Small cruiser electrical upgrade. Mulitstep regulator or small generator.

Discussion in 'Electrical Systems' started by missinginaction, Oct 22, 2017.

  1. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I haven't posted for some time but read here regularly. Thanks Jeff for keeping the site up!

    I'm thinking about an upgrade to my electrical system for next season. I spent a lot of time on it when I restored my 25' sedan a few years ago. It has been trouble free. The boats equipped with a 40 amp smart charger, 1800 watt inverter, refrigerator freezer, autopilot, chart plotter and 5000 btu high efficiency air conditioning and some other light loads. I use 2 - 105 AH AGM house batteries (20 hour rate). I'll put a photo of the electric panel below to give you an idea of how it's set up.

    This little boat is also equipped with a 105 amp, low rpm/high output alternator from ARCO marine. It charges my batteries well when the main engine is running, but as a lot of you know this can take awhile as the alternator has an automotive style regulator. Another consideration is that I often cruise with a Yamaha T9.9 outboard. It pushes me along quite nicely (if leisurely) but the little kicker only puts out 6 amps, so it's not any help charging batteries.

    So, I need to run my main engine during the day when I'd rather just be trolling. I'm also limited in electrical use in the evenings unless I'm plugged in somewhere. I like to anchor out or find secluded spots. So I have a little problem.

    My first thought was to install a multistage regulator to work with my main engine. This would enable me to reduce engine running time somewhat. The problem - I'd still be limited in the evenings.
    Then I discovered these little generators from Yamaha and Honda. Like this one:

    Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Generator - Photo Gallery, Video, Specs, Features, Offers, Inventory and more https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/generator/models/ef2000isv2

    These little units are pretty quiet and generate sine wave power. I believe I could power up one of these little units and have it connected to my electric system through my shore inlet (30 amp). I could then run my battery charger (draws 7.7 amps max) and my AC unit (draws less then 5 amps) and not abuse my small battery bank at night. It would also come in handy if I wanted to run for extended times on my kicker and still wanted to cool off during the day.

    I'd need to think through a safe and secure mount for this generator. I'm also aware of CO. Good detectors will need to be installed inside the cabin, just in case.

    I'm tilting towards the little generator, even though it's more expensive than the regulator. If anyone has done a similar installation, I'd love to hear how you made out with it.

    Regards,

    MIA

    elecrical panel.jpg panel 2.JPG
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2017
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Your post will be easier to read if you attach the photos instead of pasting them. Scrolling left and right is hard.
     
  3. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I think I fixed it Gonz....
     
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I think that $1,100 will buy a lot of fuel, so it is something to consider. AGM can absorb power relatively fast. Do you have the brand and model of your batteries? I can look in our database to check what the most efficient charging protocol would be, that will not damage the batteries.
     
  5. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    The batteries I'm using are 2 group 31's for the house (105A 20 hr rate) and a group 34 for the starting battery. They carry a brand name of "Duracell", but they're made by East Penn. I use the AGM charging routine on my charger and adjust the battery temperature setting so that they float at 13.4 volts. They charge up to about 14.2 on the alternator and pretty much stay there. About the same on the battery charger before it trips into float. I can adjust the routine up or down a bit by changing the temperature setting on the charger. I don't have a temperature sensor on the batteries at this time.

    I don't believe I'm hurting them any at these rates during the summer. They've been in the boat for a little over three years without any issues.
    BTW those Yamaha inverter generators typically retail in the mid to upper $800 range. I'll have to see if they drop during late November when retailers ramp up for the holidays. The smart regulators are around $300.00.
     
  6. CDK
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    CDK retired engineer

    First of all make absolutely sure the Yamaha can power your A/C as most small generators can't handle the inrush current.
    Second, it produces 60 dBa at full load. Quite an achievement for such a small engine, but the frequency is variable, so it is not really "background noise".
     
  7. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Thanks for the replies. You're right about the air conditioning CDK. Manufacturers are making some really good progress, even with small window style AC units like I'm using. I bought a Frigidaire
    Model # FFRE0533S1 a couple of years ago. This little gem is rated at 3.8 Amp's maximum and that's a pretty accurate figure. I can watch the draw on my inverter panel. It will pull about 450 watts when the compressor starts and then drops to 250 watts with the unit on low. It cools fine with the low setting. I understand that it uses a capacitor to help lower the inrush power demand and uses a high pressure compressor that uses R410A instead of the old R22. I'm not an HVAC tech but the little unit works very well for the power it uses.

    So air conditioning itself isn't an issue, my on board 1800 watt Xantrax inverter can run the ac for quite awhile. But if I'm at anchor and the refrigerator is running and I've got a fan going and maybe watching something on the laptop and there is a light on......well, you get the idea. I don't want to run my batteries down too much. I'd also like to be able to keep the cabin cool while running during the day with the main engine shut down, just using the kicker. Pearl doesn't set any speed records on the kicker alone but she gets about 8 statute miles per gallon at about 4 knots.

    I figure my total desired daily power usage on a really hot day could be as high as about 200 AH. Typically 150AH or less is more likely. On a cool day I'm down around 100 AH. About 20-25% of that usage is air conditioning.

    If I use a 2000 watt inverter generator that's rated at 13.3 amps and my refrigeration and ac are running I'd draw about 350 watts or about 3 amps. My battery charger (Xantrax True Charge 40 amp) draws a little under 8 amps max so I'd be well within the rated capacity of the inverter generator. As a practical matter the refrigerator wouldn't be running continuously and I wouldn't be charging at full capacity for long, so my usage would be lower. I believe that this is a reasonable solution to my power needs at anchor. While underway, I could run the inverter generator when necessary and the Yamaha T9.9 kicker puts out about 5 amps so between the two I should have enough power for my needs. Of course I'll be running my main engine at times too. When the main is running I'm charging well. even with the stock regulator, it just takes longer to get a full charge in the batteries..

    Another solution would be to add a couple of additional house batteries but I don't really have enough room for them.

    Regards,

    MIA
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  8. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The standard for the AGM would give you 21 Amps of charge. I am setting up a series of tests for deep discharge/fast charge vs capacity. Also, there will be a series with micro charge/discharge included. We should start getting results in about two months. I'll post the results. By the way, you can increase your voltage up to 14.7V
     
  9. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

  10. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The maximum charge rate for two batteries is 42 amps. With a third battery it will be 63 amps, so the existing alternator should be fine.
     
  11. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Phil, you're right about someday replacing the current Xantrax Truecharge 40 with a 60 amp model. Either will work but, especially with a little deeper discharge, the 40 amp takes a little longer. Remember though, when I fire my main engine I'm spinning a 105 amp high performance alternator. Even on a hot day with air, fridge, autopilot and fans running it easily charges my batteries. The problem is that it takes as long as 4 hours due to the regulator. I don't always want or need to run the main for that long.

    So, my goal is to find a way to keep my batteries up without starting up the main engine. Running the little Yamaha (or Honda) inverter/generator and simply connecting it to my shore power inlet appears to solve the problem, as long as I don't get too careless about AC usage. I'll look at the products from Sterling as well. I've looked at their 3 stage regulators but not the alternator to battery chargers.

    Gonzo, sounds like it's 21 amps per battery is optimal? In that case 40 amps on the Xantrax would be fine for the house bank but I do have a starting battery as well. Arguably, that battery never needs much charge as the automatic charging relay keeps the banks separate unless a charging source is present.

    Thanks again for the replies,

    MIA
     
  12. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    21 amps is the maximum recommended, so it would be optimal for efficient charging.
     
  13. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Looks like I'll be going the inverter generator route next season. One important note for anyone reading this and thinking of a similar set up.

    Honda and Yamaha inverter generators (and others, but I've only researched Honda and Yamaha) use a floating neutral. This means that the neutral and ground wiring are not bonded to each other inside the inverter generator. A floating neutral is not an problem when simply plugging a device into the generator, but it is not proper bonding for marine use when the inverter generator is plugged into a shore power inlet by using a shore power cable and a pigtail adapter. This is not a huge issue as it can be corrected. You simply need to be aware of it.

    I'll attach a link to an article below. While this article addresses this issue as it pertains to RV's, it's well written, and explains the issue logically. The issue is exactly the same for boats.

    Generator Ground-Neutral Bonding http://noshockzone.org/generator-ground-neutral-bonding/

    Regards,

    MIA
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017

  14. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I realize this thread is a year and a half old but wanted to update with information after using a Honda EU 1000i inverter/generator last season. The small Honda generator worked very well in tandem with a Xantrax Pro 1800 inverter. I didn't expect that I'd use the 1,800 watt inverter at all with the generator running but found that the system worked much better when I did.

    The Honda would start the air conditioner when running at full power. I could start the air conditioner then put the generator into economy mode (adjusts output and engine RPM automatically). This worked fine as long as the air conditioning compressor stayed running. Once the cabin cooled down, if the compressor cycled the generator could not restart the compressor while it was in economy mode. By the time the generator electronics brought up the engine speed, the compressor had stalled, the generator overloaded and shut down.

    I found a way around this using the generator as a power source for my battery charger (Xantrax True Charge 40). I have my A/C power set up as an inverter based system. A/C power enters through a 30 amp inlet. For the battery charger A/C current runs directly to a 20 amp GFCI breaker, bypassing the shore power 30 amp breaker all together. The is not a safety issue as the GFCI protecting the charger wiring is rated at only 20 amps. Power also passes through the 30 amp shore power breaker to the inverter. Think of it as a split system. Half of the A/C runs to the charger (through a GFCI) and half runs through the shore power breaker to the inverter when the shore power breaker is "on". I can shut down shore power or generator power to the inverter and still have power flowing to the True Charge 40. The inverter output has it's own GFCI so every outlet on the boat is protected This is above and beyond what is required to meet ABYC standards.

    The reason I bored you with all that is so that you understand how I use my little tiny charger to power much larger surge loads than it's designed for. Go up and look at the original post. In the panel photo, right under the charger, you'll see a small on-off battery switch. This switch disconnects the charger from the batteries when in the off position. It's a small but important part of the system.

    When I use the charger with the little generator I do the following: I place the shore power switch in the "off" position, removing A/C power from the inverter. Place the charger to battery switch in the off position. Start the generator and put in full power mode. Turn on the battery charger. Charger now has power but there is no load on it yet. Turn charger to battery switch on. This will load the charger and in turn the generator as the charger feeds batteries. Switch generator into economy mode, this will allow generator to throttle down and adjust it's output to what the charger needs. Turn on the inverter.

    I use the specific sequence above as I found that simply turning the charger on once the inverter was running caused frequent nuisance tripping of the GFCI that feeds power to the charger. This is a common problem with smart chargers when used with GFCI breakers. Starting the charger first and then connecting the batteries eliminated this nuisance tripping problem.

    Yes, there are a few steps involved. That said, for me it's worth it. I run all of my electrical needs from the inverter when shore power is unavailable. I can use a light weight generator, tiny amounts of fuel and have up to 3,600 watts of surge capacity available. Unless the air conditioner and the microwave are running together (not often and for very short periods of time) I'm always comfortably within the limits of the system. This keeps my batteries charged and allows me to freely use A/C power as long as I stay within the limits of the inverter.

    Think of the batteries and inverter as a buffer. They are there when you need them for surge loads or temporary loads that the Honda EU 1000i could not handle on it's own.
    Just thought I'd pass this on as it might give someone else some food for thought.

    Best Regards, MIA
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
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