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Old 15-05-2013, 10:02   #31
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Lots of questions. When you combine two 6-volt batteries in series you double the voltage but the amp hour rating of the combined batteries stays the same. For example, put two typical 6-volt golf carts together in series and you have one 12-volt battery with about 185-225 amp hours (depends on the batteries). Probably pretty similar in amp hours to the two 12-volt GP 31 batteries you are using now, but better deep cycling performance with the golf cart ones. There are less total cells with the golf carts (6 versus 12), therefore the plates are thicker and more robust and can take deep cycling better. Having said that, I'm not sure the gain will be that noticeable for you in your situation, and probably would require retooling your battery box, etc. The simplest solution might be for you to add another battery to your house bank. It is better to keep the batteries all hooked together and therefore you won't run the total down as far--deep cycling reduces the life span of the batteries. One big bank is better than two smaller banks. In your case, you can always start the motor without the battery, so there really isn't a danger there.
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Old 15-05-2013, 11:03   #32
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

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Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
Wow, you guys. This is a ton of great advice and information. It will definitely take me a while to digest everything.

I don't have any refrigeration to worry about (just ice blocks in coolers). I do have an LED cabin light for the one that I use most. The rest are incandescent but I rarely turn them on. I also have a propane camping light that I use most evenings while we're cooking and hanging out. The biggest power draws seem to be the radar (which I use while sometimes while sailing at night or whenever there is fog) and the stereo (which I do like to use lots of the time but when the batteries are in danger of getting low I switch over to a AA powered portable ipod unit or nothing at all). I will continue to work on my overall efficiency, but there is only so much I can do on that front. For the record, I do monitor the battery voltage closely and check the electrolyte twice a year or so.

And yes, of course I didn't really mean that money was no object, but I enjoyed those wild replies regardless. What I meant was that I was willing to pay two or three times as much for the batteries themselves if they would take my abuse and perform better. Since that doesn't seem to be the case, I will stick with lead acid. I'm not sure I understand the 6V approach, though. Would they be hooked up in pairs in series to get the 12 volts I need? It seems like I would need more batteries, they would take up more space and weigh a lot more. Maybe Iím better off sticking with two large 12v batteries. The Lithium Iron Phosphate option does seem pretty good for the kind of use I'm putting them through, but if I'm going to invest significantly in charging them better maybe there isn't enough money left in my battery budget.

As for upping my ability to generate, the Honda generator seems like a sensible (albeit smelly and annoying) way to solve my issue. I already keep a can of unmixed gas for my dinghy outboard (my main gas tank is mixed), and I wouldnít have any problem using some of that for the generator. The smallest such generator (Honda eu1000i) seems to run around $800, which is already much larger than my original battery budget, but still well worth it if it is saving me additional nights at a marina. They make a set of DC charging wires for $10 and it says the generator puts out 15A, but Iím sensing that people think I would need a specific charger that plugged into the generator for better regulation. Can anyone tell me how I would find one to match the Honda generator? Would a generator like this be prone to spills when not in use?

Of course, if Iím dropping $800 on a generator that I would only run periodically, I could also drop $1000 and get a wind generator that would be easier to run more frequently. Unfortunately I just donít have much of a place to put this type of thing on my little boat. I think the generator may be my best bet out of concern for space.

I have another important question regarding my setup and habits. I have the batteries separated on a switch. The two negative battery terminals are connected directly together and to the bonding system of the boat, but the positive leads go through the switch so that I can have one or both on at a time. The charging wires from the outboard are connected to the positive house connection on the switch, so that whichever battery is drawing current is also the one getting charged when the motor is on. The solar panels plug into my outlets, so they also will charge whichever batteries are switched "on". The shore power charger is connected with alligator clips to one of the batteries. I can charge both of them together by keeping the switch turned to ď1+2Ē, but I noticed that it rarely gets up to 100% this way (perhaps too much wiring to go through?) so I am in the habit of keeping them isolated with the switch and charging them up one at a time by moving the alligator clips. Is this an appropriate arrangement and practice? And when it comes to my longer stretches off the grid, is it best to run one battery down at a time so I know that Iíve still got half my capacity in reserve for important things like radar/GPS, or is this only hastening their demise since I am more likely to drain one of them too low before reaching my halfway point?

When I do plug in to shore power, I usually plug in overnight. I thought the 15A charger was big enough for my applications, as well as to avoid charging them too quickly and potentially doing damage or boiling off liquid. Is this wrong? If so, any suggestions on what to replace it with?
Without refrigeration, you really shouldn't have any problem covering your power budget. For many cruisers, refrigeration is more than half of the whole deal.

I think you've just about got it figured out, but a couple more tips:

1. All your battery capacity should be combined in one bank. Look through the archives and you'll find a detailed explanation about why. To make a long story short, they will work more efficiently that way.

2. With the kind of consumption we now know you have, 15 amps of charging capacity might actually be ok. You are right that charging more slowly will be easier on the batts. That's a good size for 150 to 200 amp/hours of battery capacity, which ought to be about enough for you.

3. On the other hand, it is important that charging capacity be well matched to generating capacity. If you buy a 1kW Honda (misleadingly named -- the actual capacity is, IIRC, 850 watts, at full chat), you will not want to run it for endless hours at 20% capacity because of the limitation of your charger. You will want one which uses 500 or 600 watts at full power (I roughly guess that this translates to 20 or 25 amps at nominal 12v).

4. Wind power could work for you with such small requirements, and would be more pleasant than gasoline power, but I can't advise you, as I have failed myself at using it productively.

5. Gasoline power will not be at all too bad for you, with your small requirements. A couple of hours every several days will not be a big deal. I think it's a good solution. The little Honda is almost silent. And the main thing is you will stop worrying about it. You know that whenever you start to run low, there is a quick solution.

6. If I were you, I would get all remaining incandescent lighting out of the house. It now costs very little to do so. And some oil lighting, as suggested by someone above, is also a great idea -- pleasant light at the cost of 0 amps.

7. When you finish this exercise, once you get your power situation under control, then you will have the luxury of forgetting about it.

Good luck, and let us know how it all works out.
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:00   #33
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

You might want to consider more solar rather than the generator. Run your energy budget based on your use with a larger house bank and see how it works for you. Much simpler than a generator.
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:04   #34
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Dockhead has summed things nicely.

I have seen gassing LA batteries explode when dis or connecting alligator clips (spark).
The recommended generator was not to use the 12 volt lead but to connect a 112 volt smart charger to charge your batteries.
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:20   #35
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

At any cost.....


Well there are the plutonium powered (SNAP et al) power sources for spacecraft. Not much radiation but you could put it in the keel. Quite a lot of heat so you could have unlimited hot water.

Get one of the 300 watt units and have 600 Amp hours day in and day out for 20+ years.

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Old 15-05-2013, 12:29   #36
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Yes, I did have a lot of questions in there. Thanks for addressing all of them at once, dockhead! I also feel like I am getting close on this one. More solar sounds great, Stu, but it will not keep me charged under constant use when I need my deck space during the sunniest parts of the day...

It seems like the Yamaha 1000w generator is a little easier to find and a little lighter than the Honda. Any opinions on that one?

I'm looking at chargers again now, and I don't see the consumption in watts listed in any of the specs. This is the charger I have now : Schumacher SSC-1500A Ship 'n Shore SpeedCharge Charger with included battery clamps : Amazon.com : Automotive

Is it possible that this charger will also work well when run off the 1000w (or 900w AC output) generator? What specs should I be looking for on the chargers to match the generating capacity?

Also, I always unplug the charger and wait a minute before changing alligator clips. I guess I will be doing less of this if I always run/charge the two batteries together as people are suggesting.
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Old 15-05-2013, 13:05   #37
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Oh, I see that the charger I linked to has an OUTPUT Wattage of 280 watts. Does this mean it is underpowered for the 900w generator and I should get a bigger charger? I'm still a bit confused on this point...
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Old 15-05-2013, 13:46   #38
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

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Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
Oh, I see that the charger I linked to has an OUTPUT Wattage of 280 watts. Does this mean it is underpowered for the 900w generator and I should get a bigger charger? I'm still a bit confused on this point...
You need to know the INPUT watts. But probably, yes - a bit small, which would be very bad. You want a charger with input watts of 70% to 80% of max continuous output of the generator. Otherwise, you will run it for many unnecessary hours.
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Old 15-05-2013, 15:19   #39
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

I appreciate the boat is 26ft and space limited but just before you dash out and buy a genny and large charger, just have another look at solar. We sold our Honda 20i last year and added a second solar panel on the stern. The second hand price we got for the genny would have bought half a dozen solar panels if we wanted.

We have a similar sized demand to you but also a fridge. 125w of solar will keep the batteries fully topped up living on board for a week quite happily.

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Old 15-05-2013, 15:34   #40
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

For those that don't know, Maine is notorious for fog of the sort you can cut with a knife and serve for desert. I had a cat with solar and wind power, and Maine was the only place I ever had difficulty keeping my batteries up, even though the fridge ran much less than in the Caribbean (where there is plenty of wind and sun). I once spent a couple of weeks in Maine and we never saw the place--went from anchorage to anchorage in thick fog, never lifting day or night. On the other hand, some days are glorious! But, it isn't the ideal place for solar.
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Old 15-05-2013, 15:45   #41
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Given the seemingly small amount of electricity needed, I really think all you need is a big battery pack, forget the gasoline and generator. 100ah at 10ah per day is 10 days (roughly). Drop in a marina for a night once a week to charge them up (and take a shower and go to the store/restaurant) and you don't even need solar. 100ah of lithium is only 28lbs, pricey at $600, but they ARE the best.
Sinopoly 100 Amp Hour Lithium Battery
But even if not lithium, a big lead pack is probably enough to avoid the dreaded genny song and dance.

Let me add, given solar isn't great, maybe tow a water generator when sailing? There must be some wind.
Oh and again, if no wind, at least Maine has big tidal flow right?
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Old 15-05-2013, 16:08   #42
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

Okay, please explain why solar doesn't work in Sacramento. They all wear sun glasses on California Highway Patrol (CHiPs), must be at least some sunshine. Works well enough for us at 50.N in soggy England.

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Old 15-05-2013, 16:16   #43
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

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Okay, please explain why solar doesn't work in Sacramento. They all wear sun glasses on California Highway Patrol (CHiPs), must be at least some sunshine. Works well enough for us at 50.N in soggy England.
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Pete, the OP is in New England, Maine, different Jack.
Sacramento actually doesn't have much sun, because it is the Tree Capitol of the USA, there is shade everywhere! Trees are everywhere feed by all the water from our two rivers that we get before all the rest goes to SoCal.
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Old 15-05-2013, 16:37   #44
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

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Like already mentioned, concentrate on power generation more than on batteries to store it in.
I would go farther batteries are the answer not the question. Power you don't use is cheap! Power you don't need is cheaper. Work the problem from how much power you need. Consider an alternator will make more power than you can use so under power you are fine burning gallons of fuel per hour at a high cost.

Spend money on things that use less power. No fridge is really a lot easier to deal with than any fridge. On most boats the fridge uses most all the power.

Personally, I love battery monitors. They do a mathematical integral computation. That is they computer power used plus power added to give you a "fuel gage" on your batteries. When you know how much you use you can look for ways to use less. You can look for reasons your usage just went sky high too!

The very worst solution is a huge battery bank that you never can recharge fully! It makes them all die young and costs you more. The key is knowing how much power you really use and how you use it! In the end, the smallest battery bank that works is the best solution. Solar, wind, alternator, generator, or shore power all do the charging OR allow direct use. The batteries are for those times when you want to sleep in silence!
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Old 16-05-2013, 06:48   #45
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Re: Best House Battery at any cost?

So here is my current thinking:

Some things I will do either way:
1) Get new Die Hard deep cycle batteries to replace my burned out ones.
2) Replace all my cabin lights with LEDs
3) Get a battery monitor (can anyone recommend a model or brand?? I'm not sure what I'm looking for)

Then I'm trying to decide between the following two options:

1) Replacing my measly 10 watts of solar panels with bigger and more powerful ones. I may be able to squeeze 100 watts worth where the other ones are now. Question: I'm assuming I need a regulator for a panel this size... what too look for? (Approx Cost: $200). Then I see if I can conserve enough power to make this arrangement work without a generator.

2) Biting the bullet and getting a generator and a bigger charger to have ultimately greater peace of mind on my long trip. Question: Most chargers I have been looking at do not list output watts. Is there another indicator I can use to match the generator's capabilities, or a specific charger people recommend? (Approx. Cost: $950)


It would seem logical to go the first route, see if it's working, then go the second route if necessary. Unfortunately I will be setting off on July 10th, bound for the Bay of Fundy, and it will be hard (but not impossible) to order the generator along the way. I'd love to get things worked out before my departure, but maybe I'll have to see how it goes. Thoughts?
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