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post #21 of 26 Old 02-07-2014
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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Maine Sail,

Many thanks for this, (and your many other), informative post. I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to drop plans for adding an inverter, and concentrate on upgrading the battery bank, alternator, charger, and related components for this refit. I'm also dropping plans to use the Dual Circuit Plus Battery Switch and ACR, and go with the existing switch and the Balmar Digital Duo Charge. I also like your rationale for going with 12v lighter outlets, and the idea of revamping the solar setup, (once the underlying refit is done).

In terms of my planned usage for my boat, it's pretty much all new for me. It's my first sailboat, and while I have plans for trips to visit relatives in both Boston and Miami from here in the Chesapeake, (and eventually to do the Atlantic Circle), I'm not sure how many seasons it will take for me to work up to making those trips. I imagine that this coming season she will be mostly at the dock and used for day or overnight trips, eventually stretching out to multi-day trips, as I gain experience.

In terms of the existing electrical system, not only are some of the electrical items you mentioned in need of replacing, I'm inclined to replace as much as I can with new, because some of the prior work wasn't professionally done. Some of the wiring isn't up to code, (wire nuts instead of waterproof-type crimps), so I'd like to clean it all up and have it rock solid. I figure that it's also a good time to start with some new components. You're right in that I wanted to change to specifically the Lifeline 31XT AGM batteries, because utilizing the same battery box, I could get 375ah for my house bank. I had decided to go with the ProMariner/Sterling 50amp charger, and figured that the other main decision would be the alternator.

The boat is powered by the original engine, Volvo Penta (1990), 2003 HE BT, (I'm not sure what the HE BT means after the model number, but it's on the warranty card so I'm pretty sure this is not the Penta 2003T). When I contacted ElectroMaax tech support and provided them some photos of the current engine/alternator, they said that they had the appropriate serpentine belt kit, (PK-VP2003). When I provided the same photos and request to Balmar tech support, they weren't sure. They want me to take photos with a better view of the mount, before they tell me if they have the right belt kit. (Although it looks like the ElectroMaax kit supports Balmar alternators too..) At this point I don't mind spending the money on a new serpentine kit and alternator, especially if it translates to better power transfer, less fuel use, etc.

I do know that as a tech geek, I'm always going to want cool electronics to be part of my boating experience. My plans for her include her being my new writer's office. As a result, I'm considering adding cell and/or wifi boosters as part of this refit. Also, my next electronic refit will include adding the Fusion DVD player, amplifier, new speakers with subwoofer, and a TV. I'm definitely going to want this stuff to be powered whether I'm at the dock or underway. So any work that I do to overbuild my electrical system now may be justified by my expanding usage plans, in the near future.

Jason
If you really want to spend the money on a good alt then the Balmar AT165 can't be beat. These are mean a$$ alts that can output tremendous current at low RPM and still run cool!!

Balmar bought AltMount which are all Yanmar kits. They also partner with E-Maax and sell their serp kits but they are all designed by E-Maax. E-Maax sells their kits and the Balmar AT series alternators.... That said I think you would do fine with just a new regulator.....

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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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If you really want to spend the money on a good alt then the Balmar AT165 can't be beat.
Thanks again.. I think I'm leaning in that direction. Lastly for me, if you have recommendations along the lines of good solar panel controllers, and good brands of solar panels, I'm all ears.

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post #23 of 26 Old 02-07-2014
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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Upsizing battery banks has many positive attributes over one that is sized to the loads.

...useful stuff trimmed...

The biggest bank you can fit will result in the longest life and allow you a lot more peace & quiet. My average sailboat customer uses 50-125Ah per 24 hour period....... People very often forget to account for all the computer loads they are using. I have one customers who uses about 40Ah per day between phones, iPads and laptops alone. He thought they used about 2-3 Ah's in his energy budget...... Whoops....!!! That bank lasted 14 months......
In my post I said that I've never seen my SOC drop below 85% for my 180AH bank. On a typical day during my 7 weeks of cruising this summer it never fell below 93%. That is a generous amount of excess capacity, do you really think that I would benefit from carrying even more batteries? What would I gain at that point besides more dead weight on the boat?

I usually feel like I could have saved weight and money by going with a single group 27 or 31 battery instead of my pair of group 24 batteries.

I did measure all of my loads beforehand. That was my suggestion to the original poster: calculate loads, figure out your daily consumption, and plan accordingly.

40ah per day is 480 watt hours. That is extreme considering that your average modern laptop (such as the Lenovo Yoga 13 or Macbook Air 13) has a 60 watt hour battery and can run for 7-10 hours on it. Tablets have even smaller batteries. 480 watt hours should allow for 4 current laptops to be used 24x7.

Older laptops did use much more power than modern ones (Intel Haswell chips use a fraction of the power of their predecessors). It might be worth upgrading.

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post #24 of 26 Old 02-07-2014
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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In my post I said that I've never seen my SOC drop below 85% for my 180AH bank. On a typical day during my 7 weeks of cruising this summer it never fell below 93%. That is a generous amount of excess capacity, do you really think that I would benefit from carrying even more batteries? What would I gain at that point besides more dead weight on the boat?

I usually feel like I could have saved weight and money by going with a single group 27 or 31 battery instead of my pair of group 24 batteries.

I did measure all of my loads beforehand. That was my suggestion to the original poster: calculate loads, figure out your daily consumption, and plan accordingly.

40ah per day is 480 watt hours. That is extreme considering that your average modern laptop (such as the Lenovo Yoga 13 or Macbook Air 13) has a 60 watt hour battery and can run for 7-10 hours on it. Tablets have even smaller batteries. 480 watt hours should allow for 4 current laptops to be used 24x7.

Older laptops did use much more power than modern ones (Intel Haswell chips use a fraction of the power of their predecessors). It might be worth upgrading.
In your case your system seems well sized and 180Ah with LED and no DC fridge is not bad on a 28 footer. If you never dip below 80% SOC then your bank will last a long while, expect 8+ years. What do you use to monitor SOC?

As for the op with refrigeration and a 34 footer 375Ah is pretty typical size wise and I would not consider it overkill if you want the entertainment items and a few days of peace & quiet.

My customer with the 40Ah/day habit does have an older 17" laptop for nav (old blue & silver HP) his wife has a laptop and he also has his work laptop. None of them are low consumers. I have measured his nav computer peaking at 7.2A while processing & charging and this was running off 12V.. They also run a Wilson cell booster because the are both physicians and often need to be within cell range. He also has two kids with an iPad each, plus phones and more gadgets like kids video game stuff, GoPro, multiple cameras etc. constantly sucking on the system.

I have a customer with a very similar system to yours minus the solar. 2 G24 house, all LED, no fridge and a stock 55A alt. He bounces between 50 & 85% SOC when out cruising and I suspect most of it is computers and his auto pilot because his e7D and instruments etc only burn under 3A unless radar is spinning. He does run multiple cabin fans though... His batt mon is manually reset when he leaves the dock to keep it from drift issues..

Before we had kids and LiFePO4 we could survive comfortably on 25-30 Ah / day now we are around 50Ah - 75Ah. We could use less but we don't want to hear the engine so use DC refrigeration more than the engine driven like we used to. In the off season with the Espar that bumps closer to 85-90Ah..

Shallow cycles like you are doing will lead to much longer battery life but every boater has different needs and I find a large percentage are more often undersized for their loads.

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Last edited by Maine Sail; 02-07-2014 at 11:11 PM.
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post #25 of 26 Old 02-08-2014
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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In your case your system seems well sized and 180Ah with LED and no DC fridge is not bad on a 28 footer. If you never dip below 80% SOC then your bank will last a long while, expect 8+ years. What do you use to monitor SOC?
I'm using the Victron monitor. I think I even bought it from you.

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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

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I'm using the Victron monitor. I think I even bought it from you.
D'oh..... Can't keep track of where I ship stuff anymore. Thanks!!!

The BMV is a great tool. When they are manually synched often, especially with solar, they remain the most accurate.. Be sure to set the Peukert's correct too.

To manually reset is easy:

#1 When on shore charger or alternator at *ABSORPTION VOLTAGE/14.4V +/- .2V check the net accepted current flowing into the battery.

#2 Is net current below 2% or 1.5% of the banks Ah capacity?

#3 If yes manually re-synch....

I don't suggest letting an Ah/Coulomb counter to auto-synch with solar or wind because solar and wind have a nasty habit of replicating the full parameters even when not full..... Even some dumb "smart" chargers can do this...


*It is important not to assume or re-set for "full" at float voltage/current.

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Last edited by Maine Sail; 02-08-2014 at 01:19 PM.
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