Originally Posted by sallystrothers
So you believe the factory converter is sufficient? Is it actually a 3 stage charger or just a converter? Will it reach 100% charge? I really don't want to spend the money on a smart converter unless absolutely necessary.
The standard converter on recent PUPs and A-frames is a "smart" converter. Not the highest quality, but works pretty well in most cases. But look at the back side, find the model number, and download the manual from the WFCO web site. Unless you have something very different installed, the manual will state that it is a 3 stage battery charger.
WFCO converters normally operate in absorption mode. According to the manual, after 44 hours of no significant change in current draw, the converter switches to trickle mode (to avoid over-charging and boiling water away). Mine goes into trickle mode at 13.6 - 13.7V. Bulk mode is pretty rare in my case. I have seen it when the batteries are pretty discharged. The converter fan comes on in bulk mode.
Problems reported by SOME with the WFCO are 1) not going into bulk mode; 2) not going into trickle mode; 3) not working correctly (or at all) if a reasonably charged battery is not attached. #1 and #3 are somewhat related.
In some cases, the WFCO struggles with a very low battery or no battery. My Sears charger does too - the circuit breaker pops repeatedly. The reports say the WFCO is reluctant or won't go into bulk mode. Mine does go into bulk mode (once) and works fine without a battery - but I have a 2014 camper (newer model converter). When one of my original dual 12V batteries failed, the 30 amp fuse to the battery charging circuit blew in the converter. I don't know which happened first. But after replacing the fuses and the batteries with 6V golf cart batteries from Costco ($150 for both), the converter worked just fine. The 12V batteries never recovered.
The complaints about not going into trickle mode - I doubt many folks are waiting the 44 hours with no current change to check. I generally disconnect the batteries after a few days of recharging regardless. I don't like leaving the camper plugged in indefinitely.
There are converters that set up their mode parameters a little differently for charging a battery faster, and there are 4 stage converters available, too. But remember, the converter in a PUP or A-frame is a combination converter and AC/DC distribution panel so you can't just replace the converter. The 4th stage is an equalization stage, which puts an extra-high voltage (15+ volts) on the batteries for a limited time to force bubbling and thereby equalize the battery acid concentration in all areas of the cell. Equalization supposedly adds some life to a battery, but doesn't work in all cases. The other issue is that your other 12V RV components may not handle such a high voltage very well.
Being a simple-minded guy, I want to camp and do things, not spend my time monitoring camper systems (including batteries). I don't do solar, I don't have a generator, and I don't monitor my battery voltage or specific gravity daily. I don't even have an awning because of having to monitor winds in my neck of the woods. As a result, I may not get every last year possible out of my batteries. I may get 6 years of life instead of 7 or 8. I'm OK with that. The battery bank is sized to give me at least 4 nights of 5 hours of heater operation plus normal usage of lights (inside lights are LED) - without recharging or going below 50%. Stereo is not used. Fantastic fan substitutes for heater in warmer weather but draws less so can run longer.
My A-frame stores in the garage, and I plug in when I get home to fully recharge beyond what the car did on the way home. After a couple of days, I unplug and the camper (with batteries disconnected) sits until the next trip. Yesterday, I checked my batteries before plugging in for our upcoming trip - 12.78V. The batteries had been disconnected for a week. Water levels were good. So yes I do get a full charge from the converter.
2014 Rockwood A122 A-frame with dual golf cart 232 AH 6V batteries
2008 Hyundai Entourage minivan with Equalizer 600 WDH/anti-sway