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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems
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  #1  
Old 02-05-2014
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Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

I purchased a 1991 Contest 35s sailboat at the end of last season, and she's now on the hard, and being refit for this coming season. Which includes an electrical refit. Currently, all 3 Group 31 batteries are housed in an open top fiberglass battery box with straps, (factory installed), under the aft-berth. She has the factory DC panel, and an added 120v shoreside system, with a 30amp inlet and a separate single main AC breaker, (which isn't a double pole breaker). Her electrical inventory includes;
  • Starter Battery - West Marine Seagel Deep Cycle Gel 97
  • House Bank - 2 Deka Dominator (8G31DTM) in parallel
  • Perko 1-2-All Battery Switch
  • Amptech 125/108 High Performance Alternator
  • Heart Interface incharger 3 stage Alternator Regulator (84-2006-00)
  • Guest Charge Pro 5/5 10amp Charger
  • 2 - 80 Watt MBF80 Solar Panels
  • Xantrex C12 12 amp Solar Charge Controller
I can appreciate the logic in working backwards from accurate calculations of how much electricity needs to be consumed, and designing an electrical system to support that consumption. However, there are a number of electronic upgrades that I want to add in the future, such as air/heat, water maker, television (DC), upgraded entertainment system (Fusion MS-AV700i), and updated nav electronics, but initially this refit will focus on upgrading the electrical foundation of the boat. I've been trying to identify the components I should consider upgrading, (mostly after reading threads here), but I still have some questions.

A house bank of 3 AGM Group 31 batteries fits in the existing battery box, and can provide 375ah. If I could make the box deeper, I could accommodate 3 Group 30HTs for a total of 450ah, but the original box would probably need to be cut out, and a custom box built. This may force me to go with the 3 Group 31 375ah house bank, then house a single AGM Group 31 100ah starter battery close by, in it's own battery box or tray. With the switch to AGMs, I thought that I should upgrade the engine with a serpentine belt kit, and a higher output alternator with regulator, (150amp+), as well as upgrade the charger. I also wanted to upgrade the panel to a combined AC/DC, Blue Sea Systems 360 panel, and add a Blue Sea Systems Dual Circuit Plus Battery Switch with an Automatic Charging Relay.

The current system appears to provide AC power to only the water heater and the 2 AC outlets on the boat, but only when the boat is plugged in. As part of this refit, I do want to add a couple more AC outlets, but I also want to add DC USB charging outlets for charging tablets and phones, (and in the near future for laptops, too). I also want to add DC electronics where it makes sense, such as the JVC DC TV when I get to that project. Even though I'm trying to design a system that minimizes the need, I believe I will need AC power underway. Which means adding an inverter to this system. At this point I'm curious about a few things;
  1. Is adding a serpentine belt kit, (and alternator), a better choice than simply adding a higher output marine alternator, (or keeping the existing one)?
  2. Are high output marine alternators from Electromaax, and Sterling Power, good ones to consider for this application, (since they price out less than Balmar)?
  3. Is it sensible to combine inverter and charger by installing something like the ProMariner TruePower CombiPS for this application?
Any other suggestions, corrections, etc., are welcome as always.

Jason
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Old 02-05-2014
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

Is adding a serpentine belt kit, (and alternator), a better choice than simply adding a higher output marine alternator, (or keeping the existing one)?
>>A "serpentine" belt really means a serpentine ribbed belt, and any kind of ribbed belt transfers power better than a V-belt. Somewhere arounds 100A a v-belt starts slipping no matter what you do, and a ribbed belt is the only way to go for reliable transfer over that. So yes, absolutely.
And if you need more amps, the bigger alternator too.


Are high output marine alternators from Electromaax, and Sterling Power, good ones to consider for this application, (since they price out less than Balmar)?
>>Owners all seem to love them. Biggest question being, what can you shoehorn into your engine compartment, usually.

Is it sensible to combine inverter and charger by installing something like the ProMariner TruePower CombiPS for this application
>>That's partly a matter of philosophy. If you have integral units, and one goes bad, you have to send out everything for repair. OTOH integral means more compact and usually less money for the equipment and the installation.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

First, I am not an electrical expert.

But I would be very tempted to switch to lifepo batteries instead of lead. They cost more, but provide more power, and faster bulk charging, which will minimize the run time of those big alternators once the AGM batteries switch to absorption mode.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stumble View Post
First, I am not an electrical expert.

But I would be very tempted to switch to lifepo batteries instead of lead. They cost more, but provide more power, and faster bulk charging, which will minimize the run time of those big alternators once the AGM batteries switch to absorption mode.
This 3700 response thread on Cruisers Forum should turn off anyone but highly advanced electrical engineers on any kind of Li battery.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

I am just an electronic technician, but if that is the thread I remember it twisted my guts in knots.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

(Given the scope of the electrical refit, I considered moving up to lithium batteries. However, I think that this time, I'm going to focus on upgrading the bank size, adding a combined AC/DC panel, upgrading the wiring, etc. Maybe the next refit I can consider upgrading to lithium batteries.)

Thanks hellosailer. You at least confirmed what I understood by my limited online research. That the serpentine ribbed belt is a more efficient power transfer arrangement, and that there are several good high output marine alternators available.

Jason

Last edited by jasn; 02-06-2014 at 11:02 AM.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

I agree with the serpentine belt for an alt of the size you want.

I recommend you do not use the Dual Circuit Plus Battery Switch. First, it's intended use is for boats with equal size banks such as small fishing boats with one battery in each bank. The second reason is that it gives you no option when the start battery is discharged but to combine the banks. A discharged battery should never be combined with a charged bank - especially with Agm batteries. The inrush from the charged bank to the discharged bank could leave you without a bank capable of starting the engine. Your existing 1/2/both switch could be kept if you wish, assuming its condition is good. I would install 3 simple on/off switches. One each for start and house and a third to allow either bank to be used for either use independent of the other.

I would also buy a separate inverter and charger for the reasons posted above.

What is your intended AC use away from the dock?
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

Thanks Brian..

I appreciate the explanation of the battery switch. Would this series switch accomplish what you described in terms of properly separating the banks?

Lastly, I'm not sure what AC power I would need underway. I can see using the AC outlets while at the dock for things like power tools, but underway, maybe use them to charge up a laptop. Perhaps an inverter is not something to add to the project this winter?

Jason

Last edited by jasn; 02-06-2014 at 11:34 AM.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

Yes, that switch combination will work fine. That is what I was describing in a very neat installation. Wiring diagram is below.



As far as an inverter being used for a laptop it is pretty inefficient. Especially when it is large enough to use for power tools as well. For a laptop you are better off to buy a car adaptor designed for one and if you have a large inverter use it for heavier loads other than the laptop.
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Re: Considerations for Upgrading Electrical System

OK.

BTW, are most marine applications of inverters used under way for things like running the hot water heater, and AC appliances, (TVs, microwaves, etc.)?

Jason
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