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Old 01-11-2008, 12:48 AM   #15
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You don't mention adding water - have they been thirsty?

You also only mention what the charger is doing - the batteries are boss, what are the before and after readings w/ converter off & for what period of time has it ran?

One can not expect greater than +/- 10% accuracy to calculate the charged state with a voltmeter unless your lead-acid batteries have rested at least 4 hours (nothing in/out) - even after 4 hours the error margin is still +/- 3-5%. You need to record temperature compensated specific gravity measurements over several entire charge-discharge cycles to have more than a guess at the battery state at any point of time. The trimetric gauge will happily throw readings out but without knowing what the chemistry of the battery is doing compared to the SG readings there is still a possible rate of error built in.

Your generator is most efficient with about a 80% load on it but the load of your converter at full power draws 1260 watts so the pain threshold of running that beautiful 12.2 HP Twin Cylinder OHC Four-Stroke Liquid-Cooled 359 cc generator rises just on that point. For the 1260 watts maximum input of the WFCO 65A converter you get ~1000 watts energy into the batteries on top charge rate (14.2V x 65A) so there is another 20% losses before you start calculating your battery loads.

Deep cycle batteries across their charge range lose another average 8% charging and 8% supplying power to that is another 15% loss in order to have shore power disconnected. Then there is the wiring losses of 12V which are additive to whatever device loads are - good engineering will place it no greater than 5%; so adding device loads together you need to add 20% to get needed amp-hours to replace battery usage.

Since it sounds like you are full-timing you would be wise to ignore the WFCO stages and use the Bulk, Finishing, and Equalization charge scheme that is the historic standard. Get Costco to share with you the battery manufacturer's name and go get online charge recommendations for their chemistry and find a charger that will allow you to tune the set points between bulk and finishing charge.

Just the losses of the converter alone would get me thinking of using an inverter-charger, a used trace 2500w modified sine wave inverter with 120 amp charge circuit is on eBay at the moment that scrounges every bit of 120V input into the batteries, but this would be as a dedicated charger with the bonus of having 120VAC output...
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Old 01-11-2008, 09:39 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by garry
There is the posibility you have one bad battery in the bunch that is causing the problem. I would pull all the batteries and load test them individualy.

Most auto stores have load testers if you don't have one.

Garry
My thinking exactly so I bought a 100 amp load tester and tested each battery individually. They all tested good.

I also measured the specific gravity of each cell, they were consistent and on the border line between white and red.

So, that doesn't explain anything.
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Old 01-11-2008, 11:23 AM   #17
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Well your orignal question was about the converter and IMO the converter should have no problem bringing the batteries back to full charge in just a few hours unless fully discharged. Since all the batteries test good I would say the converter is not doing it's job. From what you posted earlier the bulk charge should kick in around 12.10 to 12.06 VDC can you test for this with a digital meter?
As others have suggested you can use a stand alone battery charger to bring everything up to a full charge but to have to do this on a fulltime basis is a work around.

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Old 01-11-2008, 12:51 PM   #18
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I'd begin by simplifying the problem:

(1) Reduce the load on the batteries to zero [or as close as practical];
(2) measure the voltage across the batteries;
(3) recharge the batteries;
(4) after 1-hr, 2-hrs [etc] stop charging and measure the voltage across the batteries.
(5) Use the table posted by others to calculate the "state of charge" based on the battery voltage observed after each interval.

I think the rate at which the batteries are charging will provide helpful clues.

You will presumably observe that the batteries are not charging as rapidly as expected. In that case, I'd break the problem down further by examining the various subsystems: generator, converter, batteries. For example, you may be able to beg, borrow, steal...(No! I guess you've got enough problems already)...beg, borrow, or rent a battery charger you could use to charge the batteries directly. If they still charge slowly, I'd focus my attention on them, since they would appear to be the problem. On the other hand, if they charge correctly, then it's time to focus on the other subsystems: converter & generator.

Hope this suggestion is useful.

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Old 01-11-2008, 01:55 PM   #19
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Wow - for someone who quotes the Dali Lama in their signature you are quite the all-purpose bully! It took me close to an hour to research and compose my first response but here you are again expecting pre cognizance and someone tell you what you want to hear...

"...consistent and on the border line between white and red... So, that doesn't explain anything." HUH? thats not a measurement! (resembles a 'my car is red & white, what size tires do I need' answer!)

For specific gravity a reading of 1.270 is fully charged, if you are serious with ensuring your batteries last you need to invest in a precision meter - well, maybe not, but you did evade two outright diagnostic questions asked among the others asked of you in these posts. Imagine that, someone asking details! Dialoug is give and take...

To better follow the "taa lai bla ma", apologies if you felt uncomfortable...

Lets look at the problem again from a new perspective. You have 240+ pounds of batteries - It is January, and you have had some problems since Novemeber. If the batteries are not in a conditioned atmosphere (75F is ideal) you need temperature compensated charging, even 20F lower you need to boost voltage by almost 2/10ths volt (27mV/C is common) to make up for the lowered activity; otherwise your charger will run and run and never bring the SOC (state of charge) up to even 90%...

Your charger puts out ~1000 watts of energy and if you lose 10% charging current due to resistance heating it would take close to two hours charging to raise battery string core temperature 1 degree celcius - so don't count on charging to help keep battery temperatures up since it IS shedding the heat almost as fast....

Suggested reading - The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1) not to be taken as gospel; but should help you make better educated observations... living with 12 volts. (I knew I'd seen 87MH's chart somewhere before, but many charts are 2/10ths of a volt higher on all points so following that one could be very hard on batteries!!)

And another source of charge wizardry

"a rough estimate of the actual SOC"

% of Charge - - - - - - Charging - - - - - - - At Rest - - - - Discharging

100 - - - - - - - - - - - - 14.75 - - - - - - - - 12.70 - - - - - - 12.50
90 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.75 - - - - - - - - 12.58 - - - - - - 12.40
80 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.45 - - - - - - - - 12.46 - - - - - - 12.30
70 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.30 - - - - - - - - 12.36 - - - - - - 12.25
60 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.20 - - - - - - - - 12.28 - - - - - - 12.15
50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.10 - - - - - - - - 12.20 - - - - - - 12.00
40 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.95 - - - - - - - - 12.12 - - - - - - 11.90
30 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.75 - - - - - - - - 12.02 - - - - - - 11.70
20 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.55 - - - - - - - - 11.88 - - - - - - 11.50
10 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.25 - - - - - - - - 11.72 - - - - - - 11.25

Source: Photovoltaic systems and renewable energy: Measuring Battery State of Charge
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Old 01-11-2008, 02:05 PM   #20
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Well, I may be coming in late on this thread but I have one question... The batteries were new in November, 2007. How have they been charged after that? In many cases "fresh" batteries need to be deeply charged AND discharged a few time to get them to peak performance.
It is sort of like muscles - they work but work better when exercised a little.
Also, a deep 14.5 volt charge is really what is needed to get it really pumped up. However some chargers will not go to that level of charge unless the battery has had no draw for at least 24 hours, at least I believe that is the case with my Intellipower.
It sounds like your charger is underperforming for you while trying to charge newer batteries and that this combination may be the bigger part of your situation.
I am following this thread so I do hope you keep us informed as to what you find.
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Old 01-11-2008, 06:08 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Wabbiteer
Wow - for someone who quotes the Dali Lama in their signature you are quite the all-purpose bully! It took me close to an hour to research and compose my first response but here you are again expecting pre cognizance and someone tell you what you want to hear...

"...consistent and on the border line between white and red... So, that doesn't explain anything." HUH? thats not a measurement! (resembles a 'my car is red & white, what size tires do I need' answer!)

For specific gravity a reading of 1.270 is fully charged, if you are serious with ensuring your batteries last you need to invest in a precision meter - well, maybe not, but you did evade two outright diagnostic questions asked among the others asked of you in these posts. Imagine that, someone asking details! Dialoug is give and take...

To better follow the "taa lai bla ma", apologies if you felt uncomfortable...

Lets look at the problem again from a new perspective. You have 240+ pounds of batteries - It is January, and you have had some problems since Novemeber. If the batteries are not in a conditioned atmosphere (75F is ideal) you need temperature compensated charging, even 20F lower you need to boost voltage by almost 2/10ths volt (27mV/C is common) to make up for the lowered activity; otherwise your charger will run and run and never bring the SOC (state of charge) up to even 90%...

Your charger puts out ~1000 watts of energy and if you lose 10% charging current due to resistance heating it would take close to two hours charging to raise battery string core temperature 1 degree celcius - so don't count on charging to help keep battery temperatures up since it IS shedding the heat almost as fast....

Suggested reading - The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1) not to be taken as gospel; but should help you make better educated observations... living with 12 volts. (I knew I'd seen 87MH's chart somewhere before, but many charts are 2/10ths of a volt higher on all points so following that one could be very hard on batteries!!)

And another source of charge wizardry

"a rough estimate of the actual SOC"

% of Charge - - - - - - Charging - - - - - - - At Rest - - - - Discharging

100 - - - - - - - - - - - - 14.75 - - - - - - - - 12.70 - - - - - - 12.50
90 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.75 - - - - - - - - 12.58 - - - - - - 12.40
80 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.45 - - - - - - - - 12.46 - - - - - - 12.30
70 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.30 - - - - - - - - 12.36 - - - - - - 12.25
60 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.20 - - - - - - - - 12.28 - - - - - - 12.15
50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13.10 - - - - - - - - 12.20 - - - - - - 12.00
40 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.95 - - - - - - - - 12.12 - - - - - - 11.90
30 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.75 - - - - - - - - 12.02 - - - - - - 11.70
20 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.55 - - - - - - - - 11.88 - - - - - - 11.50
10 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12.25 - - - - - - - - 11.72 - - - - - - 11.25

Source: Photovoltaic systems and renewable energy: Measuring Battery State of Charge

Sorry if you felt I didn't properly respond to you earlier post. I think I didn't understand some of your questions.

You asked about water, I have added a little water to a few cells, but not much, maybe an ounce to 4 cells (out of the 24)

As for my comment about the specific gravity. I was looking for a bad cell, when I found the specific gravity was the same in them all and that all the batteries tested good, I thought that meant that I didn't have bad cells or a bad battery. When I posted that result I didn't have access to the Hydrometer I used, so couldn't report the value. That value was a little above 1.225. I'm not using a precision meter and don't think I could get one here. I'm using a hydrometer of the sort with a weighted float where you read the specific gravity based on where the meniscus hits the scale. The scale is green then white then red. I assumed (always a mistake I know) that when I said all the cells were between the white and red, that I would be understood.

I have, and have read the book you recommend.

With respect to how the batteries have been treated since I got them. When I installed them my MH was plugged in to 30 amp power at home until we left on this trip. That means my WFCO converter was doing what ever it does. The voltage I noted was 13.6 and then after a while it decline to 13.2. If I shut off the power and ran some loads and then turned the power back on, it would go back to 13.6. The weather was cool - some nights a little below freezing, day time in the 60's.

The we left on this trip. The trip has consisted of 4-6 hour periods of driving with my alternator voltage in 14.2-14.8 range. Followed by being plugged in overnight and until departure. When we arrived here the batteries seemed to be fully charged they would showed a voltage of around 13 which declined steadily until it hit 12.7 when the decline flattened off.

My problem arose after a week or so of operating on a few hours (3-5) of generator time. Each successive day the state of charge I was able to achieve after running the generator longer and long kept declining. Finally I ran the generator for 4 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening I still didn't get the batteries state of charge above 12.4 and my Trimeteric said my net amp hours was becoming more negative every day.

If I've failed to answer any other question, please bring it to my attention, I'm not evading anything, why would I?

Please point out where you feel I was being "quite the all-purpose bully!" . I had no such intent and I would like to understand how what I said came across that way.
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Old 01-11-2008, 07:50 PM   #22
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I tend to agree with those who suggest a hydrometer check of the batteries. As a first cut, I wouldn't worry about temperature compensation but would look for one (or more) cells reading significantly lower than other cells. I have a recent experience with a well-known AGM battery brand where a bad cell in one battery caused all of the other batteries in the system to discharge into the bad battery. I'm not suggesting that you are experiencing the same, but a single bad cell could be bringing down your system.
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Old 01-11-2008, 08:23 PM   #23
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I think it will be easier to solve your problem if you simplify it. For example, you said, "Finally I ran the generator for 4 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening I still didn't get the batteries state of charge above 12.4..."

This observation could be explained if:

1) the batteries were unable to hold a charge or
2) the converter wasn't providing sufficient current to charge them, or
3) the generator wasn't producing sufficient voltage/current to operate the converter properly.

If I were you, I'd try to examine each of these subsystems separately. In other words, look for evidence that will tell you whether each component is working properly.

Also, I'm confused by your statement that "...my Trimeteric said my net amp hours was becoming more negative every day."

Although I just bought a Trimetric, I havent installed it or even read the manual, so Im not clear about its operation. I think that after you set it up, it estimates the remaining AHs by measuring the very small voltage that develops across the shunt as current flows into and out of the batteries. If thats true (an assumption that should be double checked), then when the Trimetric says the remaining AHs are declining, that presumably means there is no net current flow into the batteries even though youre trying to charge them. That would be a very big clue. But like I said, Im no Trimetric expert, so it would be good to dive into the users manual for yourself. And there are many others on this forum who will know more about this than I do.

Hope these suggestions are helpful. Good luck!

Titus
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Old 01-11-2008, 09:07 PM   #24
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Sounds like you have what we have... a newer power sucking Airstream.

What I have learned...

Long gone are the days of Airstream being 'self sufficient', as Airstreams have often been toted as for decades previous. Unfortunately the 'new' Airstream has abandoned any hope of newer units being self sufficient... unless you count 'full hookup' as making them self sufficient. Sounds like you have the same issue as us...

Then again... I ponder if you are having the same problem I had once last year with my battery plunging into the red after I mistakenly pulled out the emergency brake away switch.. which applies current to the brakes and draws the batterys down to nil in a few hours... oops! I had the same issue desperately try to keep the batteries up with the generator, to little avail.

But back to my rant about newer Airstreams and power management...

I ended up buy a Link 10 monitor to assist me... all I can say is... EXCELLENT!!!! Gave me the complete scoop on what appliance/device draws what current, rate of AH usage, as well as generator charging current. Also let me know when you forgot to turn the stereo off, or left the propane detector fuse in when 'storing'. Best accessory I have bought to date for the AS.

Firstly that dam fridge is a MAJOR power sucker... stupid little cooling fan draws us down about 25AH a day. A fridge that works on propane should use nil power! And if its spring or late fall.. forget about using the heater! I had to run the generator for 4 hours on average every day in the middle of a summer just to be able to use the fridge and watch a bit of tv at night... not much else. We typically were using 30AH+ a day. In spring/fall, I had to hang around the campground and run the fully allotted campground max of 5 hours, and still had to be careful of power usage... sometimes even turning off the fridge for 1/2 day at a time to give the poor batteries a rest.

Older Airstreams do not need power to run a propane fridge, or propane heater.

Meanwhile I hear other campers talking about running for days without charging.

So my solution for next summer is likely to replace the fridge fan, or disconnect it altogether and to purchase a 130W solar panel for topping up the batteries without wasting gas or polluting the campground with noise.

I don't have my data handy, but what I found using the Link 10 was that the first hour of generator charging yield about a 10-12AH charge rate with the battery down about 50-70%. After an hour or so the charge rate naturally reduced so the effective charge rate was more in the 5AH range. So most of by bulk charging was done in the first 1 1/2 hours. I am using, by the way, a 1000W generator which was more than sufficient, although if the 2 batteries were really low, the generator would work up a sweat for the first minute or so, then settle in to a smooth run.

Considering I was running the generator for 4-5 hours, my goal is to charge with the generator for 1-1.5 hours, then let the 130W panel do the top up.

Sure has been a lot of effort to keep our beautiful Bambi 'self sufficient'.
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Old 01-11-2008, 09:19 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alan
I tend to agree with those who suggest a hydrometer check of the batteries. As a first cut, I wouldn't worry about temperature compensation but would look for one (or more) cells reading significantly lower than other cells. I have a recent experience with a well-known AGM battery brand where a bad cell in one battery caused all of the other batteries in the system to discharge into the bad battery. I'm not suggesting that you are experiencing the same, but a single bad cell could be bringing down your system.
Alan,
Thanks. I had the same thought, so I checked all the cells with a hydrometer, they were very consistent, all of them reading 1.225 or a hair more. I believe this indicates that the batteries were somewhat discharged but since no cell(s) was(were) deviant I don't think it is a bad cell or two. Also, I loaded tested each battery independently and they all tested good.

I still suspect that my WFCO converter is not charging at a high enough voltage to quickly bring my batteries back to a 90% or so level of charge. Based on my discussion with the fellow at WFCO tech support the converter is not designed to charge at a voltage above 13.6 unless the batteries are 50% or more discharged.
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Old 01-11-2008, 09:36 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TitusLivy
I think it will be easier to solve your problem if you simplify it. For example, you said, "Finally I ran the generator for 4 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening I still didn't get the batteries state of charge above 12.4..."

This observation could be explained if:

1) the batteries were unable to hold a charge or
2) the converter wasn't providing sufficient current to charge them, or
3) the generator wasn't producing sufficient voltage/current to operate the converter properly.

If I were you, I'd try to examine each of these subsystems separately. In other words, look for evidence that will tell you whether each component is working properly.

Also, I'm confused by your statement that "...my Trimeteric said my net amp hours was becoming more negative every day."

Although I just bought a Trimetric, I havent installed it or even read the manual, so Im not clear about its operation. I think that after you set it up, it estimates the remaining AHs by measuring the very small voltage that develops across the shunt as current flows into and out of the batteries. If thats true (an assumption that should be double checked), then when the Trimetric says the remaining AHs are declining, that presumably means there is no net current flow into the batteries even though youre trying to charge them. That would be a very big clue. But like I said, Im no Trimetric expert, so it would be good to dive into the users manual for yourself. And there are many others on this forum who will know more about this than I do.

Hope these suggestions are helpful. Good luck!

Titus
TitusLivy,

I agree with your break down of possibilities. I think the batteries can hold a charge based on the service they provided the first couple of days of the current boondocking stint.

I'm pretty sure the generator has plenty of power (6000 watts) which is supported by the fact that I can run any type of AC appliance when it is running and not have the AC voltage vary.

Your understanding of how the Trimetric works is the same as mine. One of its functions is to measure amp hours in and out. So if you start with a fully charged 100 amp hour battery and run 30 amp hours out so that it has a 70% charge and recharge it to 90% you would get a reading on the AH scale of -10 (10 amp hours net down from fully charged). This is only an estimate based on some settable parameters and I don't have much experience with it.

What was happening was I would use the batteries using say 75 amp hours, I would then run the generator and partially recharge the battery replacing say 50 amp hours. The trimetric would give a -25 reading on the AH scale. Repeat this the next day and I would have a -50 reading, repeat I'd have -75. At this point I ran the generator for an extended period but was still unable to achieve a high state of charge.

What I observed was that when I started the generator and the converter started charging the batteries I would see a charge rate of around 40 amps or so but within 15 minutes that rate was down to 20. By a half an hour it was in the 10-12 range. After an hour it was always well under 10 and declined from there.

I think this is the problem.

Please let me know if I haven't been clear or provided some information you would like.
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Old 01-11-2008, 11:21 PM   #27
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With all the checking and eliminating you have done, it sounds like your converter thinks the batteries are charged more then they are. Too bad that Randy from bestconvertors has not found this thread yet, he knows this stuff. Didn't you replace the converter last year after you had issues at 29 Palms?
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Old 01-12-2008, 12:27 AM   #28
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Don't know a thing about those converter Trimetic thingys, but is there a way to reboot it or reset it to thinking you are at a net zero or 100%, so the thing will start?
I've had several field equipment tools that lock up and need to be disconnected at the computer cables in order to restart them. Most annoying when the contractor foreman is staring at ya and saying, well, does it pass?
Does your generator have a 12V output, and charge direct to your battery of batteries?
Look for a ham radio operator there at Quartzite named Bill, W7IND@msn.com. He'll probably have a table of little dodad parts, led lights, magnets and pliersand stuff. He might have an idea about batteries. will certainly try to sell ya some led lights.
Good luck
Perry, N7YS.
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