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Discussion Starter #1
Here's a picture of my "battery bilge", for lack of a better term. I think that the house batteries (at top) are Gel Cells. Do you agree?



See an enlarged picture here.

Fun twist - If this was your boat, what would you do here? What's needed?

Can I buy another battery (or two) to fit in the space, or do I have to scrap the existing ones and replace them all at the same time?
 

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From the picture your battery cables look in rough shape with very dirty connections at best

If the small battery is you statting battery it looks rough and really needs to be in the correct size case to keep it safely in place in bad weather

As far as the house batterys it really depends on what level of charge they will take and how many amp hours they deliever NOW compared to what they should
 

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Don Radcliffe
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So what don't you like about your batteries??

Note that you have battery height limitations-the existing house bank looks like 4D or 8D gels, and you probably don't have vertical room for golf-cart style wet cells.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I like the batteries. They meet my needs pretty well, only getting run down after a few days of being on the boat with my wife and 4 kids.

There is a lot of space for another battery, maybe even two. So if I can simply add another battery, that would be easy. But I worry that I'll have mis-matched batteries. This may not be a concern since they'll be in paraller, not in series.

There's no tops to the battery cases, something that I wonder if I need to address. There's not a lot of clearance for tops, so I'm thinking this is what the designers wanted. Still, it weems at odds to what I've heard.
 

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I agree that first step is cleaning up the cables and terminations. Next you need to secure them in place properly. Standards call for tops but failing that get some strapping that will hold them in place no matter what.

Your main bank could be gels or AGM's. You really need the info off the labels to tell but it looks like they are 8d's which gives you around 400-450 amp hours or 200 amp hours of use before needing a recharge. I would not do anything with them until they begin to fail on you. New ones will run around $600 EACH.

If your starter battery goes... you might consider replacing it with the same size battery you use for the house...giving you a 650 amp house bank and still plenty of starting power when you combine your 2 banks. Looks like you may even have room their for a fourth battery which would give you a 500 amp hours use before recharging system...but you'd need a large at the dock charger to keep that topped up.

If the system is meeting your present needs there is no reason to upgrade at least until something fails...but cleaning it up and securing them is of importance.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks Cam. Seems like another winter project.

One other thing, the feed line from the solar panel goes through a diode and into the house battery. I'm planning to add a second diode in parallel, connected to the starting battery.


 

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One other thing, the feed line from the solar panel goes through a diode and into the house battery. I'm planning to add a second diode in parallel, connected to the starting battery.
You don't have a regulator between the solar panel and the battery?

Have you ever monitored the battery/charging voltage on a sunny day?
 

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Telstar 28
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Using an unregulated solar panel on GEL or AGM batteries can be a really good way to fry them. Many solar panels will put out 17-18 VDC on a good bright sunny day... :)

Can't say whether the batteries are AGM or GEL from the information and photos provided. You do need to have lids and straps for the battery boxes IMHO... cleaning up the terminals is also necessary. Be aware that you do need to have something securing the batteries and protecting the terminals from accidental shorting... which can cause a fire and do other really bad things to your boat.
 

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Bene...what kind of panel do you have? Cerveza is correct...any panel with a full sunlight output of over 14.5 volts could damage your expensive batts and needs regulation. Usually once you get bigger than the tirckle charger type panels...this is an issue. 20watt kyoceras have a 16.9V output!!
 

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Bene505,

Your profile says you are an "Electrical Engineer now pushing paper ". IMHO, you've been pushing paper too long :)

No offense intended, but based on the photos you've posted I would be reluctant to have my family aboard until these items are corrected. The wiring and connections need attention NOW.

I wouldn't worry about additional battery power or other things until the wiring problems are corrected and you can start then with some semblance of a "clean plate" to evaluate your electrical needs.

I mean this in a friendly way and, BTW, deal with this stuff aboard boats every day -- which is why I feel the urgency. Have seen way too many disasters happen due to neglected and incorrect wiring.

Bill
 

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No offense intended, but based on the photos you've posted I would be reluctant to have my family aboard until these items are corrected. The wiring and connections need attention NOW.
Hi Bill,

Can you please tell me what is dangerous about the existing system? To my uneducated eye the wiring looks dirty and needs a cleaning, but doesn't look like it could harm anyone.

Thanks,
Barry
 

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Barry,

Without being aboard and taking the connections apart, it's impossible to tell definitively from pictures.

However, there are enough warning signs to be worrisome, including:

1. Abundant rust;
2. Use of mild steel nuts, washers (or, so it looks in the pics);
3. The angle which the neg cable on starting battery makes with lug looks suspicious;
4. Lead lugs don't look right, especially on positive pole on starting battery (possibly split??);
5. Diode setup....as others have said, direct connection of any but a small solar panel to battery without a controller is asking for trouble; diode connectors wrong size; bare wire; diode = heat;
6. Signs of discoloration ....possibly from heat???? ; and
7. Can't see positive lug on top house battery (under sole).

If connections look this bad, it's likely that there's surface corrosion under the lugs, creating a less than perfect connection with the batteries. This means a higher resistance, and that means heat and incomplete charging.

Naturally, a professional seeing this setup would also wonder about the rest of the 12-volt source power system....alternator, regulator, battery switch(es), breakers, grounds, etc., etc.

By the way, those do look like gels, though it's possible they're AGMs. No way to tell for sure until you pull one to find a label. Gels can last a very long time if taken care of...I have some 12-year old golf-cart size gels in my basement which were used for a battery test last year...they're still pretty good!

Once again, it's impossible to tell from pics. But, I believe there's enough to be concerned about.

Bill
 

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Bene :
Squirt some WD40 (or similar) on those connections, and work them loose. Some new nuts would be good. You really must strap the batteries down so they cannot fall out if you get knocked down, or rolled. It is good to stop them moving, too.
Make sure your lines are fused somewhere close to the batteries.

When you leave the ship, make sure the battery isolator is off. Never leave your motor running unattended..... the usual rules.
 

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Telstar 28
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One other thing I'd be curious about is whether the battery cables are made from welding cable or marine-grade tinned battery cable. :) Given the use of cheap mild steel for the nuts and bolts... I would guess they're actually welding cable, and not marine-grade battery cable.
 

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Nuts.

Nuts and washers, not part of the circuit, i.e., on top of the connector, are not a problem. If they are part of the connection (i.e., stacked connectors with washers between) then it's a problem because of resistance in the circuit causing heat - in which case stainless steel is the worst type to use because of it's higher resistance.
It's better to use mild steel and keep it clean of corrosion.
Practical Sailor did a nice little expose on the entire tinned wire deal. It is not necessary provided the connections are sealed.
Don't argue with me, argue with them.
I know my 1986 Hunters wires were not tinned, and still worked just fine after 20 years.
How long do you expect wires to last, I'd think 20 years between refits would be just fine.

The house batteries are clearly strapped down, and the starting battery has a strap, it's just loose. I'd put a top on the terminals to prevent tools from arcing, but see no other real problems.


The bigger problem I see is the solar panel without a regulator (that we know of), and the mixing of wet cell and agm/gel.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Great posts.

The solar panel measures about 15 inches by 60 inches. Based on the size of the batteries, the panel doesn't seems too big to use without a controller. The boat was for sale for quite a long time a few states south of here, with the same batteries, and without the batteries getting used at all. No drain on the batteries for a year, maybe 2 years. If they were to be fried, they would already be so. Adding the starter battery via a second diode would spread out the charging even more.

The two banks are separate. There's no mixing. Separate alternator. Separate use (house versus engine start), separate ammeters. No "all" switch.

I'd like to put a cover on them. I need to see what clearance I have from the cabin sole, above. Yes there is a hatch/sole cover on top of what you see.

Bill -- keep in mind that I'm the one asking the forum. The original title I had in mind was "What's wrong with this picture?" As for the Electrical Engineer thing, the basics stick with you. Just don't ask me to look at a schematic with 40 transistors and tell you what it does. Heck, even 4 transistors. Thanks for the "tough love", keep it coming.

First thing I'm planning, is to "fix" it so the starting battery doesn't slide. If I can't adjust the tiedown strap then I may build a spacer for each side of the engine battery so it doesn't shift.

Second -- since I've seen people ignore good advice on this forum, I'm rereading the entire thread to make sure I don't miss anything.

Third -- I just put in a call to a trusted mechanic that specializes in electrical. He's at the marina now.

Fourth -- I'm looking into battery covers. Maybe the Beneteau parts people will have them. Maybe I can find them on the net (great service there at a good price, but that's another topic.)

Anything I'm missing?
 
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