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Old 13-11-2005, 18:03   #1
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Hurricanes and Battery Monitors.

During hurricane Wilma's trip across Florida I looked after a few boats and tried to help minimize damage.

The owners of those boats have been pushing premium beer and wine my way tp say thanks, but the classy one bought me a brand new Xantrex Battery Monitor..The one that replaced the goods 'ol LINK 10 in the West Marine catalog.

(Good beer and fancy wine are of course very much appreciated, but after a few days it will evaporate due to the heat in Florida)

I installed the Battery Monitor today and did the 20 step programming (No kidding)

When normal operation started I noticed a draw of -0.8 amps with no load on the 12 Volt panel......

Hmm, not good.

Turning the panel off, there is no load...0.0

Somewhere on the 12 volt panel there is either a short or corrosion or something.

Guess I have to disconnect each breaker to to find out where the fault is.

I thought that perhaps my two 75 watt solar panels would do a slight negative draw in cloudfy weather or in the evening, but on second thought, the solar panels are not hooked up to the 12 Volt panel, but rather to the combiner.

Question for ya'll..:

Is it pretty usuall to find these kinds of problems when one installs a super-accurate digital battery monitor...?

Do you guys with similar equipment ever see Zero draw on the monitor when all the swithces are OFF, but with the panel energized..?

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Old 13-11-2005, 18:30   #2
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Missing volts

Don't know the answer to your question but a bit related is my tractor. Start with 12.5 volts at the battery and run it through the cables and an ignition switch, and an amp meter and a resistor and by the time it gets to the coil there is not much left. So I starting checking for resistance and was quite amazed at how much there was, through all those 60 year old electrical pieces. Some connections had the most resistance and cleaning them did not help much. For about $30- I replaced everything, now the old Ford 9N runs sweet.
Gonna get one of those fancy regulators one of these days.

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Old 13-11-2005, 19:39   #3
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For about $30- I replaced everything, now the old Ford 9N runs sweet.
Aye Mr. Mike, I wish my electrical system was that easy..

I have 23 breakers on the DC panel and some of those are "doubles".

If I could replace "Everything" for $30.00, I surely would, yes Iwould.

Instead I am looking at trouble-shooting the bad circuit by disconnecting it form the panel, one by one.
Then if the drop disappears, I still have to find the problem with that particular circuit.

Not a big deal I suppose, I lived with the boat for seven years not knowing it had the 0.7 AMP drain, day after day.

Perhaps like living with a slow growing disease in yer body, but if ya never got that X-ray or cat-scan ya never knew ya had the tumor and life was good.
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Old 13-11-2005, 19:51   #4
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Aye Laddie,
"0.8" amp loss ... would be willing to bet that when you track it all down, you will find some corrosion in some connecters. In a previous post about varnishing, I had a bit to say about perfectionism ... we all want our boats to be perfect .... but that's not really plausible. Want perfect numbers? Put 'er on the hard in Arizona ... other than that? Get real. Have a couple of anolog voltmeters... they tell us all we really need to know.

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Old 13-11-2005, 20:20   #5
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Yup, yup, have lived with an analog VOLT-meter for many years, and the analog AM meter and the analog AMP meter, all 3 on the DC panel. (AMP going out and AMP going in on 2 different analog meters)

Being a self proclaimed perfectionist I have tested them with a digital multimeter from time to time and found wide discrepansies.

Just like I did today after installing the Xantrex Battery Monitor gizzmo...Quite a difference in readings from analog to digital..30% to 50%

Perfect numbers and perfect boats..?

I know, I know, not possible..Just like the perfect woman is not made yet, neither is the perfect boat..

Just trying to uh, upgrade my boat to digital precision, at least the boat does not talk back or deny the draw if I find a fault in the circuitry.
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Old 14-11-2005, 03:21   #6
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dont try it a breaker at a time, but switch off half of them , you will either have removed the fault or not, and keep going down the 50% route until you have located the problem or recognised that the problem is in more than one place! Should be very quick.
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Old 14-11-2005, 03:59   #7
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A parasitic drain of 0.8A (800mA) represents about 10 watts at 12.5V, roughly equivalent to many medium anchor lights. Tracing this fault seems more consequential than a mere search for perfection.

Do a visual inspection, prior to beginning the individual circuit isolation test. I know you’re the meticulous type, so there’s not much likelihood of an obvious corrosion or mechanical wiring injury - but it never hurts to look again.

If the top of your battery is wet ,or has excessive corrosion, it could create a path between the two battery posts, causing a Case Drain.

A shorted Diode inside the Alternator could cause a drain. The Alternator would still put out 12 Volts, and therefor pass a Voltage Output Test, however it would not put out full Current, and would fail a Current Load Test.

Do you have any loads connected directly to a battery (ie: automatic bilge pump, radio/CD player, etc)?
On automobiles, parasitic drains, due to volatile electronic memories (stereo, amp, CD changer, alarm, clock, etc), are generally considered to be excessive at about 35 milliamps or 0.035 A (a Honda Civic, for example, specifies only .015 to .020 amps). Often, the parasitic drain will initially be as high as 0.15A, then decline over a half hour “power-down” mode, to a “normal” stand-by current of under 0.035 A. - so wait an hour, before you panic.

Finally, if you have to do the circuit isolation test; begin in the bilge, or anywhere the wiring may be exposed to moisture and/or mechanical damage.

These are among my least-favourite trouble-shooting challenges (especially when intermittent), so spend a little time just looking around for the obvious.

Good luck!
Gord May
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Old 14-11-2005, 04:03   #8
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CSY, my guess - which is of course all it can be - is that your current drain is normal and can be explained. 22 breakers suggests to me that you have a lot of gear installed...and some of that gear draws milliamps when operating normally, even if the gear on/off switch is 'off'. E.g. I recently changed the AM/FM/CD player and found it must be powered 24/7 by 100 milliamps or so (.1 amps). Your new monitor probably draws some current, and so adds to this draw itself.

To satisfy yourself, I would do two things. First, take another reading on the current draw after making sure all hardware/instruments/etc. is powered *down* but all the breakers are *on*, so you know the total 'unexplained' drawdown. Then, just as you'd planned, cycle each breaker while monitoring the current drawdown; incrementally, you should find all the sources.

However, the second thing I'd do is open up the panel and, with a good flashlight, carefully inspect the poles on all the 12 breakers to see if you can't find a sistered wire or two. The breaker label may say 'Navigation Instruments' but you may have a similar AM/FM radio wired in there, too.

Don't overlook what I might overlook: sometimes a piece of gear is left on 24/7 (Navtex receiver is a good example, as that's how it works...) and I don't even notice it's "on" because it looks normal to be that way. This may be a comment more about me than you!

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Old 14-11-2005, 04:49   #9
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i have a similar setup and reading. I found it to be in a couple of indicator lamps/LEDs that are always on and the memory connection to the car stereo. I don't worry about it.
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Old 14-11-2005, 05:38   #10
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Hmmmm.... Didn't I have this problem???? Yeah, I do. Called Xantrex here is what they told me.

1) Use a hand held amp meter at the xantrex shunt. Just disconnect the negative terminal from the shunt and put your amp meter in series. This will assure that the meter is read the correct draw.

2) If the meter is reading correctly. Time to trace down the load. Turn everything off until you find the draw. Might be several things. I have CO monitors, and propane monitors connected in such a maner that is very hard to shut them off. I tend to forget they are there, until one of them goes off.

3) If the meter is incorrect, it may be an installation issue, it may be that the meter is incorrectly calibrated. In my instance it is an incorrectly calibrated meter. A service facility has to recalibrate it.

4) To check if it is an installation issue There are several test they had me perform. If you need additional info, let me know, or call Xantrex. After a couple of calls they might take you through them all!

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Old 14-11-2005, 06:09   #11
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Don't forget that the monitor itself draws some current. And on my Ample Power unit there is a back light that comes on when I press a button. It stays on until some idle time has passed. This light is hard to see in normal daylight conditions.

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Old 14-11-2005, 08:43   #12
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Okay everybody and thanks a bunch for all the suggestions and thoughts.

Well, yes there is some gear that does not go over the panel and a breaker: The secondary BIG bilgepump...I wired it straight to the house-bank with a proper fuse.
That one is not the culprit however as the 0.8 amp drain goes away when I shut the 12 V panel off by turning the rotary switch to OFF (4 posiitions: OFF, BANK Nr.1, BANK Nr.2 and BOTH)

The draw is therefore from the panel, not from the batteries, and no Mr. Gord, there is no corrsion on the battery terminals and no standing water that could draw juice.
Don't think there is a failed diode in the alternator as it puts out 14.4 volts over a "smart" regulator..Hm, could that regulator be the guilty one, I think it has LED lights on even when the engine is off...Have to check on that one.

The battery monitor itself is not wired over the panel, but straight to the batteries.
Again, the 0.8 amp draw disappears when I turn the 12 V panel rotary switch to OFF.

But with the rotary switch on the "House Bank" position and all the brealers off, here is the 0.8 amp draw again.

Yes, Mr. Euro Cruiser, there is some "sister" wires back there as I ran out of breakers. The primary bilge-pump and the GPS is in the same breaker for instance as they are always "On" (Well the GPS is actually off when the boat is sitting, but the breaker is on. )
The stereo is a good candidate for the draw and one I did not look at last night when I was screwing around with the electrics.

Yes Mr. Strygaldwir (Old Viking name is it..?) the meter is reading correctly as I get 0.0 draw when the 12 Volt panel's rotaty switch is turned off...Therefore I think (Hope) that there is nothing wrong with the Battery Monitor or the wires or the installation, but rather that I have a "ghost" draw somwhere in there, and the only way of finding it may be to turn all the breakers off, then disonnecting one circuit at the time..Pain in the arse job really as I have to lean over the nav table, then I will probably loose the little screws into the jungle of wires..Oh well, like Rambo says:
"Man got do what man got do"

Here is a picture of the panel before the Xantrex installation

One can barely see the rotary switch to the left just below the analog volt meter and the two analog AMP meters to the far right

Well, I'll go back on the boat and look for stray wires or stray current or some such thing.

Stay tuned....
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Old 14-11-2005, 11:04   #13
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Hi CSY Man

You have not, with validity, shown just exactly what is the current draw of the monitor (I don't know what is the new model efficiency or even if they wired it in such a manner so as to have its own draw through the shunt). You also haven't shown just exactly what is the monitor current resolution and accuracy which can be done at very small currents with an in-line digital ammeter, as was previously suggested, while switching in small known loads of 100mA steps or so.

Once you KNOW the above then you should KNOW that what is indicated is or is not due to a drain. You haven't mentioned whether or not switching breakers off one at a time reveals anything.

Like you, I want to know just what such a load is due to and do not consider it to be insignificant over time. You must find out and report back to us so that we can sleep at night.
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Old 14-11-2005, 11:52   #14
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You haven't mentioned whether or not switching breakers off one at a time reveals anything.
Well, Mr Rich, the draw is with ALL THE BREAKERS OFF.

That is what puzzles me.

As for the specs on the monitor, I copied this from the Xantrex web-page.

Battery Monitor Specifications

Electrical Specifications

Voltage Measurement

0 - 35.0 VDC (+/-0.01 V resolution)

Current Measurement

-500 - 500 A

Amp-Hour Measurement

High range +/- 200 - 1,999 Ah (1 hour resolution)

Time Remaining Measurement

Low range 0 - 100 hours (0.1 hour resolution)

Low range 100 - 240 hours (0.1 hour resolution)

Battery Capacity Range

200 - 2000 Ah

Operating Temperature Range

0 - 50oC


Voltage +/- 0.3% of reading

Voltage +/- 0.4% of reading


I don't think the mysterious draw is from the monitor itself or the shunt, as it shows 0.0 draw when the 12 volt DC panel is turned to OFF with the rotary switch I mentiond above, but the Battery Monitor is still "active".

Therefore I can only conclude that the 0.8 amp draw is from the 12 volt DC panel....

You must find out and report back to us so that we can sleep at night.
Working on, hoping to find it soon so we all can sleep tonight.

PS...It is not from the voltage regulator, I mentioned eralier that it has some LED lights, but they are not on when the engine is not running...So that was not it.
The stereo could be the culprit and it is next on my list.
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Old 14-11-2005, 12:57   #15
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Ghost Currents

My comments below are not particularly germaine to your problem as you have already gone past the step in your troubleshooting that would have discovered this situation. I offer them here, though, in hope that they may help someone else recognize ghost currents.

Last summer I discovered 0.4 amps of current flowing from my house batteries when I thought there should be none. Several DC breakers were on but the respective loads (e.g. water pump, refrigerator) were not running. Fortunately for me, my digital ampmeter went to 0.0 when I switched all breakers off. Come to find out that the green LED "breaker on" indicators actually draw about 0.05 amps each. Thus, even with no loads energized, just having the breakers closed put a slight drain on the batteries. Now when not on shore powere, I make more of an effort to keep ALL unused breakers off.

Incidently, I also discovered that the solenoid for our propane stove draws nearly 2 amps when energized, providing another very good reason, besides safety of ship, to keep it off when not cooking.

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