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  #1  
Old 08-15-2007
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AGM Batteries

Does anybody have any experience with using AGM batteries on a liveaboard/ cruising sailboat?

We are experimenting with using two AGM batteries ONLY for house batteries on our boat. (We have a separate lead acid battery used for starting the engine.) The AGM batteries are charging fine when charged through our battery charger via shore power. However, when we charge them through our alternator while at sea, the alternator works on full output without any tapering off.

Can anybody help me troubleshoot what's going on here?

Manny
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bottleinamessage is an unknown quantity at this point
what size are the AGM's and what is the outout (amps) of your alternator.
I have used AGM's for years (just replaced them with new AGM's) and have no problems. Did replace the alternator w/100 amp and remote 3 stage regulator.
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Old 08-15-2007
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PBzeer has a spectacular aura about PBzeer has a spectacular aura about PBzeer has a spectacular aura about
AGM's do much better with a 3 stage charge, such as using an external regulator. I have 3 Group 31 AGM's, and use a 70 amp Hi-Output Balmar alternator with a Xantrex branded Balmar 3 stage external regulator. I also use an AGM for a start battery, so that the charging regime is the same.

It sounds as though you have an automotive style alternator, thus the full charge, which is detrimental to the AGM's. That's my understanding of the situation.

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Yofy-

A bit more information about the electrical setup on your boat would help. However, as both PBzeer and Bottle said, an external three-stage charge regulator is really a necessity, if you don't want to fry the batteries. Also, it would be much simpler for your boat's electrical setup if you didn't mix AGM and wet-cell batteries, since most chargers and voltage regulators can't be set for the two different requirements that the two different chemistries prefer.
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AGM's can accept any level of amps charging and are not current limited so you need to get that 3 stage regulator which probably means a new alternator as well if you are using one with an internal regulator.
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Old 08-16-2007
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Thanks for all the quick replys!

To clarify:
Onboard we have 3 batteries: one lead acid designated for engine starting, one 65 amp AGM and one 90 amp AGM both used as house batteries. Each of the batteries is used separately (not parallel).
We have fairly limited electrical requirements aboard and each AGM seems to keep all boat systems going for 9 to 10 hours (fridge, lights, radio, pumps, etc.)

Yes PBzeer, we have an automotive alternator who's output is 55 amps with an external automotive regulator.

You all have recommended and external 3 stage regulator and that sounds correct to me. I'd order one today, but current finances are a little tight.

I actually was given one by a sailing friend wishing to clean out his storage and I wanted to try installing it but can't figure out the wiring. It's an automatic 3 step deep cycle regulator made by Ample Power Company. Model number 1021A. Unfortunately it didn't come with a wiring schematics and I don't know how to wire it so I can't give it a try. It has 6 terminals and there's no indication of what goes where. We've tried to search the net for some information, but so far haven't come across anything.

It does sound like that's the solution though.

Manny
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bottleinamessage is an unknown quantity at this point
Sounds to me like your alternator may be your problem. I started out with a 85 amp w/ internal regulator. We would begin a passage with fully charged batteries. After motorsailing through the night with nav. lights, fridge, freezer, autopilot, stereo, etc., the batteries would slowly loose voltage. By morning, voltage was in the low 12's. Replaced the alternator with a 100 amp Balmar w/ remote 3 stage regulator. Problem solved!
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Yofy-

For your regulator, look here. Hope that helps. BTW, Google is your friend...was the first hit on a search for "Ample Power 1021A regulator"
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Yofy...I agree with BIM that it would seem to be an alternator or alternator wiring problem AND in any event you need a 3 stage regulator or you will fry those AGM's.
The wiring diagram for your inherited 3 stage regulator is here:
http://www.amplepower.com/primer/v3_3stp/index.html
Be sure to use the A version wiring!
You CANNOT hook this up to an alternator with internal regulation as I suspect yours has so you will need to replace your alternator in any event once your finances permit. In the meantime...I would advise charging at the dock and leaving your AGM's OUT of the charging circuit when you are under way.
The 1021A does not have AGM settings but the WET settings are close enough to serve ok. Get a decent marine alternator and use it with the 1021A assuming it is in serviceable condition.
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Sailingdog and camaradie, Thank you for the link. That's just what I need. It's amazing that you both got that page off of google on first hit. We've spent the better part of a day searching google and the ample website to no avail??!

Let me reiterate. The alternator on our boat does NOT have an internal regulator. So, no problems installing the ample regulator.

I'm sure our alternator is not the problem. It has been charging our lead acid batteries just fine. I have only had problems with the AGM batteries which I just installed. And that's when I posted this thread.

Also our boat is small (just 30 feet) and our engine is smaller (only 18 horsepower), so we can't be putting a 100 amp alternator on this boat.

I really do think the crux of our problem is the regulator. You've been a tremendous help accessing that web page for me. I'm going to try installing it next week and I'll let you all know what I think. …
Crossing my fingers that the regulator is good and functioning…

Manny
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