BoatU.S. Tests FloScan Fuel Meters


When polling boaters for our Foundation Findings, we found that many were curious about how to increase their fuel efficiency and range of their boat. (Series K9000/GPS Interface; retails for $1,399.99). FloScan has been making flow sensors since the 70’s when the airline, trucking and shipping industries had a great need to conserve, evaluate and manage fuel use. With gas prices going up regularly, and with the great majority of recreational boats being powerboats, it only made sense for FloScan to tap this market as well. FloScan makes units for both gas and diesel engines, either single or twins – ranging from 20hp to 4300hp and are available through the BoatU.S. or West Marine catalog sales special orders department, or bought directly from the company.

We obtained two complete FloScan units for testing on a 55’ Fleming power cruiser, our testing platform for these devices. The packaging came with DVD installation instructions, but to stay on the safe side, we took our test boat with twin 435hp Caterpillar 3208TAs to an authorized Fleming dealer who was at ease with installing these units. In fact, the dealer commented that all long range cruisers should be equipped with such devices.

The FloScan units replaced the boat’s existing tachometers in the dashboard of our Fleming. Fortunately, no cutting was needed. Installers just dropped the units in and hooked them up to the GPS unit and both the forward and return flow sensors below decks. In the dash, with black bezels and amber and green LCD backlighting, these units looked as if they were original equipment.

FloScan Tests
We had hoped to just find out if fuel computers could be an accurate tool for avoiding overfilling, however once the data was collected, we discovered we also had a wealth of information relating to efficient fuel consumption, an area that presented surprise after surprise.

We were fortunate in that the Fleming was about to head down the Intercoastal Waterway from Chesapeake Bay to Florida, giving us an excellent opportunity to collect data on the FloScan units. We asked the boat’s hired captain, an experienced skipper, to keep a special fuel log we created for the 1,500 mile trip. In addition to maintaining a fueling record, we also asked the captain a series of questions about the peculiarities of readouts and experiences (positive or negative) at refueling time.

When given the pre-departure lecture on the use of the new units, the captain appeared unimpressed (and perhaps a little skeptical). His log book revealed otherwise, however: “This has been interesting and the first time that I have watched a FloScan this closely. I usually run at a speed the owner requests. The FloScan impressed us that the higher the RPM, the higher the fuel rate, and it goes up rapidly!”

The FloScan appeared to be a very valuable tool for determining fuel consumption and could be relied upon to determine the amount of fuel needed at the fuel dock. Although we had hoped for more precise data, the captain (who was primarily engaged in his job of delivering a boat, not our job of conducting a Foundation Findings test!) wisely used every means available to calculate the amount of fuel he needed. He noted in his log that he could “probably rely solely on the FloScan to determine fuel remaining, but I always choose to double check it with the clear sight gauges adjacent to each fuel tank.” And who can blame him in the middle of a long range passage?

FloScan Fuel Flow Monitoring System (Series K9000/GPS Interface) The FloScan 9000 has four simultaneous readouts. The largest readout is the RPMs and is dead center. Above that is your engine hours. Below the RPM is the GPH/MPG and Gallons (total consumed). In short, everything you need to know about your fuel consumption is available at a glance. What We Found
While we didn’t get definitive data on fueling accuracy, what we did learn was pretty amazing. With all the fuel data displayed right in front of you, it takes just a short while to determine what trim and throttle settings your boat likes and which are most efficient. For instance, based on what he saw, the captain of the Fleming identified 2,000 RPMs as the “sweet spot.” This equates to 7 GPH per engine (totaling 14 GPH for both engines) at a speed of about 10 knots.

Now, here is the kicker --- remember that the captain stated that he usually runs the boat at the speed the owner requests? Suppose in this case, the owner requested the delivery captain to run the boat at 12 knots. That’s only two knots faster, but our calculations show he would have burned approximately twice as much fuel! For the test boat’s trip south, this owner would have spent an extra $4,000 in diesel fuel!

Although the FloScan is also a reliable tachometer and hour meter, its basic function is to calculate fuel consumed. It does not, however, calculate gallons remaining. We found this to be a bit concerning, as most all other high-end fuel computers do have this important feature. When asked, FloScan responded that they are working on adding new features, and may combine it with another software and chartplotter package so you can program your tank size, which will ultimately give you “range” or miles to go on fuel remaining.

To visit BoatU.S. Foundation Article, Click Here.

©2008, BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water