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Old 06-17-2015, 09:16 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by SCOTTEDAVIS View Post
Read the link I posted, Mainsail has it to a shiny nut. That's what I did and it's spot on.
I agree, Scott. I have read that article before and found it greatly helpful. It's a great explanation...but there are MANY other adjustable settings that need to be considered. I'm away from the manual now, but can post some examples later.


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Old 06-25-2015, 04:52 AM   #22
City: Christchurch
Country: New Zealand
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I read some of the article and agree with what was written.

My first consideration is what are the battery makers charge specifications ?
included in this spec is the temperature / charge voltage graph, I haven't seen this talked about.

So where I live last night it was minus 5 C / 21F and in the summer it can be 35 C / 80 F

so I don't know where you keep your battery, most standard Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) likes to be at 15 C /60 F and any variation from this ideally requires 'temperature compensated charge regime' to get the most life.

So ask your supplier your battery's spec and if they don't know buy your battery elsewhere, I consider it a biggie.

So with this and a battery temperature monitoring regulator you have the chance to have much closer monitoring and with the result that your battery will last alot longer.

So what does it mean to you the end user if you have a well set up battery temperature compensated charging system ?

1)you can charge as fast as your battery can handle rather than nearest safe guess that a non temperature compensated system can deliver in worst case situation.
2) You have a much higher chance of not creating such a dangerous environment when your battery is in a hot engine room say 50C / 120F
3) Your battery will last longer and if your alternator has the grunt to do it then you will charge faster with no resultant loss of battery life.

The following is a little of topic but may still be relevant / useful

regarding a backup secondary voltage regulator in case of failure.

Piece of cake as the MC214 is set up to take a ford plug so buy a ford regulator and mount it beside your MC214 pull the plug off the mc214 and plug it directly onto the ford. Talk to your local sparky if you wish and they'll confirm what regulator will suit. I'd suggest you turn power off to the regulator before switching.

Checking your Flooded Lead Acid (FLA)

one way to check if your system is overcharging in rough seas without a meter is to touch the negative battery terminal if it feels warmer than ambient temperature and or you can smell rotten bananas it's probably overcharging. Another way is to monitor your electrolyte consumption, it should use a little each month, if this stops or increases , I'd be wondering why.
Best Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) battery tester of the lot including hundreds of dollar battery monitors with computer support I've found is a $15 temperature compensated hydrometer and a notebook, test monthly during your steam home when you're wondering how you'll spend the catch keep a 1.5 soda bottle full of fresh water next to you during testing in case any acid gets on your pants. I use a torch and mirror for the difficult to see cells.

re alternators with built in regulators and temperature compensation

I suspect the temperature compensation talked about in the article is both to protect the alternator and the battery as these regulators most probably originated from an automotive application where often the battery lives under the same bonnet in the engine compartment so reducing the voltage when the alternator and probably the battery gets hotter is usually a good idea, often after a run in summer the under bonnet hot soak temperature will often exceed 100 C / 212F.

a word on alternator RPM

All alternators have an optimum RPM
Faster equals more cooling (so you can work it harder without letting the smoke out) and higher charging at lower engine revs ( say 2kts trawl speed).
Faster equals more HP required to drive it.
Too much faster equals more chance of the alternator rotor winding letting go.
most alternators run happy as between 6 and 9 000 rpm
some bosch load handler 1.5+kw alternators will run alot faster
again consult the alternator supplier, often alternators are now supplied with rpm / output curves.

Most automotive alternators retrofitted into the marine environment last if they are only run as hard as 2/3 max output so keep your 90 A leece Neville at 60 A and it'll last till you're an old fart.

If I can keep my hand on the central laminated portion of the alternator while running for 1.5 seconds or more I'mn happy.

The Balmar are rated at full output continuous.

How to tell if your alternator pulley is slipping ?

When you stop the engine put your hand on it and compare it to the rest of the alternator, a lot hotter , it's probably slipping
If you want to know when your steaming then buy a infared temperature gun from ebay $20~30 measure the pulley (paint your measuring spot a matt colour or a piece of masking tape for accuracy and repeatability (google emistiivity and infared temperature measuring if interested why)
also these temp guns are handy as a quick check of your freezer temperature or each exhaust runner to see all pots running nice.
Any tighter than enough to stop slipping is using up bearing life on all the belt run.

A word on FLA Depth of Discharge (DOD)

Despite the glossy brochure to get maximum life / number of cycles don't discharge your FLA more than 30% from fully charged
(70 % remaining) so yes 2/3 of your battery is useless

When is a battery considered it's time to replace ?
that's up to you,
often this is when it is 80% or less of new condition.

A cool engine room is a happy engine room
and may your fish hold runneth over

Kind regards Donald

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Old 05-01-2016, 10:50 AM   #23
City: Findlay
Country: USA
Join Date: Jun 2012
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1. Say you want to start from factory defaults after messing with various settings....

---change the battery type to something else, like from flooded to agn, let it save, then switch back and let it save again.

2. Another good trick is to do your programming without the engine power on and the oil pressure buzzer running.....

---make a long jumper wire with two female spade connectors at one end, enough length to get to a positive voltage point, and an alligator clip on the other end. I used Red wire and the blue sized crimp connectors.

--- Turn the Ford plug upside down and plug in only to the very bottom male spade connector until the regulator. Now the black wire end of the ford plug is connected only.
Connect the two female spades on the wire you just made up to the two regulator connectors next to the black ground from the Ford plug. Connect the alligator clip to a positive voltage source. Take your time and program away!

3. Always let your changes get SAVed by letting it cycle through the settings a few times and waiting for the SAV.

4. Always measure the wire length from the battery positive to the regulator and the regulator negative to ground. Look up the right size wire, go a size larger. I had wire, breakers, and dash gauges all sized for 60 amp max. The 100 amp alternators kept getting fried. Every time the breaker tripped the field collapsed, like a coil on a car , and the voltage surge had to go somewhere like the diodes. Also fried a couple stators due to this. I had the balmars installed by a diesel mechanic but it took almost a year and two alternator rebuilds to figure out they didn't up size the gauges, breakers, and wire gauge.

Breaker should be 125% of alternator output so I needed a 125 amp breaker.

Dash gauge stopped at 60 amp, new gauge went to 100.

Disconnect the jumper wire, flip the Ford plug over, and go cruising! It sure was nice to see the dash gauge go to 90 amps !

1988 Grand Banks 46 #29
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:50 AM   #24
City: Seattle
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Vessel Name: Henry Young
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Followup to my original post

Thanks everyone for the helpful tips in the responses above. I learned a lot! I also want to add a follow-up to my original post on some of the trickier parts of setting up a Balmar.

The article from the Sailboat Owners Forum “Musings Regarding External Regulation” implies that for many if not most boat owners you rarely go into float. While this is generally true, especially if we consider that a full absorption charge to 2% of battery capacity can take 6 or more hours which when combined with a bulk charge is more that most boat owners run their engine at a stretch, there is an important case for float and that’s when you pull away from the dock with fully charged batteries for a long run up from say Seattle to the San Juans in my case. The last thing you want is for your regulators to hold a high voltage on the fully charged batteries for the 5 hours it takes to get there. So at least for me it’s important to have the regulators correctly go into float for the case of leaving the dock with fully charged batteries for a long haul up the Sound.

Which leads to one of the tricky settings for the Balmar regulators. How do you target when the regulators should drop to float? The catch of course is that alternator load is not just the load of charging the batteries but also includes the load of running the boat. This would all be much easier if external regulators could read the same ammeter my battery management system does and determine the charging regimen by the battery CAR. Or if they had a switch for “going to float now” since I can see the CAR via the BMS. But they don’t. They can only sense (via the field strength) the output of the alternator which includes both charging the batteries and the power required to operate the boat. So after running my boat after leaving the dock with fully charged batteries (so that I know all of the load is running the boat) and the radar and lights on I got an estimate of my hotel load and set the FFL (the field strength below which the external regulators drop to float) to 40 amps: 15 amps for the 2% battery CAR at “fully charged” plus 25 amps which is the most I ever saw my boat use. Since my boat often uses a little less than this I will tend to undercharge the batteries but I’ll never charge the batteries at full charging voltage pulling out into the fog in the early morning hours from the dock.

The other somewhat less tricky setting is from going from bulk to absorption. Again the article points out the switch to absorption is simply when you reach your voltage limit and you start limiting your field to maintain the voltage. This is true, however, Balmar regulators allow you to set not only the voltage limit but also the field percentage or Fba at which you switch to absorption so that you have to hit both the voltage and the output for the switch from bulk to absorption. This matters because during the bulk charging phase Balmar regulators just pour out the amps while in the absorption phase they switch back and forth, don’t ask me why I’ve just seen it happen, between absorption voltage and float voltage and very gradually approach a full charge. In other words, if you set the regulators to switch to absorption when the target voltage is reached with full field (however it might be adjusted by derating and alternator temperature) they depending on how large your alternators are relative to your battery bank your batteries won’t be very charged when you switch to, at least in the case of Balmar external regulators, a much slower charging regimen since it will spend about half the time in the “absorption” phase actually in “float.” In my case I use the Fba to target about a 90% charge rate before the switch to absorption.

Hope this helps!
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Old 05-03-2016, 02:25 PM   #25
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Just noted this thread and it seems there is a lot of confusion around this. I can help to clarify much of it later when I have more time.
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Old 06-25-2016, 10:48 AM   #26
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Monitoring battery current...

Originally Posted by ReedStr View Post

Which leads to one of the tricky settings for the Balmar regulators. How do you target when the regulators should drop to float? The catch of course is that alternator load is not just the load of charging the batteries but also includes the load of running the boat. This would all be much easier if external regulators could read the same ammeter my battery management system does and determine the charging regimen by the battery CAR. Or if they had a switch for “going to float now” since I can see the CAR via the BMS. But they don’t.

ReedStr: I too have noted this issue with common regulators - they just have no way to tell what is happening back at the battery. Add not only the common loads you describe, but some boats also run heavy cyclical loads via an inverter: AC Refrigerators / freezers, washer/dryer units. It makes it very difficult for a voltage only regulator to understand. Looking at field drive strength can help some (only if used in conjunction with RPMs truth be told), but still that only gives an indication of what is being produced - not where it is consumed.

I do not post too often here, we are fill time cruisers and web forums are hard to gain access to from remote areas. But I did want to comment that not only do I think you are spot on, that I too had this same issue (and more seriously with the regulator going into Float too soon leaving the batteries consistently undercharged), and that I have created an open-sourced alternator regulator which does sense battery acceptance current as you described. With that am able to fully implement battery manufactures recommended charging profiles. It is currently being used in several deployments using not only LA batteries but increasingly LiFeP04 technologies.

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Old 07-30-2016, 11:39 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by ReedStr View Post
I though I would start a thread on how to set up Balmar MC-614 regulators. I've searched around and can find very little about it. To kick this off, here's how I set mine up:

I target the Charge Acceptance Rate with the Fba and FFL settings rather than time spent charging with the Blc and Alc settings because the Balmar Regulators always run through their bulk and absorption timers at least once and I don't want to over charge when I pull away from the dock with full batteries. If I set Alc to 4 hours then I will get 4 hours of absorption charging even when my battery banks are full. I know this is true. I checked with Balmar. So I leave Blc and Alc at their default settings of 3 (18 minutes).

I set Fba to 40% because in my system 40% field yields a switch to absorption at about 80 amps which given my battery bank size and my hotel load of 25 amps the 55 amp cutoff means the batteries are charged in bulk mode to about 90%.

I set FFL to 20% because that yields a switch to float at about 40 amps which with a 25 amp hotel load gets my 630 ah lifeline agm batteries pretty fully charged but still leaves me 15 amps of room to not over charge the batteries. The general idea is that I want to err on setting the FFL a little high and not fully charging the batteries since setting the FFL too low would cause the regulators to never switch to float.

I also derate the alternators to B2 although I have a alternator temp monitor so this should not be necessary.

One thing I noticed about the Balmar Regulators is that while they do a continuous Bulk charge they do a "bouncing" absorption charge. That is when they go into absorption charging they charge at the absorption voltage for a while and then fall down to float before reaching the FFL of 20%. Then they absorption charge some more and fall to float again. Eventually, when they reach 20% field while in absorption charge mode they fall into float mode and stay there. Consequently I target 90% charged in bulk mode since the "bouncing" in absorption reduces the rate of charge.

Thoughts? Different ways I should be setting up the MC-614? Am I wrong to target CAR and not time? Is there some way to set them up to achieve a really full charge but not over charge them when pulling away from the dock with already full batteries?
BRAVO! Thank you for starting this thread. I have arrived at the same conclusion you've reached. We have to adjust the "Fba" parameter to something less conservative otherwise the regulator gets fooled into thinking the battery bank is at a higher SOC than it is.

I really wish Balmar would help us with some guidance on how to refine that parameter to meet the needs of a specific bank capacity and usage.

I'll post my own results as I get there.
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Old 08-02-2016, 05:52 AM   #28
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"Breaker should be 125% of alternator output so I needed a 125 amp breaker."

As you have noticed a breaker in an alt output will usually require new diodes.

With all the electronics out there does no one make a breaker that can monitor the alt OUTPUT and then cut the FIELD current ?

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