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Old 03-10-2008, 02:46 PM   #1
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Skoolie newbie: batteries

Hello,

I'm brand new here. I bought a Thomas short-bus last March (about a year ago now) and have done a bit of work on it. Mostly I've made it into a small mobile office to use around town. I have a pair of Interstate deep cycle golf cart batteries wired in a series, then linked in parallel to the starter batteries with a switch I open to close off the house batteries from the starter batteries when I'm stationary. I close the switch to allow the batteries to charge when I'm driving.

This is where I have a concern: I have the two batteries in a plastic trunk I bought at Walmart (for about $25) and I worry about the gases exploding because it's not venting to the outside (there is an oversized hole in the floor where the negative starter battery cable comes up to the small bank). I have holes all over the box, but it just vents into the interior.

I'm considering having a couple of boxes welded on the side, underneath the body next to the battery compartments and store them there. I'm also considering a small Honda generator (the EU1000i), but don't have anywhere to store it or the gas, either. My main question is: should I go the welding route or is there a way I can safely contain those batteries inside? I've seen some stuff on the Wiki regarding venting, but I'm still concerned; I'm not very comfortable with these batteries right there at this point (especially if my kids come along for the ride).

Advice? I'll try to get some pictures in the coming hours.

Thanks,
Hans
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Old 03-11-2008, 02:30 AM   #2
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

What is your vehicle battery doing inside in the first place? I'm not a big batter guy, (check with the_exprerience03... he really knows batteries), but there's a reason that automotive batteries are placed outside the driver's/passenger compartment. You know they produce hydrogen, (can you say Hindenberg???), during their charge.... I THINK its during the charge... Well either way.... I think you need to have them in a vented compartment that is isolated from the rest of the bus.....
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Old 03-11-2008, 12:10 PM   #3
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Re: Skoolie newbie: battery location

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldog12
What is your vehicle battery doing inside in the first place? I'm not a big batter guy, (check with the_exprerience03... he really knows batteries), but there's a reason that automotive batteries are placed outside the driver's/passenger compartment. You know they produce hydrogen, (can you say Hindenberg???), during their charge.... I THINK its during the charge... Well either way.... I think you need to have them in a vented compartment that is isolated from the rest of the bus.....
Yes, that's why I ask. The starter batteries are outside, it's just the two deep cycles that are in the box in the interior. I see a few people have built interior boxes for their batteries, but I'm not sure the best way to proceed. I'm thinking I need to build on an exterior underbody box to house the house batteries, too.

I'm also curious to see how people store generators. I'm thinking about buying the Honda EU1000i, which will give me enough power for the basics. But, I don't have anywhere but inside the bus to store it.

Thanks,
Hans
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Old 03-11-2008, 12:39 PM   #4
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

The only way I'd have flooded batteries inside the bus would be to have them inside a sealed box that is power-vented to the outside with a muffin fan (also with a fresh air intake from the outside).
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Old 03-11-2008, 02:16 PM   #5
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

Those batteries should not be inside where there are human beings, or anything that you want to keep alive. If you go to a truck salvage or a truck shop you can get battery boxes that bolt to the side of your frame (used or order a new one)and they have nice covers if you want one. Don't weld to your frame unless it's absolutely neccessary or it's at least behind the rear axle. You could even get a battery box for 3 or 4 batteries and move your engine battery in with your deep cycle batteries to keep them all in the same spot for maintenance etc and share the ground. Then use the space where the engine battery was for something else. You can make your positive cable almost as long as you want, it's main purpose in life is to just start the engine. Just go up in gauge as you go up in length and you will have it covered. Welding cable works great for this and you can get clamps anywhere. I ran a #2 stranded wire back to my rear power panel and it has done well, especially since it was 4 times larger than I need, can't argue because it was free. sportyrick
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Old 03-11-2008, 03:25 PM   #6
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

Thanks. I have been reading about AGM -- would I be able to store those where I have the others? I'd recycle the two 6volts and replace with 2-4 12v AGM 90amph, which I can get new locally for $149/each + tax. Would that be safe, or am I still in the same situation?

Thanks for your help,
Hans
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Old 03-11-2008, 06:10 PM   #7
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

AGM's can go inside, but dollar for dollar and amp hour for amp hour those wet cells are probably going to serve you better. The only real exception would be someone that fulltimes, can get them very cheap, or really doesn't want to do basic maintenance (and even then the big lead acid deep cycles really do rather well).

Also, AGM's are not foolproof. They will still outgas if something goes severely wrong during charging and the cases themselves CAN still explode. They are considered safe by all means, but they are not the end all. Mounting the batteries outside is pretty darn easy and gains you safety and floorspace at the same time.
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Old 03-11-2008, 06:24 PM   #8
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

Thanks for the reply. I got your PM, too, but will post out here so your advice can be archived better. I like the idea of expanding the existing box. I've used bedframe, too, and find it to be very helpful. Maybe I'll do that after all. Do you have any pictures of your setup so I can see exactly what you have and try to duplicate it?

I've plan to use the bus almost every day, as a mobile office. Except when it's too hot, I work in it when it's parked at the house, too. I plan to use driving/bus alternator plus a 3-stage charger to charge, instead of a converter (I already have a small inverter and the charger, and, as does everyone... a budget ).

Thanks for the help.

Hans
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:04 PM   #9
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

Looking through my photos I do not seem to have one of the setup, but it does not require much imagination to understand how it works. Like I said in the PM...I cut the floor out, bolted a piece of angle in each corner going down and built a perimeter frame that attaches to those corner angles which holds the plywood in place. If you want a picture I can try and get one for you, but like I said...it's just not much to look at.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:02 AM   #10
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Re: Skoolie newbie: batteries

If you put them in a box on the outside of the bus, how do you keep them warm in the winter?

I was thinking about building a box on the inside of the bus with a powered vent and fresh air intake to the outside. The box would be insulated by the floor and walls but receive the heat from the cabin. Try to make it easy to access for checking fluid levels and other basic maintenance. However, I also worry about any safety issues and off-gassing.

We're going to full-time it and use the batteries quite a lot (lots of solar / not many opportunities for shore power) so I'll be checking them often. We'll also be staying in cold climates during the winter and don't want to lose all our energy due to cold. (As there is also not as much solar light in the winter.)
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