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Old 03-11-2010, 18:19   #1
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How to Select a Regulator for My System

I've set up my 125amp alternator on my Yanmar which is putting out 30volts. I want to feed it to my 12v 300ah battery bank and starter battery. I obviously need to regulate it but do I need a regulator rated to 125amps? Also, I will be installing a decent sized solar panel bank...is there one regulator that can handle the two very different amperage outputs of the alternator and the solar panels?

Any guidance would be appreciated.
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Old 03-11-2010, 22:07   #2
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Two entirely different subjects there.
- - Alternators either come with internal regulators set for 14.5 or 15.5 volts just like automobile alternators - or - they are marine alternators with an "external" regulator. You get to purchase the brand/type you want, be it "smart" regulator with settings for multiple charging cycles and different battery chemistry or simple "fixed voltage" external regulator.
- -The alternator regulator basically varies the power going in the alternator's field coils and thereby regulates the alternator's output. There really aren't different sizes of regulators - they all will handle most any output size alternator. What you chose is the sophistication of the regulator and its ability to efficiently and correctly recharge your batteries.

- - Solar and wind regulators are totally different animals. They monitor the voltages coming from the solar/wind devices and also the battery voltages. In the case of solar regulators, they allow energy to flow to the batteries until a set voltage is reached and then the solar regulator switches to an "open" circuit or disconnects the solar panels from your battery system. When the battery voltages drop then the regulator re-connects and allows power to flow to the batteries.
- - Wind generator/turbine regulators are a 3rd kind of animal. They do pretty much the same as solar regulators - but - instead of going "open circuit" (disconnecting from the batteries) they "divert" the wind power energy to a dummy load. These are normally called "Divert regulators."
- - For both solar and wind - if your system is small or moderate and your batteries are the old lead-liquid acid, regulators are not necessarily needed. Solar panel output is normally rather small so over-volting a battery from solar panels used to be of little possibility. Not so with wind power, so normally there is a mechanism or switch provided with the wind power system to "turn off" the wind system. So you can do the "regulation" manually yourself by switching solar or wind system on or off yourself.
- - But automatic regulation is so much more simple and you don't have to be watching the system all the time to turn it on/off.
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Old 04-11-2010, 04:37   #3
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I dont understand why your yanmar alternator is outting out 30V, there should be an internal regulator anyway. Or did you specificy it without a regulator

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Old 04-11-2010, 07:16   #4
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Osiris, Thanks so much...that answers my questions perfectly. My alternator was actually already on the engine. It has one of those small external regulators attached but it's kaput...hence my question about doing it properly with a decent regulator.
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Old 04-11-2010, 10:54   #5
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More of the same

I have/had a similar problem. I burned up my external regulator on a Balmar alternator while cruising in the Dominican Republic. Fortunately, my alternator has an internal regulator (not a smart one) and I was able to continue to our marina in Puerto Rico. I've looked things over carefully and decided to go with a replacement for the external regulator, a Balmar ARS-5-H. Balmar makes another external regulator that might be a bit better and a bit more expensive, I forget the model. And, I decided while doing this to redo my engine battery charging by eliminating the house/engine/both switch and going to a Balmar Digital DuoCharge. That will (hopefully) simplify things and will "smart charge" my engine battery. I will actually rewire the big battery selector switch to permit bypassing the DuoCharge, should it be necessary to get more current to the engine battery. And, at the same time I realized that my charging system needed some more fuses and moving one of the fuses closer to the source.

That's my plan, after a lot of research on the web and reading some of the discussions in the forum. I've purchased the parts, except for a few cables, and will start the rewiring in a couple of weeks. So I hope it's a good one...any comments from more experienced folks are more than welcome.

Ziamar has a Xantrex inverter/charger and Link2000 controller. I also have three solar panels and when I installed them I decided to spring for an MPPT controller. In my opinion, the advantage to these is that you get more efficiency out of the solar panel to battery combination by matching voltages more efficiently. I figured that the MPPT controller was about the equivalent of 15% more solar panel area.

Bill
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Old 04-11-2010, 12:09   #6
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John & Phyllis on Morgan's Cloud recently wrote an extensive series on the care and feeding of house battery banks (AGM, in their case). The alternator section, Charging AGM Batteries With An Alternator On A Cruising Sailboat is well worth a read. (To summarize: A simple car-style regulator sorta-kinda works, but spending a bit more on one that can be programmed with charging patterns appropriate for your battery bank pays off many times over.)

As for solar panels: If you don't have much solar array, and usually use it in ideal conditions, a simple voltage-cutoff regulator works. If you have multiple arrays, or if you use them in less than perfect circumstances (cloudy days, fluctuating DC loads, etc.) then MPPT trackers make a very noticeable difference. They allow variable voltage on the DC bus side, while holding the PV side at the voltage that maximizes V*I. Yes, they're several hundred dollars, but the improvements allow you to get by with fewer panels (thus spending less money overall) or to get more solar power (thus running the generator less, and spending less money overall).
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Old 04-11-2010, 16:17   #7
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If you have two engines and two alternators such as seen in many catamarans, it is not uncommon for the alternators to "fight" each other as the voltage output from one appears to the other as a full battery. This is where the Balmar Duocharge system is a good idea. Balmar has excellent technical diagrams on its website showing you how to install and wire the dual alternator system. There are other good dual alternator controllers such as:
http://www.amplepower.com/products/dual_alt/index.html
http://www.amplepower.com/primer/twoeng/index.html
http://www.balmar.net/page21-centerfielder.html
- - In all cases, each battery bank and each starting battery (for each engine, if more than one) should have a large buss fuse of 200 amps or more (depending upon the size of the battery bank and size of the engine) installed in the positive battery cable as close to the physical battery as possible. I have personally seen and know of many boats that have burned up due to a dead short in the main battery feed cable. An example is when the engine starter solenoid piston sticks in the closed position when starting the engine. The engine starter continues to be powered and starters can draw up to a thousand amps for larger engines. The battery cables are sized for a short few seconds of current draw and cannot handle the starter loads for much longer periods of time. The cable overheats and catches on fire. Likewise, on the house bank system a dead short/fault in the inverter systems can cause the same problem. The large buss fuses will blow if either circumstance occurs and prevent an electrical fire. Naturally keep a couple replacement fuses on board to after you solve the fault you can restore battery power.
- - At the other end of the main positive battery cable is where the main battery switch is located. NOTHING, should be "hot-wired" to the positive battery side before the main battery switch - many folks are too lazy or too cheap to spring for enough proper sized wire and hook up SSB/HF and other things directly to the battery. The purpose of the main battery switch is to allow you to manually disconnect the batteries from everything in the boat (exception for battery sense wire to your amp-hour meter).
- - Dedicated engine starter batteries should have their own main battery switches and not be, in anyway, electrically accessible to the feed the house battery system.
- - If is an excellent idea to install a "1-Off-2" or "1-2-Off" battery switch for this purpose. Use the "1" position for engine start battery to engine starter. Then wire the "2" position to the house battery bank. This allows you to positively disconnect the engine start battery and select house battery to start the engine. It is critical to buy a battery switch either without a "Both" position or the "Both" position is not in between the "1" and "2". That is you do not have to rotate the switch through "Both" when selecting "1", "2" or "Off." This is to prevent a fires should your engine start battery have in internal short or be totally dead. Switching to "Both or moving through the "Both" position will dump the whole available power in the house bank into the "dead/shorted" engine battery - again a fire hazard. When I cannot get an "1-Off-2" or "1-2-Off" switch and must use a switch with "Both" I install two screws and a block to prevent access to the "Both" position.
- - Likewise it is critical to use an alternator diode splitter to route alternator output to multiple battery banks. This is to prevent "back-powering" a battery bank from one battery to the other when the alternator is not operating. (Exception is dual output alternators.) The Balmar wiring diagrams are excellent in showing you how to connect these devices.
- - An alternative to a alternator charging diode splitter is to only connect the alternator output to its own starting battery. And then a new device called a "Battery Combiner" is connected between the battery banks. This device senses the voltage on your engine battery and when it is charged then connects to the house bank and charges them.
- - Some folks connect the alternator output to the house bank first and then use the battery combiner to connect to the engine start battery. Although this seems logical, I feel it is not wise. The first priority is to be able to start the engine(s) and make your escape if necessary. Connecting the alternator output directly to the house battery bank can prevent the engine battery from getting charged should the house bank be low or have a fault.
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Old 04-11-2010, 17:25   #8
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I have in the past made the main switch the complete disconnect of everything. I didn't want anything on when I turned off the switch. When we rewired my friends Cal 34 we put the automatic bilge pump on the hot side of the main switch through a breaker. His bilge pump will work while he's away from the boat with the main switch off until the battery dies.

Webasto recommends wiring their heater through a fuse to the battery. If it is wired through the main switch and you turn off the main switch with the heater on, it will not have had the opportunity to go through it's cool down sequence and they claim this will cook the electronics. So far mine is downstream of the switch and I just make sure the heater is off before turning off the main switch.

Solar panels shouldn't go through the main switch.

Things like the Link 10 lose a lot of functionality if you have to do re-program from the beginning everytime you go down to the boat. They need to have power on always.

Unless you discharge your batteries quite a bit and/or only have a small alternator, the output voltage of the alternator will be high enough that it will charge both batteries, that is the battery combiner will turn on fairly quickly if not immediately. Once the combiner is on it doesn't matter where the wires go first, the acceptance rate of the batteries determine where the current goes.

Some battery combiners are only designed to put a limited amount of current into the starter battery, don't hook their primary to the starter battery.

I don't think that a fuse on the start battery is a bad idea, but even ABYC doesn't require it.

I don't like things on the battery side of the main switch, but it might not always be possible.

John

Quote:
Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
If you have two engines and two alternators such as seen in many catamarans, it is not uncommon for the alternators to "fight" each other as the voltage output from one appears to the other as a full battery. This is where the Balmar Duocharge system is a good idea. Balmar has excellent technical diagrams on its website showing you how to install and wire the dual alternator system. There are other good dual alternator controllers such as:
Dual Alternator Controller
Two Engine/Alternator System
Balmar's Centerfielder Dual Alternator/Regulator Controller
- - In all cases, each battery bank and each starting battery (for each engine, if more than one) should have a large buss fuse of 200 amps or more (depending upon the size of the battery bank and size of the engine) installed in the positive battery cable as close to the physical battery as possible. I have personally seen and know of many boats that have burned up due to a dead short in the main battery feed cable. An example is when the engine starter solenoid piston sticks in the closed position when starting the engine. The engine starter continues to be powered and starters can draw up to a thousand amps for larger engines. The battery cables are sized for a short few seconds of current draw and cannot handle the starter loads for much longer periods of time. The cable overheats and catches on fire. Likewise, on the house bank system a dead short/fault in the inverter systems can cause the same problem. The large buss fuses will blow if either circumstance occurs and prevent an electrical fire. Naturally keep a couple replacement fuses on board to after you solve the fault you can restore battery power.
- - At the other end of the main positive battery cable is where the main battery switch is located. NOTHING, should be "hot-wired" to the positive battery side before the main battery switch - many folks are too lazy or too cheap to spring for enough proper sized wire and hook up SSB/HF and other things directly to the battery. The purpose of the main battery switch is to allow you to manually disconnect the batteries from everything in the boat (exception for battery sense wire to your amp-hour meter).
- - Dedicated engine starter batteries should have their own main battery switches and not be, in anyway, electrically accessible to the feed the house battery system.
- - If is an excellent idea to install a "1-Off-2" or "1-2-Off" battery switch for this purpose. Use the "1" position for engine start battery to engine starter. Then wire the "2" position to the house battery bank. This allows you to positively disconnect the engine start battery and select house battery to start the engine. It is critical to buy a battery switch either without a "Both" position or the "Both" position is not in between the "1" and "2". That is you do not have to rotate the switch through "Both" when selecting "1", "2" or "Off." This is to prevent a fires should your engine start battery have in internal short or be totally dead. Switching to "Both or moving through the "Both" position will dump the whole available power in the house bank into the "dead/shorted" engine battery - again a fire hazard. When I cannot get an "1-Off-2" or "1-2-Off" switch and must use a switch with "Both" I install two screws and a block to prevent access to the "Both" position.
- - Likewise it is critical to use an alternator diode splitter to route alternator output to multiple battery banks. This is to prevent "back-powering" a battery bank from one battery to the other when the alternator is not operating. (Exception is dual output alternators.) The Balmar wiring diagrams are excellent in showing you how to connect these devices.
- - An alternative to a alternator charging diode splitter is to only connect the alternator output to its own starting battery. And then a new device called a "Battery Combiner" is connected between the battery banks. This device senses the voltage on your engine battery and when it is charged then connects to the house bank and charges them.
- - Some folks connect the alternator output to the house bank first and then use the battery combiner to connect to the engine start battery. Although this seems logical, I feel it is not wise. The first priority is to be able to start the engine(s) and make your escape if necessary. Connecting the alternator output directly to the house battery bank can prevent the engine battery from getting charged should the house bank be low or have a fault.
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Old 04-11-2010, 20:27   #9
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. . . I don't think that a fuse on the start battery is a bad idea, but even ABYC doesn't require it.

I don't like things on the battery side of the main switch, but it might not always be possible.

John
Actually after many years, ABYC does now require main battery fuses "within 7" of the battery bank. Of course ABYC standards are voluntary and are primarily for newly designed/constructed boats. But retrofitting is not difficult and not expensive.
- - Whether or not you put "everything" downstream from the main battery switch is rather personal. But like house electrical service codes, where nothing can be upstream from the main house disconnect (sometimes the disconnect is the glass meter) because in case of fire there is a need to immediately disconnect all electrical power to the house. Same with boats, if there is a fire/smoke coming from somewhere in the boat - usually from behind sidewalls or the engine room/space - there is a need to immediately stop/terminate all electrical power instantly to eliminate that possible cause of the fire.
- - If a manufacturer does not design their equipment to be safely instantly disconnected from any source of electrical power - I personally would not purchase that item. They could easily put a memory battery or thermocouples inside their unit to facilitate instant shutdowns. IMHO - it is too risky not to be able to stop an electrical fire with a main disconnect.
- - Sitting in a dark and blustery anchorage in the middle of the night or at sea and having a fire erupt on board is not the time to be wanting to rip wiring off the battery terminals especially if they are on fire. In a house fire you can run outside to safety but not on a boat. But to each their own which comes back to one of the core principles of cruising the oceans - you are the master of your own fate. You can choose how you want to live or die, not some designer sitting in factory who wants to save a dollar on manufacturing costs.
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Old 05-11-2010, 05:38   #10
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That's a lot of great information and thanks a lot for the opinions.

I've got to think through the main battery switch issues and how to manage the installation. I already have the 1-2-both-off switch in place from the PO. Blocking the "both" position sounds like a good idea.

Regarding a fuse on the engine battery. I was under the impression that AYBC didn't require that and I was planning to enclose my starting cable in a shield to prevent possible chafing and wear. Since the starting motor draws a bunch of amps for a short time I was a little uneasy about a fuse. But with terminal fuses (MRBF) the installation is easy enough and the $40 or so for a block and fuse is a relatively small price to pay for the added safety. But what amperage?? 200 seems a little high.

Just a few more things to think about before I start work. I guess it's also time to return to my chore of tracing wiring and making wiring diagrams.
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Old 05-11-2010, 07:19   #11
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. . . Regarding a fuse on the engine battery. I was under the impression that AYBC didn't require that

and I was planning to enclose my starting cable in a shield to prevent possible chafing and wear.

Since the starting motor draws a bunch of amps for a short time I was a little uneasy about a fuse. But with terminal fuses (MRBF) the installation is easy enough and the $40 or so for a block and fuse is a relatively small price to pay for the added safety. But what amperage?? 200 seems a little high. . .
The ABYC is very slow to adopt new standards since they are a voluntary industry council where most every member must agree that the proposed change is needed and necessary. I have several friends who are professional boat surveyors and members of ABYC. They had been lobbing for the battery protection fuses for a decade before it was included. If the boat builders do not agree that the new recommendation is really needed it will not be adopted. All this takes time and a history of the problem needs to be recorded and examined. Whether you "upgrade" your older boat to the new standard is also voluntary in most cases as your insurance legally can only demand that your comply with the standard in effect at the time the boat was manufactured. So here I use common sense and look at the "new" standard and decide if it is good for me and my boat and will enhance my personal safety while cruising.
- - As to shielding your battery cables that is a very bad idea and also against recommended marine electrical practices. Every cable needs access to surrounding airspace to dissipate heat and each cable should be supported or tie wrapped and attached to a permanent non-moving part of the boat at about 6" intervals, if possible. Boats flex like crazy when underway and electrical cables need to be restrained and held in position. Which is also why marine electrical cable has significantly more strands in it than household electrical wire. The ability to flex and not break is critical. The exception to supports occurs when the cable are in conduit or wireways. Still using tiewraps is important to keep everything organized and neat. You will notice how the back sides of main electrical distribution panels have the wiring very precisely bundled and tied to keep things from bouncing, bending or wandering from their proper positions.
- - The buss fuses for the main engine battery feeds do not have to be very large, 200 amps for medium size engines is fine. I use 300 amps for my 6 cylinder Perkins and the fuse has not blown in 10 years of use. Again even though the starting ampere draw for my engine is near 1000 amps it is for a second or two, neither the cable or the fuse have time to react. But should there be a dead short the fuse will blow before a fire or serious damage could occur. If you have ever slipped with a wrench or screwdriver when attaching battery terminals and touch both terminals with the tool you will notice a large flash and a chunk of the tool vaporize.
- - Main house battery feed fuses - could - be much smaller since they only need to protect the maximum draw of all the house electrical devices - but - normally you have a "cross-connect" so that you can use the house batteries to start the engine(s) in an emergency situation. So the buss fuse size needs to be much larger or match the engine starting battery fuse(s).
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Old 05-11-2010, 12:08   #12
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Quote:
Actually after many years, ABYC does now require main battery fuses "within 7" of the battery bank.
Actually, this has been in the ABYC Standard for as long back as I can remember. And there are exceptions to the rule.

And there is still no requirement in the ABYC Standard for an over current protection device in a starting battery B+ conductor.

Quote:
Of course ABYC standards are voluntary and are primarily for newly designed/constructed boats.
Incorrect. From the Purpose of the ABYC Electrical Standard:

Quote:
These standards are guides for the design, construction, and installation of alternating current (AC) electrical systems on boats and of direct current (DC) electrical systems on boats.
Quote:
The ABYC is very slow to adopt new standards since they are a voluntary industry council where most every member must agree that the proposed change is needed and necessary.
ABYC is not any slower at standard adaptation then any other organization (ASME, NMEA, US Navy, come to mind). ABYC is NOT an "industry council"; membership on the Project Technical Committees (standards writers) is very carefully regulated to ensure a proper mix of equipment manufacturers, boat builders, designers, USCG, NMMA, and boat repair technicians.

Quote:
I have several friends who are professional boat surveyors and members of ABYC. They had been lobbing for the battery protection fuses for a decade before it was included.
Since E-11 has as its genesis the National Electrical Code and the applicable sections of the Code of Federal Regulations and these documents have required OCPD in all ungrounded conductors, I seriously doubt this statement.

Quote:
If the boat builders do not agree that the new recommendation is really needed it will not be adopted.
This is pants on fire incorrect! All ABYC Standards are consensus standards. There is no supreme great pooh bahr sitting on a throne and handing down edicts. Nobody has veto power, as implied in your statement.

Each of the Standards is periodically (every one to five years) reviewed by the PTCs made up of members as discussed above. As issues arrive in a particular industry segment, the applicable Standard is reviewed to ascertain if a revision is required. This is an orderly and well thought out process to try and ensure that there are no knee jerk reactions. A standard is reviewed by the PTC word by word, line by line, diagram by diagram in a conference room. Give and take occurs between the different market segments represented. Compromise (remember when that wasn't a dirty word?) is reached. The Proposed Standard is then put out for PUBLIC COMMENT. Those comments are reviewed and adjudicated. This process continues until ALL COMMENTS ARE RESOLVED. The Proposed Standard is then published, usually in July with an effective date one year hence.

Any interested party can be placed on the mailing list to receive the proposed Standards and can participate in the public review.

Quote:
As to shielding your battery cables that is a very bad idea and also against recommended marine electrical practices.
This is incorrect. One of the exceptions to the requirement for OCPD is in E-11.10.1.1:
Quote:
2. If the conductor is connected directly to the battery terminal and is contained throughout its entire distance in a sheath or enclosure such as a conduit, junction box, control box or enclosed panel, the overcurrent protection shall be placed as close as practicable to the battery, but not to exceed 72 inches (1.83m).
...and sheath is defined earlier in E-11.4 Definitions:
Quote:
Sheath - A material used as a continuous protective covering, such as overlapping electrical tape, woven sleeving, molded rubber, molded plastic, loom, or flexible tubing, around one or more insulated conductors.
Now that is not to say that the ampacity of the conductor must be high enough to survive being sheathed. It is a factor to be considered and most certainly not "...against recommended marine electrical practices."

Quote:
attached to a permanent non-moving part of the boat at about 6" intervals,
Very true, although the ABYC Standard allows a maximum distance of 18", less distance is generally more secure.

Quote:
Main house battery feed fuses - could - be much smaller since they only need to protect the maximum draw of all the house electrical devices
All OCPDs need to be sized to protect the conductor. It is good practice to: derate bundled conductors as their ability to shed heat is reduced by bundling and then protect the conductor with an OCPD that is rated for the derated amperage. And by the way, OCPDs should be also sized so that they continuously pass <80% of their rated capacity.

Quote:
but - normally you have a "cross-connect" so that you can use the house batteries to start the engine(s) in an emergency situation. So the buss fuse size needs to be much larger or match the engine starting battery fuse(s)
Not a good solution. A far safer solution is to attach the cross connecting conductor to the house battery B+, upstream of the house battery isolation switch and OCPD.

Hope this helps clarify some important points.
Charlie
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Old 05-11-2010, 12:15   #13
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If anybody is interested in more about the ins and outs of the ABYC, see this informative article from the May/June, 2004 Passage Maker magazine: www.abycinc.org/ABCs.pdf

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Old 05-11-2010, 12:58   #14
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orissail

................

Hope this helps clarify some important points.
Charlie
Charlie,

Thank you for that post it saved me an hours time!!! BTW I was speaking with both John and Eric last week and in the next E-11 starting/cranking battery fuses will be addressed and most likely required for starting/cranking batteries. With the new AGM's, TPPL and LiIon batts there is becoming a real need for cranking battery fuses with the massive amount of amperage they can provide. I do see AIC as a potential trouble spot but Class T's should cover most banks on smaller boats.

According to John LiIon batteries can actually support flame, not just heat. He told me of a bank that shorted, melted down and burned through the hull of a very large yacht and continued to burn even underwater while the boat sank.

Again, from one ABYC member to another, thanks for addressing the misinformation around the ABYC.
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Old 05-11-2010, 14:12   #15
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Charlie J - It is wonderful to get the actual language which is not available to the vast unwashed public boat owners. But if you look closely what I posted is generally the same as you graciously expounded upon in 500 words or more - except mine were a lot fewer words covering the same intent. Like my saying the sky is blue and your coming back with angstoms and wavelength defraction variables. Also nitpicking and parsing/taking quotes out of context is not nice. If you want customers you need to tactfully expound on a basic statement to make it more complete rather than simply trashing with inflammatory declarations.
- - For those who want the "whole truth" they can purchase it for many dollars - which all good professionals should have done to be truly called professionals. But for the vast unwashed ordinary cruisers, the general principles and concepts are not difficult and normally quite rooted in common sense. Being able to explain something is simple common sense words/concepts is more effective for a beginner that getting into high-tech reams of words.
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