New Battery? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-08-2007, 04:09 PM   #1
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I did some searches and couldn't find a topic on specific types and brands of replacement batteries in my 13' Scamp. I'm sure it's right in front of me, but I don't usually see the elephant in the room until it steps on me. Currently I have a combination marine battery (80Ah/1100 cranking amps) that gets me about 2 1/2 nights of good usage then it starts getting very weak. It's about 3 years old and gets maintained the best that I know how, meaning I keep the fluids topped, don't overcharge it, store it inside when not in use. I have a couple of 10W halogen lamps, 2 old school incandescants, a CCF set of tubes, a water pump, and a low powered car stereo unit. I try to run things as conservative as I can (one light on at a time, etc.) and as best as I can calculate my needs are about 25 amps per day. I would like to get a solid 4 nights of usage out of the new battery.

So here are my questions.

1. Is it resonable not to expect more out of an 80Ah battery?

2. Should I consider gel or just stick to lead acid? (I thought I read that gels need a special charger.)

3. Would 100Ah fill my needs or should I consider a margin of unused capacity?

4. Can someone recommend a specific brand? I'm usually boondocking in back country areas so it needs to be durable.

4. The battery currently rides in front, between the trailer body and the propane tank. How concerned should I be about the extra weight of a larger battery riding on the weakest point of the frame?

Solar makes a lot of sense, but I'm not interested in tackling that project, just yet.

In advance, I thank you for your time and attention.

Fred
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Old 06-08-2007, 04:44 PM   #2
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So here are my questions.

1. Is it resonable not to expect more out of an 80Ah battery?

With a marine battery you should be able to get 50% of the capacity without damaging it. So you should be able to get 40 Ah. If you take more, it has a tendency to damage the battery shortening its life.


2. Should I consider gel or just stick to lead acid? (I thought I read that gels need a special charger.)

To me the main advantage of a gel is that it is sealed and can be tucked away in places. If yours is on the tongue, my suggestion would be to stick with lead acid.


3. Would 100Ah fill my needs or should I consider a margin of unused capacity?

If you are using marine batteries you will need twice that much (200Ah)

4. Can someone recommend a specific brand? I'm usually boondocking in back country areas so it needs to be durable.

I bought two 6-volt deep discharge U-2400 Interstate batteries so I would have 250Ah. With the deep discharge you can get 80% instead of 50% without damaging it, which gives me 200Ah.


4. The battery currently rides in front, between the trailer body and the propane tank. How concerned should I be about the extra weight of a larger battery riding on the weakest point of the frame?

I think the frame is pretty strong on my 16' and I put a lot more weight on it.

Solar makes a lot of sense, but I'm not interested in tackling that project, just yet.

Depends on how critical your needs are. I carry a little generator plus I am adding solar so I can boondock as long as I like.

good luck with it Fred.

John
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Old 06-08-2007, 06:09 PM   #3
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What John said, plus...

AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) is essentially the modern successor to gel batteries - and are not required. Even if you wanted to pack the battery under a seat or something, it can be put in a vented container. AGM and gel do call for different charging rates than flooded (regular) batteries, but modern chargers all have a suitable setting for that.

A single 200 amp-hour battery would be really heavy, so if you want that much you end up with two batteries, which could be two 6V in series or two 12V in parallel.

Rather than recommending a brand (I don't have the experience to do that), I'll suggest a type: heavy-duty deep-cycle batteries, rather than compromise dual-purpose designs.

Even if solar isn't in the plans yet, maybe it makes sense to size the battery pack assuming that future expansion of power use or endurance (more than four days) will be accommodated by adding solar panels later, so the battery won't have to be any bigger than the present 100Ah usable (maybe 200Ah nominal) requirement.
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Old 06-08-2007, 07:02 PM   #4
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My Costco Optima was about $135. but stays up all the time on the 50W panel.
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Old 06-09-2007, 03:11 AM   #5
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Fred Bell,

The flooded cell battery is still recommended for RV use. Interstate is a good brand, made by Johnson Controls, last I checked. Your stated amp requirement of 25/day is high and a 100 amp battery would only last 2 days at that rate, because you should not draw more than 50% of its storage capacity. In general, rapid charging and drawing past 50% will shorten battery life substantially. I use a voltmeter to check battery status, as it's quick and easy. Recharge when you get down to 12.2 V or lower. Charge wizard is a smart charger (I have a dumb one). I start a trip with a full charge and also charge from the tug while driving and hitched. As you mentioned, watch the fluid level in a hot, dry climate and replace with deionized water. I'm able to camp 4 days with my group 27 battery, but I conserve. If one battery won't do, get 2. Otherwise, you may need to recharge while camping with solar or a generator. Both are expensive!
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Old 06-10-2007, 11:27 AM   #6
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Thanks all for the advice.

I think I'm going to get a second 80A, lead acid battery and use the old one as a back up. I don't mind carrying two batteries, but the idea of wrestling with one large battery weighing in excess of 100lbs. does not appeal to me.

I agree the quick sketch of my daily amperage needs is probably high. But it seems that I expect too much from my current battery and/or I have damaged it's capacity. As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to have the old one tested.

Not drawing below 12.2V is a surprise to me. I thought I would be good down to 11.5V. I think that I read in a previous post that someone makes a simple tester that plugs into an accessory outlet, aka cigarette lighter, that indicates capacity as well as voltage.

Now, if you will, here's another question. Once I return from a trip is it advisable to recharge the batteries right away then store them? Or can I wait until a few days before my next trip to recharge them?

Thanks again.

Fred
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Old 06-10-2007, 03:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
... I think that I read in a previous post that someone makes a simple tester that plugs into an accessory outlet, aka cigarette lighter, that indicates capacity as well as voltage.
Sophisticated monitors measure the current going into and out of the battery, and have a component wired in at the main connection to the battery in order to do this. Anything which just connects to the battery without intercepting current (such as at an outlet) can do nothing but measure voltage. If it indicates capacity, it's just another way to label the voltage, and the capacity indication is not valid except at one specific condition (such as no load, and after some time to stabilize). A voltmeter which displays with some useful precision (like to the tenth of a volt) would be more useful.
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Old 06-10-2007, 03:57 PM   #8
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My wife and I really havn't had much of a problem getting 5 or so days from our batteries...remember that the tug has one too. I use a marine/rv battery in the Durango and use it for some of the electrical load (we do drive it during the stay so the tug's battery is recharged). We also use the old fashioned kerosene lantern for outside lighting, LEDs for some of the interior and only watch the LCD TV for news and weather.
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Old 06-12-2007, 02:42 AM   #9
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I USE A GLASS MAT FROM "NAPA" IT CLAIMS TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE TOTAL DISCHARGE & RECHARGE UP TO 300 TIMES WITH NO DAMAGE OR MEMORY PROBLEMS..I'VE HAD MINE A YEAR & NO PROBLEMS. THINK I PAID $139.00 OR THERE ABOUTS... I'VE WENT 3 DAYS WITH IT, THEN HOOK UP TV & RUN IT FOR A 1/2 HOUR TO RECHARGE & GO SOME MORE.. I ONLY RUN THE FRIDGE FOR 20 MIN. EVERY 5 OR 6 HOURS & IT KEEPS THINGS COLD. WE ALSO CONSERVE USE AS MUCHAS POSSIBLE, LIGHTS, FURNACE ETC. BUT I DO LIKE MY GLASS MAT SO FAR...KENN
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Old 06-12-2007, 10:34 AM   #10
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Picked up the Wally Group 27 Marine battery for $59. Anything I do to it for the next 2 years Wally will give me a new one. Put in LED's and cold cathodes, run the fridge on propane. Will go a good week so far without needing a charge. Probably get about 10-14 days if I push it.
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Old 06-12-2007, 11:24 AM   #11
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I bought one of the Optima glass-mat batteries (sold at Costco and elsewhere) because they charge faster, don't loose charge if they're left to sit for a long time, and recover better if they are discharged, and no, they don't need a special charging curcuit. I also have a lower capacity 9A "jump starter" battery that I can turn to if I need just a little more juice or drained my tow vehicle's battery by mistake.

That said, how much juice you need depends on what electrical draws you have on the system. If you restrict yourself to LED lighting for a few hours each night during the summer and have no other current draws just about any 12v battery will last weeks. If, on the other hand, you light your trailer up with incandescent bulbs for hours & hours on long winter nights while running your furnace and use an inverter to watch TV all hours your battery will probably last a day or so.

There are lots of topics in the forums discussing ways to keep your energy use down so a single 12v battery will meet your needs.
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Old 06-12-2007, 02:58 PM   #12
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You guys are using the term Marine like it was a specific kind of battery, but that's not specific enough. I believe the term Marine ONLY refers to the fact that it is somewhat stronger inside (to take a boat's pounding, where there are no springs or shock absorbers) and is equipped with screw-down studterminals for easy removal.

There are actually THREE kinds of marine batteries that I am aware of, all of which can be seen at places like Wally:

1. Starting battery for starting engines, just like a car's starting battery. Puts out a LOT of energy in a short time but will suffer if discharged too much and not IMMEDIATELY (hours, not days) recharged.

2. Dual Purpose Starting/DeepCycle battery, a compromise between a starter and a deep cycle, with the weaknesses of both kinds. Still not a good RV battery, but not as bad as a starter.

3. DeepCycle (aka trolling) battery designed for slower discharge and multiple recharging for long life -- This is what one wants in an RV.

Of course, what the BulgeMobiles use is a string of 6VDC golf cart batteries, designed for even more charge/discharge cycles than marine deepcycle batteries, but these are larger and heavier than standard batteries.

There's a LOT of battery info at http://www.batteryfaq.org/.

Below is Voltage-Discharge table from http://bart.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/12volt/12volt.htm
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voltchart1.gif  
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Old 06-12-2007, 04:25 PM   #13
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Pete....
that voltage discharge site is especially useful as i did not know how to differentiate batteries. i put it in my favorites.
thanx,
joe
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Old 06-30-2007, 10:39 AM   #14
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Another must-read site for anyone who has questions about RV batteries is http://www.phrannie.org/battery.html

-- Dan Meyer
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