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Old 04-01-2016, 10:04 AM   #1
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AGM Batteries

In wanting to keep the rear bench in the U-shaped dinette for my 5.0TA, as much to place the batteries and other electrical stuff, yet wanting to gain as much foot space as possible, has led me to find a way to minimize the depth of the rear bench. One of the biggest limiting factors is the width of the battery box required to house and vent the flooded lead acid batteries.

I will be getting an installed solar panel, as well as carrying an 80W portable, as I hope to do as much camping off grid as possible.

This led me to look for a narrower solution. Eliminating the battery box would be a good start. This got me to looking at AGM (Absorbed Glass Matte) batteries as there is no off gassing of hydrogen and oxygen. unless for some reason overcharged. I have read of many installs of AGMs without venting, yet some who said you should anyway, just in case.

Anyway, regardless of needing ventilation or not, I would love to learn and hear more about AGM batteries. There are definitely lots of benefits to them.

- Less internal resistance, allowing a faster recharge
- Discharges unused a way slower rate, from 1-30%
- No maintenance required, as it has no electrolyte and thus no potential for water loss. Less corrosion of terminals too.
- Sealed so no off gassing of hydrogen or oxygen (unless severely overcharged)
- Slower discharge rate, about 10% that of flooded
- Mattes between plates support them better, giving it a longer life.
- Do not require an equalizing charge, nor can they accept it.
- Not damaged by freezing at low discharge state, and can handle hot temps better
- They last longer, though I could not find any definite numbers

The only real downside I see is that they average twice the cost. Something to definitely consider.

Another side thought that might help narrow that rear bench would be that due to the outward slope of the rear, mounting the batteries a bit higher would save some depth too, but not really sure how much.

Any experience, wisdom, or insight, would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:18 AM   #2
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I had one in the Casita for 6 years. After trying to check the battery the first time and having to remove it from Casita's small opening I said I am not going to deal with this anymore. Purchased a Lifeline AGM and never had to even look at it again.

The cost was the only negative thing so I asked for it as a birthday present so I could somewhat justify it. Now I'm trying to figure out how to justify one for the Escape when I need a new battery.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:32 AM   #3
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Lithium batteries are smaller, lighter, have better charge characteristics, and last much longer but they are much more expensive initially. If you live in a cool climate and can get the long life they should have they are cost competitive.

Lithium Ion Batteries For RV Motorhome House System - LFP / LiFePO4 | Technomadia
Lithium Batteries — AM Solar
http://www.starlightsolar.com/RV_Lithium_Battery.html
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:36 AM   #4
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Think you cam mount AGM's on their side too.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:44 AM   #5
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Waiting for Tesla to announce the Lithium RV powerwall, but till then AGM is a good path. I've read enough that I personally would only install them vented, but some don't. It would be nice if they could bump them outside on the rear bumper like the 17b, but seems like they can't.
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Old 04-01-2016, 11:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamman View Post
Lithium batteries are smaller, lighter, have better charge characteristics, and last much longer but they are much more expensive initially. If you live in a cool climate and can get the long life they should have they are cost competitive.

Lithium Ion Batteries For RV Motorhome House System - LFP / LiFePO4 | Technomadia
Lithium Batteries — AM Solar
RV Lithium Battery
I did look at lithium too, and would love to go that route. 2,000 to 3,000 recharges, plus lots of other great benefits. all the ones I saw were about double again what AGM is, and sometimes more. Still, given that they should last at least twice as long, it could be a good plan. They also have most all the benefits of AGM, and more.

I never read this article on them, but will have a look.
Quote:
Originally Posted by padlin View Post
Think you cam mount AGM's on their side too.
That is a good advantage, though not one that I see a benefit in.
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Originally Posted by Greg A View Post
Waiting for Tesla to announce the Lithium RV powerwall, but till then AGM is a good path. I've read enough that I personally would only install them vented, but some don't. It would be nice if they could bump them outside on the rear bumper like the 17b, but seems like they can't.
I think I would be willing to mount them without ventilation, but I got the same take that you did, that there is lots of folks who went both ways. I have yet to find anything from a manufacturer, or anything RV code wise that would indicate it must be done.
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Old 04-01-2016, 11:25 AM   #7
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Jim, would you still use twin 6V with the AGM's?
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:28 PM   #8
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I went the AGM route for many of the previously mentioned reasons. No venting, no maintenance, no winter worries, etc. But the big difference is that I went with 2 12v batteries in parallel to save money. Seems that 6v AGM batteries are more expensive per watt-hour than 12v units. The low self-discharge is what makes it possible to wire batteries in parallel. I measured the loss from one battery into the other at 5 milliamps, a totally acceptable figure. To achieve this the batteries must be identical and the same age. I bought mine at Sears when they were on sale and the total price was about double that of good flooded batteries. They have only been in service about 6 months so I can't comment on the lifespan.

But when the lithium batteries get down to about $100 for the same power then I will probably jump for a set. Might be a while...

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Old 04-01-2016, 12:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thoer View Post
Jim, would you still use twin 6V with the AGM's?
No sure. Was thinking that way, but going to look further in to it.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanmalk View Post
I went the AGM route for many of the previously mentioned reasons. No venting, no maintenance, no winter worries, etc. But the big difference is that I went with 2 12v batteries in parallel to save money. Seems that 6v AGM batteries are more expensive per watt-hour than 12v units. The low self-discharge is what makes it possible to wire batteries in parallel. I measured the loss from one battery into the other at 5 milliamps, a totally acceptable figure. To achieve this the batteries must be identical and the same age. I bought mine at Sears when they were on sale and the total price was about double that of good flooded batteries. They have only been in service about 6 months so I can't comment on the lifespan.

But when the lithium batteries get down to about $100 for the same power then I will probably jump for a set. Might be a while...

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As mentioned above, I will have a look into dual 6V vs two 12V, comparing costs and capacity.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:44 PM   #11
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I assume there are differences between brands. Are there any that folks would recommend. I would have to see if they are available around here too, as it is something I would want to buy local, or at least know they are sold locally.

I also realize I am preferably looking for deep cycle only, and not the marine ones, that combine starting power with deep cycle.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:13 PM   #12
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I think the initial post is an excellent summary (although the low self-discharge rate is listed twice). The ability to be placed on the side is missing (as mentioned later), but that is not likely important. They are also generally capable of very high current for their size (that's related to the low internal resistance; more about current later).

The only error that I see here is this one:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
- Not damaged by freezing at low discharge state...
While AGM batteries are probably more resistant to freezing damage, they are not immune. I have had to replace AGM batteries in a mobility scooter when they were left in the van with a charge level too low to withstand low temperatures. Given their cost, this is worth avoiding...

Quote:
Originally Posted by padlin View Post
Think you cam mount AGM's on their side too.
Yes... usually any position that doesn't put the relief vent on the bottom; the vent is usually on the face which is normally the top. This could be handy for packaging in your available space, but usually doesn't help much because the width is very similar to the height in most common battery case sizes. Would it help to stand them on end?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg A View Post
It would be nice if they could bump them outside on the rear bumper like the 17b, but seems like they can't.
I don't see why not, other than the usual reason that putting massive objects at the very ends of the trailer is bad for stability. As a factory installation, there would be some cabling changes that might not fit well into the production routine. The 17' has always had this unusual configuration, presumably because the trailer's proportions make it too tongue-heavy otherwise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
I think I would be willing to mount them without ventilation, but I got the same take that you did, that there is lots of folks who went both ways. I have yet to find anything from a manufacturer, or anything RV code wise that would indicate it must be done.
I doubt any North American RV code has been updated recently enough to specifically consider AGM (or lithium) batteries. But does it need to? If the battery manufacturer says venting is required, then it is.

Venting is not needed for normal operation. Fuses are not needed for normal operation of electrical circuits. Hmm...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
I assume there are differences between brands.
Yes. The most noticeable one is that while most are constructed as flat (vertical) layers of electrodes and electrolyte mats, the Optima line roll up the layers into cylindrical cells - you can see the cells in the battery case shape. Optima calls this their "spiralcell" technology. Optima seems to be the most widely available AGM brand in automotive/RV sizes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
I also realize I am preferably looking for deep cycle only, and not the marine ones, that combine starting power with deep cycle.
Because AGM batteries are inherently suitable for high currents, typical deep-cycle AGM batteries can handle the high current of starting, so they have this dual-purpose characteristic of "marine" batteries without compromise in the design. In the Optima product line, the only difference between the marine models (blue top) and the deep-cycle models (yellow top) is the type of terminals... to suit typical cable ends in different applications.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:15 PM   #13
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Lithium

Lithium batteries have some great characteristics; however, they require battery management systems, which are often built into the battery package. Leave out proper cell-by-cell battery management, and damage is likely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg A View Post
Waiting for Tesla to announce the Lithium RV powerwall...
The Powerwall looks like just another Elon Musk scam to me, and a way for him to use the capacity of the big battery factory that he wants to build (presumably with government subsidy, like all Musk schemes ). There are several types of lithium battery, and the best battery type for a vehicle (where weight is critical and discharge rates are very high) is not the best type for load-leveling in a residence or an RV. The Powerwall may go into production, but I can't see how it - with its charging and power output conversion systems - will ever be well-suited to 12V energy storage.
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:12 PM   #14
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While AGM batteries are probably more resistant to freezing damage, they are not immune. I have had to replace AGM batteries in a mobility scooter when they were left in the van with a charge level too low to withstand low temperatures. Given their cost, this is worth avoiding...
Everything I read said there is nothing in them to freeze causing damage, even when discharged. Almost every brand touted it as a benefit.
Quote:
I don't see why not, other than the usual reason that putting massive objects at the very ends of the trailer is bad for stability.
For me, it is more a matter of looks. I like a cleaner look without a battery box sitting on the bumper. The 17 is relatively limited in storage too.
Quote:
I doubt any North American RV code has been updated recently enough to specifically consider AGM (or lithium) batteries. But does it need to? If the battery manufacturer says venting is required, then it is.
I looked for and saw no reference from a manufacturer stating that venting is required for AGM batteries, other than by one saying it would be good should overcharging occur. I am all for being safe, but do not see a reasonable cause to worry. I am open to being shown otherwise though.
Quote:
Because AGM batteries are inherently suitable for high currents, typical deep-cycle AGM batteries can handle the high current of starting, so they have this dual-purpose characteristic of "marine" batteries without compromise in the design. In the Optima product line, the only difference between the marine models (blue top) and the deep-cycle models (yellow top) is the type of terminals... to suit typical cable ends in different applications.
Without an inverter, I have no real need for the high discharges needed, as with those for starting use. There have been a few references that suggested that it would be best to go for an AGM designed for slow, deep cycle discharge, though I imagine the differences would be small. I have read some good, and some bad about Optima. Canadian Tire does sell them.
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:33 PM   #15
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Everything I read said there is nothing in them to freeze causing damage, even when discharged. Almost every brand touted it as a benefit.
The electrolyte is still the same liquid as it is in a flooded battery. It is absorbed in a glass fibre mat, but that doesn't stop it from freezing. Soak a cloth in water and take it outside in the winter... still freezes. When it freezes the plates and case are still affected.

From Optima Batteries Power Source: Can Batteries Freeze?:
Quote:
Batteries can and do freeze when the temperatures drop low enough. Even OPTIMA batteries are not immune to this, although they are protected from freezing well beyond beyond what a typical flooded battery can withstand. Our YELLOWTOP batteries are protected from freezing down to -30°F and our REDTOP batteries are protected all the way down to -50°F. However, that protection is only good if the batteries are fully-charged. For YELLOWTOPs the fully-charged voltage level is about 13.0-13.2 volts, for REDTOPs, fully-charged voltage is about 12.6-12.8 volts. When batteries have a voltage level lower than their fully-charged state, they are more vulnerable not only to freezing at warmer temperatures, they can also be susceptible to sulfation, which diminishes both capacity and lifespan.
So, they can freeze... but are they damaged by freezing? Apparently yes, according to Optima's Power Source: What Happens if My Car Battery Freezes?
Quote:
When a battery is not fully-charged, the sulfuric acid and distilled water inside the battery are not properly-mixed and the distilled water can freeze. If this happens, a battery could be damaged and may need to be replaced.
They're likely more resistant (maybe far more resistant) to freeing damage, but the only time the batteries in that mobility scooter (which are typical rectangular packages of flat plates and mats, not Optima's spirals) have lost most of their ability to recharge has been after low temperatures (well below zero Celsius) when relatively discharged.
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Old 04-01-2016, 04:29 PM   #16
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Jim, I have been using one for ten years now and like it. Not vented and am still alive.
Aside from the cost which is scary, you don't need to touch it, will not self-discharge as much as wet cells etc.

The catch is that it requires a different charging curve and that means a charger that can be switched to AGM mode or you will wreck the battery. Other than that its a good option just get the correct charger with AGM mode.
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Old 04-01-2016, 04:46 PM   #17
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I really like AGMs Jim for applications where venting is impractical. The lithium ones are crazy expensive, and the AGM seems a more reasonable alternative to flooded.

As Santiago points out, the charging profile must be changed, but I believe that's a simple dip switch setting on the chargers installed by ETI.
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Old 04-01-2016, 06:12 PM   #18
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As Santiago points out, the charging profile must be changed, but I believe that's a simple dip switch setting on the chargers installed by ETI.
What about the compatibility of AGM batteries with the solar controller that ETI uses with its solar panel option?
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Old 04-01-2016, 06:30 PM   #19
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What about the compatibility of AGM batteries with the solar controller that ETI uses with its solar panel option?
The Samlex SCC-30AB has settings for AGM batteries as well. The default dip switch settings (off-off-off) that they ship with are actually the correct settings for an AGM battery according to the manual.
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Old 04-01-2016, 06:41 PM   #20
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Mine weren't set correctly from the factory for dual sixes and I gotta open it up and set them. Doesn't look too difficult.
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