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Old 14-03-2016, 09:07   #1
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Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Now that I know my batteries can't be saved

Ordered up a couple Firefly batteries to replace them.

On my Balmar 614 regulator, was wondering if I should change the mode to AGM or leave it Flooded?

Also, unless I am totally retarded (well there is evidence to support that), reading Balmar's manual, does the 614 even have a bulk mode? It looks like 2 absorption modes

From going through my last exercise, I thought bulk mode was current limited and not voltage limited? Or is this a typo or am I misunderstanding it? The display just shows V, not amps.. so I really have no idea how many amps the alternator is pumping into the batteries.... [edit] just a thought.. maybe that is the target voltage it wants to get to, and is pumping the appropriate amount of amps in..and it is just the wording in the manual that is confusing. [end edit]

I am confused

Quote:
Originally Posted by Balmar manual
  • 3. Bulk Charge - The most aggressive of the charging stages. Voltage is held at a pre-set level, specified by battery program ...
  • 4. Calculated Bulk Charge - Holds voltage at bulk level for six minutes, then calculates battery condition by comparing existing voltage, time at voltage, and field percentage to target values. If values are met, the regulator advances to the next stage. If values are not met, the regulator continues to bulk charge and compares real-time to target values.
  • 5. Ramps down to Absorption voltage.
  • 6. Absorption Charge - Regulator continues to control the alternator’s output voltage for an additional 18 minutes at approximately 2/10’s of a volt below bulk charging voltage. Adjustable in 6-minute increments
I guess my question is, what should I set the regulator to for optimal charging of the carbon foam batteries, as i have the 614 balmar (and a duo charge, if that matters)

Thanks in advance... again!
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Old 14-03-2016, 12:48   #2
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Bulk mode isn't really a mode.
Let me try to explain say your absorption voltage is 14.3. Bulk means your charge source is trying to get to 14.3 but it's current limit happens first. It keeps charging running at full capacity until reaching 14.3 V, then charge current begins to back off in order to keep voltage at 14.3.
So bulk isn't a setting its just what happens when charge source isn't big enough to get to absorption voltage


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Old 14-03-2016, 14:04   #3
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Bulk mode isn't really a mode.
Let me try to explain say your absorption voltage is 14.3. Bulk means your charge source is trying to get to 14.3 but it's current limit happens first. It keeps charging running at full capacity until reaching 14.3 V, then charge current begins to back off in order to keep voltage at 14.3.
So bulk isn't a setting its just what happens when charge source isn't big enough to get to absorption voltage
Thats how i understand it. I must have just read the manual wrong. Wasnt sure the regulator was doing something funky
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Old 14-03-2016, 14:05   #4
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

For Firefly batteries you will want to set bV at 14.5V for the shortest duration then absorption aV at 14.4V for at least 4+ hours. Float should be 13.2V. You will need to go into the custom menu to set this up. The "menu" items, flooded, GEL, AGM etc. are "lawyer safe" and pretty much suck...

Bulk vs. Absorption

Don't even get me started on incorrect use of the term bulk. It is like nails on a chalk board. Bulk is constant current or a transition voltage point where we end bulk/CC and begin absorption/CV. Bulk/CC is not voltage limited it is current limited.

A more correct terminology, for Balmar's marketing department (& some others), if they cared, would be ABSORPTION 1 then ABSORPTION 2 not a voltage limited bulk voltage then absorption voltage.

Heck you could even refer to it as pre-absorption and absorption. Simply put voltage limited charging is not bulk/CC charging. Voltage held constant during charging is constant voltage charging and can be absorption, float or equalization but it can not be accurately referred to as a bulk voltage.

If you have multiple CV stages then:

BULK = Constant Current
ABSORPTION 1 = Constant Voltage (could also be pre-absorption)
ABSORPTION 2 = Constant Voltage (could also be absorption)
FLOAT = Constant Voltage
EQUALIZATION = Constant Voltage

Just because marketing departments molest terminology to confuse the customer into believing they are getting something they are not, does not make it correct. Bulk occurs before your voltage as risen to the voltage limited or CV stage of charging.Bulk is constant current with voltage rising..
In answer to your question the MC-614 absolutely does bulk/cc charging but it is not when it becomes voltage limited unless you are believing their incorrect use of terminology.

Replace Balmar's incorrect use of bV/Bulk Voltage with the words Absorption 1 or Pre-Absorption and now their terminology is no longer misleading and incorrect.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple constant voltage levels, in steps, and in fact it makes for quite an excellent charge profile, but it is simply incorrect and entirely misleading to use the term BULK for something that is CONSTANT VOLTAGE because bulk is not voltage limited.

A typical charge profile on a Balmar will look like this: CC > CV > CV > CV

The first CV point is incorrectly called a bulk voltage by Balmar and this is simply bad form and misleading. To my knowledge Balmar was the first to use bulk incorrectly and now we have others copying it because the confusion apparently works and folks now think they are getting a bulk constant voltage, which simply does not exist, except in the eyes of the marketing departments...

Rant off....
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Old 14-03-2016, 14:08   #5
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

The 614 has three separate target voltage settings for bulk, absorption and float.
In bulk mode it puts out as much current as it can to reach bulk voltage. I don't know too much (nothing) about the 'calculated' business. I have seen it exceed the set target voltage and I am assuming the bulk target voltage is something used for the calculated settings together with the sense voltage (wild guess).
In absorption mode it is a little less aggressive in that it puts out the absorption voltage and the current will be whatever the battery accepts at that voltage unless the max current has been reached (belt load manager, alternator temperature)
Full disclosure - blind leading the blind

Edit: I see Maine Sail beat me to it and he has a much better description and differentiates between true bulk and Balmar bulk
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Old 14-03-2016, 15:43   #6
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Thanks. Wasn't sure if the factory set profiles were acceptable. I have played with the custom settings before. Although the new batteries are pretty robust, I still wanted to get it right.

Sooo the regulator/alternator does operate properly, they just are molesting the terminology. I didn't think i was going crazy. just didnt sound right when i read it.
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Old 14-03-2016, 18:42   #7
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

I don't have anything Balmar, but have noticed that my charging voltages don't always exactly match set values, I believe in Winter with cold batteries the voltages are higher than set values and in Summer when the battery temp is higher, the voltages are lower.
I believe this is normal behavior assuming of course your charge source monitors battery temp.


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Old 15-03-2016, 08:51   #8
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
For Firefly batteries you will want to set bV at 14.5V for the shortest duration then absorption aV at 14.4V for at least 4+ hours. Float should be 13.2V. You will need to go into the custom menu to set this up. The "menu" items, flooded, GEL, AGM etc. are "lawyer safe" and pretty much suck...

Bulk vs. Absorption

Don't even get me started on incorrect use of the term bulk. It is like nails on a chalk board. Bulk is constant current or a transition voltage point where we end bulk/CC and begin absorption/CV. Bulk/CC is not voltage limited it is current limited.

A more correct terminology, for Balmar's marketing department (& some others), if they cared, would be ABSORPTION 1 then ABSORPTION 2 not a voltage limited bulk voltage then absorption voltage.

Heck you could even refer to it as pre-absorption and absorption. Simply put voltage limited charging is not bulk/CC charging. Voltage held constant during charging is constant voltage charging and can be absorption, float or equalization but it can not be accurately referred to as a bulk voltage.

If you have multiple CV stages then:

BULK = Constant Current
ABSORPTION 1 = Constant Voltage (could also be pre-absorption)
ABSORPTION 2 = Constant Voltage (could also be absorption)
FLOAT = Constant Voltage
EQUALIZATION = Constant Voltage

Just because marketing departments molest terminology to confuse the customer into believing they are getting something they are not, does not make it correct. Bulk occurs before your voltage as risen to the voltage limited or CV stage of charging.Bulk is constant current with voltage rising..
In answer to your question the MC-614 absolutely does bulk/cc charging but it is not when it becomes voltage limited unless you are believing their incorrect use of terminology.

Replace Balmar's incorrect use of bV/Bulk Voltage with the words Absorption 1 or Pre-Absorption and now their terminology is no longer misleading and incorrect.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple constant voltage levels, in steps, and in fact it makes for quite an excellent charge profile, but it is simply incorrect and entirely misleading to use the term BULK for something that is CONSTANT VOLTAGE because bulk is not voltage limited.

A typical charge profile on a Balmar will look like this: CC > CV > CV > CV

The first CV point is incorrectly called a bulk voltage by Balmar and this is simply bad form and misleading. To my knowledge Balmar was the first to use bulk incorrectly and now we have others copying it because the confusion apparently works and folks now think they are getting a bulk constant voltage, which simply does not exist, except in the eyes of the marketing departments...

Rant off....
It's very good of you to explain this so thoroughly. Many users of external regulators more or less "get this" in terms of best practice, but it's quite helpful to have it laid out this schematically.
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Old 15-03-2016, 10:16   #9
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Phantom racer,
I (and probably others) will be interested in your experience with the Firefly batteries. my gels are coming on 11 years and I'll need to replace someday.
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Old 15-03-2016, 14:11   #10
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

I have installed 5 of the Firefly batteries, so far so good. The only strange thing is that because you set the float top 13.2 or less the alternator lights come on. I guess there is a way to wire to eliminate this. BTW we use the Balmar 614s .according to my link 10 the lowest we have gone is 82 %. We have about 600 watts of solar and stock alternators. When hooked to power I can get the amp counter on the plus side which I have not set my moind to yet. I did set the capacity and perket number
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Old 15-03-2016, 14:49   #11
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

If I could get eleven years out of a bank, Why change? Your doing something right


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Old 15-03-2016, 15:25   #12
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
If I could get eleven years out of a bank, Why change? Your doing something right
West Marine gels, two 8Ds and a smaller one. all one bank.
I got 12 years out of my previous bank.

I am a nut about keeping above 12.1V, including a mid-winter visit dragging long 30A cords to float the batteries for a week. I also have a little PulseTech Power Pulse. It contributes to better acceptance rate and longer life through desulfing.

the Fireflys sound good because you can discharge deeper, charge faster, and therefor carry at least 30% less Ah capacity for the same useful Ah.
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Old 15-03-2016, 21:01   #13
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

Phew, glad I put in a Sterling, with lead acids, simple suits my rudimentary style better.
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Old 15-03-2016, 21:24   #14
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

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Originally Posted by 01kiwijohn View Post
Phew, glad I put in a Sterling, with lead acids, simple suits my rudimentary style better.
I don't get the knock about balmar. There is nothing wrong with the product. the manual has some confusing terminology is the issue
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Old 24-03-2016, 20:52   #15
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Re: Balmar 614 "bulk charging"

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Originally Posted by phantomracer View Post
I don't get the knock about balmar. There is nothing wrong with the product. the manual has some confusing terminology is the issue
It's probably ok, but not infallible. I've had to rescue a few fellow cruisers, over the past three years, and all had Balmar alternator/ regulator combinations of one model or another.
I suspect their alternators, being painted, has some detrimental effect on heat dissipation too, but haven't quantified that.

I just prefer the lead acids (easy to find/ charge/ maintain/ predictable) and the Sterling allows me to leave the original regulator in place, which gives me an automatic, default, back up. It won't charge as well, but it will charge enough to get me home.
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