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Old 27-08-2012, 16:18   #46
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

G'Day Vic,

First, congratulations on ending the long search, and enjoy your new possession/obsession.

Now, as to your electrical problems...

1. Your battery bank, if the batteries are in good condition, has completely adequate capacity.

2. It is pretty obvious that there is some abnormal load(s) on the system. The hot alternator is an obvious one, but there could well be others. Elderly boats that have been "improved" by well meaning owners over the years often have wiring issues, and they can be difficult to track down.

3. While your Link monitor can be a useful tool, I would strongly suggest that you buy yourself a clamp-on multi-meter. This is a device that will allow you to measure the actual current being drawn by each individual device on the boat without disturbing the wiring. Armed with this you can really determine where the energy is going. Further, you can actually measure what the charging current for your battery bank is whilst running the gen set/battery charger combo. Armed with this you can total up the loads, see which devices are the heavy users and then come up with a plan to reduce your consumption. Without this info you are simply speculating, and will waste lots of time and money.

4. It is certainly possible that your T-105's are not in good condition, despite their relative youthfulness. Boats with electrical problems like yours often have a history of the batteries being chronically undercharged. This leads to a condition called sulphation which causes them to loose useful capacity. A simple hydrometer can be used to measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each cell, and this is really the only simple means of determining state of charge and battery condition... something that you really need to know to evaluate the performance of your electrical system.

I'm sure that you will come up with more issues, but with good usage data one can design a useful electrical program for your boat.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 27-08-2012, 19:02   #47
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Reading these posts from Vic's perspective it would be easy to get overwhelmed by all the great advice.

I think the positives are that the system appears to be matched and appears to be adequate for power needs, once the power needs are understood.

Getting the right gear to monitor and service a large bank , clamp meter and hydrometer, is great advice.

Then check the batteries to see what ya got. I hope the batteries are OK and suspect at their young age they will be.

Then methodical troubleshooting is the go as you eliminate suspects.

The idea to shut down all the equipment (Apollo 13) and switch one item on at a time while monitoring current draw is the go. This would point out any current criminals stealing too much power.

If you identify a bad guy, kick him off the network until you have time to fix him.

This will give you an idea of what is drawing. Then on the charge side learning about your battery monitor is first. Maybe isolating the suspect alternator, although I find this a strange one.

The key is to separate the troubleshooting into logical and bit size chunks of work.

I'd do this before I bought $1000-$2000 worth of solar equipment. I may buy it if I have the boat bucks laying around but wouldn't add known good stuff on top of suspect stuff. It just makes the troubleshooting more complex.
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Old 27-08-2012, 19:17   #48
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

+1 to Ex-Calif's post above.

According to the Trojan web site the T105s have a 20hr. rating of 225 AH.
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Old 27-08-2012, 20:01   #49
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by VirtualVagabond View Post
The boat has an Outback FX series inverter/charger. I assume it must be the FX - E which is their model for the export market and puts out 230v /50 Hz.

Would you categorize that as a large smart battery charger?

The generator Test certificate dated 2009 shows 230v/50 Hertz and actual results 233v/50.1Hz. Battery charge system 13.57volts.
Vic--

It matters not someone told YOU that T105s are rated for only 105 ampere hours. Those batteries are rated by Trojan for 225 ampere hours, check their specifications on line. Do not believe all that somebody tells you. Sometimes they may know even less than you. Check the basics for example check Trojan's specification.

Now to your battery charger--- I don't know anything about the charger/generator combo on you boat. I have a Xantrex 1250 or 5012 what Zantrex calls it. It is a 3 stage charger with a maximum charge current just over 50 amperes. Personally I would like a 75 or even a 100 ampere charger to recharge my 4 6vdc Penn 230 ampere batteries I recently purchased from Sam's Club for $88 each.

The problem with chargers is the charge current quickly diminishes. I also have 2 each 145 DM solar panels with 2 more on order. Getting back to your problem, have you checked your batteries for water? Do you know if they are all rechargable? By that I refer to them possibly suffering from sulfation.
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Old 28-08-2012, 02:19   #50
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One of the better threads. Lots of good advice.

To reiterate what i have read and offer my own take...

1. Isolate and be systematic.

2. Start at the batteries and work out from there.

3. Leave system as is, fully charge batteries, disconnect them from the boat and then let them sit for 60 minutes. Then disconnect them from each other. Check all voltages of each battery.. There will likely be small differences but should be no large differences. If batteries are not sealed and there is a voltage discrepency you can check each cell. If you find a bad one then dump it.

The next steps require a decent battery monitor

4. Reconnect the boat to batteries, but keep all charging sources disconnected such as alternators, solar panels, genny etc. This is important as you need to isolate all variables. Make sure all switches on panel are off. Your battery switch should be on. Your battery monitor should read zero consumption. If you are showing any consumption you need to trace the loss.

5. Now leave off the switches on master panel and reconnect genny and alternator, not solar. Look at battery consumption on monitor. Should still be zero.

If you go through this exercise it will help isolate any issues with loss of charge through wiring issues in boat and the boats charging system. On e that is isolated then you can focus on your individuals items consumtion rates.
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Old 28-08-2012, 05:29   #51
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
G'Day Vic, Hi Jim, Good to hear from you. I see you've 'flown' north for the winter again.

First, congratulations on ending the long search, and enjoy your new possession/obsession. Thanks. At this point we're at the "what were we thinking?" stage!

Now, as to your electrical problems...

1. Your battery bank, if the batteries are in good condition, has completely adequate capacity. I checked all the battery levels yesterday. All cells were covered and I topped them up to just below max with distilled water. I noticed the plates are 'wavey'. Is this normal or should they be straight?

2. It is pretty obvious that there is some abnormal load(s) on the system. The hot alternator is an obvious one, but there could well be others. Elderly boats that have been "improved" by well meaning owners over the years often have wiring issues, and they can be difficult to track down.

3. While your Link monitor can be a useful tool, I would strongly suggest that you buy yourself a clamp-on multi-meter. This is a device that will allow you to measure the actual current being drawn by each individual device on the boat without disturbing the wiring. Armed with this you can really determine where the energy is going. Further, you can actually measure what the charging current for your battery bank is whilst running the gen set/battery charger combo. Armed with this you can total up the loads, see which devices are the heavy users and then come up with a plan to reduce your consumption. Without this info you are simply speculating, and will waste lots of time and money.The clamp on multi-meter is on todays shopping list, along with an hydrometer

4. It is certainly possible that your T-105's are not in good condition, despite their relative youthfulness. Boats with electrical problems like yours often have a history of the batteries being chronically undercharged. This leads to a condition called sulphation which causes them to loose useful capacity. A simple hydrometer can be used to measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each cell, and this is really the only simple means of determining state of charge and battery condition... something that you really need to know to evaluate the performance of your electrical system.

I'm sure that you will come up with more issues, but with good usage data one can design a useful electrical program for your boat.

Cheers,

Jim
Thanks Jim. Say Hi to Ann.
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Old 28-08-2012, 05:36   #52
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Reading these posts from Vic's perspective it would be easy to get overwhelmed by all the great advice.

I think the positives are that the system appears to be matched and appears to be adequate for power needs, once the power needs are understood.

Getting the right gear to monitor and service a large bank , clamp meter and hydrometer, is great advice.

Then check the batteries to see what ya got. I hope the batteries are OK and suspect at their young age they will be.

Then methodical troubleshooting is the go as you eliminate suspects.

The idea to shut down all the equipment (Apollo 13) and switch one item on at a time while monitoring current draw is the go. This would point out any current criminals stealing too much power.

If you identify a bad guy, kick him off the network until you have time to fix him.

This will give you an idea of what is drawing. Then on the charge side learning about your battery monitor is first. Maybe isolating the suspect alternator, although I find this a strange one.

The key is to separate the troubleshooting into logical and bit size chunks of work.

I'd do this before I bought $1000-$2000 worth of solar equipment. I may buy it if I have the boat bucks laying around but wouldn't add known good stuff on top of suspect stuff. It just makes the troubleshooting more complex.
You've summed it up exactly. This solar panel project has taken priority for the moment and the gremlin hunt is on.
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Old 28-08-2012, 05:38   #53
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
+1 to Ex-Calif's post above.

According to the Trojan web site the T105s have a 20hr. rating of 225 AH.
Thanks
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Old 28-08-2012, 05:51   #54
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by foggysail View Post
Vic--

It matters not someone told YOU that T105s are rated for only 105 ampere hours. Very true. If all the owner had told us was true we'd probably be in the San Blas lying in hammocks under boom, sipping rum punch and wondering what the rest of the world is up to...
Those batteries are rated by Trojan for 225 ampere hours, check their specifications on line. Do not believe all that somebody tells you. Sometimes they may know even less than you. Check the basics for example check Trojan's specification.

Now to your battery charger--- I don't know anything about the charger/generator combo on you boat. I have a Xantrex 1250 or 5012 what Zantrex calls it. It is a 3 stage charger with a maximum charge current just over 50 amperes. Personally I would like a 75 or even a 100 ampere charger to recharge my 4 6vdc Penn 230 ampere batteries I recently purchased from Sam's Club for $88 each.

The problem with chargers is the charge current quickly diminishes. I also have 2 each 145 DM solar panels with 2 more on order. Getting back to your problem, have you checked your batteries for water? Do you know if they are all rechargable? By that I refer to them possibly suffering from sulfation.
Checked batteries for water yesterday. None were particularly low in that all plates were well covered. I topped them all up to just under max.
Sulphation may be an issue I guess. I know the previous owner never ran any 'de-sulphation' process.
I'll be checking with a hydrometer today.
I noticed the plates were 'wavey'. Is this normal or should they be straight?
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Old 28-08-2012, 05:56   #55
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by foolishsailor View Post
One of the better threads. Lots of good advice.

To reiterate what i have read and offer my own take...

1. Isolate and be systematic.

2. Start at the batteries and work out from there.

3. Leave system as is, fully charge batteries, disconnect them from the boat and then let them sit for 60 minutes. Then disconnect them from each other. Check all voltages of each battery.. There will likely be small differences but should be no large differences. If batteries are not sealed and there is a voltage discrepency you can check each cell. If you find a bad one then dump it.

The next steps require a decent battery monitor

4. Reconnect the boat to batteries, but keep all charging sources disconnected such as alternators, solar panels, genny etc. This is important as you need to isolate all variables. Make sure all switches on panel are off. Your battery switch should be on. Your battery monitor should read zero consumption. If you are showing any consumption you need to trace the loss.

5. Now leave off the switches on master panel and reconnect genny and alternator, not solar. Look at battery consumption on monitor. Should still be zero.

If you go through this exercise it will help isolate any issues with loss of charge through wiring issues in boat and the boats charging system. On e that is isolated then you can focus on your individuals items consumtion rates.
Thanks. You're obviously not a foolishsailor.
I'm about to study the Xantrex Link 2000 user guide and then adopting the methodical approach should get this whole issue clarified.
It certainly looks like the battery bank is big enough if they're in good condition.
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Old 28-08-2012, 06:12   #56
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Where ARE you right now, Vic?
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Old 28-08-2012, 06:22   #57
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

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Where ARE you right now, Vic?
We're on the Sassafras River, top end of Chesapeake Bay, USA. I have an old sailing buddy here with a great tool shed so we're able to make changes and do upgrades while we wait out the hurricane season.
Back in Aus by late next year.
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Old 28-08-2012, 06:25   #58
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

Quote:
Originally Posted by VirtualVagabond View Post
Checked batteries for water yesterday. None were particularly low in that all plates were well covered. I topped them all up to just under max.
Sulphation may be an issue I guess. I know the previous owner never ran any 'de-sulphation' process.
I'll be checking with a hydrometer today.
I noticed the plates were 'wavey'. Is this normal or should they be straight?
I had a minor issue earlier this year with one of the 12 volt batteries not charging in my 48 volt propulsion bank due to a parasitic load on it. With some judicious charging and battery testing I was able to find and correct the problem. If you plan to be cruising for the long term investing in some battery testing devices might help you eliminate or zero in on your charging problems. Here are the two devices I use to test my AGM and Gel batteries. They work just as well with flooded types:

THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: BATTERY INVESTIGATION PART 8: LOAD TESTING

THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: BATTERY INVESTIGATION PART FOUR: USING THE CENTECH BATTERY ANALYZER

Start with checking the batteries and move on from there. I would also add the load tester will show how your alternator is performing voltage wise too. Since I no longer have an alternator on board I don't use that part of the meter for testing. But, it would be helpful to those who still use alternators for charging.

Another thought if it turns out the problem is your refrigeration system I was thinking a quick fix might be buying two Engel units. Use one as a refrigerator and one as a freezer. Even if they operated all the time (and they would never do that) they would draw only 6 amps total. You would be saving about 7 amps just out of the box. If you want a more installed system down the road you could always sell the ENGELS later or keep one as a backup.
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Old 28-08-2012, 08:17   #59
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

btrayfors recommended this meter in a recent thread. It would be well worth the investment, I think, with the recommendation coming from Bill.

Quote:
Mastech MS-2108. Good for 600amps, true RMS, AC/DC, in-rush current, etc., etc. A very beautiful meter for the price. I have two, and have bought five others for friends and clients.

Often use the Mastech instead of my top-of-the line Fluke 337.

You can find it on eBay, new, from a US supplier (important) for about $70.

Bill
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Old 28-08-2012, 11:25   #60
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Re: Simple Solar For A Simpleton

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btrayfors recommended this meter in a recent thread. It would be well worth the investment, I think, with the recommendation coming from Bill.
Thanks for the recommendation but I may have missed the boat. A friend was going in to Radio Shack today and is/has got one for me from there.
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