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Sailing48N

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Alternator Upgrade
« on: February 06, 2018, 11:03:20 AM »

I’m thinking about replacing my current 51 AMP alternator. I'm looking for current recommendations for my specific use case and boat setup for cruising in the PNW. There's a lot of motoring around in the mid-summer months in this area.

This summer our main vacation will be another 2 week trip to the San Juan Islands and surrounding areas. Our favorite places to go are state parks and anchorages with no facilities and obviously no shore power. We do a lot of island hopping with 1-4 hour runs between each stop and stay for 1-2 nights at each one. We get pretty close to the 50% SOC at times and plan our trip so we aren’t away from shore power for more than 3-4 nights at a time due mostly to battery requirements.

The following summer of 2019 we'll be spending about 3 weeks traveling further north into Desolation Sound and will definitely want some more independence from shore power. I could see us occasionally running the engine at anchor for a few hours a day to extend our time at a particular anchorage.

Objective
- Stay out longer than 3-4 nights away from shore power
- Quicker and more efficient battery charging from the alternator
- Easy swap out install of the alternator (same foot print and dimensions)
- Keep the budget in check

Battery Usage Overview
-  90-95% of consumption is simply running the fridge

House Bank (under settee in front of the sink)
- 4 x 6v Golf Cart Batteries
- Duracell (BatteriesPlus) #SLIGC115
- Total Capacity = 460 Ah

Reserve Bank (under port settee)
- 1 x 12v Starting Battery
- Duracell (BatteriesPlus) #SLI48H6M
- Capacity = 70Ah

Current Engine and Alternator Setup
- Universal M25 Motor
- Prestolite 51 AMP 8MR2049K w/built-in regulator
- Alternator output wired to the house bank
- ACR between house bank and reserve bank

Plan Options
- Option 1: Install a Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator
- Option 2: Install an alternator with a Balmar (MC-614) external regulator

A Few Questions
- Would a 90 amp Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator work well for my use?
- AND/OR - Would adding a Balmar MC-614 external regulator be worth the cost for my given use?
- What kind of outputs could I realistically expect to get out of 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators paired with an external smart regulator in the bulk charge phase?
- On the other hand, what kind of output could I realistically get from 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators with a built-in yet adjustable regulator?
- What part#'s would I be the best fit for my engine/boat?
- Any recommendations on where to buy from?


PS: Before our trip last year I upgraded much of the boats electrical system. What a huge improvement that has been. Big shout out to Stu, Mainsail, and many others for all the great info that's been shared regarding electrical upgrades.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 11:06:37 AM by Sailing48N »
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Russell & Lindsay
1986 Hull #154 - Standard Rig / Fin Keel
Tacoma, WA

Stu Jackson

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2018, 05:48:32 PM »

1.  and plan our trip so we aren’t away from shore power for more than 3-4 nights at a time due mostly to battery requirements.

2.  - Stay out longer than 3-4 nights away from shore power

3.  - Quicker and more efficient battery charging from the alternator

4.  Install a Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator  OR  Install an alternator with a Balmar (MC-614) external regulator

5.  Would a 90 amp Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator work well for my use?  AND/OR - Would adding a Balmar MC-614 external regulator be worth the cost for my given use?

6.  What kind of outputs could I realistically expect to get out of 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators paired with an external smart regulator in the bulk charge phase?  OR  - On the other hand, what kind of output could I realistically get from 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators with a

1.  That's reality: steadily diminishing law of returns where use exceeds input ability.

2.  Increase input charging.  For your plans, both a larger alternator AND solar would do it.  See #6.

3.  Quicker means larger for bulk charging, not necessarily "efficiency."

4.  There is a discussion in the Electrical 101 about the differences between internal and external regulation by Maine Sail.  [How Alternators & Regulators Work PLUS External vs. Internal Regulators (by Maine Sail):  http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?t=125392]   The differences are not that great in bulk due to battery acceptance.  However, most have concluded that the ability of the programming options of an MC-614 permits more user "efficiency."

5.  Don't bother with an external regulator on your OEM alternator, you'll just burn it up.

6.  "...built-in yet adjustable regulator?"  is not realistic.  All you'd be able to do would be to change the single output voltage.  The external regulator gets you to adjust the voltage outputs for all phases of charging and their times (duration).  My experience is that you can get "TO" the acceptance amperage of a reasonable size house bank like yours, when depleted about 50% SOC.  Mine is 390 ah and I get 75A out of my 100A alternator with an MC-612, for albeit a small amount of time at the start of bulk.

A good source for LN alternators is:

http://www.ase-supply.com/Leece_Neville_110_603_12V_90_amp_ALTERNATOR_p/mo-110-603.htm

Your issue is not unique, it's one we all faced.  One partial solution is solar.  Motoring as much as we do "up here" always helps, and getting almost twice out of an alternator, which it would with a nominal 100A alternator, would really help, compared to the OEM.  BTDT. 

The end result, given a known daily load such as yours, is "How often do I have to run my engine to charge if I have nothing else?"   Bigger alternator without solar would help a great deal. 

Jim Moe's old but still relevant article in the wiki electrical discusses this in great detail. 
Electrical system upgrade: A comprehensive electrical system upgrade by Jim Moe 
http://c34.org/wikiwp/?rdp_we_resource=http%3A%2F%2Fc34.org%2Fwiki%2Findex.php%3Ftitle%3DCatalina_34_Electrical_System_Upgrade

A 90 or 100A alternator would work very well for you. Read also the Small Engine Mode discussions in Electrical 101.

Good luck, great question, well put and presented.
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mainesail

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 04:34:12 AM »

There's a lot of motoring around in the mid-summer months in this area.

It all depends upon what "a lot of motoring is".. Flooded GC2 batteries really need upwards of 14.7V - 14.8V, temp compensated to 80F, in order to properly charge and keep sulfation at bay. Running a straight up dumb regulator with no possibility of float means a compromise voltage of 14.2V to 14.4V would be necessary, if you do "long runs"... A smart regulator will give you healthier charging but GC2 batteries are also rather in-expensive..

We get pretty close to the 50% SOC at times and plan our trip so we aren’t away from shore power for more than 3-4 nights at a time due mostly to battery requirements.

This is extremely frustrating & sad to hear. To solve this set you boat up to go cruising, not RVing where you need to depend upon shore power. We have not plugged our sail boats into shore power, unless it is physically in our yard, in the last 33 years of cruising. Marina's wreck the whole idea of "getting away"...

The following summer of 2019 we'll be spending about 3 weeks traveling further north into Desolation Sound and will definitely want some more independence from shore power. I could see us occasionally running the engine at anchor for a few hours a day to extend our time at a particular anchorage.

Objective
- Stay out longer than 3-4 nights away from shore power
- Quicker and more efficient battery charging from the alternator
- Easy swap out install of the alternator (same foot print and dimensions)
- Keep the budget in check

Battery Usage Overview
-  90-95% of consumption is simply running the fridge

House Bank (under settee in front of the sink)
- 4 x 6v Golf Cart Batteries
- Duracell (BatteriesPlus) #SLIGC115
- Total Capacity = 460 Ah

Reserve Bank (under port settee)
- 1 x 12v Starting Battery
- Duracell (BatteriesPlus) #SLI48H6M
- Capacity = 70Ah

Current Engine and Alternator Setup
- Universal M25 Motor
- Prestolite 51 AMP 8MR2049K w/built-in regulator
- Alternator output wired to the house bank
- ACR between house bank and reserve bank

Plan Options
- Option 1: Install a Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator
- Option 2: Install an alternator with a Balmar (MC-614) external regulator

Option 1 can work but is less than "optimal" due to where voltage will need to be set as a compromise. It is also sub optimal from voltage sensing point of view. It can also lead to burned out alternators if you bank is too big and bulk lasts too long. The stock alternator has no way of protecting itself from over-temp other than poor voltage sensing. Also at 90A you're right at the limit of a 3/8" belt and with no way to limit the alternator output current belt dust will be a reality. It also pretty much rules out the 105A version.


A Few Questions
- Would a 90 amp Leece-Neville alternator with an adjustable internal regulator work well for my use?

Yes it can work but you need to keep in mind all of the above that was mentioned.


- AND/OR - Would adding a Balmar MC-614 external regulator be worth the cost for my given use?

If you want optimal charging performance, temp compensation for both the alt and batteries, a way to limit the belt load, soft start up, full custom programming for the right charge settings, a way to shut down the reg should you need extra power etc. then an external Balmar regulator is an excellent choice. Don't discount the ARS-5 if budget is real tight. It does almost everything the MC-614H does for about $30.00 -$40.00 less..


- What kind of outputs could I realistically expect to get out of 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators paired with an external smart regulator in the bulk charge phase?
- On the other hand, what kind of output could I realistically get from 70, 90, and a 100 amp alternators with a built-in yet adjustable regulator?

The real question is what "should you get out of" one of these alternators. Bulk is bulk. Both regulators will push the alt to max output during bulk. Bulk will end when sensed voltage hits the limit.

Alternators & Voltage Sensing:
https://marinehowto.com/alternators-voltage-sensing/

The Balmar regulator should be set to be pushing to a higher voltage and will be sensing voltage at the battery so bulk will last longer with the Balmar and more energy can be returned to the bank in a shorter time. The Balmar also allows you to custom tailor the output "derate it" so as not to over load the belt and it also allows for the alternator to run significantly cooler and thus last longer. I like to see these run at belt load manager level 3-6 depending upon the installation and average engine room temps.


- What part#'s would I be the best fit for my engine/boat?

You'd want one of the 90A or 105A units. If sticking with the internal 8RG2043 regulator then you'll not want to exceed the 90A unit. Be aware that these don't come with a pulley nor the fit kit to make the 1" foot a 2" foot. The factory stamped steel-pulley is really pretty horrible in high load applications and as it heats up it expands and leads to slippage. Most of these use a 5/8" shaft which is not a standard shaft diameter. The make one 2" foot 90A model that is metric but finding a pulley to fit those is even harder without machining..


- Any recommendations on where to buy from?

Seeing as you give me a "shout out" below why not support one of the guys who helps support this fine forum?  :thumb:

MarineHowTo.com - Alternators & Regulators https://shop.marinehowto.com/t/alternators--regulators

If you don't see it in the store just ask, there is nothing I don't have access to.


Big shout out to Stu, Mainsail, and many others for all the great info that's been shared regarding electrical upgrades.

P.S. One word - Solar :wink:
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 03:43:30 AM by mainesail »
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Jon W

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2018, 10:38:32 AM »

Hi mainesail - Is the Universal/Westerbeke 105A Externally Regulated Alternator listed on your website a replacement for a Leece-Neville 8MR2401UA that has the 8MR external regulation conversion kit added to it?
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Sailing48N

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2018, 12:45:14 PM »

You guys are great!

After my initial research and reading, I was pretty much sold on getting the Balmer MC-614 external regulator. I just wasn't sure what alternator to pair with it. In my search to find info on what alternators would best fit my M25 I started seeing and reading some posts about how external regulators might be overkill on a sailboat. I began second guessing that decision.

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

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....

(I read a few more posts/topics like these but can't find them now.)

I know I would prefer to have the Balmer MC-614 and the ability to program it for optimum control and output efficiency from an upgraded alternator. I'm still leaning heavily in that direction. However, the question remains and is what I keep asking myself; is it the best use of somewhere around an additional $350? Would that be better spent elsewhere on boat upgrades/projects? My list is VERY long and of course always longer than my set budget goals.

Getting from 50-85% SOC is all I'm really shooting for with the alternator. I know it will be more efficient using a Balmar external regulator. But how much more so?

--------------------------------------------------------
Hypothetical Comparison:
90 amp alternator with an internal semi-dumb regulator set at around 14.4-14.6 vs. 105 amp alternator with a smart regulator (Balmar MC-614) with the recommended advanced settings (including depowering the output as suggested).

Who much difference in engine run time would I realistically be able to see in order to put back in the 160 Ah or so to get from 50-85% SOC?
--------------------------------------------------------

On somewhat of a side note - I will add the ability to engage "small engine mode" either way.

As far as solar goes… Solar would be GREAT!!! I'd love to have it right now! However, adding solar would be an additional $1,000+ in my estimation for what I'd like to add and I don't have a good place to install the panels just yet. I would like to add a dodger and bimini down the road but currently my topside is bare. That's another high dollar upgrade that is on my list at some point and would come first before adding solar.

@Stu - Just out of curiosity, now that you are in the PNW, what kind of performance are you getting out of your solar system and what setup are you using?

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mainesail

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 04:37:24 AM »

Hi mainesail - Is the Universal/Westerbeke 105A Externally Regulated Alternator listed on your website a replacement for a Leece-Neville 8MR2401UA that has the 8MR external regulation conversion kit added to it?

Yes it is. I can't call it a Leece-Neville because I build it here using Leece and other carefully chosen components. Legally, even if I start with an 8MR2401UA, when I remove the regulator, and convert it to external, I still can't call it a Leece-Neville 8MR2401UA because it no longer is.

LN's pricing is too steep for a complete unit for me to hit the price point I wanted in a "ready to run" ER unit. The price you may find on a 105A LN is often only a few % over actual cost, then it has to ship here and be tweaked and then I have a pile of regulators I paid for but not using. By ready to run I mean ER conversion, custom made billet machined pulley (not cheap stamped steel), high copper content brushes, the fit kit etc. are all included in that price.

I am working hard on the ER kits because LN has discontinued them. Problem is I am getting prices of $30.00 each, my cost, just for the aluminum casting and that is with a quantity of 150 at a pop, not powder coated.. I still need the gasket and parts on top of that. LN was building these in China.... Unless you find an ER kit on eBay I believe I am the only one with ER kits available and what I have left are being used for complete units.

If you'll notice I'm now offering an 8MR 90A replacement alternator built on a Delco platform (custom frame castings with 8MR dimensions) because I don't know if I will be successful in getting the 8MR ER kits at a price that makes building 8MR's worthwhile once the kits I have in stock are gone. It's not quite the same as an 8MR, not spark protected, but I build them very beefy.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 04:44:18 AM by mainesail »
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mainesail

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 04:47:47 AM »


Hypothetical Comparison:
90 amp alternator with an internal semi-dumb regulator set at around 14.4-14.6 vs. 105 amp alternator with a smart regulator (Balmar MC-614) with the recommended advanced settings (including depowering the output as suggested).

Who much difference in engine run time would I realistically be able to see in order to put back in the 160 Ah or so to get from 50-85% SOC?


Your current limit is the belt, the 90A with internal reg will wind up working harder in bulk than the 105A would using Belt Manager. It will thus not last as long as a 105A unit that is temp protected. Both will work.
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 05:52:01 AM »

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

@Stu - Just out of curiosity, now that you are in the PNW, what kind of performance are you getting out of your solar system and what setup are you using?

I do NOT have solar, except for a small 11W panel I used to maintain my house bank when I was away from the boat for a couple of months in 2016.

You are "caught" in a classic situation.  You have a design goal.  You  currently do not have the alternator output to match that goal.

You may have seen this:  http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,5599.msg35004.html#msg35004  Forget about the first part (you've done that), but read the italic section.  That describes your current situation: that steadily diminishing law of returns. 

The reality is the choice of the "use of the available technology" --- external vs. internal regulation. 

Another approach is to look at it this way:  you won't be motoring every day.  Those days NOT motoring will require you to run the engine for as short a time as possible to put as much back into the house bank as you can, even if you are willing to work the 50-85% route.

The tapering amperage from a single output voltage from a internally regulated alternator may not produce as much current as you could obtain from the programming available with an external regulator for those days on the hook.  Battery sensing is available with external regulators, so that the target voltage at the bank is being achieved.   

It may not make as much difference on those days that you are motoring.

There is also a link to Maine Sail's article about the difference between the AR-5 and MC-614 regulators in the Electrical System 101 topic.
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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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Sailing48N

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 04:29:24 PM »

I think I've made my decision. I'll probably go with the "Universal/Westerbeke 105A Externally Regulated Alternator" with the MC-614 from mainesail. Now I just need to convince the Admiral.

With the 105A what belt manager setting would you recommend? I'm guessing 4.
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Stu Jackson

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2018, 08:33:54 PM »

I think I've made my decision. I'll probably go with the "Universal/Westerbeke 105A Externally Regulated Alternator" with the MC-614 from mainesail. Now I just need to convince the Admiral.

With the 105A what belt manager setting would you recommend? I'm guessing 4.

Good choices.  Good luck.  :D

You may, Russell, be getting ahead of yourself.  The "dial back" will depend on the state of your house bank.  The lower it is the more the acceptance. 

There is also the Small Engine Mode, discussed in detail in Elec. 101.  It's easier to do, and, as Maine Sail notes, he sometimes does both.

It's an operational issue.
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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: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2018, 08:45:19 PM »

I know there’s quite a few settings to dial in, but I was specifically thinking about the Belt Manager max setting I could use and still keep the 3/8” belt from disintegrating.
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Russell & Lindsay
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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2018, 07:23:13 AM »

Hi Russel,

I would defiantly go with an external regulator on any alternator you buy as both Mainesail and Stu suggest.  I tried the cheap route using the internal regulator of the 90A LN when we went cruising to the Bahamas for 8 months and ended up melting the alternator 6 months into the trip.  The internal regulator programming is very simple with no over temp protection for the alternator.  The problem as explained by Mainesail is that given the large battery bank size (~400AH), the LN will overheat while blindly delivering full output for 1-2 hours to bring the battery bank to 80% charge.  These alternators where not designed for this type of duty.  As Mainesail has said in his excellent articles, the LN will work with an external regulator that has alternator temperature protection as the Balmar AR-5 and the MC-614 regulators do.  I have since replace the LN with a new one and  added an AR-5 external regulator.  We did see a fair amount of belt dust from using the higher output alternator.  Bring spare belts, we had a new belt fail 100 hours into the trip and replaced it which lasted the rest of the trip.  Keep your old Motorola as a spare.  We did and it saved our bacon when we burnt up the LN in the Bahamas and did not want to pay the exorbitant rate to replace it there.

Also,  I would diffidently move adding solar higher up on the priority list!  Having to run the engine 2 hours a day to keep the fridge alive got old.  Especially when we were tucked into a quiet anchorage for days at a time.  I wish that we had spent the $1000 on solar instead of the Yamaha 2K generator we bought for the trip.

Paul

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Stu Jackson

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2018, 08:53:23 AM »

I know there’s quite a few settings to dial in, but I was specifically thinking about the Belt Manager max setting I could use and still keep the 3/8” belt from disintegrating.


I have a 100A alternator with a 390 ah house bank.  I run a 3/8" belt with Small Engine Mode (manually) at startup after a night or two on the hook, and do not use belt manager. 

The variables are bank SOC, and, therefore, acceptance, and engine rpms.

This topic discusses the reasoning about belt squeal/slippage and maximizing the alternator output (AO), as well as acceptance for nominal 400 ah banks at 50% SOC:

Alternator heat, Regulator Controls, Small Engine Mode

http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4454.0.html

Somewhere else on the internet, perhaps on sbo, Maine Sail advised what he uses.  IIRC, it's somewhere about 70% (derate it 30%) on belt manager if you choose to use it.  His Internal vs. External Regulator link discusses other issues, doesn't include a %.

Add to this the use of the battery temperature sensor, and the alternator temperature sensor (which is connected to the small engine mode taps on the MC-series regulators) which reduces the AO automatically, and you'll see that there are many variables in play, making a specific number for the belt manager something one usually works out in the field on their own boat.

The Critical Upgrades discusses the importance of belt alignment, and is so noted in the link to SEM above.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2018, 01:40:36 PM by Stu Jackson »
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DaveBMusik

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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 07:09:04 AM »

Has anyone tried Balmar’s serpentine belt pulley conversion? Supposedly more surface area and less slipping. Not cheap but might solve the belt dust problem.
http://www.balmar.net/balmar-technology/altmount-serpentine-conversion-technology/
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Dave Burgess
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Re: Alternator Upgrade
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2018, 09:36:41 AM »

Replying just to follow and receive notifications.  If there's a way to do that without replying, please let me know!
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Mike Brown
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Just Limin'
Universal M-35AC
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