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ARCO Zeus vs Wakespeed Alternator Regulator: The True Cost Difference

ARCO Zeus vs Wakespeed Alternator Regulator: The True Cost Difference

There are many things to take into consideration when understanding the true cost of two products that purport to do the same thing. 

  • What is the actual cost to get any system started? Is everything in the box out the gate?

  • How much technical support will be required in installing, configuring and maintaining (updating) the product?

  • How much of a learning curve is there in understanding the user interface?

  • What material advancements are present in one product vs the other? What is that worth? 

In this article, we will explore a) the very basic hard costs of the ARCO Zeus vs the Wakespeed WS500 as well as b) the less noticeable, but nonetheless very real, costs of features and user experience which cost the technician and end-user alike time, money, and [potential] frustration. 

For starters, ARCO Zeus costs $796 at retail. The MSRP and MAP is the same, which means there is one price you will see no matter whether you shop at your local store or online.

What is included with the ARCO Zeus Bluetooth alternator regulator?:  

  1. The ARCO Zeus Bluetooth Alternator Regulator

  2. (2) Harnesses (Alternator and Battery) supporting P/N-Type alternators

  3. (2) Thermistors (Alternator and Battery)

  4. Bluetooth Antennae
ARCO Zeus Bluetooth alternator regulator with harnesses and thermisters

On the other hand, the Wakespeed WS500’s cost is not as easy to see at first blush. For example, if you were to buy a WS500 for $599.95 (admittedly, the cheapest street value is $537.27 at the time of this publication found on Marine Parts Source), you would not be able to power it on. The WS500 unit is sold without a power cable! If you would like to power the WS500 on, you would need to buy another harness for $99.99 to $169.95 (depending on length). Wakespeed literally calls their harness an “Accessory”, which we would classify as a Necessity and, as such, ARCO Zeus includes the harness with the original price and packaging. (More below on why ARCO can include the harness in their box while Wakespeed fundamentally cannot). 

So now we can begin to cover the promoted Wakespeed package: 

  1. The Wakespeed WS500 Analog Alternator Regulator (NOT BLUETOOTH)- $599.95 $537.27 (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and give them street pricing)
  2. Wakespeed Harness- $99.99 $79.95 (Wakespeed’s cheapest P-type harness sold at a discount) 

Now, let’s make sure we are comparing apples to apples and make sure that the Wakespeed package has the same hardware needed to equal what ARCO Zeus includes in their package: 

  1. Wakespeed WS500-LT-K Thermistor- $59.95

  2. Wakespeed CAN to NMEA2000 adaptor- $39.95

  3. USB-A Generic Printer style-plug- $9.89 

If you didn’t find the basement prices on each of those items (especially the regulator and harness), the compiled Wakespeed package that emulates the ARCO Zeus offering would cost $809.73. 

If you spent the time to cherry-pick the heavily discounted Wakespeed package online (done above), the total material cost could be reduced to $727.01 + shipping from all the various sources.  

Apples to apples: let’s say you do the above shopping exercises to find the BEST POSSIBLE prices online or at your local store, the purchase price of ARCO Zeus’s $796 vs Wakespeed WS500’s package ($727 which attempts to resemble what the ARCO Zeus comes with out-of-the-box) has a delta of $69.  

Keep in mind that there will be plenty of cases where a person does not do all the internet sleuthing to find the basement bottom retail pricing and are likely to have a Wakespeed WS500 package ($809) cost more than the ARCO Zeus ($796).  

But, for purposes of this article, let’s stick with the Zeus ($796) and give the benefit of rock-bottom internet pricing to the Wakespeed package ($727) and discuss the value proposition. 

Major Hardware & Firmware Advantages of the ARCO Zeus 

I. Bluetooth (… Period)

Need a cord to configure your regulator? Nope! 

Dipswitches or magnetic pens? Nope! 

How about a windows-based computer? Nope! 

All the configuration and monitoring can be done with IOS and Android mobile devices using our intuitive app. No need for finding a windows-based PC, no old printer cables known as USB-As… remember those things? I wouldn’t, except for the WS500’s dependence on them to update firmware and configuration setup.  

You may ask yourself, What does this mean for me?”  

  1. All configuration and firmware updates happen via the Zeus’s password-protected Bluetooth connection from the comfort of your app on your mobile device (in the comfort of your air conditioning when possible!).

  2. Once the harnesses are plugged in, there is no need to access the enclosure again.

  3. No need to open the enclosure as with a WS500, whereby the act of opening it up compromises waterproof integrity.

 II. User Interface- IOS and Android App

All setups, configurations, updates, etc. are handled through ARCO’s extremely intuitive app (you can download it now for free and try the demo mode). The interface is a function of our Bluetooth capability but excels due to the attention that ARCO’s developers have paid to the ease-of-use and the ability to control exacting data.  

Again, you may ask yourself, What does this mean for me?”  

  1. You have the power to monitor AND control all inputs from your touchscreen

  2. You don’t need access to a blinking LED to tell you when an error occurs because you have ARCO’s communication ribbon that tells you exactly what is going on.

  3. With the ARCO Zeus, gone are the days that require access to dipswitches on the WS500 or needing magnetic pens as required by the Balmar MC regulator to program.

  4. You can monitor limiting factors such as Battery Current or Alternator Temperature as they occur and control them from the comfort of your helm station or driver’s seat. 

III. Remote Support 

Having a problem with your settings or alternator performance and can’t figure it out? No problem! 

You can send your configuration or log that automatically records over Bluetooth to a technician via text message (SMS) or Email. 

  1. Problem with a configuration? We got you covered! Send your configuration to technical support wirelessly and your technical support can send a corrected version back.

  2. Simply import the corrected file through your app and you will watch the Green Check Mark appear on your screen indicating that your configuration file, that you had received from half a world away, is now loaded onto the ARCO Zeus and regulating with ease. It’s that simple! 

 IV. P/N Type Harness

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the ARCO Zeus Bluetooth Regulator includes a harness that is capable of handling P- and N-type harnesses. If you are wondering what the difference is between the two types, suffice it to say for purposes of this article that there is a fundamental difference in the circuitry between the ground and positive connections that dictate which type an alternator is. An alternator is either P or N. Unlike the competition, ARCO is able to present the Zeus with a harness set (included in the package) due to the digital switching that is configurable in the Zeus App. You can switch from one type to the other with a press of the button. 

What does this mean for you?

  1. You don’t have to know what alternator you are using at the time of purchasing.

  2. Say, for example, you had an N-type Mastervolt alternator (by the way, N-type is the only type that Mastervolt offers), but it failed for some reason while you were sailing in the Canary Islands, or cruising with your RV in the National Parks. You decide to replace it with an APS P-type alternator (P-type is the more popular choice nowadays). If using a WS500 and going from that N-type to a P-type alternator, you would have to buy another harness from Wakespeed (that’s going to put you back another roughly $100 in material). However, Labor is the most expensive asset because you are going to have to route all the wires and connect your new harness. But you will likely have to wait for Airmail in remote corners to wait for that harness to come in, so maybe time is now your most expensive commodity. 

    If you had that same switch of alternators while using an ARCO Zeus Bluetooth Regulator, that swap could be done with a literal press of a button in the ARCO App. No need for a new harness, labor expense, and waiting for airmail. You would already be at the next camp ground or Island. 

  3. You can trust ARCO’s all-inclusive price because they are not going to upsell you an “accessory”. The harness is included in the price as it is a necessity to power on any external regulator. 

V. Two-Shunt Capability

ARCO Zeus has a novel instrument cluster on the first page of the three-page app. There you will find a couple chapter rings where you can view a variety of different metrics. ARCO Zeus is the only Alternator Regulator that is capable of natively viewing something as simple as Battery Amps AND Alternator Amps simultaneously.  

  1. That might not sound like a big deal, but it often is for people who just bought a $1,000+ High Output alternator and want to see its performance without doing mental math. It’s good to know that your alternator is performing as you expect.

  2. The alternator shunt is great for systems that manage multiple loads from multiple sources (like a DVCC), where having that shunt on the alternator will help regulate efficiently.

VI. Features like Generator Mode

There are countless features in the ARCO Zeus that you can use to custom-tailor your power production. Some such features are Generator Mode, Half Power, and Reduced Field, whereby you can control the amount of electricity production (thus Power Take Off, PTO, from your engine) you are willing to make. 

  1. Generator Mode can override your typical settings for alternator duty (field) vs engine RPM to maximize your power production. This will minimize your need to carry around a heavy, costly, maintenance-hungry generator if you align your power generation vs consumption needs correctly.

  2. The flip side of power generation is the power that it demands from your engine. A rough rule of thumb is that for every 25 amps that you create on your 12v alternator, you will draw 1 HP from your engine. So, if you are generating 200 amps, you will be drawing 8 HP from your engine. If you are going uphill in your RV and want the engine’s power to go to straight into propulsion, ARCO has a power reduction setting for that with a press of a button (physical or digital). The use case is if you have a sailboat with a 29 HP engine and you need to get away from the storm, you divert all alternator power into propulsion.

  3. Freedom to optimize the performance of your alternator and engine. 

ARCO Zeus vs Wakespeed WS500 Summary 

While there are relatively minor cost differences between the ARCO Zeus Bluetooth Alternator Regulator and a WS500 package that emulates the hardware that is standard with the ARCO Zeus, there are many factors outside the initial purchase price. If you leverage the technological advances of the ARCO Zeus: Bluetooth capability, native app for ease of use, the ability to be supported remotely, its processing speed, the walkthrough setup guide, future-proof harness (agnostic to P/N-types), and key features (to name a few), the revelation is not, “they are comparable in function and price”; it is: “Wait! With the ARCO Zeus Bluetooth Alternator Regulator, I can buy a Ferrari at a Hyundai price!” 

Comparing the ARCO Zeus to the WS500 is like comparing an iPhone to a rotary phone. 

Click here to learn more about the ARCO Zeus Bluetooth alternator regulator.

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