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post #11 of 19 Old 08-24-2007
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I bought one nice $60.00 portable volt meter and then 12 other cheap ones I found for $3.00 each.

Can't have too many back-ups.

Sometimes?..........

Rick
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post #12 of 19 Old 08-24-2007
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Ok, Once again... buy a GOOD Fluke...

One time. THat is it. Don't drop it. Pass it down to the kids. You will need a CC# and 4 personal witnesses, but it is worth it. Honestly.

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post #13 of 19 Old 08-24-2007
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Uncle, I would buy a digital panel meter (see www.allelectronics.com for some generic ones that aren't "marine" priced) that has a 19.99V maximum reading on the scale. The analog meters that you see sold in auto/boat stores just aren't precise enough to be meaningful.

And run the wires all the way back to the battery posts--which means you'll also need a switch (or breaker) to turn the meter on, rather than leaving it on all the time. They consume VERY little power, so you don't need huge cables. Even a 16AWG wire pair would probably be overkill, just use fully tinned wire so they don't eventually rot out on you. You can probably get fully tinned "shielded microphone wire" or something similar even at Radio Shack for less than $10 for a 50-foot spool, and that will have an extra protective jacket on it.

Since alternator voltage is usually 14.3-14.4, and 15V would mean a regulator failure while 13.8 would mean you are undercharging...you can see where the digital meter is useful. Even more so, because from 11.6-12.6V every 1/10th of a volt is 10% of your battery capacity, so you really want a meter capable of giving you precise readings in that range.

And, I'd almost bet that you'll find the readings at 1-2 tenths different at the battery switch, convenient as it may be. Even with the best of cabling. Running the meter all the way back to the battery assures you that you are reading battery voltages--not trying to figure out what else might be making the readings wrong.
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post #14 of 19 Old 08-25-2007
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I would second hello's suggestion, addint that some of the analog guages are adjustable. Anotherwords, you can get a very accurate reading across the battery terminals and then adjust you remote meter to correspond. and you certainly do not want the meter unswitched; it just becomes another power loss. running the cables back to the battery seperately gives you the info you want; chances are you already know you don't have enough voltage at the mian panel or you would't be looking at the meter.(g) What is desired is a good reading of voltage at the source.

I beg to differ on the selection of handheld voltmeters. If you wish to buy a Fluke or Amprobe, go ahead, it will serve you well. Mine stay on land. I have a twenty dollar digital that I really do not mind dropping in the bilge or worse, and it hardly hurt at all to replace it. They've become so inexpensive that I've just about retired my test light, although you can't beat that one I've made up with the 12 foot lead on it-works on backhoes and boats!

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post #15 of 19 Old 08-25-2007
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"addint that some of the analog guages are adjustable." And still worthless. Last time I "adjusted" one to show alternator voltage (14.4 per the digital guages) properly, it was still off by something like 0.4v at 12.4 volt, where you'd like to see what the battery really was up to. I could set it for either spot--and still have it off horribly at the other. Typical analog 10-16V or similar "original equipment" junk. I'm sure there are better ones, I've just never seen one that's as quick and easy to read, and accurate, as even the cheapest digitals.

Speaking of DMM's...even the cheapest usually claim something like 1/2% accuracy on the DC scales. Checked mine this month because it disagreed with an MPPT controller display--and found that yes, a $25 DMM really can be off by almost 0.2V on the "12" volt reading. Still, I'd rather check it and learn to live with it than leave good Fluke's scattered around. After I had an industrial accident involving 30,000+ volts on my good old B&K meter...I decided the cheaper meters can often do very nicely. As long as you "trust but verify" as our Fearless Leader once said.
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post #16 of 19 Old 08-26-2007
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I wonder what a voltometer is used for. It will tell you if you are charging, or not, and if the battery is dead or next-to-dead. It will not tell you much else, really.

Certainly fit it if you wish, but be aware of what it can tell you.

My own voltometer is a multimeter, and I use it across the battery terminals if I suspect that I am not charging. My olde ammeter will tell me that also. It's part of the system designed by Ample power, of Florida, still going well after 15 years.

I have no other interest with Ample Power.
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post #17 of 19 Old 08-26-2007
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"I wonder what a voltometer is used for. It will tell you if you are charging, or not, and if the battery is dead or next-to-dead. It will not tell you much else, really."

Sounds like you have been misinformed. While there are minor differences among brands and types, pretty much all "twelve volt" lead batteries will show 12.6V when fully charged (after any surface charge has been knocked off by a few minutes under load or standing overnight) and that voltage will be reduced pretty much evenly down to 11.6V, at which point the battery will provide no power under load and effectively be dead.

If you have a digital voltmeter with a "20 volt" (19.99) scale, you can read the battery's state of charge reasonably accurately with nothing more. When you see the battery keeps coming back to 12.2 or 12.1 after a "full charge" and doesn't come up any higher--you know it is time to replace the battery, it is half gone. And if the same meter is showing 14.3-14.4 under cruising conditions with the engine/alternator on, you know for sure that the problem is old weak batteries, not your charging system.

Analog voltmeters just do not have the accuracy needed to provide useful information--unless you are buying a 'lab grade' one. Which is not likely on a boat. The digitals, and DMMs, are way cheaper and more useful for this purpose.

I've got an older analog meter with a mirrored scale (to eliminate parallax error) and a needle-thin indicator gauge. But I'd have no idea where to even start looking for one of those--much less one with a 20v scale--these days.
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post #18 of 19 Old 08-26-2007
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hellosailor,

Do you have a specific digital panel meter you'd recommend? I'm thinking a backlit (something with an "indiglo" type back-lighting would be terrific) display would be a good idea. I'd either throw in a on-off-on switch, or just hook the meter to the "output" of the off-one-both-two main switch. (The switch is just above the batteries. Not enough cable there to induce significant voltage drop, particularly if all the loads are switched off.)

Jim
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post #19 of 19 Old 08-26-2007
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specific meter

Hello Jim,

I mounted this meter in my electrical panel

http://www.defender.com/product.jsp?path=-1|328|299263|319684&id=145313

I know, many people knock the analog meter. However, this one (8-16v range) is accurate enough to see the difference between a discharged battery and full one, to see when the batteries are charged, etc.

And at less than $30 the price is right too. I have a cheap digital multi meter in my toolbox for troubleshooting. This meter is mounted in the panel with a switch. It is lit. With the 1-2-all batteries switches I can test the strength of my three batteries.

Good luck,
Barry

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