Battery care on solar powered batteries - Fiberglass RV
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Old 12-17-2020, 02:00 PM   #1
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Name: Bob ,
Trailer: Escape trailer 17
Oregon
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Battery care on solar powered batteries

I have a 17’ Escape with factory installed solar panel. It is stored out doors uncovered so the panel is operating all day long trying to charge batteries not being used. We have sun 90% of the winter and trailer sits.
Does anyone know if this fries the batteries and should we disconnect them in cold non use months, can an isolation switch be used?
Your feed backappreciated.
Bob in Sisters Oregon
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Old 12-17-2020, 03:42 PM   #2
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Check the voltage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballman1 View Post
I have a 17’ Escape with factory installed solar panel. It is stored out doors uncovered so the panel is operating all day long trying to charge batteries not being used. We have sun 90% of the winter and trailer sits.
Does anyone know if this fries the batteries and should we disconnect them in cold non use months, can an isolation switch be used?
Your feed backappreciated.
Bob in Sisters Oregon
Your charge control should be protecting everything. I like to keep my batteries under 14 VDC (I have one system at 13.7 and the other at 12.6) but a check of the acid level is a good indicator also. If you need to add water a lot, it is over charging. (Mine are lead acid)
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Old 12-17-2020, 08:15 PM   #3
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If they put a good solar controller in your Escape and it's matched to the type of batteries, then it should keep the batteries (or battery) in optimum condition as long as it has power input.. so also should a good converter or charger. You want the batteries to stay charged and a good controller / converter / charger will do that without over-charging. Its mostly the cheap or very old devices that do damage to batteries. So what solar controller do you have?

Of course you still have to check the acid level on occasion (if not sealed), and keep the connections clean.
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Old 12-17-2020, 09:17 PM   #4
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The possible problems with no use and sun everyday, is that the controller sees every new day as a separate charging event. I'm not familiar with all brands, but it likely will bring the batteries up to a full absorption charge every day of 14.1 -14.5 volts for flooded lead acid batteries. When they really, with no use, only need to arrive at a float charge of 13.2. Charging them every day to 14.5 will also increase the water use, if they are not sealed batteries.

Unfortunately, there are parasitic losses in trailers, such as the CO detector, that mean a continuous low draw, so you can't just turn off the charging completely, unless the battery is disconnected.

I suggest you shut off the main breaker, or disconnect a battery cable, to eliminate all draw on the battery, and then only top them off every month or two. It might also be nice to cover the collectors and keep them out of the direct sun when not in use, but I don't know how important that is. If you do that, a small smart battery tender is probably best.

If you go to lithium batteries, they don't want to be held at a float voltage, but it sounds like you have lead acid.
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Old 12-18-2020, 09:59 AM   #5
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In a stock wired Escape 17, the battery disconnect switch will disconnect all trailer loads, including the propane detector. It will not disconnect the solar controller. The stock GoPower solar controller will keep the battery topped off without overcharging it.

I kept the batteries in my 17B with one 90 watt panel over a couple of upstate NY winters with only the solar & had no problems. I'd check the battery status every month or so just to be sure nothing went wrong, but the solar should do the job.
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Old 12-18-2020, 12:26 PM   #6
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I remove my batteries during the winter as the solar panels can get covered with snow. The rest of the year I leave them connected and have never had a problem. The charge controller maintains the batteries and this greatly extends their life as they seldom drop below 80% when used for a night. Before using solar panels my batteries lasted 4 - 5 years. With the solar panels I'm up to 10 years and expect them to last longer.
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Old 12-23-2020, 11:52 AM   #7
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I agree with Mike, leave them on the charger. It is important, even for a battery just sitting there, to go through an absorb cycle often. This prevents the buildup of sulfates on the battery plates. The "smarter" controllers will adjust the length of the Absorb cycle depending on how discharged the batteries are to start. Additionally, the controller will take your batteries through an Equalize cycle every month or so, again, to ensure no accumulation of sulfates.
It's a common misconception that simply achieving Float every day is good enough if they're not being heavily used. Even converters (i.e. the charging active when you're plugged in) should take the battery above Float and then back to Float each charging cycle.

While it is true that a daily absorb and periodic equalize will take a bit away from your plates over time, ensuring that they do not sulfate up is far more important and should ensure the batteries last a long time - assuming they are not deeply discharged when you do use them.
It is important to check them every month or two in cold weather for electrolyte level and more often in the summer, although that's not what you were asking about.
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Old 12-23-2020, 12:00 PM   #8
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"I suggest you shut off the main breaker, or disconnect a battery cable, to eliminate all draw on the battery, and then only top them off every month or two."



Although it's not a bad idea to disconnect the loads for an inactive trailer in storage, it is not a good idea to only "top them off every month or two". Depending on the age and condition of the battery, not charging them above their gassing voltage (typically around 13.5V) can result in sulfation well within two or even one month. It's safer to put them through an absorb cycle at least every few days and doing so will not reduce the battery lifespan.
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Old 12-23-2020, 02:21 PM   #9
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Solar and batteries

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Vermilye View Post
In a stock wired Escape 17, the battery disconnect switch will disconnect all trailer loads, including the propane detector. It will not disconnect the solar controller. The stock GoPower solar controller will keep the battery topped off without overcharging it.

I kept the batteries in my 17B with one 90 watt panel over a couple of upstate NY winters with only the solar & had no problems. I'd check the battery status every month or so just to be sure nothing went wrong, but the solar should do the job.
What Jon said! Period.
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Old 12-23-2020, 04:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Vermilye View Post
In a stock wired Escape 17, the battery disconnect switch will disconnect all trailer loads, including the propane detector. It will not disconnect the solar controller. The stock GoPower solar controller will keep the battery topped off without overcharging it.

I kept the batteries in my 17B with one 90 watt panel over a couple of upstate NY winters with only the solar & had no problems. I'd check the battery status every month or so just to be sure nothing went wrong, but the solar should do the job.

Bob,
What Jon said is correct.

I have a 2015 Escape 17, with factory installed 150W solar panel. It was one of the earlier ones with solar, and had a Samlex controller, which I replaced with a better Blue Sky controller, that charges and maintains the battery without over charging. This is similar to the Go-Power controller that has been the Escape Trailer Industries (ETI) stock controller for some time now.

I store our Escape outside without removing the battery, and as Jon said, the solar controller is hooked up to the battery independent of the trailer loads, so I turn off the main disconnect, so there are no trailer electrical loads.
FYI: Most solar controller specs. say not to disconnect the battery while the solar system is hooked up, to avoid potential electrical damage. So, if you decide to disconnect and remove the battery, cover the solar panel to avoid any solar radiation.
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Old 12-23-2020, 04:39 PM   #11
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I keep a 25ohm load on inside the trailer during the winter. Itís a very small cycle, but keeps the inside temperature a degree or so above ambient to reduce condensation. Itís only 7W or so and the panel will always keep up with it (assuming it is uncovered).
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Old 12-23-2020, 06:22 PM   #12
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I keep a 25ohm load on inside the trailer during the winter. Itís a very small cycle, but keeps the inside temperature a degree or so above ambient to reduce condensation. Itís only 7W or so and the panel will always keep up with it (assuming it is uncovered).

this is very interesting. how do you do it? is it a small heating element? that's tiny though, like the size of a small aquarium heater. would it serve the same purpose to leave a couple LEDs on?
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Old 12-23-2020, 07:02 PM   #13
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this is very interesting. how do you do it? is it a small heating element? that's tiny though, like the size of a small aquarium heater. would it serve the same purpose to leave a couple LEDs on?


Actually it doesnít much matter because ultimately it all becomes heat anyway, so a 7 to 10W bulb, or a resistor or heating element. I used a 25ohm 10W resistor available from Digikey or any electronic supplier. You can buy these Stor Dry units for RVs and they are nothing other than a resistor of appropriate value (somewhere around 1700ohms for 110V translates to about 25 ohms for 12V) to generate about 7 Watts of heat. This is my second winter with it and it seems to work well.
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Old 12-23-2020, 09:03 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by AC0GV View Post
Your charge control should be protecting everything. I like to keep my batteries under 14 VDC (I have one system at 13.7 and the other at 12.6) but a check of the acid level is a good indicator also. If you need to add water a lot, it is over charging. (Mine are lead acid)
Acid level? Now thatís a whole new can of worms, I thought you added water it sounds like a hot tub.
VDC. Not sure what that is
Not sure if trailer has a charge control either.
Thanks fir your feedback looks like more homework for me.
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Old 12-23-2020, 09:23 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dfandrews View Post
Bob,
What Jon said is correct.

I have a 2015 Escape 17, with factory installed 150W solar panel. It was one of the earlier ones with solar, and had a Samlex controller, which I replaced with a better Blue Sky controller, that charges and maintains the battery without over charging. This is similar to the Go-Power controller that has been the Escape Trailer Industries (ETI) stock controller for some time now.

I store our Escape outside without removing the battery, and as Jon said, the solar controller is hooked up to the battery independent of the trailer loads, so I turn off the main disconnect, so there are no trailer electrical loads.
FYI: Most solar controller specs. say not to disconnect the battery while the solar system is hooked up, to avoid potential electrical damage. So, if you decide to disconnect and remove the battery, cover the solar panel to avoid any solar radiation.
Great and helpful reply Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
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Old 12-23-2020, 09:24 PM   #16
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Name: Bob ,
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Thank you for your details feedback
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