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Old 02-07-2021, 01:14 PM   #1
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Generator is Gone

This fall I removed my generator. It was a 3.5kw, single cylinder Volvo diesel powered noise maker that shook the boat when it ran. I'm surprised it lasted this long, but I did enjoy the convenience although I hardly used it the last couple of years.
Here is what I have: I have a house bank and a starting bank each consisting of 2-East Penn Group 31AGM 105ah batteries. I charge them with a Sterling 40amp ProCharge Ultra battery charger. The starting bank powers the bow thruster and the windlass. There is an old Go Power (dirty power) 1750 watt inverter powered by the house bank.
I think it killed the coffee maker and i don't want it to kill the new microwave and smart TV and my computer when i use it on the boat. The fridge is a relatively new NovaKool AC/DC. I have plans to add a two burner induction cooktop since I removed the original electric range two years ago.
Since I'm not retired yet, we only use the boat on weekends and maybe a couple of 5-7 day vacations. We like the quiet and privacy of anchoring and mooring away from marinas. I do not like running the generator in these places even though it was a necessity at times. We usually spend 1-2 days in one place and move on and my Perkins 6.354 has a standard alternator.
Here are my thoughts going forward. I don't necessarily want to go the cheapest route but I don't want to throw tons of money at this either.
Buy a Honda Inverter Generator. Easy but I'm not a big fan of the noise and schlepping it around everytime I use it. I guess I would put it on the swim platform when I use it and store it in the lazarette.
Make a big battery bank. It I take both banks of AGM's and combine them, I can power a 3000 watt pure sine inverter and hard wire it into the AC system. I bought all 4 of the AGM's at the same time and i ran the boat with the battery switch on "all" so all of them were discharged and charged at the same rate. Would I be able to charge this bank and a newly acquired starting battery with the Sterling charger? If I do that, the new starting battery will have to be AGM as well because you can't mix battery chemistries with the Sterling charger. Or should I buy an inverter/charger and just charge the starting battery with the Sterling? I understand that I may still need a generator to charge the large bank on longer stays at anchor.
Last solution: Buy a better boat.
I'm just starting to look at this issue so I haven't done anything yet so I'm open to any suggestions. While I don't have a very luxurious boat, I don't want to go camping, I tend to want the little conveniences at my fingertips.
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Old 02-07-2021, 01:28 PM   #2
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I did the Honda thing. I would have gladly installed a real generator if I had the space.
If you ever want to run an air conditioner the batteries are not going to do the job.
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Old 02-07-2021, 01:50 PM   #3
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I've just gone through a (mostly complete) electrical retrofit - removed the generator (and the entire 120V system, but that sounds like something you'd not want to do!). I converted to one single large battery bank (FLA). Charging is via solar or alternator.

For your use case I'd suggest looking seriously at upgrading your alternator to an externally regulated unit that can charge at 80 or 100A or even more; that might end up being a better place to spend your money than an inverter generator if you're moving every day or two anyway.

Solar is great too, and could help you avoid ever having to run a generator at anchor. Good luck!

Edit - I see a bunch of people responding about air conditioning, but no mention in the original post. The above assumes no A/C of course
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Old 02-07-2021, 01:51 PM   #4
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Below are my recommendations based upon NO science at all, just my gut feelings and experience.

Buy and install a new generator, returning the electrical system to 'normal'.
IF you use A/C you will need a generator.
Buy and install a larger alternator.
Buy and install a larger charger.
Buy and install a larger inverter separate from the charger. One craps out, you still want the other to work.
Buy and install a fuel cell system to recharge the batteries if you insist on running without a generator and charger.
You will not be able to use the A/C nor much of a heater without a generator.

If you have a 1200 watt microwave, you will suck down the batteries quickly (less than a minute) while on the inverter.

Put a separate AMP meter in the galley so you can pick and choose what to run w/o tripping the breakers. Since I put in the AMP meter in my galley, I have tripped the breaker one time, when I forgot I was using the washer. SMIRK

Hot water heater is the first thing I shut off while cooking (watching the amp meter). Check and see if your main engine will heat the water while underway.

Solar power .... as much as you can do.

Question: No one ever told you to replace all the batteries at one time? Especially of you intend to parallel them?
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Old 02-07-2021, 01:54 PM   #5
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I am in the same exact position so I will be following. Right now I am thinking about adding a Victron 3000 120 12. A new 400ah house bank and the MFD interface. Still deciding on LA or AGM or Lifepo. I may buy a Honda 2000 for emergency charging or A/C. It the Admiral orders AC it’s an emergency! Can you Tru a 12000btu AC off a Honda?
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Old 02-07-2021, 01:57 PM   #6
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Let me/us know the amperage draw on your 2 burner induction stove top, please.
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Old 02-07-2021, 02:01 PM   #7
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Watching...I'm actively considering doing a similar process

How much room/existing solar do you have? One of the benefits of a lightly used boat is that solar can silently charge a battery bank without fuel use while you are away to be available for peak loads when you arrive back for the day or weekend cruise. The Honda can also be used for top ups as required.

I do like the idea of building a "solar generator" to limit generator noise, fuel use and maintenance. I do have a large, single pitched roof to work with so this may not be the solution for everyone.

Would a couple more batteries (to provide the capacity and peak current you are chasing) and a basic pure sine wave inverter (to give clean power) be a modest upgrade to get what you want? Recharge via a combination of solar, alternator and/or small genset??

Good luck
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Old 02-07-2021, 02:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowandsteady View Post
Here is what I have: I have a house bank and a starting bank each consisting of 2-East Penn Group 31AGM 105ah batteries. I charge them with a Sterling 40amp ProCharge Ultra battery charger. The starting bank powers the bow thruster and the windlass. There is an old Go Power (dirty power) 1750 watt inverter powered by the house bank.

I think it killed the coffee maker and i don't want it to kill the new microwave and smart TV and my computer when i use it on the boat. The fridge is a relatively new NovaKool AC/DC. I have plans to add a two burner induction cooktop since I removed the original electric range two years ago.

Since I'm not retired yet, we only use the boat on weekends and maybe a couple of 5-7 day vacations. We like the quiet and privacy of anchoring and mooring away from marinas. I do not like running the generator in these places even though it was a necessity at times. We usually spend 1-2 days in one place and move on and my Perkins 6.354 has a standard alternator.

Here are my thoughts going forward. I don't necessarily want to go the cheapest route but I don't want to throw tons of money at this either.
Buy a Honda Inverter Generator. Easy but I'm not a big fan of the noise and schlepping it around everytime I use it. I guess I would put it on the swim platform when I use it and store it in the lazarette.

Make a big battery bank. It I take both banks of AGM's and combine them, I can power a 3000 watt pure sine inverter and hard wire it into the AC system. I bought all 4 of the AGM's at the same time and i ran the boat with the battery switch on "all" so all of them were discharged and charged at the same rate. Would I be able to charge this bank and a newly acquired starting battery with the Sterling charger? If I do that, the new starting battery will have to be AGM as well because you can't mix battery chemistries with the Sterling charger. Or should I buy an inverter/charger and just charge the starting battery with the Sterling? I understand that I may still need a generator to charge the large bank on longer stays at anchor.
Some of these can likely co-exist. Thoughts:

Get a portable propane grill for outdoor cooking.

Bag the GoPower inverter.

Instead of combining existing banks to make one big one, make a really big one up to approx the weight of the genset you removed. (Or at least start with your 4 G31 AGMs, and buy new starting batteries.) Imagine a 900-Ah bank, though, with something like six L16s.

Charge the new giant housebank with a new giant inverter/charger (to take advantage of a newer/bigger charger's higher current rate).

That giant bank/inverter may well power an induction cooktop (shop wisely). If so, that bank may be sufficient for the normal duration of your typical cruises.

Maybe provide hot water from a loop off your engine.

If that turns out to be insufficient, then reconsider that portable genset idea... focused on powering the new inverter/charger for a while, and heating water. Or maybe a solar solution for recharging might present itself in the meantime...

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Old 02-07-2021, 02:12 PM   #9
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Can you Tru a 12000btu AC off a Honda?
Greatlaker, I doubt it but, I have no knowledge on the subject.
Check the amperage output of the Honda compared to the amperage draw of the A/C.

If you insist on using a small generator ie Honda, make sure you close the aft door to prevent the "station wagon" effect. Put a CO detecter at the back door too.
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Old 02-07-2021, 03:22 PM   #10
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I do have an AC but I have no illusions of being able to run it without a generator. I have only used it on shore power. I think the Honda will borderline power the AC. I have to check the documentation.

I do not think this boat warrants the expense of a new generator install. i just don't want to sink that kind of money into this boat. (yes, I said "sink"...)

I have a propane grill in the cockpit. We use it all the time.

I do get hot water off the engine.

I haven't looked at the cooktop yet. Maybe I'll consider a different fuel.

I bought all 4 AGM's at the same time.

I'm not sure if I would leave the new inverter on all the time. All lighting is LED. The only time I would need it is for preparing meals.
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Old 02-07-2021, 03:27 PM   #11
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I have also entertained the idea of solar. Since I have a sizable hardtop i think I can fit a couple of fairly large ones up there. It was always in the back of my mind.
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Old 02-07-2021, 03:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greatlaker221 View Post
I am in the same exact position so I will be following. Right now I am thinking about adding a Victron 3000 120 12. A new 400ah house bank and the MFD interface. Still deciding on LA or AGM or Lifepo. I may buy a Honda 2000 for emergency charging or A/C. It the Admiral orders AC it’s an emergency! Can you Tru a 12000btu AC off a Honda?
You might be able to run a 12000 btu AC on the little Honda but getting it to start might be very difficult.

I ran a little 5000 btu AC on a Honda 2000 but I had to install a starting capacitor. The AC only took 600 watts to run but it took over 3000 watts to get it started. Talk to an AC manufacturer about what you want to do.
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Old 02-07-2021, 04:21 PM   #13
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My Honda 2000i died, it didn't like the salt environment and even though it never got wet the dampness killed it. I am in agreement that if you run 110 appliances you need a generator, inverters are hard on smaller battery banks.

I run two 4D AGM's as a house bank and have a 100 amp alternator, everything is DC and I can hang on the hook for a few days before the bank is pulled down. It is usually topped back off in under two hours running, and if I got stuck too badly to motor I could always run the engine medium hard to charge the bank.

Of course in Alaska, air conditioning isn't an issue :-)
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:12 PM   #14
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For a while, a few years back, the little Hondas were pretty popular. They run pretty quiet until you have to listen to one for a few hours, especially on a neighbors boat at anchor.

I guess they are OK for an emergency but your neighbors will not like them.

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Old 02-07-2021, 10:15 PM   #15
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The Victron Mulit has a feature to add battery power from the batteries when a boost is needed. Maybe that would get an AC to start and the Honda to keep it going. Wonder if an after market additional muffler would help with noise. A little diesel genny would be nice.
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Old 02-08-2021, 03:22 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowandsteady View Post
I do have an AC but I have no illusions of being able to run it without a generator. I have only used it on shore power. I think the Honda will borderline power the AC. I have to check the documentation.

I do not think this boat warrants the expense of a new generator install. i just don't want to sink that kind of money into this boat. (yes, I said "sink"...)

I have a propane grill in the cockpit. We use it all the time.

I do get hot water off the engine.

I haven't looked at the cooktop yet. Maybe I'll consider a different fuel.

I bought all 4 AGM's at the same time.

I'm not sure if I would leave the new inverter on all the time. All lighting is LED. The only time I would need it is for preparing meals.

What is the Ah rating of your 4 AGM's?
I have 4 x 120Ah AGM's plus another one for start battery.

This runs my fridge, freezer and lighting continuously with just a single 250 watt solar panel. No need for a generator.
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Old 02-08-2021, 04:45 AM   #17
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I did the Honda thing. I would have gladly installed a real generator if I had the space.
If you ever want to run an air conditioner the batteries are not going to do the job.
This is the bottom line. ^^^^^^^

Eight years ago I decided aircon was not necessary and removed a 7.5kW Onan and a 2.5kW MASE. I have 2070W of solar, 2 x 200A alts on the mains and now a 1700AH house bank.

Oh, and a Honda. Which reminds me, I should actually start it again soon. I think it still runs, but I haven't used it for many, many months!
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Old 02-08-2021, 05:06 AM   #18
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Two solar panels will give you over 150 AH @ 12v per day - the equivalent of adding two batteries into your system. I'd guess most Norcold style fridges that are common on our boats draw around 70 AH per day depending on ambient climate and usage. Cost is around $1000 by the time you complete the DIY install. Compared to actually adding a couple AGMs (which I know the OP is not considering, but just doing the comparison), solar isn't a bad deal. I have never heard anyone say it was a mistake to add or expand their solar power.

Sounds like the OP would also benefit from a decent inverter charger regardless of power source upgrade (solar, generator, or hi output alternator). They are not cheap, but your money goes so much further with modern sets. A little over $1000 gets a very high quality inverter charger.

Depending on your location and time of year, the above system would likely give you enough solar power for modest electric cooking - induction burner, Instapot, crock pot, short duration microwave heat-up, etc. It would not power AC of course, nor provide enough AH for anything with a resistive heating element such as older electric stove or water heater.

Coupled with some minor conservation habits, the above will very likely give you a better electricity experience than your old generator with a peep of noise nor hassle.

If per chance more power is still needed, an externally regulated high output alternator would be next logical upgrade. The limiting item here is if your engine's fan belt arrangement can carry the extra load. A single traditional v- belt will max out at 90A or so. Serpentine it dual belts can go well over 150A. Balmar alternators are not cheap. Some folks use automotive or commercial vehicle alternators that are a third the cost.

Good luck.

Peter
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Old 02-08-2021, 07:36 AM   #19
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The much discussed in the old Yahoo group Crosspower 3.5 single cylinder Volvo MD5 full boat vibration system. You may hold the record for having kept one running this long. Bulletproof as they are, raw water cooled at that, that's an admiral lifespan. Hand crank start capability? Who does that anymore?

Be advised that when I finally removed mine I posted it online for sale, and sold it for something like $600. Seems these were very common in many small sailboats as the propulsion engine and parts are scarce and valuable. If I remember the buyer only wanted the head, and was very happy to buy my old entire Volvo engine for that price.




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This fall I removed my generator. It was a 3.5kw, single cylinder Volvo diesel powered noise maker that shook the boat when it ran. I'm surprised it lasted this long,
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Old 02-08-2021, 08:50 AM   #20
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I went the Honda eu2000i route when my westerbeke died. The Honda will struggle to run a single marine air conditioning unit. Mine would struggle to start a 5 amp freezer box. It would only if you turned Economy Mode off during the start. My Magnum 2000 inverter charger needed to be manually limited to 10 amps of shorepower. Unlimited charging draws 16 amp which is about 120% of the Honda max continuous load. I went for a new marine generator.
The good news is if the honda doesnt fit your needs, you can sell it for pretty much what you paid for it.
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