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post #1 of 281 Old 07-12-2016 Thread Starter
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New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Installed this at the beginning of the season and calibrated it to 100% charge and set it to GEL battery type, as the house was fully charged at the slip all week. My first few trips off the dock were short, so the batts never discharged below 80%.

Being away for the weekend more often now, I see discharge levels down in the 50s after a couple of days. But only twice at that level of discharge.

My odd experience, however, has to do with recharging, which may have nothing to do with the gauge.

Previously, all I had to identify charge was the Xantrex remote panel, which has three idiot lights for Bulk, Absorb and Float.

Now, I'm checking the new toy all the time, to see actual voltage and charge percentage.

The SmartGuage was not showing much increase in charge level, after running the generator for an hour or two. Previously, that would be about all I felt I needed to recharge a full days usage. It's been showing an increase of maybe 10% of capacity on a 400ah house bank. This is concerning, because I use more than that per day and I wouldn't think I would need to run the generator for more than two hours per day to keep up.

Then I noticed something on the original idiot gauges. They marched their way up from bulk to float, but the SmartGuage still said the bank was only 84% charged. Float should be 98-99, if I understand this correctly.

Could it be that the SmartGuage hasn't "learned" the house parameters yet? Remember, I've also considered that the idiot lights are wrong too.

Final symptom..... When plugged into the dock, I measure 115volts at the AC receptacles. When running the generator, I only measure 106 volts. However, in both scenarios, the SmartGuage seems out of synch with the idiot lights.


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Last edited by Minnewaska; 07-12-2016 at 01:33 PM.
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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

How is the generator charging the batteries?

If it is charging through an inverter/charger or battery charger what make, model and amperage rating?

What is the charge voltage of the batteries?

What is the voltage drop at full charger output between the charger or I/C and battery bank terminals?

What brand and model are the batteries?

How old are the batteries?

From 50% SOC (on SmartGauge) how quickly do they attain target voltage eg: how quickly do they reach 14.1V (typical GEL absorption)?

What is the max charge current when you first fire up the charger?

How long does full output current last?

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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

This is what I can do of the top of my head. I can get the rest this weekend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
How is the generator charging the batteries? Inverter/charger

If it is charging through an inverter/charger or battery charger what make, model and amperage rating? Xantrex Freedom 20

What is the charge voltage of the batteries? I'm not exactly sure what you're asking. Do you mean the Bulk charge rate? When I press the voltage button on the SmartGuage during bulk, it said 14.something. Will have to confirm.

What is the voltage drop at full charger output between the charger or I/C and battery bank terminals? Don't know, not sure I know how to check. Given that the SmartGuage is attached direct to the terminals, does it give the reading?

What brand and model are the batteries? It was a quality brand, but can't recall off the top of my head. They are Gel batteries. Four group 34, I believe.

How old are the batteries? Three years

From 50% SOC (on SmartGauge) how quickly do they attain target voltage eg: how quickly do they reach 14.1V (typical GEL absorption)? Not sure how I would know this. The idiot light, on the Xantrex panel, took hours. But, the charge rate dropped along the way and the idiot lights saying in float, when the SmartGuage says no where near the upper 90% of charge.

What is the max charge current when you first fire up the charger? Is this the 14.something you asked above?

How long does full output current last? If you're asking how much time I get from the 400ah bank, before reaching 50%, that's about two days, with two fridges running, electric heads, plotters/radios running 4-5 hrs per day, pot of coffee off the invertor, lights, etc. Of course, the engine runs in/out of the harbor for a short bit.


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Last edited by Minnewaska; 07-13-2016 at 04:06 AM.
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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
How is the generator charging the batteries? Inverter/charger
Good

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
If it is charging through an inverter/charger or battery charger what make, model and amperage rating? Xantrex Freedom 20
You mentioned the word "idiot lights" and the older Freedom chargers could not be any more "idiot" if they tried. Your charger is not as "smart" as you think it is and usually the absorption charge (time spent at target voltage) is far too short. Without a Link remote these (we need to know what remote you have) chargers simply default to what amounts to "kitchen timers". With the standard remote the Freedom 20 will only do 1 hour of absorption when set to Flooded or AGM and only three hours when set to GEL. Alternatively if the batteries drop to less than 10A acceptance they can switch to float before the egg timer has run out. It is critical that your charger is set to GEL if you are charging GEL batteries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
What is the charge voltage of the batteries? I'm not exactly sure what you're asking. Do you mean the Bulk charge rate? When I press the voltage button on the SmartGuage during bulk, it said 14.something. Will have to confirm.
Bulk = Constant Current; Bulk it is not a "voltage limited" stage of charging it is full bore from the charger with the battery voltage slowly rising to the absorption set point.. If you have a 100A charger then it *should be pumping out 100A (bulk) until the battery voltage rises to 14.1V (GEL absorption voltage). *Many older inverter chargers can not develop full charging output when run off a generator as they can be a bit intolerant of the input from a generator. If yours can only develop 70A, and you are doing the mental math on 100A, then you will be frustrated with charging speeds. Once target voltage has been attained (GEL = 14.1V) the current will begin to cut back as voltage is held steady and SOC rises.

This article, despite being about faster charging AGM batteries, may help explain it a bit further:

How Fast Can an AGM Battery be Charged?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
What is the voltage drop at full charger output between the charger or I/C and battery bank terminals? Don't know, not sure I know how to check. Given that the SmartGuage is attached direct to the terminals, does it give the reading?
When the charger is pumping out 100A you need to measure terminal voltage, with a DVM, at the charger end of positive & negative then at the battery end. The best way is to measure the voltage drop of the positive cable & then negative cable but most folks don't have DVM test leads that will reach from the I/C to the battery bank.. There will always be some VD, but too much can dig into your charging speed and cause the charger to hit absorption, and start the timer, before the batteries ever obtain the proper target voltage..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
What brand and model are the batteries? It was a quality brand, but can't recall off the top of my head. They are Gel batteries. Four group 34, I believe.
If they are quality GEL batteries such as a Deka or Sonnenschein (Prevailer) then use the GEL charge setting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
How old are the batteries? Three years
At three years old they likely have a fair bit of sulfation. A good way to tell how much is by how fast the charging voltage rises to 14.1V from 50% SOC. Your charge rate is .25C (25% of 400Ah) if the charger can develop all 100A off your genset, so from 50% SOC the charger should be in bulk/constant current for approx 45 minutes to 1 hour before the batteries attain 14.1V. If the charger turns on at 50% and the battery voltage climbs to 14.1V quickly (eg: less than 35-40 minutes & don't forget about voltage drop) then the batteries are sulfated and charging will simply take longer than it will with healthy batteries.

The math would look like this

400Ah bank at 50% SOC = -200Ah

1 hour of bulk at 100A = -102Ah or approx 75% SOC

At about 75% SOC your batteries should be at, or approaching, 14.1V (dependent upon state of health) and from here to 100% SOC charging gets slower and slower and slower....


Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
From 50% SOC (on SmartGauge) how quickly do they attain target voltage eg: how quickly do they reach 14.1V (typical GEL absorption)? Not sure how I would know this. The idiot light, on the Xantrex panel, took hours. But, the charge rate dropped along the way and the idiot lights saying in float, when the SmartGuage says no where near the upper 90% of charge.
Ignore the idiot lights on the charger! All they are telling you is what the charger "thinks" it should be doing and this may be grossly incorrect and usually is especially with "egg-timer" chargers... Do you have a volt meter on-board? If you know your target absorption voltage is 14.1V we need to know how long it took to get there from 50% SOC. If this climb in voltage happens quickly that means the battery health is not good..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
What is the max charge current when you first fire up the charger? Is this the 14.something you asked above?
Voltage is voltage, current is current. We need to know if the charger can actually develop it's 100A rating running off your genset. Many can't so this number is important to know. Yopu would need an ammeter on-board or a DC clamp meter capable of measuring DC amperage to at least 100A. These are pretty inexpensive these days and are something every boater should own..

I grabbed one of these for a customer and he loves it. They can be had for less too but this one has a lot of good features.

UT207 AC/DC Clamp Meter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
How long does full output current last? If you're asking how much time I get from the 400ah bank, before reaching 50%, that's about two days, with two fridges running, electric heads, plotters/radios running 4-5 hrs per day, pot of coffee off the invertor, lights, etc. Of course, the engine runs in/out of the harbor for a short bit.
I am asking how long the charger remains delivering its 100A rating for when started up at 50% SOC.


Bottom line is you're far better to trust the SmartGauge and to ignore the idiot lights. The idiot lights are NOT based on your battery actually being full before switching to float. Switching to float too early, a phenomenon I call "premature floatulation" only serves to dramatically extend the time it takes to fully charge your batteries. At the dock, no big deal, but when running a genset premature floatulation leads to slow charge performance..

Look at the SmartGauge each morning before charging and in the evening before bed. Don't focus on it while it's charging. Once you stop charging it will hone in on SOC.. The longer you use it the better it knows your bank and the faster after charging it will hone in on a more accurate SOC....
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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Thank you very much, MS. If you're ever near RI, I owe you a beer.

Admittedly, I'll need to re-read your post a few times this evening. I have a volt meter, but will get the clamp meter.

To answer one of your questions, this is the remote panel that I have:

https://www.amazon.com/Xantrex-84-20.../dp/B000XBKMC2

What would you recommend for a replacement, if the invertor itself becomes the problem? I know you are no fan of the Xantrex. Remaking the battery cables, doesn't seem like fun. I doubt I'll buy the right tools, so I would probably have them made, if I swap out the unit.


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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Probably not indicative of the experiences of most users, but a data point all the same...
I installed a new Smartgauge this spring and it did not function. I called the company (up in WA) and their tech guy had me test the supply voltage to the meter with my digital volt meter and he declared it non-working.
He issued a return authorization to their repair facility located in Alabama. The postage to send it in was on me - I do not like that but it's their policy. They did pay shipping to send a new one back.
Seems to work now.
One other caveat: the fellow I spoke to did say that my usual practice of leaving the boat on the shore power charger when in the slip would affect the accuracy by about 10%.

Just another .02 worth, and YMMV.

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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Starting at 70% SOC charge running a generator for 2 hours wouldn't ever really fully charged a 400AH battery bank (as the OP has now discovered). I don't think one ever really gets their batteries fully charged with a generator unless they are willing to let it run a long time with hardy any load on it (going to charge amps). One of the nice things about Battery Monitors is that they tell you what the batteries are accepting (even if the SOC reading is questionable) and with that and the voltage you can may a pretty reasonable guess at SOC knowing that the source could be putting out a lot more power if it had a load to provide .

In my opinion.

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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by olson34 View Post
....their tech guy had me test the supply voltage to the meter with my digital volt meter and he declared it non-working.....
Could you clarify this test? You tested the actual voltage of the batts, with a separate meter and compared it to the reading on the gauge, presumably with the charger off? If I even have this right, how far off was it?


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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

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Originally Posted by Don0190 View Post
Starting at 70% SOC charge running a generator for 2 hours wouldn't ever really fully charged a 400AH battery bank (as the OP has now discovered)......
I do understand that, but don't think I implied otherwise.

My stated concern is, after a couple of hours of charging (generator powering a battery charger), I don't see much of an increase in stated capacity at all. Sometimes less that a 10 point increase in capacity. That seemed light to me.

More critically, it indicates that we use more than 10 points of capacity per day, so that suggests we can't keep up. That really makes no sense. Even on our power hungry boat, I would think that running the battery charger for two hours per day would keep up.

More testing coming this weekend. Heading out for a two week cruise in a couple of week, with likely no slip power along the way. Need to straighten this out.


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Re: New Balmar SmartGuage experience

Mainesail does have a donate button on his website. You cant send beer but you can send money. Besides, any beer sent now for his daughters college fund would go very flat by the time she can drink it.
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