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Old 29-11-2013, 08:54   #1
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New DC Power Plant

The time has come to redo the onboard power plant. I am hoping to solicit a sanity check from those who have been there done that, and possibly get some ideas that I haven't yet considered.

I spend summers on a mooring in the NE and never plug in. We are active most weekends and take a two week cruise once a year. The current arrangement, as set up by prev owner, is very basic and falls short of our requirements. We have the original 50A alternator and regulator on W30 Westerbeke, one 12V gel G31 (105 ah) house and identical start battery. We have refer, stereo, periodic phone and iPad charging, small GPS part time, LED lights, and rarely use sailing instruments. Probably 50 - 70 a/h per day but that is only a guess. Radar and autopilot will remain a distant dream until I get this sorted out.

The plan is to change to all wet cells. Frankly I don't see the value in paying 2-3x for gel or AGM. Wet cells are more forgiving and I can handle the increased maintenance. I will up the house bank to 300-350 ah (all the room I have.) Install a 100 amp Electromax or Balmar alternator with a 3 stage programable Balmar regulator. Install a Xantrex or similar battery monitor. OK so far?

Next comes the fun part.. how best to maintain and restore. On a 32' boat without a bimini I do not have the necessary real estate for solar. The dodger is shadowed by the boom. Fittings that hang panels off stern rails don't appeal much to me. Foredeck is taken up by club footed stays'l so flex panels like Solbian won't work. I have looked with interest at panels on a stick by Custom Marine Products but have not seen a single boat with this set up and I am concerned about robustness in high wind when the boat is unattended. A little on the ugly side, too.. For these reasons I am leaning more toward a wind generator. As long as there is decent wind they generate power 24hrs a day. That's when we use the boat. I think avg output over 4 days on the PS test was in the 60ah range per day. I understand that at times there will be little or no output. But even if I could find the real estate, I am guaranteed zero output from a solar array from dusk to dawn 100% of the time. I won't totally discount solar until I am convinced that wind is the way to go for my situation. A long winter of pondering ahead...

I am not looking to Superwind or D400, arguably two of the best, because I don't believe the cost is justified by my cruising profile. Silentwind and Airbreeze seem to be a better fit. One is externally rectified and regulated (silentwind) and Airbreeze is internal. Both have pros and cons that I am still working through. But they are efficient and generally viewed to have solved the noise issues of the past. Emarine still sells the venerable Air-x with silent blades at the same price as a new Air Breeze, but overall the Silentwind set up seems to offer more options and control. The mount is extremely important -it needs to be strong and look good. Emarine markets an aluminum pole kit at half the price of a Kato Marine pole. Emarine is 1 1/2 " aluminum with SS struts, while Kayto has 3" SS base of 5' with thinner section toward the top. Are there other options out there?

So that's the plan. It's a big investment but one that should pay off in the long run with reduced engine wear and longer battery life. Would appreciate any thoughts/input.
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Old 29-11-2013, 09:40   #2
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Re: New DC Power Plant

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Originally Posted by Seawindii View Post
Would appreciate any thoughts/input.
One of the highest return on investment upgrades I see on cruising boats that improves their standard of living on a boat is to their charging and battery systems. Most are inadequate and this leads to so much stress and drama of staring at your battery monitor each morning in depression as it reads 12.2v.

The 100A alternator is a good choice because it can be powered by the standard 1/2" belt so it avoids the serpentine pulley upgrade costs. There are also lots of options out there, but I would caution you to about ElecroMaax choice, their customer service had integrity reputation is abysmal.


SSCA Forum • View topic - any experience with electromaax alternators?

I know the "purists" out there will panic over this recommendation but a honda 2000 generator costing $899 with free shipping plus a 60A battery charger costing $449 is a damn hard combination to beat in terms of price, flexibility, and overall value. Save your engine hours, engine maintence, heat in the boat, noise in the boat and do you charging with the Honda. You will also then have the ability to make hot water electrically and run big power tools at anchor!

I know...I know...I know...you will have to carry evil gas for the Honda.. But you carry gas anyway for the outboard...so what's the fuss? The Honda 2000 will power the 60A battery charger for about 6 hours on a single gallon of gas. So a 5 gallon jerry jug of gas will get you 30 hours of battery charging or 1800AH worth of power! After living this Honda advice myself for the last 6 years aboard our boat I would toss my solar, alternator and wind gen overboard long before I would give up my Honda 2000 and 60A battery charger combo. This coming from a guy that sells DC Power Solutions high output alternators and the KISS wind generator!
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Old 29-11-2013, 09:43   #3
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Re: New DC Power Plant

opps...deleted double post
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Old 29-11-2013, 10:16   #4
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Re: New DC Power Plant

Look into a small 50watt solar panel. Not that much space taken and for a weekender the math works out pretty nice and your batteries will always be topped off. I hung a 15watt off my stern pulpit on my 27 and have not used shore power since last January except for a night in the middle of a 2 week excursion. Have a nice marine charger to top them off and pulling into a marina for a nice hot shower is always a nice break.

Bought a 50watt panel and charge controller for my 30 and have not had her on shore power yet (about a month). We work on her on the weekends and blast the radio, run the lights and run power tools using an inverter. Battery charge is fine with about 210Ah of capacity.

I also am thinking of getting a wind gen and putting it on a stern mounted pole that would double as a flag pole and outboard lift. Will be helpful in a few years when we start going out longer than 2 weeks at a time.
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Old 29-11-2013, 10:23   #5
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Who sells the little Honda 2000 for $900 w free shipping? Best I have found is about a grand
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Old 29-11-2013, 10:24   #6
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Re: New DC Power Plant

for a two week vacation yearly just go with a good alternator and new wet cell batteries. keep it simple and go sailing! if you keep the alternator down to 75 amps you'll have less belt problems. Why hang a bunch of crap on your boat when the above will do the job just fine. Add a digital voltmeter if you dont have one and have two battery banks.
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Old 29-11-2013, 11:06   #7
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Re: New DC Power Plant

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Who sells the little Honda 2000 for $900 w free shipping? Best I have found is about a grand

I bught one 3 mounths ago for $899...looks like they raised their price to $949
EU2000i - You save $50 with Honda's Red Friday Instant Rebate!

But that is still a DEAL
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Old 29-11-2013, 11:07   #8
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Re: New DC Power Plant

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Who sells the little Honda 2000 for $900 w free shipping? Best I have found is about a grand

I bught one 3 mounths ago for $899...looks like they raised their price to $949

EU2000i - You save $50 with Honda's Red Friday Instant Rebate!

But that is still a DEAL
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Old 29-11-2013, 11:20   #9
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Re: New DC Power Plant

Raising your house bank capacity is the best first thing you can do, good idea. With a fridge you're going to use +/-100 ah per day.

You might want to wander around this link, it has a lot of links to information right up your alley.

Electrical Systems 101 Electrical Systems 101

Using a 100A alternator in lieu of a 75 is also a good idea. With the Balmar external regulator, you can program it in either Small Engine Mode or Amp Manager and the larger alternator will run cooler.
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Old 29-11-2013, 11:24   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SV THIRD DAY View Post
I bught one 3 mounths ago for $899...looks like they raised their price to $949 EU2000i - You save $50 with Honda's Red Friday Instant Rebate! But that is still a DEAL





I wonder if the $949 is before or after the Red Fri rebate?
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Old 29-11-2013, 12:40   #11
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Appreciate the responses. I am trying to set the groundwork for expected increases in load down the road. Currently we spend about 40 nights aboard. I'm afraid I don't see the Honda as a viable long term solution. Very much on the fence with solar and wind. I'm going to start with the alt and batteries and assess then. Might just play with small solar and see how it does. We don't come close to 100ah per day on the fridge as we use a block of ice and thermal pad to maintain temp -mainly because of our lousy DC storage capacity.. Where do you guys buy your wet cells? Anyone use anything special on the vent caps? Water Miser or similar?
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Old 29-11-2013, 12:43   #12
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Thanks for the link, Stu.
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Old 29-11-2013, 13:27   #13
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Re: New DC Power Plant

I have cruised the Carribean and Mexico with nothing other than a high output alternator (75 or 100 amp) and good regulator. You should have no problem. For what you are doing anything more just complicates your life really. Battery weight tells you alot with wet cells, the heavier, likely the thicker the plates. We have a local battery maker that has good prices and shows you how much thicker his cell plates are than the "name Brand". Batteries die due to material being transferred off the plates in the exchange process. (and other reasons) Check for a local maker. Otherwise maybe Trojan or Interstate batteries....
A battery monitor system is loved by some, others find it a complication that is unecessary, if you like fussing with things then maybe it's for you. If not, just ahve a good voltmeter and assess staus with that.
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Old 29-11-2013, 16:28   #14
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Although I have never owned one, my sense is that a good battery monitor will tell me things I don't currently know but should, particularly charge current and active load. My ultimate goal is to get to a point where running the diesel just to charge batteries becomes a rare occurrence. This just seems reasonable to me. I don't have a big load and short of turning my boat into a floating MIT lab, I like to think this is also a practical objective. By the same token I am not overly anxious to dump 2k+ into a wind generator without some empirical evidence that it will get me there. The interesting part -at least to me- is weighing all the variables and trying to come to a conclusion that gets me to my goal. Thanks again for the input.
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Old 29-11-2013, 20:27   #15
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Re: New DC Power Plant

yes. every boat that is used without constant engines running should have a battery monitor

I would at least have a small solar to keep the batteries maintained while you are off the boat if it's not plugged in.

Quote:
My ultimate goal is to get to a point where running the diesel just to charge batteries becomes a rare occurrence. This just seems reasonable to me
well adding bigger batteries and the alt doesn't really help you here unless you are motoring often.
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