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Old 26-11-2011, 08:29   #1
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Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

I have a 43 ft trawler with 6, 6 volt golf cart battery's, connected as one bank, charged by a 160 amp Balmar alternator and conrolled by and Alpha Smart regulator. The issue is when the battreies are fully charged and the regulator goes to float mode, it actually turns off the field voltage completely, then comes on for a few seconds, spiking the alternator output up to 14.7 volts, then off again. I swapped it out with another regulator and it does the same thing. Is this normal or what?

Part two, the boat was on a mooring for 6 months with 150 watt solar panel and a Sun Force regulator, I left only the bilge pump on and the fridge on low. Came back to 10.5 volts on battrey's and they were dead. They charged up very quickly but only took a surface charge, right up to 14.1 volts, then the alternator shuts down.Battery,s are one year old now and no problems during our cruise last year. I am hoping after a week or so or continued discharge and charge cycles the battery's will come back.

Any comments?
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Old 26-11-2011, 09:01   #2
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Re: Smart charger for Balmar alternator

Try equalizing them. This may or may not help. Possible damage depends much on how long they were discharged and whether or not they are deep cycle batteries.
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Old 26-11-2011, 09:17   #3
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Re: Smart charger for Balmar alternator

I will have to do this manually, I do have the litle box that is supposed to prevent battery's from sulphating, as well. Thanks for the answer
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Old 26-11-2011, 15:54   #4
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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I do have the litle box that is supposed to prevent battery's from sulphating, as well.
What is this little magic box? What make and model are the batteries?
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Old 26-11-2011, 16:06   #5
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

I have the same setup. Ditch your current regulator and replace with an Xantrex inCharge alternator regulator.
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Old 26-11-2011, 18:04   #6
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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I have the same setup. Ditch your current regulator and replace with an Xantrex inCharge alternator regulator.
What would that gain him if his bank is potentially the issue and he's not yet fully trouble shot the regulator?

The Mastervolt regulators are pretty reliable as is most of their stuff. Personally I buy Balmar regs over Xantrex just based on the differing qualities of tech support alone.

When you consider that the Xantrex and Balmar regulators are built by the same manufacturer you are really buying the support. Rick, Rich and Dale at Balmar are TOP NOTCH in terms of support. Balmar also offers regs with more user adjustable options than the current line-up of Xantrex regs. That being said we don't know for sure if his Mastervolt reg is working or not as it has not been trouble shot other than a swap out with a new reg, which yielded the same result.

If the batts were left discharged, for perhaps multiple months, they are likely very heavily sulfated and possibly not able to be re-used even if equalized. The batteries should be fully charged, as much as can be, tested with specific gravity readings, checked for water levels and then equalized. If a cell is off more than 0.50 SG then that battery is bad.

Even a few days of bad weather could be enough to crap out the solar system performance enough to potentially allow the fridge load to draw the banks below the ON voltage of the regulator. Many solar controllers have a minimum "ON" voltage for charging. I don't generally install Sunforce controllers so can't say what this cut off might be, if at all.

It is possible the batteries are causing the issues as he's tried two regulators and had the same performance from both. The fact that the voltage on dead batteries quickly rises to 14.1V or more is not a good sign.

He might want to try swapping out his bank with at least one known good battery then testing the performance of the regulator.

Also Mastervolt tech support should have the procedure for testing their regulators and it may be posted on their web site.
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Old 26-11-2011, 18:20   #7
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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What would that gain him if his bank is potentially the issue and he's not yet fully trouble shot the regulator?
The OP asked, I answered.
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Old 26-11-2011, 20:51   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail

If the batts were left discharged, for perhaps multiple months, they are likely very heavily sulfated and possibly not able to be re-used even if equalized. The batteries should be fully charged, as much as can be, tested with specific gravity readings, checked for water levels and then equalized. If a cell is off more than 0.50 SG then that battery is bad.

Even a few days of bad weather could be enough to crap out the solar system performance enough to potentially allow the fridge load to draw the banks below the ON voltage of the regulator. Many solar controllers have a minimum "ON" voltage for charging. I don't generally install Sunforce controllers so can't say what this cut off might be, if any.
You meant .05 SG, right?

Good point on the charge controller for solar. The ones I have seen get their power from the batteries, not the panels, so you fully discharge your batts you are out of luck unless you hardware the panels to the batts temporarily to recharge...

Frank
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Old 26-11-2011, 21:20   #9
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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You meant .05 SG, right?
Yes good catch I did mean 0.05 SG not 0.50 SG.... Need to proof read more before I hit send...

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Originally Posted by GeoPowers View Post
Good point on the charge controller for solar. The ones I have seen get their power from the batteries, not the panels, so you fully discharge your batts you are out of luck unless you hardware the panels to the batts temporarily to recharge...

Frank
I have run into this a few times were a bilge pump switch failed in the ON position, killed the bank. The controller did not have enough voltage to turn on and charge the bank..
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Old 26-11-2011, 22:02   #10
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

One more thing to add to the dilemma is most inverter/chargers also drop out and won't restart until the battery voltage is above the low cut out voltage.

This is a very good reason to have a separate start bank, issolated and only used for cranking.

Lloyd
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Old 27-11-2011, 07:01   #11
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

I'd guess your base problem is that 150W of solar isn't enough to run a fridge. I'm looking at putting 400W on my boat and I'm calculating that it's just enough to cover the fridge and freezer, both of which are small DC units.

Have you run calculations on your power needs that you can share? That might help identify the root probem.
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Old 27-11-2011, 19:04   #12
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

The battery bank has a desulfater, which works off the 12 volt battery, here is a link with lots of information.
Pulse De-Sulfation FAQ's

The generator has its own dedicated start battery, which is connected to the house bank for charging and automatically disconnects when the engine turns off.

The batteries are Excide and comparable to T 105's.

I use about 90 amp hours a day when on board, maximum of 120 amp hours a day. The bank provides about three days before reaching 50% of battery bank, this is monitired by a link 10. The solar panels over the three days give me another day or two and since we tend to change anchorage after five days, it works out for us.

The solar panels show an input of better than 5 amp hours during the day, to a max of 7.5 amp my best guess was we were getting 50 amp hrs total on a sunny day. The fridge draws 4.5 amps and with the temperature setting on lowest, and the door never being opened I had to make an assumption that it would only run a couple of hours a day. In theory, the the 150 watts of solar should have been lots of power. The voltage from the solar panels, with the solar regulator off line will hit 17 volts by 9am.

I am hoping with several charge and recharge cycles and a good hard equilzation cycle they may come back. Otherwise I will have to pick out the good ones and rerplace the sulphated ones, they are not yet a year old so maybe some warranty available.

Just to clarify, the regulator is an Alpha (similar to Heart) from the 1990's.

Thanks to all for the input.
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Old 28-11-2011, 01:20   #13
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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The battery bank has a desulfater, which works off the 12 volt battery, here is a link with lots of information.
Pulse De-Sulfation FAQ's

The generator has its own dedicated start battery, which is connected to the house bank for charging and automatically disconnects when the engine turns off.

The batteries are Excide and comparable to T 105's.

I use about 90 amp hours a day when on board, maximum of 120 amp hours a day. The bank provides about three days before reaching 50% of battery bank, this is monitired by a link 10. The solar panels over the three days give me another day or two and since we tend to change anchorage after five days, it works out for us.

The solar panels show an input of better than 5 amp hours during the day, to a max of 7.5 amp my best guess was we were getting 50 amp hrs total on a sunny day. The fridge draws 4.5 amps and with the temperature setting on lowest, and the door never being opened I had to make an assumption that it would only run a couple of hours a day. In theory, the the 150 watts of solar should have been lots of power. The voltage from the solar panels, with the solar regulator off line will hit 17 volts by 9am.

I am hoping with several charge and recharge cycles and a good hard equilzation cycle they may come back. Otherwise I will have to pick out the good ones and rerplace the sulphated ones, they are not yet a year old so maybe some warranty available.

Just to clarify, the regulator is an Alpha (similar to Heart) from the 1990's.

Thanks to all for the input.
For what it's worth...I think the bank is a goneR. Bats are unforgiving of mistake. 2 weeks at 10.5, and the best you can hope for is a bank that's able to keep up on a low Pukert load...anything else, is nothing but a wish and a prayer.

I won't even waste a paying customers money....hell I wouldn't waste my own time, for my own bank. The time it takes to recover a bank after such an event, is not worth the replacement costs of the bats. BC they will never stand up, to the task they were designed for.

If you think you're saving money by replacing the wost of the best...that's just false economy.

Sorry.

Lloyd
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Old 28-11-2011, 04:39   #14
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

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The solar panels show an input of better than 5 amp hours during the day, to a max of 7.5 amp my best guess was we were getting 50 amp hrs total on a sunny day. The fridge draws 4.5 amps and with the temperature setting on lowest, and the door never being opened I had to make an assumption that it would only run a couple of hours a day. In theory, the the 150 watts of solar should have been lots of power. The voltage from the solar panels, with the solar regulator off line will hit 17 volts by 9am.
I'm pretty sure you don't have enough solar to run the fridge. It's also the most likely (perhaps only) explanation of why your batteries went dead.

If I were sizing the system, and keep in mind that lots of people do it differently, I'd estimate as follows:

- Your panels put out 5-7 amps in full sun
- Figure on 5hr full-sun-equivalent hours per day
- You will produce 25-35 Ah per day when it's sunny
- You estimated that you produce 50Ah per day which is a lot more. Not sure how you arrived at that number, but we'll consider ti as well.
- It's not sunny every day, so you need to de-rate so the solar can catch back up after a few rainy days. 50% would be a minimum derating.
- This gives somewhere between 14 and 25 ah of reliable day in day out production.

- For load calculations, I'd assume a 50% duty cycle on the fridge. At 4.5A that would be 54Ah per day which is at least double what you are producing. Even if the duty cycle is 25% resulting in consumption of 27Ah/day, at best you are right on the border line.

A couple of things come to mind to solve this. Actually measure the duty cycle of the fridge. You could do it by hand over a few hours (tedious), or if your Link 10 counts amp hours you could turn off the solar and just run the fridge for a day or two to measure the consumption. Then you would know for sure.

Switch to an MPPT charge controller. You will get 10% to 20% more Ah out of the panels, with the largest boost coming when the batteries are low and you are trying to get them charged back up.

Add more panels, but this is typically hard to impossible on a boat. That's why I suggested the MPPT controller first.

On, and I tend to agree that your batteries are highly compromised at this point. And I definitely wouldn't try selective replacement.

Sorry you find yourself in this position
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Old 28-11-2011, 05:22   #15
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Re: Smart Charger for Balmar Alternator

+1 to twistedtree's post above. I would add that many solar controllers also have a user-adjustable low-voltage-disconnect output, and you should use that on the fridge. I set mine for 11.9 or 12.0 volts, which (depending on temperature) is about 40-50% charge. You don't want to go lower than that. Spoiled food and warm beer is a lot less expensive to remedy than a dead house bank.

PS -- If leaving the boat for an extended period you'd be better off to de-power everything other than the bilge pumps. Leave the fridge vented so it doesn't get moldy.
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