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Old 30-04-2020, 03:52   #1
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Alternator Regulation Revisited

I've just aborted my LiFePo4 installation, unfortunately. This Coronavirus crisis, plus a long list of other work to do on the boat, made me decide to conserve my time and my money. A friend and shipmate kindly lengthened my battery boxes so that I could fit T105's, and that's what I did. Now I'm trying to sort out interconnection cables to make it all work.


Meanwhile I'm thinking through the rest of the system. I had been using an Adverc regulator on my Leece-Neville 110 amp *24v school bus alternator, but I suspected that this device, which has an unusual charging algorithm which alternates between short spells at high voltage and lower voltage, has been boiling and ruining my batteries on long motoring days, like passing through the Kiel Canal. So when I went to the Arctic two years ago, and replaced the alternator prophylactically, I did not reinstall it, and just left the standard dumb regulator in place.


I was inspired to do this after reading a bunch of MaineSail's articles. I decided I didn't care overly much about the finish charge from the alternator as long as I'm getting a powerful bulk charge out of it, and maybe I still don't care.



What do y'all think? The alternative is to order a Balmar regulator and install that, or one of the Sterling ones. But I think only the Balmar has the belt saver, which strikes me as a really useful function.
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Old 30-04-2020, 04:09   #2
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

Belt saver is a very useful function in conjunction with a powerful alternator. Our Sterling is really hard on alternator belt. Specially with the alternator that starts to produce on low revs, immediately after starting the engine.
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Old 30-04-2020, 05:09   #3
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

Dockhead:
Another candidate is the Wakespeed family. Unlike all other external alternator regulators, the WS 500 uses both voltage and current to adjust the charging algorithm. Having current monitoring as part of a regulator has been the absolute holy grail in this niche of the marine industry. Costly, but extremely feature rich. Link: Welcome to Wakespeed. RC at Marine How To is a dealer.
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Old 30-04-2020, 05:38   #4
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

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Originally Posted by CharlieJ View Post
Dockhead:
Another candidate is the Wakespeed family. Unlike all other external alternator regulators, the WS 500 uses both voltage and current to adjust the charging algorithm. Having current monitoring as part of a regulator has been the absolute holy grail in this niche of the marine industry. Costly, but extremely feature rich. Link: Welcome to Wakespeed. RC at Marine How To is a dealer.

Looks pretty cool. Not all that costly compared to Balmar or Sterling -- under $500.


You can derate the alternator to 75% using a dip switch, but there doesn't seem to be any way to control this remotely.


Still, seems like a quite nice unit. Interoperable with lithium BMS systems, so particularly good for that
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Old 30-04-2020, 12:47   #5
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

What I hate about anything 'automatic' and battery charging related, is one is always wondering what the heck the voltage regulation of the device is thinking at any moment in time, or completely ignorant of it.

I get the desire for automatic, set it and forget it, plug and play and walk away, if one can walk away.

Not being able to walk away, I use a ~25$ transpo540HD ford Voltage regulator(not all 540 hds are adjustable voltage, look for screws rather than rivets). It had an adjustable voltage trimpot inside the casing(2k ohm), which I removed, soldered wires to the legs, and ran to a remote bourns 10 turn 2K ohm potentiometer, mounted next to my ammeter/voltmeter and alternator and battery temperature gauges.

Battery accepting over 0.5% of capacity, allow voltage to stay at 14.7.
Alternator getting too hot, turn potentiometer downward to ~14.1v or where the battery bank is accepting 2/3 to 1/2 of what it was at 14.7v.

Hot battery adjust voltage down, cold battery adjust voltage up. Squealing V belt after startup with well depleted battery bank, crank way down till squealing stops, raise in stages, amps taper to 0.5% of 20hr capacity at 14.7v, lower to float. I'll often lower voltage way down low to about 13.0v before shutting off engine just so the alternator can't put nearly as much stress on cold engine/belt on start up. If I can't be bothered to use my brain and think, I set it to 13.6v, the recommended float voltage of my battery .

Very easy to set up. 4 output terminals, the case needs to be grounded.

-Terminal A is 'Always on', it is both voltage sense and the source for field output.
-Terminal S is the ignition Switch, switched 12v ignition source, very little current flow on this wire/terminal.
-Terminal F is Field output wire
-Terminal I is for the Idiot light

The underside of this regulator is where the main transistor mounts to the casing, I added heatsinks and attached a 60MM computer fan which is powered by the same wire which triggers the VR on the S terminal.

I can't imagine not being in full control of voltage anymore, and with this set up I get to see how much amperage the battery accept at any given voltage and can infer state of charge, and state of health by amperage accepted at whatever voltage I am commanding.

Any readings/responses way outside my expectations would tell me my expectations are wrong, or something else is wrong requiring investigation.

The output voltage is very steady, the exception being super low engine rpm when hot with a well depleted battery, where my alternator is not able to make much more than 38 amps total. I can crank the voltage dial up and get it to make 50 amps hot idle, but then with more rpm added, voltage shoots well over 1 and I have to lower it again.

I know manual Voltage regulation is not for everybody, but perhaps some are thinking they absolutely have to have a balmar 614 regulator, or similar, to achieve good battery charging while the engine is running, or just accept the voltage regulation of alternators with internal regulators which slow battery charging greatly, and kill battery banks prematurely.

I think the adjustable transpo540HD, even if one does not find manual voltage control to be desirable, should be a good economical spare to carry.
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Old 30-04-2020, 14:32   #6
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieJ View Post
Dockhead:
Another candidate is the Wakespeed family. Unlike all other external alternator regulators, the WS 500 uses both voltage and current to adjust the charging algorithm. Having current monitoring as part of a regulator has been the absolute holy grail in this niche of the marine industry. Costly, but extremely feature rich. Link: Welcome to Wakespeed. RC at Marine How To is a dealer.
I installed this last summer. After having some electronics go bad, from which I original thought was a possibly due to bad batteries and a current surge from using my electric 66 winches (alts putting out a lot of power that all of the sudden have no where to go). Replaced the batteries, and it didn't happen again. Just leaving to go away for the weekend and it happens again. Blew up some of the electronics I just replaced! This time though I got to see what was going on. It turns out my my alternators were putting out 20V intermittently. I hate intermittent problems! I have N-type alternators (2x 120A internal, converted to external regulation), and with those, if there's a short on the field, they go full power. Pulled them out, had them tested, checked so the wiring. All was good, so it was my NextStep regulator that went bad, and they just closed down for good within the year. The Wakespeed was the only external regulator I found that works with N-type alternators (also does P-type if you use a different harness). It's highly configurable if you purchase the software. You can customize your charging profile almost anyway you want. You can change the field strength ramp rate, Max current, temp compensation, etc. It will also work if you go to Li in the future.

Here's the part that will sell you... Customer service! Stick with me here, though.
I ordered it, and installed it a week before I was supposed to leave on a 2 week cruise. I got it all wired up and it seemed to be working, but was putting out 20% of the current it should have been. I called them up, and they were very helpful. It turns out it's designed for 500 amp shunts. I had a 250 amp shunt, and a different scaling voltage. They walked me through programming it to correct it, and all was good... Or so I thought. The night before I was set to leave, I tested it again and was having intermittent charging. I called them up again, and spoke with Rich, who designed it. He helped me diagnose what we thought solved it, then even helped me program it to optimize the settings for my setup. So I thought I was all set to leave the next morning, Sunday. Wake up, get all set, get engine running, no charging again. I sent Rich a text, 8am EST. He called me right back, on a Sunday morning, and he's in Seattle, it was 5am. I was not expecting that. We worked through some stuff, and it turns out the harness was bad. There was a bad connection in the plug that connects to the regulator. He told me they had some workmanship issues with the supplier, and changed and thought they fixed it. I was able fix the harness to salvage my trip, which include soldering a jumper. (It happened to be the field b wire!) They also sent me a new harness. Rich said they were probably going to bring the harness builds in house to better control the quality. I can't say enough how helpful they were, and the customer service I got was well worth the extra cost of the unit. With there help, I only lost the Sunday morning (missed the tide) so we changed our first stop and left that afternoon.

Since you can't actually sail in Long Island sound, I motored mostly for two weeks, from the south shore, through NY Harbor, all the way to Massachusetts and back. Not once did I have any issues after they helped me.
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Old 30-04-2020, 16:00   #7
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptNemoO2 View Post
I installed this last summer. After having some electronics go bad, from which I original thought was a possibly due to bad batteries and a current surge from using my electric 66 winches (alts putting out a lot of power that all of the sudden have no where to go). Replaced the batteries, and it didn't happen again. Just leaving to go away for the weekend and it happens again. Blew up some of the electronics I just replaced! This time though I got to see what was going on. It turns out my my alternators were putting out 20V intermittently. I hate intermittent problems! I have N-type alternators (2x 120A internal, converted to external regulation), and with those, if there's a short on the field, they go full power. Pulled them out, had them tested, checked so the wiring. All was good, so it was my NextStep regulator that went bad, and they just closed down for good within the year. The Wakespeed was the only external regulator I found that works with N-type alternators (also does P-type if you use a different harness). It's highly configurable if you purchase the software. You can customize your charging profile almost anyway you want. You can change the field strength ramp rate, Max current, temp compensation, etc. It will also work if you go to Li in the future.

Here's the part that will sell you... Customer service! Stick with me here, though.
I ordered it, and installed it a week before I was supposed to leave on a 2 week cruise. I got it all wired up and it seemed to be working, but was putting out 20% of the current it should have been. I called them up, and they were very helpful. It turns out it's designed for 500 amp shunts. I had a 250 amp shunt, and a different scaling voltage. They walked me through programming it to correct it, and all was good... Or so I thought. The night before I was set to leave, I tested it again and was having intermittent charging. I called them up again, and spoke with Rich, who designed it. He helped me diagnose what we thought solved it, then even helped me program it to optimize the settings for my setup. So I thought I was all set to leave the next morning, Sunday. Wake up, get all set, get engine running, no charging again. I sent Rich a text, 8am EST. He called me right back, on a Sunday morning, and he's in Seattle, it was 5am. I was not expecting that. We worked through some stuff, and it turns out the harness was bad. There was a bad connection in the plug that connects to the regulator. He told me they had some workmanship issues with the supplier, and changed and thought they fixed it. I was able fix the harness to salvage my trip, which include soldering a jumper. (It happened to be the field b wire!) They also sent me a new harness. Rich said they were probably going to bring the harness builds in house to better control the quality. I can't say enough how helpful they were, and the customer service I got was well worth the extra cost of the unit. With there help, I only lost the Sunday morning (missed the tide) so we changed our first stop and left that afternoon.

Since you can't actually sail in Long Island sound, I motored mostly for two weeks, from the south shore, through NY Harbor, all the way to Massachusetts and back. Not once did I have any issues after they helped me.
This is where I got the software for it. You can program without it, but the software makes it so much easier.

https://offgridsoftwaresolutions.com...gory/software/

The lite version does most of what you need.
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:08   #8
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

No one has commented on the idea of just leaving the stock dumb regulator. Maine Sail used to have an article on this which seemed to bust a bunch of myths, but I can't find it.
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:16   #9
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

I thought that US President Reagan repealed alternator regulation, in 1987.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:03   #10
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

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I thought that US President Reagan repealed alternator regulation, in 1987.


#. . .
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:33   #11
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

What does it charge at, 28.8 I would guess, this is fine, itís a big alternator, it needs nothing fancy for your wet batteries. It just does not get the last bit out where a good regulator takes it to 29.6. but I guess you have a generator run , big battery charger for equalising etc and maybe some solar, both of which reduce the importance of a good alt regulator.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:34   #12
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

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What does it charge at, 28.8 I would guess, this is fine, it’s a big alternator, it needs nothing fancy for your wet batteries. It just does not get the last bit out where a good regulator takes it to 29.6. but I guess you have a generator run , big battery charger for equalising etc and maybe some solar, both of which reduce the importance of a good alt regulator.

I don't have solar, but I have a heavy duty generator which I don't mind running, and connected to that a Victron Multiplus.


But 28.8 -- won't that fry the batteries eventually?


The set point on mine is 28 volts.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:39   #13
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

"No one has commented on the idea of just leaving the stock dumb regulator."

Works crappy. A car batt is usually 90+ % charged , the car is started and the alt needs to provide for the running electric load lights, fans and even a bit for the start batt.

Deep cycle house batts would charge with a car alt/regulator it just would take far too many hours of operation.So a couple of hours between anchorages would not get the house to 100% . Undercharge = lower ability to provide amps.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:48   #14
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

No, itís a big bus alternator with the original regulator, modern 12v cars charge all day at 14.4 and the batteries donít fry, equalising is done at 30-31v. What might happen is that the bus alt regulator does not like to stay at 28.8 and reduces after 20 mins but I doubt it. My wet forklift batteries are charged at 29.6 for 4 hours before floating at 28 but sailboats rarely motor like a motor boat. My batts are from 2009 they need regular water in hot areas. Put a volt gauge in your cig lighter and monitor
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Old 01-05-2020, 05:17   #15
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Re: Alternator Regulation Revisited

An equalizing charge brings all cells to about 10 percent higher than the recommended charge voltage - so about (28.8 to 29.4 volts x 1.10) 31.68 to 32.34 volts for a 24 volt bank.

For Trojan wet cell batteries the recommended equalizing voltage is 15.5 volts for a 12 volt bank, for Rolls the equivalent voltage is 15.5 - 16 volts.
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