On my trip I visited a number of boats with wind generators. Usually very quiet operation and I was impressed with them during the winter when good winds seemed to be common all night. I didn’t note which brands were in use.
I've now got my Victron MPPT connected up, just waiting for the stainless guy to come along and sort out the support arch for the 4x 150W panels.
The MPPT and a BMV-712 are connected to a VenusGX via VE.Direct, and the VenusGX is then connected to the boat's WIFI and (when the cable arrives) the NMEA network.
The VenusGX (via WIFI) allows me to have a look at the Victron VRM page on the internet and check in to see how the solar and batteries are performing. Nice website with clear presentation.
Once the VE.Can-NMEA cable arrives then it'll show me my batteries and charging etc on the NMEA network. I originally had the BMV-712 on the NMEA network using a VE.Direct-NMEA converter but there's only 2x VE.Direct on the Venus GX.
I am installing 5 firefly carbon foam AGM batteries next week. In preparation I installed a Balmar “Yanmar smart regulator upgrade kit” with the external 614 regulator onto my original 120amp Valeo alternator. My thought is that with the high amp charging these batteries will accept I am less likely to burn up an alternator and/or belts. And the unit monitors temperatures on the alternator and batteries. Will see what I learn. Also, instead of making a electric needs budget I decided to add a Balmar SG200 monitor and collect real data on what I use and how the system all works. Then after learning my actual amps deficit when sailing I can plan for my solar upgrade. If I can trust the early data from the monitor and the performance I am seeing from my current batteries they seem to have recovered quite a bit from my winter abuse of them. I’m planning on load testing after I replace them. Perhaps I jumped to quickly into new batteries and newer technology, but the lead acid bank just didn’t work for me with my current setup.
Moonshadow, Are you using the stock battery chargers, and are they Cristec 12v/40s? I read recently that the Cristec chargers are not compatible with the Firefly AGM batteries. I do not remember where I read it now, but while the Cristec documentation does not address Firelfys, it does discuss the fact that the Cristec can advise on the configuration for other battery compounds. Were you able to get advise on the charger configuration for Fireflys? Thanks for your thorough reports, they are very helpful.
Thanks for the comment. I have been looking into it now. With the various options available in selecting charge regimens in the cristec chargers I think it is not a matter of being incompatible but more like less than perfect.im hoping to get the “best choice” answer from firefly soon. Since these batteries don’t mind being left in a PSOC state I am planning on unsechargimg a bit at first while I get advice from firefly. The firefly manual suggests leaving them in a Partial State Of Charge unless a top up is needed. I still have the lead acid bank, 5x 110 amp hour, on the boat now. I purposely ran them down a bit to test my voltage regulator upgrade. With the stock Yanmar/Valeo 120 amp alternator it was pretty impressive to see that charge current ramp up to 96 Amps. This Balmar MC614 regulator is fully programmable ( when I figure out how to do it!) so I will set that up for top up charge if needed while I find out what to do about the cristec chargers. I’ll keep the updates coming if it’s helpful once I try the fireflies.
Here is one more update on my electrical upgrades: So far; firefly batteries, Balmar MC614 external regulator for my original 120 amp Valeo alternator (serpentine belt is original type) with temp sensors, Balmar SG200 battery monitor. Still have original Cristec OEM chargers. Overall I am very pleased with current setup for trips of a few days. I no longer rush to attach shire power when I get to a dock. At my home dock I rarely use shore power. This is a bad idea if I sprung a leak and the Bilge pump runs enough to drain batteries. But since the cristec charger isn’t perfect for carbon foam batteries I want to leave the charger off when I leave the boat for a while. The lowest float setting is apparently (by report only) too high for firefly batteries. I leave my refridgerator on and little else. I have 2 factory small solar panels that put out 5.5 amps in good conditions. I seem to use up about 8% of my 525 amp hour capacity per day. When sailing and using nav system, electric winches, autopilot etc I probably use 15-20% of my capacity. Most of this is recovered as I use my engine to maneuver in/out of anchorages etc. this setup seems adequate for my current 4-5 day trips without much, if any, need to run generator or shore power. I am still planning and adding more solar power before a long (months) trip without shore power. Certainly if I want to use engine/genset a bit more each day I could keep up as it is. But I like quiet. Two items I noted. My old lead acid batteries seemed to have recovered a lot of capacity after some time on a good charger at home. Probably could be using them now. And the fireflies have great capacity, fast charging, and no problem being left in a partial state of charge. But they seem less capable of delivering a large short term output. Mainly they can’t seem to do any better that my lead acid batteries during electric winch loads. I know this can be a huge amperage draw but I was hoping that these would be an improvement in that. I think that the external charge regulator and the battery monitor are great improvements by themselves and work especially well with fast charging batteries.
I now have my solar arch installed on the stern, an extension of the bimini. Mounted with 4x 150w solar and down to a Victron 150/60 MPPT. I’ve left the boat with the fridge and freezer running and the system has no problems keeping the batteries topped up by lunch. If I’m onboard and running normal loads including the tv in the evenings I’m down to about 75% by the morning. Max Watts I’ve seen so far is around 420 but the boat is in a marina and may be getting shading from other yachts. The position behind the bimini keeps it clear of most shadows from my boat.
I was a bit concerned about the strength of the frame but we recently had around 90 knots blow through that dismasted a yacht behind me, a 100m ship nearby broke her moorings and a warehouse came down.....so I’m quite happy with it as it goes.
Anyone have a good understanding of the Cristec OEM chargers? In order to avoid overcharging my new firefly batteries and also not have to turn the charger on every few days I am considering leaving the charger in the “wintering standby” mode. According to the cristec manual this will provide a steady 13.4 volts, which is what firefly suggests. However I realized I might be reading the graphics wrong in the book. The dip switch diagram shows a black and a white area for the switch position but it’s unclear which is “up” vs “down”. I know I read about this here somewhere but a search for the terms showed nothing. I guess I can try what I think is right and check the voltage. But your experience might be helpful, so thanks.
I thought that it is a good time for an update on my results of cruising with my upgrades and electrical concerns. This trip is about 2 months in so far. During the December short days and low sun angles I am pretty happy overall. So far I have not yet had to run my generator or engine just to charge batteries. This is a big improvement. It seems that I am getting about 900-1200 watt hours out of my solar panels. At the current sun angles I see about 1/2 rated power during good sunny times. With 580 amphours of firefly batteries I generally lose 12-20% of charge overnight. This is with fridge and refridgerator running and charging various devices, lights, occasional inverter use etc. During the day with all this running at anchor I will recover just about all of this. Close but not all. Very few days I will tend to run my generator for misc needs. Run the Watermaker a few hours, heat up the hot water tank and charge batteries at the same time for about 2 hours. This tops it up. When I am moving I find that the bit of engine time (120 amp alternator) I use to get out of harbor etc is enough to top everything up. Usually this is with autopilot, plotters etc running in addition. The batteries accept a fast charge and I’m happy with this. With my travel style this is working very well. If I wanted to leave the boat at a mooring for a week I think more solar would be needed to keep both the freezer and refridgerator running. During longer summer days my total 450 watt panels should do it. For winter trips if I wanted to add solar I would consider adding some rigid panels on a frame over the Davits that I could remove easily for summer sails and shorter trips. I enjoy keeping the back of the boat as open as possible so I’m not interested in an arch or permanent davit panels. I hope this info and my results help someone with their planning.
I am going through the same process as you did. I replaced the 5 maintenance free FLA batteries in my bank with 4 Firefly G31 batteries. I have a Victron BMV712 battery monitor which I have found very useful for tracking my energy use. I am in the process of adding solar. Last summer I started with a Renogy 160w flexible panel on the dodger and found that it offset my loads well as long as I was able to keep it fully exposed. I have now got a second 160w panel and I will be installing both on the bimini this spring. I am using a Victron mppt charge controller.
I have the same problem as you with the Cristec charger. Not only is it only a 40a charger, there are no profiles suitable for the fireflys so I only use it under direct supervision. My solution for that is that I am in the process of installing a Xantrex Freedom XC Pro 100a/2000w charger/inverter. This will give me the ability to to the recommended high amperage "restoration charging" the manufacturer recommends, with the added bonus of a 2000w inverter.
This summer I will get a chance to do more testing and see how much power I get out of my solar.
Next upgrade will likely be to replace the stock 80a internally regulated alternator with a Balmar kit.
These power upgrades are certainly getting expensive!