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Author Topic: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?  (Read 1321 times)

JoelP

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Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« on: October 15, 2017, 05:51:15 AM »
I invited my daughter and her family from to spend the night in my RV while the smoke is so heavy from the fires just north of them. I parked where I couldn't easily plug in but only ran 2 fans for 3 hours and then one LED light and one Fantastic fan.  To my knowledge nothing else was drawing current. The 2  coach batteries died by the time that 15 hours had elapsed.  All would have been OK except that the depleted battery set off the CO detector at 3:00AM.  I had to start the engine to be able to start the generator, which stopped the CO detector from sounding of.

I have a solar panel on the roof that keeps this battery charge maintained during storage.  Occasionally I check the fluid in the cells and they never seems to need any water.  As for the age of these batteries, I am unsure since they came with the vehicle from the prior owner.

Normally I only used this when plugged in at a campground, so I have little experience with what to expect.  What is reasonable to expect when boondocking like this for that small amount of electrical load?
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 05:52:59 AM by JoelP »
Joel from San Jose

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SeilerBird

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2017, 06:08:58 AM »
Take the batteries out and run them down to an auto supply store or Walmart and have them checked, they are probably bad, but the only way you will know for sure is to test them.
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QZ

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2017, 07:34:13 AM »
I would fully charge the batteries and then check them with an hydrometer.

Rene T

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2017, 08:06:25 AM »
I invited my daughter and her family from to spend the night in my RV while the smoke is so heavy from the fires just north of them. I parked where I couldn't easily plug in but only ran 2 fans for 3 hours and then one LED light and one Fantastic fan.  To my knowledge nothing else was drawing current. The 2  coach batteries died by the time that 15 hours had elapsed.  All would have been OK except that the depleted battery set off the CO detector at 3:00AM.  I had to start the engine to be able to start the generator, which stopped the CO detector from sounding of.

I have a solar panel on the roof that keeps this battery charge maintained during storage.  Occasionally I check the fluid in the cells and they never seems to need any water.  As for the age of these batteries, I am unsure since they came with the vehicle from the prior owner.

Normally I only used this when plugged in at a campground, so I have little experience with what to expect.  What is reasonable to expect when boondocking like this for that small amount of electrical load?

How long have you owned the coach. I see where it's a 2010 so it's possible the batteries are the originals. If they are, you did good for them lasting 7 years IMHO.
Rene & Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2017, 09:32:37 AM »
Odds are the battery(s) are just plain worn out. The typical marine/RV so-called deep cycle has a service life of about 3 years, and the capacity deteriorates badly toward the end of that.  If they are a better quality deep cycle, e.g gold cart 6v's, you could expect 5-10 years with decent care, but even so the battery in a 2010 coach would probably be near end of life.

Since you rarely camp off-grid, I'd probably get another marine/rv type for a modest price. However, you might want to review my article on RV Battery Choices in the RVforum Library at http://www.rvforum.net/miscfiles/Choosing_right_battery.pdf
Gary
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John From Detroit

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2017, 10:55:00 AM »
That actually does not sound too bad to me... I would recommend re-charging daily using a portable generator or other generator.. Depending on your Converter 1000 to 2000 watt will do. A Genrac 1000 will run for about 8 hours on one tank of gas and powwer a Progressive 9180.

A Honda EU-1000i uses less gas but WILL NOT power the 9180  I think i twill a 9160 or 9260 but not sure.  The EU-2000i Will power any of 'em.   And burns about the same amount of gas as the Genrac

(The Genrac is a traditional generator, though fully enclosed so all the specs come close to the Honda EU2000i except not as many watts of power,, but weight, fuel consumption and noise, all about the same).. If you find a Genrac 1000 with WA8YXM on it.. let me know.. it's mine.)
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2017, 01:42:33 PM »
Odds are the battery(s) are just plain worn out. The typical marine/RV so-called deep cycle has a service life of about 3 years, and the capacity deteriorates badly toward the end of that.  If they are a better quality deep cycle, e.g gold cart 6v's, you could expect 5-10 years with decent care, but even so the battery in a 2010 coach would probably be near end of life.

Since you rarely camp off-grid, I'd probably get another marine/rv type for a modest price. However, you might want to review my article on RV Battery Choices in the RVforum Library at http://www.rvforum.net/miscfiles/Choosing_right_battery.pdf

I appreciate the feedback from everyone and especially Gary's article.  After running my Onan 5500 for an hour we turned everything off that I could it still ran the batteries down to the point the CO detector alarmed in 6 hours.  Today i will take one of these to Costco and buy their equivalent to a Trojan deep cycle that will fit the same space. I can see from the article that I should have been able to run for days rather than hours.
Joel from San Jose

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kdbgoat

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2017, 03:35:04 PM »
If your batteries were that low to start with, I don't think an hour of charging would bring them up to full charge.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2017, 05:09:18 PM »
An hour wouldn't even get them to 3/4 charge. Maybe as little as 1/2.
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ChasA

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2017, 06:58:40 PM »
JoelP,
You need to run your Generator for at least four hours and even then you won't get the batteries to 100%.
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2017, 07:13:10 PM »
Fair enough, it needed to be charged longer, but even with half a charge it should have not died in 6 hours with nothing to speak of turned on. I am convinced these batteries are toast. 

BTW is it normal for a CO detector to sound an alarm when the battery is depleted? 

I did a quick look at Costco online and saw that they sell Interstate, the brand I currently have.  It seems that these are a notch below Trojans.  I will take a ride there to see what else they sell.  I don't want the replacement to fail in 4 years.  Before I head to Costco, I will measure the space that I have to see how much bigger I can tolerate for 2 batteries.
Joel from San Jose

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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2017, 07:25:26 PM »
Most safety devices have an alarm that sounds when they can no longer function reliably, e.g. low power (battery or whatever), old or dirty sensor, etc. You need to know if the safety device is no longer protecting you.
Gary
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kdbgoat

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2017, 10:12:10 AM »
before buying new batteries, remove what you have now, take them to a shop for a full charge and load test. That will let you know exactly what you have. Then you can make a decision to replace or not.
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QZ

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2017, 10:13:44 AM »
Fair enough, it needed to be charged longer, but even with half a charge it should have not died in 6 hours with nothing to speak of turned on. I am convinced these batteries are toast. 

BTW is it normal for a CO detector to sound an alarm when the battery is depleted? 

I did a quick look at Costco online and saw that they sell Interstate, the brand I currently have.  It seems that these are a notch below Trojans.  I will take a ride there to see what else they sell.  I don't want the replacement to fail in 4 years.  Before I head to Costco, I will measure the space that I have to see how much bigger I can tolerate for 2 batteries.

If you are not sure of the state of charge or the specific gravity and the batteries are depleted to the point of alarms going off, 4 years of life may actually be pretty good. Do you know the battery model number and what charging voltage interstate recommends?

Rene T

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2017, 10:36:18 AM »
BTW is it normal for a CO detector to sound an alarm when the battery is depleted? 

Are you sure you're not talking about the LP alarm which is located near the floor next to the propane stove. That detector typically is hard wired and will chirp when the battery is low. My CO (Carbon Monoxide) and smoke detector are battery operated and when their battery gets low, they will also chirp. 
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2017, 07:45:16 PM »
Are you sure you're not talking about the LP alarm which is located near the floor next to the propane stove. That detector typically is hard wired and will chirp when the battery is low. My CO (Carbon Monoxide) and smoke detector are battery operated and when their battery gets low, they will also chirp.

Rene - you are absolutely correct.  Once i got down on the floor and looked very closely I realized that this is the propane alarm.  That makes me wonder where I might have a CO detector.

before buying new batteries, remove what you have now, take them to a shop for a full charge and load test. That will let you know exactly what you have. Then you can make a decision to replace or not.

I didn't get around to battery shopping yet, but noticed that the pan that holds these batteries restricts the footprint more than I had realized.  They are Interstate batteries with an MCA of 750, but I don't see a model number or size number and the date of purchase was not marked.  I plan to have them tested before i replace them just for my curiosity. 

Today the batteries were dead again and the alarm was sounding, but I plugged them into 120V for a few hours to bring them up in charge.  Strangely my level test indicator always shows these batteries as fully charged regardless of their situation of partial charge, a long as there is enough charge to light up the indicator. It makes me wonder just how that indicator functions and how to restore operation.
Joel from San Jose

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QZ

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2017, 08:06:15 PM »
The rv wall monitor lights are pretty much useless. You want a digital volt meter and maintain a voltage of minimum 12 volts to about 12.7 when fully charged. If your batteries have been repeatedly discharged several times and not brought all the way back up they will seem to be charged yet fall on their face quickly. You are wasting your time by taking them somewhere to load test them. All they can do is put a toaster type load tester on them and they MUST be fully charged to do that.  Depending on your converters capability you may need to leave your batteries on charge for DAYS to fully drive the specific gravity back up. Go buy a battery hydrometer and check each cell. Be careful and wear eye protection as it is SULFURIC acid. It will blind you and eat holes in you and your clothes.

if the specific gravity is not driven back up you are wasting your time. If after a long charge the gravity wont come up or only some cells come up the battery is toast. If you have let the electrolyte drop below the top of the plates too often and exposed the plates the battery could very well be shot. If your converter is only capable of putting out 13.6 volts and depending how far the battery is from the converter, what size cable is between them and if there are any poor connections you could have low charging voltage at the battery. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Rene T

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2017, 08:58:20 PM »
Rene - you are absolutely correct.  Once i got down on the floor and looked very closely I realized that this is the propane alarm.  That makes me wonder where I might have a CO detector.

You may not have a CO alarm. They may not be required by code.
Rene & Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
AKA  Pep N Mem
2011 Chevy Duramax 2500 HD 4X4
2011 Montana High Country 343RL
From the Granite State of NH
& Florida Snowbird in Lakeland FL

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2017, 08:50:37 AM »
Quote
You may not have a CO alarm. They may not be required by code.

A 2010 Itasca definitely has a CO detector - RVIA standards required them even if state codes did not. It will typically be in the bedroom, mounted mid-high on a wall.

Quote
They are Interstate batteries with an MCA of 750, but I don't see a model number or size number and the date of purchase was not marked.

The MCA of 750 implies you have the SRM-27 Interstate, which is a Group 27 size and a "marine/RV" type hybrid battery. It had an RC rating of 160 minutes when new, and that is equivalent to about 105-110 amp-hours.  It's typical useful working life is about 3-4 years. Guessing that yours are original from 2010, I'd say they have lasted much better than average!  You can replace it with any Group 27 size battery, but one intended for deep-cycle use is best. The marine/RV type deep cycles are less expensive than the true deep cycles, but they don't last as long, so the cost per year of use is often similar for both types.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 09:02:36 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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Alfa38User

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2017, 09:03:23 AM »
Quote
....but I plugged them into 120V for a few hours to bring them up in charge.  Strangely my level test indicator always shows these batteries as fully charged regardless of their situation of partial charge, a long as there is enough charge to light up the indicator. It makes me wonder just how that indicator functions and how to restore operation.

It takes many hours (ie up to 24 or more hours) to charge a discharged battery or batteries fully, several hours barely start it. For the Marine/RV type of battery, discharging them much more than 50% will quickly ruin them and result in a much shorter life.

The charge condition display, often found on a tank display unit, will always show full charge (5 lights) when plugged in or when the engine or generator is running on a motorized camper as they are reading the charger (alternator/converter) output (usually about 13.5 volts or better).
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 09:14:15 AM by Alfa38User »
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2017, 04:01:34 PM »
It takes many hours (ie up to 24 or more hours) to charge a discharged battery or batteries fully, several hours barely start it. For the Marine/RV type of battery, discharging them much more than 50% will quickly ruin them and result in a much shorter life.

The charge condition display, often found on a tank display unit, will always show full charge (5 lights) when plugged in or when the engine or generator is running on a motorized camper as they are reading the charger (alternator/converter) output (usually about 13.5 volts or better).

But, it reads fully charged when not plugged in and when not operating the generator.  My rooftop solar cell generally maintains the charge pretty well, so I don't think I have been storing it at half charge very often.  If these are original batteries I have no complaint with the life.
Joel from San Jose

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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2017, 08:42:11 PM »
The voltage doesn't really tell you how many amp-hours are available.  A battery can be "fully charged" and still have almost no amp-hours of power available to use. A group 27 deep cycle will have a amp-hour capacity of about 110 when brand new, but it deteriorates steadily as it is discharged and recharged. Marine/RV hybrids like the SRM-27  are good for maybe 150 deep  (more than 50%) discharges over their life span. They last longer if rarely deep discharged, and hardly any time at all if frequently deep discharged. Other factors affect life and capacity as well.

A load test will give some indication of how much amp-hour capacity remains. Not a real number, but at least it is measuring amps rather than volts.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 08:44:08 PM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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QZ

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2017, 07:46:14 AM »
If the battery is always on charge and never cycled at all it could be suffering from stratification/sulfation.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2017, 08:40:40 AM »
Yeap, that's one of the several ways a battery loses its capacity to store much power.
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2017, 11:16:02 PM »
Odds are the battery(s) are just plain worn out. The typical marine/RV so-called deep cycle has a service life of about 3 years, and the capacity deteriorates badly toward the end of that.  If they are a better quality deep cycle, e.g gold cart 6v's, you could expect 5-10 years with decent care, but even so the battery in a 2010 coach would probably be near end of life.

Since you rarely camp off-grid, I'd probably get another marine/rv type for a modest price. However, you might want to review my article on RV Battery Choices in the RVforum Library at http://www.rvforum.net/miscfiles/Choosing_right_battery.pdf

Today I finally had time to do something about this.  While I would like to have Trojans like I put into my golf cart, Gary is right when he said I am rarely camping out of a campground, so I went to Costco with both of my Interstate batteries to get a replacement.  Costco here is only selling Interstates, which is what I was replacing.  Costco does not test batteries like they do at Sears or other places. And, even if they did I am not sure it would tell me definitively if they were toast.  That said, I am convinced that these were the original batteries based upon what I know about the original owner,  who only put 6800 miles on this coach.  If so, 6.5 years is more than good enough. 

Trojan's  AG-27 on Amazon is prices at $275, not including $47 more in shipping.  Perhaps they are less elsewhere.  When I looked at Costco's Size 27 Interstate two of these only cost me $146, which put then at 1/4 the price of the Trojan.  I can buy a lot of replacements for that price so I bought 2 and installed them this afternoon.  These are rated at 600 CCA, which is a very strange way to rate a deep cycle battery, but i assume they are just like the 750 MCA batteries I am replacing which should be good enough. Now I need to look into a better gage for charge levels since mine always reads fully charged.
Joel from San Jose

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8.1L Chevy Workhorse with Banks PowerPack
2016 CMax Energi Hybrid dinghy

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2017, 09:32:10 AM »
Apples & oranges!  You are comparing Trojan AGM deep cycle battery (the AG-27) to a flooded cell Interstate, so hardly surprising there is a big price difference. An AGM is typically 50%-75% more than a flooded cell type of the same size.  I'm guessing the Interstate was another SRM-27?  That model is rated for 600 CCA, though CCA is irrelevant for a deep cycle. 

Ought to work adequately for you, but don't be surprised if it gets low on capacity in 3-4 years.
Gary
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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2017, 06:28:25 PM »
Yes, I know it is not a fair comparison, but that was the option was considering instead.  If these do as well as my last equivalent batteries I will be delighted.  Or, at this price I will buy 2 more in 3-4 years. Why a manufacturer would rate a deep cycle battery with a CCA number is beyond me, but they  have now dropped the other rating number from their product.
Joel from San Jose

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8.1L Chevy Workhorse with Banks PowerPack
2016 CMax Energi Hybrid dinghy

kdbgoat

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2017, 06:59:52 AM »
That battery is probably a dual purpose marine battery, not a true deep cycle. That's why it would have a CCA rating.
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flylooper

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2017, 08:11:38 AM »
I invited my daughter and her family from to spend the night in my RV while the smoke is so heavy from the fires just north of them. I parked where I couldn't easily plug in but only ran 2 fans for 3 hours and then one LED light and one Fantastic fan.  To my knowledge nothing else was drawing current. The 2  coach batteries died by the time that 15 hours had elapsed.  All would have been OK except that the depleted battery set off the CO detector at 3:00AM.  I had to start the engine to be able to start the generator, which stopped the CO detector from sounding of.

I have a solar panel on the roof that keeps this battery charge maintained during storage.  Occasionally I check the fluid in the cells and they never seems to need any water.  As for the age of these batteries, I am unsure since they came with the vehicle from the prior owner.

Normally I only used this when plugged in at a campground, so I have little experience with what to expect.  What is reasonable to expect when boondocking like this for that small amount of electrical load?

Inasmuch as you inherited those batteries it's possible the previous owner didn't take care of the batteries well and they've been lost to sulfation. Or, they're just old. In either case, you will replace. The other thing is that solar chargers are not the end-all and be-all of battery solutions, IMHO.  When left alone for long periods of time, it's almost mandatory to keep batteries in a full charge condition. Solar chargers are dependant on sun, of course, so the amount of voltage/amperage going into the battery at any given time is variable, especially in the winter months, not to mention day and night time. You might check to see how much voltage the solar charged generates in good and bad weather. You need at least 14-15 volts coming into the battery for it to be charging well.

The best way to keep a battery in tip top shape is to keep it on a drip charger like a Battery Tender. For 25 bucks it's great insurance.

I learned this the hard way, when I used to leave my motorcycle batteries sit for long periods in the off-riding season. What happens is that sulfation sets it and the capacity of the battery to hold a decent charge is gradually diminished. (I think of it like siltation in a dam. After years the amount of water dams hold back lessens due to silt washing into the reservoir.) the only way to avoid it is to keep the battery fully charged as much as possible. I get three-four years out my ordinary lead/acid moto batteries now.  I'm not sure trusting it to sunlight is the way to go.

Just my opinion.


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JoelP

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Re: Boondocking - do my batteries need to be replaced?
« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2017, 07:39:43 PM »
...The other thing is that solar chargers are not the end-all and be-all of battery solutions, IMHO.  When left alone for long periods of time, it's almost mandatory to keep batteries in a full charge condition. Solar chargers are dependant on sun, of course, so the amount of voltage/amperage going into the battery at any given time is variable, especially in the winter months, not to mention day and night time. You might check to see how much voltage the solar charged generates in good and bad weather. You need at least 14-15 volts coming into the battery for it to be charging well. ...

All good points. I  don't have a very large solar charger, but I do live in Northern California where we get mucho sun.  I will try to put a meter on this and see how much current it is delivering in various conditions.
Joel from San Jose

2010 Itasca Suncruiser 37F
8.1L Chevy Workhorse with Banks PowerPack
2016 CMax Energi Hybrid dinghy

 

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