Sunday, March 17, 2013

Great Service From Electrosense

One of my fellow bloggers, Bob on Istaboa, has a section where he rates marine service.  For my landlubber friends, customer service in the marine trades is notoriously bad.  Shoddy workmanship, faulty repairs, and outrageously overpriced is the norm.   That's why, when we boaters encounter good service, we're both dumbfounded and amazed, and we pass on the good word.

I've bought all kinds of gear and equipment for Drift Away, a boat built way back in 1980.  Back then, knowing the level of the fuel, water, and waste tanks wasn't considered important, apparently, because it was really rare to have a gauge.  All of my tanks were gaugeless and each came with a dipstick that you would insert through a fitting.   Well, that's OK for my diesel tank because that holds 800 gallons, and I can go a long way with 800 gallons.   When traveling, I'd religiously check the level though, and enter it into a log book.  No, I don't know why.  You just do it.  It's a nautical tradition.

Water and, especially, waste is another matter.  You don't want to run out of water, of course, but you certainly don't want to find your waste tank full, particularly while underway.   You wouldn't be able to use your toilets.  That's not an insurmountable problem for me, since the whole world is your bathroom if you're a guy, but Pam might be a bit peeved.   So I decided we needed to find an answer.

While at the Annapolis Boat Show in the fall of 2011, we visited the booths of various vendors looking for solutions to our various needs and wants, and we found the Electrosense booth.   Their tank monitors use no moving parts, but use stainless steel sensing rods that measure the approximate level of a tank and transmit the information to a display.  We're talking tank levels here, and exact levels aren't important.  I want to know when my water tank has 10% of capacity left, or my waste tank is 80% full.  That's enough warning to take corrective action.

The ordering process is straightforward.  You send Electrosense measurements of your tank and they custom make the sending unit to fit.  We ordered sending units for both our water and waste tank, and they were delivered to us in short order.  If you'd like to see how they're  installed, you can read about it in this December 2011 blog entry called Installing Tank Gauges.

The gauges worked perfectly right up until February when the waste unit started acting up.  Even though the waste tank was empty, some of the lights were stuck on.  I think the ethernet connection may have gotten wet from when a vandal snuck on our boat and opened the foredeck hatch in a rainstorm.  The bastard.  The hatch is right over our waste tank.

I tried cleaning both the cable and the connector to no avail, so I sent Electrosense an email on a Sunday afternoon.  Much to my surprise, I received an answer from Chris within a couple of hours.  We ran through a few tests and Chris decided that the sending unit was bad, and he would send a new one.  I asked if he needed me to remeasure the tank, and he said no, they keep the measurements on file.  I then told him that I didn't think the problem was an Electrosense one, but that the sending unit got criminally wet due to vandalism, and he said not to worry about it.  he wanted to make sure that we had a working system.

I stopped by the marina office to check for mail yesterday, and there was a package from Electrosense.  It was the new sensor.  It was even sent USPS Priority Mail!

I skipped down to the boat, pulled out the old one.

This was relatively easy to do.  When I installed it, I didn't have a pipe thread tap that big, but I did have a hole saw, so I just drilled the hole and gooped it up real good with silicone before sticking in the sending unit.  All it took to remove it was a screw driver as a pry bar.  And yes, for you observant readers, you're right.  I rarely use a tool for its intended purpose.  Screw drivers are for prying, and big wrenches are for hammering.

I gooped up the new one even better than the old one.  When you're dealing with holding tanks, you can't use too much silicone.  And no, neatness doesn't matter, at all.

I checked the lights on the display and it works perfectly.  We're at 50% of the tank's capacity, by the way, for all you folks wondering.

Now seriously, folks.  This is excellent customer service from Electrosense.  I love dealing with small businesses who actually care about their customers.  It reminds me of my own small computer business, and my days working for Dutchman (sail flaking systems, boom brakes, and track systems), especially in the wintertime when I was the entire company.  Good job Chris, and thank you!

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