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Old 20-08-2016, 08:10   #1
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Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

I'm in the middle of planning & designing an updated DC system for our Hinterhoeller Niagara 35. We are looking forward to several years of summer cruising on the northern Great Lakes.

The basic design parameter is KISS with 5 - 7 days between re-supply:

1) LED lighting.

2) 100# Ice Chest with good insulation. (I removed a 110 volt cold plate system if anyone is interested.)

3) 400 AH golf cart battery bank. Separate starting battery.

4) 100 Amp Alternator on Volvo MD11C diesel auxiliary.

5) DC energy budget maximum of 80 AH/day - 20% of battery capacity, with average budget less than 50 AH/day.

6) Experience with solar panels has been poor, leaving the system chronically undercharged, with sulphated batteries at the end of the season.

7) Would like to avoid the expense and complication of a genset.

Considering the above and acknowledging that engine driven alternators with conventional regulators are poor house battery chargers, I'm looking at the newer Sterling Alternator to Battery Charger/Regulator/Isolator.

http://w.com/library/Sterling%20Powe...ry%20sheet.pdf

Any reviews, experience, and opinions would be appreciated.
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Old 21-08-2016, 10:01   #2
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

I've been selling these for years. No hassle, no complaints, just happy customers - literally hundreds. So I think they deserve my recommendation.

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Old 21-08-2016, 13:52   #3
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

I have used two such units. One black metal ribbed case with white/blue sticker bigger unit, one red plastic case unit (the red one was smaller amps).

Alternator to Battery Chargers | Sterling Power Products

Installation is easy and they deliver what they promise.

I would buy for my own boat too, if I had such electric needs. (But I am mostly solar).

They are not IP67 though and so install way above the bottom and way away from opening hatches / companionways, etc.

Good stuff. Recommended.

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Old 22-08-2016, 12:44   #4
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Also considering that equipment. Behind the output port "start battery" we might fit a relay and after that two battery banks: 1. 1 x Start battery, 2. 1 x windlass battery.

Long cabling to windlass battery but should be topped up by solar panels.

What is a "genset", please?

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Old 22-08-2016, 13:25   #5
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

A couple of years ago I installed a Sterling regulator on an Iskra 175-amp alternator and although it has worked flawlessly, I didn't think the installation was particularly easy, however, that might have been just an issue with the alternator. Perhaps the controllers are more simple to install.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 22-08-2016, 13:52   #6
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob666 View Post
. . . What is a "genset", please? . . .

Generator, usually large multi-kW.

To the OP:

What's the nameplate capacity of the solar panels? If you have enough capacity then there's a problem elsewhere.

Do you have a battery monitor tracking amps in and out?

What kind of a solar regulator do you have?

Have you considered a small generator like a Honda 2kW? Quiet, could push your shore charger to around 80amps which is the max you want to hit anyway.



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Old 22-08-2016, 14:44   #7
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

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Originally Posted by nhschneider View Post
A couple of years ago I installed a Sterling regulator on an Iskra 175-amp alternator and although it has worked flawlessly, I didn't think the installation was particularly easy, however, that might have been just an issue with the alternator. Perhaps the controllers are more simple to install.

Fair winds and calm seas.
Much simpler, more like installing a Split Charge Diode.

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Old 24-08-2016, 07:13   #8
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Thanks everyone for the input.

Yes I do have a battery monitor - logbook, accurate 4 digit voltmeter, hydrometer, flashlight and distilled water in a squeeze bottle. Don't waste your money on one of those "computerized" digital monitor gizmos. Simple observation of voltage as the batteries are charged, have loads applied, and are discharged will give accurate percentage of charge information. Check water level regularly and use the hydrometer if a bad cell is suspected.

One 50 watt solar panel is the practical choice for a small cruising sailboat. It will keep the batteries topped when the boat is not being used, but won't keep up with cruising demands. Mounting issues.

The Honda idea has been considered. Big drawback is storage, esp. gasoline. $1,000 cost.

The boat has a reliable, efficient, 2 cyl. diesel engine. It also has solid bracketing and a nice pulley system for driving a larger alternator.

Considering the above, a heavy duty, 100 amp @ 1,200 eng. rpm alternator with advanced voltage regulation, using ~25% of the available hp is the choice.

Systems under consideration:

Balmar alternator and advanced regulator. Very Expensive. Bullet proof

or

Delco type HD alternator with Sterling advanced regulator. Lower cost. Check out the available XHD aftermarket alternators used in car stereo setups. 100 amp low rpm units for 1/3 the price of a Balmar.
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Old 24-08-2016, 09:16   #9
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

There is zero need for Balmar like solutions in an average boat. Remember Balmar is not just an expensive alternator but then also a special regulator. This together is quite a ticket.

Plain engines come with plain alternators that are good for everything ban very energy hungry projects. And energy hungry projects WILL have a genset onboard and that's that.

Any decent Bosch / Delco / Rhone / Hitachi / etc of 80 to 120A will do the job very well when rigged with that Sterling thing. As well, or nearly as well, as a Balmar kit does, unless you have a huge battery bank and major energy consumption onboard. But at this point most owners are better of with a genset.

If you have a Balmar, great, stick with it. If you do not, get a good multi stage alt regulator, see where it gets you.

It is, virtually, all in the regulator, not in the generator.*

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Old 05-09-2016, 13:26   #10
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Guys,

at last I've found the MPPT regulators I need. Blue Sky. They are synchronized! Perfect.

I know only need to sort one more thing and I can work away:
Can the Sterling Alternator to Battery charger accept input from my old AC charger, really? I heard so, but it is not an entirely dumb AC charger, it has 3 stage charging, so it might confuse the Sterling?

Sterling support is 0% communicative, but I will buy it anyway.

Same goes for Blue Sky, they don't respond but I will buy anyway.

Why I want to put the AC charger into the same input as the alternator is because it gives too high voltage for my GEL house bank, I've seen it with my own eyes.

So yes, to previous posters, I will not take the Balmar + external voltage sensor path. Will keep the original 50 A Volvo Penta automobile dumb alternator with internal regulator. Will let Sterling do the job.

If the original alternator breaks, I can buy a new one, underway, just about everywhere. Volvo Penta is the best and available everywhere (mechanics with skills + spare parts).

Thanks,
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Old 05-09-2016, 14:32   #11
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Why would you run the engine/ alternator to charge the batteries if you had AC power available to your battery charger?
Am I missing something here.
However as a user of a Stirling alt to bat charger all I can say is it appears to work well, just as advertised.

Regards

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Old 05-09-2016, 15:15   #12
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob666 View Post

"...
Can the Sterling Alternator to Battery charger accept input from my old AC charger, really?
..."
C'mon. Expand on this.

Even if it could, why not ... charge the batts with that old AC charger?

Think of the loses.

dumbfounded,
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Old 06-09-2016, 05:18   #13
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

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Originally Posted by Abgreenbank View Post
Why would you run the engine/ alternator to charge the batteries if you had AC power available to your battery charger?
Am I missing something here.
However as a user of a Stirling alt to bat charger all I can say is it appears to work well, just as advertised.
Not my plan to use both at the same time eventhough it should work? Or will I break something by trying?

So the Sterling will handle also fancy three stage charging current coming in at different voltages? Then I will keep the old 30 A charger.

I was being too optimistic about Blue Sky maybe. Their MPPT controllers all seem to have max 40 V Voc or less. Means I can barely connect 2 panels in serial and I need to connect 3.

Can't find other brands that synchronise their MPPT controllers.

The MidNite KID - seems cool but can it handle two arrays at different voltages and send some Amps two battery bank # 2 (start battery)?

The blue sky do have a 2 A auxiliary output that I can use for the start battery.
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Old 06-09-2016, 07:39   #14
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Hard to tell if you can burn any of the pieces by trying what you want. There is a simple way to find out though.

BTW We use a plain PWM on solar and a plain regulator on the alternator. These do not seem to interfere in any way. The alt regulator always kicks in, also when the solar has been charging for a time. The solar regulator does not kick in when the voltage on the batteries exceeds 13.8 Volt. We also use a plain 3 stage shore side charger. All and any can be on at any time. Nothing burns at any end.

Keeping systems simple and independent of each other may result in less cost and headache.

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Old 06-09-2016, 08:48   #15
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Re: Sterling Alternator to Battery Charge Controllers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boatwright View Post
I'm in the middle of planning & designing an updated DC system for our Hinterhoeller Niagara 35. We are looking forward to several years of summer cruising on the northern Great Lakes.

The basic design parameter is KISS with 5 - 7 days between re-supply:

1) LED lighting.

2) 100# Ice Chest with good insulation. (I removed a 110 volt cold plate system if anyone is interested.)

3) 400 AH golf cart battery bank. Separate starting battery.

4) 100 Amp Alternator on Volvo MD11C diesel auxiliary.

5) DC energy budget maximum of 80 AH/day - 20% of battery capacity, with average budget less than 50 AH/day.


6) Experience with solar panels has been poor, leaving the system chronically undercharged, with sulphated batteries at the end of the season.

7) Would like to avoid the expense and complication of a genset.

Considering the above and acknowledging that engine driven alternators with conventional regulators are poor house battery chargers, I'm looking at the newer Sterling Alternator to Battery Charger/Regulator/Isolator.

http://w.com/library/Sterling%20Powe...ry%20sheet.pdf

Any reviews, experience, and opinions would be appreciated.
The MD11C was fitted with a bunch of different alts over the years some Bosch, some Valeo and some Delco. The most common ones I see on the MD11 today are Delco's.

Keep in mind that you will be cycling in the most charge inefficient SOC range of your bank. As such the bulk stage, alternator at full bore, will be very short. The bank will come up to target voltage quite quickly and then become "voltage limited".

From the point the bank meets target limiting voltage it is the battery that dictates the speed of charging. Only raising the voltage limit, eg; going from 14.2V to 14.8V, can change the amount of current that can flow into the battery at a specific SOC. Once voltage limited you are at the mercy of the batteries charge acceptance rate.

It will still take many, many, many hours of absorption charging to get to 100% SOC, so unless you are running the engine for 4 - 7+ hours you will still be technically under charging the bank by relying on an alternator.

If you are only going 5-7 days between a "re-supply", which I am assuming is a 100% SOC dock side charge, then you are likely chasing your tail on this one and throwing money at an issue that really is not much of one, which can be drastically improved upon.

This is where a well sized solar system comes in very handy, in providing a finish charge. Let the alt do bulk and early absorption and solar do the rest. This combo (or a generator for bulk & early absorption) will net you as close to 100% SOC each day as your going to get.

Your described usage does not necessarily warrant an external regulator, unless you need to boost the voltage to 14.8V or so for your particular batteries. If this is the case, and you need to boost to 14.8V, and your alt run times are generally under 4 hours, a replacement $13.00 internal Delco regulator would be a better deal than a $450.00 Sterling A2B especially when you may be able to attain 100% SOC every 5-7 days..

Delco internal regulators come in many different voltage limits some as high as 15V and some as low as 13.8V, and everywhere in-between. Without knowing your regulators voltage limiting set point it is really hard to say if spending the money on the Sterling A2B is going to be an improvement or not. When shallow cycling in a low Coulombic efficiency range it is not necessarily the amperage of the alternator but the voltage limit that really matters, as you will be voltage limited most of the time....

Sure the Sterling can boost voltage to the bank, but can only do what I call a quasi-float. If your internal reg is set to say 14.8V to 15.0V, as many Delco's are, then the Sterling A2B can only drop the voltage by about .2V - .5V +/- across the device during float (passes through internal diodes). The A2B works best with a stock reg set to 13.8V to 14.0V. Again knowing your alts voltage limit would tell us a lot more.

The least expensive option, for performance external regulation, is to simply open up the Delco, bypass the reg, and tap into the the alts field brush. Most any good alt shop would charge about $30.00 - $50.00 to do that on a Delco. You will then be able to use a Balmar or other external regulator to control the alternator and you can save in excess of $100.00, and get true field control through external regulation.

As for poor experiences with solar, something was likely under sized or the settings or controller were not optimal for the bank or optimally programmed. A 50W panel is not really a suitable size for a cruising boat other than for a mooring recharging or if you are very, very light on DC loads.. For solar to work optimally you need to have enough current to overcome daily loads, during sun up hours, to even begin putting energy back into the bank. In other words if you are using 4A and the solar panel can only produce 2.2A then you are only slowing the discharging of the bank by 2.2A. If you are consuming 4A and the solar is pumping out 6.5A now you are charging at 2.5A.

Unless you are running an alt for upwards of 4-7 hours, or a Honda gen, it takes lots of time to fully charge lead acid batteries. Even with a Sterling A2B you are not going to see 100% SOC very often relying solely on an alternator or even a Honda gen.

Anything below attaining 100% SOC, as regularly as is humanly possible, is where sulfation is not being reconverted. The longer the sulfate goes, before being reconverted, and we now have clusters and hard lead sulfate being formed and decaying Ah capacity.

Alternators are great for bulk and early absorption but on sailboats they are rarely run long enough to fully charge the bank regardless of the method of field control. What can help is fully charging the batts every 5-7 days, at their max allowable absorption voltage, and then hitting them for 30 minutes to hour or so with an equalizing voltage (as long as they can be EQ'd).
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