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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Meet the Author


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 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

3 comments… add one
  • Larry Clough Jul 29, 2013, 1:02 pm

    We just installed a new Balmar 6 series 150 amp alternator that failed after 78 hours. After running through the manual’s diagnostics and spending some time on a pay phone in Lockeport, Nova Scotia (no cell service), the Balmar tech had no idea as to the source of the problem.

    We carried an extra MC-614 Balmar regulator since our yard advised that they tended to fail, but that made no difference when we installed it.

    Fortunately we have aNorthern Lights generator to get by with.

    Interestingly in NE Harbor we met a Nordic 44 that also just had a new Balmar alternator fail.

    Larry Clough
    S/V Katahdin.

  • clyde Oct 9, 2013, 9:12 pm

    i tried balmar for 5 years, they had to send me a new one every year! i finally got smart, went to ample power, and got the latest V3 model…it`s been working great for 15 yrs, no problems yet! set 3 dip switches for the batt type, and everything is automatic! the ‘next’ model is great too!

    • John Oct 10, 2013, 7:55 am

      Hi Clyde,

      Thanks for the input. We now have a Balmar regulator that has worked fine for 7 years. I think that all of these small companies selling relatively complex gear have QC problems from time to time. For example we have friends who had endless problems with an Ample Power 12 volt generator and finally had to replace it. The problem seems to be the combination of low volume and high complexity.

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