Q&A: Which Alternator And Regulator?

Question: We are trying to decide between an Ample Power and Balmar alternator and regulator. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Answer: We have a Balmar alternator. In our case the large frame one. Even though we de-rate it by about 25% from its full output and have an actively (two blowers) ventilated engine room that stays very cool, it only seems to last about 1000 to 2000 hours before it needs rebuilding. For this reason we carry a complete spare alternator. We have no experience with the Ample Power alternators but suspect they may not be much different.

I think the ultimate alternator solution is from Electrodyne. I have heard that these go 10,000 hours or better. They are brushless and can be supplied with external diodes; a very good idea, since it gets a lot of heat generation out of the alternator itself and makes replacing the diodes a snap. Unfortunately, we can’t fit one on our engine without some major re-engineering.

We don’t have any experience with the Balmar regulators since we have a Link 2000, which has worked well for ten years. However, because the Link does not have battery temperature sensors (a must for the Glass Mat batteries we now have) we are going to try a Balmar ARS-5-H. We went with this regulator based on a recommendation from Peter James of Jack Rabbit Marine. Since we never trust any of this stuff, we have an older Balmar regulator all wired in with a change-over switch to act as a spare.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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