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Old 01-17-2014, 08:25 PM   #1
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Interstate 6 Volt Charging

There have been a number of recent discussions about the dual 6 volt batteries from Interstate that are used in Escape trailers. Most out of the ordinary was in high charge rates these batteries require. I decided I would ask Interstate directly and called their technical service division to confirm the charge rates that I was seeing on their website.

Here are links to some recent topics:

Battery Life
Solar Charging
WFCO Converter

I spoke with a knowledgeable tech service individual and explained the model of batteries being discussed, the 6 Volt GC2 series, and its application in an RV. I confirmed with him that the correct charge rates were 14.5 VA for the bulk stage, 15.3 for absorption and 15.6 for equalization. We further discussed the primary number to be watching in charging Interstate batteries and that was the absorption rate. This charge rate at the absorption stage is necessary because of the particular battery chemistry involved in the GC2 series. It needs those high charge rates to be successfully charged.

I explained to him my inability to find an adequate charger in the RV world that would produce charges at this particular rate. There were such chargers in the solar world but not for the built-in models used inside of RVs. He was surprised at this. And further said it was not good to be charging at such a low rate.

The absorption charge rates for WFCO and Progressive chargers I examined is at 13.6 VA, compared to the recommended rate of 15.3. According to Interstate the result of this is: First the battery is not being fully charged and is actually 89% of its recommended charge. Second there will be an issue of sulfate buildup on the plates when the battery is not charged to its fullest recommended voltage. This sulfate buildup will result in a premature degradation of the battery and an early need to replace.

Interstate made four recommendations for charging their GC2 series of batteries. First, get a charger that has an absorption charge rate of 15.3 VA. Second, if you're not able to obtain a charger that does that be sure to have a charger with an equalization stage and a rate of 15.6 to burn off the sulfate that will buildup on your batteries. Third, make sure that the charger is at least a 20 amp charger and preferably 30 amp. And fourth, find a charger that allows you to adjust for the amperage hours of the battery pack. This means a charger that will have the ability to adjust to handle the 232 Ah (amp hours) capacity of this battery.
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:15 PM   #2
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Paul have you talked with Trojan about their 6v? Maybe they will be easier to charge properly with available RV chargers?
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:39 PM   #3
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I've just cut and pasted some parts of email exchanges with Trojan technical that I thought you may be interested in, Eric.

For absorption, Trojan says "We actually give a range of 14.1 to 14.8 ...... [ but ]
We like to see our flooded batteries charged to about 14.8 volts on a daily basis. Occassionally it is good to equalize them up to 15.5 volts

We like to see between 10 and 13% of the battery bank capacity (20 hr rating) used for charge current. So, for 2 ea. T105s connected to make 12 volts, the capacity is 225 amp hours, so 22 – 29 amps of charge current is perfect.
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Old 01-18-2014, 01:12 AM   #4
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Paul, if you would, could you check with your contact at Interstate and ask him what converter (name brand) he would recommend to install in a trailer to meet the charging specs of their batteries.

Then, the cost of the same...

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Old 01-18-2014, 03:12 PM   #5
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What about installing 2 -12 volt batteries in parallel? Would there enough difference in capacity to matter? Might be an option to take care of the voltage issues.

Here is some good reading on batteries to make you head spin a little more.

Deep Cycle Battery FAQ
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Old 01-19-2014, 12:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kountrykamper View Post
What about installing 2 -12 volt batteries in parallel? Would there enough difference in capacity to matter? Might be an option to take care of the voltage issues.
Not in general - the electrical capacity for a given mass of lead depends on the construction type, but not on the number of cells in series (which determines the voltage). If the 6V and 12V models are from the same product line, they will need the same charging voltage. That's why battery manufacturers routinely list charging voltages in per-cell terms, and the linked reference does that as well in some sections.

If the concern is getting a high enough charge current - rather than voltage - charging two 12V batteries one at a time could be a solution, albeit a really inconvenient and difficult to manage one.
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Old 01-19-2014, 01:04 PM   #7
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Slightly off topic, but interesting:

Ferrari battery charge fire destroys B.C. luxury home - British Columbia - CBC News
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Old 05-06-2016, 12:24 PM   #8
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Xantrex TrueCharge2

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
Interstate made four recommendations for charging their GC2 series of batteries. First, get a charger that has an absorption charge rate of 15.3 VA. Second, if you're not able to obtain a charger that does that be sure to have a charger with an equalization stage and a rate of 15.6 to burn off the sulfate that will buildup on your batteries. Third, make sure that the charger is at least a 20 amp charger and preferably 30 amp. And fourth, find a charger that allows you to adjust for the amperage hours of the battery pack. This means a charger that will have the ability to adjust to handle the 232 Ah (amp hours) capacity of this battery.
Sorry to resurrect an old thread but given how many people seem to have the dual 6V Interstate GC2 setups I figured I'd ask. Has anyone investigated the Xantrex TrueCharge2? The 40 amp model (804-1240-802) with optional remote panel appears to meet all of the qualifications recommended by Interstate except the standard absorption rate for "flooded" batteries is 14.4V. By digging through the user's manual I noticed that the absorption rate for "lead-calcium" batteries is 15.5V. Much closer to the 15.3V that Interstate desires. Equalization is 16V for both types. Would there be any downside to simply selecting lead-calcium as the battery type sot it follows that algorithm? Has anyone done this?

(By the way, the optional remote panel allows you to limit the current in the bulk mode, which with a 40 amp charger may be in order. It appears that a charging amperage in bulk mode should be limited to "C/8" with C being the total amp-hrs of the battery bank. That would equate to ~29A for (2) GC2-XHD-UTL's in series.)

Thank you for any input that can be provided. On the brink of a battery replacement and charger upgrade.
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Old 05-06-2016, 01:19 PM   #9
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Found my answer

Why am I not surprised this has already been researched and shared? Amazing.

www.escapeforum.org/forums/f38/replacing-stock-wfco-converters-3239-2.html

"The final charger/controller I found is actually just a charger. It is made for RV’s and does not do the controller function that all the other models above perform. The Xantrex TrueCharge2 20 Amp has an option to charge at a voltage of 15.5 VA. This is a custom configuration that is a part of this charger and has preconfigured set points for charging. The set points are designed for a flooded type battery, usually a lead/calcium chemistry. In checking with Interstate the GC2 series is very close to this chemistry and this is an acceptable absorption charge rate."

I guess this does lead to another question though. It is mentioned that the Xantrex unit it is not a controller. If I replace the lower WFCO section with this charger, what functionality am I missing? I came across this post from 2011 that is this exact setup:

Xantrex Charger Installation and Wiring Upgrades

Sorry, newbie here.
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Old 05-06-2016, 03:22 PM   #10
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Think I'd call their tech support folks and ask if that setting would work for the flooded Interstates, there well might be more to it then just a higher absorption voltage.

Many of the folks concerned with this were looking for a solar controller/charger that would provide the levels needed as opposed to just a charger.
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Old 05-06-2016, 09:10 PM   #11
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Your idea of using the Lead Calcium settings on the Xantrex charger is an interesting one. One thing I did not find in the manual was how long the 15.5 volt charge was held before float. Usually it is 2 hours, I would want to check that out. Also I would set the Charge Mode to two, with your high charge rates there is no need to bother with equalization. Skipping that will eliminate any concerns about those rates.

Just for your information, the prior batteries from Interstate, that were replaced by the GC2, I believe they were the U series, did have a charge rate of 15.5volts. According to Interstate there was a chemistry change and the rate was lowered.

I would take Bob's advice and call Interstate. You can try Xantrex but I do not believe they have the stellar customer support that Interstate does. You might ask Xantrex about the custom feature of setting charging voltage setpoints.

A final point is, there will some off gassing. I would confirm that the vent from battery box to outside has an uphill slope, the vent opening inside the battery box is not blocked by the battery and that the seal (s) around the power cord are in place and the cover is secure. You may still have some smell.
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Old 05-06-2016, 10:46 PM   #12
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Thanks for the info but please bear with me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
One thing I did not find in the manual was how long the 15.5 volt charge was held before float. Usually it is 2 hours, I would want to check that out.
It appears from the Xantrex manual pg. 29 where the charging process is graphed that absorption is intially a constant current (CC) and then shifts to constant voltage (CV). The constant voltage has a max of 5 hrs before timeout. The overall duration of CC and CV combined is max of 8 hrs before timeout.

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Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
Also I would set the Charge Mode to two, with your high charge rates there is no need to bother with equalization. Skipping that will eliminate any concerns about those rates.
By two, I assume you mean two-stage charging. The only issue I see is that configuration will actually only eliminate the float stage. Absorption phase remains the same explained above whether set up as two-stage or three-stage charging. Equalization (@ 16V) is manually initiated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
Just for your information, the prior batteries from Interstate, that were replaced by the GC2, I believe they were the U series, did have a charge rate of 15.5volts. According to Interstate there was a chemistry change and the rate was lowered.
The current literature I found for the GC2 states 15.3V for absorption.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
A final point is, there will some off gassing. I would confirm that the vent from battery box to outside has an uphill slope, the vent opening inside the battery box is not blocked by the battery and that the seal (s) around the power cord are in place and the cover is secure. You may still have some smell.
I assume this is a non-issue if the batteries are outside on the front tongue.


Just for context, this is being driven by the need to recharge every few days via generator (no solar yet) and wanting to maximize battery recharge in minimal time. My biggest concern with this swap is that the voltage supplied is also serving the DC loads. The 15.5V voltage could be too high during the absorption phase for the furnace. The Atwood 8012 manual states a maximum voltage of 13.6 with a note that high voltage can cause unbalanced combustion and excessive motor wear. Granted many converters out there would be higher than 13.6V (including the stock WFCO in 14.4V bulk mode), but when is it just too much? I guess this can all get a little crazy. I could always drop back to the Xantrex "flooded" battery setting with 14.4V absorption and make sure to not run the furnace when equalizing which is manually initiated. I'd still gain a quality unit and faster charging rate, even if not an "optimal" charging profile for the GC2's.
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Old 05-07-2016, 09:28 PM   #13
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It is still unclear to me after looking at the chart when does the charger step to the next level. It appears (without confirmation) that when the absorption stage reaches 15.5 it does not hold it but rather drops to the float voltage of 13.5 when using the lead calcium battery type.

You are correct the better option would be the three stage when setting the Charge Mode.

My final question is how long will you have to run the generator to even reach these levels? I do not have any generator experience but when using a 120 watt panel on a nearly full battery it will still take six hours of sun to reach 15.3 volts and hold it for two hours. With a battery at 80% I was not able to reach the charge rate of 15.3. Now there are many more variables with solar and the controller may have different characteristic but I sill wonder if one can fill the battery with a generator. Some one else will have to answer that.
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Old 05-08-2016, 12:45 AM   #14
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Thanks Paul.

My impression is that with the Xantrex constant current bulk charge you can get a lot into the battery fairly quickly. Once in the absorption mode I'd have to assume the algorithm has a minimum time duration. While on the generator the charger would be capable of providing 100% capacity (40A) minus any coincident DC loads. Given a battery bank of 232 amp-hrs I would limit bulk charge to ~29 amps based on the "C/8" rule. This would be a real decent charging rate. Obviously there are a few variables including how far the battery was drained, but the goal would be a "full" charge in 1.5-2 hrs. I would guess the absorption mode is cut short though.

This might not be perfect, but it appears to be light years ahead of the WFCO. The limiting factor being its constant voltage bulk mode. Ok if plugged in for a longer duration, but not going to fly when off grid and wanting to top up with a gen every few days.
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