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Author Topic: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery  (Read 25482 times)

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Randy and Mary Davison

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #30 on: May 28, 2008, 09:51:28 AM »

A few facts and opinions...

Facts (from Wikipedia):  Wet lead acid batteries start gassing at 14.1 to 14.4 volts.  The gasses generated are hydrogen and oxygen due to electrolysis.  The concentration of hydrogen required to support combustion is 4% to 75% ( http://hydrogen-fc.com/2007/01/06/flammability-range-on-hydrogen-and-other-fuel/ ).  Assuming I did my math correctly, 4% equals 40,000 ppm.  My CO detector, like the one mentioned in this thread, shows 40 to 200 ppm when in the boat or a small room with the batteries being charged from a fairly low state to full charge by a 3 stage regulator.  This means the hydrogen concentration in the boat is less than .5 percent of the concentration required to support combustion.

Observations and opinions:

All batteries give off hydrogen when charging and copious amounts when charging at higher rates.  I can hear every wet battery I own bubbling off oxygen and hydrogen when charging at even moderate rates.  Your batteries will vent hydrogen in the later bulk and float stages of charging.  It's normal and not something that needs to be "fixed."

Assuming that the current inexpensive CO detectors respond to virtually any hydrocarbon at roughly similar concentrations (a potentially dangerous assumption if they are less sensitive to hydrogen) than the false alarms we're getting are irritating but not dangerous.

Now, that said, here's what I do to keep my rear end safe from bad assumptions or erroneous calculations:  I make sure the boat is well vented with the dorades and solar powered vent.  We leave the hatch in the head open 2 inches with a screen in it.  Then I pull the batteries from the CO detector when we leave the boat so the marina manager doesn't call me in the middle of the night!

One concern I still have is with the hydrogen concentration in the battery box itself.  It's not vented and could build up a pretty high concentration of hydrogen and oxygen.  When I know the battery bank is down more than 50% (kids with video games), I lift the cushion and prop the cover up.  The solution is to put a simple vent in the compartment.  It's on the list.

A side comment:  For those of you still using ferro-resonant chargers, they hold voltage constant at 14 to 14.2 volts.  From the above gassing voltages, you can see why they kill batteries fast.  I suspect the reason some folks don't have problems is that their units are holding a voltage just under the gassing voltage.  The one I tossed over the side when we bought Gorbash was holding 14.2 and the PO complained of short battery life.








 (Note, I can always hear slight bubbling from any battery I charge at high rate - this is oxygen and hydrogen boiling off)
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Randy Davison
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Michael

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #31 on: May 28, 2008, 10:33:08 AM »

Randy, your post might well revive Tony's "hole-in-the-hatch" suggestion for Hali!  Thank you for the battery gas information.  Hali's two house batteries are located under the settee. I share your concern about gas buildup there.

We are off to purge Hali's propane line.
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Michael MacLeod, "Hali" 1997 Hull #1352, Universal M-35B engine, Vancouver, BC

Stu Jackson

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #32 on: May 28, 2008, 06:45:04 PM »

AN ANALYTICAL ANALYSIS for HALI

Michael, in the spirit of our last long communication about your fuel pump wiring issue see: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,3347.msg21788.html#msg21788, I have reviewed the items mentioned in this thread and offer these ideas:

1.  You may want to consider having all of the owners present at one time.  It seems cumbersome for you to be emailing each other with varying ideas about what's happening.  I do recognize that perhaps your schedules may preclude this, but give it a try.  There may be some small advantage to having different people there at different times, but your reports indicate that you are all getting the same results, so quit while you're ahead.   :D

2.  In conjunction with that idea, your presentations of the alarm(s) are based on AFTER conditions.  You have NEVER, as far as I've heard, been onboard to observe the START of the alarm(s), only when you come onboard later.  You NEED to start to think about getting there and REPLICATING the conditions when you FIRST "close up" the ship.  CLOSE UP may be exactly the problem because earlier threads have indicated that Mark IIs exhibit much less air flow because of the lack of the Dorades on the Mark Is, even with the head and aft cabin vents open.

3.  The battery charging SYSTEM appears to be the culprit.  I was equalizing my house bank just today and found that VIGOROUS gassing does occur, as Jack mentioned clearly.  Go on your boat, close it up, and start the charger.

4.  You NEED to carefully monitor your charger.  We have no idea of what equipment you have onboard.  Please TELL US. It could be toast or could be a good unit gone bad.  With your small house bank of (2) 4Ds - you didn't say if you have a separate start bank, so if you're using one per day they're both gonna need a hefty charge - your charger is going to be PUTTING OUT (as they say) and gassing the cells when you return from a weekend.  The fact that you CHANGED from sealed 4-Ds to open cells is almost a giveaway.  Geez, I have NO idea where anyone would get CLOSED 4Ds.  You're almost lucky you got rid of those.  Please, tell us more about your charger and banks setup and how you use your boat (i.e., anchor out or marina hopper).

5.  Water in bilge:  I checked this just today for you with our Link 2000.  4 amps when bilge pump is running. Let's say it runs for one minute every 1/2 hour.  2 times an hour times 4 amps divided by 60 minutes = 8/60thsd or about 1 big flipping  amp hour!!!  Did I get the math right?  With a 4D you could run that puppy for days without having a problem, unless you weren’t coming down to your boat for more than a month.  You NEED to do an energy budget on your bilge pump, to see if I'm anywhere near close.  Fix the leak.  It could also be from your rudder stock, see Projects on the website.

6. Randy's analysis mirrors this one.  Tony Wright narrowed it down to the charger and batteries.

7.  Do you have a Link or other type of battery monitor?

Summary:  Get everyone together.  Do an energy budget on your bilge pump.  Continue your analysis.  Arrange to get INSIDE the boat to WATCH WHAT HAPPENS when you close it up.  Carefully consider additional passive ventilation.  Consider getting a solar panel to offset the bilge pump draw.  Answer Kyle Ewing's question in your own head(s) about HOW you USE your boat and what the condition of the bank(s) is when you get back to your slip.  Check and if necessary replace your charger.  Equalize your house bank.  Consider a separate start bank - many items I've written about the advantages for your own security and the health of the batteries themselves,

I must admit, happily, that you and HALI have provoked some very important and interesting threads, and that the contributions of so many of our members have been very encouraging.

I don't think you have a problem, I think you have an overactive and too sensitive monitoring system, unforeseen conditions from a good idea, pretty much like the results of our last long thread about your engine wiring, especially about the difficulty of bleeding resulting from your wiring which requires holding the spring switch open -- that needs two people -- I just installed a fuel pump shutoff switch in our engine compartment and that switch couldn't make bleeding easier.   8)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2008, 06:50:19 PM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Ron Hill

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #33 on: May 28, 2008, 06:54:24 PM »

Guys : I'm not sure why Catalina didn't do it, but the first teak vent (approx 5x7") that I installed on my C34 back in 1989 was for the battery compartment under the settee. 
Seemed to me to be necessary and I'm glad that I did it. 
« Last Edit: June 01, 2008, 07:07:48 PM by Ron Hill »
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #34 on: May 28, 2008, 08:04:56 PM »

One could consider that the "proper" ventilation that Ron added would exacerbate the CO monitor problem by allowing "vapors" to get out of the battery box.

It's always a good idea to do what Ron did, and so few have done so (me included).  I made darn sure the battery enclosure tops were off when equalizing today - it does make a noticeable smell, too.

Back to you, Michael.
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Kyle Ewing

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #35 on: May 28, 2008, 10:52:22 PM »

If charging seems to be the culprit, move the CO detector closer to the batteries or but it in the battery box while charging and see if it goes off to prove or disprove the theory. 

Where is your detector located?  For what it's worth carbon monoxide is neutrally buyoant.  Propane is heavier than air.  What gases might accumulate where your detector is?

Were you cooking with the propane stove before it went off?  Years ago I was cooking with the cabin closed.  Several hours after going to bed my CO detector went off.  I opened the hatches for a few minutes then closed them again to vent.  The CO detector went off again about an hour later.  I slept with a hatch open the rest of the night.  Since then the CO detector hasn't gone off.
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Kyle Ewing
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Michael

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #36 on: May 28, 2008, 11:00:34 PM »

This is a great discussion board.  It is sufficient reason by itself to buy another Catalina 34 if we ever sell Hali.

Stu:

1.  Thanks for posting your battery charging post as a new thread.  I see it is getting lots of hits. I have questions but won't get around to asking them on that thread for a bit yet.

2.  Unfortunately there is no chance of us getting all four families of owners of Hali, or even all the principals, to Hali at one time but one other owner and I are headed there tomorrow evening.

3.  Thank you for suggesting a methodical approach. (You are an engineer, aren't you?  Most of my family have been engineers.  I may have said this before: when we were kids and people had those home-made car top carriers and one went by that was neat as a pin, tied up perfectly, my father would say, after waiting a minute, "There went an engineer" or words to that effect  And after a cartop carrier went with tarp and ropes flapping about, he would wait a minute and then say, "There went a lawyer".  Cripes, and I grew up to be a lawyer.)

4.  Lionel has had a chat with the battery manufacturer...who thinks if there is a problem it is likely caused by the charger. (Which reminds me of the lion who comes upon a painter.  The painter shows the lion his painting of a soldier spearing a lion and asks the lion, "How do you like it?"  The lion answers, "If a lion had painted it, it would look different.")

5.  Hali has a starting battery (bought at Costco last year, can't remember the make offhand) separate from the two 4D house batteries.  It is located adjacent to the propeller shaft.

6.  Hali's battery charger is a Flyback 20-3 Alltech Series.  Not sure whether it was original equipment (1997 boat) or purchased by the previous owner.

Ron:

If Lionel/other owners will agree, we will put a vent into the battery compartment under Hali's settee as you did on your boat.  Perhaps even add Tony's "through the hatch" vent (although I am bridling at that one a bit).

Kyle:

Hali's CO monitor is located on the engine box in the aft cabin just up from the cabin sole.  Putting it temporarily in the house battery compartment seems a good "test".  We also now have a second CO monitor in the forward cabin, starboard side, just forward of the hanging locker.

Hali's propane monitor is located 6" above the cabin sole at the base of the galley "ismuth" opposite the chart table and, therefore, immediately adjacent to the house battery compartment beneath the settee.

We haven't been cooking or using the propane at all recently.  Nor have we been running the diesel heater.  The only combustion aboard recently has been in the diesel engine...and it has not triggered the CO monitor (although I say that recognising that CO might in fact have been coming from the engine and not triggering the CO monitor until the monitor met its time-sampling threshold).

Other:

Didn't get to the boat to blow the propane line clear today.

Again thanks to all for the continuing feedback.

Regards.





« Last Edit: May 28, 2008, 11:10:06 PM by Michael »
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Michael MacLeod, "Hali" 1997 Hull #1352, Universal M-35B engine, Vancouver, BC

Stu Jackson

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #37 on: May 28, 2008, 11:49:53 PM »

Yes, I am an engineer, not a lion!

Michael, you NEED to go to the top of this page to the "SEARCH" box, and type in the word "flyback" and then click on the search button.  The first four or six hits on those results will tell you more than you need to know about your charger.  Get rid of it NOW if you want to avoid buying new batteries, yet again, as early as next week.

Please, please, please, do the search and read that stuff, and then make up your own mind(s). 

Among them, you'll find this one, read especially reply #6:  http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,3716.0.html

It's your charger that's creating your problem.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2008, 12:10:05 AM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Michael

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #38 on: May 29, 2008, 12:34:14 AM »

Stu, I will head for Hali in the morning to turn "off" the Flyback 20-3.  That might interfere with the differential diagnosis of the alarm sounding problem....but perhaps save our new batteries.  The odd thing is, I think I had read those postings about the Flyback 20-3 a year or so ago, but put them out of mind as we were getting good life out of our then nearly five-year old 4Ds.  In fact, there never seemed to be a problem (would I know if there was one?) until we got the new 4Ds on May 13.  I hate to admit it, but we got the new batteries not for any well-considered reason other than that they [the old batteries] were five years old and we were getting nervous about using them through another cruising season.  We hadn't tested them [the old batteries] but I had noticed the windlass was slowing when [we] last used [it]. (And now the windlass doesn't work....I wonder whether there is a connection?  But it could be that the jury-rigged mechanical connection of leads I made last year has worked loose.)  Thanks for pointing me to the Flyback [20-3 Alltech] problems posts.   
« Last Edit: May 31, 2008, 12:26:16 AM by Michael »
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Michael MacLeod, "Hali" 1997 Hull #1352, Universal M-35B engine, Vancouver, BC

Jon Schneider

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battery box venting
« Reply #39 on: May 29, 2008, 05:15:31 AM »

I delayed venting my battery box for a couple of years, too.  I even bought a lovely teak vent and stowed it in the battery box!  Somehow the idea of jigging out the large rectangular hole, finding a way to seamlessly attach the vent, and varnishing it just never made it to the top of my list.  Then I saw these 3" plastic vents at a local WM: http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/producte/10001/-1/10001/24931/377%20710%201657/712/vent/Primary%20Search/mode%20matchallpartial/0/0?N=377%20710%201657&Ne=712&Ntt=vent&Ntk=Primary%20Search&Ntx=mode%20matchallpartial&Nao=0&Ns=0&keyword=vent&isLTokenURL=true&storeNum=5002&subdeptNum=12&classNum=12408.  All you need is a drill and a 3" hole cutting attachment.  The box (at least on my 1990) is constructed out of two thin layers of glass, easy as "butta" to cut through.  Put one of these nearly-invisible vents on the center aisle side and one on the forward side.  I'd like to say it's a 15 minute job -indeed it feels like that- but it's probably actually an hour-long job by the time you get the batteries out (you'll probably need to remove at least one to ensure you don't drill through it), cut, fasten, clean up, and reinstall the batts.  It's really about the simplest safety improvement you can make on your boat. 
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Michael

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #40 on: May 29, 2008, 02:21:46 PM »

At Hali this morning:
  • no alarms sounding
  • CO detector #1 (in the aft compartment) reading 0 but "peak reading" - that is highest reading since last taking the peak reading or last repowering the unit - was 207, above the OSHA "never exceed" limit (but, admittedly, the monitor might not be and I suspect is not recording CO levels but recording something else).
  • CO detector #2 (in the forward berth compartment) reading 0 and showing a peak reading of 38 (it was powered up about a week ago)
  • no smell of propane
  • slight acrid smell when settee cushion lifted above house battery compartment
  • every battery cell was low on fluid
  • boat had been quite buttoned up
  • I opened all the hatches....but not for about 10 minutes (a sure sign that it must be CO affecting the brain!)
  • based on Stu's post about the Flyback 20-3 and reading as he suggested about the Flyback 20-3 elsewhere at this site, I turned Hali's Flyback 20-3 battery charger off...perhaps permanently

Stu, to answer your question here about battery monitors aboard Hali, other than the two analogue voltmeters on the electrical panel and an analogue voltage meter at the pedestal, there are no battery monitoring devices aboard Hali.  We recognise this needs to change.

Randy, thanks for the battery gassing and hydrogen combustion information.  Wikipedia is darn useful, isn't it?  One of the many residual questions in this matter is whether a CO monitor that reads say 200 ppm in the presence of hydrogen is really indicating that there are 200 ppm of hydrogen.  Unlike the Electro Systems Inc. people who very promptly replied to my inquiry about their propane monitor,  Kidde has not yet responded to a request I sent from their website asking how to contact them about the CO alarm issues - so I have not yet been able to get information of this sort from someone knowledgeable about the CO monitor.

Jon, thanks for the link.  I see those little vents cost $3.99 each.  The price is right.

May 30 update: No alarms sounding.  Battery charger still off.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 09:19:14 PM by Michael »
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Michael MacLeod, "Hali" 1997 Hull #1352, Universal M-35B engine, Vancouver, BC

Randy and Mary Davison

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #41 on: June 01, 2008, 06:24:26 PM »

Michael,

I agree with virtually all on the board that you would be much better off with a new charger.  I changed mine out less than a month after I bought Gorbash in '98.

That said, there is an easy measurement you can make that could buy you some time to make your charger decision.  If you let your charger take your batteries to full charge and then measure the float voltage with a digital multimeter, you can make an informed decision about how urgent your charger change needs to be.  Will assume temp in boat is 45 to 75 degrees or so.

Here's my opinion on voltages after full charge:

Above 14.1   Don't turn the charger on again.  It's cooking your batteries.

13.9 to 14.1  Will cook them over time, if for no other reason that they will use a lot of water and you or other owner will forget to check and top them off.  It only takes once.

13.8 to 13.9   Ok for well built batteries.  Watch water use at top of voltage range.  Depending on temperature, optimum float is 13.4 to 13.7, which is what chargers like the Tru-charge will hold them at.

Hope this helps. Any garden variety digital multimeter like those from Radio Shack will make an accurate enough measurement for this purpose.  Don't count on an analog meter, especially the panel type that comes with the boat.

Randy




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Randy Davison
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Michael

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #42 on: June 02, 2008, 10:55:42 PM »

Thank you, Randy.

We do need a little time to make the charger decision, and it would be helpful to test to learn whether we could, meanwhile, use the old Flyback 20-3 charger without cooking the new 4D house batteries.

The charger has been disconnected for days now, during which time we have had no alarms sounding.

So I will follow your suggestion and test the batteries -- with a Fluke 117 digital multi-meter that recently seduced me. 

Am I right in thinking that what you are proposing is something like the following?
  • check the battery terminal voltage
  • disconnect or switch off all but absolutely essential power users
  • charge the batteries for a relatively short period of time using the Flyback 20-3
  • discontinue charging and let the batteries sit for a while
  • check the battery terminal voltage again
  • continue charging the batteries
  • again discontinue charging and let the batteries sit for while
  • check the battery terminal voltage again
  • repeat until the batteries reach a voltage above which they do not rise or 14.1 volts, whichever is the higher and if it is 14.1 volts don't use the Flyback 20-3 any more at all


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Michael MacLeod, "Hali" 1997 Hull #1352, Universal M-35B engine, Vancouver, BC

Stu Jackson

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #43 on: June 03, 2008, 07:09:49 AM »

The battery charger discussion is here:  http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4338.msg25167.html#msg25167

It, too, is long and detailed.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2008, 07:10:28 AM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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Re: Carbon monoxide (?) mystery
« Reply #44 on: June 03, 2008, 07:12:12 AM »


    We do need a little time to make the charger decision, and it would be helpful to test to learn whether we could, meanwhile, use the old Flyback 20-3 charger without cooking the new 4D house batteries.


    • repeat until the batteries reach a voltage above which they do not rise or 14.1 volts, whichever is the higher and if it is 14.1 volts don't use the Flyback 20-3 any more at all

    Michael, I think you got MOST of that right until the last one.  What you NEED to find out is how the Flyback works over extended periods of time and if it EVER drops down to a float charging level in the low 13.0 to 13.2 volt range AND ALSO whether it overcooks the banks when it FIRST STARTS UP if it goes over the bulk charging voltage range of 14.2 or so for MORE than 23 to 30 minutes.  THAT REGIMEN is what Calder, West Marine, Ample (do you have that yet?) and just about every battery charging expert recommends.  You also should record the specific gravity of each cell BEFORE and AFTER, since the batteries are or have been at rest by NOT charging them, you have a perfect opportunity to measure the cells and determine their condition.  Remember, it's BOTH voltage AND S.G. that are the measurements  for battery condition.

    Given the information contained in this thread and the other one, I must admit to being somewhat perplexed about your inability to make a decision on the charger.  If it was my boat, I would do two things, today.  1.  Dis the Flyback.  Don't even bother testing it.  The INVESTMENT in your two new batteries do NOT warrant burning them up with the crappy charger.  A KNOWN CRAPPY charger.  Uh, how many times do we have to mention that?  2.  Buy a Truecharge 20 or 40, forgo further "investigation" of Truecharge 2's and XC's because, frankly, they are brand new and so far unproven and also have "features" that are or may not be applicable to your situation and uses.  As John noted, the Truecharge 20 and 40 are proven technology that have withstood the test of time. 

    I would further suggest you consider investing in a Link 10 or 20 with the $$ you save on the charger.  Another important reason for this suggestion, repeated by many here to you, is that your "goal" for your boat and its four owners is to keep it simple.  Right?  Soooooooooo: Buy and install what is essentially a "battery fuel gage" and NO ONE in your group will EVER wonder about the battery conditions EVER AGAIN because they can simply read the gage.  Simple, huh?

    I also believe that you may now have concluded that the CO alarm, which started this whole thread, can be attributed to the batteries being charged (or overcharged) by the Flyback nonsense.  Guess ya can put your propane back on the boat.  :D

    Just my 2 cents.

    And as always:   Your boat, your choices.[/list]
    « Last Edit: June 03, 2008, 07:32:24 AM by Stu Jackson »
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