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Old 09-20-2015, 06:16 PM   #1
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Brand new Lifeline batteries--best way to give them a long life?

I just received the two Lifeline batteries to replace the two that were no longer holding a charge.

So I would like to get feedback and advice on how to best avoid drawing down these two new batteries. I currently store the RV in a remote lot (due to not being able to park next to our condo because of the HOA) with plenty of sun, but no electric hookups.

As I see it from posts on this subject, my options are:

1) Find a storage lot where we can electrical hookups. Yes, we have found one (not very close like our present lot) and it is very nice, but it's also $275/month. Yikes. We presently pay $45/month for storage.

2) Take the RV out at least once every 30 days and put it on shore power for at least 2 days.

3) Remove the batteries from the rig when stored longer term and store the batteries in my garage on trickle chargers to keep them topped up.

4) Upgrade the solar array to at least 100W, or perhaps even 200W or 400W, along with a new controller. Some members have done this, I would love to hear what the total cost of this upgrade/conversion has cost.

We have the 2014, which has the 50W solar. We typically use it every 4-6 weeks during the summer, but store it all winter (4-5 months). So my near term solution may be a combination of #2 during the usage months and #3 during the winter storage months. However, I'm not very confident that storing the rig for 4-6 weeks, even with sun, may still draw down the batteries?

I would love to hear the recommendations of others. I don't want to get caught again with dead batteries and unable to start the generator.
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Old 09-20-2015, 06:47 PM   #2
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You need to run the Onan generator at least once a month for at least an hour anyway, to keep the generator in good working order. So you might as well plan to run the generator as part of your battery maintenance scheme.

Also, don't forget that your Interstate is still a van, and can be driven around town even when you aren't planning to go camping. Even if all you do is make a grocery run about once every couple of weeks with it, running the engine alternator will help keep the house batteries charged, as long as your Battery Isolation Module (BIM) is working properly. When I was still working for a living, I made a point of driving my Interstate to work every payday, because payday was an easy day to remember to take the van to work, and I never had to plug into shore power to keep the house batteries charged— even with just 50 watts of factory solar for the days I didn't drive the van or run the generator.

If you want to upgrade the solar charging system so that it does the lion's share of the work, based on an average of six hours of effective sunlight a day, you need to have at least as many watts of solar panel as you have amp-hours of house battery. That means for your 160 total amp-hours, you need at least 160 watts of solar panel. 200 watts will do well for battery maintenance. You would only need more watts if you plan to do much boondocking.
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Old 09-20-2015, 07:01 PM   #3
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Many folks have mentioned just disconnecting the negative terminals when stored ... and reported that a fully charged battery would be good for ~ 90 days.
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Old 09-20-2015, 07:48 PM   #4
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Generator, BIM and driving around...

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Originally Posted by Protagonist View Post
You need to run the Onan generator at least once a month for at least an hour anyway, to keep the generator in good working order. So you might as well plan to run the generator as part of your battery maintenance scheme.

Also, don't forget that your Interstate is still a van, and can be driven around town even when you aren't planning to go camping. Even if all you do is make a grocery run about once every couple of weeks with it, running the engine alternator will help keep the house batteries charged, as long as your Battery Isolation Module (BIM) is working properly. When I was still working for a living, I made a point of driving my Interstate to work every payday, because payday was an easy day to remember to take the van to work, and I never had to plug into shore power to keep the house batteries charged— even with just 50 watts of factory solar for the days I didn't drive the van or run the generator.

If you want to upgrade the solar charging system so that it does the lion's share of the work, based on an average of six hours of effective sunlight a day, you need to have at least as many watts of solar panel as you have amp-hours of house battery. That means for your 160 total amp-hours, you need at least 160 watts of solar panel. 200 watts will do well for battery maintenance. You would only need more watts if you plan to do much boondocking.
Thanks, Protag, good recommendation on running the generator when I visit the RV. However, I plan to store the RV during the winter months and put it into storage with my insurance company as well. That means I cannot drive it around every 2-4 weeks. I can only take it out of storage with insurance for 30 days minimum (and in storage for 30 days minimum). Given that it's $2,000/yr. for the insurance and $1,000/yr. when in storage, it's not an insignificant amount (about $80/month).

I have no idea what a BIM is. And I will admit to trying to look up that acronym via Google with no luck, thanks for at least giving me the acronym definition. And I have no idea where my BIM is, nor what it looks like. Or what it does. So I have no idea if it is working properly. I'm still new to all of this...

I am thinking about upgrading the panels and/or controllers to make it a more permanent solution.
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Old 09-20-2015, 07:50 PM   #5
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Disconnect negative terminals

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Many folks have mentioned just disconnecting the negative terminals when stored ... and reported that a fully charged battery would be good for ~ 90 days.
Yes, I had read that as well. However, I plan to store the rig for 4-5 months during the winter, so I'm thinking I might as well just remove the batteries and put them on a trickle charger so that they are fresh and ready to go in the spring. Or at least that's the theory...
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Old 09-20-2015, 08:38 PM   #6
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The BIM is under the lounge on mine near the solar charge controller. Don't know what my OEM batteries' amp-hour rating is but as I've stated before in other threads, the 50W panel keeps mine fully charged w/ everything off.

That being said, you might want to go w/ a Magnum inverter unless that's what you already have. Lewster recommends a particular solar charge controller in another thread discussing solar.


Might check Allied Insurance (a Nationwide company). Mine runs about $990/year.
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Old 09-20-2015, 08:57 PM   #7
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BIM, inverter, controller and insurance

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Originally Posted by 73shark View Post
The BIM is under the lounge on mine near the solar charge controller. Don't know what my OEM batteries' amp-hour rating is but as I've stated before in other threads, the 50W panel keeps mine fully charged w/ everything off.

That being said, you might want to go w/ a Magnum inverter unless that's what you already have. Lewster recommends a particular solar charge controller in another thread discussing solar.


Might check Allied Insurance (a Nationwide company). Mine runs about $990/year.
Thanks for the feedback. Is the BIM the dial that turns when I hit the switch by the door for Battery Disconnect? I wish I could keep mine charged, maybe you are doing something I'm not, but I haven't yet figured it out yet.

We do have a Magnum inverter in our rig. Although I also admit that I don't really understand the inverter (hmmm...maybe that's part of the problem?), I just turn it on when I am on shore power, off when I'm not. Is that the correct procedure?

I am minimally considering replacing the solar controller with a multi-stage controller, that seems to be a universal need-to-be-done. Also considering adding panels to bring up the wattage to at least 200W.

Thanks for the tip on Allied. I didn't really shop the RV insurance, just went with who we have our car and home covered with (Liberty Mutual). I will check them (and others) out. I just checked and there doesn't seem to be a thread on it, so I will start a different thread on RV insurance...
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Old 09-20-2015, 09:37 PM   #8
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Since you have a three year newer model, not really sure where your BIM is. Mine is under the lounge next to the solar charge controller. Not familiar w/ a dial as I don't have the remote battery disconnect. One thing I don't have to worry about.

The inverter is what gives 120 VAC out w/ 12 VDC in. Also charges batteries when on shore or generator power.

Check out all of the threads dealing w/ solar as Lewster has a lot of good recommendations in them.

Definitely shop your insurance including car and home.
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Old 09-21-2015, 01:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianKrueger View Post
I have no idea what a BIM is. And I will admit to trying to look up that acronym via Google with no luck, thanks for at least giving me the acronym definition. And I have no idea where my BIM is, nor what it looks like. Or what it does. So I have no idea if it is working properly. I'm still new to all of this...
The Battery Isolation Module— BIM— is a relay, located near your inverter/charger and main disconnect. In the sofa/lounge models it's under the sofa, in a position where you can't see it unless you're willing to open up the base of the sofa (preferably from the rear).

The BIM is fully automatic and can't be turned on or shut off; it's on all the time and is one of the "parasitic" loads on your house batteries. It has no control panel, so the only way you can tell if it's working would be if you can tell that all of your batteries are charging as they're supposed to. If anyone from Airstream, Inc. is reading this, an indicator LED light that comes on when the house and chassis batteries are connected by the BIM would certainly help!

The way the BIM works is, when there is any source of charging current, whether it's the generator, shore power, or the engine alternator, the BIM relay connects the house batteries and chassis battery so that they can all charge at the same time. When there is no source of charging current, the relay isolates the house and chassis batteries from each other, so that a load on your house system doesn't drain your chassis battery or vice versa.

There are two quirks to the BIM that you need to be aware of. First, if the drain on the batteries is greater than the charging current, the BIM disconnects. If you park the van with the headlights on, you can run the chassis battery down while the solar panel keeps the house batteries fully charged. The drain on the chassis battery can be great enough to trigger a disconnect even though there is a source of charging current (solar) available on the house side. I know this from personal experience.

Second, the BIM is powered by the house batteries. If the house batteries go dead, the BIM will not work. That isn't a problem if you hook up to shore power; as soon as the shore power comes on and feeds the inverter/charger, there will be enough current flowing through the house batteries to allow the BIM to work. BUT— if you have dead house batteries, you can't charge them from the engine alternator. It's a Catch-22; the BIM has to work in order to charge dead house batteries from the engine alternator, but the engine alternator can't charge the house batteries unless the BIM is working.

So while the alternator is a possible source of charging current, you have to run the engine while there's still enough power left in the batteries for the BIM to work. Don't wait until the house batteries are dead.
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Old 09-21-2015, 12:32 PM   #10
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I have the same 2014 AI and pay less than $700 for annual insurance through the Good Sam plan. Either I am woefully underinsured (don't think so) or you need to shop around - should generate enough savings to pay for your upgraded solar.
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Old 09-21-2015, 12:52 PM   #11
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Just have a Magnum AGS module installed which will take care of the batteries and exercise the generator.
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:01 PM   #12
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Or you might look at National Insurance Co. (330) 659-8900. I just switched for $670/yr. But my trailers are older (87 & 97 Exlas). And their auto rates made the deal for me.
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Old 09-22-2015, 07:06 AM   #13
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Magnum AGS Module

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Just have a Magnum AGS module installed which will take care of the batteries and exercise the generator.
Thanks for the link. Another new piece of equipment that I didn't know existed before.

Three questions:

1. My understanding is that the Magnum inverter/charger also needs to be one when the generator is running in order to charge the batteries. Does it turn on/off the inverter/charger as well?

2. How often and for how long each time would you need to run the generator to keep the batteries topped up while in storage?

3. Any idea what the cost would be to install this module?
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Old 09-22-2015, 09:12 AM   #14
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My setup may be slightly different than yours as I replaced the Tripplite with the Magnum and added a disconnect. My install also included the battery temperature sensor that AS leaves out and since I have access to a 15A plug I leave it plugged in all the time and do not have the AGS, (inverter off but connected). That said, my understanding of the AGS module is that you can set it to run automatically based on any of the setting parameters but I would probably use battery voltage as the benchmark. It doesn't look like a hard install but perhaps Lew could elaborate on install costs though he might want to clean up the rats nest that AS seems to leave in many vans.
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