 2024). The 5 engine sensors form the basis of the Dummy Lights for the engine. We lost the dummy lights when we redid the Engine panel last year and have been anxious to get this functionality back. The Yacht Device Alarm button and Run Time Indicator could do some of what we wanted but this will be a more dummy proof solution.

Victron Ecosystem

The Victron devices are all “NC – COM – NO” relays so they will get setup to connect to ground. The Cerbo GX has 2 alarm relays – we are going to use one as a master alarm for the Cerbo GX Environment and the other will be tied to the temperature monitoring function. We have temp sensors (RUUVI) in the Fridge and Freezer to alert us if they go off line. Otherwise the Quattro (Inverter/ Charger), the Lynx BMS, and the Alternator regulator all have the ability to raise alarms if things are amiss. None of these alarm functions are currently configured/ integrated in our current environment so we are excited to have this new functionality.

Pumps (Bilges & Fresh Water)

The pumps are going to be a combination of High Water alarms – float switches that close a ground circuit and counter circuits to detect cycling. Finally the fresh water pump will run through an external timer circuit set to likely 5 minutes.

Garmin Net/ NMEA 2000 Digital Alarms

Finally for all of the digital based error / alarm conditions within the Garmin/ NMEA 2000 environment, we will grab an alarm output (+) on the Salon Chart Plotter. Because everything else is ground based, this one will go through an external relay to close a ground circuit. This one is going to be a bit of a work in progress as any alarm raised is going to have to be acknowledged twice (we think). The good news is the Master Alarm audible alarm will be louder than the chart plotter based alarm so we will get woken up easier – especially for Anchor Drag alarms.

Aqualarm Solution

The company Aqualarm is building the panel to spec for us. They specialize in alarm panels and are happy to customize to your needs. They also have several pre-built solutions for more basic requirements. They are adding a “Test” button to verify function of all circuits for us.

What to do with our Yacht Devices based alarm system?

Finally, we are not completely sure what to do with the Yacht Devices architecture yet. There are some functions in there we might wish to retain, but that will be post installation of this Master Alarm Panel.