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  #1  
Old 08-15-2008
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Electrical Question

We've come upon something now on our punch list that might actually impact our ability to leave the dealer on time. Our charging system seems to be acting a little screwy. This is a bit long, for which I apologize, but I'm hoping to give a detailed description so as to allow otherw to provide some useful advice.

Our house bank consists of 4 4D lead acid batts. Our engine start is a Group 31 lead acid.

The dealer installed a Freedom 30 inverter charger, as well as a Link 2000 monitor/controller. The boat also has it's own volt meter on the electrical panel.

The house and engine start are separated by an isolator. I confess that I don't yet fully grasp the setup (but I'll get there) because I've not had a boat set up this way before. My previous boats had the house and engine banks entirely separate, and connected solely by an emergency switch. So, the concept of isolators is new to me.

As for battery switches, there is a single negative switch, and then two positive switches, one for the house and one for the engine (if you've seen Beneteau's setup on this, you'll know what I mean).

The Freedom 30 also has two echo chargers, one of which is connected to the engine start on our boat. I have a slight concern about this, as it's not clear to me why the echo charger is hooked up to the engine start bank if the two banks are separated only by an isolator. In theory, whatever charging source is on the house bank should flow through to the engine start too, but loads drawn on the house bank should not draw on the engine start, or at least that's how it has been explained to me. Again, this setup is new to me, and I may be getting some of this wrong.

Finally, the boat was plugged in to shore power, but it was a god-awful connection. There were several 15 amp extension cords connected for the very VERY long run to the shoreside outlet, and in turn the final extension cord was plugged into a 30 to 15 amp reducer so as to allow the connection to the boat's 30 amp outlet.

OK, that's pretty much the setup. Now here's what's going on. We fired up the charger, and at first all seemed to be well. The house bank was getting between 14.4 and 14.5 volts as registered on the Link 2000, and the engine battery was a tenth or so less, which is typical when working with echo chargers. The boat's volt meter on the electrical panel concurred for the most part (the Link is more sensitive and reads to hundreths, whereas the panel's volt meter reads only tenths). Once the batteries were charged and the charger shifted over to float, things got a little odd. At first, it seemed fine, as the house bank dropped to 13.6 volts or so, and the engine start went to 13.4. Then, over a little bit of time, the engine start bank started to creep up, and eventually was in the 14.5 range, with the house bank remaining at 13.6, and the Link 2000 showing the system in float mode. Clearly something's amiss. The Link 2000 and the boat's integral volt meter pretty much concur, which makes me think the problem is not merely the gauge misreading the voltage.

Plus, another oddity (and I'm thinking it must be related somehow), with the water heater breaker on, incoming AC voltage dropped from 120 to 109 volts, which I attribute to the poor connection to the boat, which would account for the voltage drop under a load like a hot water heater. But, the impact on the batteries was a full tenth or so on the ENGINE START bank. That is, with the hot water breaker off, the engine start bank would jump up a tenth or so in voltage. Indeed, in charge mode, with the hot water heater off, the engine start bank would spike every now and again to 14.7 or even 14.8 volts, tripping the warning on the boat's integral volt meter, which ain't good. I'm not at all sure why the AC water heater circuit would have an impact on the engine start voltage without any impact on the house bank voltage.

Two other tidbits. First, when you hit the buttons to switch from bank 1 to bank 2 on the Link 2000, all the backlights on the Link 2000 panel flash. Sort of has the look of stray RF energy when you key your SSB mic, if that helps describe the situation. Second, when I turn on the negative battery switch, certain interior lights on the boat flash once. It doesn't happen when the negative switch is turned off, or when any of the positive switches are turned either on or off.

So, what the heck is going on? There are a lot of moving pieces, and it certainly is possible that they are unrelated, but I'm thinking not. I'm assuming that something must be wired wrong, or there's a problem with the isolator, etc. I'm meeting the dealer in the morning to go over a whole bunch of stuff on the boat (general walk through, sea trial, etc.), but this will be at the top of my list. Anyone have any thoughts so that I can hit the ground running tomorrow morning?
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Old 08-16-2008
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If you have two echo chargers is there one connected to each bank?
This doesnt seem right to me. I havent had any experience with echo chargers but checking them out online they seem to be voltage following devices,if this is correct it would seem that all the charging decisions the freedom 30 might make could be overridden by a fairly dumb piece of equipment. So the echo charger connected to the house bank has decided that the battery is fully charged and is no longer allowing current to flow but the echo connected to the starter bank is still allowing current flow into that battery. This would explain the rise in voltage on one bank only.
The other problems you mention could be attributable to the power drop due to the long circuit run.
Hope this helps
Ugly
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Old 08-16-2008
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It's sounds like you may have an issue to me, but I don't think you are going to be able to test and trouble shoot using voltages given the poor shore power connection. I would insist you get good power to the boat either by moving the boat, or getting a much much heavier extension cord. A run that long may require a #10 wire extension cord.
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Old 08-16-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielgoldberg View Post
We've come upon something now on our punch list that might actually impact our ability to leave the dealer on time. Our charging system seems to be acting a little screwy. This is a bit long, for which I apologize, but I'm hoping to give a detailed description so as to allow otherw to provide some useful advice.

Our house bank consists of 4 4D lead acid batts. Our engine start is a Group 31 lead acid.
Damn, that's a pretty big house bank...not as big as Steelboat's, but still...

Quote:
The dealer installed a Freedom 30 inverter charger, as well as a Link 2000 monitor/controller. The boat also has it's own volt meter on the electrical panel.
Good, this is a great addition to the system IMHO.

Quote:
The house and engine start are separated by an isolator. I confess that I don't yet fully grasp the setup (but I'll get there) because I've not had a boat set up this way before. My previous boats had the house and engine banks entirely separate, and connected solely by an emergency switch. So, the concept of isolators is new to me.
Not a big fan of isolators, due to the voltage drop they cause and charging problems the voltage drop can cause.

Quote:
As for battery switches, there is a single negative switch, and then two positive switches, one for the house and one for the engine (if you've seen Beneteau's setup on this, you'll know what I mean).
By negative switch, do you mean there's a switch in the ground line???

Quote:
The Freedom 30 also has two echo chargers, one of which is connected to the engine start on our boat. I have a slight concern about this, as it's not clear to me why the echo charger is hooked up to the engine start bank if the two banks are separated only by an isolator. In theory, whatever charging source is on the house bank should flow through to the engine start too, but loads drawn on the house bank should not draw on the engine start, or at least that's how it has been explained to me. Again, this setup is new to me, and I may be getting some of this wrong.
The echo charger is probably hooked up to the engine start bank to avoid the problems caused by the isolator and the voltage drop it creates. Also, by using the echo charger, the Freedom 30 can do a better job of properly charging the engine start bank. If it went with just the isolator connection, the voltage would be a bit low to really fully charge the battery properly.

Quote:
Finally, the boat was plugged in to shore power, but it was a god-awful connection. There were several 15 amp extension cords connected for the very VERY long run to the shoreside outlet, and in turn the final extension cord was plugged into a 30 to 15 amp reducer so as to allow the connection to the boat's 30 amp outlet.
That's a damn dangerous setup IMHO. A real fire hazard and possibly an electrocution hazard as well.

Quote:
OK, that's pretty much the setup. Now here's what's going on. We fired up the charger, and at first all seemed to be well. The house bank was getting between 14.4 and 14.5 volts as registered on the Link 2000, and the engine battery was a tenth or so less, which is typical when working with echo chargers. The boat's volt meter on the electrical panel concurred for the most part (the Link is more sensitive and reads to hundreths, whereas the panel's volt meter reads only tenths). Once the batteries were charged and the charger shifted over to float, things got a little odd. At first, it seemed fine, as the house bank dropped to 13.6 volts or so, and the engine start went to 13.4. Then, over a little bit of time, the engine start bank started to creep up, and eventually was in the 14.5 range, with the house bank remaining at 13.6, and the Link 2000 showing the system in float mode. Clearly something's amiss. The Link 2000 and the boat's integral volt meter pretty much concur, which makes me think the problem is not merely the gauge misreading the voltage.
This may be due to the fact that the setup you have can't possibly be supplying the Freedom 30 with enough amperage on the AC side. The sucker draws well over 15 amps when it is charging. IIRC, the Freedom 30 draws 28 amps @ 110 VAC when the thing is operating at full power. The charger has a maximum charge rate of 140 Amps DC.

Quote:
Plus, another oddity (and I'm thinking it must be related somehow), with the water heater breaker on, incoming AC voltage dropped from 120 to 109 volts, which I attribute to the poor connection to the boat, which would account for the voltage drop under a load like a hot water heater. But, the impact on the batteries was a full tenth or so on the ENGINE START bank. That is, with the hot water breaker off, the engine start bank would jump up a tenth or so in voltage. Indeed, in charge mode, with the hot water heater off, the engine start bank would spike every now and again to 14.7 or even 14.8 volts, tripping the warning on the boat's integral volt meter, which ain't good. I'm not at all sure why the AC water heater circuit would have an impact on the engine start voltage without any impact on the house bank voltage.
This may be due to how the Freedom 30 is hooked up. Does your boat have only a single 30 A shorepower connection or does it have two 30 A shore power connectors? The Freedom 30 can be setup with either one or two AC inputs and one or two AC outputs. Depending on which of the four possible setups it was installed with, the behavior of the unit can change.

Quote:
Two other tidbits. First, when you hit the buttons to switch from bank 1 to bank 2 on the Link 2000, all the backlights on the Link 2000 panel flash. Sort of has the look of stray RF energy when you key your SSB mic, if that helps describe the situation. Second, when I turn on the negative battery switch, certain interior lights on the boat flash once. It doesn't happen when the negative switch is turned off, or when any of the positive switches are turned either on or off.

So, what the heck is going on? There are a lot of moving pieces, and it certainly is possible that they are unrelated, but I'm thinking not. I'm assuming that something must be wired wrong, or there's a problem with the isolator, etc. I'm meeting the dealer in the morning to go over a whole bunch of stuff on the boat (general walk through, sea trial, etc.), but this will be at the top of my list. Anyone have any thoughts so that I can hit the ground running tomorrow morning?
No idea on these last two...without more information on the "negative" switch and how it is connected and what it is supposed to do. Also, knowing what kind of light fixtures are on the boat would help. Are the ones that flicker all the same type or on the same circuit or have anything in common?
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Last edited by sailingdog; 08-16-2008 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 08-16-2008
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If I were tackling this project from the start, I would pay careful attention to the Link instructions re the installation of the shunt, which says there must be one and only one connection to the battery (or batteries) and that's the shunt itself. Your description reads like you've unnecessary switches. Your charging devices and loads get easier to manage if you start with the ground as absolute . Then I would treat the shore charging capability separate from the alternator charge capability.
If you have an alternator with a single output and a smart regulator, you should use an isolator to charge both batteries, sensing the voltage at the house bank end of the isolator. You could use a separate 'echo-charge' device to charge your engine battery too, instead of the isolator. Regulators these days have the ability to compensate for the voltage drop that isolators have (that's why you sense at the battery).
Charging from shore power is pretty much the same..except for the inverter function. Chargers are built (as alternators are) to satisfy specified current requirements usually determined by the size of the battery bank. They often split their outputs to charge the respective banks...two, sometimes three, but never exceed the combined output rating. This is a clue that the outputs are likely developed through an isolator, though not always. Expensive chargers use switching techniques to satisify individual bank current requirements. Anyway, if you have a multiple output charger, you don't need an echo charge device.
What you do need is to get rid of the kluge power cord. Not to make light of it, but if you can cause the voltage to drop to 109 volts out of a possible 120 or more, you're in twilight zone.
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Old 08-16-2008
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Good news, I think and hope. When I got to the boat this morning, I fired up the generator and ran the charger off of that. No problems. No voltage drop with the hot water heater, and the engine battery bank voltage was normal. When floating, she floated just under the house bank's voltage, which is what I expected and believe is normal. Likewise, no spikes and funkiness with the Link 2000 back lighting or the lights flashing when turning the negative battery switch on. So, I think the whole thing was the problem with low and poor voltage due to the really bad shore power setup.

I haven't yet been able to plug in to another reliable shore power source, so theoretically it could be a problem with the shore power setup on the boat, but considering that I know the extension cord setup was poor, I strongly suspect that was our problem. I'll know for sure once we move the boat home (tomorrow or Monday) and plug in to our dock at home.

SD, the "negative" switch is in the ground line. Beneteau basically puts switches in both the positive and negative lines. Not sure why they do it that way, but that's how it's done.

Thanks everyone for your time and attention.

By the way, seatrial today was awesome! Can't wait to get the boat out of there and we start playing for real. Just a couple of more days.
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Old 08-16-2008
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Dan, the word "isolator" frightens me, usually that means an obsolete DIODE ISOLATOR rather than a more modern and effective "Battery Combiner".

The dealer should (must) provide you with an electrical schematic for all the work they have added, and a description of what an "isolator" is, etc.

I would have expected one charger, to the starting battery, with a battery combiner that cuts in the house bank as soon as the starting battery has recovered, not two charges with an isolator. Presumably there's some logic to why they did what they did, and again, they should (ust) be able to explain that to you, so that as master and captain you can maintain it.

Once you know what it is, I would fax or email the schematic to Link, and ask them if that's the best way to employ their system, or if they have other thoughts on it.

And of course if you posted a copy on the forum, you know you'd get more comments on it.

Beautiful day for a seatrial, after all the extreme wx yesterday, who'd have expected it?!
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Old 08-16-2008
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Thanks HS. Actually, the manufacturer, not the dealer, installed the isolators. The boat came from the factory with a battery charger; we just upgraded it at the dealer level with the Freedom 30/Link 2000.

It's not that I am entirely clueless (for a very brief change) about the system, it's just that my knowledge of this kind of setup is more theoretical than practical, as I've never had it set up like this before. On our past two boats, I've had just two banks, and they were entirely separate (but capable of being connected for emergency start of course), the engine start was charged via an echo charger from the Freedom 30, and via a Balmar DuoCharger from the alternator. The new boat is wired quite a bit differently, and in my view a bit more complicated than need be (what do you expect from a Frenchie. .)

Anyway, it is a true isolator, not a combiner, and the schematic pretty much is exactly how Xantrex draws it up. At this point, I've been in the thing so intensely that I think I've got a handle on it, and though I think it is more complicated than needed, I'm comfortable with it. For now. Until something breaks or fries. At which point I'll be posting some urgent and panicked question about how to put out an electrical fire while underway.
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Old 08-16-2008
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Actually, I'd think that you'd probably want the charging sources attached to the house bank, not the starting bank, since the starting bank generally has a relatively light use pattern... starting an engine, if it is in good shape, really doesn't take that much juice. Then you'd want to connect the starting bank via an echo charger and/or battery combiner.

The DuoCharge will work when you're charging via the alternator. The echo charge system on the Freedom 30 will work for when you're charging via shore power. Why do you need a battery isolator or combiner? Unless you're planning on adding solar and/or wind or a generator, I don't see why you'd need a combiner or isolator.

BTW, I'd agree with HS that a battery combiner is a better idea than an isolator.
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Old 08-16-2008
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Regarding the isolator vs. combiner issue. It is true that isolators have an intrinsic voltage drop of about 0.7v or so when conducting. They are not always conducting though, and when the current diminishes, as it will do as the battery approaches full charge, the drop also approaches zero.
Whatever...that there is a voltage drop is a known factor. Isolators last forever, never changing their electrical characteristics. What is known can be dealt with...and is dealt with by simply compensating for the drop with the regulator.
Combiners are relays...elecro-mechanical devices whose precise status at any instant is unknown. Something to consider about mechanical devices is that they fail. Sooner or later, THEY FAILl. Period. That failure can be expensive...very expensive. The ABYC makes note of possible failure modes: OPEN, which may prevent the lesser battery from being charged; or SHORTED, which will result in a possible fried battery.
Surely, I'm not the only one who's had to get off the couch at 12AM to run out to the car to rap on the horn relay box to try to silence it, or to have to smack the starter relay to get the starter to engage.
Relays aren't for me folks, not when there is a way better way to do the job.
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