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Old 27-03-2007, 15:41   #1
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Alternator, Regulator, and Monitor Selection

Hi all,

As I posted in a somewhat related thread, we're going to be replacing all of the wiring in our new Westsail and installing an entirely new battery bank. For this new electrical system, we'd like to have a quality monitoring, regulation, and charging system.

I've been researching the different regulator/monitor options. The Link 2000R seems to be a pretty good combination, providing both monitoring and regulation services and combining them in a legible unit. It's unclear whether it supports wind gen and/or solar regulation as well. Though I have neither yet, I'd like the expanse option. Please tell me of your experiences with these and different units. If possible, list which specific product/unit you've had success with.

Please give opinions on alternators, as well as their sources. So far, I'm considering Balmar, Amptech, and Battery Shack. Amptech/BS are definitely the more affordable, but why? Poorer quality? Other alternators to choose from that are high quality? This will be installed as a second alternator on my Perkins 4-108.

I intend to install 4 or 6 Trojan 105 batteries in parallel/series for a house bank. I'm not sure of our daily use yet, so we'll see. On that same note, I'm going to replace the alternator, but do not know the size I need yet. I am confident in my ability to size my battery banks/alternator. It's just the regulator, monitor, and alternator types, brands, and the like I'm not sure of. Books are great, but so are practical opinions.

Thanks for your thoughts/opinions!
Aaron N.
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Old 27-03-2007, 17:24   #2
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Having only a 13hp motor in my boat, I went with a Balmar Hi-Output 70 amp Alternator with their Xantrex branded external regulator (it was $50 cheaper than the same one with the Balmar brand on it) to charge a 315ah house bank of AGM's. My Air-X wind generator has an internal regulator and I run it direct to the house bank. (One Group31 AGM for start)

Part of the wiring for the external regulator included a ON-OFF-ON toggle switch to utilize external-none(freewheel)-internal (alternator) regulator. This has proved useful in a couple of different ways. One, the sense wire to the external broke at the terminal connector, so I was able to switch to internal until I fixed it. The other was when needing some extra ommpph from the motor, I can switch to freewheel.

This setup has worked well for me so far.
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Old 27-03-2007, 17:48   #3
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There is a lot of info already around the forum so you can get a lot with the search tool.

Some quick points.

If you don't know your power demand you need to tend to it now. You need to get into how much power things take and how you plan to deal with it. You say 4 or 6 batteries but you really need to understand what happens when you have extra batteries or too few batteries. Both are bad situations. When you discharge you are only going down no more than 50% if you want to get the longest life. Then recharge them fully. But the tricky part is you need to get them fully recharged too. So if you have too many batteries you'll be charging longer than you have to because as you get closer to 100% capacity charged you can't put as many amps into them without hurting them. So the last 10% is pretty slow. If you have too many batteries you won't get there very often except if plugged in or motoring all the time. Neither are great fun on a sailboat. Use as little power as you can and life is easier.

So you want all the batteries you need but you don't want any extras. That means you need to understand how you will use and charge your batteries before you begin. You have to size the system accordingly. You can't do it later without wasting a lot of time and money. On a 32 foot boat you might want to consider if the extra batteries are worth the space and if you really need them.

On our last 33 ft boat we had 6 Trojans where 2 were for starting. It lasted a long time but When we changed it out we went with a dedicated starting battery instead and used 2 group 4 AGM's. This was a great setup. The second boat has a dedicated starting battery and 4 Trojans. Both boats have solar and I can't say enough good about solar panels. For one thing you can leave your boat unplugged most all the time and that alone saves you from all sorts of nasty things.

Inverters are expensive ways to use electricity. You throw away a fair amount converting it from DC to AC so it is best used carefully. For computers never use an inverter. Instead use a DC to DC auto adapter and save the double conversion penalty.

Our current boat uses an Ample Power regulator that takes the solar panels and the alternator power inputs and regulates the output. If you use an external regulator you don't want an internally regulated alternator. One is enough. I think external regulation is easier to manage.

Battery monitors are exceptionally nice. The last boat has a Link 10 single bank monitor. I never thought I needed to monitor the starting battery, but I had a switch that would combine the house bank to the starting battery in case the engine didn't start. The current boat has an Ample Power monitor for two banks but it came that way so I don't need to change it.

I placed the 4 Trojans into two banks and then combine the two banks to one house bank. Flood batteries can get one bad cell and that one cell will trick the charging system into trashing the whole bank. If that happens you can catch it soon (you hope) and switch one bank off and not lose the whole mess. It's one of the many short comings of flood batteries. You must be religious about watch the water levels. The water level tells you when things are not all happy. If you need a lot of water added it means something is wrong. If you wait until you need 2 gallons then you are pretty much toast. You have to look to know. AGM's have none of these problems plus have lower internal Resistance and can be charged quicker with less power input. The only problem with AGM's is installing them in a boat regulated for flood batteries.

It's why I used to have Trojans, then got rid of them for AGM's and now have Trojans again. My regulation won't handle AGM's and I don't want to switch it out to do it just yet. The last owner installed the regulator plus when I got the boat it had a brand new identical regulator as a spare. Since you are buying brand new they all should support either.
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Old 27-03-2007, 18:06   #4
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I have been running 90 amp balmar alternators for the past ten years on my 28 horsepower yanmars on my catamaran. The alternators have done well except that the aluminum flanges on the alternators have broken twice and required welding - once in New Zealand, and once in Yemen. They are repairable when the foot flange breaks off, but it is inconvenient when it happens. I also had to insert sleeves in the bolt holes to keep them from flogging out and enlarging in size over the years.

Congratulations on having a Westsail 32. I had one for about five years and I always felt like I was sailing in a bullet proof yacht when I was on my Westsail. They are great sailers when running downwind in the trades.

Cheers,
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Old 27-03-2007, 20:18   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais
There is a lot of info already around the forum so you can get a lot with the search tool.
Pblais,
I've done a good amount of searching. There have been many questions asked about battery systems, but I didn't find much that directly addresses different brands and models. I'm interested in the alternators, regs and monitors that people use successfully, and how they have them all hooked up to function well together. There have been many discussions of which are not good, but I haven't seen much that explain which are great, and why.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais
You need to get into how much power things take and how you plan to deal with it.
I do realize how important this is. That's why I'm waiting. We don't have the boat home yet, and likely won't be able to find time to pick her up till June. We're still figuring out what all we're going to have aboard, so I can't accurate gauge amp draw. I do not intend to purchase batteries or an alternator until I know exactly what I need.

I am, however, planning to purchase the regulator and monitor as soon as I know which I want. The boat has two OK Grp27 AGMs right now. We plan to replace all the wiring and install lower power Alpenglow fluorescent/LED overhead lights, and LED navs. In the process, I'll install the monitor (which I want to be wet-cell/AGM compliant), as well as the regulator to regulate the current setup (the stock alternator is externally regulated). Then we'll use the boat for a wile, keeping track of our electric usage, and design a battery/charging system around what we do.

That's the plan at least. I could probably calculate our use, then install the whole system, but we're going to be using this boat for longer periods than we have boats in the past, so I'm not confident I'd get an accurate answer doing so.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais
Use as little power as you can and life is easier.
This one we have a headstart on. We avoid most high draw stuff when we go sailing, and keep the little stuff off. No laptop, no built-in stereo, no fridge, use kerosene lamps, a kerosene anchor light, keep the VHF off, and rarely use the GPS or radar. We go out for a week to be on the boat, leaving the mumbo of 2007 at the dock.
Thanks for everyones time in aiding me!

Juicy mangos to all!
Aaron N.
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Old 29-03-2007, 05:49   #6
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Blah...I had the Link 2000R system. I now have a Link 2000 (no R). If the remote display or circuit board interface fails (my case) then you not only lose the monitor system but also the means of charging your battery (no voltage regulator). This is a bad thing.
My case....A portion of the interface circuit board fried due to corrosion. I was 1200 miles away from Tahiti, where I could get parts. Luckily I have a twin engine cat and the port engine regulator was independent of the Link 2000R. In a single engine monohull I would have fried my batteries, shutting down all electronics and electrical systems, long before reaching land.

Make the system independent so that you don't have a single point failure which shuts down your ability to charge the batteries. You can always do without the monitor as it is just that ... an indicator for battery condition. If you can't charge the batteries then you are really screwed. JMO
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Old 29-03-2007, 06:24   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kapena
I now have a Link 2000...

JMO,

What regulator system did you wind up going with? Do the Link 2000 and regulator "talk" directly, or just assume what the other is doing? I suppose the monitor would know because it is monitoring what is going in and out...

Also, do you use a solar array or wind gen? If so, what regulator setup do you use for these.

Thanks for your time!
Aaron N.
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Old 29-03-2007, 06:41   #8
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I have Link 2000R and Balmar 70-110 with 400Amps of batteries. Read the Calder book about this, he does a good job of explaining the need to match a charging system to the batteries. I don't think the Link will handle a solar bank, nor do I think you want it to. Keep it seperate, a solar regulator is small, cheap and redundant. I bought my boat with a 2000R installed but no high capacity alternator. I didn't know it at the time but the regulator module was not installed. When I went to buy one I learned that they had changed. The older system used to handle the alternator control by monitoring a separate shunt on the output of the monitor. The new regulators a very similar to ones everyone else offers are probably interchangable. I contact Link and they offered to make me an older unit but was not something currently offered. Although I think the older system was better I opted for the new one because of sourcing issues if it broke down. Check to see how long the unit has been sitting on the shelf before buying, I saw the regulator I originally wanted withing a 2000R kit at West Marine but of course didn't want an entire kit. I quickly learned you couldn't just buy an older regulator. My biggest beef with the whole system was sourcing a decent V-belt to drice the alternator. Something else I didn't know much about. I did start learing though when the first one broke after only about 15 hours of running time right in the middle of Johnstone Strait in large tidal exchange and no wind.
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Old 29-03-2007, 07:30   #9
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Makai carries 2 large frame 140 amp Ample power alt (2-55 amp stock hitachi charges the starter batteries) and a Smart alt regulator (manages both house bank alts) with the link 2000 on 6 T105's (675AMP @ 12v). In the last 3 years it has worked perfectly, easy to setup and upgrade. The engine start switch is set so that we can actually turn off the large frame alt at the helm should we ever need to max engine hp to the prop with out the load. Haven't used it, but it is there just in case.

Makai is setup so that the Ample power alt are dedicated to charging the house bank and the stock alt is dedicated to charging the starter batteries. Both systems are seperate.

We also carry 480 watts of solar and a KISS wind gen. The solar has its own dedicated MPPT charge controller and we use the Link 2000 to monitor it. The wind gen is unregulated as the battery bank will take per Trojan 18 amps continous 2 1/2% of the amps as a float without causing damage to the bank.

Everything appears to work very well togather with little fighting between the various regulators. The Solar regular is on when ever there is sun. The Ample Smart Alt reg, sees the output of the solar regulatory and adjusts the alt out as necessary. We have had the engines running in full sun with any apparent over charging or regulator fighting.
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Old 29-03-2007, 09:29   #10
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For low power lighting I just installed a cold cathode fluorescent system in the galley. Taylorbrite makes a nice line of lights that use this technology. They look very attractive and the bulbs are rate far longer than other fluorescent. They also have a reading light too. Defender had the best price as they are not cheap. One cool feature is you can attach a dimmer to them and use even less power yet still illuminate at a lower level.

Halogen litghts get far too hot and use way more power even if they are pretty cheap.
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