Rumpus Room Media Center

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.

Patrick chillin in the Rumpus Room

Patrick chillin in 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.

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The 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.

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I hate drilling holes anywhere on the boat. These two are out of the way.

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Dual 12 volt outlets from West Marine.  I soldered all connections.  I just feel better soldering.

Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.

Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.

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.

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I have Open CPN on my laptop and it displayed beautifully on the TV. I could see using this display for planning a day’s journey with Melissa.

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.

With the Wifi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice Wifi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.

With the WiFi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice WiFi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.

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.

 

21 thoughts on “Rumpus Room Media Center

    • My inclination to solder my connections has developed out of my observations of failed and corroded crimped connectors. It is true that soldered connections can fail especially if cold soldered but if they are not subjected to excessive motion or vibration, I think they are better than a purely crimped connector.

      The other reason for my bias is fodder for a future post on tools. I have a harbor freight racheting crimper and I just don’t feel like it makes very good crimps. What do you use for your crimps?

  1. Season 6 of Downtown Abbey?! I’m very jealous. Don’t tell me how it ends. Scott is interested in the idea of a 12v TV on our boat for watching DVDs etc. We’ve wondered about the picture quality – good to know yours is pretty decent.

    • If you already have a Roku then a plain old DVD player would be the way to go. In fact that might be a superior alternative. I had to go through my on board router to connect to the marina wifi so that I could authenticate. I have never used a Roku but perhaps it has a browser built in to allow you to sign in from the TV.

  2. I have learned to love our TV, after initially scoffing at the idea. Ours has a DVD player integrated, and an mp3 (or is that 4?) via USB connection. The one thing we were disappointed with was the sound. We’ve now hooked up small computer speakers that we can use when we have shore power. We have the same wall mount as you and so far we haven’t had any issues with it in bouncy seas.

    I’m very impressed with the rumpus room concept. When we don’t have guests, the forward v-berth becomes what can only be described, in french, as the “foutoir” … an unholy disordered mess where chaos reigns supreme. We store the genakker, foul weather gear, or basically anything we don’t feel like putting away and will need the next day anyway. I try, oh how I try, to keep that from happening, but it’s a battle I always lose.

  3. I believe that Don and Donna used a strap that ran across the tv and snapped into place…custom. It was made to dimension and didn’t have the give that a bungee cord does. The strap was very soft…Donna probably made it…and it had metal snaps on either end. This was for the tv that hung between the galley and the upper salon where the captains chair was located. It swiveled for viewing either way and was firmly snapped into place while under way.

  4. Bob,

    Early on when we started refitting Galapagos, I bought the Brother PT2730 Label Maker (at least it looks like that on the Amazon site). It has a small keyboard and can be connected to a PC to print more sophisticated labels.

    What I really like about this device is that it can use up to 24mm (1inch) tape and there are some industrial strength tapes available. In the picture, that label is made from tough, UV and Water resistant material so it is great for rough service areas.

    I think I paid about $80 for my label maker but you could probably find one that doesn’t connect to the PC for a bit less. I do recommend the Brother brand though.

  5. If it were me… Amateur Radio nerd that I am… If an appliance like these wasn’t built to run off automotive/marine 12V systems, I would power them through a relay cutout that completely disconnects power to them when not in use. Not only does that remove the “vampire” load when they’re “turned off” but also isolates them from the 12V bus during nasty electrical events like engaging the starter, which can put huge transient spikes onto the 12V bus. Anything designed for auto/marine use has the surge suppression built in (often in the cigarette lighter plug), but these two appliances weren’t. Or you could wire in the transient circuit protection between the power distribution (panel) and the appliances.

    The REALLY geeky folks I know have a completely separate 12v battery for the “sensitive” devices and the connection to the charging system is heavily filtered.

    • Yes, a suppression system of some sort would be a nice feature. For now, I just unplug the TV and DVD player when not in use but we all know I will forget to do that eventually. From the research I have done on the TV, they are pretty tolerant of the usual vagaries of house battery banks. I use the Blue Sea Add-A-Battery system to automatically combine and disconnect our start and house banks which has worked beautifully. I doubt the dropout response time would prevent damage if the units were plugged in and the engine was started though.

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  7. So… any updates after a season? I am planning on picking up an Insignia before I head back to the boat in April and following pretty much your exact plan.
    Was the Rocketfish mount sturdy enough?
    Has low voltage caused any issues?
    We have most of our media ripped so will be running it off the laptop unless I can find a way to stream strait from a HD. Suggestions?

    • The TV and DVD player are still working well and we have enjoyed many evenings watching DVDs in our rumpus room. The Rocketfish mount has proven sturdy but it has not been subjected to much abuse in big seas. I have a minor concern in that I could not through bolt the mount to the bulkhead because a mirror in the forward head is on the other side. I had to settle for large wood screws. If I see evidence that they are working loose, then I will have to figure out how to remove the mirror and do a better job of mounting. I also think that something to strap the TV to the wall during a passage is a good idea. Another task for my list.

      I was a little worried about voltage stability for both the TV and DVD player but so far, I have not had any problems. Again, testing is incomplete since we haven’t used the system that much while on the hook. But we do have a number of motors, pumps, LED lighting and other possible sources of RF interference and neither device has seemed to care.

      I recently bought a two terabyte hard drive but have yet to rip anything to it and try it as a media center. Even though I enjoy having the TV, I really don’t watch it that much and the ripping process seems a little time consuming. Perhaps soon I will be bored enough to play with streaming off of a drive.

      Good luck with your media installation. We have found it to be a cost effective solution.

      • Any reason you can see not to wire the TV and/or DVD straight into the DC panel and skip the accessory plugs? The PO had already had a tv wired so the circuit is already there.

        After looking around at streaming devices I went back to your Sony BDP-S3700 and realized that it technically will run straight from a HD. Since all of our stuff is on a small 2 terabyte Passport HD, it look like i might be able to just plug the drive in and have it powered by the DVD player and that would be a complete solution.

        Ripping is no big deal as it will work in the background. So whenever you are working at eh computer through in a disk and let it hum along. I did most of my stuff last winter when we were working out of the Victoria Library.

        • Bruce,

          No reason at all except for convenience. The accessory plugs can be less reliable than a fixed connection unless you use the locking type connectors so a hard wired solution would eliminate that issue. The adapters do give me more flexibility in that I can use the sockets to run another device like USB charging port for phones and tablets.

          I also kept the legs for the TV so that if we wanted to move the system into the main salon, it would be pretty easy to do so.

          Thanks for the information on ripping media. It is one of those tasks that I just haven’t gotten around to. My new laptop doesn’t have a dvd drive so I guess step one is to buy a drive.

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