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Old 01-18-2016, 11:34 AM   #1
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Balmar SmartGauge

A search of the forum did not find anything on this product. Has anyone used a Balmar SmartGauge?

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Based on their sales literature, it is easier to install and claims to be more accurate than our standard battery monitor options.
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Old 01-18-2016, 12:24 PM   #2
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I'd stay away from devices like this. This seems to be a voltmeter with an algorithm to try and determine battery capacity. A good battery monitor will directly measure the current entering and leaving the battery by using a shunt resistor. No proprietary algorithm is going to come close to the accuracy that you will will get by directly measuring battery current.
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:23 PM   #3
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I second alano's statement.
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Old 01-18-2016, 04:56 PM   #4
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As batteries degrade in their overall capacity ( which they all do), a standard shunt monitor will start to diminish in its accuracy as it was set for the initial capacity of the battery bank.

After reading Balmar's manual, their device uses pre-programmed state of charge information for different types of batteries based on the manufacturer's recommendations by the use of direct voltage sense circuits. It also learns as the device is used. This seems similar to the auto-adjust charging efficiency circuitry that Blue Sky uses in their solar charge controllers. The battery alarms are also a plus for a monitor unit like this.

I would not write this device off so casually without an actual test. Balmar is widely recognized in the marine industry and has been designing and manufacturing very high quality marine alternators and multi-phase DC to DC charging systems for quite some time. Many larger motorized vessels rely on Balmar charging equipment to properly maintain their multiple on-board battery banks while under way.

The certainly are not a fly-by-night company. And I have no relationship with the company.


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Old 01-18-2016, 05:24 PM   #5
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I have used Balmar products for years on our sail boats and I have always been pleased with their support. The one thing I will add is that the company has recently (in the past year???) been sold and I am not sure about the new owners. No idea if they are the same company anymore...

As to Lewsters concern about shunt type monitors, a simple capacity test ( something I do annually on our boat and our Airstream) will provide the information you need to keep the monitor accurate... Not a big deal to perform and then the monitor is accurate.
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:09 PM   #6
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It sounds like it recalibrates after every full charge. Just under $300 seems like a lot, but I'm not really familiar with these systems.
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Old 01-18-2016, 07:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce B View Post
I have used Balmar products for years on our sail boats and I have always been pleased with their support. The one thing I will add is that the company has recently (in the past year???) been sold and I am not sure about the new owners. No idea if they are the same company anymore...

As to Lewsters concern about shunt type monitors, a simple capacity test ( something I do annually on our boat and our Airstream) will provide the information you need to keep the monitor accurate... Not a big deal to perform and then the monitor is accurate.
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I'm not at all concerned with the accuracy of shunt based monitors, considering that I use one with every solar charging system that I install. I've also used capacity testing for any shunt re-sets required to compensate for battery capacity degradation over time.

Just thought that I would give Balmar, given their excellent reputation in the marine industry, the benefit of the doubt concerning their different technology approach.

I had heard similar rumblings about the battery conductance meter that I purchased about a year ago. It determines battery capacity using a digital pulse sent thru the batteries which is then interpreted by a proprietary algorithm. It is rapidly replacing load testing as a means of determining battery capacity and viability. This new tech has worked exceptionally well for me so far.
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Old 01-18-2016, 07:17 PM   #8
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I have a sailing friend who works for a company who produces this type of battery tester. He claims it is the future.
My only exposure was to automotive battery testers that left me less than impressed. Talk about false positives! We are talking $10,000 testers here too so it was not junk!
Technology keeps moving though and my last exposure was 10 years ago so...
Just for the record, Balmar has always gone above and beyond in response to failed gear with me. I'm not sure what to think...should I be upset that the gear failed or happy that they stood behind it? I'm in a good mood so today I will be happy
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:11 PM   #9
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Seems to me this has at least three shortcomings:

1. At close to $300 I can buy a real battery monitor and still keep $100 in my pocket,

2. This device cannot reliably tell you the load current like a real monitor,

3. If you upgraded your batteries to Lithium it surely have difficulty due to the flat discharge curve.
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