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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
High Output Alternator & Charge Controller/Voltage Reg

I am looking to replace my stock 80AMP Hitachi (Yanmar) with a higher output alternator and serpentine kit. My house bank is 420ah AGM, and also a bow thruster using two batteries. The internally regulated Hitachi is really outgunned here and actually bit the dust last week. However the choices for an upgrade have changed recently and pose more of a challenge for me in making a decision.

Both Balmar and Electromaax are now offering Hair Pin Stator designs in the 165A size. The Balmar seems overpriced at this point, especially when compared to Electromaax, but I've been shopping the net and there are kits available that include the MC-614 that does get it close. Westmarine of all places. Also when I compare the performance curves with their old Series 6 150A, the AT165 doesn't seem all that impressive. In fact it actually loses out at lower RPM.:confused:

As for Electromaax? The performance data for their new Voyager AT-165 seems to have disappeared from their website, I swear it was there last week but maybe I'm delusional. But I do seem to remember them making reference to Engine RPM rather than Alternator RPM like Balmar, so I'm unsure if I am comparing like to like anyway.

Also another question regards the new E-MAAX Charge Controllers. Has Electromaax finally come out with something that is competitive with Balmar? Should I bite? They definitely try to tout it as more capable product.

Electromaax also offers an adjustment arm in their Serpentine kit for my 4JH5 E, which having struggled myself with belt adjustment is definitely an attractive feature.
 

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Interesting that they use square wire for denser stator windings. I know that's been done with speaker voice coils for the same reason.

Their FM-12-180 PDF shows that same curious "Engine RPMs" versus output, but after puzzling over that, I can only think that is because the chart is really not about the alternator's output. It is about how that alternator compares to an unnamed "OEM" (stock) alternator at those various engine speeds. So they're really just saying, gear it up any way you'd like, the output is about 4x that of a stock (40? 50?) alternator. And from the tech notes, there are continuous duty speed numbers, so you can gear it correctly for your own setup.

I didn't see a 165 in their Voyager series, but what's not to like about a 180 instead?(G)
 

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Freedom 39
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My current boat came with the Electromaax 180amp alternator and an Electromaxx regulator installed. Unfortunately the PO didn't spend the money to also upgrade the stock single V belt system on my Yanmar 4JHE and I chewed thru belts at an amazing pace while seeing 80amps flow into my battery bank at a fast idle. Add a few more RPM and 120amps wasn't an uncommon sight. After becoming a pro at replacing the damn belt faster than a pit crew, I did buy their serpentine belt kit with the adjustment arm which appears to be a direct copy of what I see on modern Volvo diesels. The serpentine kit and belt tensioner are an awesome combination. No more dust and much less tension needed which should be beneficial to all the bearings that take side loads. I know on some forums there are some very vocal posters that have had less pleasant interactions with Electromaax than I have. EM did make a mistake so I did have reason to test their customer service. I was unable to order the serpentine kit online, many pulldown screens don't have an option for St Thomas, so I called to order over the phone. Placed the order and was given an estimated delivery date. I called to follow up when I hadn't received any tracking info. They readily admitted they were at a boat show and had dropped the ball. To make up for it they added the tensioner kit and sent the package next day. When I got around to installing the kit it was obvious they sent the wrong crank pulley part. I called them at 8pm, their time, expecting to leave a nasty message on their answering machine and instead the owner answered. He was working late, verified they screwed up and sent me the correct part which arrived in less than 24hrs. He called two days later to make sure everything was OK and apologized again for the mishap. My take is that all companies make mistakes. Short of not making a mistake I don't know what else EM could have done any better to rectify it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I didn't see a 165 in their Voyager series, but what's not to like about a 180 instead?(G)
The information on their website is incomplete. There is not much info on the Voyager, at least not yet. I have a suspicion they actually removed information.

When I initially spoke to them last year I was just kicking tires. They downplayed the 180 and pushed me toward the 160, and now the 165. They don't yet have anything to compete with Balmar's 200, but that is really out of my price range anyway. Interestingly much of the literature on Balmars site actually refers to an AT-190, so I'm guessing they are both playing with numbers on these new alternators.

The old school Balmar 150 and EMaax 160 still look like viable choices considering the price difference, at least when looking at Hot numbers. If there was good data showing that the newer designs were indeed substantially superior then the choice might be more obvious, but at this point I don't see it.

I've ordered a cheap replacement alternator from Autozone to hold me over until the Annapolis Boat Show in less than 6 weeks(wow time flies). I may also take a stab at fixing the old one to keep as another spare since it only has 300hrs on it and looks like new internally. Unfortunately individual diode and or regulator replacement is a real bear with the Hitachi LR180. Everything is soldered together as a unit. Servicing these items is not really practical.

Or maybe I will just unload the boat and party ever after. I'm having trouble keeping up with it. Everyone told me they were black holes in the water but I truly did not fully grasp that concept.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I know on some forums there are some very vocal posters that have had less pleasant interactions with Electromaax than I have.
Yes I have seen some of the negative comments, but they were also from 3 years ago or more. My impression is they have improved. As for them selling you a 180A alternator without emphasizing the need for dual or serpentine belts, that is unfortunate. I don't think they EMaax would do that now. Balmar is very upfront about not exceeding 100amps on a single belt.

Thanks for the post though. It sounds like you are happy with the final outcome of your installation, which is encouraging. It would be nice to know that while I am hauling up and cleaning my anchor that possibly more than 100 amps are flowing into my bank at a fast idle.
 

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Freedom 39
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Yes I have seen some of the negative comments, but they were also from 3 years ago or more. My impression is they have improved. As for them selling you a 180A alternator without emphasizing the need for dual or serpentine belts, that is unfortunate. I don't think they EMaax would do that now. Balmar is very upfront about not exceeding 100amps on a single belt.

Thanks for the post though. It sounds like you are happy with the final outcome of your installation, which is encouraging. It would be nice to know that while I am hauling up and cleaning my anchor that possibly more than 100 amps are flowing into my bank at a fast idle.
As stated, the previous owner had the alternator and regulator on the boat when I bought it from him. He is, a, well, how to say this... A very confident man in that he appears to belief he is smarter than those around him. I could easily envision him chastising a poor sales guy for trying to help him!!!

At idle, roughly 500rpms, I see 40-50 amps flowing into my batteries via a Victron battery monitor which is obviously dependent on their state of charge. I currently have 370 watts of solar and rarely need the alternator for charging to keep up with power demands. It sure is comforting to know that if I do need some power it is available with the turn of a key.
 

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Balmar or Mark Grasser..

I get lots of comments on my website, from unhappy e-maax customers, for an article I did on installing a serpentine kit. This is the only article I have where the vendor draws a considerable number of negative comments. I have even considered pulling the article altogether but the serpentine kit is a real great product even if the company makes many unhappy customers.

That said you could go with either a 6-Series or the AT series or a Mark Grasser alt too. The AT series really are "all that" for a small case alt.... I have a number of these out there and they run hard and fast and require less "derating" (belt manager) to stay below 230F than an equally sized 6-Series alt does. These are really an ideal alternator for a 600Ah or larger bank of AGM or LiFePO4..

I do think the AT could be a tad more spendy than necessary for a 420Ah bank of AGM batteries as your time in bulk will be relatively short anyway. Assuming you are charging a healthy bank from 50% to 80% then you are only returning about 126Ah's in bulk. If we assume the AT will easily run at 130-140A hot, which it certainly can, you will be charging for less than 1 hour before you begin voltage limited charging, where current will decline rapidly. If the bank has lost capacity, which it undoubtedly has, or is sulfated, then you are returning even less Ah's in bulk mode and bulk mode will be even shorter..

In the real world the AT's will deliver an easy 100A at a typical Yanmar 4JH / 3JH etc. engine idle.... Balmar's specs are alternator shaft RPM, not engine....

The 6-series (or e-maax's version) will require more "derating" than the AT will so a 160A 6 series or e-maax and an AT are not performing similarly in the "real world".

I run a 160A custom built CS130D frame alt (same as 6-series and same as e-maax) which is about as tweaked and high performance as you can get yet I have it current limited to about 115A. This is the REALISTIC long term output this type of alt can handle.... The AT165 can easily do 130-145A....

My alt is just two years old and getting close to done for. Charging LiFePO4 is far harder than charging AGM's. My next creation is fully custom external rectification which should remove approx 60% of the heat from the alt allowing me to push my 160A alt to closer to 140A continuous...... I may also bump it up to 200A when I do this...:wink

I would urge you to take a look at Mark Grasser DC Solutions alts too. Mark does my custom builds for me....

Mark has longer lead times but each alt is hand built one at a time with incredible attention to detail and superior components to the guys in Canada. Balmar builds a good product but with multiple levels of distribution, yes, they get expensive.
 

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Got it, short and to the point. Thanks. I take your advice with high regard. Would this also be directed at the Alternator as well? I am actually awaiting a quote from my home marina for an AT165 and S6 150A Balmar Kit.
I believe most or all of Maine Sail's comments were actually oriented to the alternator. Regarding the external regulator, I know from other postings and conversations that he favors the Balmar MC-614, mainly because of programmability, including the ability to "derate" the alt using belt manager, allowing the alt to run cooler for longer life. I'm not aware of any other external regulators with this feature, but I haven't checked out the Emax regulator.

I would second the recommendation for Mark Grasser, which is where I got my alternator. He also offers serpentine kits, and custom fabricated one for my outdated engine. Great service and products.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think I have pretty much made up my mind. Rational thinking sometimes eludes me when dealing with a boat. Had I been rational when considering the boat in the first place I would not have bought it. I am leaning toward the AT200 with the MC-614 ,170 amps at a fast idle is very attractive.

It seems a shame to have so much money sunk into a boat and have such a weak charging system. A few grand sounds like a lot of money, but not when looking at the bigger picture. Picking up or dropping anchor and then motoring in and out of an anchorage/mooring alone could restore a good portion of charge. Heck I can spend 5-10 minutes rinsing the nasty Chesapeake mud off of my anchor and rode. This engine time is wasted on a wimpy alternator.
 

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I went through a similar thought process when I accidentally fried my OEM Hitachi alt. In the marine alternator world, there seems to be two options: cheap and crappy, or expensive and awesome. Not much in the middle.

I assume your plan includes a serpentine kit - where are you planning to source that?
 

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Maine, if you're going to go where no man has gone before and make up your own new system....just consider the heat transfer issue for a moment.

Do you know ANY device, other than a hundred year old coal boiler, that has the crude heat transfer surfaces of a modern regulator? Hell no, modern heat transfer ranges from simple fluting (on rifle barrels and auto oil pans alike) to finely made fins, in the heat transfer section of every air conditioner or hydronic heater installed in the last 50 years.

So...Why not start with an alternator frame that has been fluted, with a fairly large number of deep thin flutes, to quadruple the heat transfer area? Should be a simple machine shop operation with an immediate payback in performance.

Or for that matter, "liquid" cooling, not necessarily using water or antifreeze.

There are ways to move heat. Alternators just never seem to use them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Balmar or Mark Grasser..

I get lots of comments on my website, from unhappy e-maax customers, for an article I did on installing a serpentine kit. This is the only article I have where the vendor draws a considerable number of negative comments. I have even considered pulling the article altogether but the serpentine kit is a real great product even if the company makes many unhappy customers.

That said you could go with either a 6-Series or the AT series or a Mark Grasser alt too. The AT series really are "all that" for a small case alt.... I have a number of these out there and they run hard and fast and require less "derating" (belt manager) to stay below 230F than an equally sized 6-Series alt does. These are really an ideal alternator for a 600Ah or larger bank of AGM or LiFePO4..

I do think the AT could be a tad more spendy than necessary for a 420Ah bank of AGM batteries as your time in bulk will be relatively short anyway. Assuming you are charging a healthy bank from 50% to 80% then you are only returning about 126Ah's in bulk. If we assume the AT will easily run at 130-140A hot, which it certainly can, you will be charging for less than 1 hour before you begin voltage limited charging, where current will decline rapidly. If the bank has lost capacity, which it undoubtedly has, or is sulfated, then you are returning even less Ah's in bulk mode and bulk mode will be even shorter..

In the real world the AT's will deliver an easy 100A at a typical Yanmar 4JH / 3JH etc. engine idle.... Balmar's specs are alternator shaft RPM, not engine....

The 6-series (or e-maax's version) will require more "derating" than the AT will so a 160A 6 series or e-maax and an AT are not performing similarly in the "real world".

I run a 160A custom built CS130D frame alt (same as 6-series and same as e-maax) which is about as tweaked and high performance as you can get yet I have it current limited to about 115A. This is the REALISTIC long term output this type of alt can handle.... The AT165 can easily do 130-145A....

My alt is just two years old and getting close to done for. Charging LiFePO4 is far harder than charging AGM's. My next creation is fully custom external rectification which should remove approx 60% of the heat from the alt allowing me to push my 160A alt to closer to 140A continuous...... I may also bump it up to 200A when I do this...:wink

I would urge you to take a look at Mark Grasser DC Solutions alts too. Mark does my custom builds for me....

Mark has longer lead times but each alt is hand built one at a time with incredible attention to detail and superior components to the guys in Canada. Balmar builds a good product but with multiple levels of distribution, yes, they get expensive.
Balmar or Mark Grasser..

I somehow missed your reply, will definitely look at the Mark Grasser. You are definitely an early adopter with the LiFePO4.... I would just be happy to have a healthy bank of AGM's, which is eluding me at the moment, I think they are toast, just like my Hitachi. I had no idea just how detrimental a partial state of charge was to Lead Acid or it's derivatives. They suck. I look at the price of a new boat, all of the gadgets, the cost of a decent battery bank, and then a wimpy charging system. Makes no sense.
 
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