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Old 21-07-2014, 02:59   #1
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Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

If you do it now, you are making a long term investment in a technology that is in the midst of rapid technology change and substantial new benefits.

The cost in time, money, design, cabling size etc will all be wasted if you end up replacing it all in 3 years time when you see the great advantages available if you had just waited a little.

If your systems are in need of replacement and the suggestions are to replace your alternator and battery banks.Then don't do it.
Try to make do somehow for the moment. When did you last equalise them for example.

What a shame it would be if you install an new alternator and nice new AGM batteries with all new cabling now and then 3 years later are thinking of changing it all.

If you can make your current systems last another couple of years then 2 things will be clearer.

The management of LIFEPO4 batteries will have become more refined.
The thinking on the type of alternator required to charge them will have changed from car based to heavier duty, hot rated industrial based.
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Old 21-07-2014, 04:08   #2
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuss View Post
If you do it now, you are making a long term investment in a technology that is in the midst of rapid technology change and substantial new benefits.

The cost in time, money, design, cabling size etc will all be wasted if you end up replacing it all in 3 years time when you see the great advantages available if you had just waited a little.

If your systems are in need of replacement and the suggestions are to replace your alternator and battery banks.Then don't do it.
Try to make do somehow for the moment. When did you last equalise them for example.

What a shame it would be if you install an new alternator and nice new AGM batteries with all new cabling now and then 3 years later are thinking of changing it all.

If you can make your current systems last another couple of years then 2 things will be clearer.

The management of LIFEPO4 batteries will have become more refined.
The thinking on the type of alternator required to charge them will have changed from car based to heavier duty, hot rated industrial based.

This is a classic mistake, that technology watchers make. i.e. that "just around the corner" something better is coming , so wait,

The place of change of technology is such that , if you listen to that that argument , you would never buy any electronics at all.


Today, if your requirements dictate, that you need a new system. ( and thats the key) , Then buy the best system TODAY, you can afford and can implement with you knowledge level.

Simply saying wait till Lithium etc, misses the point that technology is always moving and by the time Lithium matures, all us "early adopters" will be telling you the "No don't waste your money on Lithiums, look at this Dilithium Crystal batteries" etc etc ad infinitum

If you can justify it now, then thats all thats required,


Today if you wish you can buy and install, heavy duty alternators and Lithium, however for the majority of users , these exotic systems are unnecessary and if they are unnecessary today , they are likely to be unnecessary in three years time.

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Old 21-07-2014, 04:48   #3
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

We'll be into the 2020s and maybe beyond before the average boater can walk into WM and buy LIFEPO4 batteries and equipment ready to go off the shelf. Even then, lead acid will be around for decades to come with so many boats, cars, campers, etc. having them. I suspect LIFEPO4 will exist in parallel for a long time as a niche product / upgrade option similar to how AGM is now vs FLA. For the average daysailor or weekend warrior, the cost-benefit just isn't anywhere near there yet.
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Old 21-07-2014, 04:50   #4
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
This is a classic mistake, that technology watchers make. i.e. that "just around the corner" something better is coming , so wait,

The place of change of technology is such that , if you listen to that that argument , you would never buy any electronics at all.


Today, if your requirements dictate, that you need a new system. ( and thats the key) , Then buy the best system TODAY, you can afford and can implement with you knowledge level.

Simply saying wait till Lithium etc, misses the point that technology is always moving and by the time Lithium matures, all us "early adopters" will be telling you the "No don't waste your money on Lithiums, look at this Dilithium Crystal batteries" etc etc ad infinitum

If you can justify it now, then thats all thats required,


Today if you wish you can buy and install, heavy duty alternators and Lithium, however for the majority of users , these exotic systems are unnecessary and if they are unnecessary today , they are likely to be unnecessary in three years time.

dave

Comment does not apply to batteries...Battery technology has not always been moving like other technologies. It has not moved at all ... for at least 50 years. Lithium is a huge change.

I guess we will have to see how important industrial, heavier duty alternators end up being when coupled with Lithium. Time will tell.
But first of course, we will have a few threads titled....This is my 3rd alternator replacement... Why can't they make alternators like they used to. To which knowledgable people on here will reply... Lithium batteries will always kill old style alternators. These older alternators were made for slow charging old style batteries. You cannot expect them with withstand the stresses of charging these modern Lithium batteries with their high acceptance rates.

10 years from now, the majority of sailing boats will not have FLA, GEL or AGM batteries. It will make no sense when you can have something 4 times as efficient for a 3rd of the weight.

5 years from now Dave, the majority of cruising sailing boats will not have FLA, Gel or AGM batteries.

Lead acid around for decades to come 4arch.... are you really trying to convince me that in 2025, you would consider putting flooded lead acid batteries in your boat.... amazing.
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Old 21-07-2014, 05:31   #5
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Battery tech has been moving, moving rapidly. Nicad, Li-Po, Nimh all have come about in the last few years, just not a banks is sailing boats maybe, just don't think lifePO4 is the first thing to come about since LA.
I still want a BMS before I jump on though
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Old 21-07-2014, 05:57   #6
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Seven years with both AGM's (Electric propulsion) and Gels (12 volt House bank) and both banks are still working well. I think part of the success is all my charging systems from battery chargers to solar and wind turbine are compatible with the charging requirements of the battery chemistry. The big difference on my boat is there is no alternator so charging is done by regulated chargers setup for the batteries. I'm looking to get ten years out of both banks and so far so good. Right now if I had to replace them I'd still stick with the AGM's. I have plans for some ICW travel in a year or two and know that should one or all the batteries in my propulsion bank fail I could get them replaced in 24 hours or less from a local distributor. The delivery time and availability for more exotic expensive technologies like Lithium has not improved since I first looked at them seven years ago and their long term track record is still unknown.
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Old 21-07-2014, 05:57   #7
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

So my bank is toast, the four Wally World start/deep cycle batteries the PO put in are pretty much gone, I have a Yanmar factory 55 amp Alt, internally regulated and a Raritan 30 amp battery charger that I am sure has no settings on it whatsoever, it may be original to the boat (1987). No Solar or wind yet either.
I am not independently wealthy, and until I retire in hopefully three years or so I'm a weekend / day sailor learning how to sail, learning systems, outfitting the boat as I can afford it. So I don't have a true need for being energy independent yet, but the goal is to eventually become that way in a hopefully logical step process over the next few years. I have to do it as funds allow, and I do not wish to pay someone else to do it for multiple reasons, I'm a DIY type.

If you were me, what would you do?

I'm of a mind to build me a good sized house bank of T-105's, maybe install only 6, but make it so I have room for 10 for further expansion when we go, wait until the kitty builds up, then a good charger / inverter.
Then as funds become available install Solar first, two big panels over the davits with an MPPT, two more later when I go, goal being 1KW or close.
Alternator last thing, and wind probably not at all, I've a neighbor with one of those things, and I've come to hate it.

I assume I'm in a rather large group of people that are in this forum, I've bought an older boat without any bells and whistles, I'm not Richie Rich, and I have a goal to be cruising full time in a couple of years, and I need advice from others who have been there and done that.
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Old 21-07-2014, 06:21   #8
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
So my bank is toast, the four Wally World start/deep cycle batteries the PO put in are pretty much gone, I have a Yanmar factory 55 amp Alt, internally regulated and a Raritan 30 amp battery charger that I am sure has no settings on it whatsoever, it may be original to the boat (1987). No Solar or wind yet either.
I am not independently wealthy, and until I retire in hopefully three years or so I'm a weekend / day sailor learning how to sail, learning systems, outfitting the boat as I can afford it. So I don't have a true need for being energy independent yet, but the goal is to eventually become that way in a hopefully logical step process over the next few years. I have to do it as funds allow, and I do not wish to pay someone else to do it for multiple reasons, I'm a DIY type.

If you were me, what would you do?

I'm of a mind to build me a good sized house bank of T-105's, maybe install only 6, but make it so I have room for 10 for further expansion when we go, wait until the kitty builds up, then a good charger / inverter.
Then as funds become available install Solar first, two big panels over the davits with an MPPT, two more later when I go, goal being 1KW or close.
Alternator last thing, and wind probably not at all, I've a neighbor with one of those things, and I've come to hate it.

I assume I'm in a rather large group of people that are in this forum, I've bought an older boat without any bells and whistles, I'm not Richie Rich, and I have a goal to be cruising full time in a couple of years, and I need advice from others who have been there and done that.
You have an emininently sensible plan. Being in a warmer spot, you probably need all that. I get by with only 4+dedicated starting battery. I will never need AC but you do. By the way I appreciated your Honda posts. I almost bought one till that came up. I've got enough CO generators onboard already..
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Old 21-07-2014, 06:21   #9
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Putting your trust in some future technology when you need juice today is kinda loosey goosey, don't you think? And the restrictions on litium are getting stricter, not more relaxed. I just had the courier forwarding service in Sarasota remove the battery from a GoPro camera I ordered, call it a separate shipment, and tell me they had to charge extra for the paperwork and 'export packing' to ship lithium based batteries. This was not the case when I bought my most recent GoPro, a year ago.

I know what happens when a lead acid battery fails. It boils away.

SO what happens to my boat when a lithium battery fails catastrophically? And please don't tell us how safe they are GOING to be. Look at the electric car industry for the answer to that one. Now add salt water to the mix.
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Old 21-07-2014, 06:38   #10
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

The Lithium Iron batteries have been around long enough that I feel pretty sure we can both consider them safe, and a relatively mature technology.
But they are neither turn key, nor are they readily available in out of the way locations.
Lead acid are both.
In my opinion if your the type that likes to "fiddle" with things and want the "best" then the Lithium is the way to go, but if you really don't even want to have to bother checking the water level of your batteries but go on ahead and do that monthly and certainly don't want to do anymore than that, then LA is the way to go, add in your a world traveler and go where shipping is difficult, then maybe not, but concede I don't know the rate of infant mortality of the Lithium cells, how they may be damaged, and whether or not carrying a couple of spare cells may be all you need to do.
I just don't know enough about them, first hand, but feel they are safe
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Old 21-07-2014, 07:03   #11
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Some misconceptions here.

When/if you upgrade your DC power system -- now or later -- you likely will need to upgrade your alternator. When you do so, it should be to a robust high-output model with a good external regulator. These are available NOW and have been for many years.

In 2001 I upgraded the alternator on my own boat to a: BALMAR 100-AMP ALTERNATOR MODEL 912-100-D. I installed a Balmar MaxCharge MC-612 regulator. That setup is as good today as it was 13 years ago, and would be fine with a modest sized bank of AGMs or Lithium-Ions or just about any other type of battery bank.

The need for a larger, more sophisticated charging setup comes when you switch from flooded or gelled lead-acid batteries to AGM or Li-Ion batteries. This is because these battery types can take a tremendous amount of charging current and, if you're not careful, can burn up your automotive-type alternator unless it's output is somehow regulated (e.g., by temperature or by smart regulator).

Many cruisers who have willy-nilly sipped the Cool Aid and switched from flooded batteries to AGMs without doing anything else have found this out: the AGMs demand a lot of charging current and will burn your alternator out unless it's somehow protected. Li-Ion batteries would do the same.

For those contemplating an upgrade: you need to consider the WHOLE system -- battery type and size, alternator capacity, regulator, other charging sources (battery charger, generator, solar panels, wind generator), etc.

And, the sequence of upgrades is important. If, for example, you put in new AGMs but don't have the charging capacity to take advantage of their higher current acceptance, you're wasting your money. If you don't have the charging capacity to get them to a truly full charge state frequently, you're wasting your money because they are going to lose capacity pretty fast.

Upgrading decisions should not be made in the absence of a solid plan, not intuition or light reading. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting your money.

Should you upgrade? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on a host of factors. Best to consult a professional IMHO to explore these factors.

FWIW,

Bill
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Old 21-07-2014, 07:03   #12
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

The CO thing is on my boat, it may be completely different on other boats, plus it may have been completely mitigated as one poster said by putting the gen midship to the side.
I don't want the gen on deck as it transmits a vibration through the hull and is noisy.
In the dinghy, there is no noise, it can't be heard over the AC fan, no vibration as the dinghy isn't connected to the boat, and apparently no CO either, so in my boat the Genny will go in the dinghy.
I still think having the little Honda is if nothing else a good back up in case your other charging sources go down.
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Old 21-07-2014, 07:28   #13
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

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Comment does not apply to batteries...Battery technology has not always been moving like other technologies. It has not moved at all ... for at least 50 years. Lithium is a huge change.
LFP is a huge change in a forward direction but it is not and never will be "drop in" for LA regardless of the BMS.. I know many are waiting for "drop in" status of LFP but you will have a LOOOOOOONG wait....

Unfortunately folks will try to cut corners, to save a buck, and attempt a "drop in" and LFP will get the black eye. GEL batteries did when folks insisted on charging them at flooded voltages. Sadly I believe, from watching this and other forums, LFP will suffer the same fate.. Nothing will change and I feel history will repeat itself...

The fact is that there are plenty of great BMS's already out there and LFP is no more expensive than good quality AGM on a usable capacity to usable capacity level, if you have the ability to DIY, which most do not..

Genasun and Mastervolt pricing has come a long way down over the last few years too. So there are good factory made systems out there. Have been since about 2007 yet the LFP market still remains below perhaps 0.1% of the marine market...

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I guess we will have to see how important industrial, heavier duty alternators end up being when coupled with Lithium. Time will tell.

But first of course, we will have a few threads titled....This is my 3rd alternator replacement... Why can't they make alternators like they used to. To which knowledgable people on here will reply... Lithium batteries will always kill old style alternators. These older alternators were made for slow charging old style batteries. You cannot expect them with withstand the stresses of charging these modern Lithium batteries with their high acceptance rates.
See my statement above about folks wishing to cut corners and try to "drop in" LFP. We already have plenty of high output capable alternators but even with LFP they are not entirely necessary. They are a "nice to have" but even LFP has a "optimum" charge rate and that is .3C to .5C. Because an LFP bank can be considerably smaller than LA then .5C means we don't need 300A + alternators in most cases to fast and FULLY charge....

Any standard high output alternator like a Grasser, Balmar, Electromaax etc. can be used on LFP IF you use the right regulator Balmar MC-614 or ARS-5 (again back to the corner cutting which many folks will try) and it is set it up correctly. I run a HO, CS130D based alternator and it works very, very hard but is set up correctly and never exceeds 220F. Do we need "industrial" alts. Not at all, but we do need proper regulation and then to properly set it up...

This is no different than a TPPL LA installation. It needs to be done right and treated as a system. There have been piles of improperly used alternators burned up with AGM and even large banks of flooded batteries so our alternator needs are not much different than they have been.

Any Westerbeke or Universal is going to be limited to 190A off the crank anyway (per Westerbeke) so unless you get real fancy with PTO's etc. 220A limited to 180-190 is about it for most sailboats. Yanmar has not weighed in on max alt output on the crank end but Mack Booring has told me 175-200A, just not in writing, like Westerbeke...

Space is the big consideration and most sail boats do not have the room to fit an "industrial" alternator. This is why Balmar has come out with hairpin small case alts up to 200A. It fills a good niche..

Unfortunately most won't want to do this correctly so yes they WILL burn down alternators but not because it is the fault of the alternator but rather because it is the fault of the owner/installer. Balmar regulators have a feature called Belt Manager, formerly & more aptly named Amp Manger anyone not using this with LFP is going to run into trouble on LFP.. That feature is there for a reason and is what sets the Balmar regs apart from the rest.

Hitachi figured out how to get around boat owners "dropping in" huge banks and that was to insert a temperature gradient so owners could not fry their alts. Course this leads to horrible charging performance, and short bank life, but the alts rarely cook...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuss View Post
10 years from now, the majority of sailing boats will not have FLA, GEL or AGM batteries. It will make no sense when you can have something 4 times as efficient for a 3rd of the weight.
10 years from now I see LFP with about a 5% - 8% share in marine and newer LA technologies with the largest growth and the dominant share....

Quote:
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5 years from now Dave, the majority of cruising sailing boats will not have FLA, Gel or AGM batteries.
I strongly doubt that.... For most of my cruising customers they have figured out LA and have it working well for them.

There are a lot of new developments in LA technology as well. East Penn is working on some and I am personally involved in field/product testing a new AGM technology that is highly sulfation resistant. Concord/Lifeline is working on LFP but it is many, many, many years from RV or marine use.

There is a lot happening in LA that may bridge the gap between LFP and LA.....

Heck the ABYC does not yet have any guidance on LFP. Until that happens there will be very few builders willing to jump in, save a few very high end custom builders... We are working on the back-bone of the high capacity battery standard right now, but it is a slow process.

I suspect in 2025 the aisles of West Marine will have fewer flooded batteries but the majority will still be lead acid. Perhaps the ability to special order LFP or similar will be offered....

The biggest problem with LFP right now is the lead acid mentality and the lack of proper charge programs for LFP....
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Old 21-07-2014, 09:29   #14
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

Listen to Maine Sail folks!

He's one of the few in the industry that both knows his **** and will take the time to share it on the internet!

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The biggest problem with LFP right now is the lead acid mentality and the lack of proper charge programs for LFP....
that...and what I like to call "Cruise Rumors"
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Old 21-07-2014, 11:45   #15
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Re: Upgrading your Battery Banks and Alternator in 2014 is a Waste of Money.

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10 years from now... 5 years from now...
Have a crystal ball, do you? If so, please tell me where the stock market is going to be in 5 years. THAT would be really useful information!

The funny thing about this is that people have been saying the same thing since LifePO4 batteries were first developed. Which goes back, what? Oh yeah, almost 20 years, to 1996. So for nearly two decades now LifePO4 batteries have been just 5-10 years away from making lead-acid batteries obsolete. And they're STILL just 5-10 years away. And I'm willing to bet that in 10 years, they will STILL be just 5-10 years away.

The technology holds a lot of promise. No doubt about that. But exactly when that promise will be delivered is still completely up in the air. It is not nearly close enough for it to be smart to hold off on battery and/or alternator upgrades that you could benefit from right now.

Sorry Fuss, but I have to say that you missed the boat on this one.
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