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Old 12-20-2015, 04:26 PM   #1
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solar monitor reading?

We have a 2012 5.0 with the go power solar monitor. It was reading 12.6v and 60% at Thanksgiving. I checked it today and it has dropped to 11.9 and 51%. It is being stored in an open ended pole barn so it gets some light but not direct sunlight. Last winter the batteries (2-6volt) did not have any problems but this year they do not seem to be holding a charge. I did add some distilled water to the batteries prior to storage. The disconnect switch is off. Are my batteries nearing the end of their live?
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Old 12-20-2015, 04:49 PM   #2
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They should not be near end of life. With proper care they could last eight years. Some possible causes of battery failure, not necessarialy yours, would be frequent discharges below 50%, lack of water, subject to extreme high temps, or something mechanical on the battery. Mechanical might be a failed cell or the need for equalization.

The first test is fully charging, wait an hour and then measure each battery. They should both measure .15 volts of each other. The second test is to use a hydrometer on each cell. All cells should measure within 30 points of each other. You will need a volt meter and hydrometer, very inexpensive tools.

Performing an equalization will be more expensive and require a battery charger capable of doing the equalization stage and doing it at the recommended voltage from Interstate of 15.6 volts. I do not have a recommended model that I know achieves those rates.
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Old 12-20-2015, 05:06 PM   #3
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In a video on the Trojan site the narrator said you can do an equalization charge by charging the battery normally and then unplug charger from the mains for a minute and plug it back into the mains.
Here is link to video:

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Old 12-20-2015, 05:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
In a video on the Trojan site the narrator said you can do an equalization charge by charging the battery normally and then unplug charger from the mains for a minute and plug it back into the mains.
Here is link to video:
This doesn't make sense to me, as equalization requires a higher voltage. Maybe someone could give me a reasoning behind what Trojan says that would help me to understand.
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Old 12-20-2015, 06:11 PM   #5
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Old 12-20-2015, 07:38 PM   #6
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I wonder if the monitor function of the controller sucks any battery power when there is not enough sun for the panels to generate.
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Old 12-20-2015, 09:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by padlin View Post
I wonder if the monitor function of the controller sucks any battery power when there is not enough sun for the panels to generate.
According to the GoPower manual: 6 milli-amps for the controller, 10 ma for the display.

In rough numbers, that will drain 10 amp-hours from the battery per month.

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Old 12-20-2015, 09:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
... Mechanical might be a failed cell or the need for equalization. ...
Mechanical could also include: loose connections, corrosion, broken wires.

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Old 12-20-2015, 10:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ivanputski View Post
We have a 2012 5.0 with the go power solar monitor. It was reading 12.6v and 60% at Thanksgiving. I checked it today and it has dropped to 11.9 and 51%. It is being stored in an open ended pole barn so it gets some light but not direct sunlight. Last winter the batteries (2-6volt) did not have any problems but this year they do not seem to be holding a charge. I did add some distilled water to the batteries prior to storage. The disconnect switch is off. Are my batteries nearing the end of their live?
You had it stored in the same position last year? I would move it to get direct light on the panel for a day and see the difference.
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Old 12-21-2015, 12:02 AM   #10
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I would have said "watching the Trojan video", but I prefer to read documentation, such as this from Trojan
Quote:
FLOODED BATTERIES ONLY

Equalizing is an overcharge performed on flooded lead acid batteries after they have been fully charged.

It reverses the buildup of negative chemical effects like stratification, a condition where acid concentration is greater at the bottom of the battery than at the top. Equalizing also helps to remove sulfate crystals that might have built up on the plates. If left unchecked, this condition, called sulfation, will reduce the overall capacity of the battery.

Many experts recommend that batteries be equalized periodically, ranging anywhere from once a month to once or twice per year. However, Trojan only recommends equalizing when low or wide ranging specific gravity (+/- .015) are detected after fully charging a battery.

Step-By-Step Equalizing
  1. Verify the battery(s) are flooded type.
  2. Remove all loads from the batteries.
  3. Connect battery charger.
  4. Set charger for the equalizing voltage (See Table 2 in the Charging section). If your charger doesn’t have an equalization mode, you can unplug the charger and re-plug it back in. This also will conduct the equalization charge.
  5. Start charging batteries.
  6. Batteries will begin gassing and bubbling vigorously.
  7. Take specific gravity readings every hour.
  8. Equalization is complete when specific gravity values no longer rise during the gassing stage.
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
In a video on the Trojan site the narrator said you can do an equalization charge by charging the battery normally and then unplug charger from the mains for a minute and plug it back into the mains.
Same thing as in the maintenance guide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
This doesn't make sense to me, as equalization requires a higher voltage. Maybe someone could give me a reasoning behind what Trojan says that would help me to understand.
I believe what they're saying is that a charger normally starts by trying to apply the final charging voltage, then steps down for the finishing stage - by restarting the charger, it goes back to the higher charging voltage. This technique is being used as a substitute for a specific equalization mode on the charger.

They may not have mentioned it in the video, but the written version does say to set the charger for the equalizing voltage. The table which the instructions reference is a bit higher on the same page, and shows an equalization voltage of 15.5V, so perhaps they consider the "daily charge" setting of 14.8V close enough; for comparison, the float voltage that a charger should drop to when completely done is listed as only 13.2V.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by alanmalk View Post
According to the GoPower manual: 6 milli-amps for the controller, 10 ma for the display.

In rough numbers, that will drain 10 amp-hours from the battery per month.

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If I read the OP correctly, it went from 60% to 51% in a month or about 20Ahr, half the loss is the controller/display. I'd suggest fully charge the batteries, disconnect one of the battery leads, check the voltage or better yet take a reading with a hydrometer after 24 or 48 hours to verify you have a full charge. If it's okay, check it again in a month. It'd tell you if it's your batteries.
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Old 12-21-2015, 11:13 AM   #12
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I would have said "watching the Trojan video", but I prefer to read documentation, such as this from Trojan



Same thing as in the maintenance guide.


I believe what they're saying is that a charger normally starts by trying to apply the final charging voltage, then steps down for the finishing stage - by restarting the charger, it goes back to the higher charging voltage. This technique is being used as a substitute for a specific equalization mode on the charger.

They may not have mentioned it in the video, but the written version does say to set the charger for the equalizing voltage. The table which the instructions reference is a bit higher on the same page, and shows an equalization voltage of 15.5V, so perhaps they consider the "daily charge" setting of 14.8V close enough; for comparison, the float voltage that a charger should drop to when completely done is listed as only 13.2V.
Since I have the old version of the GoPower controller without a button to provide an extra hour of boost charging, and, of course, it is difficult to unplug & replug the solar controller, I found that by adding a load large enough to drop the battery temporarly to under 12.2V will reset the GoPower controller from the float back to the boost stage for a couple of hours. A 70 amp load on the battery for 30 seconds will do this in my case.

According to the manual, it will apply the boost stage for 2 hours if the battery goes under 12.3 V, and, if the battery drops below 12.1 V, will provide 2 hours of equalization.

I still have not solved the problem of why adding my portable solar panel while the GoPower controller is in the float stage reduces the controller's output current. (See this post.)
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Old 12-21-2015, 12:49 PM   #13
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If I read the OP correctly, it went from 60% to 51% in a month or about 20Ahr, half the loss is the controller/display. I'd suggest fully charge the batteries, disconnect one of the battery leads, check the voltage or better yet take a reading with a hydrometer after 24 or 48 hours to verify you have a full charge. If it's okay, check it again in a month. It'd tell you if it's your batteries.
It is generally acknowledged that a hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature, is the most accurate measure of battery charge. At least that is what I read.

But the problem with being accurate - such as "60% to 51% in a month or about 20Ahr, half the loss is the controller/display" - is that it has to take into account the age of the batteries. If the battery is half way through its lifespan then it doesn't have the capacity of a new battery. So the percentage drop from 60 to 51 might in fact represent 10 Ahr. I'm not suggesting that this correct, because I have no idea how the batteries have been treated, or the initial capacity, or the initial quality, etc.

But we're campers, so the final determination is: Do the batteries last as long as you need them to last - while boondocking in that special place where you don't want to leave in the middle to buy new batteries? You don't need any fancy equipment for that...

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Old 12-21-2015, 03:48 PM   #14
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Thank you your responses. The camper was storage the same way last year and the readings did not seem to drop very much over a very cold winter. I did add distilled water to the batteries prior to storing it. I wonder if the batteries never got up to a full charge prior to going in the pole barn? It would be difficult to get the camper out of the barn now and there is no electric available. The options I have to charge would be 1) run an extension cord about 100 feet 2) run a generator in the pole barn or 3) get the truck close enough to plug into the camper and idle the truck. There is plenty of ventilation in the pole barn. Are any of these good ideas?

How bad is it if the batteries drop below the current reading?
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:01 PM   #15
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If you leave the batteries in the trailer over the winter , you need to leave them fully charged. Personally I'd run the extension cord and let the converter charge them up for a couple days.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:29 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by ivanputski View Post
The disconnect switch is off.
I had the impression the battery switch isolated the batteries from the system. i.e. isolated from even the solar charger. I haven't had a need to verify this one way or the other, but it could be an easy solution.

Can anyone verify one way or the other?

Thanks.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:46 PM   #17
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Ivan said he had the disconnect turned off so with the 12v is disconnected he still had a reading on the controller.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:46 PM   #18
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Hugh, I was told that the "standard" cutoff does not disconnect the solar, but that you can get a separate cutoff for that also.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:51 PM   #19
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I had the impression the battery switch isolated the batteries from the system. i.e. isolated from even the solar charger.
I think the logic was to isolate the batteries from everything that might run them down, but leave them connected to the solar power system to maintain a charge. The disconnect would also not affect the connection to the inverter, because the switch (at least the ones I've seen in Escapes) doesn't have nearly enough capacity to handle the inverter's input current.
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Old 12-21-2015, 05:01 PM   #20
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How bad is it if the batteries drop below the current reading?
I would have no concern with a single deep discharge cycle of the batteries per season, as far as battery life and condition are concerned. The issue would be freezing.

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If you leave the batteries in the trailer over the winter , you need to leave them fully charged.
I think you need to leave them charged enough that they never run down enough for the electrolyte in the batteries to freeze.

The attached graph, which is taken from Trojan's white paper on Deep-Cycle Battery Storage, shows that the further discharged the battery becomes, the higher the temperature at which freezing becomes a risk. At the current state of charge, these batteries would not be safe to leave in an unheated space here... but fortunately for them, they're not here.

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Personally I'd run the extension cord and let the converter charge them up for a couple days.
I think this makes sense: ensure a suitable starting condition, confirm that nothing will drain them down, and walk away.
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