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Old 30-08-2012, 05:55   #1
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Digital Duo Charge?

Does anyone have comments re the Balmar digital Duo Charge?
thanks!
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Old 30-08-2012, 06:09   #2
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

They are very good units but be aware that if asked to pass more than 30A of current they can lock out and need a re-set (NOTE: I am not sure Balmar has fixed this yet but they may have).

The Echo Charger or Sterling Battery to Battery chargers also work similarly with varying levels of adjustment/complexity. The Sterling has the most adjustment capability and the Echo Charger has the least adjustments.. They are priced accordingly with the Echo being least expensive, Duo in the middle and the Sterling being the most expensive.

The Echo is the easiest install with the Balmar being second and the Sterling being the most complex. All are still easy installs in the whole scheme.

Please note that all of these devices require the charging sources be led to the larger house bank for proper operation in charging an AUX or starting battery bank.

Sterling Power B2B Chargers

Xantrex Echo Charger
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Old 30-08-2012, 06:18   #3
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

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Originally Posted by Panaseaya View Post
Does anyone have comments re the Balmar digital Duo Charge?
thanks!
Had one on our boat--it worked great. Never had to think about the start battery at all.
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Old 30-08-2012, 09:33   #4
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

A Combiner100 at a fraction of the price will do the same thing. It will provide isolation and charging capacity that can handle alternators up to 100 amps instead of just 15 amps.

It is also bi-directional so a charging soruce on either battery will proportionally share charge with the second battery. They regulate the load on the alternator to a safe levell even if the AUX battery is severely discharged. Thermal overload protection and voltage spike protection to 1,000 volts allows it to have UNLIMITED warranty.

Since it is over 95% efficient there is no need for cooling so no ventilation holes and it can operate submerged in salt water.
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Old 31-08-2012, 06:21   #5
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

thanks for the replies!
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Old 07-09-2012, 06:13   #6
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

installed it this spring. after a season, it is becoming my favorite modification. Keeps the big house battery charged, and charges the starting battery automatically.

No more forgetting to switch the 1-2-b-n switch. Allows the balmar regulator to go through all the stages.
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Old 05-12-2012, 11:06   #7
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

Hi:

They do a pretty good design on this, then they shoot themselves in the foot with the parasitic load of 500mA in sleep mode unless you manually switch it off. If I have to do this manually, might as well just have a switch and 15 minute timer and poll the charge state with my eyeballs when sailing, then do nice clean full charge with a shore charger every second week or so. An operational amplifier and a few passive parts can fix this (< 10mA), but why didn't they do a proper job? This is a premium product with a HUGE unnecessary flaw.

Maybe it is a misprint and they mean 500uA.

From "Duo Charge Operation Installation" July 2011 edition.

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Old 05-12-2012, 14:26   #8
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

I just wired the wake up wire to a switched (from the ign switch) power source. only energized when the ignition key is switched on. no power draw when the ignition key is off.

I don't know why anyone would connect it to a constant power source (unless connected to solar or shore power.

No real need to nail Balmar for offering an option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duo charge manual
The fourth and final wire required for basic operation is the ON/OFF wire, which supplies either switched or constant power to the Duo Charge. If automatic activation of the Duo Charge is desired whenever a source of charging is available at the house battery bank, the ON/OFF wire can be connected directly to the positive post of the house battery or at the Input terminal of the Duo Charge (as shown in diagram at right). When connected directly to house battery voltage, the Duo Charge will remain in a sleep mode whenever input voltage remains below 13 volts in a 12-volt charging system, or 26 volts in a 24-volt charging system. When voltage at the Input terminal exceeds that voltage threshold, the Duo Charge will provide charging current to the starting battery. When used in this mode, the Duo Charge will require a nominal amount of current while asleep (approximately 500mA). If the vessel remains disconnected from a charge source for an extended period, the Duo Charge can be disabled by disconnecting the ON/OFF wire from the ON/OFF terminal, or by installing and using an ON/OFF toggle in the ON/OFF wire.
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Old 05-12-2012, 19:08   #9
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

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I just wired the wake up wire to a switched (from the ign switch) power source. only energized when the ignition key is switched on. no power draw when the ignition key is off.

No real need to nail Balmar for offering an option.
That might be reasonable for many people, the ignition key bit. I am thinking more from the point of view that my boat will be solar based when out floating about, might be weeks between running the engine, so wasn't interested in such a high parasitic load, 12 Ah/day.

I wasn't nailing them for offering an option, but rather for a brain dead design. The option just makes it a little less brain dead. Maybe brain dead is too strong, perhaps a design that is only meant to use with vast energy surplus sources like alternators on engines. Anyhow, all things considered here leads to no sale if Balmar is interested in the feedback.

In the interest of completeness, the Xantrex echo charge figure is 50mA for a daily load of 1.2Ah (still too high but not jump up and down too high), and the Blue Sea stuff was 10mA IIRC.

I think at this point I have talked myself out of charging the start/backup battery from the boat system at all by anything more complicated than a manual switch and observing the voltmeter. I figure I'll be at a dock at least every 2 weeks overnight, so I can top up the start/backup battery properly then from a 3 stage shore charger. Two weeks of self discharge won't hurt anything otherwise. If I change my mind it will be easy enough to stuff something in at a later date.

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Old 05-12-2012, 19:49   #10
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

Not trying to talk you INTO it, but you can still use the old way (manual switch) as well as the duo charge (ie leave it off and use the switch or if the duocharge fails)

I like the flexibility of it. charge the starting off the house (duocharge), which allows the balmar alternator to go through all the stages of charge.

OR
shut the duocharge off and use the battery switches the way you always have.

I always forget to switch the switch to house after starting the boat.

The starting battery sure seems to have enough nuts to start the motor quite a few times between charges. (we have a agm starting)

It is a nice option to have, IMO.

If the banks are the same type, a voltage sensing relay can be used as well.

I don't see a downside to installing a duo/echo charge (other than cost) as they can be shut off as an option and go back to the manual switch method.
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Old 06-12-2012, 00:31   #11
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

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Originally Posted by Andina Marie View Post
A Combiner100 at a fraction of the price will do the same thing........
You know this will not do the same thing so why keep posting wrong information to try and promote your product?

I have been looking carefully at all three products and none of them actually do the same thing as each other.

The Balmar seemed to be the best because it is a 4 stage charger that will drop the starter battery, or bowthruster, down to float mode when the battery is charged. This will stop any overcharging. The Sterling seems to be designed to be connected to the starter battery first. It then "sucks" power out of an non-regulated alternator and delivers 4 stage charging to the service bank. The EchoCharge is simply a "voltage follower" that has a small volt drop so could overcharge a starter or bowthruster battery. Only when the service battery falls to a float voltage will the EchoCharge follow.

If the problems with the Balmar are true then non of these products seem to do the job properly.
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:12   #12
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

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You know this will not do the same thing so why keep posting wrong information to try and promote your product?
It will do the "same thing" if that "same thing" is keep the second bank charged. Does it operate in the same manner, no..

The simple and inexpensive Yandina Combiner on our boat did a five year 24/7 on the hook cruise with only an 80W solar panel and 50A dumb regulated Mitsubishi stock alternator. Dock time was less than 3% over the 24/7/5 years. The boat cruised from Labrador and Newfoundland to South America through the canal and up to Alaska then across the Atlantic with 97% of the time being spent at anchor.

I have also installed many of these still never had a single issue with "short start battery life" or one fail or cause the issues you purport will happen.

The only issues I have ever had were on the older 7600 units that had the adjustable voltages as sometimes DIY's would mess with them and and get them out of whack.. Blue Sea did away with the user adjustable pots, which was smart. They, as in, Yandina and Blue Seas ACR's have proven to be one of the most reliable devices I've ever worked with, if installed appropriately. The Echo Charger is also great but different as is the Sterling and Duo Charge.

After 2800 hours of engine use over 5 years of 24/7 live-aboard cruising and many thousands more hours from solar charge combining the Yandina relay on our boat was spotless inside. The contacts were not burned or discolored. That relay is still plugging away to this day..

Our next set of batteries is now six years old, combined via solar, battery charger occasionally (on the hard) and the dumb regulated alternator.

The start battery is still testing within a few % of new CCA on both the Argus and Midtronics analyzers. Interestingly it has taken slightly less water than the house bank over the six years.

I accidentally broke the cover on the Yandina Combiner a few years ago and replaced it with a Blue Sea ACR, only because I had one in-stock.

I then ordered a new cover from Yandina, they sent if free of charge, even when I insisted on paying because IT WAS MY OWN FAULT. They refused to let me pay!!! I then installed the Yandina on my brothers boat and it is still going strong at 13+/- years of age and thousands & thousands of "combined hours".. Yandina's customer service is EXCELLENT...

But perhaps the most IMPORTANT aspect is that the "start" battery, and many, many, many, many others I see and test survive just fine being combined. Ours had been combined and charged with a dumb regulator (14.4V factory set) and a Yandina Combiner for 2800 engine hours + solar and was still going strong at year six after surviving 6 years of 2800 engine hours of "combining" and thousands more hours of solar combining.

These results were not confirmed with a "shoot from the hip" or licked finger in the air to determine wind direction, they were and are determined with carbon pile load tests & Argus and Midtronics analyzers as well as SG when I feel it warranted..

I generally do not "20 hour test" start batteries unless GEL or AGM. It's just not worth it for the $60.00 +/- USD start batteries cost..

When we got a new bank I gave the six year old start battery to my brother for his 30' sport fishing boat. On his boat it continued to start a pair of saltwater series 225HP Mercury outboards through year TEN of the batteries life. And again, that battery was "combined" for its entire ten year life with dumb regulated alternators.

If ten years is short life for a $60.00 battery that had been used on a 5 year 24/7 cruising boat then "retired" to start a sport fishing boat 10-15 times per day, when fished, then I concede...

I also have a customer who completed the "Great Loop" in his trawler. I have no idea how many thousands of hours he put on the engine on the Great Loop trip but it was a LOT. His start battery, 7 years old, is still in excellent health, though his house bank at year 7 getting long in the tooth.... His boat has a Blue Sea ACR combining relay...

I have hundreds of combiners installed on customers boats, not all installed by me though. I find the scare tactics and information about "over charging", simply does not translate to the real world and does no one any good. Especially an excellent manufacturer who actually STANDS BEHIND their product like Yandina, which in this day and age is RARE.....

Sometimes what seems so set in stone in theory simply does not manifest or translate to the real world...




Quote:
Originally Posted by sailinglegend View Post
I have been looking carefully at all three products and none of them actually do the same thing as each other.
They all work slightly differently but they all do the same thing as in keeping a second bank charged. Some have more current capability or more bells and whistles but the intent is the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailinglegend View Post
The Sterling seems to be designed to be connected to the starter battery first. It then "sucks" power out of an non-regulated alternator and delivers 4 stage charging to the service bank.
The Sterling works equally well in the other direction. I have installed them that way. Have one on my bench ready to be installed in a few weeks in a GEL application. They are well built and the water proof version is very nice. They are a bit bulky and pricey but they work very well and can actually "boost" the voltage from say a GEL house bank to an AGM start bank, if necessary. It was originally designed for installations where you are trying to charge a trolling battery while towing a boat trailer and feeding it from the car or trucks system. Charlie Jr. has promised to add a diagram to the manual for HOUSE to START but I've not yet seen it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailinglegend View Post
The EchoCharge is simply a "voltage follower" that has a small volt drop so could overcharge a starter or bowthruster battery. Only when the service battery falls to a float voltage will the EchoCharge follow.
Again, hundreds of these installed and never once seen an instance of "short battery life" of a start battery due to "over charging" and these have been around since the 90's. It it was an "issue" it would have surfaced by now...

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailinglegend View Post
If the problems with the Balmar are true then non of these products seem to do the job properly.
I don't recall measuring the stand by of a Duo Charge at .5A but am working on a boat tomorrow where I have one installed. I will measure it...

I still find the biggest issue with the Duo Charge to be that it locks out at 30A and won't re-start until that bank does not require 30A. With AGM batteries, and some wets, the initial in-rush can very often exceed 30A which shuts it down. I would not install a Duo for a bow thruster, windlass or engine battery on an engine that has high demands such as the newer common rail diesels...

As one who actually works on boats daily, owns the proper test equipment/analyzers, I just don't see the "charging" issues some purport should happen with combiners or the Echo...

That said if I did not have the test equipment, nor seen what I see, measure it, touch it and live it I'd probably be sitting behind my computer saying the same things based on "theory"...
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:55   #13
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

A battery in a combined bank will not be overcharged unless the entire bank is overcharged. Doesn't matter the original uncombined state of charge of each battery - when combined with other batteries, the bank will be at the same voltage and each cell will take only the amount of current it needs to come back to charge. This is easily demonstrated with a clamp on ammeter.

For example, I am charging our batteries right now. The start batteries are fully charged and connected to the house batteries with a combiner. There is 0.5 amp flowing into the start batteries, while the house batteries are taking 100 amps. The combined voltage right now is 14.0V (and climbing).

This concept is identical to a single battery being composed of multiple combined cells. In this case, the combined cells are in separate plastic cases instead of a single case.

Our last set of generic automotive start batteries lasted 13 years treated this way and saw their way past 2 sets of house banks.

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Old 06-12-2012, 07:10   #14
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

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That might be reasonable for many people, the ignition key bit. I am thinking more from the point of view that my boat will be solar based when out floating about, might be weeks between running the engine, so wasn't interested in such a high parasitic load, 12 Ah/day.
Buy an inexpensive "normally open" relay, hook the coil leads across your solar panel outputs and the closed load leads across the power for your duo charge.

Then when the sun comes up, the duo charge is powered, and when it goes back down, the power is shut off.

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Old 06-12-2012, 07:15   #15
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Re: Digital Duo Charge?

Was on the fence deciding between the duo and echo charge. Went with the duocharge due to 1) getting a stupid good deal on ebay 2) manual was better 3) previous experience with their tech support - answers the phone on the first ring, assists in troubleshooting, nice guys.

No doubt the echo charge may be better due to the 30amp lockout issue on the duocharge. I haven't run into it. with 30 odd trips last summer, never had an issue.

Balmar does mention it in their manual, and do provide a workaround, but seems like more trouble than its worth.
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