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Old 04-07-2013, 11:53   #1
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Balmar alternator/controller questions

I tried to find the answer to this in archives and failed. I suspect discussions like this have been held before, so please direct me if you remember.

The forum has been a great help with our solar panel installation and the last weeks lousy weather here on the East coast required daily running of our alternators to try to keep the batteries charged. I was very disappointed in the alternator output and received unsatisfactory answers from the Balmar tech rep.

Equipment:
840 Ahr house bank of Lifeline AGM, forward mounted AGM bow thruster/anchor windlass battery and AGM starting battery
Balmar Altmount with 210 and 100 Amp alternators, Maxcharge MC-612 Dual regulator and Digital Duo Charge for the engine battery. Maxcharge is programmed for AGM batteries.

Problem: I had purchased a clamp-on DC ammeter during installation of the solar panels and checked the alternator outputs during charging. Both alternators outputs dropped very rapidly after engine start (At start, output was 90%, in 3 minutes, output was 67% and in 15 minutes, it was 50% of rated). None of the parameters was close to limits. In addition, at 30 minutes, the program advanced to absorption from bulk, even though battery voltage was 14.1V and it went into float within an hour. The Balmar tech rep would not answer my questions about this early charging drop off but talked around other subjects. It seems that their alternators cannot produce rated output for any length of time and their algorithms are designed to baby the alternators and will not satisfy my plan to use the large theoretical charging capacity on cloudy days to top off the batteries.

I am considering switching to the deep cycle flooded battery program to get more time in absorption and bulk. Has anyone else found these problems with Balmar alternators?

I plan to detail the design and performance of the solar setup, but havenít gotten enough sunny days on anchor to know the system yet. Thanking you all in advance for the detailed knowledge on this forum.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:06   #2
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

1. You can program the MC-612 to do just about anything, including changing the length of time for the different phases of charge.

2. Do you have temperature sensors on the alternator and the batteries?

3. Is you voltage sense wire on the house bank or the back of the alternator?

4. What SOC was your house bank when you started the engine and the charge current dropped?

Sometimes there are "echo" posts that ask the same question in a slightly different way, but that have similar answers. Here's one from just the other day:

Best Regulator for Lifeline AGM Batteries.
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Old 04-07-2013, 13:06   #3
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Thanks for the quick reply, Stu:
1. I am planning to change some of the 612 parameters but can't think of anything to change the fast reduction in output
2. Both batteries and alternators have temperature sensors, batteries were 27C and alternators were<55C
3. Will check location of voltage sensing
4. SOC was 50%
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Old 04-07-2013, 13:22   #4
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

The temperature sensor algorithm drops the current output in half when it reaches the temp set point. The only way to avoid this is to provide external cooling directed at the back of the alternator.

What you describe is pretty typical of any small case high output alternator. Changing to flooded cell batteries won't do anything.

David
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Old 04-07-2013, 14:28   #5
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Thanks, David:

My question is the rapid decline in output as soon as the engine is started, a long time before any temperature set points are reached. In 15 minutes, at 50C alternator temperature, the output is halved. I will look into external air directed at the alternators but worry that there are other program details at work that reduce the output before the temperature parameters kick in.

I am going to change just the program to deep cycle flooded to make up for the too early switch to absorb.
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Old 04-07-2013, 14:38   #6
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Utahsailor View Post
Thanks, David:

1. My question is the rapid decline in output as soon as the engine is started...

2. I am going to change just the program to deep cycle flooded to make up for the too early switch to absorb.
1. Understood your question, need to think some more given your answer.

2. That won't help. The times are the same for both types of batteries. Keep the AGM voltage settings, but change the time. You do have the manual, right? If not, download it from Welcome to Balmar

Back to #1 - first inclination is that your voltage sense is not at the house bank.
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Old 04-07-2013, 15:29   #7
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Bulk and absorption voltages should be set at about 14.4-14.6VDC for Lifeline AGMs.

Float voltage should be about 13.6VDC.

These settings, along with the time in each mode, can be set via the Advanced Program Modes on the MC-612.

Specifically, you want to adjust:

CL Compensation Limit
Bu Bulk voltage limit
B1c Bulk time limit
Au Absorption voltage limit
A1c Absorption time limit
Fu Float voltage limit
F1c Float time adjustment

You also want to use the Amp Manager (AP) to de-rate the alternator somewhat. These small case alternators can easily burn up with AGMs. Temp sensors can help, but I much prefer to de-rate the alternator by about 20%.

You didn't say how your two alternators are connected, and how they play together. Is it possible that they are in conflict, and one with higher voltage is causing the other to shut down prematurely?

See also the Lifeline AGM charging curves in Stu's post (No.2) above for an idea of how charging rates vary according to charger size. Your 210A alternator represents about 25% of the CA of your 840AH battery bank.

Bill
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Old 04-07-2013, 16:02   #8
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Disconnect the temperature probes from the regulator and see if the output goes up and stays there. I have run across several people with low output caused by faulty Balmar temperature probes.

Mark
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Old 09-03-2014, 19:13   #9
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

I would like to know what the outcome of your problem was as I am experiencing the same quick drop off of power. My 90 Amp Bosch K1 alternator sits on 15.5 amps after the initial load up. This is with or without the Alt temp sensor. I am using the 614 version of the Balmar controller.

Thanks
Jim
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Old 10-03-2014, 04:42   #10
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Follow Btrafors advice and see his curves in Stu's link.

I wouldn't worry about the big drop off in current until you have got the basics sorted. If you only reach 14.1 volt something is wrong somewhere.

As suggested disconnect the temp sensors.
Run with only one alternator at a time.
Re-program the Balmar regulator and don't just change to a different pre-programmed setting. ALL regulators play safe and will not charge your large bank properly. The Balmar manual is not very helpful in explaining how it works
See this from the Electromaax site:

The Max Charge uses a combination of timed and calculation-based segments to ensure that the regulator remains in each stage of charge for as little or as long is required in the bulk, absorption, and float stages. In other words, the regulator will remain in bulk charge for a minimum time period (12 minutes is standard). At the end of that 12 minutes the regulator considers a number of criteria; whether target voltage has been achieved, if the regulator was able to maintain that voltage for a given time, and how hard the alternator has to work to maintain that voltage. When all criteria are met, the regulator will advance to the next charging stage.

The most important settings are the Bulk/Absorption voltage and the time in absorption before it drops to Float.The Field Thresholds are interesting and are something I am playing with. You should be able to keep the programmed boost and absorption times short in case you often turn the engine on and off and automatically lengthen these times when they are needed by increasing the Field Thresholds.

My Lifeline AGM Bulk voltage is set to 14.6v for a minimum of 36 minutes.
Absorption voltage to 14.4v (to minimise gassing) for a minimum of 1 hour. I also have a three way switch to turn the regulator off if the batteries are clearly fully charged - or to switch back to the internal regulator which is set at 14v.

I think you have a lot of playing to do with your setup to get to the bottom of your real problem.
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Old 10-03-2014, 05:33   #11
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

I had the same issue once, the voltage sense was wired to a bus, when I move that little wire directly to the house bank, the problem was solved. Crazy, because the previous owners cruised the boat transatlantic like this!

While you are at it, check that the positive leads off of the alternator are properly fused. This is an often overlooked and very important safety consideration. THey should have fuses that are rated at 150% of alt. capacity, with a slow blow fuse (typically anl)

Chris
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Old 10-03-2014, 22:42   #12
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by JBH View Post
I would like to know what the outcome of your problem was as I am experiencing the same quick drop off of power. My 90 Amp Bosch K1 alternator sits on 15.5 amps after the initial load up. This is with or without the Alt temp sensor. I am using the 614 version of the Balmar controller.

Thanks
Jim
Some further information

The batteries are 2 x 225 Ah (20h) Geltechs
Battery sense wire is connected directly to the battery post

Regulator measures battery voltage correctly. Eg when underload the regulator reads B1 voltage of 12.7 V, Cv 14.0 V

From my understanding with such a large difference between the measured voltage and the calculated target the alternator should be at full output. With a clamp on meter this is now 33 Amps @2000rpm. now up from the 15.5 due to the removal of the belt manager setting 2 (alternator rated at 90Amp).

I have an identical alternator on the starter battery run by a mastervolt regulator and if the batteries are put in to parrallel this will kick in 72 Amps.

For some reasonlast week the unit had lost its memory and had reverted to the lead acid program. I will also check the other settings.
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Old 11-03-2014, 11:24   #13
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

My boat is hauled out at Bert Jabins yard in Annapolis. We are returning mid April and will again try to increase alternator output controlled by the Duo 612 Balmar regulators. My attempts failed last summer, including the battery sensors, removing the temperature sensors from the alternators, changing to the lead acid program, derating the alternators by 21%. The output rapidly declines from full output to 25% of rated output with all test protocols, as measured by a clamp on ammeter. I suspect that the light bodied Balmar 210 and 100 rated amp output alternators in my system are not capable of extended output over 25% of capacity, even if the temperatures stay low, so the software protects them from early failure and customer complaints.

I was counting on ~ 50% output to supplement the large solar array to avoid replacing the failed WhisperGen system, so this is a big disappointment. Trying another brand regulator may be a solution, unless it cooks the Balmar alternators.

Sorry for not being more help. Don Mitchell
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Old 11-03-2014, 20:40   #14
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

#1. battery Sulphated..? How does your shore power charger act?
#2. to small of charge cables..? what size are they, how far in feet do they run to the battery, do you have a specific ground cable from the alt to the bats, what size.
#3. if all of the above are correct..? regulator sense wire. make sure they are connected direct to the battery with their own fuse. Make sure the fuse is not corroded.
#4. are both alts charging the same bank..? if so you will need the center-fielder. These regs. need to know which one is dominant, so it can field both alts, and maintain proper charge algorithm.

Lloyd



Quote:
Originally Posted by Utahsailor View Post
My boat is hauled out at Bert Jabins yard in Annapolis. We are returning mid April and will again try to increase alternator output controlled by the Duo 612 Balmar regulators. My attempts failed last summer, including the battery sensors, removing the temperature sensors from the alternators, changing to the lead acid program, derating the alternators by 21%. The output rapidly declines from full output to 25% of rated output with all test protocols, as measured by a clamp on ammeter. I suspect that the light bodied Balmar 210 and 100 rated amp output alternators in my system are not capable of extended output over 25% of capacity, even if the temperatures stay low, so the software protects them from early failure and customer complaints.

I was counting on ~ 50% output to supplement the large solar array to avoid replacing the failed WhisperGen system, so this is a big disappointment. Trying another brand regulator may be a solution, unless it cooks the Balmar alternators.

Sorry for not being more help. Don Mitchell
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Old 11-03-2014, 21:37   #15
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Re: Balmar alternator/controller questions

If your solar system is running it will raise the system voltage and that is what your regulator is sensing and will adjust for what it sees. I too have a Balmar setup and if the solar system is up and running, the Balmar system will quickly go to absorption and then float. If you want to check it turn off or disconnect your solar system and make sure your system is discharged enough to go to work. If you have a robust solar system there is no need for Mr. Balmar to go to work and he knows that. A kind of entitlement program for alternators!
Good Luck
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