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Old 06-17-2013, 12:52 AM   #15
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Oh my goodness. I have so much to learn here. I'm going to have to read each post many times for me to digest it all. This is what forums are all about! So much good information being shared. I love it! Keep em coming...
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:20 AM   #16
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The most efficient method of charging Lifeline® AGM batteries is to use a 3 stage charging profile.
I'm sure the information about Lifeline batteries applies to all AGM batteries. Sure hope so, because my Interstate didn't come with Lifeline batteries. They are Discover Energy® Traction Dry Cell EV24A-A batteries, which according to the product literature are AGM batteries despite the words "dry cell" in the name.

http://www.discover-energy.com/sites...ts/EV24A-A.pdf

A lot of the information and tables on the PDF data sheet are meaningless to me since electrical isn't my field of expertise, but the Self-Discharge Characteristics table on pg. 2 seems to indicate that, for typical New Orleans summers (i.e. using the 104°F line), even if the batteries are stored with no parasitic current draw, they'll still self-discharge to 80% capacity in less than two months, or to 60% in about 5 months. That's without a solar panel to help maintain the charge, of course.
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Old 06-17-2013, 08:36 AM   #17
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Apologies for my poor choice of using the word “regularly” to apply an equalizing/conditioning charge. Your info is right from the Lifeline Technical manual. It sounds like David M is already experiencing capacity loss and is not getting to 100% charged state in addition to taking the coach batteries down to 40%.

In an Airstream Interstate unless you plug into 120V AC or run the propane generator for hours you won't get a full charge on your coach batteries.

Solar charging via the Atkinson controller used in my Interstate stops at 13.9 Volts. There is no 3-stage charging from this charge controller and it doesn't even start charging until the battery voltage is at 12.4V or below 75%. In my opinion Airstream did not install a quality multi-stage solar charge controller.

I have only used the equalizing/conditioning charge twice in the past 10 months after trips where I went through many charge cycles with batteries getting to less than 100%.

- - Mike
Mike,

There is a good chance that you will never bring your batteries back to 100% capacity if they only receive 13.9 VDC when they should be getting 14.2-14.4 VDC in the bulk and acceptance phases.

I would look at several causes:

• your solar charge controller needs to be replaced with a fully operational 3-stage charging unit capable of sending at least 14.2 VDC (temperature dependent) to your house batteries

• your solar panel(s) don't have the open circuit voltage capacity to send enough voltage to the charge controller to accomplish the above (if your oanels do not emit at least 17 VDC, this will not happen. This is due to voltage drop from numerous sources like too many or improper connections, too small a wire gauge used in the installation, or simply a charge controller incapable of fully utilizing the input from the solar array

• your panels are either dirty or sit in some shadow when in full sunlight. This also has a negative effect on the voltage output capacity of the solar array.

Every time you perform a conditioning charge on Lifeline AGM batteries, you risk crossing the 15.5VDC (temperature compensated at 75ºF) threshold, creating an over-charging situation which will allow the hydrogen sulfide gas which usually recombines into the glass mat to escape the battery thru the one way valve.

Once this happens, you have permanently reduced the charge capacity of the battery with no way to restore it, as liquid that has been removed from the glass mat can not be replaced.

Proper charging is critical to the extended life of an AGM battery. I have clients with large Lifeline battery banks (6 X 8D) currently in their 8th and 9th years of continual service that are still above 95% capacity and have never been conditioned.
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:46 AM   #18
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Update: After leaving the coach plugged into shore power all weekend, the panel showed 100% this morning! I'm so exited as I've never seen this before. It looks like you were all correct in that I just needed to leave it plugged in for a few days. I'll keep you all updated. BTW, both my batteries were replaced with new ones in May 2013 and I washed my solar panel a few weeks ago. The batteries were replaced by Lifeline because the dealership didn't keep the batteries charged while on the lot; so they wouldn't hold a charge for more than a few minutes. This could be why I'm particularly sensitive about battery life 😃 Airstream Los Angeles is taking physical measurements of the real estate on top of their Interstate on their lot to see if a second panel can be mounted. If not, I may have to simply replace the existing panel with the highest wattage panel I can find. I'll keep you all posted. I've also started seeing flexible solar panels with self adhesives on it that may be an option. I don't know if they can be custom sized to fit on our Interstates and how efficient they are, but they look attractive from a weight standpoint.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:44 AM   #19
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Thanks Lew,
Very good info. I’ll refrain from using the equalizing/conditioning charge from now on. My 2013 Interstate has the Magnum MMS1012 Inverter/Charger. I checked all the settings and they are correct for the Lifeline batteries in my coach. Hopefully the Magnum worked properly and didn’t over charge my batteries when I did the equalizing/conditioning charge.

I’m trying to get more info on the Atkinson PVCM20D that Airstream installed in my Interstate. The user manuals supplied don’t have much detail. I don’t know how much voltage is going to controller when solar charging. I’ll have to get a meter on the PV panel input side of the controller which is not easy to get at under the rear lounge seat on my unit. The remote control panel displays the battery voltage. This is all the info on charging voltages from the Atkinson manual:

SEALED BATTERY *Blue Jumper Clipped *
THRESHOLDS: @ Room Temperature 15-308C
On @ 12.4VDC, Off @ 13.9VDC
Accuracy +/- 0.1V DC

Best I can tell it operates according to these basic specs. My panels are clean, but I only get direct sunlight for about 4 hours a day when I normally park in my driveway. When I was in Key West I got max sun every day.

The Atkinson PVCM20D is only about a $65 unit so I doubt that is does anything like 3-stage charging or MPPT. I’d probably be better off replacing this controller with a better unit before I think about adding more solar panels.

- - Mike
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:47 AM   #20
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Opps the Atkinson Specs should read:
THRESHOLDS: @ Room Temperature 15-30 deg C
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Old 06-17-2013, 01:09 PM   #21
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Update: After leaving the coach plugged into shore power all weekend, the panel showed 100% this morning! I'm so exited as I've never seen this before. It looks like you were all correct in that I just needed to leave it plugged in for a few days. ..............Airstream Los Angeles is taking physical measurements of the real estate on top of their Interstate on their lot to see if a second panel can be mounted. If not, I may have to simply replace the existing panel with the highest wattage panel I can find.
David
And, you know, you can just plug it in over the weekend or whenever, to top your batteries off. Or, you can buy all these expensive add-ons to avoid ever plugging in to electricity.

If you are traveling any distance during the day, you will charge your battery. If you are fully charged and then parked for days at a time without electric, your solar panels will extend your stay quite a bit, as I understand it.

Given the size of Interstate holding tanks, if dry-camping we need to drive to dump and refill with fresh water after 4-5 days, anyway, even with the most conservative usage. Not to mention the dorm-sized frig, which also needs to be replenished.

Be thoughtful about all the extras, folks, IMO. Think about what you are going to use your Interstate for and then plan accordingly.


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Old 06-17-2013, 01:24 PM   #22
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Thanks Maggie. All good points. I haven't gone on any trips yet because I just retired (early) effective 1 Jun 2013; I just recently got the Airstream; and I'm still gathering camping supplies (we haven't gone camping in over 25 years). I just didn't want to run out of juice prematurely on our first dry camp
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Old 06-17-2013, 01:27 PM   #23
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Thanks Maggie. All good points. I haven't gone on any trips yet because I just retired (early) effective 1 Jun 2013; I just recently got the Airstream; and I'm still gathering camping supplies (we haven't gone camping in over 25 years). I just didn't want to run out of juice prematurely on our first dry camp
If you leave fully charged, and use those solar panels, you should be fine for 4-5 days, at least.

What you are likely to need first is fresh water and to empty your tanks.


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Old 06-17-2013, 01:42 PM   #24
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Oh, one more newbie question: do you leave your inverter switch on "Line/Charge Only" on a daily basis and only switch to "Auto/Invert" when you're unplugged and need 110v? Up until now, I've just left it on Auto/Invert. Maybe that was part of my problem too.
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Old 06-17-2013, 02:03 PM   #25
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Oh, one more newbie question: do you leave your inverter switch on "Line/Charge Only" on a daily basis and only switch to "Auto/Invert" when you're unplugged and need 110v? Up until now, I've just left it on Auto/Invert. Maybe that was part of my problem too.
Having depleted my batteries severely early on due to not being able to track down all of the parasitic drains, I've gotten into the habit of switching the inverter/charger completely off, using the three-position switch on the front of the inverter, when the unit is stored. It's not needed for the solar panel, which is wired separately, and by having it switched completely off, it's not drawing power itself (for its cooling fan, etc.) either.

The remote panel in the overhead locker doesn't allow you to switch the inverter/charger completely off, so if that's the control you're using, set it to line/charge in storage. If you leave it on auto/invert, you may find that certain appliances (such as your televisions) remain powered even when the battery disconnect switch is off. Of course, that also depends on what you do with the circuit breakers while in storage, too.
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Old 06-18-2013, 06:53 AM   #26
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For longer storage we also disconnect the chassis battery utilizing the 'battery-cut-off' plug located to the upper right of accelerator pedal. My oversight cost me the battery.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:26 AM   #27
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For storage longer than a month, I use smart chargers from CTek. I use a MultiUS 3300 (4 step) for the Sprinter battery and leave the battery connected. Due to the higher capacity of the coach batteries I use a MultiUS 7200 (8 step) for those. I do disconnect the coach batteries but probably don't need to. I have left the Interstate unattended for up to 6 months at a time and find my batts in perfect condition when I'm ready to roll. MB, Audi, Lamborghini, BMW and Maserati sell these (rebranded) and I've found them to be excellent. See CTEK Battery Chargers - The World's Smarter Battery Charger
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:43 AM   #28
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We are the ancients here.

Our Interstate has a "use/store" switch, which we set to "use" anytime we are plugged in to electricity (to charge) or when driving, dry camping, etc., to use the power from the battery.

We switch to "store" when the Interstate is not in use, and this prevents ongoing discharge of the batteries by anything. You can't use a light, the water pump, etc., when set this way.

The first thing we do when we plug in prior to a trip is to switch the battery on. It doesn't go to store until we return home.


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