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Old 27-08-2014, 14:50   #1
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Battery Monitors

Do you ever miss the days before battery monitors? Are they a false prophet we are following?

The other day I was thinking how much happier I was before I had one as if the voltage seemed low I just charged the batteries. I didn't spent much time "monitoring" or really thinking about the batteries other than I knew a day would come when I had to replace them. Now we are always watching voltages, amp-hours, amps in, amps out, time at absorption, time at float. Hell based on some recent threads I even feel BMs make us see battery boogeymen where we start chasing problems that don't even exist.

All in service of the Great God Battery because we think if we follow the prophet they will last forever and we will be saved!

Maybe that new Smart Gage thingie will turn out to be a true prophet and lead us to better service of the Lead God
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Old 27-08-2014, 15:08   #2
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Re: Battery Monitors

Heck no! What would I do all day if I wasn't staring at the amperage flowing in and out? I leap out of bed to see where we're at in the morning and watch the solar input fluctuate with shadows and clouds flowing by. How else would I spend my day if I didn't have one?
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Old 27-08-2014, 15:18   #3
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Re: Battery Monitors

Some people just have too much money.
Their boats are so loaded down with electrics and electronics I guess they figure one more can't hurt. Some of us go cruising to get away from all of that.
I've found that a balanced setup of batteries, charging sources, and electrics can be easily managed with simple maintenance and a digital voltmeter.
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Old 27-08-2014, 15:58   #4
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Re: Battery Monitors

In all seriousness, I think one of the most important first upgrades somebody can make is a battery monitor. Only then can they understand their usage and appropriately balance their inputs and outputs. The voltmeter is next to useless, IMHO, since the voltage under load is different from the resting voltage. Only the latter tells you state of charge, but only the former is available.
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Old 27-08-2014, 16:43   #5
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Re: Battery Monitors

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
Do you ever miss the days before battery monitors? Are they a false prophet we are following?

SNIP
Do you ever miss the days before batteries.

The first real boat I ever cruised on as a skipper was a Kenner Privateer with a pull start outboard for power. No battery at all as it had kerosene running lights and a Coleman lantern.

It also had no GPS and a host of other things we take for granted.

But to answer your question I just installed one of these bad boys and am very happy with it; but I do understand that some folks may be a little more anal than I am about how often I check it.

TriMetric

If the truth be known I am also very happy with the improvements over the years, battery monitors included.
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Old 27-08-2014, 18:06   #6
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Re: Battery Monitors

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Originally Posted by cwyckham View Post
In all seriousness, I think one of the most important first upgrades somebody can make is a battery monitor. Only then can they understand their usage and appropriately balance their inputs and outputs. The voltmeter is next to useless, IMHO, since the voltage under load is different from the resting voltage. Only the latter tells you state of charge, but only the former is available.
A battery monitor can tell you what is happening but doesn't tell you what to do about it or how to manage your batteries.

Face it - As boomers retire and go to sea they want to and are going to bring their shore side conveniences. This requires ever bigger battery banks and charging systems.

No on has to like it and no one has to follow their lead. It's great to say, "Reduce all your loads and go minimal." Great! Works for that person.

But in order to take along the electronics there is some basic understanding needed. And then, when big investment on batteries is made, it is a good idea to protect that investment by watching what is going on.

The big mystery is capacity. SmarGauge will make it easier and more accurate to evaluate SOC but to my knowledge it won't tell you about loss of capacity.

So what causes loss of capacity? In its simplest form it is trying to do too much with too little. This is why cwwickam's post is on target.

Many cruisers are not installers or system designers. So here is one set and forget" recipe.

- Evaluate to the loads - Many folks still don't realistically evaluate their consumption
- Design the charging system to exceed the daily loads using any combination of solar, engine, generator and wind
- Size the bank (LiFeP0 excepted perhaps because they can be cycled deeper) to 400% of daily consumption as a minimum and then add 1X daily consumption for each "reserve day" needed/desired.

This will keep the bank at a very high SOC - One can argue about the batteries not getting worked hard enough and the need to get to bulk phase etc. But think about the underlying design/technology of the LA battery.

It is used to start and engine (low total amp draw) and then get topped up.

If one can use it like that on a boat in a house bank it arguably has to last a long time.

I would guess if one culled all the battery threads where batteries "died" early one would find a common thread of trying to do too much with too little charging and reserve capacity.
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Old 27-08-2014, 18:18   #7
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Re: Battery Monitors

All I have is a digital volt meter ($8 on amazon with shipping). After years of use, I know pretty much what the power use each day is. The volt meter just tells me when there is a problem.

I don't have a smart phone for the same reason, TMI and $$$.
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Old 27-08-2014, 20:21   #8
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Re: Battery Monitors

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All I have is a digital volt meter ($8 on amazon with shipping). After years of use, I know pretty much what the power use each day is. The volt meter just tells me when there is a problem.

I don't have a smart phone for the same reason, TMI and $$$.
How do you know what your power use is each day?

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Old 27-08-2014, 20:25   #9
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Re: Battery Monitors

Sailorchic, I have the same voltmeter. Works a charm. Just have to know how to use it and WHEN to use it. And like you I have come to know my boat and my daily electric consumption and just know when they need some recharging from the engine or the honda 1000.
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Old 28-08-2014, 05:51   #10
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Re: Battery Monitors

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Originally Posted by sailorchic34 View Post
All I have is a digital volt meter ($8 on amazon with shipping). After years of use, I know pretty much what the power use each day is. The volt meter just tells me when there is a problem.

I don't have a smart phone for the same reason, TMI and $$$.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cwyckham View Post
How do you know what your power use is each day?

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FWIW, I tend to lean toward SC's approach. Don't really care what our daily power usage is, although I do have a zen-like feel for it just from experience. If there's a problem, I can investigate.

Our system is sized so we can run everything we routinely use (which isn't all that much, actually, except for the two fridges), and then we re-charge each morning and each evening while we cook. (Our oldest battery bank is most of the way through it's 9th season.)

Wouldn't MIND a battery monitor, of course... but it's such a low priority it'll be a while (if ever) before that idea bubbles to the top of my wallet.

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Old 28-08-2014, 12:32   #11
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Re: Battery Monitors

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The voltmeter is next to useless, IMHO, since the voltage under load is different from the resting voltage. Only the latter tells you state of charge, but only the former is available.
The Schrödinger's cat of boating! Kind of makes it all sound philosophical, doesn't it?

A battery monitor never made it to the top of my list before. I waited until I had shore power or ran the portable generator on my last boat, then watched how high and for how long the charger worked to get an idea how badly I'd discharged the house bank. Crude but effective.

Now that I have a monitor that came with the boat, I find it extremely valuable. Especially when I don't want to (or can't) run the generator. I've even learned how long I have to be underway for the mains to recharge the house bank at a given state of discharge, and can skip using the generator altogether in many cases. That's worth something.
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Old 28-08-2014, 12:51   #12
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Re: Battery Monitors

I think a battery monitor more than earns its place amongst other instruments that provide information about our yacht systems.

It is not essential, but our electrical systems are increasingly important to modern boats.
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Old 28-08-2014, 13:02   #13
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Re: Battery Monitors

If you are really smart like Sailorchic or you know your boat and systems really well like onestepcsy37 (who might also be smart ) then a battery monitor is not really necessary. For others it can be a handy gadget and a good learning tool. I got one as an easy way to learn the power use on my newtome boat and how well my new fridge is doing.

However, I don't let it run my life. Check it occasionally to see how many amps went out since the last time I charged the batteries. Sync it every week or three when the batteries are fully charged.

I expect once I'm onboard full time and get used to the systems I will look at it even less often.
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Old 28-08-2014, 13:12   #14
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Re: Battery Monitors

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The Schrödinger's cat of boating!.
Except I can tell if my cat (battery) is dead or not dead without looking in the box (fancy battery monitor).
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Old 28-08-2014, 13:23   #15
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Re: Battery Monitors

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Except I can tell if my cat (battery) is dead or not dead without looking in the box (fancy battery monitor).
There are some subtle shade of grey between "dead" and "not dead". This distinction is where a battery monitor is useful.
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