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Old 04-03-2016, 10:36 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1988 32' Excella
Vestal , New York
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 12
Reworking converter and battery system

Ever since owning my 1988 Excella, the charging system has never worked properly. Last year it was supposedly checked out by an RV dealer who shall remain nameless and I was told it was working. However, it has never kept my batteries charged and I have chewed through a few sets of batteries over the years. I have only been able to keep my batteries charged up by using an automotive battery charger. I have read with interest the advantages of using two six volt batteries wired in series. I also have seen various recommendations for converters and inverters. I suspect because of the type of camping we tend to do that I don't need an inverter, but I do need some wisdom about a good converter that will run the trailer and take care of my batteries properly. I wouldn't mind any practical tips about how to go about replacing the converter as well.

Dan Barker
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Old 04-03-2016, 11:32 AM   #2
3 Rivet Member
1986 25' Sovereign
Allegan , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 128

Best advice I can offer is to do a lot of reading and thinking about what you really need. We do a fair amount of "off the grid" camping and reducing electrical load with LED lights was a big help. I too thought about two 6 volt "golf cart" batteries but in the end rejected the ideal. I bought marine "deep cycle" batteries and a marine switch that allows me to separate them into separate banks. By keeping track of voltage I can see how much life is left in the bank in use and plan accordingly.

You did not mention it but does your unit have the original charger? If so you should replace it with a modern (3 stage?) one. Much lighter and with sophisticated charging sequence that much better for battery life. I think that mine is an Intellipower? with a charge "wizard" controller - but it has been a few years and I am not sure what would be the best choice today. I did opt for a "low amp" model since we don't use much electricity and batteries last longer if you neither charge or discharge at a high rate.

My batteries are the old fashioned "lead acid" type; relatively inexpensive and available - they also fit my battery compartments without modification. There are more modern battery designs that make sense for some - but you have to make sure that your battery charger is compatible.

Bottom Line: Simple system that works for me; batteries are five years old and we can stay out for over a week with no problems. But we don't have an inverter to run a lot of toys, others have different needs.

I would urge you to search the forum and see what others say and figure out what you needs are. If you need more specifics on my system I go out and see what I really have - yesterday's snow has mostly melted!

Good luck,

Whit Nash
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Old 04-03-2016, 12:21 PM   #3
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2008 25' Classic
Full Time , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4,309
Check out the 3 stage converter options at to start your research.

I replaced my Parallax with a PD4655.

You need to match the battery charging requirements with the charger specifications.You can go high end with Magnum but if you don't need an inverter it might be overkill but the Magnum allows you to program the parameters for battery charging for any battery you have now or in the future.

I'm like you, I don't really need 1000+ watts of inverted power so I went with the PD4655. Its only about $200 so if in the future I change my mind I'm not out a lot of money.

2008 Classic 25fb "Silver Mistress"
2015 Ram 2500 6.7L Cummins. Crew Cab, 4x4, Silver
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Old 04-04-2016, 09:31 AM   #4
1 Rivet Member
1988 32' Excella
Vestal , New York
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 12
Please tell me more about the marine switch business. I understand about separating the batteries, but not how the switch does that. Also, how do you monitor the condition of each battery?
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Old 04-04-2016, 11:27 AM   #5
New Member
Northfield , Illinois
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2
Read through the HandyBobSolar blog...

There's a lot there, but well worth the research to learn about how to manage batteries.
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Old 04-04-2016, 10:37 PM   #6
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1986 25' Sovereign
2008 F350, 6.4L diesel , Oak Harbor, WA
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 605
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Sounds to me that you need a smart battery charger and a power meter to monitor your state of charge. For the most part all batteries need to be monitored and in a way protected from over discharge or over charge.

You can find the power meters for a little as $20 (and they work surprisingly well), or as much as $200. The $20 part has an visual alarm to warn you of over discharge, the more expensive power meters would likely do even more for you.

Lots of battery chargers to choose from, even charger that can charge either Lead acid or lithium batteries. A good charger doesn't mean it will be a big expense. For myself I recognize that it takes many hours if not days to fully charge a battery, so I don't go for a high output current charger, just one that is rated to charge my battery bank so I can just wire the charger to the trailer, when the trailer is plugged in it is charging/maintaining my batteries. In my boat the quite 8 amp charger takes care of 2- 8D and one starting battery. It won't overcharge, and it handles any sulfate.

As to your question about using a marine battery switch. The switch commonly has 4 positions, battery 1, battery 2, both, and off. Each battery plus terminal is connected to the switch and the switch output is connected to the power distribution panel.
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Old 04-05-2016, 12:02 AM   #7
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1978 25' Tradewind
Metro Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,519
Here's a marine battery switch.
"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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Old 04-05-2016, 08:53 AM   #8
3 Rivet Member
1986 25' Sovereign
Allegan , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 128

The marine battery switch above is very similar to the one I installed. Basically it takes the positive cable from each battery and then has terminal that goes to the electrical system. You can select either battery 1 or 2 separately, both together or disconnect both from the system for storage. The West Marine catalog used to have technical discussions of various systems which I found helpful; boats and RVs have a lot in common.

There are more sophisticated monitoring systems that actually measure the amount of energy that goes in or out of a battery; I am not familiar with them. I use a simple voltmeter and made up a plug that goes into one of the "cigar lighter" receptacles in the trailer. I measure the voltage on each battery and record it in my log. I will be the first to admit that battery voltage is not the best way to measure the charge, but it is simple, quick and cheap. As I recall a fully charged battery is about 12.6 volts; I change to the other bank when it gets close to 12.0; you don't want to go below 12 volts. Battery voltage is dependent on temperature so you want to check under the same conditions each day if possible.

There are better methods but simple works for me.

Whit Nash
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Old 04-05-2016, 09:17 AM   #9
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2008 27' International FB
Petaluma , California
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 1,199
Images: 5
Hi Dan,

With a little battery box mod I switched to (2) 265 AH 6 volt Lifeline AGMs and an IOTA 3 stage converter three years ago. I added 400 watts of solar and a 300 watt sure sine inverter last year. Now with a little sun I can stay charged most of the time without hookups. As everyone says, there's a lot of good info to sift through on the forums. I'd say your #1 priority is to change out that converter. For a 3 or 4 stage unit. Best converter is great. #2 would be change out your lighting with LED. Then worry about the batteries. My 2 cents. -Brad

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