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OK, this should at least be good for a laugh. I've been reading up on battery isolators. The Sterling website (here) explains why "ECU-controlled smart alternators" common in newer European cars/trucks don't play nice with regular battery isolators. Are alternators in North American ProMasters smart or dumb?
 

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Smart and designed to work with AGMs as that is what the starting battery is on my 2015 model. I have had no trouble over 2 years using a Blue Sea voltage sensing/controlled ACR "isolator".
 

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2014 136” HR
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Interesting. I didn't know there was a difference. Our van battery is flooded. The alternator plays OK with our isolator, so maybe it's dumb?
 

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The article on the sterling website talked about a braking regen system which we don't have. The voltage is usually about 14.1 or .2, occasionally 14.3 maybe .4. According to most battery specs that's a little low for a cold AGM, but evidently FCA decided it is good enuf for theres. I noticed that it takes a really long time to charge up my house battery at that voltage.
 

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Smart and designed to work with AGMs as that is what the starting battery is on my 2015 model. I have had no trouble over 2 years using a Blue Sea voltage sensing/controlled ACR "isolator".
Hey Seapro, I've been reading about the Blue Sea ACR. Which model are you using?
 

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2014 Ram Promaster 2500 159" diesel
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Promaster charging operaion 2014 diesel

Here's the Promaster charging info
OPERATION
The charging system is turned on and off with the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and ignition switch with engine running. The field circuit will not be energized until engine is running and ignition switch on. This voltage is connected through the PCM and supplied to one of the generator field terminals (Gen. Source B+) at the back of the generator. The generator is internally grounded. The generator regulates the field using pin-1 of the field connector (high side driver).
The generator is driven by the engine through a serpentine belt and pulley, or a decoupler pulley arrangement.
The PCM receives a voltage input from the generator (5) and also a battery voltage input (7) from the Power Distribution Center (PDC), it then compares the voltages to the desired voltage programed in the Electronic Voltage Regulator (EVR) software, and, if there is a difference it sends a signal to the generator EVR circuit to increase or decrease output. It uses a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to send signals to the generator circuitry to control the amount of output from the generator. The amount of DC current produced by the generator is controlled by the EVR circuitry contained within the PCM (1).
All vehicles are equipped with On-Board Diagnostics (OBD). All OBD-sensed systems, including EVR circuitry, are monitored by the PCM. Each monitored circuit is assigned a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). The PCM will store a DTC in electronic memory for certain failures it detects.
The Check Gauges Lamp (if equipped) monitors: charging system voltage, engine coolant temperature and engine oil pressure. If an extreme condition is indicated, the lamp will be illuminated. This is done as reminder to check the three gauges. The lamp is located on the instrument panel.
Voltage is monitored at the B+ terminal stud to insure it is connected. If the B+ cable is loose, the PCM will shut down generator field. Because of this new feature, pin-2 of the field connector is internally connected to the B+ terminal.
1- PCM 2- PDC 3- BATTERY 4- GENERATOR 5- FEED BACK CIRCUIT B+
6- CONTROL CIRUIT 7- BATTERY SENSE


GUID-08-053-000-113516.jpg
 

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I use a Blue Sea SI-ACR combiner rated for 120 amps max. into my 230 amp hour AGM house battery. I also used the same on a previous van. Due to the internal resistance of the battery your charging current will not exceed about 80 amps max., (After initial surge for a few seconds it will typically run more like 30 amps!) I would fuse the line from the van battery to the ACR for 100 amps. Blue Sea makes excellent products widely used in the marine industry which I am familiar with.

There has been lots of noise recently about Lithium batteries. A couple of RV manufacturers are using them. To my knowledge the only truly successful one is Advanced (Advanced-RV.com) and I am familiar with the difficult development process they went through. They have very sophisticated technology and controls that are very expensive. Their Sprinter van campers sell for typically over $200,000! There have been reported difficulties with Roadtrek Lithium systems.

I would urge all folks reading this to Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Simply use AGM batteries (even if the starter battery is flooded, not AGM), and quality components. Your cost will be far lower than a Lithium system. Pay for quality. For example I have a $700 (DEKA) battery not a cheap one and Use the best quality components throughout my AC and DC systems and I use only stranded wire.
 

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I use a Blue Sea SI-ACR combiner rated for 120 amps max. into my 230 amp hour AGM house battery. I also used the same on a previous van. Due to the internal resistance of the battery your charging current will not exceed about 80 amps max., (After initial surge for a few seconds it will typically run more like 30 amps!) I would fuse the line from the van battery to the ACR for 100 amps. Blue Sea makes excellent products widely used in the marine industry which I am familiar with.
Ah ok thanks. I was confused because the alternator was 180 amps and thought I'd need to use the 500 amp capacity model but that explains it. I agree, everything made for boats is higher quality than equipment for auto and RV. I have a Blue Sea 12v fuse block and some switches on order.

On this model are you able to lock it in the off position and lock it in the on position so the house batteries can help start a dead engine battery. I know the 500 amp model has a knob on top that will do that and also has a remote switch capability to do it also.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Here's the Promaster charging info ...
Thanks. It would also be interesting to see the specs on the charge profile (how many stages and their voltage thresholds).
I use a Blue Sea SI-ACR combiner rated for 120 amps max. into my 230 amp hour AGM house battery. I also used the same on a previous van. Due to the internal resistance of the battery your charging current will not exceed about 80 amps max., (After initial surge for a few seconds it will typically run more like 30 amps!) I would fuse the line from the van battery to the ACR for 100 amps.
Thanks. I'm still wondering how much current my 500Ah battery bank can realistically pull from my 220A alternator. Given my bank is 2X yours, would it be more than your 80A max? Bigger bank = less resistance?

Also, at what stage (voltage or % charge) does your 30As start to taper off significantly?
 

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2014 Ram Promaster 2500 159" diesel
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Charging house batteries with alternator

You need to put a charging isolator between the batteries and the alternator something like this Victron Energy Argofet 200-2
Multiple house batteries count as one unless they are truly separate.
Promaster Alternator
MINIMUM OUTPUT(AMPS) (@ SPECIFIED TEST CONDITIONS)
180A Alternator = 110A
220A Alternator = 150A
TEST CONDITIONS
1. Engine RPM 2500 (HOT ENGINE)
2. Voltage Output 13 - 16 V
Remember the starting battery is in use when the engine is running so the charging system only puts out bulk to float charge.
http://www.invertersupply.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1152
 

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To answer questions above:

I have never had a failure of any van battery thus I have no need to be able to use the house battery to start the van. In over 60 years of driving cars the only times I have had a failure to start was on extremely cold mornings. Twenty years ago I adopted a policy of installing new starter batteries after 4 winters. That being said I do carry jumper cables in my camper which I find useful to help others and one of these could be used to jump the battery combiner.

True the bigger bank could in theory draw double the current. There is another factor that limits the current surge that typically lasts only a few seconds. This is the size of the wire from the van battery to the combiner. We read all the time about wire sizes needed to carry various continuous high currents but these assume less then a 3 to 10 percent voltage drop (over a specified distance) and no significant heating of the wire/insulation. On a previous van where I had a 200 amp hour house battery and combiner in the back on the passenger side I used a number 10 wire running 16 feet. On my present van I have number 6 running only about 6 feet which is overkill. I have laid a hand on each at the moment of surge and for a couple of minutes after and never felt any heat! You see, the resistance of the "undersized" wire drops the voltage a tad during the surge and thus the current is limited. After less than a minute the current drops way down and is easily and safely handled by the wire. For the 500 amp hour bank I would suggest using the same as I have -- number 6 wire and a 100 amp fuse at the battery end. If the fuse blows increase to 150 amps and it should hold.

There is another trick I sometimes use if I have been 3 days without charge and the house battery is way down to 12.0 or lower at rest. I start the van and let it idle while I watch my two voltmeters (everyone should have one for both engine and house). When the engine has climbed to over 13 volts and some 30 seconds has passed (volts and time depend on your combiner) the combiner will close. The moment of surge will result in a drop of the engine voltage and a climb in the house voltage. The surge is mostly battery to battery and lasts only a couple of seconds. The key is that the current is limited somewhat by the fact that at idle speed the alternator has only a small output. I then wait generally less than a minute to see that both voltages are climbing past 13.3 whereupon the internal resistance of the battery limits the current. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes then I drive off.
 

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I did the test that sterling suggested for testing for a smart alternator and I have to say that mine is dumb it never dropped voltage while cruising. I get a steady 14.6-14.7 from my alternator and it don't matter if the battery is drained or full. I did a small test last week and drained my battery down for 3 hours with a 5.5 amp load than with load still on it I started the van, at startup I was getting 40 amps to the battery that quickly dropped to thirty than after a short 30 min round trip drive to a buddied house when I got back home it was at 4 amps and the voltage never changed the whole time for 14.6-14.7


Being a bit nervous of the constant high voltage I ordered a Projecta dc/dc charger/ solar charger off ebay after a little research. I should have it in a week or 2 I hope and than ill report back.
 
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