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Old 07-22-2012, 03:59 PM   #1
Full Timers/Diesel power.
 
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Coach battery quandry.

We're heading east in a couple of weeks and two of the sites we want to see are NWR and FS campgrounds with no hook-ups or gen-sets permitted. The batteries are AC Delco "Voyager", which I've had great luck with,but they are a few years old, however. They are activated to start the diesel. Other than un-plugging from the grid and seeing how long they last, is there a more scientific method to determine how long they'll last before I have to start the gen-set from the starter battery to charge them? Or, have I answered my own question and bite the bullet?
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:14 PM   #2
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One of the best sources of battery charging information I know is material written by David Smead. This is a link to a page on the Ample Power website.
David has literally written the manual on this subject matter...
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Old 07-22-2012, 05:21 PM   #3
Full Timers/Diesel power.
 
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Thanks, Bruce, I did not know most of that info. I do have a VOM and will check them when I do my drain-down test. We have a seperate 20-volt circuit where we are camped to run the computor and t.v. so I think I'll just un-plug the 30 amp and see how long we can survive without charging. That seems to be the only way I can figure out how long we can last boondocking.
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Old 07-23-2012, 04:33 AM   #4
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Mike,
If finances permit, solar is a great way to extend boondocking...I know folks that enhance their dry camping by using a panel(or two) that are portable, re-directional, and provide them with enough power to get through the night. We have two Kyocera 130s on our roof, but only 2 29 series AGMs in line(we want 4, but those puppies are kinda pricey)...AGMs can be fitted inside the coach. There are folks that say this is NOT a good idea...I haven't found a thread pro or con, but they are supposed to be reliable and leak free if vertical, horizontal, or upside down. We have a Blue Sky Controller, and are quite happy with it.
The folks I know with the 'portable' panels mounted them on pvc pipe frames made at 'home' with minimal tools...they have to shift them during the day to get maximum sun, but it beats a dead battery(ies)...m
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Old 07-23-2012, 06:53 AM   #5
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We have friends who picked up a set of portable solar panels at Costco that seem to work quite well.

Fold together flat, connect to the battery with cables and have a nice little carrying case. They seemed to work quite well, just set up in the sun for a few hours every day.


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Old 07-23-2012, 07:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Leary View Post
The batteries are AC Delco "Voyager", which I've had great luck with,but they are a few years old, however. They are activated to start the diesel.
The information I've found direct from AC Delco concerning AC Delco Voyager batteries covers five models:
M24MF - 550 Cold Cranking Amps;
M27MF - 590 Cold Cranking Amps;
M29MF - 675 Cold Cranking Amps;
C24MF - 500 Cold Cranking Amps; and
C24HP - 800 Cold Cranking Amps.

The problem is, "cold cranking amps" rate how much power is available to turn the starter on an engine. Doesn't say anything at all about how long they last under a constant load.

For supporting your house system while boondocking, you need batteries rated in amp-hours. Although AC Delco Voyagers are listed as "deep-cycle" batteries, I cannot find amp-hour information from official AC Delco sources. One unofficial source provides these numbers:
M24MF - 75 amp-hours;
M27MF - 105 amp-hours;
M29MF - no data;
C24MF - 55 amp-hours; and
C24HP - no data.

I strongly suspect that if you use much of their amp-hour capacity, you won't have enough cold cranking amps left to start your engine, unless you have a way to recharge them on-site.

With regard to adding AGM batteries inside the coach as ScrapIrony-2 suggests, you really should add a couple so you're not risking depletion of your engine starting battery, but they should be vented to outside. They may be leak-free, but they can still off-gas hydrogen while in use. Also, even though you can mount them horizontally or upside down, you get reduced amp-hours that way. There's an engineering reason for that, but it's boring (like most engineering explanations). When you mount them, keep them upright, please.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:30 AM   #7
Full Timers/Diesel power.
 
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Thanks, all. I have considered additional batteries, but with a wife who "needs space", I have nowhere to install them. The solar application sounds good, will look into it. I also researched AC batteries and found not much information, either. We did stay at Organ Pipe NM in AZ last year for three days off-grid and all showed "good" on the display, but I was able to run the gen-set for an hour each day to top them off. Long extension cord?
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:04 PM   #8
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When you mount them, keep them upright, please.
Thanks Mr Protagonist, for that info...now, if I can just figure out how to vent the two I planned on putting in the coach behind the passenger front seat...
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:18 AM   #9
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Thanks Mr Protagonist, for that info...now, if I can just figure out how to vent the two I planned on putting in the coach behind the passenger front seat...
I would suggest that you put the batteries in marine battery boxes and strap them down. Get vent kits, similar to this one that you can install on the lids of the battery boxes:

Buy.com - Battery Box Vent Kit, w/ 25 Hose, White

Since you are venting hydrogen, which is lighter than air, the vent has to go at the highest point of the battery box, and vent to someplace higher outside the rig, preferably with no more than a 45° bend (two separate 45° bends to vent to the side of your rig).

Marine battery boxes are not airtight; air can come in through openings around where the battery cables run. This is important because as you vent hydrogen out of the battery box, something has to replace it, namely air coming in through the aforementioned openings.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:40 AM   #10
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Pro T great info, this will help me with my Safari also, thanks. Jim
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Old 07-25-2012, 10:24 AM   #11
Full Timers/Diesel power.
 
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Vinnie mentioned a solar-powered trickle charger on his website, I'm going to try to reach him about the brand. Anyone else use them?
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Old 07-25-2012, 11:11 AM   #12
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Vinnie mentioned a solar-powered trickle charger on his website, I'm going to try to reach him about the brand. Anyone else use them?
My two-cents' worth…

My Interstate came with a solar charger already installed. Made by BP Solar. Yes, that BP. But Kyocera makes very good ones, and if I was buying aftermarket, that's what I'd probably choose. There are other brands, though, that are good as well.

You've got two real choices no matter what brand you choose, a solar panel with a separate charge controller, and a solar panel with a built-in charge controller. Built-in is easier to wire, separate is more complex to wire but makes it easier to monitor the performance of the system.

You'll want at least a 50 watt solar panel for keeping your house batteries topped off. More is better if you have the room to mount them.

You want to wire the charge controller directly to the house batteries, bypassing the disconnect switch. That way, even when you've got everything switched off, as when the unit is in storage, the solar panel is still doing its job to keep your batteries up.

You need not worry if you're charging the batteries from shore power or generator; the charge controller has diodes to ensure that you don't have current flowing through the charge controller in the wrong direction from the other charger, so you don't need to switch off the solar charger to use a different charger.
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