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Old 09-20-2016, 10:55 PM   #1
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Batteries

So I am a mechanical engineer and my worst courses by far were anything to do with electricity. And the situation has not improved in the decades since graduation. So I have a few questions for the electrical experts out there:

1. If I plug my trailer into shore power and the EMS starts out showing 6 amps into the trailer, is that normal?
2. When the amps drop to zero, should I unplug the shore power?
3. Does the converter supplied by Escape "condition" the battery?
4. If I turn on my inverter is the input voltage on the screen an accurate indicator of battery voltage (with no load)
5. I have a portable solar panel, is it harming the batteries if I hook it up for a short period of time (one or two hours) then unplug it?
6. My goal is to never drop below two lights on the battery charge indicator is that reasonable?

Thanks for your input
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Old 09-20-2016, 11:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by hughharden View Post
So I am a mechanical engineer and my worst courses by far were anything to do with electricity. And the situation has not improved in the decades since graduation. So I have a few questions for the electrical experts out there:

1. If I plug my trailer into shore power and the EMS starts out showing 6 amps into the trailer, is that normal?
2. When the amps drop to zero, should I unplug the shore power?
3. Does the converter supplied by Escape "condition" the battery?
4. If I turn on my inverter is the input voltage on the screen an accurate indicator of battery voltage (with no load)
5. I have a portable solar panel, is it harming the batteries if I hook it up for a short period of time (one or two hours) then unplug it?
6. My goal is to never drop below two lights on the battery charge indicator is that reasonable?

Thanks for your input
I am a mechanical engineer. Here are my answers. Remember the source.
1. Its normal if you have a 6 amp load like the water heater where you have turned the 110v power switch on. Thats the type of load it looks like. Or it could be that the power distribution center is taking that shore power and sending it to your batteries which need 6 amps flow of charge.
2. Only just before you pull the trailer away from the site. If you are connected then shore power is always there when you need it and its always charging your batteries.
3. I beleive the converter supplied by ETI provides a three level charge algorithm. IE bulk when batteries are low, Absorption when when batteries are mid level and Float (some people call this trickle) when batteries are almost full.
4. Its an accurate reading of battery voltage "as seen at the inverter". If you have small wires and/or long wires between the batteries and the inverter this will act as a resistor and reduce the voltage at the inverter. Usually this will be a very small drop so for practical purposes, yes thats the battery voltage.
5. I hope you hook it up to the batts through a solar charge regulator or charge controller. If so I don't think it will hurt anything.
6. I cannot comment on what two lights means. I have the same panel but I rely on a battery monitor to accurately assess the battery state of charge. lots of people use a sensitive voltmeter and the internet is full of tables comparing volts vs %charge of 12 v batteries. But a few tenths of a volt change can mean a 10-20% change in battery % charge so this way is a little imprecise. I use a "Trimetric" monitor from Bogart engineering and am very happy with it. It is a reasonable goal to never discharge your batteries below 50%. Their lifetime or number of charge/discharge cycles will be greatly reduced even if you do this once.
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Old 09-21-2016, 07:28 AM   #3
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My understanding, for whatever that's worth.

You'll see the amperage for whatever the trailer is using at that moment. Can be up into the 20's if you have the air conditioner and the fridge on, or maybe 0 if everything is off and the battery is fully charged. Don't know how accurate the reading is as I don't look at it.

The converter is a WFCO (World Friendship Company I believe), they are SUPPOSED to be a 3 stage charger but are notorious for not going into bulk (14.4v until roughly 80% or 4 hours). If it did what it is supposed to, it would be considered a smart charger. I see no mention of either conditioning or equalizing in the manual so I'd say it does not do such.
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Old 09-21-2016, 03:41 PM   #4
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1. If I plug my trailer into shore power and the EMS starts out showing 6 amps into the trailer, is that normal?
I agree that it's normal if 6 amps (at 120 volts, that's 720 watts) of stuff is running. However, the water heater is more than that, and it's hard to imagine much else that would be that high, so it must be a combination of draws. The converter converts shore power to 12 volt DC power; however, when the converter uses power to supply the batteries or 12 volt equipment, supplying that current at 12 volts does not use the same current (number of amps) from the shore power - it takes the same power. For example, 6 amps at 12 volts is 72 watts, so to provide that from shore power the converter would use 0.6 amps at 120 volts (still 72 watts).

What could add up?
  • the biggest single user of shore power is the air conditioner, which could very briefly use close to 20 amps while starting, and several amps while running; perhaps it might start when you plug in the shore power depending on the setting of the controls
  • the converter has a maximum output of 55 amps at 13 point something to over 14 volts (so 800 watts, or 6.7 amps at 120 volts)
  • on shore power, the refrigerator uses over a hundred watts, or roughly one amp
  • the electric element of water heater, if it is turned on by the thermostat because the water temperature has dropped enough, uses 12 amps

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Originally Posted by hughharden View Post
2. When the amps drop to zero, should I unplug the shore power?
I agree with John - you can unplug whenever you want, but once you're unplugged you lose the ability to use 120 V AC appliances (electric heat in the water heater if you have that, the microwave, or anything else that plugs in to an outlet) and the converter doesn't have power to keep the batteries charged.
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Old 09-21-2016, 03:42 PM   #5
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3. Does the converter supplied by Escape "condition" the battery?
I think John has a decent description. The "float" level maintains the battery charge over time, and it keeps the batteries charged up if anything uses 12 volt power.

"Condition" probably means applying an "equalization" charge. As Bob mentioned, the WFCO converter apparently does not do that; the solar charge controller does (if you have that).

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughharden View Post
5. I have a portable solar panel, is it harming the batteries if I hook it up for a short period of time (one or two hours) then unplug it?
It certainly won't hurt if you hook it up through a solar charge controller. If you connect it to the batteries directly it is possible to over-charge the battery, but a small enough panel would be unable to do that.

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6. My goal is to never drop below two lights on the battery charge indicator is that reasonable?
Assuming that two lights is a voltage level roughly corresponding to a 50% state of charge, that seems reasonable to me.
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Old 09-21-2016, 10:09 PM   #6
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Batteries continued

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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
I agree that it's normal if 6 amps (at 120 volts, that's 720 watts) of stuff is running. However, the water heater is more than that, and it's hard to imagine much else that would be that high, so it must be a combination of draws. The converter converts shore power to 12 volt DC power; however, when the converter uses power to supply the batteries or 12 volt equipment, supplying that current at 12 volts does not use the same current (number of amps) from the shore power - it takes the same power. For example, 6 amps at 12 volts is 72 watts, so to provide that from shore power the converter would use 0.6 amps at 120 volts (still 72 watts).




What could add up?
  • the biggest single user of shore power is the air conditioner, which could very briefly use close to 20 amps while starting, and several amps while running; perhaps it might start when you plug in the shore power depending on the setting of the controls
  • the converter has a maximum output of 55 amps at 13 point something to over 14 volts (so 800 watts, or 6.7 amps at 120 volts)
  • on shore power, the refrigerator uses over a hundred watts, or roughly one amp
  • the electric element of water heater, if it is turned on by the thermostat because the water temperature has dropped enough, uses 12 amps

I agree with John - you can unplug whenever you want, but once you're unplugged you lose the ability to use 120 V AC appliances (electric heat in the water heater if you have that, the microwave, or anything else that plugs in to an outlet) and the converter doesn't have power to keep the batteries charged.
I should have clarified the trailer is parked at the back of my house and plugged in with everything turned off except the converter. So I assumed the 6 amps was all going to charge the batteries and that sounds like it is OK.

I was just wondering if you continue to have the converter plugged in to shore power once the batteries are fully charged is it doing any harm to the batteries.
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Old 09-21-2016, 10:32 PM   #7
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I should have clarified the trailer is parked at the back of my house and plugged in with everything turned off except the converter. So I assumed the 6 amps was all going to charge the batteries and that sounds like it is OK.

I was just wondering if you continue to have the converter plugged in to shore power once the batteries are fully charged is it doing any harm to the batteries.
No harm to the batteries. . The charge will taper off to essentially nothing.
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Old 09-21-2016, 11:55 PM   #8
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I should clarify and add that you should be checking the electrolyte level in the battery cells about every three months and filling with distilled water.
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:21 AM   #9
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I should clarify and add that you should be checking the electrolyte level in the battery cells about every three months and filling with distilled water.
Good reminder. I'm going to check mine before I head out next week and then about the time I winterize about a month from now. We usually get some 40 degree days in January and I check things then too. By the first of April I'm tuning up for another season and water them up if needed. I have a cheap dedicated turkey Bastet to add the water. Works well.
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:27 AM   #10
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The "float" mode of the converter/charger is intended to maintain the battery charge during long periods. No harm, and this is actually the desired condition for the battery (having a float charge applied).

Yes, the electrolyte level should be checked occasionally, but if it is down significantly in three months I think something's wrong.

Also, correcting the electrolyte level doesn't literally mean "filling" the battery. Those who are familiar with this may say "fill" but know to leave appropriate space, but someone who doesn't know what they are doing could easily take this literally and put in far too much water.
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