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Orion TR Smart draining starter battery when engine is running at low RPM

Q: How to use the Orion TR Smart 12/30 when running at low RPM and the alternator cannot supply enough current?


I have recently upgraded to a lithium housebank, and just installed the Orion TR Smart 12/30 for alternator overheating protection and a better charging algorithm for my 'not so smart' Hitachti 80A alternator on my Yanmar engine.

Now this is what happens when running stationary:

  1. Engine start
  2. Start battery (input) voltage rises
  3. Orion TR considers engine has started, and starts charging
  4. Due to low RPM the alternator does not deliver 30A. The starter battery starts to supply the other (20?A) current. And the voltage drops a lot (just a simple lead start battery).
  5. Only after quite some time at 11.8V it considers the engine has stopped and then stops the charging.
  6. The voltage starts to rise again, and the Orion considers the engine to have started again, so the proces repeats.

Is this a common issue with engines running stationary? When I go for a daysail my engine runs more stationary then actually making RPM.

The only thing that would work for me would be that the Orion lowers the charging current when the voltage is dropping. But I guess that would be quite an advanced feature and is probably not built in.

My intermediate solution now is:

- Changed the settings that the input voltage lock is at 13.8V (in case the voltage drops below this, it looks that the alternator cannot supply enough current). This is more a 'safety setting' but of course leads to constant starting and stopping of charging.

- I have a manual switch , so that I can enable the charging only when I have enough RPM

But I would prefer a fit and forget solution. I considered switching to a lower output version of the Orion, but that it would take forever to get some energy in my batteries. Maybe there is another product that could solve this?

See the alternator details in the attached image.

orion-tr smartalternator
1592165380289.png (199.2 KiB)
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adam-koczan avatar image adam-koczan commented ·

I have the same problem with the Orion-Tr Smart 12/12-18A which I use in a campervan with a LifePo4 battery.

Once the charging starts there's a massive drop in the input voltage (down to 11 V), by increasing the engine's rpm, it stabilizes at around 12-12.2 volts, but that's still a massive big drop from the alternator's regular 13.7 V charging voltage, especially for 18-22 amps output.

Just for comparison, when the dc-dc charger is disconnected, and I turn on all the lights (interior exterior, fog lights etc), the voltage stays around 13.2-13.5 V still, despite the total consumption of these light exceeding 20 amps by far.

So it looks like the alternator can deliver 20 amps with no issues, but when I try to get it from the Victron charger the alternator struggles a lot.

It's a bit ironic that I bought this piece of kit to protect both the battery and the alternator, and it seems to be thing overloading it? Any idea what could be wrong?

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Steve Preston avatar image Steve Preston adam-koczan commented ·

FWIW, while testing my 12|12 18, I found that when it was delivering 18a output, the current draw was in the 25-28a range. One must consider this data, analyze the wire gauge that is being used, and adjust accordingly. The typical 10g for 12vdc+ in a 7-pin connector may not be sufficient to handle required current and cause an unwanted voltage drop.

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bricky avatar image bricky commented ·

Think I have a similar problem.

We have the same unit in our camper which has a 2 Way fridge, gas and 12 volt.

12 volt is only used while travelling, which draws close to 15 amps.

I have just noticed with vehicle running at idle, if the fridge is off the input voltage is around 13.5v, the minute i turn on the fridge, input drops down to 12.3v while still putting in 5-6 amps in to house batteries.

Is this normal or will i eventually drain my starting battery?


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martins avatar image martins commented ·

Your information is very helpful and yet concerning. I have designed a similar installation and did not expect this issue. Would be interested in what Victon tell you. (pity we don't hear from Victron on this forum!). This suggest the Orion Smart TR information is misleading. Would a Buck Boost be a better option, although personally I don't like the idea that it needs to be programmed by PC!

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Steve Preston avatar image Steve Preston commented ·

I have spent a little time testing my 12|12 18 that I installed to charge 2ea. Lion Energy UT1300 lithium batteries in parallel @ 12v, from my RAV4 Hybrid. My issue is compounded because the RAV4 doesn't have an alternator, it has a DC2DC also. So...after watching the 12|12 18 perform just like the OP have mentioned, I settled into using it as a Power Supply and not a Charger.

My purpose of installing it is to have it negate the current draw from my 3-way fridge in my camper while in transit and having the fridge set on 12VDC. My fridge draws about 9-10 amps constant because it's an absorption fridge. A compressor fridge will be completely different and would require a different strategy.

I set the input voltage lock-out @ 12.0v with 12.1v as the cut-in voltage to prevent a deep discharge of my tiny 55ah starter batter. This will be different for others, especially those with actual alternators. After turning on the fridge 12vdc, hooking up my 7-pin connector and starting my RAV 4, I monitor my SmartShunt and set the output voltage to a value that affords a positive amperage to the batteries as reported by the shunt. It doesn't need to be a high value, I usually try for .5-1a. I just want the battery bank to not discharge while in transit. Of course, these values will be different based on the SOC of the battery bank and the alternator/DC2Dc converter that will be charging.

So far, this has worked ok but I'm still testing and adjusting.

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1 Answer
tstd avatar image
tstd answered ·

Did anyone find a solution to these issues? Have the same problem although voltage only drops at the line feeding the Orion, other lines are fine even when a different branded DCDC charger (Enerdrive 40Amp) is charging there is no issue. Purely at the Orion level, could all of these be answered by a poor earth connection? Or have others wired the earth back to the battery and still seeing the same issue? Cable diameter is not an issue as running 3 B&S from the battery and then max size that Orion will accommodate from another busbar/fuse branch.

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