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post #1 of 69 Old 03-14-2015 Thread Starter
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Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Since beginning of our cruise last fall, I am having one heck of a time understanding my electrical charging system that is on my Catalina 445 boat; Solar,engine alternator and shore/generator battery charger. The main problem I think I see when the smart charging computers of each charging systems comes online, they don't seem to be charging due to "Sense" voltage from the other charging system at the time (mostly the solar charging system). Hence, the question is "How does the smart controllers really work in determining what the state of the battery is to charge it?"

Background:

Charging system.
1. Engine - Balmar 125 alternator internal regulator
2. Solar - 2 X Kyocera 140 watts panels, Blue Sky 2512 MPPT controller
3. Charles Marine 3 bank 60 amp Battery Charger

Batteries - 3 X 8d's Flooded batteries ( 2 banks; 1 8d forward for bow thruster and windlass, 2x8ds main house) . 1 X group 27 starting battery

2 Guest rotary Switches 1,2 both
1. Runs the 8'ds, Always in both,
2. Determines the engine starting battery - group 27 or house bank battery for engine start (Catalina puts this in vs an echo charger) and Engine alternator charging ( I think this right)

So here is a typical scenario.
Solar panels have been on all day making Happy free amps, charging the batteries. We decide to up anchor to chase sunsets. Voltage on the monitors read 13.65 volts and 18 amps. Engine is started. As we have to motor, the wind died (of course following the rule of only 3 kinds of wind; one the nose, to much or too little), I notice now no amps are going into the batteries but voltage is still 13.65 or sometimes it goes to 14.10 ( batteries are not even close to being 90% charged to start equalization charge). Are the two controllers out smarting each other on the battery state?
I have seen this happen with any combination of any two charging systems online or especially when one system comes online right after another one shuts down and the batteries have not come to "Resting or Standing" voltage.
The resulting conflict that I see is the batteries are never getting fully charged or close to it when other than docked for any length of time. Since I am full time cruising and trying to avoid marinas I need to get this problem resolved.

I hope MainSail sees this. I think it would be an interesting article for him.

Melissa
Currently Exumas, Bahamas.

Melissa Renee
Moondance
Catalina 445, Hull #90

Last edited by Melrna; 03-14-2015 at 11:27 AM.
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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Melissa,

I'm sure MaineSail will show up to add to this.

It is quite common for two or more charging sources to "fight" with one another, i.e., as you've correctly guessed a charge source comes on, sees a higher voltage of another charging source, and assumes the batteries are more fully charged than they might actually be.

You'll not reach 100% charge most times when out cruising EXCEPT if you are doing a very long motoring trip OR your solar panels are able to put out more amps than the normal consumption on your boat.

Those two Kyocera panels are capable of putting out a max of about 20A in bright sunlight and as much as 10A or so even in heavily overcast conditions with that MPPT controller. Depending on how much your boat draws in normal operation with the frig/freezer, computer, etc., whatever's left over goes into battery charging. However, you'll not likely often hit "full charge".

Not sure what you meant by "equalization"....think you misused the term. "Equalization" is a process normally applied only once or twice a year, wherein you have 100% full batteries to begin with, then apply a voltage of 15.5 to 16.5VDC or so for several hours, while carefully monitoring the batteries. This process is designed to knock light PbSO4 crystals off the plates and to "equalize" the charge amongst the individual cells. Normally, you can only do this at dockside with shorepower.

Hope this helps a bit.

Bill
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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

[
Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Melissa,



You'll not reach 100% charge most times when out cruising EXCEPT if you are doing a very long motoring trip OR your solar panels are able to put out more amps than the normal consumption on your boat.
I realize that. I try to keep the batteries between 85%-90% before bed (12.6-12.7 Vdc) and recharge NLT 12.2 Vdc with some charging source. This has required me to run either the engine (motor sailing) or the Honda generator for a few hours every second/third day to maintain this.

Quote:
Those two Kyocera panels are capable of putting out a max of about 20A in bright sunlight and as much as 10A or so even in heavily overcast conditions with that MPPT controller. Depending on how much your boat draws in normal operation with the frig/freezer, computer, etc., whatever's left over goes into battery charging. However, you'll not likely often hit "full charge".
The solar panels rock! You are correct in the 20A to 10A during the day. They also tilt. Very important to maximize happy free amps. I used on an average about 5.5 amp/hour a day at anchor and 12.5 amp/hour when sailing with everything running including the autopilot. Biggest draw by far is the refrigerator in the tropics.
When at anchor I have around 10 "good happy free amps" going into the batteries on a sunny day and almost 5 amps when sailing. I figure I am short around a total of 40 amp/hours a day to replenish the batteries to at least 90%. One more solar panel would work.

Quote:
Not sure what you meant by "equalization"....think you misused the term. "Equalization" is a process normally applied only once or twice a year, wherein you have 100% full batteries to begin with, then apply a voltage of 15.5 to 16.5VDC or so for several hours, while carefully monitoring the batteries. This process is designed to knock light PbSO4 crystals off the plates and to "equalize" the charge amongst the individual cells. Normally, you can only do this at dockside with shorepower.
Correct. It is what I meant. Not sure about 15.5 - 16.5 Vdc to achieve this. I always thought when the battery charger went to over 14 Vdc for the last 10% charging cycle depending on what type of battery you have, it equalized the batteries. If so not sure how to get the battery charger to boast it that high. Always something to learn out here.


Still the questions I have "How do the battery chargers know how big the battery bank is and how many amps to put in them?" How do multiple chargers work with each other?

Another sunny day
Black Point Exumas.

Melissa Renee
Moondance
Catalina 445, Hull #90

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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Melissa,

No, equalization is just as I described. BTW, the NORMAL absorption voltage for most flooded batteries is 14.4VDC or above. Trojan calls for 14.8-15.0 for their popular T-105s. The equalization voltage is 15.5 or above. Many chargers cannot do this. Some regulators for alternators and for solar panels have the ability to put out an equalization charge, but this can be problematic and difficult for many people.

How do the chargers know what size the battery bank is? They don't. And, they don't need to.

Here's something to remember loud and clear: at any given voltage, a lead acid battery (flooded, AGM, gel, etc.) will take what it will take in the way of charging amperage....and no more. It doesn't matter if you have a HUGE charging source, the batteries themselves will limit the current they take at any stage of charging and at any given voltage.

All a charger has to do is limit the charging voltage to, say, 14.4 or 14.6 for most flooded batteries (the T-105s are an exception), and the battery will accept what it's going to accept.

This is true of healthy batteries, i.e., those which have no internal short or other physical deficiency. As batteries age and their capacity erodes, they'll accept less and less current more quickly because they have less and less plate area available to store a charge. The voltages won't change much, but the capacity (total energy available) will.

Bill




Quote:
Originally Posted by Melrna View Post
I realize that. I try to keep the batteries between 85%-90% before bed (12.6-12.7 Vdc) and recharge NLT 12.2 Vdc with some charging source. This has required me to run either the engine )motor sailing or the Honda generator for a few hours every third day. to maintain this.


The solar panels rock! You are correct in the 20A to 10A during the day. They also tilt. Very important to maximize happy free amps. I average about 5.5 amps hours a day at anchor and 12.5 when sailing with everything running including the autopilot. Biggest draw by far is the refrigerator in the tropics.
When at anchor I have around 10 "good happy free amps" going into the batteries on a sunny day and almost 5 amps when sailing. I figure I am short around 40 amp/hours a day to replenish the batteries to at least 90%. One more solar panel would work.



Correct. It is what I meant. Not sure about 15.5 - 16.5 Vdc to achieve this. I always thought when the battery charger went to over 14 Vdc depending on what type of battery you had equalized the batteries. If so not sure how to get the battery charger to boast it that high. Always something to learn out here.


Still the questions I have "How do the battery chargers know how big the battery bank is and how many amps to put in them?" How do multiple chargers work with each other?

Another sunny day
Black Point Exumas.

Last edited by btrayfors; 03-14-2015 at 06:40 PM.
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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Melissa,



Here's something to remember loud and clear: at any given voltage, a lead acid battery (flooded, AGM, gel, etc.) will take what it will take in the way of charging amperage....and no more. It doesn't matter if you have a HUGE charging source, the batteries themselves will limit the current they take at any stage of charging and at any given voltage.

All a charger has to do is limit the charging voltage to, say, 14.4 or 14.6 for most flooded batteries (the T-105s are an exception), and the battery will accept what it's going to accept.

Bill
Than why all the talk about buying and installing fancy battery charger controllers for every type charging source especially alternators with high amperage capacity?

Melissa Renee
Moondance
Catalina 445, Hull #90
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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melrna View Post
Since beginning of our cruise last fall, I am having one heck of a time understanding my electrical charging system that is on my Catalina 445 boat; Solar,engine alternator and shore/generator battery charger. The main problem I think I see when the smart charging computers of each charging systems comes online, they don't seem to be charging due to "Sense" voltage from the other charging system at the time (mostly the solar charging system). Hence, the question is "How does the smart controllers really work in determining what the state of the battery is to charge it?"

Background:

Charging system.
1. Engine - Balmar 125 alternator internal regulator
2. Solar - 2 X Kyocera 140 watts panels, Blue Sky 2512 MPPT controller
3. Charles Marine 3 bank 60 amp Battery Charger

Batteries - 3 X 8d's Flooded batteries ( 2 banks; 1 8d forward for bow thruster and windlass, 2x8ds main house) . 1 X group 27 starting battery

2 Guest rotary Switches 1,2 both
1. Runs the 8'ds, Always in both,
2. Determines the engine starting battery - group 27 or house bank battery for engine start (Catalina puts this in vs an echo charger) and Engine alternator charging ( I think this right)

So here is a typical scenario.
Solar panels have been on all day making Happy free amps, charging the batteries. We decide to up anchor to chase sunsets. Voltage on the monitors read 13.65 volts and 18 amps. Engine is started. As we have to motor, the wind died (of course following the rule of only 3 kinds of wind; one the nose, to much or too little), I notice now no amps are going into the batteries but voltage is still 13.65 or sometimes it goes to 14.10 ( batteries are not even close to being 90% charged to start equalization charge). Are the two controllers out smarting each other on the battery state?
I have seen this happen with any combination of any two charging systems online or especially when one system comes online right after another one shuts down and the batteries have not come to "Resting or Standing" voltage.
The resulting conflict that I see is the batteries are never getting fully charged or close to it when other than docked for any length of time. Since I am full time cruising and trying to avoid marinas I need to get this problem resolved.

I hope MainSail sees this. I think it would be an interesting article for him.

Melissa
Currently Exumas, Bahamas.
Melissa,

We really need to know what you mean by "no amps going into the battery"? What are you looking at to determine this? If you are at 13.6V or 14.1V there is current going into the batts but you may not be seeing it or may have an improperly wired shunt...

______
-Maine Sail / CS-36T


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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

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Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
Melissa,

We really need to know what you mean by "no amps going into the battery"? What are you looking at to determine this? If you are at 13.6V or 14.1V there is current going into the batts but you may not be seeing it or may have an improperly wired shunt...
I have a Xantrex LinkPro and Catalina's factory installed volt and amp meter. I also check with my multimeter that has a amp meter. So I have three sources onboard to see how many amps coming and going. Grant I am not a wizard with the multimeter but I think I can do simple test with the negative grounds to the batteries. So what I see is 0 amps going into the batteries by these meters at times and the power source is just powering the appliances running at the time usually around 4-6 amps.
Now on the subject of an improperly wired shunt,,, I won't begin to tell you the War and Peace story of trying to get the Xantrex to work right after 19 months. I still don't think it is working right. The dealer couldn't do it, a supposedly certified marine electrician sort of got it half working and of course me with your help from your website (which I memorized) I have it somewhat working. If I ever get up to your neck of the woods, you are hired to sort out this mess and a few other problem areas. :>)

Melissa Renee
Moondance
Catalina 445, Hull #90

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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Sounds to me that you really have something wired incorrectly. On our boat with the solar putting out around 6 amps with the battery showing about 90% charged. We start the engine to motor out of an anchorage or our marina and the amps will jump up to around 35 out of the 80 amp alternator on the yanmar while we motor out and the amps drop steadily as the battery charges to 100%. I have the solar wired to the main distribution positive bar and the main ground bar ( properly fused). Same with the alternator output. Ymmv

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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

With the discussion of shunt mysteries and the obvious failure to bring a shaman on board to exorcise the evil spirits...I'd have to question the setup too.

It is unclear if you have tried this with your multimeter but it will be the gold standard. Forgive me if this is obvious old news and what you've already done.

Find the battery negative, one negative at a "master" ground point. Unbolt whatever you must if there are multiple grounds and you can't find a singular ground point. (And nothing should be connected directly to the batteries, not even a bilge pump, bypassing this.)

Then insert the multimeter leads to bridge the gap you've just made in the system, i.e. from the ground point to the battery negative. Meter should be in the AMPS configuration, which often means moving the test leads to a special socket, and switching the scales, AND there's often a very sensitive FUSE hidden inside the meter which is easily blown by one mistake--which will cause the meter to read "zero" until the fuse is replaced. (Don't ask me how I know that.(G)

So having doublechecked all the ways to misuse the meter...does it still really show "zero" amps? Both in and out?

Can you find something convenient off the boat, to make sure you've got the hang of using the meter the right way? Even a flashlight battery and bulb, or your car battery maybe?
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Re: Dueling Charging Systems; Solar, Engine, Battery Charger

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melrna View Post
I have a Xantrex LinkPro and Catalina's factory installed volt and amp meter. I also check with my multimeter that has a amp meter. So I have three sources onboard to see how many amps coming and going. Grant I am not a wizard with the multimeter but I think I can do simple test with the negative grounds to the batteries. So what I see is 0 amps going into the batteries by these meters at times and the power source is just powering the appliances running at the time usually around 4-6 amps.
Now on the subject of an improperly wired shunt,,, I won't begin to tell you the War and Peace story of trying to get the Xantrex to work right after 19 months. I still don't think it is working right. The dealer couldn't do it, a supposedly certified marine electrician sort of got it half working and of course me with your help from your website (which I memorized) I have it somewhat working. If I ever get up to your neck of the woods, you are hired to sort out this mess and a few other problem areas. :>)
A few thoughts.

If you are using a Balmar alternator then please use a Balmar regulator. The internal regulators are set for 14.1V, which is absurdly low, unless you have GEL batteries. These internal regulators are intended as a "limp you home" regulator not intended for performance. They geared to be safe for all batteries but they won't be healthy for any of them except GEL.. If you want any sort of performance from that alternator you really need proper voltage sensing and to properly program the regulator so it will perform.

The largest charging source should be programmed for the highest absorption voltage. This means the alternator gets the highest programmed voltage, then solar, then wind.. When the alt is running it is in the drivers seat when at absorption level. If the bank is in BULK then all charge sources will kick in because none of them will be at absorption voltage.

Leave about .1V - .2V between the reg and the solar controller for absorption and if you have wind stop at 13.8 -14.0V.

Alt Reg = 14.6V - 14.7V

Solar = 14.4V

Wind = 13.8V - 14.2V

______
-Maine Sail / CS-36T


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