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Old 23-12-2015, 14:00   #1
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Looking for practical charging system refit advice

First, I'd like to wish all the sailors & cruisers around the globe a Very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays to you and your families & friends. I have posted several question on this sight and have always received overwhelming helpful and positive responses.

Now for the dreaded business at hand....

Background: I live up by Detroit and have signed on to be boat slave and first mate for a 3-person crew sailing out of Punta Gorda, FL to Belize on my good friend's 1970 Charley Morgan 38. It is our intentions to start our trip on Feb. 1, 2016. I was down there recently doing prep work, running tests and practicing drills, etc. And will be down again to celebrate NYE. As one might surmise, not much of the mechanical and electrical systems in this boat are original with plenty of DIY fixes over the decades. We working on a "modest" nut reasonable budget. We have discovered some inconsistencies relative to the boats charging systems that result in insufficient charging of the house batteries. And yes, before I get flamed here too much, I have have been doing hours and hours of research into this subject. Being a retired IT guy, I'm also the boat's Chief Information Officer and have some basic knowledge of electrical system.

Da Boot:
1970 Morgan 38, Yanmar 3HM 27 HP diesel.

Hitachi alternator (most likely a LR-155, but it's ID label was painted over during a engine rebuild) with internal regulator that was recently tested to be putting out 45 amps.

While the single starting battery and the 2 house batteries are all flooded acid batteries, they have little else in common ("one house battery" is actually two 6V batteries wired in series),

The 1/both/2/off battery selector switch currently switches between the two house battery banks,

There's a 3-post, diode isolator that distributes the alternator's charging output to each battery bank, but the alternator's sense wire is the original wiring off the ignition switch.

The shore power battery charger is smart and can charge up to 3 battery banks. It's charging output leads are currently connected to the battery posts on the isolator.

The solar panel is directly connected to one of the house batteries.

Our (perceived) challenges:
#1. The alt is sensing only the starting battery's charge, so when that battery is fully charged the alt effectively shuts down thus not fully charging the deep cycle house batteries.

#2. We'll never truly know what model Hitachi alternator we have due to the "nice" paint job, it seems to putting less amps than it's rated for, it's internally regulated, and generally believed to as a fellow sailor stated "not worth a pile of mouse poop".

#3. We're woefully ignorant as to how to effect improvements to this mess.

#4. The charging system is probably got more small, unaccounted for voltage drops due to the hodge-podge of cables and connections.

My humble thoughts:
#1. We should replace the current alternator with a good externally regulated model.

#2. Based on #1 above, we'll need to acquire a external, probably smart, voltage regulator/monitor and/or something else that monitors, prioritizes and charges all the batteries fully.

#3. Disconnect & remove the diode isolator totally.

#4. Connect the shore power battery charger directly to each battery bank.

My 20 questions:
#1 Anyone care to take a shot at ANYTHING I've written so far, particular the tentative fixes?

#2 Assuming an alternator replacement is a must, any recommendations for brands, sizes, regulation method, etc.

#3 Assuming a new externally regulated alternator, any thoughts/recommendations for what to buy? How to sense which batteries need charging? How best to save/reserve the staring battery?

#4 Best method for connecting in the shore power charger and the solar panel?

#5 Should the battery selector switch switch between either of the two house batteries or between the house bank and the starting battery?

#6 Anyone know any experts in these matters close to Punta Gorda, FL?

#7 What have I missed? Any additional thoughts, suggestions, recommendations or worse?

#8 I'm ready for drink, anyone care to join me? I'm buying!

As always, your time, efforts, advice, thoughts, words, care, jokes and anything and everything else are very much appreciated and will be played forward as best I can!!

Happy Holidaze All!!!
Terry
Livonia, MI/Punta Gorda, FL
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Old 23-12-2015, 19:35   #2
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

Wow. I don't know the answers to your questions, but here's a place where an expert talks about this stuff and makes specific recommendations.
Compass Marine How To Articles Photo Gallery by Compass Marine How To at pbase.com
Good luck
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Old 23-12-2015, 20:01   #3
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

I am confused on your house bank. you state you have starting battery and a house bank with 2 golf carts.


but then say the 1/2 switch switches between 2 house banks (yet you only have one?) and your solar is connected to one house battery. (to 6v?)


how many batteries do you have total, and how many banks do you have? (this is 2 different things)




get rid of the diode block and get a blue sea ACR. wire between the start bank and house bank. (assuming you have one of each) you could also buy the "add a battery kit" and replace your switch as well.


the shore charger and solar should be connected direct to batteries (with fuses). the diode block works fine as it's just a junction point to all the batteries. but you are removing it so the wires need to move.
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Old 23-12-2015, 20:50   #4
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

Thanks smac99! Sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers....

Clarification: I see it as the boat has 3 battery banks: Start, House #1 and House #2. in the following configuration:

The Start bank is a single 12v battery, separated from the house banks.

There are two house banks where one bank is a single 12V battery and the other bank is two 6V golf cart batteries wired in series.

The 1/Both/2/Off battery selector switch selects between the two house banks only.
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Old 24-12-2015, 09:31   #5
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

My recommendation is to get a new alternator and get the house banks into one bank with consistent multiple batteries. And wire charger more directly to house bank batteries. Balmar alternators seem popular.
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Old 24-12-2015, 09:33   #6
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

My 2p worth;

Ditch the 2 6v batteries and replace with a single 12v with the same amp/hr rating as the other 12v house battery. Wire these in parallel to double up the amp/hrs and call this "house".

Get rid of the diode splitter and invest in either an ACR or something like the Sterling ProSplitR (PSR) to manage the charge from the alternator. If you get the PSR it has an alternator regulator sense stud to control the charge ensuring both batteries get a proper charge.

Fit a decent battery monitor to keep an eye on charge state. I have mine on the house battery only but with another wire I can check my starter voltage as well.

Solar panel should be wired directly to the house battery via a regulator to prevent overcharge issues.

Think about rewiring the charge system and check that your cables are the correct size to avoid unnecessary voltage drops, especially if you have a long run from the engine bay/alternator/splitter. Label the cables at each end and regularly along longer runs so they are easier to trace later on. Add and label suitable fuses as required.

On my boat we don't have a 1/2/both/off switch but individual isolator switches. Each of my batteries (Start, House, Thruster) is totally seperate from the others. An option to consider perhaps.

Our mains charger is connected directly to the batteries and not to the isolator/splitter with suitable fuses.

If your alternator is working fine then it might be worth keeping it but you may want to check it is able to give you enough amps to charge the system effectively. 45amps seems a little small but it does depend on your total amps. I have a 135amp house battery and a 115amp alternator, for example, on a VP D2-40.

Hope this helps you

Keiron
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Old 24-12-2015, 09:50   #7
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

As a non-electrician, even I know two house banks make no sense, combine them. Run all charging systems into the house bank with a switch to charge house and engine if needed. As an alternative run your alternator to both and everything else ti house.Your starting battery will almost never be low so you do not want the nearly full engine battery depressing the overall rate of charge. I know it is not advised to mix batteries in a bank but I've never been convinced that is not just salesman talk. Planning a real ocean voyage I might go safe on a short haul to Belize, I don't think so. Good luck and fair winds to you.
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Old 24-12-2015, 10:14   #8
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

-You don't have to do anything but leave the switch on ALL and you have one bank. Bam! That project is done!
-If your batteries are over 5 YO replace them. If not I would charge them up well. Disconnect all cables and measure the voltage of each the net day. They should all be close to the same. Probably ~12.45 volts
-You don't mention how much solar you have, but assuming not a lot, yes I would probably get a high output, eternal regulated alternator. Not over 100 amp.
-Personally I don't think a system monitor is needed. This is JMHO, but they add complication, $ and seem to always need some adjustment. Many here love them though so if you like more toys, get one!
-Change your charge sensing to the house bank instead of the start battery.
- The Ample Power alternators and Net Step regulators are good. Not sure what they are called now though. Of course Balmar is good too, but you pay a premium for looks.
-I'm assuming you have refrigeration, if you don't you don't need a bigger alternator at all.
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Old 24-12-2015, 10:14   #9
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

Whew. This is a complicated discussion for a cruising forum post, but here goes.

Essentially, you need all of your charging sources to go to one battery (or bank), lets say house 1. House 1 in turn needs to be bridged to house 2 and the starting battery via battery combiners. Blue Sea makes some nice ones. You pick your size depending on the max charging amps you have. With this setup, all of you batteries will be charged anytime charging current is available. You don't have to worry about flipping battery switches and stuff.

You could also consider just having one house bank, which will eliminate the need for one combiner. If you do so, however, it would be good to have all of the same batteries (configuration, amp hours, manufacturer and age) otherwise healthier batteries will discharge into less healthy ones.

As to alternators, Amp Tech makes good ones and they aren't as expensive as the ones labeled "marine". Find them on the web at AMPTECH by M Power Manufacturing, LLC. The alt you pick will have as much to do with mounting and belting as it does with amperage. Once you get over 100 amps, you'll have to go to double belts (or a serpentine belt), which will mean new pulleys, etc. Contact Amp Tech and they'll help you pick one.

As to regulators, get a multistage regulator from Balmar or Amp Tech. You don't need super fancy: get the most basic multistage regulator you can find from a reputable manufacturer.

From your description, it sounds like the engine battery is unswitched. That is not a good situation. You need one. It would also be good to have the ability to bridge the house bank to the starting bank so you can use the house bank to start the engine. There are a number of switches that combine those functions, but I like single pole single throw switches, one for the house bank, one for the engine bank and one to bridge the two. That way you can actually isolate a bad battery by shutting it off.

The other thing that you need is a battery monitor of some kind. At the very least a really accurate volt meter that can be switched between the banks. Better would be a battery monitor that tracks the amps in and out of the batteries. Xantrex makes several models and so does Balmar. One nice thing about having just one house bank is that it makes monitoring a bit simpler.

I've attached a couple of pictures of my installations. Hope this helps.

Scott
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Old 24-12-2015, 10:19   #10
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

Well, apparently I didn't have photos attached. Lets try again.
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Old 24-12-2015, 10:28   #11
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

Here are some good reference surces, you're on the right track.

Basic Battery Wiring Diagrams This is a very good basic primer for boat system wiring: Basic Battery Wiring Diagrams

This is another very good basic primer for boat system wiring: The 1-2-B Switch by Maine Sail (brings together a lot of what this subject is all about)
1/BOTH/2/OFF Switches Thoughts & Musings | SailboatOwners.com Forums

These come from here, noodle around for more:

Electrical Systems 101 Electrical Systems 101
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Old 24-12-2015, 10:38   #12
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

First, nice job in summarizing boat, batteries, alt, and your background. Helps a lot to offer advice.

Well there is never only one answer/ best way to go on a 'make it right' for a trip. Other's my differ, but this is what I would (EE with 30 yrs sailing, 10 yes cruising)

While a 65a alternator may sound low... it may be only showing 65a because batteries aren't 'calling for more.' I put a 90a alternator with external three phase regulator on my boat before we started cruising, but rarely pumps out more than 60a. If batteries are really down (rarely) I may see 75a initially and then quickly starts to fall into 60s. Also note that it's hard to drive a 90a alternator with a single belt... so that means changing main pulley/ maybe other depending on your belt runs. So the alternator may really be 'good enough' / not worth upgrading for the modest real world charging gain you'll really see, especially for what you doing/ this trip.

What you didn't tell us about was what loads will the boat have? Just nav lights... + VHF, + small microwave... auto-pilot, 12v refrig? Can you cook/ make coffee with propane/ alcohol stove?

If no refrig or auto-pilot and some solar, I'd say you are just fine. You may be better off replacing nav/ cabin light w/ LED ) or buying/ storing one additional fully charged 'just in case' battery than starting a larger alternator up-grade.

Unfortunately the two house banks are different enough (and ages?) that likely not a good idea to just connect them in parallel. So can't have them all as bank 1 and starter as bank 2... hence why last owner used diode bank connections. I guess if I was the new owner, I'd wire batteries this way:
- wire your two house banks as bat
1 & 2 on main battery SW
- Alternator connected to Common
of that battery SW
- connect the starting battery via
the diode bank from C of that main
battery SW to the starting battery.
- Solar panel should have a charge
controller (and wired to C on bat
SW
- 120v 3-phase charger w/ it's 3
outputs can go directly to each
battery
- Alternator sense wire also goes to
C on main bat SW

Yes, the starting battery won't get a 100% full charge, but that's how it's been up to now... and my experience doesn't really need full charge 90% is more than enough

House banks 1 & 2 will be getting heaviest use and fastest re-charge (including solar) ability. Starter battery, with lightest use/ load, will charge automatically in the background with engine/ solar, shore sources.

What's missing? An important ability to start engine if somehow starter battery becomes discharged. There are few things you can't improvise, wire around, make do w/o on a sailboat... but there is no way to start a diesel w/o 50-100a turning the starter! Without an engine, soon all batteries will be dead, no nav lights, no emergency radio. Accordingly, I place high priority on ability to always be able to start the diesel (carry a spare starter when cruising) AND have a 'parallel' SW (if the main battery SW is already wired for two house banks) that when sw'ed on will quickly parallel the starting battery with your house banks (connect to C of your house bank SW). This SW also allows you to fully charge/ top off the starter battery when running the engine because it will 'bypass' the diode path.

But be careful! Leaving that 'parallel' SW in the on position will result in possibly depleting the starter battery along with your house batteries if you leave some heavy load on. My rule is NEVER have all batteries connected together if engine isn't running!! This is why again I believe having the starter battery charged via a diode bank is perfectly OK/ better... and just don't be tempted to use the 'parallel' SW unless for test or real emergency.

Good luck with your trip.


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Old 24-12-2015, 10:44   #13
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

First, nice job in summarizing boat, batteries, alt, and your background. Helps a lot to offer advice.

Well there is never only one answer/ best way to go on a 'make it right' for a trip. Other's my differ, but this is what I would (EE with 30 yrs sailing, 10 yes cruising)

While a 65a alternator may sound low... it may be only showing 65a because batteries aren't 'calling for more.' I put a 90a alternator with external three phase regulator on my boat before we started cruising, but rarely pumps out more than 60a. If batteries are really down (rarely) I may see 75a initially and then quickly starts to fall into 60s. Also note that it's hard to drive a 90a alternator with a single belt... so that means changing main pulley/ maybe other depending on your belt runs. So the alternator may really be 'good enough' / not worth upgrading for the modest real world charging gain you'll really see, especially for what you doing/ this trip.

What you didn't tell us about was what loads will the boat have? Just nav lights... + VHF, + small microwave... auto-pilot, 12v refrig? Can you cook/ make coffee with propane/ alcohol stove?

If no refrig or auto-pilot and some solar, I'd say you are just fine. You may be better off replacing nav/ cabin light w/ LED ) or buying/ storing one additional fully charged 'just in case' battery than starting a larger alternator up-grade.

Unfortunately the two house banks are different enough (and ages?) that likely not a good idea to just connect them in parallel. So can't have them all as bank 1 and starter as bank 2... hence why last owner used diode bank connections. I guess if I was the new owner, I'd wire batteries this way:
- wire your two house banks as bat
1 & 2 on main battery SW
- Alternator connected to Common
of that battery SW
- connect the starting battery via
the diode bank from C of that main
battery SW to the starting battery.
- Solar panel should have a charge
controller (and wired to C on bat
SW
- 120v 3-phase charger w/ it's 3
outputs can go directly to each
battery
- Alternator sense wire also goes to
C on main bat SW

Yes, the starting battery won't get a 100% full charge, but that's how it's been up to now... and my experience doesn't really need full charge 90% is more than enough

House banks 1 & 2 will be getting heaviest use and fastest re-charge (including solar) ability. Starter battery, with lightest use/ load, will charge automatically in the background with engine/ solar, shore sources.

What's missing? An important ability to start engine if somehow starter battery becomes discharged. There are few things you can't improvise, wire around, make do w/o on a sailboat... but there is no way to start a diesel w/o 50-100a turning the starter! Without an engine, soon all batteries will be dead, no nav lights, no emergency radio. Accordingly, I place high priority on ability to always be able to start the diesel (carry a spare starter when cruising) AND have a 'parallel' SW (if the main battery SW is already wired for two house banks) that when sw'ed on will quickly parallel the starting battery with your house banks (connect to C of your house bank SW). This SW also allows you to fully charge/ top off the starter battery when running the engine because it will 'bypass' the diode path.

But be careful! Leaving that 'parallel' SW in the on position will result in possibly depleting the starter battery along with your house batteries if you leave some heavy load on. My rule is NEVER have all batteries connected together if engine isn't running!! This is why again I believe having the starter battery charged via a diode bank is perfectly OK/ better... and just don't be tempted to use the 'parallel' SW unless for test or real emergency.

Good luck with your trip.


Sent from my iPhone using Cruisers Sailing Forum
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Old 24-12-2015, 12:53   #14
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

You may find some ideas in this diagram.
Merry Christmas / LenClick image for larger version

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Old 24-12-2015, 14:05   #15
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Re: Looking for practical charging system refit advice

I've seen a lot of good advice here but also tackle this power issue by changing all lights possible to LED. We have done this and now the only things that consume power are the really necessary ones such as refrigeration, radios and auto pilot when used. With solar charging the house battery bank and a good smart charger for marina situations backed up by a 2 KVA generator for emergency charging we have the situation well covered. The engine battery can be charged by the generator but so far has never been needed with charging from the engine being adequate.
By far the best thing we did was the conversion to LED lighting.
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