The Blue View - Reworking the Alarm Indicator Panel

One of the things that started getting a little flaky on our Indian Ocean crossing was our indicator and alarm panel. This is a panel with a number of LEDs which light up when any of several pumps are running or when we have an alarm condition. redone panel

For example, one of the LEDs lights when the pump for the pressurized fresh water  system is running. This pump should only come on when a faucet is turned on. If it comes on periodically when all the faucets are closed, we probably have a leak in the system. If it runs continuously, we either have a big leak or the water tank has run dry (or both). When we are in a quiet anchorage, we can hear the pump running, but at sea with the wind howling or when we are motoring, we can't hear it. Should a fitting come lose, the pump will continue running until the water tank is empty – not a good thing – then continue running until the motor burns up – also not good.

If we have an alarm condition, one of the LEDs lights up and in addition, a very loud horn starts blaring. The horn is loud enough to wake us, and can be heard anywhere on the boat no matter how much the wind is shrieking. When we hear the horn, right after we remove our fingernails from the ceiling, we check the alarm panel to see which LED is illuminated and then shut the horn off. An example of an alarm condition is the high water alarm which lets us know the water under the floorboards is rising and the small automatic bilge pump is not keeping up with it.

I built the panel a few years ago, and I have never been very happy with it. It functioned okay, but the aesthetics were an embarrassment. The lettering consisted of stick-on labels, and the LEDs were mismatched and enough out of alignment to make me cringe every time I looked at it. I've been meaning to rework it for quite some time, but it never became a high enough priority. On this passage, the bilge pump LED starting flickering on and off whenever the engine was running -  probably due to a loose wire. In addition, several of the LEDs had been pushed back out of their respective holes when I inadvertently fell against the panel after an unexpected wave hit us. As long as I was fixing the wiring and LEDs, ...

the old panel

I removed the panel and reworked the wiring behind it. I also made a new front panel, doing a better job of drilling the holes for the LEDs this time. I used dry transfer type for the lettering. The new wiring is more robust than the old, and the cosmetics are greatly improved.

new circuit board

If you are interested in seeing the schematic, drop us an email and we will send you a copy.