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Old 04-10-2007, 07:26 PM   #1
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Thought I'd spin this one out of the Equipment/Systems Failures.

I've done a reasonable amount of research on the battery subjest for extended cruising such as circumnavigation for periods of greater than 2 years out of country.

I've worked the numbers every which way and I can't see how you can justify the added cost of AGM(or Gel) when a well cared for, properly charged flooded lead acid will last just as long and give you all the amp-hrs needed for 1/3 the cost (in the US).

When cruising for more than 2 years, the probability of needing to replace any type of battery system increases exponentially. So, which would you rather replace while out of country?
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Old 04-10-2007, 10:12 PM   #2
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My research into batteries has been haphazard and certainly lacks any scientific control.....however......

After reading several articles in a variety of sailing magazines, presumably penned by experts, it was difficult to find anyone who would strongly recommend any battery over flooded lead acid, from a purely performance related viewpoint.

As a consequence, I installed 7 new lead acid, 100ah batteries in August 2001. I replaced them again early this year. Five and a half years work with only a hydrometer, distilled water and `smart` regulators is almost unbelievable compared to claims made by many of the upmarket battery representatives.

Over the years it seems to me that I replace batteries on average, every 2 and a half to three years. Why the banks on this boat have lasted so long is a pleasant mystery which I hope will be repeated. Further, none of my batteries are deep cycle. I would probably change that in 4 batteries if I was in lower lattitudes, had smaller solar panels or if I installed more sophisticated, electricity gobbling gear.

Best wishes

David.

PS. For interest`s sake I have engine driven refrigeration, no water maker, no high current draw goodies such as airconditioning, washing machine etc. I have the usual complement of nav lights (slowly changing to LED`s), house lights are mostly fluorescent, I have GPS, chartplotter, radar, depth, auto steering (and I am quite happy to hang on to the handlebars for hours at a time, even on longish passages), pressure water, (hot water by heat exchange only) HF, VHF, TV DVD, anchor winch, microwave and Waeco refrigeration (both used rarely when not tied to the dock) and that`s about it. I still own a self steering vane, but it`s location in a squillion feet of water between Chagos and Galle is difficult to pinpoint..(Don`t ask).

I have 2 cranking batteries, 2 house, 2 dedicated to a 2400 watt (peak surge) inverter and one forward as a slave to the Maxwell winch. All battery banks are isolated but can easily be switched in combination.
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Old 04-10-2007, 11:32 PM   #3
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Likewise, my 6Volt Lead Acids are if nothing else predictable...every 30 months, I replace them with a new set. I begin seeing decreased performance after the second season.

Von Wentzel's pages on marine battery selection is full of excellent, well thought out arguements and data that result in a conclusion that contradicts my view. I highly recommend giving it a read.

http://www.vonwentzel.net/Battery/index.html

I do not argue against the fact that AGM's have some potentially wonderful benefits...specifically high charge acceptance rates. However, I believe most cruisers these days have installed multiple charging sources e.g., marine alternator (Balmar), Genset, wind and/or Solar. I doubt most of these will deliver more than 200A and therefore I would argue that most cruisers would never have the opportunity or willingness to spend the money to enjoy 15 minute charging cycles.

As far as the inflated life projections and "Pro-rated" warranty for AGM's, a manufacturer of a new technology will accept risk in return for preceived value. If the customer thinks he will get 2X more life, it make it much easier to justify the 3X differential in price. The 2X life does not exist.
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Old 04-11-2007, 05:49 AM   #4
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I use the 6volt golf cart batteries with good success (except for killing them due to charging problems). Basically I never deplete them more then 50% of the rating and once a month equalize them.

Lithium ion is real promising as it's only 1/4 to 1/2 the weight and size. Problem is expense and longevity. I think there is a finite limit on the number of charge and discharge cycles.
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Old 04-11-2007, 12:00 PM   #5
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We're still using AGM-batteries after 5 years, 2 of which we were full time circumnavigating and using them heavily. We had 8 of them, providing 480A, paralel, charged by solar (170 W), wind (little A), engine (50A 3-stage) and batt.charger (Victron 3-stage 50A). 1 died mysteriously in Galle (2004), after that we managed with 7. We (almost) never discharged them more then 50%. No sign of degrading yet. I will eventually absolutely replace them with the same! Easy to handle, easy to store (upside down no problem) and no risk of spillage.

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Old 04-11-2007, 03:01 PM   #6
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Jan,

Thanks for the insight...5 years is the best I've heard. As soon as you get 7, you'll break even.

Have you noticed any other major advantages other than being able to store them upside down?
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:54 PM   #7
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On our sailboat we had 6V deep cycle Surrette Batteries, they lasted 10 years of liveaboard, rarely at a dock to charge. Surrette sold the name in the US., and is now marketing his deep cycle flooded batteries under the name Rolls.

If we could have fit them on this boat we would have gone with them again. Extra thick plates, many configuration options. We abused them terribly (leaving them unused and unattended on the boat for almost a year while we were in the States finding medical treatment for me) and they gave us exceptional service.

The replacement Trojans that we put on were not as good, but still better than the other options available to us at the time (we were in Australia by then).

The Surrette brand started out as batteries for backup power for hospitals and other critical applications and the Rolls batteries are made to the same standards.

Pricey.
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Old 04-11-2007, 11:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeanneP View Post
On our sailboat we had 6V deep cycle Surrette Batteries, they lasted 10 years of liveaboard, rarely at a dock to charge. Surrette sold the name in the US., and is now marketing his deep cycle flooded batteries under the name Rolls.

Pricey.
I've used gel cell batteries for the past 17 years and am on my third set as of last month. Seem to average just over 5 years on each replacement. This is with constant use while cruising and living aboard. All 3 manufactures are US based. I use a Balmar alternator with smart regulator during engine charging and solar panels while at anchor.

Only two negative comments so far:

There is a slight flicker once in awhile when using fluorescent lights.

I have to put boric acid powder under them as the occasional cockroach likes to hide under the battery storage area.
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Old 04-12-2007, 01:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeanneP View Post
On our sailboat we had 6V deep cycle Surrette Batteries, they lasted 10 years of liveaboard, rarely at a dock to charge. Surrette sold the name in the US., and is now marketing his deep cycle flooded batteries under the name Rolls.

Pricey.
We too are a vote for Rolls/Surette - 12 2V cells in a custom bank for 820 Ahrs. Currently 7 yrs old and going strong. Hydrocaps really help with water retention. WE have 50% more capacity in the space we would have with standard configuration batteries.
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Old 04-12-2007, 02:55 PM   #10
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Trim50,

I didn't even mention the fact that we took a risk buying them: they were (slightly, that is, according to the seller....) used in the small electrical rollers for disabled people.... So we get to that 7 years pretty soon! :-)

The biggest advantage is that they don't get damaged as fast as gel-batteries when deepcycling or incidental overloading / high voltage.

And 8 small ones are much better to handle then 2 big ones, not to mention that when one fails (as it did on us) you still got 7/8 of your amps instead of 1/2.

Jan

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