Battery Water level / Charging with Solar - Fiberglass RV

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Old 04-13-2019, 05:30 PM   #1
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Posts: 1,549
Battery Water level / Charging with Solar

We are planning a summer camping trip doing 90% boondocking and today I hooked up my 100W Solar panel for the first time this year.
My battery is full of water and it's location under the dinette seat is a pain in the Butt to get in there to check water levels.
Battery at 8:00 am was 12.4 and when I shut it down at 5:00 pm battery was at 13 so it is charging no problem with just 50% sunshine here in Maine.

Wondering how often others check the water level in the battery using the same type of charging system?

I may have to invest in a remote battery watering system.

All advise will be welcome.

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Old 04-14-2019, 09:24 AM   #2
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jgilliam1955's Avatar
Name: Jack
Trailer: Casita Liberty
Posts: 122
Get a AGM Maintenance free battery.

Been with my sweetheart since 1969
Burned by Snoozy, Now a Casita owner
We enjoy Whole Plant Base food
If I won the award for laziness, I would send somebody to pick it up for me.
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Old 04-14-2019, 12:27 PM   #3
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Trail Cruiser
Posts: 482
I'm almost exclusively a boondocker and I've been using flooded lead acid deep cycle batteries for over 30 years. For quite a few years I would charge my batteries at home. I'd use each battery for about 2 days by which time it would be 50% discharged and then I'd switch it out with a fresh battery. This usually gave me a 6 - 8 year battery life span. I'd add water (always distilled) up to the bottom of the fill tube AFTER charging unless the tops of the plates were visible above the fluid level before charging.
It's the charging process (electrolysis and heating) that consumes the water. I'd top up my batteries at the beginning of the season (April, May) and at the end of the season (Sept, Oct) and sometimes mid season if I was camping a lot.

About 5 years ago I installed 150 watts of solar power with a charge controller.
Solar appears to be a much better way of maintaining charge in a battery. It maintains the battery at a much higher level of charge as the solar panels keep the battery topped up. My battery never drops between 85% - 90% full charge. This greatly extends battery life and minimizes water consumption as the batteries require much less charging to keep them full and it is the charging process that consumes water. I added water twice in 5 years of solar panel use.
I have the option of installing a battery inside my unit but was reluctant to use a flooded lead acid battery due to the production of flammable hydrogen gas as the battery charges. This year I will be installing an AGM battery inside my trailer as these have minimal off gassing.
Last season we opened up an AGM that had been in service with solar panels for 5 years. The cells were down about an ounce of water but the plates were still covered and the battery showed full charge.
The charge controller is all important. It starts the charging process as soon as the battery is used which minimizes the depth of discharge. This prevents heating the battery as may occur when it has been more deeply discharged which can also cause fluid loss. It also prevents over charging, a major cause of elecrolysis and fluid loss.
Install your new battery and watch the fluid levels. Then you'll be able to determine how often you need to check it going forward.
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Old 04-14-2019, 12:52 PM   #4
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Name: Alan
Trailer: 1983 Casita & 1972 home-built
Posts: 7
There are special battery cell caps designed to reduce water loss,
like these:

Like Mike says, you have to watch the water level long enough to get a sense of how fast you are losing water, and be sure your solar charge controller is configured for the correct battery type charging algorithm.
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Old 04-14-2019, 01:38 PM   #5
Name: Ed
Trailer: Casita 17 ft SD
Posts: 92
Battery water with solar charger

I have an 80 watt solar panel on my Casita 17 ft. SD. We have had the solar system for about ten years now. Long enough to have replaced one charge controller. I bought a more expensive charge controller, one that goes into the disulfate mode about once a month. The end result is the battery lasts about five years and I add a little bit of water to the cells once a year. I could probably go two years without adding water. In Colorado sunshine, it takes about 4 hours to recharge the battery after a night with reading lights and the furnace running.
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Old 04-14-2019, 03:15 PM   #6
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Posts: 1,549
All great replies and now I am going to rethink getting the AGM battery and just opt for a new battery. The one I now run is 6 years old. Another problem of the tight space the battery is in, under dinette is that I can only get a group 24 battery to fit in.
I do have it in a vented box so gas out is not a problem.
I think a new battery will work.
The only thing I will be running full time is a small computer fan in the back of the fridge and LED lights for reading at night.
I do have a max-fan but probably wont run this unless we have shore power.
Hot water / fridge are both LP gas and we will run the water pump only when we know we have a full battery.
Battery will charge off Tow Vehicle while driving and when stopped the solar panel will work fine.
Thanks for all the comments.
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Old 04-14-2019, 04:34 PM   #7
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Name: Darwin
Trailer: 2002 19 ft Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel
Posts: 3,070
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Charging a battery inside the camper is dangerous because they off gas and that can explode. ME, I would move the battery to the tong.
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Old 04-14-2019, 05:08 PM   #8
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Name: Wayne & Barbara
Trailer: Parkliner
Posts: 902
As far as I know, what you use to charge a battery, makes no difference to the water (acid) level. Just be sure to not "boil" the electrolyte as that will lower the fluid level.
A battery monitor. or simple voltmeter is an easy way to keep track.

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