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Old 12-19-2020, 07:26 AM   #1
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Should I upgrade my converter?

The last time we did some boondocking our original 3 year old Lifeline AGM batteries were at about 50% state of charge and about 12v every morning after a night of running just the furnace fan when needed.


I took the batteries to a Lifeline dealer after completely recharging them on my home battery charger which has an AGM setting. The dealer did load tests using two devices. An old one which was a large meter showed the batteries as barely passing a load test when the large dial was cranked up, The second meter was a newer small hand held one that said "replace battery" and showed cold cranking amps as 400 to 500 instead of the specified 800. It produced little adding machine type printouts documenting the battery test.



Anyway, called Lifeline and they said that was about par for the course for Airstream AGMs, as even the converters in 2018 trailers didn't put out enough to adequately maintain the batteries. The tech said Airstream upgraded the converters in June of 2020. They prorated the batteries and two new ones should arrive via FEDEX today.


Question: should I replace the converter in my 2018 FC, which puts out 13.6v at best, and what should I replace it with to give the higher charge voltage that AGMs seem to like? Ideally I'd like to install a converter that also has a setting for LI batteries for a future upgrade.
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Old 12-19-2020, 08:36 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baby Zeppelin View Post
The last time we did some boondocking our original 3 year old Lifeline AGM batteries were at about 50% state of charge and about 12v every morning after a night of running just the furnace fan when needed.


I took the batteries to a Lifeline dealer after completely recharging them on my home battery charger which has an AGM setting. The dealer did load tests using two devices. An old one which was a large meter showed the batteries as barely passing a load test when the large dial was cranked up, The second meter was a newer small hand held one that said "replace battery" and showed cold cranking amps as 400 to 500 instead of the specified 800. It produced little adding machine type printouts documenting the battery test.



Anyway, called Lifeline and they said that was about par for the course for Airstream AGMs, as even the converters in 2018 trailers didn't put out enough to adequately maintain the batteries. The tech said Airstream upgraded the converters in June of 2020. They prorated the batteries and two new ones should arrive via FEDEX today.


Question: should I replace the converter in my 2018 FC, which puts out 13.6v at best, and what should I replace it with to give the higher charge voltage that AGMs seem to like? Ideally I'd like to install a converter that also has a setting for LI batteries for a future upgrade.
Hi Erik,
I was just looking at LiPo batteries this am. More suppliers are coming to market with lower prices.
Since replacement AGM’s are on the way, I’d probably upgrade the converter to something you can grow with...that can be configured for Lead acid and LiPo.
Stan did this upgrade last year. You might want to check out what he did when we’re at can opener.
Jim
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Old 12-19-2020, 08:40 AM   #3
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If you are staying with AGM lifeline upgrade to a progressive dynamics PD4655V.

http://www.bestconverter.com/PD4655V...l#.X94Qpy1h2jg
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Old 12-19-2020, 10:33 AM   #4
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I am skeptical of the Lifeline technician's advice. Even the lowest stock model WFCO converter puts out 14.4 in bulk mode (quick for ~20-80% charged), 13.6 in absorption (nominal for 80% charged) and 13.2 in float (topping off the battery). Those are quite fine for AGM and a better quality converter won't differ much from that.

You will have to equalize 2-3 times a year or they will tend to drift down to only accepting 85-90% charge.

Your old batteries were in poor shape but I would not fault the converter. Something else in the batteries history had to account for the poor condition.
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Old 12-19-2020, 10:41 AM   #5
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The furnace fan is a very heavy load and if the furnace runs very often it will take down fully charged batteries in a night. We set very low for the night and them bump it up a bit in the am. But in general the furnace is a luxury that most boon docking does not permit much use of.
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Old 12-19-2020, 10:52 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
I am skeptical of the Lifeline technician's advice. Even the lowest stock model WFCO converter puts out 14.4 in bulk mode (quick for ~20-80% charged), 13.6 in absorption (nominal for 80% charged) and 13.2 in float (topping off the battery). Those are quite fine for AGM and a better quality converter won't differ much from that.

You will have to equalize 2-3 times a year or they will tend to drift down to only accepting 85-90% charge.

Your old batteries were in poor shape but I would not fault the converter. Something else in the batteries history had to account for the poor condition.
True that...if in fact that is the converter installed in the OP's AS.
Taking into consideration that model is not a first tier unit.

My experience... our Lifelines lasted 11 Seasons with a IOTA 55a DLS IQ4 from Best Converter.


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Old 12-19-2020, 01:31 PM   #7
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Silly me...

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Originally Posted by KK4YZ View Post
Hi Erik,
I was just looking at LiPo batteries this am. More suppliers are coming to market with lower prices.
Since replacement AGM’s are on the way, I’d probably upgrade the converter to something you can grow with...that can be configured for Lead acid and LiPo.
Stan did this upgrade last year. You might want to check out what he did when we’re at can opener.
Jim
Well I looked on the PD site and other sites, but couldn’t find a configurable converter. It’s either lead-acid or lithium... one would think the charge profile is contained in the code for the microprocessor.

Am I missing something?

I already determined to make the switch to lithiums when my AGM’s poop the bed.
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Old 12-19-2020, 02:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KK4YZ View Post
Well I looked on the PD site and other sites, but couldn’t find a configurable converter. It’s either lead-acid or lithium... one would think the charge profile is contained in the code for the microprocessor.

Am I missing something?

I already determined to make the switch to lithiums when my AGM’s poop the bed.

Good thing I don't keep my AGM's in bed with me.


The Lifeline tech said they'd be introducing their own line of Lithium batteries in January at a price that undercuts the prevailing selling price the competition has. Seems that I saw a youtube video that mentions a brand of converter with interchangeable modules to suit different types of batteries. IOTA perhaps? That way when you upgrade to LiPo you just change the module. I'll have to look into that....
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Old 12-20-2020, 10:07 AM   #9
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Hi

The converter charger in parity much *all* RV's is a conservative device. It does not go crazy when charging the batteries. That keeps them from drying out / boiling off. The down side is that they don't get the "rejuvenation" shot that might help them once a year. It's a tradeoff, but a reasonable one.

If you are going to stick with lead acid, get an outboard (= plug in the garage outlet) charger and pull the batteries once a year ( or at least disconnect them from the trailer). Put them on the super duper charger and let it do it's thing for a week or so. Then put that charger away and put the batteries back in the trailer.

Lithium conversion is a whole other topic ...

Bob
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Old 12-20-2020, 10:14 AM   #10
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I'm with Robert Cross above - We also have a IOTA 55a DLS which has the ability to change the converter controller. When we went to Lithium all we had to do was exchange the controller for $35.00. IOTA are very good at what they do - charge batteries.
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Old 12-20-2020, 11:07 AM   #11
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Dual mode converter option

Quote:
Originally Posted by KK4YZ View Post
Well I looked on the PD site and other sites, but couldn’t find a configurable converter. It’s either lead-acid or lithium... one would think the charge profile is contained in the code for the microprocessor.

Am I missing something?

I already determined to make the switch to lithiums when my AGM’s poop the bed.
Yep... you missed the PD4655LiV. Best Converter refers to it as the VL. http://www.bestconverter.com/PD-4655...l#.X99-li08Igo

It has a jumper to change from the led acid charge wizard to a Lithium profile.

It’s weakness (IMO) is that it has no charge profile for Lithium. It’s a straight, 24/7 14.6 v output. That’s great for charging Lithium’s, but not good to sustain once they are charged.

I’m working with BattleBorn to explore using the switch in the Victron 712 to shift the PD4655LiV between the Lithium mode for charging and the Lead Acid mode to “float” the LiFePO4’s.
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Old 12-20-2020, 11:12 AM   #12
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Hello, we had our convertor go bad twice. It was the model airstream put in made in china. We changed to a progressive dynamics and all is well. You will notice that airstream now uses progressive dynamics convertors. We also changed agm 12 volts to 6 volt lifeline agm. Amazing difference in what your batteries will do without going lithium. And we have 250 watts of solar on the roof. (if anyone is interested, Zamp has bstock panels. Don't forget to order mounting feet for airstream. Specialized is a rather nice site.)

https://www.specialized.net/solar/cl...ZdtEYUI9JMnPzQ
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Old 12-20-2020, 11:35 AM   #13
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Upgrading Converter

Heads up, Baby Zeppelin—should the day come when you swing over to Li-Poly batteries you will likely need an “upgraded” converter, as we did when Bay Area Airstream Adventures sold us on a total battery upgrade, which did include a Li-Poly grade converter. And watch out when it comes to using an old garage-based battery charger. Seems old-style battery chargers can damage Li-Poly batteries.
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Old 12-20-2020, 01:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
... Even the lowest stock model WFCO converter puts out 14.4 in bulk mode (quick for ~20-80% charged), 13.6 in absorption (nominal for 80% charged) and 13.2 in float (topping off the battery). Those are quite fine for AGM and a better quality converter won't differ much from that.

You will have to equalize 2-3 times a year or they will tend to drift down to only accepting 85-90% charge.
...

What's best procedure for "equalizing" ? We have the 2 OE AGMs in our 2019 FC25 FBT. Thanks!
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Old 12-20-2020, 02:42 PM   #15
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Luxury?

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Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
The furnace fan is a very heavy load and if the furnace runs very often it will take down fully charged batteries in a night. We set very low for the night and them bump it up a bit in the am. But in general the furnace is a luxury that most boon docking does not permit much use of.
I don't know if I would call it a luxury, but we love to boondock in the Fall and we set the thermostat at around 40F, and it might run 3-4 times per night on some of the chillier nights when it is close to freezing outside.

That is why I installed 500W of solar panels and 470ah of storage (4 industrial deep cycle 6V batteries) to replace the two OEM 12V batteries. Haven't had any "power outages" since. Maybe we will move to lithium, but we haven't felt the need to splurge yet. The solar system maintains the battery bank 365 days per year even when it's below 0F.

The OEM converter (at least in the 2016 and earlier models) will cook your batteries which is why I rarely use it for that purpose, prefering the solar MPPT controller with temperature sensor to charge and maintain the battery bank. So we haven't felt the need to replace the OEM converter which does a good job of supplying 12V power to the trailer if and when we are connected to shore power (but we place the Use/Store switch to Store mode to disconnect the converter/charger from the batteries).
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Old 12-20-2020, 06:05 PM   #16
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What's best procedure for "equalizing" ? We have the 2 OE AGMs in our 2019 FC25 FBT. Thanks!
The better automotive chargers have a decent equalization modes. What you want is 14.7-14.8 volts constant for 12 hours. This would be after the batteries have completed a regular full charge. Isolating the batteries is best. Ideally what you want to do is charge them at 14.7 volts for 2-3 hours then let them rest for 20 min then read the voltage. if they are below 12.8, charge for another 2 hours and check again, continue to do so until the resting voltage gets to 12.8 or no longer improves.
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Old 12-21-2020, 07:21 AM   #17
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The better automotive chargers have a decent equalization modes. What you want is 14.7-14.8 volts constant for 12 hours. This would be after the batteries have completed a regular full charge. Isolating the batteries is best. Ideally what you want to do is charge them at 14.7 volts for 2-3 hours then let them rest for 20 min then read the voltage. if they are below 12.8, charge for another 2 hours and check again, continue to do so until the resting voltage gets to 12.8 or no longer improves.

I started this thread, and before my AGM batteries were condemned as "bad" by the battery dealer I hooked them to my car battery charger - a Shumacher 12 amp unit with an AGM setting. It put out 15.3 volts for several minutes, then tapered down to a lower voltage before giving a 100% reading on the stage of charge and then staying at a low "maintain" or "float" charge level. That only took a half hour or so. I don't think I can force this particular charger to put out 14.7 to 14.8 volts for 12 hours. It's just too "smart". It does make me wonder if I should hang onto my "bad" AGMs (got the new ones yesterday) and just keep hitting them with the charger every few weeks....


The alternative is to take these expensive door stops to the auto parts store where they said they'd give me $10 store credit for each one. Sad.
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Old 12-21-2020, 07:40 AM   #18
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That charger is not probably not going to do the job unless it happens to have an equalize setting or a timer setting. It will likely drop to float too soon to do any good. It needs sustained voltage and modest current (5-7 amps ) to remove (react) the crystalized sulfates and get it back into the active battery cycle. Perhaps a neighbor has cheap dumb charger or one with an equalization mode. I'm not sure it is worth paying 50-80 for a different charger.....
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Old 12-21-2020, 07:43 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baby Zeppelin View Post
I started this thread, and before my AGM batteries were condemned as "bad" by the battery dealer I hooked them to my car battery charger - a Shumacher 12 amp unit with an AGM setting. It put out 15.3 volts for several minutes, then tapered down to a lower voltage before giving a 100% reading on the stage of charge and then staying at a low "maintain" or "float" charge level. That only took a half hour or so. I don't think I can force this particular charger to put out 14.7 to 14.8 volts for 12 hours. It's just too "smart". It does make me wonder if I should hang onto my "bad" AGMs (got the new ones yesterday) and just keep hitting them with the charger every few weeks....

The alternative is to take these expensive door stops to the auto parts store where they said they'd give me $10 store credit for each one. Sad.
Napa nor the battery dealer will likely not take the time to properly attempt the 'recovery'.

The best explanation I have found..

You have a capable charger give it a try...👍

POI speed of the charge does not equal quality of the result.

Bob
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Old 12-21-2020, 10:38 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS View Post
Napa nor the battery dealer will likely not take the time to properly attempt the 'recovery'.

The best explanation I have found..

You have a capable charger give it a try...👍

POI speed of the charge does not equal quality of the result.

Bob
🇺🇸

Good article. I'll have to give that a try. But what will I then do with two resurrected AGM batteries when I also have two new ones? The AS will only hold two, and I replaced my TV's battery a few months back so can't use one there....
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