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acdbox

Sterling advanced alternator to battery charger install

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Hello,

its been a few years since I’ve been on a boat and trying to upgrade my electrics, but just need a refresh on a couple things please to install a sterling advanced alternator to battery charger.

the engine is a small 720cc beta marine inboard and currently has the alternator connected to batteries via the starter motor. Is it out of the question to run a separate cable directly from the alternator to the advanced charger and if yes, would it be best to remove cable to starter motor?

thank you

Edited by acdbox

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I hope that with the alternator being forced into maximum output for longer periods it does not compromise the engine performance, especially with well discharged or faulty batteries.

 

The A to B needs its own feed from the alternator. The existing wire should be disconnected, insulated and taped back ready for when your A to B fails.#

 

You can from the A to B to the stater terminal but if you have split charging this is not the optimum arrangement.

 

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Hello Tony, thank you for replying. I don’t know enough obviously, so your reply has opened more  questions. I didn’t realise an alternator would put an engine at risk. But also that the advanced charger would fail for some reason? I may stop before I even start. Thank you for taking the time to reply. Andreas

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1 hour ago, acdbox said:

Hello Tony, thank you for replying. I don’t know enough obviously, so your reply has opened more  questions. I didn’t realise an alternator would put an engine at risk. But also that the advanced charger would fail for some reason? I may stop before I even start. Thank you for taking the time to reply. Andreas

 

It won't put the engine at risk but with a low output (720cc so maybe 15 HP) the alternator load may be so high it stalls the engine or prevents it revving up when the alternator is at full power. That is exactly what the A to B will tend to do, keep the alternator at full output far longer than a system without one. I recently answered a question about an engine twice the size of yours that would not rev up for many minutes after the first start of the day and new batteries plus much longer charging periods each day solved the issue. This does depend on the alternator’s designed output though.

 

In most cases being given the full facts, what you are trying to achieve and why you think the system needs an upgrade will produce a far cheaper solution. For example the cost of an A to B might be better spent on some solar.

 

Your question sort of suggests a single battery bank boat and if so splitting it with a voltage sensitive relay with the charging wired for optimum performance may solve the issues (whatever they are) but in many     cases that start like this it actually boils down to the boater not comprehending that to fully charge a battery is likely to take 10 hours or more so they never fully charge their batteries. This causes sulphation that quickly depletes the battery capacity and also probably uses up the batteries cyclic life rather quickly cause the need for frequent battery renewal.

Edited by Tony Brooks
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Before you spend the £200 to £300 pounds on an A to B  it is bets to try to find out where the problem lies. First do a power audit and the the charging calculations to see how long it will take to get your batteries back to about 80% charged. The calculations are on my website in both sets of course notes www.tb-training.co.uk. That way you will find out if you need to reduce your electricity use, extend the charging times, or buy add-ons.

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Hello, and sorry for late reply.

so, the advanced charger, batteries and solar I have are all from an old boat I had and electrical requirements equate to the equipment I already own. Essentially, the solar chargers most of the tea and would rely on the alternator for the rest. Honestly, with your reply, I understood it’s best to take care of solar first and can think about the advanced charger closer to when it’s getting dark again. Thank you

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I have an A to B and it works great in increasing the alternator voltage from 13.9v max to 14.4V. My old boat also had a sterling A to B on and we had that 8 years. Same problem on that. An alternator with a crappy regulator ......sorry automotive regulator.

You need to give us the full facts of what you are trying to do. If you are suffering with a low max absorption voltage then an A to B may be a good option (or may not). If you have a decent absorption voltage then why would you need one.

My experience with them is that they don't break down.

Please let us know what your system is and why you think you need one.

 

 

edit to add......and because I now charge at 14.4v not 13.9v, I have managed to get through 2 years with a cheapo  set of lead acids with little loss of capacity.

Edited by Dr Bob

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I would ad than if, and these days its a big if, you are charging at 13.9 volts then in many cases a new regulator charging at 14.5V will be a far cheaper than an A to D. If you already have an A to D then by all means fit it and see how it goes but buying one just because you have a 13.9V alternator regulator or because your charging system wiring is undersized and so on is  perhaps not the most cost effective solution.

 

Somewhere on this site there are instructions about using a couple of diodes to boost the charging voltage and also a piece about using a "tractor" regulator on A127 alternators to provide an adjustable charging voltage. For most alternators fitting the diodes requires a degree of stripping and soldering.

 

I would also suggest that that A to D was developed for certain specific special vehicle applications rather than marine use although it will provide the  outputs they clam. Because the A to D needs the main charging circuit altering I think I would prefer to use an advanced alternator controller that can be taken out fo circuit by simply disconnecting a single thin cable. They do, however need a simple modification and perhaps some soldering on the alternator/regulator.

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It then all comes down to the 'stripping and soldering' vs the Ato B plug and play. I went the simple route.

What is the OPs final charging voltage? We need to know that. If it's over 14.2v then an AtoB seems pointless.

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7 minutes ago, Dr Bob said:

It then all comes down to the 'stripping and soldering' vs the Ato B plug and play. I went the simple route.

What is the OPs final charging voltage? We need to know that. If it's over 14.2v then an AtoB seems pointless.

But it is not plug and play, is it. It requires a fair bit of large cable rewiring and a suitable tool to crimp the terminals.  If it fails you then need to do more wiring work to bypass it. This might not be onerous but you still need to disconnect cables from the A to B and then join them. Where as the necessary modification for an advanced regulator can be accomplished by buying a pre-modified regulator or taking your alternator to any competent auto-electrician.

 

As the OP seems to already have the A to B he may as well fit it and it might or might not make a significant difference to his charging but over £300 (Sterling website) seems an awful lot of money to spend when in many cases some heavenlier cable and a bit of rewinding or a new regulator would solve the charging issues.

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48 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

But it is not plug and play, is it. It requires a fair bit of large cable rewiring and a suitable tool to crimp the terminals.  If it fails you then need to do more wiring work to bypass it. This might not be onerous but you still need to disconnect cables from the A to B and then join them. Where as the necessary modification for an advanced regulator can be accomplished by buying a pre-modified regulator or taking your alternator to any competent auto-electrician.

 

.......but that is why Sterling are selling the unit. The 'plug and play' is more attractive to some of us who have this aversion to faffing with Alterntors. The thought of taking my alterntor off just fills me with horror. What if it doesnt go back on properly? Sterling are preying on the weak minded muppets who hide at the mention of alternators.

The AtoB does work and is a solution to the problem of low absorption voltage. Yes it is expensive but is a practical solution to those of us who dont like taking our engines to bits.

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Sterling are selling the unit to make a profit - end of. It is some kind of a solution to perceived charging  problems but it is up to each individual to decide if its cost effective. Unfortunately Sterling decline to provide any advice in respect of alternatives in an unbiased way. This is is totally in accord with capitalist business practices but it leaves the gullible and less well informed and able ripe for plucking.

 

It is not just me saying this, look back at similar topics. In many cases perceived charging problems can be solved by getting the wiring right. Another number can be solved by cheaper methods. In my view, and I know this will upset some people, A to Bs and advanced alternator controllers are these day not much more than a con. The money spent fitting them could be better spent, with more effect but installing solar. I constantly see the people praising such devices are those that have spent money on them, that is just human nature.

 

I find it almost unbelievable that anyone would find removing two or three  bolts and two to four cables more difficult than securely running two heavy cables plus some lighter ones and fixing the A to B in place but there you are, I care about peoples money, even if they do not.

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4 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

There is also the risk that you are just treating symptoms until something finally fails big time.

 

Absolutely and the adds and manuals or such devices rarely make that clear because it may well mean lost sales.

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1 hour ago, Dr Bob said:

The thought of taking my alterntor off just fills me with horror. What if it doesnt go back on properly? Sterling are preying on the weak minded muppets who hide at the mention of alternators.

If that scares you, you don't want to see what the LiFePO4 suppliers do ...

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2 hours ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

I find it almost unbelievable that anyone would find removing two or three  bolts and two to four cables more difficult than securely running two heavy cables plus some lighter ones and fixing the A to B in place but there you are, I care about peoples money, even if they do not.

...but you are happy with spanners and oily engines. Some people are not. If your max absorption voltage is 13.9V because the regulator is set that way as it was on my current NB, my previous 'brand new' sailing yacht and numerous others that Gibbo refers to in his notes on smartgauges, then the AtoB is a solution for those of us who do not want to take alternators off and take them to alternator repairers to fit a new or revised regulator.

It was interesting a few weeks ago when I asked on another thread how I would go about rewiring an alternator to be able to turn it off, no one came up with any concrete 'do this, do that'. The main response was wait for Sir Nibble.

 

1 hour ago, ditchcrawler said:

There is also the risk that you are just treating symptoms until something finally fails big time.

....but if you know what the underlying problem is....ie a regulator set too low....then that risk does not exist. With the AtoB, my alternator charging has been ok for 18 months - apart from the AtoB demanding the power from the small engine start alternator first - all sorted now. (I wouldnt use an AtoB with two alternators).

 

For me spending £300 to solve the problem 2 years ago and 12 years ago was a good deal. Yes, probably could have done it cheaper but with more faffing, especially on the sailing yacht as it would have been a warranty claim, ie major faffing and time wasted. I am now actually getting more benefit from the AtoB as I can now control the power output from the alternator for use charging my lithiums hence hopefully avoid overheating. We will see once we get up to 25°C ambient.

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All fine except a new higher voltage regulator, including professional fitting, almost certainly comes out at less than an A to B. On an A127 given reasonable access I could do it in less than 10 minutes, its only 3 or 4 little bolts and a bit of a twist to get it out.

 

 

If you want a do this - do that answer for modifying the alternator so you can turn it off then you are out of luck because there are many different variations in design but the general principle for a 9 diode machine is as follows.

 

Identify the connection between the field diodes and the regulator. On some (Paris Rhone) it may just be a wire connected to the regulator. On most others you will need to take the regulator out and identify the connection. On some it might be a blade connector on the regulator, on others its a flat spring making contact with the regulator.

 

Once you have that you need to break into that circuit and fit a remote switch. This might mean bending the spring thing away from the regulator and soldering   cable to it and the "pad" on the regulator.  The nominal current will be around 3 amps but with high voltage spikes so it is probably best to use a good quality switch and also perhaps stop the engine when operating the switch.

 

One would need a detailed knowledge of YOUR alternator to be any more specific - hence the advice to  wait for Sir N.

Edited by Tony Brooks

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35 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

All fine except a new higher voltage regulator, including professional fitting, almost certainly comes out at less than an A to B. On an A127 given reasonable access I could do it in less than 10 minutes, its only 3 or 4 little bolts and a bit of a twist to get it out.

 

 

If you want a do this - do that answer for modifying the alternator so you can turn it off then you are out of luck because there are many different variations in design but the general principle for a 9 diode machine is as follows.

 

Identify the connection between the field diodes and the regulator. On some (Paris Rhone) it may just be a wire connected to the regulator. On most others you will need to take the regulator out and identify the connection. On some it might be a blade connector on the regulator, on others its a flat spring making contact with the regulator.

 

Once you have that you need to break into that circuit and fit a remote switch. This might mean bending the spring thing away from the regulator and soldering   cable to it and the "pad" on the regulator.  The nominal current will be around 3 amps but with high voltage spikes so it is probably best to use a good quality switch and also perhaps stop the engine when operating the switch.

 

One would need a detailed knowledge of YOUR alternator to be any more specific - hence the advice to  wait for Sir N.

Isnt that one of the problems with Lithium Batteries that you have to switch the charge source off when the batteries are full

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2 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

Isnt that one of the problems with Lithium Batteries that you have to switch the charge source off when the batteries are full

Yep. Once it gets to your terminal voltage, it needs to turn off......so in Lead acid speak, that means get to absorption voltage and then stop or drop voltage below 13.3V for optimum results, ie absorption time =0. Few regulators allow you to do that. Let me know if know of any.

Another unrelated issue (to absorption voltage duration) is that Li's take 'full charge' up to 98% SoC so that means your alternator going flat out unless you have a regulator to throttle it back, hence potential temperature issues. Quite a lot on t'internet about small frame alternators not being able to go flat out for extended periods. T&B got an arduino based controller for theirs that throttles it back. That design has now gone commercial for £500+ a pop. Balmar sell a regulator with a 'belt manager' that reduces current out so helps the lifetime of the alternator and an option to set absorption time to zero.

One unexpected benefit of my AtoB is that if I set it on a US gel setting then it reduces current out to 55A initial (45A when hot) so I can keep the alternator cooler (90A alternator) but it needs to autodisconnect on voltage as the absorption time seems to be 4 hours at that setting.

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17 minutes ago, Dr Bob said:

 

One unexpected benefit of my AtoB is that if I set it on a US gel setting then it reduces current out to 55A initial (45A when hot) so I can keep the alternator cooler (90A alternator) but it needs to autodisconnect on voltage as the absorption time seems to be 4 hours at that setting.

But then you are not getting the advertised advantage of faster charging

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Just now, ditchcrawler said:

But then you are not getting the advertised advantage of faster charging

Absolutely. If your alternator is not good enough then you cant get the power in. I am finding though that I get 45-50A at a conservative alternator temperature ALL THE TIME rather than the typical 20A, then 10A then 7 A over the last 3 hours of charge with the LA's. I can probably run it hotter but I'm finding I dont need to at the moment. The main benefit is the solar which just soaks in at 20A. Maybe next winter I will need to think about upping the alternator to 75-80A. We motored today with the alternator turned off. Didnt want them above 80% SoC.

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