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Old 17-05-2013, 23:35   #1
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New Balmar Alternator Problems

I am in Phuket thailand. I purchased a new 100 amp Balmar alternator for my Yanmar GM30. There is an external Xantrex regulator. I wired it for an external regulator as per Balmar instructions. However, the battery light would stay on as there was no power output. The tech came and said it was a loose wire. The battery light would now turn off but the maximum it puts out is never more than 35 amps even if battery voltage shows house bank is 50% discharged. (675 amp hr wet cells, new in Jan 2013. ) When the engine runs for more than 3 hours the battery light goes on again as the laternator stops charging. If I run the water maker which draws 45 amps the alternator still only puts in 35 amps, no more. So the battery monitor shows a negative amp draw of 15 amps.

The tech has returned twice more. Once to install a relay and then to replace the external regulator. Neither made a difference to the problem. He wired it to run on the alternator's regulator and found that no power was produced. The tech went back to his boss, the guy who sold me the unit and announced everything was working fine!!

I rang the boss and he is to send another techie. Am I being a pain pushing this? The old Yanmar 65 alternator on my other engine which is internally regulated always starts off at 55 amps.
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Old 17-05-2013, 23:41   #2
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Sounds like the stuff they do in the boat lagoon
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Old 17-05-2013, 23:41   #3
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Should give out at least 70a on its own reg... Sure it was new ?
Is the pulley the same size as the old alt ?
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Old 18-05-2013, 08:48   #4
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

svstrider,

No, you're not making too much of a big deal over this point.

Those 675AH flooded batteries, assuming they're still in good condition after only 5 months, should take as much as 135-165 amps when 50% discharged. So, your charging setup with the 100A Balmar certainly isn't doing what it should.

Assuming you've already checked obvious things, like:

1. belt tightness;

2. voltage sense wire directly to house batteries;

3. adequate RPMs at the alternator to reach full output;

4. good ground cable directly from the house batteries to the ground lug or case of the alternator (NOT thru the engine block)...of same size as positive cable;

5. adequate size cable (probably AWG 1/0 or higher for 100A capacity with little voltage drop);

6. good, tight connections on the ends of cables; and

7. accuracy of whatever you're using to measure amp output....


then....

First thing I'd check would be output voltage at the regulator. For flooded batteries in absorption mode, it should be 14.6-14.8VDC. If it's lower, that will limit the amperage the batteries will take.

I assume there's no isolator between the house batteries and the alternator.

One other thing: Balmar regulators like the MC-612 or MC-614 often come with a default setting of 20% de-rating of the alternator, so output of a 100A alternator would be limited to around 80A. This isn't a bad thing, but is adjustable.

Also, as alternators heat up -- especially in high ambient temps like you're likely to have in Thailand -- they won't sustain their full rated output. So the de-rating is particularly appropriate so as to protect the alternator from overheating.

Do you have temp sensors on the batteries and/or the alternator? Sometimes, these give false readings -- high or low -- and can cause problems. If they read high, they'll limit the output of the alternator. If they read low, the alternator could continue to put out a charge even if it -- or the batteries -- were overtemp.

Bill
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Old 18-05-2013, 09:16   #5
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

What Bill said!

In order of popularity of "issues" I resolve on alt installs.

*Improper grounding (engines stink for passing current through)
*Improper wire sizing (yesterday)
*Diode isolators / volt sense
*Poor connections
*No volt sense wire (as recently as yesterday)
*Improper programing of the regulator (yesterday GEL setting for AGM's...)
*Belt issues (yesterday wrong "V" angle belt for a Yanmar)

Any technician that does not fully load test the alternator after installation is really not doing his/her job as best they can and is doing you a disservice.

This is an easy test and should be standard protocol on a 1k-2k install.....

I use my own portable inverter, or if the customer has one in the 2000-3000 watt range, I use theirs. I then connect a heat gun or ceramic disc heater to the inverter and fire it up with the alt running.

If it is a large alt I may need to use the heat gun and the ceramic disc heater to burn enough current to send the alt in to full "bulk" output.

I place my clamp meter around the alts B+ output wire to measure the alternator current output capability. When the alt is cold you should see, at a minimum, the full rating of the alternator. So for a 100A alternator with a 120A+ load you should easily see 100A initially it will probably drop to about 80A after a bit of time at that load. Most will even go higher than their "rating" when cold. I've not yet seen one that could not put up its rating, when cold, if properly installed..

If the alt and regulator pass this test they they are working as they should. If your installer never load tested the installation the job was never truly "complete".

Personally I never trust the batteries "SOC" because some can be sulfated and not take the current. This tricks many into "assuming" the alt or install is bad. You ideally need to apply an external "load" to test the alt and the alt can be tested even with a full bank as long as the applied load exceeds the capacity of the alt by about 20-30A. The higher the external load beyond the alts rating the faster it will bump up to full output during the test.
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Old 19-05-2013, 03:30   #6
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Sounds like the stuff they do in the boat lagoon
Yep, bought it at oat Lagoon.
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Old 19-05-2013, 03:30   #7
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Sounds like the stuff they do in the boat lagoon
Yep, bought it at Boat Lagoon.
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Old 19-05-2013, 04:04   #8
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Thanks for your advice, Bill
Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
svstrider,
Assuming you've already checked obvious things, like:

1. belt tightness;
yes, replaced belt & tightened

2. voltage sense wire directly to house batteries;
yes, via xantrex battery monitor

3. adequate RPMs at the alternator to reach full output;
Yep

4. good ground cable directly from the house batteries to the ground lug or case of the alternator (NOT thru the engine block)...of same size as positive cable;
ground cable comes from engine starter battery. There is a voltage sensitive relay on each starter battery which then switch to house battery charging

5. adequate size cable (probably AWG 1/0 or higher for 100A capacity with little voltage drop);
Yep

6. good, tight connections on the ends of cables;
Yepand

7. accuracy of whatever you're using to measure amp output....
Xantrex battery monitor


then....

First thing I'd check would be output voltage at the regulator. For flooded batteries in absorption mode, it should be 14.6-14.8VDC. If it's lower, that will limit the amperage the batteries will take.

I assume there's no isolator between the house batteries and the alternator.

One other thing: Balmar regulators like the MC-612 or MC-614 often come with a default setting of 20% de-rating of the alternator, so output of a 100A alternator would be limited to around 80A. This isn't a bad thing, but is adjustable.

Also, as alternators heat up -- especially in high ambient temps like you're likely to have in Thailand -- they won't sustain their full rated output. So the de-rating is particularly appropriate so as to protect the alternator from overheating.
Output from the alternator NEVER goes above 35 amps

Do you have temp sensors on the batteries and/or the alternator?
No temp sensor
Bill
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Old 19-05-2013, 06:01   #9
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

svstrider,

OK. Some good info.

It's hard to diagnose problems at a distance, but the following peaked my interest:

1. "ground cable comes from start battery". Presumably, the house battery bank ground and the engine start batteries' ground are tied together. Also, does the ground cable go directly to the alternator case ground, or does ground depend upon going thru the engine block? If the latter, this is not a good arrangement.

2. "alternator never goes above 35A output".....you definitely have a problem. Maybe the problem is related to the voltage sense. If the voltage sense wire "goes thru the Xantrex monitor", could it be sensing the start battery voltage and not the house battery voltage? In any case, IMHO, this is NOT a good way to do it because the start battery is nearly always fully charged, or will be within a few minutes after engine starting. There should be a battery sense wire directly from the regulator to the house battery bank.

3. "battery combiner"....seems like the output from the alternator is routed to the start battery, and depends upon the combiner to route charging current to the house batteries. This is IMO backwards. The alternator output should go directly to the house batteries, and either a combiner or....better...a voltage follower device like the EchoCharge or DuoCharge used to keep the start battery happy. Start batteries require VERY LITTLE CHARGING. Typical engine-start procedures require less than 0.5AH from the start battery, so this is replaced in very short time after the engine starts.

4. It would be good to run some tests such as MaineSail outlined above so as to test alternator output.

Bill
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Old 19-05-2013, 07:16   #10
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
3. "battery combiner"....seems like the output from the alternator is routed to the start battery, and depends upon the combiner to route charging current to the house batteries. This is IMO backwards. The alternator output should go directly to the house batteries, and either a combiner or....better...a voltage follower device like the EchoCharge or DuoCharge used to keep the start battery happy. Start batteries require VERY LITTLE CHARGING. Typical engine-start procedures require less than 0.5AH from the start battery, so this is replaced in very short time after the engine starts.
I agree with this also, in regards to wiring the combiner. However, Yandina, who makes combiners, recommends the opposite. She gave her reasoning in another thread, but I did not follow it well or agree with it. In practice, it will make little difference because when the fully charged start battery reaches the combiner voltage from the alternator putting out trickle amps, the combined bank will immediately drop down to the house voltage and the alternator will see this lower voltage and will increase the charge current.

You won't overcharge the start battery, or have the alternator sense a higher voltage than the house bank condition.

If you have a bad start battery that accepts only low charge current but does not reach the combiner voltage readily, then that would be a problem.

Mark
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Old 19-05-2013, 07:29   #11
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Besides the excellent advice you're getting here, you could also contact Balmar directly by email. I found them to be extremely helpful on a problem I was having. They will go the extra mile to make sure your alternator works properly.

Here's their contact page: Balmar contacts.
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Old 19-05-2013, 23:16   #12
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

One other simple check is to bypass the regulator and temporarily jump the alternator field wire directly to +12v, such as the alternator output terminal. If the alternator current goes up to what you expect, you have a problem with the regulator/sensing/ground/output wiring---if it stays the same, the problem is probably with the alternator.
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Old 31-05-2013, 06:53   #13
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Thanks Bill for all your helpful suggestions. Problem is now fixed. All that was needed was for a proper marine electrician who was in fact the owner of the business that I originally bought the alternator from to turn up. The previous 4 visits apparently only involved NOT real electricians.

Despite being tested before, the main problem was a faulty Xantrex external regulator which was "not 100%". I purchased a new Balmar regulator. ALSO the ground wire was not of sufficient diameter. The real elec also installed a voltage sensor wire to the house bank as you suggested. VIOLA - problem has been rectified. All it required was a visit by 3 not real elecs and the boss and the passage of 4 months plus the expenditure of half a boat unit. Ho hum - such is the boating life.

Thanks everybody for your advice.
Paul
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Old 31-05-2013, 10:06   #14
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Paul,

Glad you got it fixed OK, despite all the grief and $$...err, Baht!

A couple of ice cold Singha's should take much of the pain away :-)

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Old 31-05-2013, 10:23   #15
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Re: New Balmar alternator problems

Surpise. A problem with xantrex........do they make.anything that works ?
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