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Old 07-29-2010, 02:37 PM   #1
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More on Batteries

Hello all: Recently I went on a 3 week trip which was basically all dry-camping. I did have to use the furnace in the morning and sometimes for a bit at night. All my lights are LED. Here's what I found out. The battery (one 12 volt mounted on the bumper) was good for the first week. Thereafter, I ran the generator for about an hour each morning to try to keep ahead of the draw on the battery. I was charging through the trailer hook-up connector, but was barely keeping up. Anyway I met an old-timer RV person who told me that this was not the most efficient way to charge the battery. Apparently, the inverter in the 17B typically charges at 6 amps, and one hour at this rate hardly makes a dent in replacing what was drawn down the previous day. He advised me to hook up a regular car-battery charger (from Canadian Tire) directly to the terminals of the battery on the bumper. This type of charger typically puts out 15amps and will charge the battery much more efficiently. Because my high-school physics happened too long ago, I went on line and did some research. In fact, the old-timer was absoulutely correct. I tried it and it worked. I know it worked because I used a specific gravity scale to measure the battery acid in each cell and after one hour per day of charging in this manner, the battery was kept almost 100% full. Here's a chart showing readings for percent charge using a specific gravity (dip-stick type) meter which is the most reliable method of assessing the condition of the battery.
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File Type: doc State of charge chart for 12 volt batteries.doc (23.5 KB, 144 views)
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Old 07-29-2010, 03:29 PM   #2
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Re: More on Batteries

This is very interesting. What was the battery connected to while you were taking the voltage measurements?

(You know that I am, in fact, a high school physics teacher, right?)
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Old 07-29-2010, 04:35 PM   #3
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Re: More on Batteries

Hi Ron: Thanks for your reply. The 17B was parked and unhitched. There was no other electrical input (such as from the tow vehicle). The first time I went directly from the generator to the battery terminals and the battery charger was reading an output of 15amp. I charged it this way for an hour. Then I began to think that I could actually raise the charge input another six amps by connecting the trailer electical connector to the generator while also going directly to the battery terminals. This proved to provide a much faster charge and according to my calculation there were now approx 21amps going into the battery. The battery did not overheat.......became warm to the touch but not hot. I left the cell covers open so that I could see what was going on but the acid did not expand enough to come out over the top of the battery so I concluded that the battery was well able to take the 21 amp charge.
At the end of the hour I disconnected the Canadian Tire battery charger, and the trailer electrical cord and waited about an hour so that I was sure I wasn't just getting a surface-charge reading, and then I dipped each cell. From what I've read, the secret to keeping the battery up is to NEVER allow it to be drawn down to below a reading of 12.25 on the specific gravity tester, but to replace on a daily basis what was used up the previous day, and that seemed to work splendidly for me. BTW did I pass the test, Ron?
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Old 07-29-2010, 04:51 PM   #4
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Re: More on Batteries

This is most interesting. I was impressed with what you have shared and certainly have given me some insights to battery charging. I have been trying to find a way of watching battery life other than the LED gauge inside my Escape. I had researched marine monitoring electronics but found them to be in the 200-300 price range. From what you state:

From what I've read, the secret to keeping the battery up is to NEVER allow it to be drawn down to below a reading of 12.25 on the specific gravity tester

I could use a battery hydrometer to check how my battery is doing. This could be a bit burdensome with two six volt batteries and the need to check every chamber but in this case it may be adaquate to do a spot check on one in each battery. Perhaps this is even more reliable than expensive marine electronics and certainly seems better than four led lights of different color.
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Old 07-29-2010, 05:03 PM   #5
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Re: More on Batteries

Go to this link and read the deep cycle battery FAQ's. This document should answer many of your questions gabe.
There is also a chart to approximate state of charge based on battery voltage for others who do not have a hydrometer (that's what the battery display panel in your escape does).
www.windsun.com/Batteries/Battery_FAQ.htm
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Old 07-29-2010, 05:38 PM   #6
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Re: More on Batteries

Since I had to investigate all this, from what I've read and from what I've been told by auto / marine outlets etc, it seems that the ONLY reliable way of knowing the state of the battery is by using the hydrometer (mine cost about $15) on each cell. And by the way, it takes less than 3 minutes to test every cell on my 12 volt battery.....................presumably double that on two six volt batteries. The monitor panel (idiot lights??) inside the 17B is unreliable and only gives an approximate reading, in fact it even reads the tank levels incorrectly!! Anyway, I'm quite happy to use the battery charger directly on the battery posts, and the hydrometer test until someone comes up with something better. Hope everyone is making the most of the Summer!!
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:51 AM   #7
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Re: More on Batteries

Strawbarry

Your link to battery maintenance was an excellent reference. Lots of good information in there. Having two 6 volt batteries I have two goals, get the longest power use out of them and maintain them for as many years as possible. Since they have to be replaced in pairs and based on prices at my local farm store they can run $90 US each, I want longevity.

As of now I am not recharging when in use, rather draining them down to . . whatever . . level over a six day period. The hydrometer will keep me from waiting too long between charges.

I am in the market for a hydrometer as we speak. It sure seems like a scientific method to measure and maintain ones batteries. I am also considering the purchase of a quality charger to use on the batteries when in winter storage. The charger needs to be one of the "smart" models. I am using a "smart" charger from Maha on my AAA and AA sized rechargables.

Since I maybe implementing solar charging in the future I want to proceed with pruchasing relevant products.
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Old 07-30-2010, 06:16 AM   #8
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Re: More on Batteries

You are on the right path to maintaining your battery. The specific gravity of each cell tells you the state of charge for a battery. It does not tell you the the AH capacity of the battery. Placing a load on the battery at X amps for X time gives you the capacity. As a battery ages the state of charge can be 100% but the capacity at some lower value. This is normal wear and tear from use. A quick test would be to place a 12V load on the battery without your battery charger helping. The refrigerator on DC voltage would be a good one, watch the voltage across the battery. If the voltage dives quickly down to 10.5 to 11 then your battery has very little capacity. A good battery will supply the current and maintain 12 volts. If you do not see a drastic change in voltage then you have a good battery, a battery with a bad cell will be very apparent even when using the battery monitor in your trailer.

A battery is only as good as it's charger. A good 3 stage charger will extend the life of your batteries. I encourage everyone who has questions about their batteries to read the previous link I provided, it is a good general discussion of deep cycle batteries.

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Old 07-30-2010, 02:20 PM   #9
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Re: More on Batteries

I started shopping around for a decent 3-stage battery charger for deep cycle batteries myself, and got curious as there is a lot on the market. I have, same as Paul, 2 6V batteries on Cafe Egg. Which brand would you recommend? And of the brand, which model would you get? Furthermore, would you go with one made for 6V or 12V? This is still confusing to me.

Now this weekend I will be entirely off-grid, I prohibited myself to bring any computer to this camping trip. I will pick up my kid at daycare after I get off of work, and off we go. So I will only Sunday get a chance and read any answers.
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Old 07-30-2010, 02:53 PM   #10
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Re: More on Batteries

Gerda, I have no good recommendation for you, but a 12V charger will do the trick, as you will just charge across both batteries.

The two 6V batteries are literally connected in series (in line) to total 12V.

If you were to charge them loose and individually, then you would need to charge them at 6V.

Have a fun weekend.
It is a long weekend here, I will be gone from tomorrow morning until Monday night too.
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Old 07-30-2010, 08:13 PM   #11
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Re: More on Batteries

While it is undoubtedly not be nearly as accurate as using a hydrometer, I find that this small inexpensive monitor works well for me to check the relative state of charge of our dual 6v system. http://www.amazon.com/Equus-3721-Bat...8&sr=8-1-spell
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Old 07-30-2010, 08:17 PM   #12
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Re: More on Batteries

Gerda,

I bought one of these at Amazon based on reviews there. It has worked very well for me at a very reasonable price.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ef=oss_product

Quote:
Originally Posted by gharms
I started shopping around for a decent 3-stage battery charger for deep cycle batteries myself, and got curious as there is a lot on the market. I have, same as Paul, 2 6V batteries on Cafe Egg. Which brand would you recommend? And of the brand, which model would you get? Furthermore, would you go with one made for 6V or 12V? This is still confusing to me.

Now this weekend I will be entirely off-grid, I prohibited myself to bring any computer to this camping trip. I will pick up my kid at daycare after I get off of work, and off we go. So I will only Sunday get a chance and read any answers.
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:11 PM   #13
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Re: More on Batteries

Hi: All... I find batteries of any kind to be one of lifes little mysterys!!! No matter what they're in they will fail at the worst possible moment. Taking pictures at a wedding...poof. Traveling on a holiday...poof. Boondocking in the deep woods...poof. YMMV. Thank goodness there are lots of places to get a new one or two. One problem we have with the 5.0 is the battery is located in the rear storage bin/ vented to the outside. It requires a wrench and screwdriver to remove the sealed case lid.
I just keep the trailer plugged in frequently and use the monitor. Alf
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:56 AM   #14
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Re: More on Batteries

fudge_brownie

Flooded cell deep cycle batteries are made to be discharged. A 20% to 30% depth of discharge or 80% to 70% state of charge is good for the battery. This cycling of discharge and recharge keeps the plates & acid in good condition. The general practice is to discharge the battery to 50% or use half the battery's amp hours. A 200AH battery would produce 100AH, be recharged fully, and do this many times over many years. This does not mean you have to discharge to 50% level every time before charging. The worst thing you can do is discharge the battery 2 to 3% and then recharge it, and do this over and over again.

I am unsure what type of inverter(converter)/charger your camper is installed in it. You should first read the owners manual and determine if the charger is designed to charge the type of battery you have. Smart chargers do not do the job differently than other chargers they just allow you to leave the batteries hooked all the time with no worry of over charging.
If you intend to use solar then the solar charge controller can become your smart charger and isolate or disconnect you camper's converter/charger. Your batteries should still be supplying 12V to the camper with the batteries being charged from the sun.

gharms

Two 6v batteries in series are treated as a 12v when charging. You have to 6v because with one 6v battery design a manufacture can offer a wide assortment of voltage levels by simply connecting the batteries in series to multiply voltage, or parallel to multiply amp hour capacity.

I would first make sure my converter/charger is designed for the batteries I have and that it is functioning correctly and then move on to a better charger. The best brand is the one you have researched, and assured the operation matches your needs.


Batteries should not be a hassle that takes you away from the trip, with a little study, and preventive maintenance you can move on to more fun stuff.



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Old 02-19-2012, 02:36 AM   #15
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Re: More on Batteries

You are correct, Lead acid batteries develop a memory. And if you only use 2 or 3% and then recharge every time the next time you use say 20 or 40 % it will tell you it has a low charge or in fact is dead.

You need to exercise a lead acid battery down to at least 50% 2 or 3 times a year to keep it reliable. Some modern day chargers have a cycle option on them. It will bring a batteries charge down to a specific voltage and then bring it up to a full charge.

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Old 02-19-2012, 12:06 PM   #16
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Re: More on Batteries

This is a very extensive source of battery information: http://www.windsun.com/Batteries/Battery_FAQ.htm

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:23 PM   #17
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Re: More on Batteries

Thanks for the great link, lots of good useful information.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:33 AM   #18
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Re: More on Batteries

Another Battery Question:

What is the proper use of the DC switch inside the trailer? I have been turning off the DC when plugging into a 120V outlet. The other day I measured the batteries [2 6volt in series] and the Specific Gravity was 1.210. I turned off the DC switch and plugged in the 120V AC. 48 hours later I tested the batteries - no change from previous readings?? Looked in the Escape Owners Manual didn't find anything on the use of this switch. I understand the Converter is the proper three stage type of Converter. Should this switch be on for charging from AC?

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Old 04-02-2012, 11:33 AM   #19
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Re: More on Batteries

I believe the switch is a battery disconnect. The only time mine goes off is for long term storage, so nothing can possibly put a drain on the batteries.

I would have thought though, that it would be wired so it could be charged when the trailer is plugged in, regardless of the switch on or off, but it sounds like it might not be.
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Old 04-02-2012, 05:04 PM   #20
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Re: More on Batteries

I don't know if they are all wired the same, but I have the solar option on my 17B. The solar is connected to the batteries no matter which position the disconnect switch is in while the converter & vehicle tow line are disconnected when the switch is off.

Makes sense - the solar panel keeps the batteries charged over the winter. I even had enough solar charge current to keep the batteries full with the Escape supplied cover over the trailer.
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