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  #11  
Old 06-01-2012
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

Here is an interesting article I found on-line. One of the main points I have highlighted is what eventually pushed me to make my system AGMs. Over the long haul if I charge them properly it will cost less than flooded. Granted that it costs the money to set up the correct system, but once set up the maintainence is less. A couple of years ago I enlisted Mainesails advice about the engine charging system as I felt it was the "weak" link" in my set up. We have gone 4 years now and are into our 5th with the Lifeline AGM and they show no apparent letdowns in accepting and maintaining a proper charge load. Almost all of my sailing buddies went with Trojan 105s and are now into their second sets of them.

The area where I have seen the biggest difference is them charging when we are on trips and asnchoring/ mooring for two weeks at a time. With a 660 AH bank and a 75-80 AH per diet I have been able to go 4 plus days without turning on our engine. With our 80 amp alternator it takes less than 3 hours to bring us back to 85% capacity. My friends must run their engines 5+ hours with the same configuration to acheive the same results. (BTW this is the hidden cost of the wet cells..acceptance rate and the cost of recharging both in alternator or shore charger use can be twice as much)

Next project is to get some solar cells for passive charging. That would complete our system. Even 1 large one would help.

Here is the link to the article printed below as it has some charts

Battery Types: Flooded versus AGM and Gel

Quote:
However, life cycle costs are not just a function of the initial purchase costs. You should also consider the fuel/engine wear savings of using VRLAs over flooded cells. AGMs offer the highest charge acceptance, efficiency, and a reasonably long life which makes them generally a better bargain (see results in cost model section).
Unfortunately, there are fewer shapes and sizes of VRLAs to chose from (relative to the flooded cell universe anyway), and less familiarity and presence world-wide. On the other hand, VRLAs can be shipped anywhere by air. Flooded cells have to be bought locally or delivered by surface transport.

I used DEKA gel cells in the past for comparisons, but West Marine recently brought out a private label 6V gel cell series that they claim will sustain over 1,000 "full discharges". Given that reputable brands never claimed more than 600 cycles in the past, the West Marine claim may be a bit dubious. Due to West Marine's return policy, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. West Marine also released a set of private label AGMs. Unless I missing something, these are very expensive and have a much lower cycle life than the Lifeline competition manufactured by Concorde Batteries. Thus, I don't see why anyone would want to buy a West Marine AGM.





Battery Types: Flooded versus AGM and Gel
On the kinds of batteries we may use on board:
The most common kind of battery in Marine use today is the lead acid battery. Using an electrolyte consisting of sulphuric acid, these cells can store impressive amounts of electrical energy in a relatively small space. This energy is stored in chemical form within lead grids mounted inside the battery. The reliance on lead grids and paste explains the great heft of lead-acid batteries.

The battery universe is further divided along the lines of battery construction. Currently, there are three common lead-acid battery technologies: Flooded, Gel, and AGM.

Flooded or Wet Cells are the most common lead-acid battery-type in use today. They offer the most size and design options and are built for many different uses. In the marine business, they usually are not sealed so the user can replenish any electrolyte the battery vented while charging the battery. Typically, the cells can be access via small ~1/2" holes in the top casing of the battery.

The plastic container used for flooded cells will have one or more cells molded into it. Each cell will feature a grid of lead plates along with an electrolyte based on sulphuric acid. Since the grid is not supported except at the edges, flooded lead-acid batteries are mechanically the weakest batteries.

Since the container is not sealed, great care has to be taken to ensure that the electrolyte does not come into contact with you (burns!) or seawater (chlorine gas!). The water needs of flooded cells can be reduced via the use of Hydrocaps, which facilitate the recombination of Oxygen and Hydrogen during the charging process.
Gel Cells use a thickening agent like fumed silica to immobilize the electrolyte. Thus, if the battery container cracks or is breached, the cell will continue to function. Furthermore, the thickening agent prevents stratification by preventing the movement of electrolyte.

As Gel cells are sealed and cannot be re-filled with electrolyte, controlling the rate of charge is very important or the battery will be ruined in short order. Furthermore, gel cells use slightly lower charging voltages than flooded cells and thus the set-points for charging equipment have to be adjusted.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are the latest step in the evolution of lead-acid batteries. Instead of using a gel, an AGM uses a fiberglass like separator to hold the electrolyte in place. The physical bond between the separator fibers, the lead plates, and the container make AGMs spill-proof and the most vibration and impact resistant lead-acid batteries available today. Even better, AGMs use almost the same voltage set-points as flooded cells and thus can be used as drop-in replacements for flooded cells.

Basically, an AGM can do anything a Gel-cell can, only better. However, since they are also sealed, charging has to be controlled carefully or they too can be ruined in short order.
Gel and Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are relative newcomers but are rapdily gaining acceptance. There are some very compelling reasons to use VRLAs:

Gel and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries can dispense charge at a higher rate than flooded cells due to their lower Peukerts exponent. Deep-cycle Flooded Cells cannot deliver more than 25% of their rated amp-hour capacity in amps without plummeting Available Capacity.
Deep-Cycle Flooded cell battery manufacturers recommend a 4 to 1 ratio between battery bank size and the largest load encountered on board.
AGM and Gel cell manufacturers recommend a ratio of at least 3 to 1, a significant difference for loads such as the engine starter or windlass.
Virtually no gassing under normal operating conditions: Unlike flooded cells, gel cells and AGMs are hermetically sealed and operate under pressure to recombine the oxygen and hydrogen produced during the charge process back into water. You find VRLAs in the bilges of high end yachts such as Hinckley, Hans Christian, Island Packet, etc.. Every boat benefits from a low center of gravity over the keel (good for righting purposes) and the minimal venting requirements make it possible.
The ability to put VRLAs in the bilges (they can operate under water should you hole yourself) also lengthens their lives: For every additional 15 degrees of heat over 77 deg F, lead acid battery life (regardless of type) is cut in half (batteries self-destruct with time, you can only slow that process). Chances are, the bilges are the coldest place on board (outside the freezer) and the keel provides protection.
VRLAs can operate in any orientation (although you may lose some capacity that way) and even if a container is broken, a VRLA will not leak. This is a feature particularly important to blue water sailors who may encounter survival storms - you don't want to coat the inside of your boat with sulfuric acid if you ever get rolled. Proper (heavy duty) battery restraints are a must, regardless of battery type.
Gel cells and AGMs require no maintenance once the charging system has been properly set up. No equalization charges (usually), no electrolyte to replenish, no specific gravity checks, no additional safety gear to carry on board in order to protect yourself. If you want to be anal retentive about VRLAs you can load test them. However, proper charge control and protection is much more important with VRLAs because once fried it is impossible to revive them.
The charge acceptance of AGMs can burn up an alternator if the charging system is not adequate for extended runtimes at full power. The larger the battery bank and the harder the charger is made to work, the more attention I would pay to ensuring that the charging system can handle the currents for extended periods of time. This caveat does not really apply to low-duty applications like starter banks, since they usually need so little charge to be topped up. Even the puny alternators found in Jet Skis should be able to handler an AGM starter battery, as long as that battery is just used for that - starting.
On the other hand, if you need a large house bank and want to rely on a single charge source for much of the power, I'd aim for a high quality charge system from a respected company such as Ample Power, Balmar, Ferris, Hehr, JackRabbit Marine, SALT, etc. Ensure that the alternator receives enough cooling air as a hot alternator will produce less energy than a cool one and last longer to boot. AGMs and to a lesser extent gel cell systems can benefit from using the thermal alternator protection offered by the Balmar MaxCharge series of regulators, particularly if you expect to bulk charge your system for extended periods of time and don't have good engine compartment ventilation.
The higher charge efficiency of AGMs allows you to recharge with less energy: Flooded cells convert 15-20% of the electrical energy into heat instead of potential power. Gel-cells lose 10-16% but AGMs as little as 4%. The higher charge efficiency of AGMs can contribute to significant savings when it comes to the use of expensive renewable energy sources (wind generators, solar panels, etc.) as your charging system can be 15% smaller (or just charge faster).
While flooded cells lose up to 1% per day due to self-discharge, VRLAs lose 1-3% per month. Why employ a solar charger to trickle-charge your battery banks if you don't have to?
High vibration resistance: The construction of AGMs allows them to be used in environments where other batteries would literally fall to pieces. This is another reason why AGMs see broad use in the aviation and the RV industry.
Thus, there are some significant differences between battery types in terms of features and construction. However, there are also some very important figures to consider when it comes to choosing the right battery: Various capacities, cost, warranty, etc. The following table tries to summarize across brands using batteries as close to the 8D Group Size as possible

Comparing physical attributes between VRLAs and Flooded Cells VRLA Flooded
Lifeline AGM (8D) West Marine Gel (8D) Inexpensive Trojan (2xT105) Premium Surrette 400 (HT8DM) Premium Surrette 500 (12CS11PS)
Amp-hour capacity (20hr rate) 255 225 225 221 342
Warranty (Replacement/Pro rated) 1/5 Years 1.5/5 Years 0.5/3 Years 2/5 Years 3/7 Years
Life Cycles (@ 50% DOD) 1,000 500 500 1,250 3,200
Initial Purch. Cost (USD/12V set) 387 449 152 246 683
Initial Purch. Cost (approx. $/Ah) $1.52 $2.00 $0.68 $1.11 $2.00
Energy Density (Ah/in^3) 0.111 0.098 0.136 0.097 0.076
Weight Factor (Ah/lb) 1.614 1.424 1.815 1.348 1.257
Max. net replenishment during bulk charge, accounting for charge limits, efficiency and assuming a 400Ah battery bank 1550A* 177A 85A 85A 85A
I tried to level the playing field by selecting as many group 8D batteries as possible. The two exceptions are the Trojan T105's and the Surrette 12CS11PS (no series 500 Group 8D battery is manufactured by Surrette for the marine market). The larger battery size is to the advantage of the Surrette, although it does not impact results greatly. The Trojan T105's were used because I was not able to find ready pricing on the Trojan 8D. I would expect results to be somewhat comparable.

*Concorde Batteries used to claim no charge limit on its web-site, while Windsun.com claims 4x amp-hour capacity. I limit charge current in the cost model to 100% of amp-hour capacity just to be on the safe side.

Comparison of Battery Types using several different measurements


Energy Storage per unit Weight and Volume

Here is one of the classic comparisons that people like to make: How much charge the battery can store per unit weight and per unit volume. As you can see, the Trojan T105 comes out ahead in both departments due to its low weight and compact construction. However, this construction technique will also lead to a lower cycle and overall life.



Purchase Cost per unit Weight and Volume

As we can see from this chart, the purchase cost per amp-hour and purchase cost per cycle still make the Trojan T105 look like the most attractive battery. Thus, if you are strapped for weight, space, and cash, such a battery might be ideal. The Trojan product has thin lead plates that make these batteries lighter but also shorter lived. Rolls advertises very long pro rata warranty replacement periods for their premium line that are indicative of the confidence they place in their product.

Premium cells are handicapped by lower energy storage density but offer longer lives and greater resistance to the self destructive habits of lead acid batteries: Thicker lead plates and a more complicated product make it possible. Hence, premium cells usually have a higher resistance to vibration, are easier to service, and have higher cycle lives than their budget competition. Many boat owners are willing to put up with the initial purchase price in return for reliability and not having to replace them every few years.



So what is a "Marine" Battery?
Perhaps it's shocking condiering their retail prices, but most batteries sold through marine hardware stores do not qualify as premium batteries. Pay close attention to what you're buying. Batteries are not created equal and brand or price are not the primary indicator for quality. For example:

Rolls/Surrette make a range of flooded batteries from the super-premium 500/CS series to the mid-range 300 series that is meant to compete with Trojan, Exide, etc.
WestMarine is offering AGM batteries with a shorter warranty period and higher price than Lifeline AGMs.
Thus, Caveat Emptor! Try to get as much information about your prospective marine batteries before you buy or you'll be sorry. Furthermore, consider that premium batteries usually only exist in non-standard form factors. For example, you will probably have to make some custom modifications to properly mount/restrain the tall and heavy Rolls/Surrette 500 series (18"+ high, min. 128 lb+ each).

However, life cycle costs are not just a function of the initial purchase costs. You should also consider the fuel/engine wear savings of using VRLAs over flooded cells. AGMs offer the highest charge acceptance, efficiency, and a reasonably long life which makes them generally a better bargain (see results in cost model section). Unfortunately, there are fewer shapes and sizes of VRLAs to chose from (relative to the flooded cell universe anyway), and less familiarity and presence world-wide. On the other hand, VRLAs can be shipped anywhere by air. Flooded cells have to be bought locally or delivered by surface transport.

I used DEKA gel cells in the past for comparisons, but West Marine recently brought out a private label 6V gel cell series that they claim will sustain over 1,000 "full discharges". Given that reputable brands never claimed more than 600 cycles in the past, the West Marine claim may be a bit dubious. Due to West Marine's return policy, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. West Marine also released a set of private label AGMs. Unless I missing something, these are very expensive and have a much lower cycle life than the Lifeline competition manufactured by Concorde Batteries. Thus, I don't see why anyone would want to buy a West Marine AGM.



Can I Mix AGMs and Flooded Cells?
While several sources state that you can mix AGMs with regular flooded cells, I would not recommend it (gel cells have sufficiently different set points to make them totally incompatible with flooded cells or AGMs). Ideally, your house bank would consist of a number of identical batteries wired in series and/or parallel that were manufactured on the same day.



So how can I save money with AGMs?
There are many attributes that determine the true cost of a battery technology. Much like incandescent versus compact fluorescent light bulbs, your choice of battery technology may cost you less up front but will cost you more over the life of the product. For example, the faster, more efficient bulk charging that AGMs and gel-cells allow will lead to reduced wear and tear on your charge source (engine, gen-set, etc.). More on all that later down. Suffice to say that I do not believe the T105 to be a bargain.



How about Nickel-Cadmium Cells?
They have their place. Usually in power plants where there is lots of excess energy, etc. Learn more about them on my Nickel-Cadmium page.
Anyway, onwards to sizing and charging requirements! This is where Lifeline AGMs really start to shine, assuming your charging system can take advantage of them.
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  #12  
Old 06-01-2012
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

Quote:
Originally Posted by chef2sail View Post
.........

The area where I have seen the biggest difference is them charging when we are on trips and anchoring/mooring for two weeks at a time. With a 660 AH bank and a 75-80 AH per diet I have been able to go 4 plus days without turning on our engine. With our 80 amp alternator it takes less than 3 hours to bring us back to 85% capacity. My friends must run their engines 5+ hours with the same configuration to acheive the same results. (BTW this is the hidden cost of the wet cells..acceptance rate and the cost of recharging both in alternator or shore charger use can be twice as much)...............
This is interesting and there's certainly something to what you say. However, the figures cited above are misleading.

First, with a 660AH AGM capacity, you're WAY WAY underpowered in the charging dept with only a 80A alternator. That's only 12% of the AH capacity of the battery bank (80/660 = 0.12). And, in the real world, no 80A alternator is going to put out a full 80A for hours on end, and with your 12% of AH capacity alternator those AGMs would accept a full 80A output for upwards of 3 hours or more.

If you had a larger alternator, say 150A, you could reach that 85% SOC target much, much faster, thereby realizing additional savings in engine run time.

Similarly, your friends who have the "same configuration" with flooded batteries are also under-powered in the charging dept. Those 675A flooded batteries (assuming Trojan T-105s) can easily take more than 150A charging current when 50% depleted. That's the size/type/make I have aboard my boat and, alas, I only have a 110A Balmar alternator and an AC generator which can power my Victron MultiPlus with its 120A charger. Wish I had more. However, even with this configuration I rarely need to run my charging sources for more than 2-3 hours per day, and my electrical diet is much larger than yours...on the order of 125-160AH per day.

Of course, many of us just go with what we've got until we are able to make intelligent upgrades, but the cost comparison between AGMs and flooded batteries is very complicated and I don't think we have all the empirical data needed to make a valid comparison.

Yet. I'm working on it, though, and already have in hand some detailed data from a major battery manufacturer, and hope soon to have more.

Meanwhile, don't sweat it too much. Get out there and go sailing!

Cheers,

Bill
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

Quote:
Of course, many of us just go with what we've got until we are able to make intelligent upgrades, but the cost comparison between AGMs and flooded batteries is very complicated and I don't think we have all the empirical data needed to make a valid comparison
.

So true.

Bill,

Thanks for your comments. I agree I would LOVE to have a larger Alternator, and it is really called for with the size of mine and my mates battery banks. Is why I am considering the solar cell to take some of that time away passively.

I used to have the standard 30amp Hatachi which came with my 30hp Yanmar. Anything over 80 amh alternator would require a serpentine basically and a 150 alternator would - not fit oin my engine configuation and 2- drawn to much hp off my small hp deisel Yanmar. I too have the Victron. I would love to have the 150 alternator as you mentioned and put the charge in more quickly with less time on the alternator.

The most I have driven down my battery bank was 3+ days of non-replenishement and showed I had used 240 ah (420 ah left or 64% capacity left) of the 660 ah bank. When I motored for 3 hours the Victron was stating I was placing almost 75 ah back into the banks till I hit 580 ah ( about 85% capacity) ( It was a cool day so the temp sensor didnt slow down the alternator rate. ) At the 540 ah mark the rate the batteries accepted was considerably less at 30 ah. It took 3 hours total to get to 580 where I was aiming. In the same period of time it took my friends 5+ hours.

My point in all this is that the wet cells because of their acceptance rate kept the same alternator and engine running almost 2 hours longer which costs money and of course eats into the lifespan of the alternator. It is a hidden cost of the wet cells which is not measured when looking at the initial price differences between agm and wet cells. MOost people are aghast at the price of the agms and steer away, when in the long run if they built their whole electrical systems better they would actually save.

One of the things I learned a few years ago is that this electrical think is something which I needed to monitor more closely and now I am kind of a hawk about my ah, and battery banks and monitor quite closely. Going through a set of wet cells convinced me that if I didnt I would literally pay the price again and again.

Sigh...things were far simpler with the hobie cat or first keel boats with 2 group 31 and only occcasional overnight sailing. But then again no refrigeration, not chartplotter, no shower pump or pressurized water, no solenoid for propane, no inverter...g,d...how did I ever survive

Bbut the Admiral is far happier and wants to go out all the time so we now travel in "style" now with al the lectrical stuff.. A willing compromise.

Dave
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

Great posts all... esp Chef and Bill. Good to see you still around Bill!

I have four Lifeline 4-d agm's and a optima start. I installed circa 2007-2008. I just replaced the Optima again (on my third). I think the Optimas are vastly overrated. I have not gotten three years out of a single one and they are kept on a good charge, constantly. Maybe they need to be excercised more... but I digress.

My opinion used to be that everyone should go for agm's. I do not have that opinion anymore. I think AGM's got overhyped and like solar, people overestimated what is reality. That being the case, I would still purchase agm's for cruising or a boat that is on a hook. I know many people (probably including Bill and Maine) will dissagree. But honestly, it is one less thing I have to maintenance. And we spend a vast majority of our time when we can on the hook. No way I would put an agm on a weekend boat unless she sat on the hook all day and self-discharge was a problem. To me, the wet cell option is very competitive and the agm's are not.

I have not had any problems with my batts yet. However, I have a large solar array that keeps the batteries happy. I do not let her ever get below 50%, and even 85% will require some rainy days in a row. Any battery would probably do well in that environment. But I keep two of the batteries in a place that is very hard to maintenance so agm's/gells are the thing for me.

One last comment, I have only equlaized my batteries twice. The comments about equalizing every month are completely new to me. I have not heard that.

I would give Lifeline (or any agm) a cautious thumbs up, with the caution going to intended use, charging system, location, and budget.

Brian
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

By the way, I just want to comment about the equlaizing of Lifelines. If you pull the batt cables off after a full charge, and are showing circa 12.8-12.85 after 1.5 hours at rest, you do not need to equalize. Equalizing the batts consistently will wear the life down. The issue being that if you consistently only recharge them to 85% or less, then you will be sulfating it quicker. That means you will need to equalize more often. Lifeline does not reccomend a monthly equalize. They reccomend equlaizing when the process described above is under the threshold after rest, which means your batteries are probably not being taken care of very well and I suspect any battery that never gets a full charge will quickly show wear.

Just wanted to clarify.

Brian
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

Quote:
Originally Posted by chef2sail View Post
Here is an interesting article I found

"I used DEKA gel cells in the past for comparisons, but West Marine recently brought out a private label 6V gel cell series that they claim will sustain over 1,000 "full discharges". Given that reputable brands never claimed more than 600 cycles in the past, the West Marine claim may be a bit dubious. Due to West Marine's return policy, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. West Marine also released a set of private label AGMs. Unless I missing something, these are very expensive and have a much lower cycle life than the Lifeline competition manufactured by Concorde Batteries."
Trojan claims over 750 cycles for the T-105, more than any other battery they make and as much as 2 1/2 times as many cycles as any 12 volt battery they make except for 2 designed for floor scrubbers.

I am not sure how they tested but they do have the largest research facilities in the US and they did publish it.

Below is an interesting quote originally from Trojan comparing battery types.
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Re: Lifeline Batteries

My observations and experiences over the last few years have led me to some thoughts on AGM's and how the purchasing decisions are made, could be made or things that should be considered other than glossy marketing ads...

I see a lot of folks buy them based on misguided advice or just simply for the wrong reasons. These decisions should ideally be based on how they use the boat, plan to use the boat & how they plan charge and care for the bank..

While many folks do buy them for the right reasons, many don't. AGM's certainly have some great benefits but are very expensive and are arguably, as we've learned over the last 12+ years in the marine market place, less tolerant of abuse than wet cells.

Some scenarios that I have seen:

#1 Bought a 200-800 ah bank for their high acceptance rates then fed them with a 100 amp alternator and 40 amp shore charger. This did nothing to take advantage of this high acceptance "benefit" and the previous bank of wets could actually "take more" than the systems could produce. Acceptance Benefit = 0

#2 Bought them for the "low maintenance" then kept the boat on a mooring and ran the engine 35 hours a season. Even the worst wet cells, on the worst charger, won't boil off enough to matter on 35 engine hours per year. Low Maintenance Benefit = 0.002

#3 Bought them for low self discharge rates then left them sitting at 50% - 80% charged after each sail and killed them in three seasons. Boat was used multiple times per week so self discharge was a non issue. Self Discharge Benefit = 0

#4 Bought them for the claimed "longer life" then found out they were dead in 4 seasons anyway, when the previous wet cells lasted 7. Longer Life Benefit = 0

#5 Bought them to replace wet cells that died a premature death, then the AGM's proceeded to do the same because the owner had refused to address his/her battery practices. Claimed "long Lasting" Benefit = 0

6# Bought them because they don't give off "gas fumes" when charging. The previous bank had zero signs of corrosion and in four years had never even taken water though they were due. When I opened them up they were still full and load tested at nearly new. Gave that bank to a friend who got two more seasons out of them. The new gasless AGM's died at year five. Gassing Benefit = 0.003

#7 "The guy at West Marine said they were the best." He then proceeded to fry two stock alternators and finally had to buy a fully gourmet charging system for another 1.3k. Previous wet bank on dumb regulated alt lasted six years and cost $300.00 vs. $1000.00 + $1300.00 alternator regulator installation. $2300.00 vs. $300.00. I'll be surprised if he gets 6 years out of the Deka/WM AGM's (only on year two now). Best At Cleaning Out Your Wallet = 10 Stars



I see and work on lots of boats left on moorings, it's Maine, and the only thing I have discovered is that AGM's do not like to sit discharged as mooring boats often do. They tolerate this less so than wets or gels. I have seen far to many of expensive AGM banks die before 5 seasons. I also check date codes every time I am at my local battery & wire distributor on the core pallets. The 6 year old AGM core is a rather rare up here while the 6 & 7 year old wets are not all that uncommon on the pallet. Most of the dead AGM date codes are between 4 & 5 years at Dave's shop.

Nearly every boater I know with AGM's has bought them for their ability to take a fast charge then fed them with a diminutive alternator & charging system that took no advantage of the high acceptance rates (wrong reason #1).

I have personally seen a 100 Ah Lifeline take 85 amps for more than just a few minutes. That is a 0.85C. "C" is capacity in Ah's and 85 is the acceptance percentage of the 20 hour rating, meaning the batteries are taking 85% of "C" or the 20 hour rated capacity. Lifeline claims these battteries can take 5C or 500 amps for a 100 amp hour battery for short durations.

They also stipulate that these batteries need to be charged at a MINIMUM of 0.2C or 20% of rated Ah capacity or you can shorten the cycle life. So a 600 Ah bank of AGM's ideally needs an alternator or charger capable of supplying a MINIMUM of 120 amps. Considering the hot rating of an alternator drops quickly once hot, you'd ideally need an alternator in the 160 A range to satisfy this "minimum" 120A threshold for charging to satisfy 0.2C.

"Lifeline® batteries can tolerate in-rush current levels as high as 5C (500A for a 100Ah battery)."

Trojan for example wants to see a "C" of 10-13% or 0.10C - 0.13C for standard charging and a 0.2C (20% of capacity) for a "fast charge". On a 450 Ah bank that is 90 amps acceptance for a Trojan wet cell on "fast charge". Most sailors with small aux engines don't have more than 90-100 amps of alternator, or the belt to drive it. If you charged a bank of Lifeline's at .85 C you need a 380 amp alternator to take full advantage of the batteries initial bulk acceptance. They tend to settle in at about 40-55%, depending upon condition, until they hit about 80-85% and start accepting considerably less current. I have yet to see many boaters truly take advantage of the actual acceptance rates on AGM banks because you'd need a HUGE alternator, or two, or a huge charger to do so. Small sailboat AUX engines just can't do this well without $$$$$$ modifications.

Even a 400 Ah bank would be accepting 160A at 40%. Most boaters can't even come close to providing the batteries 160A let alone the 200+ amps they can actually take..

I replaced four T105's on a local sailboat that had lasted 7 years with a 90 amp dumb regulated alternator. This boat resided on a mooring with no solar or wind. The Lifeline bank cost over $1400.00 and was flat dead going into the spring of what was to be their fifth season. At the same time we upgraded the batteries a full gourmet charging system with 150 amp alt, dual pulleys, MC-612 Balmar regulator, temp sensing etc. etc. on and on was installed. He even bought a maintenance charger that was recommended by Justin at Lifeline tech support for the off season where they were stored in his 55 degree basement and cycled on and off the charger to keep them at 100% SOC.

Total cumulative motor run time over the four previous seasons was just over 400 hours. The bank had never been discharged below 60% SOC during these four seasons as monitored by Link 20. They were grave yard dead well before they should have been and EVERYTHING was done better than he'd done with his simple and inexpensive wet cell bank..

Lifelines suggestion and response, "not out of the ordinary, try equalizing". He's back to 6V wet cells again, expensive experiment. This is one I really feel terrible about because at the time I had bought the AGM marketing hook line and sinker and really pushed this friend/customer towards this set up. I have wracked my brain as to what cased this but there is no answer. Everything was done by the book. He had less than 200 cycles and only got four years out of them. Of course back then we were told they could be cycled to 80% depth of discharge. This went into my calculations on "cost". Of course today these same manufacturers recommending not cycling any deeper than 50% depth of discharge. Somehow we mysteriously lost 20% of the cycling capacity we were sold initially which makes the cost increase even more steep..

A few years ago I was chatting with John Harries of Morgan's Cloud about AGM issues. He has since written extensively on this issue. It is a very good read and mirrors some of what I have seen:

AGM Battery Test Part 1

Lifeline AGM Batteries Test Part 2


There is also my buddy who is the head systems tech at a very well respected boat yard here in Maine. He is an ABYC marine electrician, like me, NEMA certified etc. etc. on and on and on. Probably one of the better marine guys I know in terms of knowledge. His own bank of AGM's in his own boat, fully decked out, lasted three seasons. He's gone to gel.

Don't get me wrong, there ARE benefits to AGM batteries, and if you can truly take advantage of these benefits they can definitely be worth it.

My point here is that most folks I see don't truly take advantage of the benefits. I just want to promote some real world critical thinking, beyond the marketing hype (which as related to the REAL WORLD and marine market is TOTALLY BOGUS), before making a decision where you may spend $1000.00+++. In many cases that $1000.00+ may not even be all that necessary.

What have I learned?

If you go AGM try and keep them fully charged as best you can. If on a mooring get solar or wind to augment your alternator because and alternator alone, no matter how fancy, will not get them back to 100% SOC on a regular basis. If you can afford a $1300.00 bank you should really try to take care of them in terms of charging. In my opinion/experience, and based on the "claims", these banks should have all easily gone 7+ years. while a few do, mostly dock sailed boats, the reports I see and hear in talking with customers and other marine systems specialists, are nowhere near an average life of 7-10 years like the manufacturers initially claimed.

One issue I suspect contributes to shorter AGM battery life is a lesser amount of electrolyte. Liquid electrolytes ability to help keep the battery cooler may be one explanation for the longer life of the inexpensive deep cycle wet cell when compared to AGM.. Heat kills batteries. In my experience, as one who often shoots batteries with an infrared temp gun, (geek) is that AGM batteries always tend to run hotter when accepting a charge. Perhaps this is because they accept higher charger currents or the fact that they may not dissipate heat as well as a wet battery? Either way they tend to run hotter and we know that heat kills batteries..

I had personally planned to go to AGM. I am still with wets because I have been able to live vicariously though others AGM trials and tribulations. If I do go gourmet in batteries it would very likely be GEL not AGM though the Odyssey AGM's are intriguing but I am waiting to see some real world longevity before jumping in...

If AGM's are left topped up, like if you are on a dock regularly, they can or should last as long as wets. Unfortunately I have yet to hear of very many success stories where AGM's clearly out lasted good quality deep cycle wets, which for the roughly 3X cost premium, they certainly should. The original claims were many, many more cycles than wets and this has just not borne fruit in the real world of boats.... In a "lab" maybe but certainly not in the real world. Try telling a customer who spent nearly 2k on a bank of batteries and another 2k on charger and alternator that his 3 year old bank of AGM's is dead.. The look on their face is painful to see.

Interestingly I have only topped up our bank of wet cells three times now in the last five seasons, we are in our sixth year now, took me all of three minutes each time. Our wet cell bank cost us $210.00. The same bank in Lifelines would be about $1000.00. This is a $790.00 savings for 6 minutes work. That is really, really good pay to me...

I find this to be an interesting quote by Trojan Battery. Remember when AGM's first came out the claims were BETTER cycle life than wets..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojan Battery
Generally, gel and AGM batteries have about 20% less capacity, cost about two times more, and have a shorter cycle life than comparable flooded lead acid batteries. However, Gel and AGM batteries do not need watering, are safer (no acid spilling out), can be placed in a variety of positions, have a slower self-discharge characteristic, and are more efficient in charging and discharging than flooded batteries (see table below). Gel batteries are more suitable for deep cycling applications whereas AGM batteries are more for light cycling and engine-starting applications.
I am NOT saying don't buy AGM's at all. I am simply trying to get people to do some critical thinking about why they are buying them, and to do this thinking honestly.

For me the benefits of AGM rank in this order:

Higher acceptance - This is a HUGE benefit IF you can take advantage of it, many AGM equipped sailors I know physically can't take advantage of this feature. If you have the charging capability it is a GREAT feature...

Low self discharge - This is great for boats in hot climates or on moorings. Wets can self discharge at up to 13+% per month in warm weather however I know few boaters who go a month without using the boat at all. Even in a worst case scenario, 13%, in hot weather leaves a full bank still at 87% SOC after a month. Still this can be a good benefit in certain use situations. Self discharge has never been an issue for me so would not be weighed in my own benefit analysis. If you're buying AGM batteries specifically for the low self discharge a small solar panel will eliminate the self discharge issue and cost considerably less than the price difference between a bank of AGM and Wet.

Many boaters I know with AGM's already have either solar or wind making the self discharge benefit mostly irrelevant. Heck with AGM's on a mooring sailed boat wind or solar is pretty much a pre-requisite.. The majority of boaters in the US are on docks, not moorings, so again self discharge would be of little benefit to them. When off cruising you are using the banks daily and self discharge, is again, a non issue. Most boaters have a phantom load such as a bilge pump, stereo memory or LPG detector etc. so there are already loads sucking the battery down that require periodic charging anyway which would take care of any self discharge at the same time. If you don't have solar or wind, are on a mooring, in a hot climate and rarely use your vessel this can certainly be a benefit though adding a small solar panel to wets will be FAR less costly.

Maintenance - I find this to be a tad over blown. I have yet to work on a vessel where it took me more than 20-30 minutes to add water to batts or check them and those are the long ones with major access issues. My own batts at 6 years old have taken water just three times now and it took all of about 3 minutes each time maybe four minutes at the outset if I got ADHD..

If maintenance is the sole claimed reason for an "upgrade", I know a boater who did this for that exact reason, it really is a lot of money to spend. He could have paid a pro to do the maintenance and still pocketed $400.00 to $500.00. Wet cell maintenance gets a little over blown IMHO and experience plus for very little money one can buy hydrocaps if really concerned.

Beyond that manufacturers such as Lifeline initially sold these batteries as 100% maintenance free. Once the issues of short life began occurring Lifeline began recommending a conditioning/equalization charge. An 8 hour equalization at 15.5 volts (temp compensated), as often as once monthly, is a LOT more time consuming than checking and adding some distilled water to wet batts.

Our batteries are dumb regulated and reside on a solar charge controller yet they took a very small amount of water just three times since new six years ago. I honestly don't even consider that "maintenance". I checked them this spring and with my screw driver it took me all of 1 minute to glance at the water levels.

Even if I gave the water filling a ten minute labor allowance every year, at my $70.00 hourly rate, that is $11.60 worth of labor time. I would have to add water to my batteries 61 times over their life to equal the price premium on my bank to make the move to AGM based on maintenance alone.

Lifeline AGM batteries, as noted, are not maintenance free. The time it takes to properly "condition" them is EIGHT hours at 15.5 volts, temp compensated. You also need a charger than can equalize/condition and you should always be present when doing so. The proper maintenance for Lifelines takes a lot longer than what it takes me to check my electrolyte. Some AGM's truly are "maintenace free", you can not equalize or condition charge them, Lifelines for example are not but they may last longer because of it..

This quote is from Justin Godber at Lifeline battery on what to expect out of Lifelines based on 4 scenarios.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin G. At Lifeline (excerpted from Morgan's Cloud web site)

Put broadly, there are four ways that will yield different lifetimes based on daily 50% deep cycles:

1- Fully charge after each discharge. Estimated life: 6-9 Years.

2- Fully Recharge at least once a week and equalize once a month. Estimated life: 4-6 Years.

3- Only recharge to 85% and equalize once a month. Estimated life: 2-4 years.

4- Only charge to 85% and never equalize. Estimated life: 1 year.
Lay on side - This is usually much more of an issue on smaller vessels than large and folks with smaller vessels often won't spring for AGM's anyway. For about $40.00 in materials one can build a battery platform on just about any vessel. I have done them on nearly every boat I have owned for far less than the premium price upgrade to an AGM battery. You still have to find a way to secure them so you would possibly be looking at some epoxy work anyway.

I am not trying to dissuade anyone, because there certainly can be a benefit for many users. I just happen to see a lot of boaters not taking advantage of the actual reasons why they bought them in the first place, except for a couple minutes saved per year on maintenance and the occasional battery on its side.

Food for thought..
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 06-03-2012 at 10:45 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors:878302
Quote:
Originally Posted by sea_hunter View Post
It's always best to match batteries to the same amphr rating. IE a 240 amphr Trojan 6V golf cart battery circuit should have a similar +/- 20 amphr start battery. I prefer to also keep all the batteries the same brand or at least have the same factory settings for charge/float etc. We just changed out our Trojans for 251 amphr 6V Interstate and a 12V Interstate marine start/house battery. This allows the batteries to absorb equally putting less strain on the charging system.
mitiempo was being nice!

This is just plain WRONG. Let me spell that: W R O N G

There is no earthly reason why start batteries need to have an amperage capacity anywhere near the house battery bank.

Especially not with EchoCharge or DuoCharge technology, or even with some of the other methods of "combining" batteries.

One poster on these Boards has 10, count 'em, 10 4-D batteries aboard, total over 2,000AH capacity. I'm just gonna guess that his start battery isn't anywhere near 2,000AH capacity!

Bill
I'm not suggesting the banks should be the same, perhaps you should have read my comments without the beerglasses. Of coarse its not to the the total stored amphr, it's to the individual battery. IE 250 amphr house battery, to a 250 amphr start. It doesn't matter how many of each you have or the total amphr,or even to combined voltages, just to a single battery's storage capacity. You could have 2 - 12v starts, and any number of house batteries of any voltages and combined amphrs; just keep each individual battery amphr rating close to the same.
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btrayfors will become famous soon enough btrayfors will become famous soon enough
Re: Lifeline Batteries

Again, you persist in trying to perpetuate a myth and flatly erroneous advice.

I read your original. It was WRONG. I read your reply. It was again...WRONG.

And, I wasn't even into the Mt. Gay yet :-)

Let me put it as clearly as I can:

1. Yes, all batteries in a given bank, like the house bank, should be of the same size and type; and

2. The start battery can be of any size, but should be of a compatible type. It's amp hour capacity has NOTHING to do with the size of the batteries in the house bank.

Example:

You have a house bank of 1,000AH capacity. You have a single start battery of 100AH capacity. No problem. At all. You use a voltage follower device or an ACR to maintain the start battery.

This is how hundreds, no thousands, of boats are set up.

Bill
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I agree with your point 1 and half of point 2 of your response, however, unless both start and house banks are completely isolated (which in most cases are not) it's better if the batteries are rated the same. Once you start adding external charging sources IE solar, it only takes a short time for the start battery to get cooked if not switched or correctly isolated. There's been many a posting here ( perhaps hundreds, even thousands) over the years with battery/charging issues suggesting there's obvious issues with the way many boats are wired. Keeping the ratings the same prevents over charging of the lesser battery.
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