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Old 05-10-2021, 06:53 PM   #1
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Batteries - I'm a dummy

I looked on here and found some advice but this is what I did on our camping trip this last weekend.

Right off the bat, I left the generator at home (1st stupid thing) then as the weekend went on we were using the heater (big user of power) and then the water pump started acting funny (yup not much power left --batteries were at 53%) so Sunday morning packed up came home (which was only a 45 min. drive.)

Now for the problems, at least I think I have a problem. Came home first I wanted to check water level in batteries -- needed water. Filled with distilled water and let the solar panel charge the batteries. Yes, I know this will take a while.

Only got to 70% so I decided to hook up genny and run that for 3-4 hours. Well battery panel (while gen running said 100%) so I turn off generator, let everything set for about an hour (lunch time) and went out to see what was happening.

Solar panel says 0.3A coming in (I believe) and 69% charged. The battery panel says 2/3 charge.

Does all this make sense to anyone? Did I really screw up two new batteries (1 year old)?? Or do I just stop worrying about it and the next time take the dam generator??

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I know probably somewhere on the forum there is the answer but like most, just look for a bit and then post something.

Let me hear what you're thinking -- good or bad.
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Old 05-10-2021, 06:57 PM   #2
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If the batteries were really low you probably need more charging time.
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Old 05-10-2021, 07:07 PM   #3
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Voltmeters and "percent" readings just measure surface voltage. Charge the batteries at least overnight using the battery charger built into your power panel (incorrectly called "the converter" -- there's more than the converter inside the wall). At least overnight. Then turn everything off, disconnect the battery negative wire, and let it sit at least 12 hours before measuring the voltage again. Anything below 12.8vDC and the battery is failing.

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Old 05-10-2021, 07:21 PM   #4
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The solar panel always was reading 12.6 - 12.8v so I take it that that is good (at least I thought so).

So, you're saying to put a battery charger on the batteries overnight and then see if they are all charged up? I can do that.

Let me ask this, when using the genny does the inverter need to be on or does it really matter ? When running genny does the batteries automatically recharge with out inverter on? Or when ever hooked up to genny or shore power always have inverter on?

Oh, by the way, I have two 6 volt deep cycle batteries.
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Old 05-10-2021, 07:33 PM   #5
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Which battery panel? The switch/control panel that comes with the trailer has 4 LEDs. When the battery is charging all 4 will always light up. When fully charge 3 will light up.

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Old 05-10-2021, 08:13 PM   #6
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Which battery panel? The switch/control panel that comes with the trailer has 4 LEDs. When the battery is charging all 4 will always light up. When fully charge 3 will light up.

Jim M.
I do have 3 lights on the panel by the door. The solar panel says 71% and I just went out to look at it a few minutes ago and the solar panel says 71% and 12.5volts.

so you're saying if 3 lights are on at "main panel" for TT I'm good. I've had all of them light in the past. I guess if I have 3 lights I'm good and next time bring generator.

Question: when genny is running is it charging batteries and then through invertor and that is what runs everything?

I know if invertor is off my a/c and micro will still work with generator.

I was told that if I had a genny it would run all 120 volt appliances and I could us batteries ( two 6v deep cycle) to run everything else when boondocking and the genny will keep batteries charged up.

Is that all BS?
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Old 05-10-2021, 08:25 PM   #7
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The inverter has nothing to do with charging the batteries. The inverter converts 12v DC from the batteries to 120v AC. When you are connected to the generator or shore power the inverter should be turned off because the generator or shore power should be supplying the 120v AC loads, not the battery.

I agree, you need to leave the batteries on a charger overnight and give them a good healthy charge. Then let them sit for 12 hours with no load (at a minimum turn off the battery disconnect switch). If you really want to know the health of the battery, then after the overnight charge and disconnected for 12 hours measure the specific battery of the electrolyte (water) in each cell.

https://www.amazon.com/QWORK-Battery...dp/B08MBWTYBX/

You can also get a hydrometer at most auto parts store. Make sure to get a battery hydrometer and not an antifreeze hydrometer.

https://www.freeasestudyguides.com/b...vity-test.html
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Old 05-10-2021, 09:07 PM   #8
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I do have 3 lights on the panel by the door. The solar panel says 71% and I just went out to look at it a few minutes ago and the solar panel says 71% and 12.5volts.

so you're saying if 3 lights are on at "main panel" for TT I'm good. I've had all of them light in the past. I guess if I have 3 lights I'm good and next time bring generator.

Question: when genny is running is it charging batteries and then through invertor and that is what runs everything?

I know if invertor is off my a/c and micro will still work with generator.

I was told that if I had a genny it would run all 120 volt appliances and I could us batteries ( two 6v deep cycle) to run everything else when boondocking and the genny will keep batteries charged up.

Is that all BS?
I'm not an expert on batteries, generators or solar, so hopefully the others will jump in. To clarify what I originally said, the switch panel that has the 4 lights that monitor the levels of you black, grey, and fresh tanks along with your battery "level". I just learned this the other day. For the tanks, 4 leds means "full", 1 led means "empty". For the battery its a bit different. 4 leds means that the battery is actively being charged. When you remove the charging (i.e. unplug shore power) then 3 leds means the battery is fully charged.
I would think if you are plugging the generator into the typical shore power plug then the converter should charge the battery as it normally does since it doesn't know the source of its power.
Solar and inverters I'll let others guide you.

Jim M.
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Old 05-10-2021, 09:11 PM   #9
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Charge the batteries at least overnight using the battery charger built into your power panel (incorrectly called "the converter" -- there's more than the converter inside the wall).
-- Chuck
OK, I'm going to ask for some more detail on this. From the WFCO web site they refer to the whole unit as a "power center" which includes the 120V distribution, the 12V distribution, and the converter.. which has a charging function built in. Kinda splitting hairs but I'd say calling it a converter in correct/ok.

https://wfcoelectronics.com/product/wf-8955mba/

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Old 05-10-2021, 09:13 PM   #10
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The leds on the panel are mostly to entertain the cat. If you intend to tax the batteries, then a battery monitor is a good plan.

A full battery is about 12.6 volts. Higher readings indicate charging activities. A trickle charger is about 13. Volts. Less than that does virtually nothing to charge a battery. Mostly the same as using the TV to charge. They do some only.

A flat mounted 100 watt panel will provide 25 amps to your battery per day on its best day. Your batteries hold about 220. Good luck recharging. On an ideal day the 100 watt panel will likely do little or nothing with parasitic loads.

A 50% battery is about 12 volts.

With the cat display you are flying while blind.

Generally using the onboard converter you will add 20-40 amps per hour of charge. However, the last 20% will take an additional 24 hours or more. The way it is.

Your converter charges at three levels. Generally about 14 or very low battery, 13.4 general charging, and 13.1 just trickle.

So your stuff sounds normal.

If you plug into shore power for three days you will be fully charged.

Your converter automatically charges the batteries when on shore power. Turns off only with the breaker in the fuse panel.

If you own a electric refrigerator it is good to know battery condition. They can be battery hogs!
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Old 05-10-2021, 09:25 PM   #11
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... Only got to 70% so I decided to hook up genny and run that for 3-4 hours. Well battery panel (while gen running said 100%) so I turn off generator, let everything set for about an hour (lunch time) and went out to see what was happening.

Solar panel says 0.3A coming in (I believe) and 69% charged. The battery panel says 2/3 charge. ...
As others have said, the battery indicator lights are useless and a voltmeter is almost useless for your purpose. Get a battery monitor.

Also, lead acid batteries absorb amps faster when they're low. Because you have a solar panel, if you expect to need to use your generator, do it first. Get your battery up to 70-80% SOC (as determined by a battery monitor) with the generator, then let the solar panel take its time to do the rest.

If you do it in reverse order, i.e., let the panels work for awhile, then connect the generator, it will have to work longer to move the same amount of amps.

Edit: agree that 100A really can't do as much as you need, especially if mounted flat on the roof. People with 100W solar suitcases might do a little better because they can keep the panels oriented toward the sun. I suggest adding another panel. Take care not to exceed the capabilities of your charge controller, which is probably limited.
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Old 05-10-2021, 09:35 PM   #12
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Thank you everyone for your replies. Sounds like I really have nothing to worry about. I can plug my trailer in at the house (shore power) and just let it recharge the batteries. I was thinking the 100 watt solar panel would take for ever to charge anything but the generator or shore power will restore batteries.

Again, a big thanks to everyone for helping. Sounds like I can sleep easy tonight. Thanks again really appreciated.
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Old 05-10-2021, 09:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by kgstakes View Post
I looked on here and found some advice but this is what I did on our camping trip this last weekend.

Right off the bat, I left the generator at home (1st stupid thing) then as the weekend went on we were using the heater (big user of power) and then the water pump started acting funny (yup not much power left --batteries were at 53%) so Sunday morning packed up came home (which was only a 45 min. drive.)

Now for the problems, at least I think I have a problem. Came home first I wanted to check water level in batteries -- needed water. Filled with distilled water and let the solar panel charge the batteries. Yes, I know this will take a while.

Only got to 70% so I decided to hook up genny and run that for 3-4 hours. Well battery panel (while gen running said 100%) so I turn off generator, let everything set for about an hour (lunch time) and went out to see what was happening.

Solar panel says 0.3A coming in (I believe) and 69% charged. The battery panel says 2/3 charge.

Does all this make sense to anyone? Did I really screw up two new batteries (1 year old)?? Or do I just stop worrying about it and the next time take the dam generator??

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I know probably somewhere on the forum there is the answer but like most, just look for a bit and then post something.

Let me hear what you're thinking -- good or bad.
Welcome to the fun of dealing with Flooded Lead Acid batteries. While they'll work, if you plan on boondocking often, you may want to consider Lithium Iron Phosphate. Lots of good threads out there with the pros and cons. And lots of different opinions.

Really depends on how you're planning on using the trailer. A power audit would give you a good idea of your AH usage and thus allow you to plan better to manage it or size a battery bank to handle it.

If it will be an RV park queen, stick with the FLA.
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Old 05-11-2021, 07:52 AM   #14
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Thank you everyone for your replies. Sounds like I really have nothing to worry about. I can plug my trailer in at the house (shore power) and just let it recharge the batteries. I was thinking the 100 watt solar panel would take for ever to charge anything but the generator or shore power will restore batteries.

Again, a big thanks to everyone for helping. Sounds like I can sleep easy tonight. Thanks again really appreciated.
i don't think you have a problem. hook up to shore power for at least 24 hours and let the converter recharge the batteries. while this is happening look at the 4 battery lights. they should all be on indicating that the converter is providing a charging voltage. look closely at the legend for the top light. does it say something like '100%/C'? that C means it is being charged.

in your first post you mentioned several percentages indicating battery status. where are you getting these percentages? from the solar controller? what does it say when you are recharging from shore power?

in your case i would get in the habit of hooking up to shore power as soon as you get back from using the trailer to ensure that the batteries get fully recharged. you want to ensure that they are fully charged when the trailer is in storage. you might want to consider making it a habit of just leaving it connected to shore power in storage. or use shore power to get it fully charged and then let the solar maintain it fully charged.
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Old 05-11-2021, 08:19 AM   #15
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Thank you everyone for your replies. Sounds like I really have nothing to worry about. I can plug my trailer in at the house (shore power) and just let it recharge the batteries. I was thinking the 100 watt solar panel would take for ever to charge anything but the generator or shore power will restore batteries.

Again, a big thanks to everyone for helping. Sounds like I can sleep easy tonight. Thanks again really appreciated.
Your 100W solar panel will charge at a rate of 5.7 plus or minus amps under ideal conditions. Your WFCO converter-charger will charge your battery at about 50 amps.
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Old 05-11-2021, 01:29 PM   #16
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"Percent" meters are normally simple volt meters and unless read when the battery has been at rest -- neither charging nor discharging -- for 12 hours or more will simply read the surface voltage. Pretty useless.

Battery charge depends on voltage differential and at least a volt difference is needed. Since a "12v" battery is really a 12.8v battery you need at least 13.8vDC to charge it. The larger differential the more current flows. Since the battery voltage increases the differential decreases and the charge rate decreases as well.

Good procedure is a 24 hour charge followed by disconnecting the battery unless you can leave it on a trickle or maintenance charge -- solar will normally do this. OE battery disconnects rarely disconnect all power so things like the LP detector (wired by code directly to the battery) will suck the battery dry to the point of fatal damage in a few weeks.

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Old 05-11-2021, 02:06 PM   #17
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I just learned this the other day. For the tanks, 4 leds means "full", 1 led means "empty". For the battery its a bit different. 4 leds means that the battery is actively being charged. When you remove the charging (i.e. unplug shore power) then 3 leds means the battery is fully charged.
OK, you are mostly right but there is more you need to know to read the battery lights.

Battery capacity remaining is indicated by the at rest voltage. See the color chart.

Now the lights:

4 lights mean the "system" voltage is above 12.7 volts (NOTE - Not necessarily the battery voltage!). If the solar is generating power (or you are plugged in to shore power) and you remove the battery it will still illuminate 4 lights.

A "fully charged" at rest battery will measure around 12.6 volts. So any system voltage above 12.7 volts will charge the battery. The top light will go out when the system voltage drops below 12.7 volts (or NOT CHARGING).

3 lights mean the voltage is ABOVE 12.1 volts. So with 3 lights illuminated the battery is above 50% charged and could be as high as 100% charged, but you don't know. When this light just goes out, battery capacity is 50%

2 lights mean the voltage is ABOVE 11.6 volts. So with 2 lights illuminated, the battery capacity is between 28% charged and 50% charged. You should be hooking it up to the generator now as lead sulphate is hardening onto the plates and depending on the depth of discharge below 50% battery capacity can be permanently reduced. When this light just goes out, battery capacity is 20%

1 light means the battery voltage is between 6 volts (the amount of power needed to light an LED and 20%. At 10.5 volts a 12 volt battery is considered DEAD and may never recover any where near its rated capacity even if it eventually takes a charge.

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Old 05-11-2021, 02:33 PM   #18
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I can plug my trailer in at the house (shore power) and just let it recharge the batteries. I was thinking the 100 watt solar panel would take for ever to charge anything but the generator or shore power will restore batteries.
Indeed. The degree of discharge will determine how long it will take to recharge a lead acid battery. The deeper the discharge, the longer it will take.

The reason is how a lead acid battery takes a charge. For simplicity sake picture the battery plates like they were a sponge (like with holes in it).

Charging electrons are pushed out of solution and into the sponge filling the holes.

Since initially the sponge is empty, there are LOTS of holes for electrons to go. You can really pump electrons into the sponge quickly because there is a whole surface full of empty holes.

As the surface holes fill up, the electrons have trouble finding an empty hole to get into. They start to pile up (the battery can no longer take that fast charge rate without overheating the electrolyte) and increased force is needed to drive the electrons on the surface deeper into the "sponge". That allows more electrons to enter the freed up holes on the surface.

Modern chargers know this and when the plates surface gets full, the charger will switch from a fast charge rate to a slower charge rate to avoid battery boiling and heavy off gassing (hydrogen release).

There are three stages of charging;

BULK (fast charge) which will bring the battery from zero to about 50% capacity. This could take about 3 hours for a severely discharged battery.

ABSORBSION (slow charge) which will take your 50% capacity battery to about 90%. This mode takes as much as 4-6 hours more due to the slower charge rate.

FLOAT (trickle charge) which will take your 90% charged battery to 100% (or as much as your battery can take based on age, discharge cycles, and the general condition of your battery). This is an ongoing stage that will cycle on and off as needed to maintain the capacity between 90 and 100%. This could take 12 hours to reach 100% due to the extremely low charge rate.

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Old 05-11-2021, 04:51 PM   #19
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OK, you are mostly right but there is more you need to know to read the battery lights.


Herk
Thanks, very informative.
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Old 05-11-2021, 05:36 PM   #20
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The "battery LEDs" are just a volt meter. Unless the battery has been at rest for 12 hours -- neither charging nor discharging -- they're not quite useless but do not reflect the state of charge. The chart above is only good under the same conditions. Quite good actually if the battery has been at rest.

A dead battery will show all 4 LEDS after an hour on charge. You can bet the battery ain't charged.

Not much other than a dim light is going to run below 12 volts. The "mini panel" is a joke showing 11.6 as "fair." If the battery gets down to 6 volts it may be damaged beyond recovery.

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