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Old 05-26-2015, 06:39 PM   #1
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Regulator Question

What is the benefit of a "smart" regulator, like a Balmar ARS-5, versus a single stage regulator, like a Transpo V-1200? The Alternator shop that tested my Balmar alternator and regulator...and determined that the regulator is bad...is recommending the Transpo. The high-output alternator is OK. It was not working when we bought the boat, but is intended to charge the house bank.

The Transpo is 1/3 the cost, but I am inclined to go with a new Balmar. Thoughts?

Thanks, Mike


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Old 05-26-2015, 07:29 PM   #2
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The big thing you get out of a smart regulator is faster recharge time. So if you are on the anchor over night, then make a shortish run the next day, a smart regulator is more likely to get your batteries charged up in that run time than a fixed voltage regulator.

Other advantages are adjustable charge voltages so you can fine tune to your batteries, and voltage compensated charging. The later is important if your batteries are in your engine room and subject to wide swings in temperature. But utilizing it requires the installation of a temp sensor, so keep that in mind if you decide to go down the smart regulator path.
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Old 05-26-2015, 07:49 PM   #3
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To expand a bit on twistedtree's comments, the Transpo seems to be a regulator that produces a fixed voltage of 14.2 V. That is actually too high for when the batteries are full and all you need is to maintain the charge. I suspect it is set as a compromise between fast charging and not frying the battery with too much voltage when it is fully charged. But I can assure you that 14.2 is too high and will slowly boil electrolyte away. I don't know if the set point voltage can be adjusted. Their literature didn't seem to say it.

The Balmar regulator drives the alternator to the optimum point to charge the batteries when they need it but reduces the voltage to about 13.6 when they are full which is low enough to limit electrolyte boiling.

As twistedtree noted, the Balmar regulator combined with their high output alternator will charge your batteries much faster, You might also want to get their battery temperature compensating sensor. It will adjust the full charge voltage depending on battery temperature.

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Old 05-26-2015, 08:03 PM   #4
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Thanks to you both for the info. I'm convinced to go with the Balmar regulator. Now I need to decide on the temp sensor. I think I saw if for about $50, which seems reasonable.


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Old 05-26-2015, 08:57 PM   #5
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Now I need to decide on the temp sensor. I think I saw if for about $50, which seems reasonable.
That sounds about right. Defender carries them if you want to order online.
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Old 05-26-2015, 09:15 PM   #6
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Check your Balmar. Some can be operated without an external regulator like my Balmar 621-120. Change a wire and it runs on its own 14.1V internal V reg. I plan to wire a switch for an easy backup in the event of a V reg failure. Balmar describes the process here on page 15.

I run my alternator at about 14.7 V for the first 2 hrs to pack as much into the house bank at the start of the engine run. I like the Balmar external reg for the reasons described above plus the fact that for long cruises, it reverts to a float charge so it's easier on the batteries. I think the battery temp sensors are cheap enough to make it a no brainer for just about any installation.
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Old 05-27-2015, 12:54 AM   #7
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I think the battery temp sensors are cheap enough to make it a no brainer for just about any installation.
Like with all too many boat projects, the parts are the cheap and easy part of the job. Fishing the wires through the boat, securing them, and getting it all hooked up and ship shape is the giant PITA. That's why my two temp sensors are still sitting in a drawer on my boat.....
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Old 05-27-2015, 06:01 AM   #8
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Like with all too many boat projects, the parts are the cheap and easy part of the job. Fishing the wires through the boat, securing them, and getting it all hooked up and ship shape is the giant PITA. That's why my two temp sensors are still sitting in a drawer on my boat.....

TT, I assumed the temp sensor was just wired between the alternator and the regulator. Is that not the case? MM


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Old 05-27-2015, 07:03 AM   #9
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TT, I assumed the temp sensor was just wired between the alternator and the regulator. Is that not the case? MM


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Our Ample Power alternator's temp sensor is mounted on one of the positive terminals of the battery. The 2 wires go to the voltage regulator 4 feet away.

The temperature sensor for our Outback charger/inverter is mounted against the side of a battery. In both cases they are monitoring the battery temperature and adjusting the charger voltage accordingly.
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Old 05-27-2015, 10:21 AM   #10
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Balmar regs can use TWO temp sensors and both are highly recommended. One monitors alternator temperature and can progressively de-rate the alt if it starts to go over a user-defined temperature threshold. The other monitors battery temp. Current supply is varied according to both.
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Old 05-27-2015, 10:36 AM   #11
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Balmar regs can use TWO temp sensors and both are highly recommended. One monitors alternator temperature and can progressively de-rate the alt if it starts to go over a user-defined temperature threshold. The other monitors battery temp. Current supply is varied according to both.

^^^ Yes, what he said.

The temp sensors for the alternator case are typically easy to install since the alternator and regulator are unually within a few feet of each other.

The temp sensor for the batteries can be easy or it can be difficult depending on how far away your batteries are, and what it takes to get from here to there. I need to run from the engine in the ER, snake under decking to the back of the ER, find a way through to the laz, find a way into one of the battery "cabinets", disconnect and pull out batteries to gain access, discover that the battery sensor cable is surely too short so splice in an extension, zip tie everything and clip off the ends, cut myself a few times on the cut ends, reconnect the batteries and put them back in, then go connect the wires to the regulator. Oh, and bang my head a few times along the way. That's why I'm avoiding it. Plus, with the batteries in the laz, not the ER, their temp is much less subject to variation. But I should still be compensating the charge voltages based on their temp, so will do it one rainy day in the future. Perhaps we can start a pool on when I actually do it. One month? 2 months? 6 months? a year? Never? (not sure how you would collect on that one)
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Old 05-27-2015, 04:34 PM   #12
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Tree, put me down for a five pack for the "never" time frame. I would never risk my LAST beer on a wager! Could it be your balmar just needs a new reg?
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:39 PM   #13
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Another smart regulator story/question for the TF collective:

My problem has been that the house bank has not been getting any significant charge from the house alternator when out cruising.

Upon return to the dock, shorepower gets the batts charged up after a few hours. The fans run on the ProTec4, normal during a bulk charge (14.5V), then the charger tapers off and voltage at rest is 13.4V at the batts, 13.2V at the analog voltmeter on the panel forward. All good there.

Alternator is a Leece-Neville 8MR2199K, 12V, 51 Amps. It passed with a C+ on bench test, having it rebuilt anyways to factory spec as a spare. Have a new same-as unit to install. I believe these come with a single setpoint regulator bolted on the back of the unit. I'm going to stick with these for now/forseeable future.

Battery bank is for the house, US2200 batts, 232 Amp-hr, 2 X 2 arrangement. Midships, so it doesn't get cooked in the engine room.

Boat is V-drive, so alternator is way-aft, regulator is midships under the stairs, batteries just fwd of that mid-ships. Separate 24V alt/batts for starting Isuzu, that works great.

All wiring on the batts and chargers is good, clean, big, modern stuff. From the 12V alternator fwd to the bulkhead is questionable, hard to trace down (boat is 25 y.o.)

I think the regulator/wiring is my problem. It has a really old 3-wire external regulator bolted to the bulkhead about 8 ft run fwd of alternator. Is one of those potted rectangular units, about 3" x3". The spare is same, but dated "1987" and the can is severely rusted from years of storage in the locker.

I fixed the crimps in the old regulator wiring, went from 12.5 to 13.4 V at the regulator, which I believe showed as about 13.2V at the batteries.

I think the old regulator is bad, the old spare is too old to trust on a new/rebuilt alternator.

So, a plan fwd is to spend the $$ on a modern ramping voltage regulator like a Balmar ARS-5, mount it where I can work with it under the stairs with the engine running, get the regulator wiring sized correctly for the run back to the alternator. Then tune the bulk charging current to around 40/45 amps after I have run the house bank down 1/3/ to 1/2. Seems to me I should be able to tune the smart regulator to work with the alternator/battery set I have and avoid toasting the alternator.

Does this make sense to you smart guys? What am I missing? Do I really need to put a temp sensor on the alternator if I've tuned the output to reasonable amperage?

Thanks for reading this, I've learned a bunch lurking here last couple months!
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:36 PM   #14
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Have you considered using an internally regulated alternator as a simple alternative? Unless you're making long (6-8 hr) runs regularly, you won't need the float charge capability and will get the bulk/absorption phases to recharge the house bank. I'd consider a larger capacity alternator within the limits of your alternator belt to beef up the charge.

Alternator cable sizing is critical. My boat came to me with very undersized wires for adequate charging. The alt hot wire ran across the top of the engine via ~ size 8 wire to the starter lug where the current passed through the start cables and the batt switches to the batts. I replaced this with a size 4 cable from the alternator to the batts to accommodate a 100A charge. I also upgraded the alternator ground cable. This allows me to charge at close to 100A when needed. I'm not a fan of crimped or spliced alternator cables. I'd replace them with single cables cut to the desired length.

If you're sold on replacing the external regulator, I think it's hard to beat the Balmar MC-614 regulator. I have one installed on my Balmar alternator and like it. If it fails, I can revert to the alternator's internal regulator so I have redundancy.
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:45 PM   #15
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FlyW, I am open to considering using the internal regulator or a simple external regulator. I like simple. I don't see us doing a bunch of long runs until at least 2017, plenty to explore/learn between here and the end of Vancouver Island.

I need to check what I have for wire gauge to/from the alternator; seemed light for 50 amps in my experience.

At this point I'm gonna stay with the alternator frame I have due to space constraints. The 24 V alt is stacked right above it and the port stringer is right below. I got 2-belt drive though, so I can put the power to the pulley. My rebuilder mentioned he could rewind to increase ampacity, I will talk with him about that.

I'll look into the B-614.

Another consideration would be put regulator $$ towards a 2KW portable generator for the flybridge. We had one of those going for a high-powered ham radio amp, but that is another story!

Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:59 PM   #16
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If I had to choose between an external alt reg and a Honda eu2000i, I'd pick the Honda, hands down. I have both and the gen allows me to remain on the hook until whichever runs out first - the water or beer.

I need to start packing more beer. I've yet to run my 75 gal water tank dry.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:36 PM   #17
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I need to check what I have for wire gauge to/from the alternator; seemed light for 50 amps in my experience.

Another consideration would be put regulator $$ towards a 2KW portable generator for the flybridge. We had one of those going for a high-powered ham radio amp, but that is another story!

Thanks for the feedback.
I just installed a Xantrex 20A smart charger ($240 Amazon) with 12/14 gauge A/C wires to be my dockside QB.

For 2 banks it's dead simple, and you've got good battery management for the 90% of the time you may not be on patrol.
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:03 AM   #18
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I just installed a Xantrex 20A smart charger ($240 Amazon) with 12/14 gauge A/C wires to be my dockside QB.
Is that 12/14 A/C gauge different from a DC wire gauge?
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Old 12-04-2015, 07:07 AM   #19
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The regulator in a car or truck unit is designed for that service.

99% of the time it is expected to put a very tiny amount of juice back in from the start , the rest of the time it is expected to simply hold the voltage at 14. or so to work the electric stuff like fans, lights ,radio et. all.

When it is (rare) asked to refill an almost dead batt it will charge at about 1/2 of what the batt requires every hour.

So a almost dead 100AH batt will charge at maybe 60A , 50 ends up in the batt with 10 lost to heat and pushing it in..

The next hour 50AH will be needed ,so perhaps 30A charge rate , 25 goes in and only 5 is lost to the push in.

Now 75% full perhaps 17A will be the charge rate with 12 AH going in and 5 more lost to charging.

As you can see unless you run a long time a large battery bank will seldom get charged to the 100% point where internal degradation stops.

The marine charger will hammer the batts with the alt HOT output rating until the bats are at about 80% full.

For cheap car regulators the hot rating is WAY! below the cold rating 65A cold may barely be 40AH hot.
So just hanging on a marine V regulator solves most small house batt requirements.

Should a genuine big $$$ large capacity alternator , that does have a 100A+ HOT rating installed the use of a charge regulating thermostat is a good idea.

The last 15 or 20% of most LA batts requires a long slow push to get to that majic 100% full, which is what batt mfg figure when claiming discharge cycle life.

Many folks find solar the answer to get fully charged.
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Old 12-04-2015, 08:43 AM   #20
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Is that 12/14 A/C gauge different from a DC wire gauge?
No, I just meant that it's a standard size on the A/C plug connector. I had legacy 6 gauge on the incoming DC connectors, and so used 6 gauge 1/4" screw terminals on those (2 plus, 2 negative).

The Xantrex is a very compact unit, expandable to another side by side if needed, and it's up on a bulkhead so not too much "yacht yoga" to install.

You end up with a lot of charging smarts and possibly extended battery life.
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