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Old 12-17-2017, 12:15 PM   #1
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Alternator to bank. DC to DC charger

What are you guys using to charge your solar bank by way of the alternator when you are rolling? I have several other avenues covered for charging but might as well take advantage of this big alternator.

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Old 12-17-2017, 12:16 PM   #2
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If i could get in under $300 it would be great. But the bus gets a Christmas present.

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Old 12-17-2017, 12:25 PM   #3
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Vehicle alternators don't do a good job of charging deep-cycle batteries; they're intended to charge SLI batteries which have a different intended use and internal construction than deep-cycles. You should be using a proper 3-stage charger such as a good charge controller or inverter/charger, ideally with programmable settings for the specific battery types. If you have a switchable connection between the house and start batteries for boosting the start batteries in cold weather, it could also theoretically be used to charge the house bank as you drive. Does your alternator have enough power to do so without overheating? More to the point, why is your PV array not producing power while you drive? Just wondering!

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Old 12-17-2017, 02:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
Vehicle alternators don't do a good job of charging deep-cycle batteries; they're intended to charge SLI batteries which have a different intended use and internal construction than deep-cycles. You should be using a proper 3-stage charger such as a good charge controller or inverter/charger, ideally with programmable settings for the specific battery types. If you have a switchable connection between the house and start batteries for boosting the start batteries in cold weather, it could also theoretically be used to charge the house bank as you drive. Does your alternator have enough power to do so without overheating? More to the point, why is your PV array not producing power while you drive? Just wondering!

John
I have a big alternator. Pushes 260. The solar array does charge the batteries, but we can use quite a bit of electricity. I'm mostly DC. But after a long night i wake up and the bus batteries could be down around 10 v. I have a generator. Very quiet. Bigly quiet. A little drive would charge me tip top real easy.

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Old 12-17-2017, 02:13 PM   #5
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I have 4 of these

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Old 12-17-2017, 03:09 PM   #6
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Or can i just use my 30 amp mppt solar charge controller somehow

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Old 12-17-2017, 03:47 PM   #7
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I have a "magnum smart battery combiner". I don't know if I recommend it, I bought into it because I already got a magnum inverter and I thought it would be neat. It joins my house batteries and bus batteries when they share a voltage range (I think my voltage range is 12.8-13.8v but I don't remember. It will transfer up to 25amps when within the voltage range but will isolate the two batteries. My bus batteries died and I haven't gotten around to charging them yet. So I don't really know if it's worthwhile to use the magnum smart battery combiner. I have both battery banks hooked up to my Bogart 2030 Battery monitor so I can kinda see what's going on. I just thought it would be worth sharing my two cents.

It's worth noting that my china made magnum battery combiner does not feel the same quality as my american made inverter charger.
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Old 12-17-2017, 04:55 PM   #8
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I can't help to much on this but I am going out of my way to keep anything in my house system from drawing any power from my bus starting and running system.
In my head?
If my house has a problem then I can always start up and go home to fix it and if my bus has a problem I can always live in it until I can solve its starting issue/issues.
I want my two completely seperate so if have have an issue with one then it doesn't stop me from using the other.
That's just my way of not depending on an automatic switch or something of the kind going bad and me having to figure it out on the spot?
I am going out of my way to keep them seperate because of that.
Good luck
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Old 12-18-2017, 08:20 AM   #9
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I can't help to much on this but I am going out of my way to keep anything in my house system from drawing any power from my bus starting and running system.
In my head?
If my house has a problem then I can always start up and go home to fix it and if my bus has a problem I can always live in it until I can solve its starting issue/issues.
I want my two completely seperate so if have have an issue with one then it doesn't stop me from using the other.
That's just my way of not depending on an automatic switch or something of the kind going bad and me having to figure it out on the spot?
I am going out of my way to keep them seperate because of that.
Good luck
I agree. My 2 systems are completely separate. I learned that lesson long ago

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Old 12-18-2017, 09:28 AM   #10
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Couple of things. It is important to understand that battery voltage is a very poor indicator of state of charge (unless the battery has been at rest for many hours). A reading of 10 volts on a 12 volt battery is way below 0% state of charge assuming there are no loads on the battery. A much better approach is a battery monitor (such a Victron or Trimetric) that has a big shunt and measures all the electrons going into/out of the bank.

For charging the house bank from the alternator, there are several products such as the Magnum Energy ME-SBC Smart Battery Combiner. These are smart enough to know when to "connect" the systems for charging and when to disconnect them (when discharging).

Hope that helps.
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Old 12-18-2017, 11:11 AM   #11
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This topic seems to bring out some serious personal preferences in everyone. Last time it was discussed got a little contentious.
But here is what I personally feel. If you are driving a vehicle that already has a high output alternator(180amp and up) why on earth would you NOT want to tap into that? I have had ambulances and other vehicles that survived years with only solar and alternator charging. Didnt even have a shore plug or 120ac charger on board. I personally own and have used and installed numerous of these units for others. In 20+ years I have seen 1 fail, and that was due to user cause. These units are TRUE 3 and 5 stage chargers. Fully programmable voltage, amperage, and even temp sensor settings. They prevent one battery bank from "seeing" the other so there is no charge discrepancy between the two. And with the push of a button it links all batteries together for emergency starting. They are not cheap, but I feel they are worth every penny. And for those of you that want 24 or 48v solar/battery set ups.....they have 12 to 24, 48v and 48 to 24 to 12, and 24 to 12v converters that go up to 200amp!

DC powered battery to battery charger

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Old 12-18-2017, 12:07 PM   #12
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Thanks for the link. Good information.

This is what I've been wanting to do for a long time, but as you say this idea gets kind of contentious on this site even though some people have used this method successfully already. If I'm warming up my engine at high idle on a freezing morning, I'd like to be able to flip a switch and put some charge into the batteries. If I'm running down the highway I'd like to be able to put some charge into the batteries. Generally speaking we've all got kind of large alternators in these buses and it makes sense to use them within the proper perameters.
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Old 12-18-2017, 02:17 PM   #13
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I agree. Its the "i just ran a fat wire from starter battery" people that have issues. That is due to the voltage spikes and drops from alternator due to many factors. That device adjusts the voltage/ charge curve for max charge like an mppt for solar does. I like the wired remote panel. Mounted in the dash, as it only functions while bus is running, and you see the voltage and amperage going to both banks, can change programming, and if you find your start battery dead, press one button and all banks are connected for 30 secs to 5 mins(your choice).
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Old 12-18-2017, 03:19 PM   #14
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I looked at the lineup of dc/dc chargers. Which one do you use? Do you try to run most things on 12v?
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Old 12-18-2017, 04:03 PM   #15
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My ambulance had dual 120amp alternators. So i used this one:

12v to 12v Sterling Power ProBattC IP68 BBW12120 waterproof DC input battery to battery charger

Older style than the link i gave prior. In a few friends and work trucks i have used this one:

Sterling Power battery to battery charging system - Smart DC battery to battery charger, marine grade DC powered charger

If i had to buy a new one, i would go with the 2nd one(60 amp). Less $ due to lower amp.....but dont think i need over 60amp charge for this set up. Also the 120 amp does NOT allow use of that remote panel.

I have everything set for either. Lights, fridge, furnace, water heater(lp+120v), TV, everything is 12v DC EXCEPT my mini split 8k btu unit. I do have an AIMS 3k/6k watt inverter/ charger and 1.2K watt solar as well. This is with 8 duracell gc2's (860ah total). And emergencies are with 3500/4000w inverter generator.
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Old 12-18-2017, 04:43 PM   #16
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Thanks again for the information. I realize this isn't what everyone wants for their motorhome conversion, but it's exactly what I've been looking for.

I agree. Instead of figuring out how to power normal household appliances just go 12volt. Invertor for those occasional power issues.
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Old 12-18-2017, 06:49 PM   #17
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The ability to design your rig to live the way U WANT is what brings most of us to these projects. What works for one may not for others. If your parked 90% the time, this is not 4 u. BUT some of us drive.
My inverter is pretty efficient, but it was mostly for shore true 3 stage charge @60amp. When on shore, the inverter passes thru what is needed to run ac stuff thats on, the remainder of the 60amps is sent to charge batteries. Not sure if I will even use it much, but i got it last year on cyber monday for $450. Today its $865!

https://www.walmart.com/ip/AIMS-Powe...arger/50754204

But yes, as much 12v dc as possible. I just got my Whynter 12v dc fridge/ freezer. LOVE IT!
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Old 12-18-2017, 07:21 PM   #18
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After reading pertinent portions of the owner's manual, and from what you're saying, this may not work well for me. From what I've read it can take up to 10 hours to get a full charge on the house batteries. I don't drive that much normally, so the only time it would be really effective would be on interstate trips. It's about 10 hours to Reno from here.

It's a nice setup, but I'd have to buy additional equipment to charge off the geny or grid.

Still, good information to know. It may fit another situation at another time. Thanks.
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Old 12-18-2017, 08:48 PM   #19
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You dont NEED a genny or grid(shore) if you have enough solar and or drive a crapton.....The inverter/chrarger are not needed to do the dc to dc charging. I added it for shore and genny use only..I dont use mine as a "top off" charge. it is for Bulk. For me, I drive early am. So it is charging some of what I used the previous night. Then working for 8-10 hours, parked in sunlight(sun is up by time i get to work). So that is adding more of "topping off". If still not full, then the trip home adds even more. 99%of the time i am at 100% by evening. Then rinse and repeat daily. The genny and shore are for emergencies and the times i find somewhere to plug in.

As I said, this is not useful to everyone.. But it helps me
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Old 12-18-2017, 10:18 PM   #20
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I go to town about once a month, then occasionally I have to go visit a high mountain lake to see if there are really any fish in there. I just don't get enough drive time as I'm currently using this van. I can't go solar because of the relatively frequent brush I drive through, and Oregon isn't known as a solar hot spot anyway. Charging would be grid or geny for me. On the road it's not likely I'll see a lot of grid time. I have a strong aversion to rv camp grounds so it's not likely I'll be plugging in.
This whole power thing is a catch 22. Power choices change over time. I can't use solar here, but if I was out on the road solar would be a great help. Also charging from the vehicle would work great on long trips, but it would be wasted money for the equipment in my current situation. Charging from a geny would be time consuming too, and that isn't going to be running at night.
I've chosen a very simple build anyway. No fridge and as few as possible appliances. It's metal tent camping, with a TV. I plan to head toward warmer climates, hence no wood stove even in Oregon. I'm sure it's not a perfect plan, but it'll do for now.
I learned a lot about this power issue today. I may not have it worked out yet, but I'm closer.
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