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Old 09-06-2008, 09:38 PM   #1
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Battery at 45% even though connected to shore power

Not sure what is going on but my Sunexplorer monitor says that the battery is at 45% this evening, even though the trailer is hooked up to our 30 amp house power, and has been for the past two months. The trailer's own system monitor says about the same thing. Two days ago I washed the trailer shooting water on and around the solar panels to remove a build-up of dirt.

When I glanced at the Sunexplorer monitor late this afternoon, I noticed that it showed battery at 45% when I was expecting to see 100%. My plug-in ac volt meter shows that I have about 105 - 110 volts in the interior electrical outlet. The Glassmatt batteries look o.k. from a visual inspection.

Any idea what might be going on?

Thanks,
Bill
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:53 PM   #2
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My plug-in ac volt meter shows that I have about 105 - 110 volts in the interior electrical outlet...
hi bill

it's unlikely the solar gear has anything to do with this problem.

as u know, charging power from the panels doesn't kick in until battery voltage drops,

but 40% (what's the battery voltage) is low enough for them to kick in...

start with the 30 amp shore outlet, and check the voltage there.

it should be between 110-120 not less than 110, keep in mind the plug-in meters are +/- 2 to 5% margin of error.

i'm assuming the fridge is running on electic while u r plugged in, anything else running?

IF the shore power is FULL, the next thing to check is power at the charger/converter while plugged in, i think.

BUT let's wait for the 'lectrically wise to post...

have u checked the a/c breakers AND the 12 volt panel (fuses and breakers) ?

cheers
2air'
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Old 09-06-2008, 10:07 PM   #3
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On for two months? Have you checked the battery (s) themselves? It is possible, though not likely, the converter has damaged the battery.
If you have a digital volt meter, turn it to dc volts, and check the voltage across the battery terminals. If it is 12.75 or above with the converter turned off, the battery is good.
Check for corrosion on the terminals while you are there, corrosion will keep the juice from getting to the battery to charge it.
Check the water in the battery wile you have it accessible, and top it off if the level is at or below the top of the plates. Only fill it to the bottom ring in each cell, you don't want to overfill and spill acid while charging.
Next, check the voltage coming in to the battery from the solar system (the one in your trailer) and the converter, after plugging in/turning back on. Voltage for the converter should be 13-13.5 volts.
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Old 09-06-2008, 10:27 PM   #4
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2air' and overlander63... thanks for your quick responses...the battery voltage per the sunexplorer monitor is 11.8 volts... everything is running while I'm hooked to my home 30 amp power supply... I checked the a.c. breakers and did a reset test.... I'll check the 12 volt fuses in the morning... and the fuses to the solar controller in a.m.

overlander63, I'll do some testing with the digital volt meter in the morning... the batteries are Glasmatt AGM batteries, so I don't check or add water to these.

When I unplugged the 30 amp power cord two days ago, I remember hearing what I thought at the time to be some extra clicking noises coming from the direction of where the converter is, while standing outside by the trailer's electrical plug-in socket. I proceeded to wash the trailer and hose it off. After it was dry, I re-attached the shore power.

I'll resume testing and monitor this situation in the morning.

Thanks for your input on this... and I was just getting ready for a trip next week, too.

Bill
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:03 PM   #5
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Might be obvious, but is the battery disconnect switch set to "store"? Power from your converter won't make it to the batteries unless it's in the "use" mode.

-jd.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:04 PM   #6
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hi bill

11.8v is about 30% which is lower than ideal for agms...

they can be recharged to full, but many trips down to 11.8 shortens their lifespan.

you might wanna turn all 12v drains OFF NOW, or disconnect the batteries before they get LOWER...

IF the a/c has been running at 105 volts that can become an issue too.

i agree the parallax unit may have died, but you'll know more in the am.

and 5cats is right u may have just been SLOWLY draining the batteries,

i don't have that 'store/use' switch to deal with.

gotta love pre trip surprises...

cheers
2air'
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:32 PM   #7
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Good luck, Bill...we'll stay tuned to see what's up with your solar. Seems odd as you've been connected to shore power. We stay connected all the time as well, and when we diconnet, the batteries are at 100% as expected.

However...we stayed 2 nights at a dry camp ground after the 4CU Labor Day Rally to hone our dry camping skills...and discovered our solar panel is not charging as it should.... We couldn't seem to figure it out on our own so we are taking it in this week to have it looked at/resolved. (That and have those dang valve stems changed out on all the tires! "It's always something!" ~Rosanna Rosannadana)

Good luck...better to find this out now than when you're setting up camp next week!
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Old 09-07-2008, 12:01 AM   #8
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thanks, guys, for your responses... most appreciated during a trying time such as this.

Thanks, jd, I did check the use/store switch earlier this evening, but it was in the correct position, I think. In any case, I just went out now to check again and this time the battery is still at 45%, but the sunexplorer monitor now shows that it is 11.7 volts... so I took your advice, 2air', and turned the use/store switch to "store". I went out and disconnected the external 30 amp power supply to make sure I had the switch in the correct position, and once verified, I re-connected the 30 amp power cord. I did notice that I heard no clicking or swithcing sounds, like I heard two days ago when I first disconnected the power cord just prior to washing the trailer. (I'll turn the switch back to "use" in a.m. when the sun comes up and see what happens.)

So, I went back into the trailer and checked to see if the lights still worked with the trailer connected to shore power, and the use/store switch set to "store", the lights worked, but I did notice that they appeared dimmer than usual. I could hear the refrigerator working. I also notice that the Parallax converter was perfectly (and abnormally) quiet... no fan running, etc........ so maybe your right, 2air'... the problem might be with the Parallax converter....

Well, if that is the case, better now as I approach the homestretch of our Airstream warranty period... and instead of a camping trip, we might be driving to a reliable Airstream Service center.

Thanks again,

Bill
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Old 09-07-2008, 01:27 AM   #9
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Also check your negative connection between your convertor and your fuse panel/batteries. I went through this several weeks ago, several days prior to a big trip. I was sure my relatively new convertor was fried at a really inopportune time. Turned out, in my zeal to get everything nice and clean, I knocked the neg. wire loose with the vacuum nozzle. I had plenty of AC going to the convertor, but without the neg. DC connection connecting the load, the convertor had no reason to kick on and charge my batteries.

These can also wiggle loose during travel.

Virginia
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Old 09-07-2008, 01:45 PM   #10
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troubleshooting?

I went out to my trailer to see what I could measure if I wanted to do this trouble-shooting. Even though you mention dim interior lights when plugged into shore power, I'm still focusing on the battery disconnect

That pesky disconnect switch:
Click image for larger version

Name:	batt_disconnect.jpg
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ID:	66989 Is it in "USE" or "STORE" mode -- there's no way to tell by looking. Sure, there's a red indicator light, but that only tells you that a power supply detected. Start off by explicitly setting it to STORE.

Check the output at the power converter:
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ID:	66992 STORE mode = 13.8V.
This is a great time to check those circuit breakers, particularly the GFI -- you just washed the trailer, right?

Is power getting to the battery disconnect solenoid?
This guy is typically mounted inside the trailer, close to where the battery connections enter/exit. Mine is mounted on the inside front wall, the external battery box is located directly on the other side.
Click image for larger version

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ID:	66990 STORE mode =13.8V from power converter side.

Get a baseline reading from the battery side:
Click image for larger version

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ID:	66991 STORE mode = 13.2V at the battery/positive bus side. Definitely disconnected from the power converter output (good).
This is a another great time to check those fuses on the solenoid. There are two, one atop each connection side where I'm using the positive probe.

Now set the battery disconnect switch to USE. Did you hear a distinct "click" from the solenoid? It should have mechanically connected both sides of the solenoid just measured with this action.

Measuring in the USE mode now shows:
  • 13.77V at the power converter output, a slight drop from 13.8V first measured;
  • 13.71V at BOTH sides of the solenoid, proving they're now connected and power is being supplied to the battery side with an increase from the 13.2V baseline first measured;

So, its clear to me that even though the trailer is plugged into shore power, it's easy to let the batteries run down on their own if the battery disconnect is engaged (STORE mode). I've done this before, thinking my batteries were charging when the weren't. That switch could be more helpful with an indicator of the solenoid actual connect state. *sigh*

What if the solenoid fails to "click" when you try to switch to USE mode? That solenoid is actually powered from the battery side. If your batteries are too low to "throw the switch", you still get no charging to the batteries. Solution: use a separate charger to get the batteries up enough to power the solenoid into action, then let the bulk charger built into the power converter go from there.

Let us know how the mystery turns out!

Cheers,
-jd.
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Old 09-07-2008, 03:16 PM   #11
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5Cats... Wow...could you please move to Tucson...right next door to us...so you can trouble shoot for us when we don't know what the heck is going on?? Great info!
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:25 PM   #12
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Troubleshooting and probable diagnosis

Thanks jd for taking the time to post the troubleshooting photos and suggestions... and for reviewing this with me by phone... (Yes, TB, it's great having jd for a neighbor!)

This morning I was relieved to see the AGM batteries (which were taken off-line by putting the use/store switch to "store" last night, per 2air's good advice) were at 75% with 12.3 volts showing on the Sunexplorer monitor. The two 53 watt factory installed solar panels were doing their job. By 2:00 p.m. the batteries were at 95%, showing at 12.7 volts.

Per jd's suggestion, I used the digital volt meter to test the positive and negative wires coming out of the converter, which showed only 9.58 volts. My Safari Airstream Owners manual, converter testing steps in the electrical section, states that the voltage must be between 13.8 and 14.0 volts, and if not, the converter needs to be serviced or replaced by a qualified technician.

When I turned the use/store switch to "Use", the positive and negative wires at the converter now tested at 12.7 volts, which told me they were now showing the same voltage supplied by the batteries. Which helps me understand why the lights seemed dimmer when I put the switch to "store" and brighter when it was in the "use" position... and why the batteries went drastically down to 45% yesterday when I had the lights and fantastic fans running. (Remember, throughout all of this the trailer is connected to 30 amp shore power).

So it looks like the converter needs to be replaced. And even though it is within the warranty period, it might be a good opportunity to upgrade to a 3-stage charging system, perhaps an IntelliPower or WFCO, or Xantrex? (I've seen a few threads of recommendations... if you have hutch which controller would be ideal for a 23' Safari that already has a solar power charging system and AGM batteries installed by the factory, please post here. I am hoping the new converter will fit in the existing space occupied by my Parllax 7300 converter.

I'm also hoping that I can get an appointment with an Airstream service center Tuesday morning and hopefully be still able to utilize my beach camping reservations.

In any case, thank you everyone, for taking the edge off this stressful time, by taking a moment to respond. It illustrates the best aspects of these forums, knowledge sharing and supporting one another.

Thank you,

Bill
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:33 PM   #13
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if it's under warranty, have it fixed and save it for a spare or ........ whatever.
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:42 PM   #14
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Having a spare (or whatever) seems like a decent idea!

I wouldn't be surprised if just the little motherboard is replaced under warranty -- might be a fairly quick repair, saving the beach camping day(s)!

Best of luck, I look forward to hearing about potential replacements

Cheers,
-jd.
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