Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A new Post!

We have been slow with the Updates and Postings.  Guess that is a Sin when it comes to Proper Blogging...  well, with winter approaching  Kristi and I have been enjoying our last few days 'Out Here'.  Mostly hanging around Roche Harbor to take work calls and eat Doughnuts.

But I have also been putting a bit of effort into the Arduino based engine controller and smart regulator for our Kubota DC generator.  Have the initial hardware design completed and have been playing with a few firmware things like Watchdog timers and I2C communication   Those with a passing (or even active) interest can see more here:  http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/

Today we just finished perhaps our last Coffee and Doughnuts for the year and are killing a little time at the Roche Harbor dock.  Will take a work-work call in about 20 minutes, then move back out and anchor before another one at 1:00.  We called Friday Harbor this morning to see about dockage for the winter, no issues.  Though that Sail Boat in OUR SPOT looks to be there for the winter.  Oh Well, we were told we could just tie up right behind them!

Well, another summer down.  Next year we will be heading north, but likely not too far.  Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast are what we have been talking about.  This winter we need to get the life raft serviced, and of course catch up on our health tasks.   And speaking of health, we just might have found a way to cut our health care insurance costs by 66% - you guessed it:  LEAVE THE COUNTRY!  Have a lead on an insurance plan that will provide EXACTLY THE SAME coverage we have now, at 1/3 the cost - with the condition that we are in the USA no more than 180 days / year.  Ah, love our system.  Pay us to get out of the USA!   (Sorry, will put my Soap Box back now)


  1. Al,
    I've been following your blog for some time. Like you, I installed a Kubota 12VDC genset (bought used on craigslist). I installed a Balmar "smart" regulator, but recently was advised by my battery maker (Dyno wet cell) not to bother with smart regulators -- best to feed full amperage output available from alternator until battery bank reaches that 85% recharge point(..scenario for charging batteries while at anchor). The thinking being, just flood batteries with max amperage and don't bother with final 15% until connected to shore power. This makes sense to me? He suggested replacing the Balmar with a single stage regulator...like auto type. (auto regulators output max amps full time...no scaling.) Your thoughts?
    MV Northstar, Anacortes
    Willard 40

  2. Richard,

    So sorry for the long delay in responding. . . Been up to my Eyebrows in my Alternator Regulator Project.

    From my experience with our Kubota DC Generator, I would say a fixed voltage regulator is just fine. There is no time when I will let the generator run through all 'three' phases and enter the Float Mode. Just do not want to listen to it. In fact, what I do is watch the Amps produced (via the Link-10) and when the battery acceptance rate falls into the 80Amp range (as indicated by Vbat = 14.4v, and Abat = 80A or less), I shut things down. So, no need for a three phase - as it ALWAYS operates in BULK mode.

    So yes, I agree 100% with what you got from Dyno. (BTW, we use Dyno house batteries. Great source for folks here in the PNW!)

    Having said that - today I am using a Smart Regulator - for one reason: To take advantage of its 'Amps Manager' capability (Sometimes called Belt Saver). This is really an unrefined amperage reducing capability that duty-cycles the Field at some % I need to use 80% to keep the max output of our alternator below 110A. The reason for this is simple: Anything more and the Kubota starts overloading (as indicated by black exhaust). But overall I am not happy as this regulator has a nasty habit of 'switching' into Float Mode during the recharge time. When it does I need to power-cycle the regulator to get it back where it belongs.

    It is one of the reasons I started working on a regulator of my own. http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/

    And FWIW: I pulled off the 'smart' Belmar 3-step regulator from the house alternator on our mains years ago. In that case I was not using the 'Amp Manager', and I got tired of having to unplug the regulator to reset it during charging. Instead I installed a simple truck fixed point regulator and have been happy ever since. Now, to be honest this is also enabled by our current cruising lifestyle: Sit at anchor for a few days, then motor somewhere. Typically our 'motoring' time is 3-4 hours. With this pattern I do not need to worry about 'overcharging' the house battery, as according to Dyno we should charge to Full Charge, and then another 4 hours. IF we end up taking a LONG trip - I have disconnected the house alternator, like when we were going marina to marina up the Columbia with some friends - the house battery never got a chance to get drawn down.

    Bottom line to your question: I agree with using a fixed voltage regulator, and manually turning off the generator at the 85% charge point. BUT be careful: There are LOTS of commercial kubota EA300 / DC alternator systems sold out there matched up with 150A and even 200A alternators, and there are also starting to be LOTS of posts of folks destroying their kubota in a few 100 hours due to massive overload. In my case, 110A seems about the right max point.