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Old 03-09-2008, 08:18   #1
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3 stage regulator or internal regulator for AGMs?

Hello,
I'm back again, looking for more advice.... I had a new engine installed on my boat, and got it with a 72amp internally regulated alternator.

There is a 3 stage Balmar regulator installed on the boat, but I understand it won't work with the internally regulated alternator.

I have a house bank with 4 105ah AGM batteries, and a 5th one of the same type for starter.

My question is do I need to use the 3-stage regulator, to protect the health of my batteries, or is it just a nice-to-have feature? If the latter, is it worth my while to use it?

If I do decide to use it, I understand my options are to either convert the existing alternator to be unregulated or buy a new unregulated alternator. Is it easy enough to do the conversion, or would I be wiser to just get a new alternator?

Thanks
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:56   #2
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Unless you're in a marina most of the time and can plug in to charge the batteries, the internally regulated alternator will not keep your batteries up.

I would get a 100 amp small case alternator like the small Balmar.
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Old 03-09-2008, 09:36   #3
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For AGM's (any battery really) you need a 3 stage charger that can be set specifically for an AGM charging profile. This will insure you get the longest life possible from them. Batteries cost a lot of money while the price of charging systems has not increased that much. It's always been economical to invest in good charging systems but now the case is better than ever.
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Old 03-09-2008, 09:56   #4
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I agree...go for the "smart" regulator and higher out put alternator. You'll be glad you did.
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:01   #5
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I suppose the $500-$700? for an alternator would be worthwhile if it prolongs the life of the batteries.

I am not sure exactly what type of regulation is built into my stock alternator, and how that might effect the charging.

Is it true that a using 3 stage regulator will charge the batteries more quickly?
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:05   #6
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The standard internally regulated alternator will not charge your batteries properly or fully if you're cruising unless you're a minimalist. You need a high output alternator with a smart regulator.
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:31   #7
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Sgt, you should be able to save some money, esp in USA, buying a Delco Remy (CS series) or Leece Neville (Load handler) alternator from one of the big outlets for ~$200. These will have an internal regulator which an electrician can modify in half an hour to receive an external field input. Both of these are larger frame alternators, better for heat dissipation. I believe the "internal reg" on the Leece is a Motorola unit fastened to the back and these work somewhat better than a std internal reg. But the 3 stage reg is certainly the optimum solution
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:46   #8
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The three stage will do better than the internal. Blamar should have docs on their web site, or their tech support can tell you how to pull out one wire from the alternator and set it up so it can be used with the external regulator *or* the internal one, at the flip of a switch or switching one jumper.

Any alternator shop should be able to do the work for maybe $50 if you don't feel up to it. Not a hard job.
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Old 03-09-2008, 13:59   #9
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Thanks for the tips.

There seems to be agreement that the 3-stage is the way to go. But just for my education can anyone explain why?

I've heard that the 3-stage will charge faster, is that true? how much faster? and why is it faster? How does the 3-stage regulator prolong battery life?

My engine is a universal 25-xpb, 3 cylinder. As far as I know the largest alternator I should put on there is around 100amps. I'll try and find out what the make of my current 72amp alternator is and see if it can easily be converted to work with an external regulator. (Anyone know what the manufacturer is of alternators used on Universal engines?)

thanks again
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Old 03-09-2008, 14:12   #10
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sgt, the bottom line is that the mass-produced automobile alternator with an internal regulator, is (sit down, please) NOT DESIGNED TO CHARGE YOUR BATTERY.

It is designed for two purposes: One, to be cheap, since pennies count in mass production and yes, the customer will buy a different $20,000 car if the other one is $25 less.

Two, it is designed "to not overcharge" one SLI battery. It is not designed to recharge the battery form deep cycling. It is designed so that the car can be run for eight hours a day, without producing too much current and overcharging the SLI battery--which is only supposed to be discharged a very small amount (5-10%) in normal use.

So if it takes fifteen or thirty miinutes to replace the power taken up by one start, and has enough extra power to run the lights and wipers, that's good enough. And the easy way to do this is to use "dumb" electronics that rapidly cut back the charging power based on the battery voltage.

It takes more brains, more cost, to produce a circuit that will put out different voltage and amperage levels depending on charge time and condition, so if you want the better design--you have to pay for it.

Sadly not at mass-market prices, but at "niche market" prices.
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Old 04-09-2008, 14:39   #11
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Convert your new alternator to an externally regulated P-type so that you can use it with your existing Balmar regulator. If you don't know how to do that (see Nigel Calder's book), your local alternator shop should. Its often possible to buy a 'brush block' which replaces the internal regulator/brush combination and does the conversion--you simply run one of the brush wires to ground and the other to the field wire from the regulator.
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Old 04-09-2008, 15:58   #12
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Thanks, so as I see it my options are:

1) convert the existing 72amp stock alternator to P-type and use my existing Balmar 3-stage regulator
2) buy a new alternator (i called Balmar, the highest output - that they make - which would work on my engine is an 80amp.)

I take it there's probably not very much point doing 2) if i can just hook up my existing alternator with the external 3-stage regulator. I don't know the manufacturer of the stock Universal alternator and if there's any other reason to replace it.

I appreciated all the input, thanks!
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Old 04-09-2008, 16:31   #13
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Balmar's not the only game in town

I got a 100 amp alternator this year from this company:
https://www.electromaax.com/shop/cat...p?cPath=72_156

Excellent people to deal with, they broke their backs getting the alternator to fit my Universal M3-20. I have it hooked up to a Hehr Aqualine external reg. There's more than just the charging to this, the soft start feature is worth it's weight in gold IMHO, and the ability to float the batteries instead of frying them is also sweet. For alternators, there's also Hehr, Ample Power and others in addition to Balmar.

I have no connection with the above company other than I bought an alternator from them. Hope this doesn't break any rules. If it does, shoot me.
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Old 05-09-2008, 09:50   #14
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Some thoughts on converting your stock alternator

As discussed above, a stock automotive type alternator's internal regulator is not sophisticated enough for proper and timely charging of your AGM battery bank. Modifying it to accept an external regulator will solve the issue of it being safe for your expensive batteries but there is something else to consider. If your alternator is going to be your primary charging system you may want to consider an alternator upgrade. A stock automotive type alternator is not designed to run at maximum output for extended periods of time. They will get hot quickly and performance will drop off significantly. On the other hand, if you have regular access to shore power or have other charging systems that will share a significant portion of the charging duties, an externally regulated automotive alternator may be perfectly adiquate.

If you do decided to upgrade alternators, make sure you have the space for the unit you're considering. I have a Westerbeke 30B Three and couldn't accomidate any of the newer Balmar alternators due to their depth. I found a few year old (but never used) 90-75 at a shop with some old stock that fit. I'm not sure if this is a concern with most other engines...
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