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Old 01-17-2023, 08:02 PM   #1
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48-volt house bank. Next Gen for boats?

Seems like the cool kit for off grid solar is 48v. There's some 24v, and almost no 12v except Victron.

I've been seeing these all-in-one systems (Inverter/charger/MPPT/transfer switch) such as this one reviewed by Will Prowse.

https://youtu.be/WfIkPI81cdI

3000w inverter, 80 Amp charger, and the solar controller can take up to 5000w/500v of solar panels. It's around $700. Comparable victron components would be 5x that plus a lot of space a cabling.

Balmar now makes a 48v alternator ($2600- ouch).

https://balmar.net/96-series-48v-alternators/

Granted it would mean a second alternator for most boats, but the components and price points seem to be approaching usable for boats.

Server rack batteries are getting pretty afforable and are designed to integrate nicely all-in-one inverters. Seems like this is coming of age. Anyone thinking of a 48v house system?

Peter
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Old 01-17-2023, 08:17 PM   #2
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I've considered 24v or 48v house systems. The challenge is that converting an existing boat isn't easy and I don't love the idea of all of the DC stuff running off voltage converters.

Plenty of things will take 12v or 24v input already or are easy to swap for a 24v version, go going to 24v house is mostly an exercise in parts swapping (save for a few things like VHFs where 24v stuff is hard to find).

For 48v, finding even the basics like bilge pumps is basically impossible.

Personally, if I were to do it, I think I'd end up with a split 12v and 48v house system. The 12v side would be something like a single AGM that's permanently in float fed by a DC-DC converter running off the 48v house bank. In theory, that battery should never get discharged, so it'll last a long time just acting as a buffer at 13.5 volts or so. This could also be done with a 24v house and only using the separate 12v bus for things like helm electronics that can't be had in a 24v version, etc.


In the long run, if you want big inverters fed from large battery banks, etc. then you pretty much get forced into at least a 24v house bank.
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Old 01-17-2023, 08:36 PM   #3
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I've considered 24v or 48v house systems. The challenge is that converting an existing boat isn't easy and I don't love the idea of all of the DC stuff running off voltage converters.

Plenty of things will take 12v or 24v input already or are easy to swap for a 24v version, go going to 24v house is mostly an exercise in parts swapping (save for a few things like VHFs where 24v stuff is hard to find).

For 48v, finding even the basics like bilge pumps is basically impossible.

Personally, if I were to do it, I think I'd end up with a split 12v and 48v house system. The 12v side would be something like a single AGM that's permanently in float fed by a DC-DC converter running off the 48v house bank. In theory, that battery should never get discharged, so it'll last a long time just acting as a buffer at 13.5 volts or so. This could also be done with a 24v house and only using the separate 12v bus for things like helm electronics that can't be had in a 24v version, etc.


In the long run, if you want big inverters fed from large battery banks, etc. then you pretty much get forced into at least a 24v house bank.
I wasn't clear. Would keep the existing DC system (12v/24v/whatever). But rather than adapt the AC system as some sort of multiple of DC, just go with the purpose-built off-grid AC system. All the LFP bank would do is power the AC system, perhaps charge the DC system when needed.

Thoughts? Just seems boats are seeking more off-grid capabilities. Why not use the best/brightest thinking and components in the off-grid industry?

Peter
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Old 01-17-2023, 08:39 PM   #4
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I wasn't clear. Would keep the existing DC system (12v/24v/whatever). But rather than adapt the AC system as some sort of multiple of DC, just go with the purpose-built off-grid AC system. All the LFP bank would do is power the AC system, perhaps charge the DC system when needed.

Thoughts? Just seems boats are seeking more off-grid capabilities. Why not use the best/brightest thinking and components in the off-grid industry?

Peter

That's definitely a viable option. I just don't personally like split house banks for DC house and inverter. It strikes me as extra maintenance, and I'd rather have the power all in 1 bucket where I can use it for whatever, instead of only having some portion available for a given purpose.
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Old 01-17-2023, 08:44 PM   #5
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I understand your thinking, but now that house battery banks are getting so massive, maybe it's time to re-think energy management. 5-years ago, 600AH AGM bank (400AH usable) was the bomb. Now, 1000ah LFP (900AH usable) are increasingly common. That's 100% due to house loads, not DC loads. Maybe it's time to re-think the system to match how the boat is used.

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Old 01-19-2023, 07:27 AM   #6
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I understand your thinking, but now that house battery banks are getting so massive, maybe it's time to re-think energy management. 5-years ago, 600AH AGM bank (400AH usable) was the bomb. Now, 1000ah LFP (900AH usable) are increasingly common. That's 100% due to house loads, not DC loads. Maybe it's time to re-think the system to match how the boat is used.

Peter
Yeah, once you get into 10+ kwh lithium you pretty much have to go to 48v to enjoy the benefits.

I was struck when wiring my inverter that the cabling was the same size as that in my home service. I get about as much power out of the inverter as I do a single circuit at home. We've taken 12v to the limits. It's a bottleneck now.

There is huge growth in 48v marine. It's easy to get thrusters in 48v, and I suspect lots of good A/C products. There are lots of small saildrive units that could provide backup propulsion. It can be about more than just powering big inverters.

And imagine being able to draw 5 kw from your main engine on demand. That's got to be a useful capability.

You need a use case and rationale for making changes though. 'Reality rears its ugly head,' an old friend used to say. The recreational market shows the way, but marine solutions are still pricey.
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Old 01-19-2023, 10:18 AM   #7
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Yeah, once you get into 10+ kwh lithium you pretty much have to go to 48v to enjoy the benefits.

I was struck when wiring my inverter that the cabling was the same size as that in my home service. I get about as much power out of the inverter as I do a single circuit at home. We've taken 12v to the limits. It's a bottleneck now.

There is huge growth in 48v marine. It's easy to get thrusters in 48v, and I suspect lots of good A/C products. There are lots of small saildrive units that could provide backup propulsion. It can be about more than just powering big inverters.

And imagine being able to draw 5 kw from your main engine on demand. That's got to be a useful capability.

You need a use case and rationale for making changes though. 'Reality rears its ugly head,' an old friend used to say. The recreational market shows the way, but marine solutions are still pricey.
So here's a sample off-grid system that is 100% UL Certified (not just compliant). This one is 240v with 30kwh of battery storage (each is $1400, which is damn cheap - HERE). The EG4 all-in-one is $1200 HERE.

https://www.mobile-solarpower.com/48...blueprint.html

Scale the picture in the above down to 120vac and just two 100A/48V batteries for a boat. For around $4k, you have the equivilent of eight BattleBorn 100AH (12V) batteries; an enormous MPPT solar controller (accepts 8000W/500V solar panel input); a 6500W inverter with transfer switch; and 120A (48V) battery charger. And it's UL certified.

Just seems like dealing with 48v is a lot easier problem to solve than dealing with tons of individual components, cabling, etc. as part of a 12v or 24v Victron-based system.

I'm not going to do this, but if I were starting from scratch I would consider. And if I were building a boat, I'd sure as hell have a place for server-rack batteries.

Peter
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Old 01-19-2023, 10:43 AM   #8
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Just seems like dealing with 48v is a lot easier problem to solve than dealing with tons of individual components, cabling, etc. as part of a 12v or 24v Victron-based system.
Victron has a full suite of 48v products. The choice of operating voltage is independent of the choice of individual solutions or components.

A couple of years ago there were lots of consumer offerings in 12v that had similar (reduced) capabilities. I think there was general agreement here at the time that they weren't really suitable for long term marine use.

I think you still need the basic set of components, but they provide more power handling and reduced cabling constraints with 48v.
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Old 01-19-2023, 10:53 AM   #9
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I think 48V is where things are heading. Increasingly, big batteries are primarily needed for inverters, and they make a lot of sense there. But there are still dangling issues that are slowly getting resolved.

Thrusters, windlasses, etc are slowly becoming available in 48V, but not commonplace. Prestolite used to have a 48V alternator but dropped it. Balmar has one that they probably custom wind, but itís not the largest frame, and not the highest output. I considered 48V, but the alternators were the hang up since I didnít want a custom one-off. But it will all get there. Land systems have been 48V for a long time, and increasingly companies are only making 48V inverters. My home system have been 48V for about 15 years now.

Oh, and another challenge is circuit breaker and switch ratings. Lots of current products are rated for 32V, give or take. For a 48V nominal system everything needs to be rated to 60V or higher.
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Old 01-20-2023, 03:43 AM   #10
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Prestolite used to have a 48V alternator but dropped it. Balmar has one that they probably custom wind, but itís not the largest frame, and not the highest output. I considered 48V, but the alternators were the hang up since I didnít want a custom one-off.
Everyone's use case is different, of course. Someone who is into solar may be fine foregoing a 48v alternator when building a 48v pack. That may explain the dearth of offerings. Just speculating here. Maybe generator driven charging and solar are sufficient for the majority of adopters of 48v systems, with alternators left supporting the legacy 12v system.
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Old 01-20-2023, 05:06 AM   #11
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I decided to go all AC power when I got my current boat (except nav electronics, nav lights and bilge pumps. I've used a 48v system for about 10 years and don't find it any more trouble than 12v. What I like and why I went with 48v was the smaller wiring needed to allow me to place the inverter further away from the batteries. And at the time 48v inverters put out the power I wanted and simpler to gang inverters for higher power output.

Any alternator can be changed to put out 48v, but most automotive types can't run at full power too long w/o overheating. I run a 48v alternator on each main along with a 12v. Not difficult to add an alternator on a Detroit Diesel with several places for taking power.

I use to run a generator all the time, but with the mains charging the inverter bank, I almost don't need a generator. I only use one now when anchored for several days and time it to water making and laundry.
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Old 01-20-2023, 08:55 AM   #12
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I think 48V is where things are heading. Increasingly, big batteries are primarily needed for inverters, and they make a lot of sense there. But there are still dangling issues that are slowly getting resolved.

Thrusters, windlasses, etc are slowly becoming available in 48V, but not commonplace. Prestolite used to have a 48V alternator but dropped it. Balmar has one that they probably custom wind, but itís not the largest frame, and not the highest output. I considered 48V, but the alternators were the hang up since I didnít want a custom one-off. But it will all get there. Land systems have been 48V for a long time, and increasingly companies are only making 48V inverters. My home system have been 48V for about 15 years now.

Oh, and another challenge is circuit breaker and switch ratings. Lots of current products are rated for 32V, give or take. For a 48V nominal system everything needs to be rated to 60V or higher.
I was not thinking of converting any of the existing DC (12v or 24v) to 48v. Rather do what Lepke has apparently done: dedicate the house bank to AC current generation (120VAC and/or 240VAC). Would require maintaining and perhaps mildly enlarging the existing DC battery bank; and adding a second 48v alternator to one/both engines.

Here's my thinking. 30-years ago, a 42-foot cabin cruiser probably consumed 500w/h of electricity per day - 1/2 kwh of electricity (both AC and DC). Probably 50% AC via a generator, 50% DC via battery storage.

With the advent of inverters, then solar and LFP, the thirst for more house-like AC attachments (watermakers, W/Ds, TVs, small appliances, etc.) can now be mostly quenched without becoming a full-time generator boat. The net DC usage (excluding inverter loads) has probably remained static or perhaps decreased due to electronics being more efficient; while net AC usage (including inverter load) has exploded. Simultaneously, LFP batteries are affordable sources of lightweight and energy dense storage that can more easily be replenished than their FLA predecessors.

There's a lot of momentum towards AC power on a modern 42-foot cruiser. While the components of the power system have modernized, the overall configuration and design of the AC power system remains the same as 30-years ago when it served a much smaller purpose. The Off Grid community offers a better mousetrap - 48v components such as 48v server-rack batteries and all-in-one controllers. But it does require de-coupling of the house bank from the ship's DC config (DC-DC charger could provide a small bridge). To my eyes, it's a more efficient and less complicated system that is a cleaner install.

Peter
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Old 01-20-2023, 09:12 AM   #13
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Thinking about the loads I've got onboard, it's a pretty good mix of AC and DC. Fridge is DC, most of our lighting is DC, electronics for internet and systems monitoring are all DC, helm electronics (at least some of which run 24/7 at anchor) are DC, as is the stereo. For AC, we have some lighting, the base station for the onboard cameras, the ice maker, and lots of incidental loads (phone charging, making coffee, etc.). I'd say our typical loads (ignoring the ice maker dying last season and pending repair) are split about 50/50 between AC and DC.

We keep AC power available 24/7 via the inverter. Given more battery and solar capacity, I'd up-size the inverter and move a few loads like the stove onto it, which would increase our AC usage from batteries noticeably. But I doubt our DC usage would drop below 25 - 30% unless we convert to AC powered refrigeration. And more importantly as far as structuring the electrical system, if I look at the most critical loads, I come up with things like VHFs, bilge pumps, etc. which are all DC.

That said, converting to a higher voltage house bank doesn't inherently mean having to segment the power systems completely. If going 24v for house, it's easy to keep most of it together with just a small segment of devices that need a 12v step-down. If going 48v, then your DC devices won't be run directly from the house bank, so it'll take some planning to figure out how you do want to power them and how to do it reliably.

Interestingly, if going for the voltage converter method of powering the DC house loads, some items like bilge pumps will perform better than in a pure 12v or 24v system. They'll get constant voltage at, say, 13.5 volts rather than potentially only getting 11.8 volts if the batteries are down to 50% and there's a significant load running. Of course, LFP batteries give some of that same advantage regardless (due to their flatter voltage curve).


The one big load that stuck in my mind as an issue is a windlass. They're typically 12 or 24v, so with a 48v house bank, you'd need a huge DC-DC converter to run one (or you'd be forced to have a separate windlass battery). But that's actually solved now! It looks like Maxwell has started offering 48v motors for most of their windlass models. Which means even at 48v, you could run the windlass natively from the house bank.
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Old 01-20-2023, 12:15 PM   #14
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I've been thinking about this a lot as well. When I got my boat 4 years ago I ripped out the entire 120V system and the generator and re-wired as a 12V only single-bank boat - wiring was 1979 original with lots of "improvements" and not safe. I used FLA batteries and a fair bit of 4/0 and 2/0 cable.

If I were to do it now I'd think seriously about a big LFP 48v bus and a single 12V AGM battery for engine start and to stabilize the 12VDC bus for house loads as discussed above. Being able to shop at Home Depot versus West Marine is a big deal. Eliminating propane to go induction would be a no-brainer. 120VAC water pumps would be fantastic.

Are there windlass & thruster motors powered by 120AC? In theory they could be cheaper and more reliable than 48VDC motors.
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Old 01-20-2023, 03:06 PM   #15
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I was not thinking of converting any of the existing DC (12v or 24v) to 48v. Rather do what Lepke has apparently done: dedicate the house bank to AC current generation (120VAC and/or 240VAC). Would require maintaining and perhaps mildly enlarging the existing DC battery bank; and adding a second 48v alternator to one/both engines.

Here's my thinking. 30-years ago, a 42-foot cabin cruiser probably consumed 500w/h of electricity per day - 1/2 kwh of electricity (both AC and DC). Probably 50% AC via a generator, 50% DC via battery storage.

With the advent of inverters, then solar and LFP, the thirst for more house-like AC attachments (watermakers, W/Ds, TVs, small appliances, etc.) can now be mostly quenched without becoming a full-time generator boat. The net DC usage (excluding inverter loads) has probably remained static or perhaps decreased due to electronics being more efficient; while net AC usage (including inverter load) has exploded. Simultaneously, LFP batteries are affordable sources of lightweight and energy dense storage that can more easily be replenished than their FLA predecessors.

There's a lot of momentum towards AC power on a modern 42-foot cruiser. While the components of the power system have modernized, the overall configuration and design of the AC power system remains the same as 30-years ago when it served a much smaller purpose. The Off Grid community offers a better mousetrap - 48v components such as 48v server-rack batteries and all-in-one controllers. But it does require de-coupling of the house bank from the ship's DC config (DC-DC charger could provide a small bridge). To my eyes, it's a more efficient and less complicated system that is a cleaner install.

Peter

I agree. Contemplating 48V for inverters also entails deciding what to do with other heavy DC loads. You can keep them, along with an appropriately sized 24 or 12V bank, or you can look at pushing them to either 48VDC, or 120/240VAC. On my current boat I decided early on that AC power would be a 24x7 thing, either via inverters, shore power, or generators. As a result, I pushed a lot of stuff to AC, and 240VAC at that. Watermakers, fuel transfer pumps, waste pumps, oil transfer pumps, house water pumps are all 240VAC. I didn't make the steering pumps AC, but in hind sight probably should have. This was part of contemplating 48VDC for the inverters, such that I could keep a more modest 24V bank, along with a 12V communications bank. I think it all could have worked, but I was going to end up with 3 different voltage battery banks, not two, and that seemed to be moving in the wrong direction. And as noted earlier, I couldn't get comfortable with the availability of 48V alternators. I rely on them heavy for all underway power, and to recharge batteries while underway. Solar can't even come close on this boat, and I am envious of boats where that does work. Just doesn't in my case between available space and inevitable shading.
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Old 01-20-2023, 04:13 PM   #16
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I agree. Contemplating 48V for inverters also entails deciding what to do with other heavy DC loads. You can keep them, along with an appropriately sized 24 or 12V bank, or you can look at pushing them to either 48VDC, or 120/240VAC. On my current boat I decided early on that AC power would be a 24x7 thing, either via inverters, shore power, or generators. As a result, I pushed a lot of stuff to AC, and 240VAC at that. Watermakers, fuel transfer pumps, waste pumps, oil transfer pumps, house water pumps are all 240VAC. I didn't make the steering pumps AC, but in hind sight probably should have. This was part of contemplating 48VDC for the inverters, such that I could keep a more modest 24V bank, along with a 12V communications bank. I think it all could have worked, but I was going to end up with 3 different voltage battery banks, not two, and that seemed to be moving in the wrong direction. And as noted earlier, I couldn't get comfortable with the availability of 48V alternators. I rely on them heavy for all underway power, and to recharge batteries while underway. Solar can't even come close on this boat, and I am envious of boats where that does work. Just doesn't in my case between available space and inevitable shading.
Two thoughts come to mind reading this:

First, your comments on deciding you would be a 24/7 AC boat is poignent - we are saying the same thing, different scale. Current battery/inverter technology has opened the door to off-grid access for even modest sized boats without routinely firing-up the genny. My point in starting this thread was to suggest maybe it's time to stop thinking in increments of 12v/24v to match the ship's systems.

Second, having spent countless hours (100's to be sure) on my tiny electrical system, I cannot imagine the time, effort, research, and frankly expense you went through on your new boat. I am in absolute awe.

Peter
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Old 01-20-2023, 08:45 PM   #17
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Second, having spent countless hours (100's to be sure) on my tiny electrical system, I cannot imagine the time, effort, research, and frankly expense you went through on your new boat. I am in absolute awe.



Peter
Yep. It's especially awesome that you share your experience and rationale. It's been enormously useful to me over a long time, and has shaped much of my thinking.
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Old 01-22-2023, 11:01 PM   #18
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I also get through the adjacent thread why good 48v alternators are so important for you.
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Old 01-23-2023, 03:36 PM   #19
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Just seems like dealing with 48v is a lot easier problem to solve than dealing with tons of individual components, cabling, etc. as part of a 12v or 24v Victron-based system.

Peter

You are not aware that Victron provides 48 V systems ?
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Old 01-23-2023, 03:39 PM   #20
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You are not aware that Victron provides 48 V systems ?

They do, but I think the point was that there are more component and integrated systems choices once you get to 48v compared to the components available for 12v and 24v systems.
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