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Old 14-08-2008, 11:52   #1
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Balmar alternators overheating

I have a twin engined sailing catamaran recently fitted with Balmar 100 amp alternators and ARS-5 regulators. They are working fine but if required to produce anything more than 60A or so heat up beyond the regulators pre-set temperature level of 108C which means the regulator reduces the field voltage, the current output drops until the alternator cools sufficiently whereupon the field voltage is increased, current output goes back up, until the alternator overheats, when the field voltage is dropped...and so on. This means that the alternator output cycles up and down as the alternator overheats and cools (relatively) so I'm not getting the full benefit of the high output alternators etc. All the cabling is within spec, the installation has been checked and is fine, ventillation is good. I've been in constant email contact with Balmar in the States (I'm in Grenada) who have been tremendously helpful but not really solved the problem. Their last suggestion was to reprogramme the regulator to a higher temperature cuttoff point (120C) which I've done but all that now happens is that the alternator produces for a little longer before overheating. Initially the Balmar tech dept offered lots of suggestions although said they hadn't come across this problem before, the latest suggests that the alternators do run very hot anyway and you have to live with the "cycling". Has anyone out there got any experience with this problem?
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Old 14-08-2008, 11:59   #2
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Never had this problem with mine. Same set-up as yours. Is there belt dust on the alternator? I have also heard of the fans being on backwards and blowing air away rather than towards the alternator.
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:02   #3
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There are a lot of people who are less than enthralled with Balmar alternators. They wouldn't be my first choice for a high-amp externally regulated alternator.
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:07   #4
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Vasco, no, no unusual ammount of dust or belt wear. I understand that the fans are uni-directional on these alternators so that seems unlikely to be the problem...
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:07   #5
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Not with that alternator, but I'd suggest that the cooling is simply no sufficient, even if it is "good". Or, that Blamar is rating their alternators for intermittent no continuous use.

What are the outside temperatures? The engine room temperature? Is it a dual-fan alternator? Any way to duct more or cooler air to it? Put in an electric fan with a duct directly to the alternator area?

They usually are known for a good product and good support (except when the entire staff has gone on the boat show circuit<G>) and it might just be a matter of "too much alternator" in too small and hot a space.

Perhaps you can suggest to them, that if they cannot find a solution, they might swap out the alternators for a larger design that can tolerate more heat? (If you can fit one in.)
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:09   #6
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I've had two Balmar alternators fail in two years. Both melted down the coils and needed rebuilt. One was just over a year old. I carry spairs. I'm not happy with Balmar either
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:13   #7
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My Yanmar came with a 100 Amp Balmar alternator. I installed a 210 Amp Balmar to charge my 600 AH house bank, and use the 100 A to charge the start battery.

Never had a problem with the 100 Amp, but the 210 Amp exhibited the same symptoms that you described. Rick Jones from Balmar worked very hard with me to trouble shoot it. I even sent it back to their shop for testing, and it was OK. They sent me a new alternator anyway, and let me keep the original as a spare for just a "core charge".

After quite a bit of discussion on the phone and by email, Rick and the top Balmar technical guy actually came to my house to check it out personally. (I was not too far off their route from the boat show">Annapolis Boat Show to the Volvo location in Norfolk.) The problem was finally determined to be a faulty regulator (MaxCharge MC-612). There was a tiny crack in the plastic encasing the electronics. Rick gave me a new regulator and that did the trick. I have nothing but good things to say about Balmar service!

I did, however, install an in-line exhaust fan with flexible ducting to pull cool air from the bilges over the big alternator and out through the transom. That helps a lot to keep engine room temps a bit lower.
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:21   #8
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If the belts are slipping, it will heat up the alternators--the pulleys will be hotter than the alternator bodies.
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:24   #9
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When I was trouble-shooting my problem, I made good use of one of those hand-held InfraRed temperature sensors. I could get spot readings on the belts, the pulleys, and different parts of the alternator case. For $75 bucks, well worth it.
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:35   #10
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Hud3, yes, Balmar have been very helpful to me too, I've been dealing with the same people but unfortunately no great result so far and I get the impression that now I'm just going to have to live with it as they're out of ideas. Not really satisfactory. I'm going to try an extra fan and ducting to direct some more air onto the alternator which may help...
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Old 14-08-2008, 12:38   #11
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I ran the flexible duct into the engine compartment, and attached to it a length of rigid aluminum ducting for the final foot or two, so I could strap it right over the alternator fan.
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Old 02-11-2008, 17:57   #12
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Vasco, and all other Wizards
The alignment is visually proper, the v belt has those indents on the bottom side, the Balmar won't kick out more than 55 amps ever so infrequently, and there's black dust all over. what's happening???
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Old 02-11-2008, 18:09   #13
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Black dust is from the belt. Poor alignment or wrong size belt? Some belts have the slits or gogs on the top side.
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Old 02-11-2008, 18:20   #14
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Black dust: As Rick says, that used to be your belt, something is sanding it down. Either it is the wrong belt or you've got a wrong pulley. If the alternator pulley is too small--you'll never see full output. Take the belt off and look at all pulleys, see if there's any sign of what is eating the belt. A glazed shiny edge, or a blackened one perhaps.
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Old 02-11-2008, 19:12   #15
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One more cause for The black dust / belt problum , I found that if I over or under tightened the belt it would over heat the alternator, so itís important to have the right tension on the belt, this is not always easy to do and I found it took the first 40-50 hours of running time and ajusting a NEW belt maybe 3 -4 times during this time before the belt stopped making the black dust .
I use the green belts by NAPPA , much better than the factory ones from Balmar
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