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Old 02-19-2015, 12:05 PM   #1
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Battery system and configuration advice

Hi camper peoples!

I have a feeling some of you out there can give me some good insight on this topic... Mostly looking for recommendations, advice and maybe some plugs for cool stuff you all have added to your systems.

I have a 1997 Diesel Chevy SMB, regular wheelbase and I have 2 adults and 2 kids an 1 ugly mutt who will be traveling in it (should take gobs of electronics to keep everyone sane on cross country trips).

My current system is composed of a single starting battery under the hood, another single battery just rear of the propane tank (under the drivers side door), and 2 batteries in a custom box where the spare tire used to be (mounted under the body, just forward of the hitch receiver). All of them are 24DCM (about 7"x10") 12v batteries. There used to be a 1500 watt inverter but it was kept by the previous owner.

So here are my specific questions but if you have any other input, I'm all ears!

1. I hear that my house batteries should be 2x 6v instead of a single 12v... at least if I want the most out of it. I have 3 spots for house batteries, what is my best bet for this configuration? Can I run 2 6v and one 12v together? Should I run 2 12v for starting batteries and 2 6v for everything else?

2. What inverters do you guys like? Which ones should I stay away from? How much inverter is enough?

3. Controllers, monitors, isolators, other additional pieces: What do you have? What do you wish you had? What did you take off and sell?

Thanks everyone!
Patrick
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Old 02-19-2015, 01:24 PM   #2
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

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Originally Posted by Teeth
Hi camper peoples!

I have a feeling some of you out there can give me some good insight on this topic... Mostly looking for recommendations, advice and maybe some plugs for cool stuff you all have added to your systems.

I have a 1997 Diesel Chevy SMB, regular wheelbase and I have 2 adults and 2 kids an 1 ugly mutt who will be traveling in it (should take gobs of electronics to keep everyone sane on cross country trips).

My current system is composed of a single starting battery under the hood, another single battery just rear of the propane tank (under the drivers side door), and 2 batteries in a custom box where the spare tire used to be (mounted under the body, just forward of the hitch receiver). All of them are 24DCM (about 7"x10") 12v batteries. There used to be a 1500 watt inverter but it was kept by the previous owner.

So here are my specific questions but if you have any other input, I'm all ears!

1. I hear that my house batteries should be 2x 6v instead of a single 12v... at least if I want the most out of it. I have 3 spots for house batteries, what is my best bet for this configuration? Can I run 2 6v and one 12v together? Should I run 2 12v for starting batteries and 2 6v for everything else?

2. What inverters do you guys like? Which ones should I stay away from? How much inverter is enough?

3. Controllers, monitors, isolators, other additional pieces: What do you have? What do you wish you had? What did you take off and sell?

Thanks everyone!
Patrick
Take a look at the FAQ's in this section. Lots of good links.

When you bank batteries they should all be the same type size and age. You can have multi battery systems if you choose. Many use 6 volt golf cart batteries. Doing that requires you to bank in even groups (2-4-6). using 12 volt batteries you can connect as many as you like. Some people prefer 2 or 3 smaller 12v batteries... it's up to you. Most good Golf cart batteries are wet cell types. Nothing wrong with that but they charge slower than Glass Mat (AGM) batteries and wet cell types require water level maintenance. They also produce more gasses. They are making AGM 6v batteries now but I don't know the level of quality. Basically you get what you pay for. A standard design for a SMB is a 4-D AGM. I prefer high quality AGM's, but that's just me. When banking batteries it's best to keep them as close to each other as possible. The problem with multi battery systems are the more connections there are, the more that can go wrong. And if one battery fails it's generally a good idea to change out its partner. But a single high quality AGM is also expensive. I have two 4-D lifeline AGM's and that is over 1000 dollars in battery costs. AGM's seem to handle constant solar charging better than wet cell and is a reason I prefer AGM starting batteries as well. Sears Platinum's are a well made battery. AGM batteries are only designed to be pulled down to 50% of their state of charge (SOC) so when the battery voltage drops to about 12.2v it's time to charge. AGM's need to be stored fully charged or damage can occur. Lithium batteries are about the best, very costly but can be discharged to a lower SOC. They also charge much faster.

A good battery monitor is nice to have but some inverters have them built in. The price of a small solar system to keep everything up is also good to have. Obviously if you garage your vehicle your solar won't be affective.

Inverters should have a multi-stage smart charging system if possible. Some people have a large unit for heavy loads and a smaller cheap backup. I have a pure sine wave converter but most people don't need that. Seems like Tripplite is a popular company. There are other companies like Magnum that produce good equipment. I haven't researched the newer model and will let other members comment on inverters. Size the inverter to slightly larger than your highest combined loads. 2000w seems to work for most but you can go smaller. Just be aware that inverters pull a static load when turned on... my 2000w inverter pulls about 3 amps just to work. Powering a small device like a cell phone would be a waste. I carry a small inverter for times I don't need the big loads.

I'll say I don't care for isolators or SurePower separators but many have had good luck with them. I installed a Blue Sea 7622 battery separator and prefer that to others.

A standard system SMB builds is a 200+/- amp hour AGM battery with a separator and a 130w solar panel with an MPPT solar controller.
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Old 02-19-2015, 01:27 PM   #3
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Hi Patrick,

What electrical loads you will be using is needed to answer some of your questions:
Microwave, Hairdryer, computers, TV, Big Amp stereo, LED lights inside/outside, fridge, etc. ?

Let's get these out there first.

daveb just covered this part : 2 x 6v vs single or multiple 12v, is not really relevant. If the 12v house batteries you have now are good, they can be used very effectively.

Ray
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Old 02-19-2015, 01:31 PM   #4
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Patrick: The search button is your friend......

Some folks use 2X 6V batteries wired in series because they are using deep cycle golf cart batteries which are 6V. For reference, these days 2 6 volt 200ah batteries are roughly about the same size as a single 200ah 12V, so there is no free lunch.

These days 12V deep cycle wet cell or AGM type batteries are readily available, so IMHO no need for 2X golf cart batteries. One could argue that 2X 6V are less reliable than 1X 12V but that's a philisophical discussion, since in either case if one battery dies, you are pretty much screwed.

Do a little research on wet cell deep cycle vs AGM deep cycle batteries. Since you are planning on putting them outside, you can go either way. Wet cell batts are cheaper than AGM but require more care and feeding.

Do some searching here on battery separators. The common ones are Blue Sea brand and Surepower brand.

a pair of 7' x 10" 12V batteries are a bit small; they may (or may not) be able to happily support a 1500W inverter.

For inverters, your choices are modified sine wave vs pure sine wave. MSW are cheaper than PSW and will probably work just fine. Again, the search button is your friend. The newest generation inverters are small and cheap. Another inverter consideration is whether or not you want/need an inverter/charger or just an inverter?

Are you planning on any shore power?
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:29 PM   #5
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Quote:
AGM batteries are only designed to be pulled down to 50% of their state of charge (SOC)
The Sears PM-1 and PM-2 AGMs are made by Enersys and also sold under the Odyssey label. Their tech support and documentation is perhaps the best. It shows the Odysseys are made to be successfully discharged repeatedly 80%....to only 20% of their full state of charge.

To discharge that much, large amperage, approved chargers are needed but should allow over 400 life cycles.
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:16 PM   #6
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Thanks for the detailed posts! I think I misspoke a little though. I have been reading the FAQ's, searching through posts and reading about this stuff for a few weeks now... I found what I think looks like a good setup, but I was mostly looking for recommendations and items/brands/methods to avoid, so I probably should have just put the plan out there for criticism:

The current plan is to run 2 Trojan Reliant T105-AGM 6V house batteries in the rear, and leave the other 2 as Die Hard Platinum 34M starting batteries. Trimetric 2030-RV monitor, Tripp Lite PV3000HF 3000W inverter, and Blue Sea ML-ACR (7622) separator to finish it off. All I plan on running is a mini microwave, laptops, a small vacuum, and a coffee percolator.

Anybody have these and love them or hate them (thanks daveb for the input on the 7622!)? If you found something you like better, what is it?

Did I miss anything that you have added to your system that is something you wouldn't want to live without? Anything that was a major PITA to add later that I could miss the headache and add it now?

Thanks guys, I can't wait to get this beast on the trail and hopefully meet some of you out there!
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:32 PM   #7
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

I've never run the Trimetric (and from all I have heard it functions as it should), but I just could never warm up to the (to me) clunky and cluttered look, when there are others that look better to me. I have a Victron BMV 700S, which I like. Have had Victron BMV 600S in the past, in addition to Link, etc. What I like about the Victron vs. others I have had in the past is that instead of the myriad of tiny wires to connect, they do it with a Cat 5 type cable. "Click!" and you're in. The 700 shows watts (which the 600 didn't) which is nice.

That said, for simply/accurately keeping an eye on SOC (state of charge, i.e. a "gas gauge" for your batteries), I'm tending to like the Balmar Smart Gauge these days. I do like to have a coulomb (amp) counter type device (such as the Victron, etc. with a shunt) for other purposes, it can get a bit "off" in SOC readings. It's based on the size of your battery bank, so as your bank ages, you need to keep up on it (i.e. 90% of your fresh new 400 amp hour bank is 90%; once your bank is older and say only has 300 amp hours the gauge will read 90% when you are only at 70% <--- that's an estimate as I did not calculate the example). You can adjust to how you think your bank is aging to keep that to a minimum. And, there are other fun purposes such as seeing exactly what is coming and and going out.

The Smart Gauge uses sophisticated algorithms plus over 1,000 voltage samples per second to somehow magically give you a super accurate SOC, no matter how old/tired/new/plump/lean your house bank is. Seems like a gimmick except it's been in use for some years and .... works. They are not cheap (~$300) but then neither are batteries. Also it is super simple to wire up (one wire to each battery terminal). It's an option anyway. I like data, so I have both (I rationalize that the SG was less than one battery, and I already had the Victron).

Anyway, even if you are "only" going to have an amp counter, you might like to take a look at the Victron BMV700s, or others, just to see what appeals to you. www.pkys.com is one good source for the Victron, in my experience.

If you would like to read more on the subject, a fellow boater lays it out here:

http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/smart_gauge
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Old 02-24-2015, 11:59 PM   #8
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Some think the remote for the 7622 is a waste of money because it mimics the controls that are on the separator itself. If kids are in the mix I'd pass on as well and is one reason SMB suggests not to have it. Buttons and lights are attractive but might get you into trouble with kids on board. But the remote makes for a nice visual annunciator panel and if the separator is difficult to reach really comes in handy. The separator can be hooked up so it is always open during an ignition start. In that configuration the house batteries don't mask a low or faulty starting system. After the alternator ramps up or solar is producing enough to meet the high side threshold, it closes after about 15 seconds. It is expensive though.
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Old 02-25-2015, 11:26 AM   #9
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

Excellent! I never thought of my boys mashing the buttons on the remote, and they are definitely bigtime button pushers. Maybe I can mount it in a less accessible space that I can still reach from the drivers seat....

I feel the same way about the panel of the Trimetric being bulky and ugly, but it got such good reviews that I was ready to get it anyway. That Victron looks great (it looks like the Nest to me), and has similar reviews and price. Thats a win.

Thanks guys, this was exactly what I was looking for.
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I got more vans than a van convention.

1997 4x4 6.5L Chevy Express SMB (project at this point)
1979 4x4 Chevy SWB (never won't be a project)
1998 Dodge Mark III Ram Van (SOLD.. Miss it)
1988 Chevy Get-Away Camper Van (SOLD.. Miss it)
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Old 02-25-2015, 02:26 PM   #10
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Re: Battery system and configuration advice

The difference between the 7620 and 7622 is not the remote control switch, both come with the ML-Series Remote Control Contura Switch PN 2146. The major difference is the manual locking switch on the 7622. It can manually be forced on and off, no power required. My preference would be the 7620 with a Blue Sea M-series Switch, my reasoning is that I can get the same manual features, but there are some failure modes that may render even the manual switch of the 7622 useless. I could use the 6007 switch with the 7622 also, but then it would be pretty redundant. Either way you will be getting a good unit. Dave is correct you do not have use switch minimally you hook up ground and it will work in auto mode.





For the 6007
Position 1 connects terminals 1 & com (Use Blue Sea 7620)
Position 2 connects terminals 2 & com (By pass Blue Sea 7620)
Position 0 no connection for either path (Batteries Disconnected)
Position 1-2 connects terminals 1,2 and com (Batteries Connected)

I also wonder if a 3000 watt inverter is not large for your usage requirements?

Do you have plans for some type of shore power or solar charger?
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