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Old 01-12-2013, 11:49 AM   #1
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Experience with external alternator regulators

Does anyone have experience with External Regulators, particularly those from Sterling power - see this link for the one I am interested in:
12 volt, 210 amp dc powered battery charger

I have two relatively new (last season) 105 Amp internally regulated alternators, and I would like to improve the bang for the buck I'm getting in charging my house bank (1200 Amps of Trojan T-145s) underway.

There seems to be a lot to like about these units - I can combine the alternators as inputs and can get multistage charging out to my house bank in addition to conventional output to the start bank. They also allow my to use the existing alternators as-is. Any downsides?

Would love to hear from anyone that has this setup or similar setups (I've seen Ample Power mentioned in other threads).

Thanks in advance
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:23 AM   #2
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The problem I see is it uses your existing alts.

Since few alts will deliver their rated output when warm the "rated" output is a joke , unless 3 min of high charge is required.

While heavy DC charging of the house bank underway is IDEAL for most cruisers , alts with a hot rating that can actually create the output are needed.

For boats that use air cond underway , a 200-300A 24V alt mounted , a smart charger (most any brand) and a modern 4KW inverter would seem to solve the problem.

AS the alts are used in the coach industry (buses) they are common at scrap yards or thru std rebuilt sources.

All use external regulators , so installing a proper marine charge regulator is a snap.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:08 PM   #3
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Using existing alts

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Originally Posted by FF View Post
The problem I see is it uses your existing alts.

Since few alts will deliver their rated output when warm the "rated" output is a joke , unless 3 min of high charge is required.

While heavy DC charging of the house bank underway is IDEAL for most cruisers , alts with a hot rating that can actually create the output are needed.

For boats that use air cond underway , a 200-300A 24V alt mounted , a smart charger (most any brand) and a modern 4KW inverter would seem to solve the problem.

AS the alts are used in the coach industry (buses) they are common at scrap yards or thru std rebuilt sources.

All use external regulators , so installing a proper marine charge regulator is a snap.
Actually, the benefit I see is that they can use and combine the existing alts and can drive them harder by lowering the input voltage to them. To me, this is a much simpler proposition than adding dual pulleys and fabricating a bracket, etc for a larger alternator, though I agree that it is a reasonable option to consider.

Thanks for the input.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lokeefe View Post
Actually, the benefit I see is that they can use and combine the existing alts and can drive them harder by lowering the input voltage to them. To me, this is a much simpler proposition than adding dual pulleys and fabricating a bracket, etc for a larger alternator, though I agree that it is a reasonable option to consider..
I'd like to know more, and I understand a different regulator can "reprogram" an existing alternator. But wouldn't the existing internal regulator have to be bypassed internally? And wouldn't anything that increased the output amperage involve higher pulley loads? And finally, doesn't "driving an alternator harder" invlove increase field voltage not lowering it?
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Old 01-13-2013, 06:27 PM   #5
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Internally regulated alternators can not be driven by an external regulator as is. You could have have an alternator shop take them apart, disable the internal regulator and bring out the field wire to an outside terminal for the external regulator.

You would then be pushing more field current to get more output which would put more stress on an alternator with smaller windings, diodes and cooling fan than a true high output alternator. You could easily burn one up prematurely.

Leece Neville does make high output externally regulated alternators, but they won't fit Yanmars, Volvos and others.

Balmar, Hamilton Ferris, Hehr and Ample Power all make high output alternators to fit most marine engines.

David
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:49 PM   #6
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As others have mentioned, get the right tool for the job. On my boat I run a 16,000 btu AC unit through an inverter. Needed 125 - 135 amps 12 volt to run it. Had a 150 amp Delco alternator and figured I was good. As the alternator warmed up, the amperage dropped and then the voltage including the 8D house battery started to drop. As the voltage dropped, the AC driven by the inverter required more amps......vicious cycle. Everything was good till the alternator warmed up.

Replaced the unit with a Leece Neville 240 amp unit; problem solved. Can run the AC 100% duty cycle at 1,000 rpm, and it only gets warm at 2,100 RPM (normal cruise).

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Old 01-13-2013, 09:54 PM   #7
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From the Sterling Power website...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooksie View Post
I'd like to know more, and I understand a different regulator can "reprogram" an existing alternator. But wouldn't the existing internal regulator have to be bypassed internally? And wouldn't anything that increased the output amperage involve higher pulley loads? And finally, doesn't "driving an alternator harder" invlove increase field voltage not lowering it?
This is what their website says:

How do we do this?

Well, in theory, it is very simple. With an advanced regulator which connects to the alternators regulator, we override the standard alternator regulator and we push the alternators voltage up to increase the voltage at the batteries. This results in a massive charge improvement at the batteries.

With the voltage amplifier we do the reverse. We put a load on the alternator to pull the alternator voltage down. This fools the alternator into thinking that there is a major drain on the system and as such the standard regulator works at full current. However, the voltage is pulled down to a totally useless voltage for charging batteries. So the new system takes in this high current, but low voltage and amplifies the voltage to charge the auxiliary battery bank at a much higher voltage than the base system voltage. In order to achieve the fast battery charging, the software control program and settings for this product are the same as for our Digital battery chargers and the Digital advanced alternator regulator.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lokeefe View Post
This is what their website says:

How do we do this?

Well, in theory, it is very simple. With an advanced regulator which connects to the alternators regulator, we override the standard alternator regulator and we push the alternators voltage up to increase the voltage at the batteries. This results in a massive charge improvement at the batteries.

With the voltage amplifier we do the reverse. We put a load on the alternator to pull the alternator voltage down. This fools the alternator into thinking that there is a major drain on the system and as such the standard regulator works at full current. However, the voltage is pulled down to a totally useless voltage for charging batteries. So the new system takes in this high current, but low voltage and amplifies the voltage to charge the auxiliary battery bank at a much higher voltage than the base system voltage. In order to achieve the fast battery charging, the software control program and settings for this product are the same as for our Digital battery chargers and the Digital advanced alternator regulator.
WOW... Sounds complicated. Count me out on things I can't understand.
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Old 01-14-2013, 06:33 AM   #9
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With the voltage amplifier we do the reverse. We put a load on the alternator to pull the alternator voltage down. This fools the alternator into thinking that there is a major drain on the system and as such the standard regulator works at full current. However, the voltage is pulled down to a totally useless voltage for charging batteries. So the new system takes in this high current, but low voltage and amplifies the voltage to charge the auxiliary battery bank at a much higher voltage than the base system voltage. In order to achieve the fast battery charging, the software control program and settings for this product are the same as for our Digital battery chargers and the Digital advanced alternator regulator.

This is Brooklyn Bridge babble.

Power is measured in watts and converting voltage up down , whatever ignores the fact that to stuff more charge into a batt bank , it will take more power , watts.

If the alt is creating more watts , it is working harder so requires better cooling , belting (slipping belts add huge heat to the armature) .

Want more watts? use a better alternator, sorta simple.

With this level of babble , I would not buy a trickle charger from these folks!
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:18 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FF View Post
This is Brooklyn Bridge babble.

Power is measured in watts and converting voltage up down , whatever ignores the fact that to stuff more charge into a batt bank , it will take more power , watts.

If the alt is creating more watts , it is working harder so requires better cooling , belting (slipping belts add huge heat to the armature) .

Want more watts? use a better alternator, sorta simple.

With this level of babble , I would not buy a trickle charger from these folks!
I am really not looking for more watts. I am looking for a way to use the available capacity that I have more effectively. As I mentioned in my original post, I have two alternators nominally rated at 105 Amps each. I would be very happy if I could get a consistent 120 Amps from them into the house bank with the appropriate charging profile.

My reason for asking the original question - whether anyone had experience with this type of system - was to determine if I could achieve that kind of result.

I know that I could buy a larger alternator. I am looking for an alternative.

Thanks.
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Old 01-14-2013, 02:45 PM   #11
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I had 2 previous twin engine boats where I used the Ample Power products to combine the alternators output into a single external regulator and it worked fine with the stock regulators. In the first twin engine boat, if I recall correctly, the alternators where only 65 amps and I was able to put 100 amps into the battery bank. You have the option with the external regulator to choke down the output so you don't overwork and overheat the alternators. I would set the output for about 80% of the full combined output. You need to modify the stock alternators to bring the field wire out which is used by the external regulator to control the output.

With my current single engine boat I used the Balmar product. Balmar also has a product called the Centerfield, I believe, which will combine your 2 alternators into a single controllable output.

I know nothing about the Sterling product so can't help you there but you can easily accomplish what you asked to do with Balmar or Ample Power products. I'm not sure about costs but would expect it would be above $500.

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Old 01-15-2013, 07:18 AM   #12
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I have two alternators nominally rated at 105 Amps each. I would be very happy if I could get a consistent 120 Amps from them into the house bank with the appropriate charging profile.

This can be done easily by removing the internal regulator , leading the field wire out and using most any aftermarket 3 stage V regulator.

If the reg is good it will monitor the batt temps , so the only limit will be the alts them selves. what they can actually produce when run hot.

Your SOC meter will be able to let you know how close to 100% charged you got.
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Old 01-15-2013, 10:00 AM   #13
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I don't have direct experience of the Sterling product you reference but Sterling does have a good name. I note that a battery temperature sensor is available with the product you are considering; this would be a very good option to take up. However, just as important is an alternator temperature sensor. While it makes total sense to externally regulate alternators on our boats, you don't just want to maximize the alt's output...you want to optimize it. This means running the alt as hard as is consistent with keeping it at the manufacturer's recommended continuous operating termperature. I use Balmar regulators which come with both battery & alternator temperature sensors; the latter can be user-programmed to suit different alt manufacturers' specifications and alt sizes. The Balmar products are fully epoxy-potted and appear to be cheaper than the Sterling solution you are contemplating. You are right in thinking that the logical first step in moving to better House battery charging is external regulation & this should be done before changing out alternators for larger models. My experience suggests that 2 x 105A alts combined and de-rated by a programmable Balmar reg will stay comfortably under their max operating temps & produce a total of 155A in 'bulk' charge mode. Internal regulation of a single alternator directing power to a House bank could be as little as 30A a few minutes after you have reached cruise rpm.
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Old 01-15-2013, 03:36 PM   #14
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Reminder: One of the weak links in a high output alternator system are the bearings in the other items driven by the same belt/s. Many waterpumps will not take the loads involved; both the overall tension to keep the belt/s from slipping under the additional load, and the additional local tension caused by the greater hp load on the belt/s (if the pump is between the crankshaft & alternator in the direction of rotation)
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Old 06-01-2013, 10:32 AM   #15
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An update on the Sterling ABC

I went ahead and installed the Sterling Alternator to Battery Charger that I described in an earlier post on this thread. Overall, I am pleased with the results. When running at cruising RPM, I routinely see 120 amps to the house bank (which varies depending on how much inverted load I have). The Sterling unit runs an unmodified output "straight through" from the alts to the start bank.

What this setup has revealed is that one of my recently rebuilt Leece-Neville 105 Amp alternators is not putting out it's rated amperage. When we amp clamp each of the alternators, I see a fairly impressive 90+ amps from the port alternator, but only 50 from the starboard. I may wind up taking it back to the shop that rebuilt it, but I suspect that I might be out of warranty on it (the rebuild was about a year ago).

My next move is likely to be to swap out the starboard Leece-Neville for an internally regulated 100 amp 600 series Balmar. When/if I do that, I would expect to see something on the order of 170 amps to the house bank underway. I'd be pretty happy with that.
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Old 06-01-2013, 11:46 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lokeefe View Post
I went ahead and installed the Sterling Alternator to Battery Charger that I described in an earlier post on this thread. Overall, I am pleased with the results. When running at cruising RPM, I routinely see 120 amps to the house bank (which varies depending on how much inverted load I have). The Sterling unit runs an unmodified output "straight through" from the alts to the start bank.

What this setup has revealed is that one of my recently rebuilt Leece-Neville 105 Amp alternators is not putting out it's rated amperage. When we amp clamp each of the alternators, I see a fairly impressive 90+ amps from the port alternator, but only 50 from the starboard. I may wind up taking it back to the shop that rebuilt it, but I suspect that I might be out of warranty on it (the rebuild was about a year ago).

My next move is likely to be to swap out the starboard Leece-Neville for an internally regulated 100 amp 600 series Balmar. When/if I do that, I would expect to see something on the order of 170 amps to the house bank underway. I'd be pretty happy with that.
Thanks for the update Larry. I am in the middle of a couple of projects. One is a just completed installation of the Raritan Purasan with hold and treat system Will have to wait until next cruise to report on it. The other half completed is the installation of 2 Sterling voltage regulators and a ProMariner ProIsoCharge. With two 80 amp alternators with the combining of the charges there is a possibility of 160 amp charging capacity going into the bank that needs it. The ProIsoCharge will handle up to 4 banks and two alternators. The units are installed, but the wiring is not completed. That will be done when I get back to the boat.
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:42 AM   #17
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"To me, this is a much simpler proposition than adding dual pulleys and fabricating a bracket,

My next move is likely to be to swap out the starboard Leece-Neville for an internally regulated 100 amp 600 series Balmar. When/if I do that, I would expect to see something on the order of 170 amps to the house bank underway."

Big amps usually requires dual belts as you first suspected.

For most folks that are going cruising any alt. replacement should include dual belts , even tho parts hunt (engine pulley) is a PIA.

The reason is dual belts cut the load on the alt sheves which do not add the heat from a slipping belt to the Alt.

Belts not slipping also last longer.

The result is a set of belts and an alt that will perform for years with little maint.

Frequently the old stick 55A alt and a new belt can be onboard as a spare , just in case.
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