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Old 11-09-2011, 12:02 PM   #1
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Battery Separator works!

I just thought I would share a quick story about the merits of having the battery separator and understanding how it all works.

Backstory: In our van, the previous owner(s) wired up a few things that remain on at all times like the stereo and power to the overdrive unit. Why this was done I have no idea, and will be fixing these issues soon. The previous owner's solution was to put in a marine battery disconnect switch which works great and I appreciate - switch off and there is no chance of power drain while the rig is being stored for any length of time (ie, more than a day in my case with the power draws).

My wife drove the van to work last week and I forgot to have her turn off the master switch or check up on it myself when I got home. Fast forward to today when she needs to drive it again and I've got dead starting batteries. I immediately knew what happened, as even a 0.5A draw over 7 days would cost roughly 85 amps which would keep me the starter from wanting to turn over the diesel engine.

What to do - panic? Nope. Simply flip the 'jump' switch forcing the separator to connect the house and starter batteries, give them 20-30 seconds to equalize a bit, start the engine, then put the separator back into it's 'auto' mode. Pretty cool.

Since I'm on the topic of battery separators, I'll share my rant that has been expressed here before about the inefficiency of the Surepower separator. It draws over an amp by itself when engaged. Not a big deal while on shore power or while the engine is running; however if you are charging via solar AND have a 1315 (omni-directional as opposed to the 1314 which is uni-directional) 1 amp is a lot to give up if you are only getting 4A our of your solar panel. In hindsight I really wish I would have bought a SP1314 or the Bluesea unit, but in the interim installed a switch that disconnects the ground wire to the separator and simply allows me to force the separator to be off at all times. The system all works fine, it just isn't very automatic in the current mode. rant over.
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:50 PM   #2
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Re: Battery Separator works!

One amp-hr seems high just for the seperator to operate. The manual indicates a much lower draw (I think around 0.1 amp-hr). All it is doing most of the time is monitoring the voltage level and displaying status via an led lamp. There may be a momentary surge in the draw when it clicks open/shut, but that's milliseconds. I suspect some other source for the draw you are seeing. I can leave my van for several weeks in a cool climate with the main power switch off (i.e., no components other than the separater joined to the house batteries) and notice a negligible drop in voltage. Anybody else have thought on this?
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:31 PM   #3
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Re: Battery Separator works!

You are correct about the low draw required for the unit to monitor the voltages; however, the draw becomes significant once the solenoid is energized connecting the house and starter batteries.

With low angle lighting, it isn't uncommon for my solar panel (85W) to be putting out only 1a or less but it still has a voltage output of 13.2V+. As a result, any power that the solar panel is making is being used to engage the separator solenoid and in some cases the separator could be drawing MORE than the panel is putting out! If you have the 1314 (bidirectional) separator this situation will never happen, as the separator only closes when it senses voltage above threshold (13.2V) on the starter side.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:57 PM   #4
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Rockbender,
I agree, I use a switch on the ground for the monitor circuit and it works greatto disconnect. You can take your surepower a part and just use the solenoid by itself, hooked up to the run circuit. The drawing below engages only when the van was running. By adding a switch and a relay you have a force on circuit.
I like the ultimate backup, and show a blue see battery switch in the circuit, but it would not be needed.


-greg
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Old 11-10-2011, 05:31 PM   #5
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Greg - that's a great idea to add the relay on to an ignition source, switched of course! I could really make something complex out of something that is supposed to be automatic. It would at least provide a good option if someone else was taking the van out and didn't want a checklist of things to be turned on and off whether you are parked, plugged in, driving, etc.
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Old 11-11-2011, 07:04 AM   #6
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Yes, if you just want to keep it simple just run the "Run Circuit" straight to the solenoid. It only has power when the van is running (at least on my 2004). So with the van running, you charge both batteries, no thinking, no switches. All the other stuff is for features. "old school"
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Old 11-12-2011, 04:54 PM   #7
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Rock bender says - "What to do - panic? Nope. Simply flip the 'jump' switch forcing the separator to connect the house and starter batteries, give them 20-30 seconds to equalize a bit, start the engine, then put the separator back into it's 'auto' mode. Pretty cool."

This is right in line with issues I am having regarding the battery separator. So you say there is a switch to flip when you need to use your house battery in order to start the vehicle when the starting batteries are dead. Where is this switch? I have yet to find one.
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Old 11-12-2011, 07:37 PM   #8
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Some vans don't have one and the separator automatically connects when cranking the engine. This led to not being able to tell when the starting batteries were starting to fail. SMB made some changes and cut in a switch. Generally it's at the dash kick board where SMB installs most of the switches. Its usually a momentary push button type switch but some were single throw. The problem with not using a momentary switch is leaving the batteries connected which would lead to killing all the batteries if something was left on by accident.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:53 PM   #9
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Canyonrover,
Could this be your mystery switch on the knee panel?
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Old 11-12-2011, 09:34 PM   #10
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Re: Battery Separator works!

Thanks daveb and saline. That might be the mystery switch on my lower dash as saline states.

So daveb, you state that the battery separator will automatically open everytime you start the van that is what I have been trying to determine since my house battery volts drop with the van batteries when I start. I expect this at the van batteries but not the house battery. If this is normal for this type of connection at the separator then you answered one of my questions. I thought the separator was bad. That said how do you check the separator to see if it is working properly?
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