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Old 01-13-2011, 10:30 AM   #1
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Battery Charging Questions

I'm the second owner of my SMB and still a bit confused concerning the charge of my house and starting batteries.

I have been advised to try to drive the SMB at least once a week in the winter at highway speeds for at least 20 miles to help keep the batteries charged and that it is good for the 6.0l but I'm confused as to when to plug in the shore power or for how long.

1) I have been led to believe that when my Blue Sky's battery voltage read out shows the house batteries getting at or below 11.5 volts that it is good advice to plug in the shore power and that there is no problem leaving it plugged in for a few days (when plugged in the Blue Sky usually displays at or above 14v) - my question is does the shore power also charge the chassis or starting batteries and is it OK to leave the shore power plugged in for a few days?

2)My SMB also has the Triplite Inverter. I guess there really is no display from the Blue Sky monitor indicating the health of my starting batteries?

3) The two 68W solar panels were installed by SMB West and I was led to believe that when the sun is out that these are only charging my house battery and not the starting batteries?

I also have the Sure Power battery solenoid under my bench seat (RB50) which in reading the manual states it is designed to both protect the chassis battery from excess loading while allowing the house batteries to be charged, and to assist in engine starting, by allowing the house batteries to engage and help in engine starting in the event the starting batteries are low. This makes me think that the shore power will in fact charge my starting batteries under the right condtitions?

Thanks in advance for helping clear up any of the above questions.
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Old 01-13-2011, 01:22 PM   #2
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

1) When your house batteries reach a certain voltage the separator will close connecting the starter batteries, so if your house reach the "full" voltage then shore power will be charging your starter batteries.

2) No but you can use the cigarette lighter/power plugs on the dash to see the starter battery voltage. Inexpensive meters are available with a power plug.

3) Same as #1, when the "full" voltage is reached the separator will close. It doesn't know the difference between sources, and works in reverse- which is how the alternator charges the house batteries.

Lastly it does not protect, but only joins the banks when the voltage indicates a full bank, OR when it is overridden. My SurePower had a wire from key-start that engaged it every time I started the van- I believe this is an incorrect use and should be changed to a manual switch to be used in emergencies.
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Old 01-13-2011, 01:25 PM   #3
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

There is plenty of info on this forum regarding battery charging. You could start with the following link, but use the search function too:

http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/vie...ttery+charging

From my reading, the short answer is sounds like you have the right hardware to expect the starting battery to be charged under set conditions (need to read owner manuals for the various components you have and develop a good schematic of your electrical system from hand-over-hand and voltage tests). Some on this forum believe their solar panels are good enough to recharge without ever relying on shore power. There are even some who think driving is good enough for recharge, but that really depends on how long you are parked and what the draw is during that time. Overcharging possibilities appear to be many and varied (again, read the owner manuals and decide what chances you want to take with it). My devices have some built-in protection, and assuming they fail safe, I'm hoping for the best when I need to leave shore power hooked up for more than a night or two. One other note for you, I've seen where some have experienced problems with their Blue Sky volt meter and don't trust it (they have found more accurate measuring devices to use for this). Personnally, I like to plug a volt meter into a chassey side dc plug and house dc plug frequently - so that I can monitor under all conditions until I better understand my own situation, since everyone's will vary some. I'll recharge no later than 12.4 volts if I can help it, but you should read your battery manual on this.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-13-2011, 02:39 PM   #4
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

I thought SMB recommended you keep your van plugged in when not in use, is this a bad thing?
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Old 01-13-2011, 09:27 PM   #5
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

Thatís not always true. This was just discussed in "Can shore power fry my batteries". Also there are several posts about this issue, but yeah, the search feature is a bit difficult to use. Here is what I sent Frank about his issue in a PM so I'll just post it.

Just because a battery is sealed doesn't mean its maintenance free like an AGM. Maintenance free is a poor term for any battery because you still have to take care of any style battery such as how low you take them, correct charging, and storage.

Any smart charger can be fooled into delivering a heavy charge if one cell, or one battery in a bank of batteries is bad. Also if you did supply a heavy charge to the house batteries, you might have done the same to the chassis system. Hopefully you just had one poor battery that off gassed. Even if you only have one bad battery, if it's banked with another, you should replace the other as well but there are exceptions to the rule.

I know itís lengthy but there is some good info here as well as links.
Part 10 Electrical


So called smart chargers only are smart when everything is working correctly. Sure, some will kick off when they see an abby normal Frankenstein like super high amperage but that doesn't usually happen. Most of the time, it just throws what it can at the batteries thinking their low and cooks the bad battery along with possibly over charging the good ones, adding damage to them. Light amps over a long time won't hurt much but when the "short" in the battery (or whatever) overwhelms the light charge, sooner or later all the batteries are flat except those isolated by the separator. Over time those too will go flat because no charge is going to them and something like the radio or alarm might kill them. If you catch it in time you may save some of the batteries but all batteries discharge over time, and air temperature + hours makes the difference...It can be a vicious cycle.

Overcharging can lead to a vehicle fire but that is rare...most of the time.

I use the solar to keep the batteries up to 100% during the day and check my vehicle every few days to make sure nothing was left on, or something has gone wrong since the last time I checked it.
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Old 01-13-2011, 09:44 PM   #6
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

BTW Seattle, when at home sitting on the slab, I always plug into shore power when my refrigerator is on. The inverter detects AC voltage and switches off the battery bank into the AC mode. My refrigerator will run off the AC mode. I keep the inverter charging mode "off" and the batteries stay at or about 100% throughout the night because there is no load on them. Yes they slightly discharge over the night, but it's minimal and the next day solar adds the light regulated charge.

In the outback it's a different story and I'm using the batteries to their full %
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Old 01-15-2011, 10:07 AM   #7
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

Being on the other side of the coin, I will contend that there is nothing wrong with plugging in the van to keep your batteries in good shape. I have plugged mine in since purchase in 2004. I don't have solar so that is not really an option for me. I don't disagree with Dave, on most of his points as they are completely valid. Yes, if you have a shorted cell, the charger will have a possibility of overcharging any battery that is in parallel (or series for that mater) with the bad battery. But, that would be true of any charger, sure you may not get the same amount of current from your solar that you can get with inverter/charger but still enough to damage the other batteries. It may just take longer. In either case the shorted cell caused the charger to over charge, the charger did not cause the shorted cell.

There are certainly issues that you should be aware of, and steps that you can take to minimize potential pit falls in doing so. First and forth most you must have a three stage charger (Bulk, Absorption, and Float). I have the Trip-lite Inverter that SMB offered in my rig, I know it has a three stage charger. I'm pretty sure the Xantrex upgrade does also, I do not know if the stock converter they install does. In any case you should consult your manuals. Second you should check to see if your charger has a low and high charge setting. The Trip-lite has a Dip switch that can change the charging from high to low. I believe on my unit that is 19 amps/ 70 amps. Unless I really need it I leave the unit set low.

The next issue is the separator and van batteries. As already explained one battery that goes bad can have an adverse effect all the batteries that are connected to it. While the separator is a needed item, the smart separators bring with them their own set of issues. SMB previously provided the SurePower 1315 for combing the batteries for charging. In reality I believe that the 1314 would have been a better choice. What is the difference, the 1314 in one directional, while the 1315 is bidirectional. What does this mean? Both units will combine that batteries when the starting batter is at a high enough level indicating a charging battery, and of course disconnect when the voltage level goes below a set voltage so as to not discharge the starting batteries while camping. The 1315 will also work the other way, so if you are charging your house battery, at a high enough voltage it will combine and also keep the van batteries "charged". Wait, that is supposed to be good thing correct? Well sure if everything goes well. Now you have just added, another battery to the mix, in the case of the diesels two. For this reason I believe the 1314 would be the better choice, you could still wire the start assist button up as a force connect switch if you wanted to. So what can I do if I have the 1315? One of the connections going to the separator is a ground wire. I have a switch on this line, by opening the switch the ground goes away and the separator disconnects. So I would recommend that you have the separator disconnected if plugging in for extended periods of time. Maybe every other week you could it engage for a day to get your van battery up to charge. Do you want your $100 starting battery to take out your $500 house battery? From what I know of the Blue Sea separator you can also disable the automatic function.

So now that we reduced are chances of something going wrong what is next. You still need to monitor the unit while you have it hooked up. In my case it is easy, it being parked in the driveway, I walk by everyday it every day.

So there it is, another opinion on the matter. I hope this helps you make your decision on how to keep your batteries charged. One thing I am pretty sure we all agree on is they are to expensive to replace if you can prevent it. And letting them go to low is a surefire way of reducing their lifespan

-greg
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Old 01-15-2011, 02:14 PM   #8
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

Went out and visited my van today. It is a storage lot for the winter. The van interior (and the house batteries) is at a cozy 20F. Connected the house batteries via the cut off switch and checked their voltage. After two months in storage the batteries are 12.5 volts. When van was put into storage in early November the house batteries were at ~12.7 volts. Batteries are holding fine and I ASSUME some of the drop is caused by the ambient temperature.
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Old 01-15-2011, 04:16 PM   #9
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

Ya Greg, I totally agree about what you posted. My intent is not to scare people from trusting their charging methods but to look for issues that might lead to a major problem.
Because most vans are set up differently there are many variables to consider. I don't have a clue on how other inverters work, so every owner should find out how they operate. Nobody wants to loose their batteries due to lack of charge but you can over cycle or overcharge batteries; I've seen both done.
Something else I have found on my Xantrex prosine 2.0 inverter is it runs through the 3 stages until everything is fully up to 100% then kicks off. I'm sure it has been programmed to work like this, probably under a default setting. So what happens is when the refrigerator is running and the batteries make it to the full charge point, the charger kicks off and the refrigerator runs all night off the house batteries. It ends up like you're camping every night of the week. For those of us with solar, the next day everything is brought back up. The batteries get over cycled depleting their life. It's something I want to change in the future. I should also look for a high/low charge mode as well.

I've posted about this before on this site but here is what happened to me:
Because my diesel has two starting batteries was just one reason why a starting battery almost blew up on me, but the biggest factor was I didn't know what was going on. It didn't help when two dealerships claimed both starting batteries tested good. The vehicle started normally because of the house assist and the other starting battery in good working order. I know now what to look for so it will never happen again. My Prosine inverter/charger displays the amperage which was showing an unusually high output that never dropped low. That should have raised the red flag but I just missed it. The battery didn't just fail...it took time and that's why I got the dealerships involved.
In most circumstances leaving the vehicle plugged in and charging shouldn't hurt but if I had left it at home in that situation unchecked for a week or so, I might have lost the van due to a fire. If I was using a trickle charger I would have came back to nothing but dead batteries. I'm lucky to get 10 amps from my solar and I don't think it would have the same effect as pumping in the high amps like my inverter did, but I could be wrong. After letting the hissing battery cool down, the next day I took it to a buddies shop 30 miles away and with solar plus a high amp alternator charging, the bad battery was not even close to being as hot to the touch as when on shore power charge. Still it was an interesting drive.

I now have the Blue Sea magnetic relay configured to only assist when I want it to. At least I will know I have a problem with the chassis batteries when it drags down during a start. I'm fairly sure SMB quit using the house batteries to always assist and supply a "jump" button to help start the vehicle but there are several out there that were set up like mine.

Basically I should have caught the problem. The post here is more as safety information on what could possibly happen even though its probably a very rare event. For those who wish to store their vans for long periods, I still say you're safer charging at a very low amperage and keep everything off but overall just keep an eye on their state on a regular basis no matter how you do it.
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Old 01-15-2011, 05:52 PM   #10
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Re: Battery Charging Questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by LenS
Went out and visited my van today. It is a storage lot for the winter. The van interior (and the house batteries) is at a cozy 20F. Connected the house batteries via the cut off switch and checked their voltage. After two months in storage the batteries are 12.5 volts. When van was put into storage in early November the house batteries were at ~12.7 volts. Batteries are holding fine and I ASSUME some of the drop is caused by the ambient temperature.
My SMB is parked in my garage, and if I didn't drive it once a week or so (or hook up the shore power) my house batteries will drop to around 11.5v in about 10 days. Looking at your example makes me think I must have some load on them or maybe they are slowly going south on me. I have the CO2 detector fuse pulled so not sure where the power drain is?

Peter said he thought my van was not configured to pull from the house batteries if the starting batteries are weak - that is why I made up the little jumper for the battery separator in the event I need to join the house batteries to the starting batteries in order to get the 6.0l to fire up.
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