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Old 12-07-2009, 10:12 AM   #1
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Electrical Problem

We are having a problem with our electrical system and hoping someone can maybe help. We keep suffering from not enough energy in our system. When my husband checks the wires without any lights on, it shows it's at under 12V - like 11. something, then when he turns on a light it goes down to 10 maybe 9 and continues to go down, like it's draining. He's got an ancient trickel charger on the batteries and we're wondering if he needs a new trickle charger. Any ideas. Thanks ahead of time.
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:15 AM   #2
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Re: Electrical Problem

I forgot to add that the trickle charger is plugged in! This is the issue.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:35 PM   #3
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Re: Electrical Problem

We have 2X90 amp hour deep cycle Interstate batteries. Does that help? don't you have to dump the water in the batteries to do that? It's really involved, any other ideas?
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:45 PM   #4
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Re: Electrical Problem

Thanks Smitty. I appreciate the chart. More questions though...

We just bought these batteries this summer. Could we have fried them using an old tricle charger? If so, what should we get? Is there one that regulates the amount charged? We had the bus plugged in for a few months but plan on being plugged in for MONTHs on end starting in two weeks. I don't mind buying new batteries, I only mind replacing them over and over again. And yes, just about a week ago we discovered they were low on water and when we added more (distilled) it seemed to help. So, once again, if the batteries are fried then will this happen again?
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:10 PM   #5
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Re: Electrical Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkndopp
Thanks Smitty. I appreciate the chart. More questions though...

We just bought these batteries this summer. Could we have fried them using an old tricle charger? If so, what should we get? Is there one that regulates the amount charged? We had the bus plugged in for a few months but plan on being plugged in for MONTHs on end starting in two weeks. I don't mind buying new batteries, I only mind replacing them over and over again. And yes, just about a week ago we discovered they were low on water and when we added more (distilled) it seemed to help. So, once again, if the batteries are fried then will this happen again?
If you just bought the batteries this summer there is no need to spend money on new ones. Just get them warrantied out.

When you say you've had the bus plugged in for months and plan on doing so for an even longer period of time are you talking about being plugged into shore power or using your inverters and batteries while using the charger to keep the batteries maintained? If it is the later this is a poor plan. You need to invest in a converter which will step down and rectify the voltage to 12 volts DC. However, if you're talking about being on 120vac shore power then a trickle charger will be fine.

The fact that your batteries are getting low on water can mean one of two things. You're either using them a lot and need to keep up on your maintenance, or you're overcharging them through a faulty charger. Remember, a trickle charger is not necessarily a maintenance charger. If you plan to leave it on all the time you need one that is automatic and will turn off.

Everyone has their preference, but I've had nothing but tremendous luck with Deltran chargers. I use my 1.25 amp one for EVERYTHING and have had no problems with it. I believe you can pick one up for about $60. The cool thing is it comes with clamps and ring terminals on a quick connect so you could hardwire the rings on and route the quick connect to an easier location giving a semi-permanent installation.

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Old 12-10-2009, 02:34 AM   #6
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Re: Electrical Problem

I at one time killed a new battery using a cheapo trickle charger, left it on the battery 24/7 for a month and never checked the water level. Fried the battery and the charger. I've since learned when using the cheapo chargers 1: put them on a timer, like the ones you use for lamps and set it to turn on for one hour a day. 2: Check the water level after the first and second week to determine how often you need to replenish the water. 3: Unplug the charger for 12 to 24 hours and then check the battery with a hydrometer or a digital meter to see what charge the the battery is holding at. If the battery is holding a charge at below 12.6 volts, adjust your timer for 2 hours a day. I have my set to charge at 6 to 7 am and pm. Works great.
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Old 12-11-2009, 02:37 PM   #7
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Re: Electrical Problem

the charger is your problem. get a good charger. it's worth the cost in battery life extension. good means three stage, set to the correct voltages.
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Old 12-12-2009, 10:10 AM   #8
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Re: Electrical Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pied Typer
Remember, it is a generally accepted rule that you have to drain your battery to a certain point (read not entirely but not too little) before you should recharge them. They only have so many recharge cycles in them (though it is not a fixed number) and you want to maximize this number.
This is true of nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries used in electronic devices, which develop a "memory" if not discharged to 1 volt per cell. Nickel-metal-hydride batteries have pretty much replaced NiCads because of this. Lithium-ion carry more power for weight and size, but need "smart" charging, and only have about 1/3 the recharges of a NiMH pack.

Wet cells last for more recharges if they are discharged less and refilled more often. I saw a manufacturer's chart once but don't remember where, which had a graph curve that showed the number of recharges versus the depth of each discharge. They rated their batteries for only three 100% discharges! This is why a lot of people try not to draw a battery below 50%, or about 12 volts.

I see one of three problems in the original post:

1. The trickle charger does not stop when the batteries are full, boils off some acid, exposing the tops of the plates and poisoning them. I would recommend a constantly connected "float" charger put out no more than 13.5 volts into a full battery. And still check the acid level. Or, disconnect the battery when the bus is stored with either a switch or wire removal. A fully-charged good battery with a clean top should not self-discharge (much) when disconnected.

2. There is a poor connection somewhere, so some of the charging power is being burned up as heat before it reaches the batteries, and they are not getting filled. Clean the connections.

3. The "trickle" charger is too small to power loads, fill the batteries, and overcome losses. A bigger charger would be needed (but see #1).

A battery is a storage tank that keeps electricity stored as a chemical reaction. You have to put fuel into the 'tank' in order to draw it back out. Electricity seems mysterious, but really isn't. Think in terms of storing other energy. Imagine if someone wrote:
Quote:
I have a 100 gallon fuel tank, and get 10 miles to the gallon. I set out on a cross-country trip, and every 200 miles I stopped and bought 10 more gallons of fuel. The fuel gauge kept going down, and after 1000 miles, it only showed 1/2 tank after adding fuel. At 1800 miles the engine almost quit at the fuel pumps, but I got going again. At 1900 miles the engine quit for good, and left me by the side of the road. My gauge showed zero. What is my problem?
The answer is the fuel usage exceeded the fuel replacement. The solution is to put more fuel into storage. You don't need to be a calculus professor to match a battery charger to an electrical system. It just needs to provide more electricity than you use, and shut down or throttle back once the battery is full.
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