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Old 07-03-2014, 03:41 PM   #1
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Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

OK, we're back in action on the interior upgrades for the E350, and chief on that list is adding 2 house batteries. Dear Husband (DH) and I have read through many of the battery box threads here, and haven't found exactly what he wants.

The plan is to add 2 house batteries, mounted in the interior, behind the driver's seat (it's where our ARB fridge sits currently). DH's plan is to build a battery box from brushed aluminum, add 2 AGM batteries, and power the fridge from them. Other plans include interior LED lights, an electric fan, and a charging station for cell phones using USB ports. Assuming #2 gauge wire for attachment to the alternator and ground strap.

We then want to build a lip around the top lid of the battery box, and place (and strap) the fridge on top of it. The box would be drilled and attached to the sheet metal floor of the van.

Any advice, input, or suggestions for a metal box for a dual battery setup? If nothing to buy, he'll construct and weld...

Also, he thinks an inverter is not necessary. Anyone want to argue with that position?

Sandi
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Old 07-03-2014, 04:28 PM   #2
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

A lot of boat and RV places have battery trays, boxes, shelves, etc. All kinds. Since you're not dealing with a confined space you could probably find something off the rack. When I replace mine I kinda think I'm going with some acid resistant plastic, just cuz metal conducts.

And I assume you're gonna have some sort of isolator from the van battery?

Why two? As opposed to one with the same AH rating?

And I agree about the inverter. You could always get a small one to supplement your system. And I like power poles for attaching stuff like that. Having USB ports is also a great idea; more and more stuff uses 5v for charging.

Rob
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Old 07-04-2014, 12:18 PM   #3
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

Rob, most of the boxes we've seen are plastic boxes, or metal trays. He wants a metal box. He runs 3 commercial trucks and 3 vans for work, and all of their additional batteries are in metal boxes, and he says he's never had a problem keeping them isolated and charged at the same time.

We do have a small portable inverter, so he's not interested in building one into the system; it uses a cigarette lighter to power it, so he doesn't see the need for a built in.

He wants two batteries because we want one specifically for the fridge, and one for the other items. He believes in redundancy. By a "power pole", do you mean a bus bar?

Thanks.
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Old 07-04-2014, 12:25 PM   #4
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

Anderson power poles. See PowerWerx.com for some examples, and they also make great custom cables if that's something you need. They can be found at many places however.


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Old 07-04-2014, 02:00 PM   #5
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

Metal is fine provided the batteries can never break loose and ground out. Most metal designed boxes have a secure strap or battery tie down system. You can also set the batteries in marine type plastic boxes and build the aluminum box around those. All inside battery boxes should be vented to the outside... even AGM batteries can vent off gasses; it's just not as common as wet cell batteries.

I prefer the house system to have the ability to separate from the starting system in campers. But if you really don't plan to have systems that uses a heavy load during the night such as TV/audio equipment, inverters or other high load items and plan to drive daily you might not have too much of an issue.

AGM batteries should be charged up to 100% on a regular basis, so unless you plug into shore power every now and then to supply a charger, or have a solar system big enough to top off the batteries while the normal load is used, the batteries won't last as long (life wise). Most alternators don't fully bring batteries up to 100%. Also banking different style batteries together full time is not a good choice and another reason for having a battery separator. If you guys are planning to have one battery for the fridge and another for other stuff, you'll have to have some kind of switch or separator/isolator in the mix I would think.

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Old 07-25-2014, 03:01 PM   #6
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

A vote for not having an installed inverter and for having several usb charging ports.

We'll probably go with one 4D, keep the existing solenoid/separator, and a 220 watt solar panel. We have an Engel, the ARB would not work in our floor plan, but feel with the single Solar panel we can keep everything running without the need to plug into shore power. Back-up will be having to be the one to make a drink run to charge the battery some. We were originally thinking of moving the battery inside but we may be changing that.

We're not sure about the advantages of two or one battery. We just think it would be easier to deal with one, even at 120lbs. We like the box idea. If ours end up inside we'll use a tray and bolt through the van floor to hold the battery in place. It would be towards the back of the van under a low platform. Outside it would either stay under the barn doors or move to the under body spare tire location.

Curious to know what you decided on.

-John
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Old 07-25-2014, 06:25 PM   #7
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

I would recommend battery outside for several reasons. They are big and heavy, first off, and there is a great place for a box bolted to the frame. This also lowers the center of gravity. They also take up lots of space inside the van which I think you will find is at a premium, especially in an RB. Then there's the whole offgassing issue.

Good luck!

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Old 07-25-2014, 07:04 PM   #8
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

I was kind of thinking the same thing as Scotty. Is there a reason you want them inside? Since there's already space on the frame for batteries, its an easy way to free up space inside, and then you don't have to worry about venting.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:13 PM   #9
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

I have two AGM batteries under my gaucho. I considered getting one large battery, but was worried I wouldn't ever be able to get it out (or in for that matter) by myself if I needed to remove it for any reason. It also wouldn't have fit since there is limited space where the batteries live. I've seen some people on this forum who have made their own frame rail boxes that are pretty slick, but I don't have those skills. I think they are able to use a jack to help lift and lower the battery in place which you wont have the benefit of with it being inside. There really isnt much hassle when it comes to wiring two batteries in parallel, you just need a set of positive and ground cables and wire them directly to each others posts.
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Old 07-25-2014, 08:26 PM   #10
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Re: Building a Dual-Battery Box for an E350

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnandMandi
...
We're not sure about the advantages of two or one battery. We just think it would be easier to deal with one, even at 120lbs. We like the box idea. ...
Aren't your plans to head south of the border? If for some reason you need to replace the battery on your trip, two 'normal' size batteries will be far easier to find if the need arises.


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