In previous posts we have reported on our progress in updating the V-berth. With a new cushion and upholstery, the space is really comfortable and has become like a second salon. We will use the V-berth as a guest cabin when company is aboard but when it is just the two of us, we call this the space the Rumpus Room.
One of the more decadent projects I have been planning is to have a TV and DVD player on the boat. We watch more movies on the boat than we ever do at home and it is has become a bit of a ritual to save up a season of some show to binge watch when we are out on a cruise. For example, we have season six of Downton Abbey unopened and ready for our Memorial Day South sound trip.
In the past, we have used a laptop to watch movies which is okay but not optimal. The speakers aren’t too great and since the battery life on our laptops is pathetic, we have to plug in to the inverter to keep the juice flowing. It works but the whole setup seemed a little cheesy.
So, for some time I have been ruminating on how I would install a small entertainment center on the boat. With the Rumpus Room all but complete, now seemed like a good time to stop thinking and start installing. Alas, as with every other boat project, installing one thing means you must drill, move, re organize and generally tear the boat apart, twice.
One of the most important criteria for designing this system was to have it be entirely powered from the 12 volt system. There are a few small TV and TV/DVD combos which are set up for 12 volt. Long Haul truckers use them and there are some marine grade systems as well. But the units I found seemed really expensive relative to their size.
So last year (I ruminate a long time) I was looking at a TV or computer monitor and noticed that it had an AC to DC power supply (commonly referred to as a brick). So, just like your laptop, you plug the brick into an AC outlet but the TV is actually running on DC. However just because the TV uses DC does not mean it will work with the 12 volt system on your boat but the seed was planted and more research ensued.
Finally, after a bit of googling, I went to Best Buy and looked at the smaller Insignia brand LED TVs. Most of these use a AC to DC power supply and one, the Insignia 24 inch LED TV. actually uses 12 volts. Be aware that Best Buy sells a few 24 inch TVs in this size and brand. This model was the only one I found in the store that used a 12 volt power supply. If you want to attract attention at Best Buy, start moving their TVs around and unplugging the power supplies so you can read the voltage and current values for the output. Also it is quite fun to try and explain a project like this to someone that is not entirely sure that TVs even use electricity.
With a TV secured, I also wanted a DVD player that could also run off the 12 Volt system. This was quite a bit easier since the players are small and I could look at the power supplies without too much trouble. I ended up buying a Sony BDP-S3700 for $80. You can buy a cheaper DVD player that will work well on 12volts for about half the price but this unit is WiFi capable. At home, the only TV we ever watch is via NetFlix or Amazon. I doubt we will be doing much streaming of video away from the marina but we might stream from a networked hard drive at some point.
I wanted to mount the TV on the bulkhead both to keep it out of the way and to improve the viewing angle. For this task, I bought the $40 Rocket Fish Full Motion TV mount.
I was and still am a bit worried about the security of this mount and will continue to monitor this. The TV only weighs 6 pounds but in a bouncy sea way the stress could be higher than the attachment points were designed to stand. I will also install a bungy cord to hold the TV snugly against the bulkhead when not in use.
So, with the main components secured, I still needed to run wiring to the bulkhead and create outlets for the the TV and DVD player. That’s where tearing the boat apart comes in. I ran 30 feet of 12 gauge marine wire through the forward head, salon, galley and into the DC distribution panel.
Probably the moment of truth to this whole project is when I cut the DC connector off of the bricks for the TV and DVD player. You are committed when you willfully destroy part of the equipment you just paid good money for. I could have bought adapters for each of the electronics and made new wiring harnesses for them but I don’t intend to use the TV anywhere but on the boat. I did keep the bricks and could always splice the wires back together.
After cutting the wires and checking the polarity three times, I soldered the the wires onto the fused DC Accessory plugs I picked up for the purpose. And Finally the moment of truth.
Both units worked perfectly! After a little fussing, I was even able to stream Netflx with the DVD player. The audio quality is quite good for such an inexpensive TV and the Rocket Fish mount makes it easy adjust the viewing angle. I think that will be particularly important if we use the TV as a computer monitor.
The power supplies that came with the TV and DVD player both had an open voltage of about 15.5 volts DC, well over the charging voltage that any of the charging sources on Galapagos provide. Still I will probably just unplug these devices when not in use to be on the safe side. A low voltage condition might cause problems as well and I will have to monitor that as we go.
So far, I am quite pleased with how well this project turned out. I love not having to turn on the inverter and trying to make the tinny laptop speakers loud enough. All in all, a nice addition to our Rumpus Room.