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Old 28-07-2012, 11:32   #1
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Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Our old 5KW Seapower engine-driven generator died on us halfway across the Caribbean, and since they are no longer in business, I've ripped it all out and am looking for the best alternative.

Since we are not full-time live-aboards, I'm thinking we will do just fine with a beefed up battery charger, maybe an 80 amp alternator upgrade for the engine, and a 2000 to 2500 watt inverter to power the microwave and other AC loads when needed.

We have a Honda 2000 portable generator that took over after the Seapower unit went tits-up, and it worked fine. It's just a PITA to have to go up and start it everytime somebody wants to warm up something in the microwave, or run the hair dryer.

I have 4- 90 amp/hr batteries for my battery bank. The largest daily load is the Adler-Barbour refrigerator compressor, which draws about 6 amps and runs about half the time. So, I'm guessing that I'm using about 100 amp hours per day out of the batteries.

My current 110v battery charger is an older 30 amp single-stage unit that takes forever to charge the batteries, and doesn't seem to put out enough voltage. About 13 volts is all it will do, so using the Honda to charge the batteries takes all day and they're not really charged

The 50 amp engine alternator charges a lot faster and does a better job, but the engine is noisy and heats the cabin up.

So, what I'd like is a charger that will take care of the batteries while plugged in at dockside and also be able to be powered by the Honda while at anchor. The Honda puts out about 13.3 amps max, and I'm not sure if that will power a 100 amp charger or not.

(How much current will a 360 amp/hr battery bank (lead-acid) draw on charge assuming it's 50% discharged?)

Should I be looking at a combination inverter/charger, or would getting separate units be better? What brand names should I look at/stay away from?

How would you do it if it were your boat?
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Old 28-07-2012, 12:06   #2
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

The only inverter/chargers that I would consider are Outback, Magnum and Victron. All three of these can set the maximum charging amperage to match a power source. You won't be able to charge at 100A from the Honda - more like 60-70A.

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Old 28-07-2012, 13:55   #3
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

I would add MasterVolt to the list of quality marine charger/inverters. But all of those listed will cost upwards of $1000 for a 2 kw unit. Avoid anything made by Xantrex, although their MS2000 unit has given me good service, their customer service is abysmal.

You might want to check out Tripp-Lite. They make a 2KW/100 amp inverter/charger that I installed on a friend's boat. It works very well and it can even be set for 25 amp charging which draws about 4 amps AC from a Honda 2,000 which lets it stay in Eco mode.

It costs about $700.

David
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Old 28-07-2012, 14:19   #4
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Forgot about Mastervolt - add that to my list above.

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Old 28-07-2012, 14:51   #5
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Thanks, I'll check those out.

What about true sine wave vs modified sine wave? Is there enough of a benefit to the true sine wave models to make them worth the extra cost?

I have a small, cheap 200 watt inverter that I use to charge the laptop, ipad, cellphones, etc., and aside from the small amount of humm it causes when I'm listening to the stereo, I can't tell that the electronic devices care one way or the other.

Don't know about the flat panel TV or the microwave, though, as it's too small to power them.
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Old 28-07-2012, 14:53   #6
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Several years ago I needed a 60 Amp charger and bought a Xantrex "World Charger" (any voltage/Hz)
Truecharge Battery Charger | Truecharge2 20A, 40A, 60A | Xantrex
I have used it in marinas and with my Honda 2000. Works great, see my post @;

110vac to 220vac Conversion Revisited
Note, I have since added the Blue Seas 20A manual transfer switch and it works perfectly.

BTW, some say Xantrex are unreliable, even my 12 year old "refurbished" Truecharge 40A has always worked fine.
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Old 28-07-2012, 15:00   #7
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

I agree with "the list". Victron's are my favorite, e.g., the Victron Multi-Plus models inverter/chargers. They are programmable to do just about anything you want. But, they cost a bit...upwards of $2,000, not $1,000.

The Honda EU2000i will support a maximum of about 80 amps charger. Cheapest good quality charger is the Iota DLS-75/IQ4. A really good charger with "worldwide power capability" is the Sterling Ultra Pro (and it's nearly identical cousin, the ProMariner ProNautic) which come in sizes up to 60A. The 60A version costs about $500. Just bought one yesterday for a customer.

A 360AH flooded battery bank which is 50% discharged will take about 90A for a short period, dialing back afterwards.

Yes, your existing charger's voltage is too low. Trojan recommends 14.8VDC for their flooded batteries in the acceptance/absorption phase.

Bill
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Old 28-07-2012, 15:55   #8
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I've just installed a Victron Multi 3k in my boat ( along with Blue Power Panel) replacing an old Xantrex charger and Vanner inverter. The unit is wonderful. Although pricy (Jamestown seems to be the only US distributor) it was worth the effort. As mentioned it can be programmed easily to do just about anything you might need.
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Old 28-07-2012, 16:10   #9
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

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Originally Posted by ExRonin View Post
I've just installed a Victron Multi 3k in my boat ( along with Blue Power Panel) replacing an old Xantrex charger and Vanner inverter. The unit is wonderful. Although pricy (Jamestown seems to be the only US distributor) it was worth the effort. As mentioned it can be programmed easily to do just about anything you might need.
Try Peter Kennedy Yacht Services for Victron equipment. I got a better deal and good service.

Peter Kennedy Yacht Services - Marine Electrical Systems
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Old 28-07-2012, 16:12   #10
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

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Originally Posted by oldjags View Post
...
Since we are not full-time live-aboards, I'm thinking we will do just fine with a beefed up battery charger, maybe an 80 amp alternator upgrade for the engine, and a 2000 to 2500 watt inverter to power the microwave and other AC loads when needed.
....
I have a 2000W inverter aboard which I have used in live aboard, charter, and cruising mode for over 10 years and found it to always be sufficient. AC loads mostly consist of running laptop computers, charging small electronics, and occasionally firing up the microwave.

Mine is an older Heart Freedom 20 which has functioned perfectly for over 10 years.

Re true sine wave. The Freedom 20 is not and I have only ever encountered one device it would not run. This was my GFs recently purchased laptop. And, with lots of charter guests aboard in the past I've probably had a bigger sample of devices than most. Runs my Dell laptop just fine.
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Old 28-07-2012, 17:03   #11
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

I have a 20 year old Trace 2012, still working. When using my Honda 1000 inverter style generator, I had to ramp down to 20 amps the charge with the dip switches. At 40 amps and above, it would cause the Honda to go to fault mode and no output. Slow charging at this rate. This inverter was before full sine waves were available and at low volume settings for the stereo, could hear the hum in the speakers. Good surge capability, able to start and run a 1 ton AC.

This isn't applicable to you, but my next inverter will be a full sine wave and 48 VDC input.
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Old 28-07-2012, 17:13   #12
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Inverting DC power for AC life aboard works great for me. I have a Victron 3000/70/24v Multiplus, and it is basically the nerve center of the boat's electrical life. An absolutely essential feature is the power boost, which I believe Mastervolt and some others might have. You set the limit on how much current you can draw from your shorepower or genset, and the Victron will make up any short-term shortfall with inverted battery power. It's very cool.

Beware Victron equipment, although top notch functionally, seems to fail quite a bit. I have had a Victron isolation transformer and a Victron controller fail on me. In fact, the Multiplus is the only item of Victron equipment I have which has not failed (so far).
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Old 28-07-2012, 18:15   #13
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

OK, I'm liking what I'm learning about the Victron inverter charger. I like the "power boost' feature that will kick in extra AC power when the generator gets overloaded.

When I bought our Honda generator, it had no problem running our 16K btu air conditioner. But that was when we were docked at a marina and only used the boat on weekends. Now that we're off-grid and the batteries are not ever really fully charged, the Honda can't seem to handle the battery charger load AND the AC compressor start-up load at the same time, and it kicks off-line.

Am I correct in assuming that if the Honda can handle the running current, the Victron can kick in and help take care of the starting current load for those few seconds that are needed to get the AC compressor going? And what happens after that? Can the Honda handle the AC running current and still be able to add some charge to the batteries, or is a one-or-the-other proposition?
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Old 29-07-2012, 03:17   #14
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

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Originally Posted by oldjags View Post
OK, I'm liking what I'm learning about the Victron inverter charger. I like the "power boost' feature that will kick in extra AC power when the generator gets overloaded.

When I bought our Honda generator, it had no problem running our 16K btu air conditioner. But that was when we were docked at a marina and only used the boat on weekends. Now that we're off-grid and the batteries are not ever really fully charged, the Honda can't seem to handle the battery charger load AND the AC compressor start-up load at the same time, and it kicks off-line.

Am I correct in assuming that if the Honda can handle the running current, the Victron can kick in and help take care of the starting current load for those few seconds that are needed to get the AC compressor going? And what happens after that? Can the Honda handle the AC running current and still be able to add some charge to the batteries, or is a one-or-the-other proposition?
It's not one or the other, with the Victron. You dial in the maximum permitted load, and the Victron will reduce the current taken for charging to suit what is available. It is exactly designed for this situation.

The power boost deals brilliantly with short term startup loads. And the current limiting function deals well with power sources of limited capacity. BUT -- a small gasoline generator does not like to be run near its capacity for long periods of time. You will wear it out or break it pretty quickly. So if it takes 80% of its capacity (say) to run the AC, then you shouldn't expect it to run even that on a daily basis, much less that plus charging. An aircon that size probably needs 12 amps of 110v power, so more than 1300 watts. I think the Honda 2000 is rated at 1600 watts, isn't it? I think you may be pushing it in terms of overworking the generator, although technically it will all work if you use something like that Victron. If you want to use 1300 -- 2000 watts for hours on end, you would really want some kind of diesel generator, preferably a low speed (1800 rpm) one.
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Old 30-07-2012, 10:09   #15
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Re: Charger / Inverter Recommendations

Thanks. We only plan on using the AC on especially hot, humid, windless days to cool the cabin for a few hours before we go to sleep. Up till now, we haven't needed the AC at all except when we were in Cartagena. The rest of the time, the breeze and temperature has been great, and we have not missed not having the AC.

In fact, it's a lot hotter and muggier in Alabama right now than it is in Panama!

I agree about the diesel generator being a better long-term solution. But once we get the boat through the canal and over to Contadora, we'll be back to mostly day-sailing and 3-4 day overnight trips and won't be on the boat full time.

I could buy a new Honda every couple of years for a good long while before I've spent what a new diesel generator would cost.
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