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Author Topic: Another three stage smart regulator  (Read 3827 times)

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John Langford

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Another three stage smart regulator
« on: October 18, 2012, 04:11:40 PM »

I have been looking for alternatives to the Balmar three stage regulator after too many stories of (1) difficulty programming the beast  (2)  sensitivity to heat and (3) price. I just found the Sterling ProReg B which Electromaax in Toronto sells for around $175. It looks like a good option for alternators up to 100 amps. Note that Sterling recommends leaving the alternator's internal regulator installed as a backup in case the Sterling unit fails.

See:https://store.electromaax.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=179
and
http://www.sterling-power.com/

Has anyone used one of these regulators?
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Ron Hill

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2012, 04:36:13 PM »

John : Why wait one one of us to put the stamp of approval on the Sterling regulator, when you could be the first and then report back to us.  

 :D Now you know how I felt with all of those "being the first" opportunities (before the internet).  A thought
« Last Edit: October 19, 2012, 02:41:56 PM by Ron Hill »
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mainesail

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2012, 04:41:07 PM »

John,

They are a very good value. I have a couple in stock here because I installed two or three then decided I would just go back to the Balmar's. If you want one let me know.

Do they work? Yes.

Are they limited in what they can do? Yes.

Are they more complicated to wire? Yes I am not a fan of the wiring harness at all.

Are they easy to program? Yes compared to a Balmar they are, if you're not used to it.

Do they offer enough options to dial them in for all situations? No, not in my opinion.

What weaknesses? I don't like the small fan on them. I have seen far to many small fans like this fail in the marine environment. I don't like the exposed circuit board.

What I like? Comes with temp sensors, the price point, simple yet bare bones.

Electromaax is also now selling Balmar regs and Balmar is selling their serpentine kits. Electromaax just lacked with a regulator and Balmar lacked serp kits. I think it is a good match.

As long as you keep a Balmar out of the engine bay they are great. The problem is the epoxy expands badly above 140F and can cause circuit board issues when it does. I find it frustrating that they can't find an epoxy that does not do this but when you need clear potting epoxy the pickings become a lot slimmer.. Yes some have failed but some of everything fails in the marine environment.

Balmar by far offers the best regulator to cover the most possible situations. They also offer EXCELLENT support. All other manufacturers choose how long absorption will be Balmar allows you to dial it in for your boat. Give you boat loads of options like small engine mode etc. etc. Yes the Balmar's are more money but to me they are worth it, if going external.

Have I had my share of issues with Balmar regs? Yes, won't deny that, but when I examine the options out there and the support they offer I keep coming back...

I have been installing E-Maax alts with Balmar regs and now I can finally buy both right from E-Maax. I also have my own brand of alt and with those I use Balmar regs too. Not against the Sterling if price is a critical concern but would usually try to talk the customer into an MC-614..

« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 04:43:59 PM by mainesail »
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John Langford

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2012, 12:02:00 PM »

Thanks Mainesail for that very helpful assessment. I really appreciate the time you take with issues like this.

Sterling produced an even simpler three stage regulator without a fan (the AR12VD) but I am not sure if it is still available or if it would work for my setup. I am looking for the simplest 3 stage regulation of a Leece Neville 105amp alternator charging 4 T-105s which I never run down below 50%. My 1999 Heart In Charge regulator is still working but I am trying to settle on a satisfactory replacement in advance of the inevitable day when the Heart unit will fail.

BTW, my Heart unit has been installed high up in my 1999 C34 Mk II engine compartment for over a decade and the heat (engine runs at 160 degrees) doesn't appear to have affected it so far. I don't know if it has proven to be as vulnerable to heat as the Balmar MC-614.
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2012, 02:31:06 PM »

John,

In my "readings" on many 'boards, I have learned that the Xantrex and Balmar regulators are made by the same company.  Someone actually took two apart and photos showed the same guts with Balmar stamped on them both.  It could have been an analysis by Maine Sail, don't remember.

Whether your existing regulator continues to work in the harsh engine compartment you or the PO chose to expose it to is nice to hear.  Maine Sail has also reported that locating away from engine heat is better for the longevity of the unit.  IIRC, it has to do with the epoxy used for the board.

Our MC-612 is under our head sink, since the wiring harness is far long enough to snake it from the alternator to back there.  

While Maine Sail has reported some failures of his older Balmars, they do make a good unit.  It is easy to program initially and none of them are much different.  My experience has been to use a toggle switch on the alternator temperature sensor leads on the regulator to initiate the Small Engine Mode (clear in the manuals)  http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4669.0.html.  Maine Sail recommends installing both battery and alternator sensors.  You can program Battery Management features if you choose, too, but I find that to be just like belts & suspenders:  the Small Engine Mode toggle switch is FAR easier than trying to fiddle with the reed switch.

Just another reason to move it out of the engine compartment:  you can access it and do whatever you want with it with the engine running in "another room.":D

I recommend a Balmar, and it's worth the few extra bucks for the MC-614 compared to the ARS-5, although if you use the Small Engine Mode, they're pretty comparable.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 05:57:10 PM by Stu Jackson »
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mainesail

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2012, 06:03:39 PM »

Thanks Mainesail for that very helpful assessment. I really appreciate the time you take with issues like this.

Sterling produced an even simpler three stage regulator without a fan (the AR12VD) but I am not sure if it is still available or if it would work for my setup. I am looking for the simplest 3 stage regulation of a Leece Neville 105amp alternator charging 4 T-105s which I never run down below 50%. My 1999 Heart In Charge regulator is still working but I am trying to settle on a satisfactory replacement in advance of the inevitable day when the Heart unit will fail.

BTW, my Heart unit has been installed high up in my 1999 C34 Mk II engine compartment for over a decade and the heat (engine runs at 160 degrees) doesn't appear to have affected it so far. I don't know if it has proven to be as vulnerable to heat as the Balmar MC-614.

Why do you feel you need a three stage regulator? Bulk and absorption, in most cases, are more than adequate. With the Leece-Neville the reg is adjustable so set it for 14.4 -14.6 and call it a day. If you need float on a sail boat perhaps its time for a trawler cause you're running the engine a LOT.... :D
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2012, 08:34:28 PM »

MS, John's in the PNW, might need to or have to run his engine a long time on any given, even, daysail.  :D
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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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mainesail

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2012, 04:33:17 AM »

Even for a "long time", on a sailboat, which is not a "long time" 14.4V to 14.6V is perfectly adequate. Keep in mind the hundreds of millions of vehicles, busses, tractors, industrial equipment and 18 wheelers out there running simple dual stage regs and pushing 14.4v - 14.6V all day long. :thumb:

I just don't see a need for a float stage on sailboat alternators. Chargers left permanently connected, yes, alternators on trawlers, sure, sailboats sure, if you never sail..

This stage is perhaps the number one cause of undercharging on sailboats because nearly all of these regs go into float far to early and well before the bank is at 98% SOC....
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John Langford

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2012, 10:39:52 AM »

Thanks Stu and MaineSail for responding and also for raising again the argument that internal regulation is enough for sailboats.

I may have to go back to the books on this issue. My understanding is that all of us changed to three stage regulation because with the advent of refrigeration etc and the resulting daily deeper discharge of batteries, we found that internal regulation was not providing an adequate bulk charging phase. In the distant past I recall my first Cruising Equipment e-meter telling me that the charge rate had dropped off to a few amps when the batteries were not yet sufficiently charged. Would that situation not prevail again if we returned to internal regulation or am I missing something here?

If returning to one stage internal regulation is a good idea for a cruiser like me who sails as much as possible and anchors every night during 2-3 week cruises, can one purchase and easily refit the original internal regulation unit on the back of a 105 amp Leece Neville alternator that has been converted to external regulation? I have reviewed the excellent MaineSail gallery item on converting in the opposite direction (internal to external) but can't suss out from reviewing that process if going back to internal regulation would present any problems.

One interesting take on all of this from my perspective is that buying a new Leece Neville alternator as a backup for my existing regulator/alternator combination would be no more expensive than buying a backup Balmar regulator. I like that!


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John Langford

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2012, 11:25:16 AM »

Did some homework after posting (wrong order I know) and just found MaineSail's "Musings on How Regulators Work" (http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?t=125392) which gives me all the dope I need on the difference between smart and dumb regulation. So no need to explore the viability of internal regulation in circumstances in which the internal regulator can put out 14.4-14.6 volts. I get it!

So the only outstanding issue for me is whether or not I can restore my Leece Neville 8MR2401UA to internal regulation if I choose.

My guess is that folks on the east coast are dealing with larger issues than this at the moment. And best of luck to all of them.
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2012, 03:09:27 PM »

Did some homework after posting (wrong order I know) and just found MaineSail's "Musings on How Regulators Work" (http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?t=125392) which gives me all the dope I need on the difference between smart and dumb regulation.

So the only outstanding issue for me is whether or not I can restore my Leece Neville 8MR2401UA to internal regulation if I choose.


John, there's also this which is also somewhere in Maine Sail's Musing over on co.com (sailboatowners.com)

Converting An Alternator To External Regulation

http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4879.0.html

Seems it depends on what you have what was done when it was installed.

Someone recently posted that it might be appropriate to simply have an ARS-5 as a backup, rather than messing with the back of the alternator.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2012, 05:11:42 PM by Stu Jackson »
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Ron Hill

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Re: Another three stage smart regulator
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2012, 05:37:15 PM »

John : I've learned that when you go "cheap charlie" that's exactly what you get!!

I've had a Balmar Alternator for about 22 years originally with the old BRS single stage regulator. Then I later (3 yrs?) changed to a multi stage ARS3.  The alternator needed to be rebuilt a few years ago (worn out insides) and the regulator wore out last year.  We have lived on the boat for 8 months and spend over 100 nights annually for each of 24 years.  I've worn out an engine and the Balmar (on the new engine) still "keeps on a trucking". 
I always kept the regulator around the corner under the head sink (mounted low).

I'd stop looking for the lowest $ stuff, unless you plan on getting rid of the boat in a few years. 

A thought

 
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