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Old 09-04-2014, 04:30 PM   #1
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Balmar MC-614 Regulator Settings

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?
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Old 09-04-2014, 06:51 PM   #2
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Great thread topic, ReedStr...and very timely. I recently installed a 120A Balmar 621 Alternator and MC-614 regulator on my stbd engine to charge my 660AH flooded wet cell house bank. I think a key difference here is your AGM bank has a much higher acceptance rate than a FWC bank.

I've played a bit with my settings, primarily bumping up the bulk voltage (bv) and absorption voltage (Av) to 14.7/14.5% (from 14.6/14.4%), and the minimum bulk and absorption times (b1c and A1c) to 4 hrs, IIRC. I typically run 3 hrs or less so I thought it would help to keep the bulk charge going with this setting. I adjusted both FbA (Field Threshold-Bulk to Absorption) and FFL (Field Threshold-Float to Absorption) to 50% as a starting point, not knowing for sure what its effect would be.

I didn't realize that the minimum time limits on bv and Av were going to automatically apply even if the battery is full leaving the dock. I made these adjustments last time I was out while we were on the hook for an extended period. When relocating under these settings, I observed the voltage staying up there near 14.5V, but as the battery charged, the battery acceptance rate decreased and the current flow into the battery dropped significantly. On flooded deep cycles, I don't mind seeing a few hours of high voltage (14.4-14.8V) to shake loose some of the sulfur. The key for me is to keep the batteries well serviced with distilled water.

Since it's so new to me, I have never seen my Balmar in operation at these settings when leaving the dock with a full house bank. I'll watch it closely, but I might need to go back and reset those b1c and A1c times.

b1, b2, etc is the Belt Manager setting for derating the alternator. I have a 1/2 inch belt and thought I'd need to derate for that, but so far, I have not seen much more than 90A into my bank and have seen no issues with excessive belt noise or dust. I think the slow ramp up of load is helpful, also. I realize that the alternator is putting out more than 90A to meet the house loads also, but so far, no problem, so I have not derated. I carry spare belts and may have a change of heart if I see belt wear/failure. My ER cameras allow me to keep a close eye on the belts.

I have the battery bank temp sensor connected, but did not purchase the alternator sensor. I kind of doubt it would be needed, but should probably add it just in case. It sure wouldn't be expensive or difficult to add.

One nice feature of my 621 alternator is that although it is MC-614 capable, it also has its own internal regulator that can be utilized if the 614 fails. It basically reverts to a dumb regulator without a float function with the flip of a switch. I plan to connect a switch for this purpose soon.

I posted this link on the "Alternator Check" thread, but I think it bears repeating here. This is a great discussion of battery charging and charge supply behavior, be it smart alternator, dumb alternator or smart shore charger. It's a long post with many pearls of wisdom scattered throughout. This video is included in the link above, but gives a good visual demonstration of the basic concepts.

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Old 09-04-2014, 10:59 PM   #3
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well, thanks for that link. He's right of course especially for sailors with flooded lead acid. But I'm in that high CAR AGM crowd with high output alternators where he recommends external regulation and I didn't see in the thread where Maine Sail discusses how to set up external regulation. In another thread I saw him recommend setting up Balmars to timed charging like a typical marine charger (and like you did) but there was no discussion why he recommended that versus targeting a CAR like I outlined above.
If I were a sailor, i.e. only running the motor a little bit each day, or a live a aboard cruiser so I rarely left the dock fully charged but needed to do a full charge while under way then I would do a timed charge rather than targeting CAR since I'd want to fully charge whenever I could. The longer the better. I would keep Fba, FFL, and BLC as I described above and set Alc to 60 to try to get the 6 hours in absorption my batteries need to fully charge. Leaving FFL as I described above would prevent a second 6 hour absorption cycle if I had a really long day.
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Old 04-14-2015, 09:39 PM   #4
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Hi ReedStr,

I find the the description of FFL in the Balmar manual confusing. I am wondering if FFL refer to how much field % is required for the regulator to revert back to absorption from float? It may explain your observations ("bouncing" absorption charge) if FFL is set low and ALC short.

If this is the case, then the absorption would only have a time rule to switch to float for the lack of a parameter to set... again I find this very confusing as the manual seems to indicate otherwise.

I wonder too how to set FBA and FFL for not overcharging the battery leaving the dock with a full charge ?
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Old 04-15-2015, 10:43 PM   #5
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it certainly is confusing. yes, ffl is the amount of field necessary to stay in absorbtion. since field percentage is roughly the same as alternator amp output percentage you can set ffl based in your hotel load and your battery acceptance rate at close to fully charged. set it high enough and you'll not overcharge as you pull away from the dock as long as you keep the timers low because it will first charge for bulk time, 3 minutes by default then check FBA which will be too low so it will drop through to the absorbtion voltage for however long you set absorbtion, 3 minutes by default, and then check ffl which will be too low because your batteries are charged so it will drop through to float. make sense?
ok, it's confusing i know.
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:15 AM   #6
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This is great stuff. I have quite frankly ignored my Balmars so far, and this is good motivation to dig into them.
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Old 04-16-2015, 08:44 AM   #7
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Balmar MC-614 Regulator Settings

If one's battery bank is weak and won't hold a charge very well, will that affect the Balmar regulator operation?

Reason I ask is because I was seeing low voltages of about 13v coming out of the regulator while underway, and at the end of 8-10 hours of running the batteries were all but depleted.

I always started out with a full charge after being plugged into shore power all night with the battery charger running. . Just wondering if weak batteries could somehow trick the regulator into a float charge scenario somehow?
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Old 04-16-2015, 08:48 AM   #8
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This is great stuff. I have quite frankly ignored my Balmars so far, and this is good motivation to dig into them.
You are quite right! Balmar's Smart Gauge & Smart Regulator will give you more info than you can imagine if you just read the manual. (And it's "easy reading!")
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:54 AM   #9
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If one's battery bank is weak and won't hold a charge very well, will that affect the Balmar regulator?

Cardude,This is from the manual on page 7. It describes the charging logic of the smart regulator. Depending on what you have for batteries you can program it to do whatever the manufacturer recommends. There are 8 standard battery type presets you can start with and modify as you see fit. If your batteries can take current they'll get it , otherwise they receive the preset voltage charges.

Regulator Operation
The MC-624 regulatorís microprocessor controlled charging system uses a sophisticated, multi-stage profile to deliver
maximum charging output, while protecting the batteries from overcharging damage. When the regulator is first turned on,
the processor performs a quick one-second self diagnostic assessment. Following that diagnostic, the MC-624 initiates a
charge program as follows:
1. Start Delay - Factory set at one second. Can be user-adjusted to a maximum of 999 seconds in the regulatorís advanced
programming mode. See Advanced Programming section for adjustment instructions.
2. Soft Ramp - Gently increases voltage to bulk preset levels based on battery program selected.
3. Bulk Charge - The most aggressive of the charging stages. Voltage is held at a pre-set level, specified by battery
program selected, for a set time period. Factory-set bulk time is 18 minutes. Adjustable in 6-minute increments.
4. Calculated Bulk Charge - Holds voltage at bulk level for six minutes, then calculates battery condition by comparing
existing voltage, time at voltage, and field percentage to target values. If values are met, the regulator advances to
the next stage. If values are not met, the regulator continues to bulk charge and compares real-time to target values.
This will re-occur until all values are met.
5. Ramps down to Absorption voltage.
6. Absorption Charge - Regulator continues to control the alternatorís output voltage for an additional 18 minutes at
approximately 2/10ís of a volt below bulk charging voltage. Adjustable in 6-minute increments.
7. Calculated Absorption Charge - Holds voltage at absorption level for six minutes, then calculates battery condition
bycomparing existing voltage, time at voltage, and field percentage to target values. If values are met, the regulator
advances to the next stage. If values are not met, the regulator extends the absorption charge and compares realtime
to target values. This will re-occur until all values are met.
8. Ramp down to Float.
9. Float Charge - Regulator continues to control the alternatorís output voltage for an additional 18 minutes, typically
at a volt less than bulk voltage (based on battery program presets). After that initial fixed time period, the regulator
can respond to increased charging demand by cycling to absorption voltage. After 12 hours of continuous operation,
the regulator will automatically revert to absorption voltage through calculated absorption and back to float charging
stage.




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Old 06-16-2015, 09:07 PM   #10
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Great topic

Gidday Folks

I too have been involved with a couple of these regulators and I didn't have that locked in feeling that I had it set up right.

1x 2 crew off shore trawler 200 a/hr house and 200 a/hr start 24v
1x 80t thrust 360 degree thrust tug 2x 500a/hr house 24v 2 x alternators dedicated house.
1x OTT house bus / mobile entertainment unit 1000 a/hr house
24v dedicated engine driven alternator.
140 amp charge via victron energy inverter chargers powered from either shore power or
2 x 3kw honda petrol powered inverter gensets.


It's been a couple of years since my last one

I like the feeling of alternator long life that temp sense a lot, I set all mine up by temperature max 90 degrees of the alternator after half an hour at full noise against full load worst scenario on hot summers day summer, then back 5%
if alt went over 10 degrees then back another 20%

It was excellent to see the immediate temperature drop.

The second best thing is the battery temperature sensing

This meant in my applications I could charge as hard out as the alternator would go so on a cold day one of the applications had 140 amp of charge from two

Slow belt and alternator warm up is nice too , gotta be good for the brushes stator and rectifier in the alternator,

I'll be back later

and what if one battery bank is no good, depends
gotta ask yourself ' how will the regulator know ? '

if one or more cell/s is shorted it is highly un likely the regulator will know unless you have battery temperature sensing and the temperature sense is on a cell that is getting hot

all the the other cells in that bank will get over charged =
high electrolyte consumption
higher gassing
higher explosion risk
higher emistivtty = higher acid spew n spit
higher corrosive effect of battery room

if one cell is open circuit

regulator is highly unlikely to know

wont accept charge
wont do anything
wont supply power when needed
both are poorest performance in an emergency situation


I'll come back later once I've thought about this a little more

Kind regards All and thanks for the opportunity

Donald
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Old 06-16-2015, 09:37 PM   #11
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard.
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:32 AM   #12
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I am on my 3rd season using a 80 amp Balmar alternator and one of these regulators.
I have flooded batteries and left all the factory settings as is except for reducing belt load by 20%. No battery temp monitor but I have the alt temp monitor.
The first season I cruised all season and everything worked fine, batteries stayed charged as expected.
Last season and this season I am staying at a marina and weekend cruising and I experienced a slight problem.
It is very repeatable...after leaving the dock with batteries fully charged (charger on all week) ...after approximately 1 hour running 1650 rpm my tach needle flutters for several seconds then I get zero rpm.
The needle stays at zero for maybe 2 or 3 minutes, then flutters slowly back up to 1650 and stays there.
This happens only when I leave the dock with fully charged batteries.

I called Balmar and wasn't really thrilled with their response which was basically play with the voltage settings until this no longer happens. I'm not smart enough to do that and know what I'm doing.
Thoughts?
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:44 AM   #13
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Good read on External VR

Musings Regarding External Regulation - SailboatOwners.com
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Old 06-17-2015, 10:54 AM   #14
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Last season and this season I am staying at a marina and weekend cruising and I experienced a slight problem.
It is very repeatable...after leaving the dock with batteries fully charged (charger on all week) ...after approximately 1 hour running 1650 rpm my tach needle flutters for several seconds then I get zero rpm.
I had almost exactly the same problem with my single diesel on a previous boat. (Cummins 330 B) We tried various settings with the Balmar regulator, but as it turned out it wasn't the regulator's fault! The tachometer sender had quite a lot of "electrically generated" dust on its magnetic pick up. By removing the sender, wiping it clean and reinstalling it within 1/8th inch of the fly wheel (better sensing) the problem was gone!

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:17 PM   #15
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I had almost exactly the same problem with my single diesel on a previous boat. (Cummins 330 B) We tried various settings with the Balmar regulator, but as it turned out it wasn't the regulator's fault! The tachometer sender had quite a lot of "electrically generated" dust on its magnetic pick up. By removing the sender, wiping it clean and reinstalling it within 1/8th inch of the fly wheel (better sensing) the problem was gone!
Hope this helps.
Thanks Walt, but my Lehman is strictly alternator/regulator controlled. Something is telling the system to stop the output.
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:34 PM   #16
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Thanks Walt, but my Lehman is strictly alternator/regulator controlled. Something is telling the system to stop the output.

If I understand the way the Belmar VR's work after a predetermined time they stop charging to read the bank voltage and then resume bulk charging or switch to absorption (or float) for another predetermined period.

Perhaps it is when I shuts down to check that is also shutting down the tack output.

The fact that it is so repeatable and consistent tells me it may be working as intended as a VR and not trying to be a tach. drive.
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Old 06-17-2015, 03:44 PM   #17
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A VERY good read..
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Old 06-17-2015, 05:08 PM   #18
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If the batteries are fully charged and there is little DC load the alternator output is cut way back and there is not enough signal for the tach. I just installed a Balmar external regulator, not sure about the model, but it has a separate output for driving a tach that is supposed to eliminate that problem. I haven't had this problem on the current boat so at this point I haven't hooked that up. On our last boat, sail, the tach would occasionally stop reading but turning on some DC load would bring it back.


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Old 06-17-2015, 07:01 PM   #19
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I'm going to have to take a much closer look at my Balmar MC-614 external regulator settings to make sure it's optimized for my 660AH lead-acid golf cart house bank. I thought I had it set right, but the more I read, the less I'm sure.

I have the battery temp sensor installed, but not the alternator temp sensor. Just ordered that for under $40. It'll be a simple add-on and setup.

I almost always leave the slip with full start and house batts from the shore charger. I frequently spend a week or two on the boat with limited shore power, so I count on my mains while enroute and my generator-powered shore charger while on the hook. While enroute, my Balmar (stbd) is dedicated to my house bank and the OEM port alternator is assigned start battery charging duty.

Has anyone with a similarly sized house bank already done the mental gymnastics required to achieve the perfect settings for the Balmar Max Charge VRs? Care to share your findings with us?
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:14 PM   #20
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I'm going to have to take a much closer look at my Balmar MC-614 external regulator settings to make sure it's optimized for my 660AH lead-acid golf cart house bank. I thought I had it set right, but the more I read, the less I'm sure.

I have the battery temp sensor installed, but not the alternator temp sensor. Just ordered that for under $40. It'll be a simple add-on and setup.

I almost always leave the slip with full start and house batts from the shore charger. I frequently spend a week or two on the boat with limited shore power, so I count on my mains while enroute and my generator-powered shore charger while on the hook. While enroute, my Balmar (stbd) is dedicated to my house bank and the OEM port alternator is assigned start battery charging duty.

Has anyone with a similarly sized house bank already done the mental gymnastics required to achieve the perfect settings for the Balmar Max Charge VRs? Care to share your findings with us?
Read the link I posted, Mainsail has it to a shiny nut. That's what I did and it's spot on.
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