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Old 12-20-2018, 05:26 PM   #1
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Battery draw down on 2018 Classic

I was reading the Factory solar plus thread and I have a question. What am I missing?

I have a 2018 Classic. I am on my 3rd set of batteries. I tried boondocking for the 1st time since the new batteries went in. I realize the sun is not in the ideal position in the winter (I am in Arizona) but my solar does not charge much of anything.

I feel there may be 2 issues at hand.

1- I have a mystery draw that runs my batteries down quickly. They will only charge up to 13.0 max and that is after 8-9 hours of running on my generator. They draw down about .2 amps an hour with nothing but the fridge running. I just finished a 4 hour drive and within one half hour I am down .2 amps. I gave up heating at night (brrr) because I do not want to lose another fridge full of food. Solar miswire killed the 1st set (that happened when it was @ JC the 1st time in for warranty work).
Unfortunately this problem continues after potentially being fixed.

2- At best the solar charges .2 amps over a whole day. So now I start the gennie just as the sun goes down until 9pm and batteries are dangerously low by 1:30 AM. I run it again 1st thing in the morning. I have to work within the park guidlines and I am making my neighbors crazy. It is 5pm now and the charger reads "chr". I'm sure because the sun has gotten too low.

I have turned off pump, water pump, ALDE, unplugged stereo bass speaker and I use headlamps and Luci lights for lighting. I have even disconnected the TPMS signal extender at the battery. I was hoping a Zamp portable would add to my solar but alas after reading the thread this does not seem to be the case. I see all of these massive rigs working off of solar. They have more panels, but they are watching TV, showering, cooking meals indoors and I feel like I'm tent camping with a comfortable bed. Again, what have I missed?
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:33 PM   #2
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Ok 1st, the factory solar system is waaaaaayyyy under par for what you are trying to do.
2nd the Classic is a energy HOG. Lots of bells a whistles to keep going.

You are going to need a serious Up Grade if you are going to boondocks in that trailer.
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:35 PM   #3
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I have a portable unit that has double (maybe triple) what the stock solar is capable of. If we are boondocking, our power usage is extremely minimal. Almost going to sleep with the sun and rising with the sun. Portable solar comes out immediately in the AM. I feel we are able to go a day or two without charging if it comes down to it.

I believe the batteries should hold a share around 12 (an electrician can give specifics or correct me) Although the system charges at 13+.

I went out of the country for two weeks. Used the battery storage button. No solar out as I was away. Came back and the batteries were completely discharged. Dealer said that the only solution is to have a solar system installed or leave batteries on trickle charger/completely disconnect batteries from trailer. Sorry I don’t have better news.
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:37 PM   #4
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PS you should be able to use ALDE on propane only. It does burn through a bit but it’s better than the alternative!
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Old 12-20-2018, 07:24 PM   #5
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Kyet,

A few things need clarification.

1. You say you're on your third set of batteries. Are they AGMs or have you switched to flooded lead-acid batteries? I just want to make sure that your system is properly configured.

2. You say, "They will only charge up to 13.0 max". Where did you get this measurement? Do you have a DMM in case we ask you to perform any measurements?

3. You say, "They draw down about .2 amps an hour with nothing but the fridge running". I don't understand what you're trying to say. Where did you get this number?

4. You say, I just finished a 4 hour drive and within one half hour I am down .2 amps.". Again, I'm not sure what you mean. Please explain.

5. You say, "At best the solar charges .2 amps over a whole day". Is this is maximum current you see on your solar charger display during the day?

Perhaps with a clearer understanding of your situation, we can suggest steps that may help diagnose your problem.
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Old 12-20-2018, 07:25 PM   #6
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Install a Victron BMV-712 bluetooth battery monitor. You will quickly learn what is using your battery power and can then take corrective action.
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Old 12-21-2018, 07:43 AM   #7
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Question>>>?

Amps as a measure of capacity, how is that done?

"At best the solar charges .2 amps over a whole day."

Two tenths of an AH for an entire day would indicate the solar panel is doing nothing but keeping the roof warm.
Our 120 portable has done 14.4 in 5hrs, full sun.

When we were using 2 AGM's 13.4v indicated a full charge, after an hour 'resting' they were stable at 13.2.
I would charge at 12.2 max, usually at 12.4, conservative use would usually yield 2 days.

The last outing with the Zamp yielded 5 days, (with good sun) before the genset was needed.

Bob
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Old 12-21-2018, 10:06 AM   #8
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Hi

Ok, let's back up a bit.

The fridge in a typical AS will pull a bit over 1A when it's running. That is 24AH (the measure of capacity) out of your batteries a day.

A "typical" Classic, simply sitting there in "use" mode pulls between an amp and an amp and a half. That gets you to maybe 36AH a day.

Your battery bank has a usable capacity of about 100AH. The fridge plus the idle power on the trailer will use up over half of it in a day. Turn on the Alde or some lights or the inverter and you can indeed run flat in 24 hours. Leave a light on in a storage locker and that will pull things down as well.

If it's cold out, your batteries will have less capacity than when it's warm. Instead of 100AH you could easily be down to 60 or 70AH. In addition, when it's cold, your stock voltage monitor will not be an accurate indication of how "full" the batteries are. It can only do just so much ....

How much current you get from solar is *very* dependent on how much sun you are getting. Sitting in the shade, I may see an amp for a couple hours on a normal day. The resulting two to five amp hours really do nothing to impact how fast things run down.

In June in full sun with clean panels you *might* be able to net 100AH out of the factory solar. That would be a very unusual location if you could. Counting on anything over about 60AH probably is not a good plan ....

If you have gone through three sets of batteries on a one year old trailer, that's not a good sign. It suggests that you are not managing your battery use very well. Taking them way down is a great way to destroy lead acid batteries. Batteries can be defective, but running into three defective sets in a row is pretty much impossible.

If you are running a generator to power the trailer and charge the batteries via the charger / converter, that should get them up to charge in a day. If you are trying to use the "battery charge" output from the generator then indeed, that is not going to get the job done.

Yes, there are lots of zigs and zags involved in managing power when off grid. There are also a number of things to do when storing the trailer. Past that things do break, fuses blow, breakers trip. The troubleshooting of this stuff is part of owning a trailer and using it in a remote location (as opposed to the dealers's lot).

Lots of fun

Bob
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Old 12-21-2018, 10:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post
Kyet,

A few things need clarification.

1. You say you're on your third set of batteries. Are they AGMs or have you switched to flooded lead-acid batteries? I just want to make sure that your system is properly configured.
All AGMs including current set.


2. You say, "They will only charge up to 13.0 max". Where did you get this measurement? Do you have a DMM in case we ask you to perform any measurements?
I have a DMM but I get the info from the charging panel in the trailer. I believe that also feeds the same info to the FireFly Panel. I watch those levels and see how they drop.

3. You say, "They draw down about .2 amps an hour with nothing but the fridge running". I don't understand what you're trying to say. Where did you get this number?Again, I watch it on the solar charging panel.

4. You say, I just finished a 4 hour drive and within one half hour I am down .2 amps.". Again, I'm not sure what you mean. Please explain. What I mean is I drove 4 hours, my Tow Vehicle charged it up to 13.0 amps (the best I have had all week). After half an hour is was down to 12.8 with fridge on.Down to 12.6 after another hour. I stayed inside a friends house and this orning with just fridge it sat at 12.2amps.

5. You say, "At best the solar charges .2 amps over a whole day". Is this is maximum current you see on your solar charger display during the day?Yes. If I start at 12.1 (which shuts off both the ALDE and Refridgerator solar will start charging in the morning and by end of the day we are up to 12.3 amps according to the solar charging panel.

Perhaps with a clearer understanding of your situation, we can suggest steps that may help diagnose your problem.
I'm not sure how to better explain it.

There was some good information about roof warming (I tend to think that's what the solar is doing) and the pictures above basically show the same information that my charging panel shows. Differnet numbers of course.

I love the ALDE (I had one in a previous trailer and why I went with the Classic) but it also will kick off when the battery gets to 12.1. That occurred in the past and once this trip. The fridge also cuts off at 12.1 Which is why I stopped using the ALDE because I wanted the fridge to make it through the night.
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Old 12-21-2018, 11:33 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyet View Post
I'm not sure how to better explain it.

There was some good information about roof warming (I tend to think that's what the solar is doing) and the pictures above basically show the same information that my charging panel shows. Differnet numbers of course.

I love the ALDE (I had one in a previous trailer and why I went with the Classic) but it also will kick off when the battery gets to 12.1. That occurred in the past and once this trip. The fridge also cuts off at 12.1 Which is why I stopped using the ALDE because I wanted the fridge to make it through the night.
It looks like one problem is that you're conflating volts and amps.

"...kick off when the battery gets to 12.1" = volts, not amps.

"TV charged it to 13.0" sounds more like volts than amps as well, even with crappy OEM charge lines I'd expect 4 hours of towing to put more than 13 amp-hours into the battery array.

Your solar charge controller may be able to indicate charging amps and the amp-hours pulled from/pushed to your batteries, but the numbers you're tossing around look more like voltages than amp-hour readings.
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Old 12-21-2018, 12:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKB_SATX View Post
It looks like one problem is that you're conflating volts and amps.

"...kick off when the battery gets to 12.1" = volts, not amps.

"TV charged it to 13.0" sounds more like volts than amps as well, even with crappy OEM charge lines I'd expect 4 hours of towing to put more than 13 amp-hours into the battery array.

Your solar charge controller may be able to indicate charging amps and the amp-hours pulled from/pushed to your batteries, but the numbers you're tossing around look more like voltages than amp-hour readings.
^
X2

Thats what I see on the Zamp...Battery voltage, Amps being generated and AH total.

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Old 12-21-2018, 12:20 PM   #12
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Reading between the lines, sounds like you might be powering the fridge with 110 power from your solar system rather than propane.
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Old 12-21-2018, 01:28 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=uncle_bob;2192229]Hi


If you have gone through three sets of batteries on a one year old trailer, that's not a good sign. It suggests that you are not managing your battery use very well. Taking them way down is a great way to destroy lead acid batteries. Batteries can be defective, but running into three defective sets in a row is pretty much impossible. I tend to be in a campsite on power or actually towing. Other than an attempt earlier in the year and this last week I have not done any boondocking other than in a Walmart lot overnight during my trip. I live very much like I am camping when not on power. Other than fridge, CO2 alarm, and various pulls for Firefly system control I cannot find anything else that is working. I have had TTs for 15 years. Never killed batteries before.

If you are running a generator to power the trailer and charge the batteries via the charger / converter, that should get them up to charge in a day. en indeed, that is not going to get the job done. I do use the generator in regular mode not charge.

I have added air caps to all of my cabinet door light sensors so they do all turn off now. THese are just rubber extenders tat ensure the button is pushed into the off position when closed. AS tech showed me that one.

The lowest they have run down is the 12.1 volts the one night. I have tried in earnest to make sure they do not get that low.

Great information from everyone, thank you. I was mistaken about volts vs amp as I live in an amp world for work. So just wrote amps when I should have written volts. I can see some of the confusion. Oops.
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Old 12-21-2018, 03:55 PM   #14
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Kyet,

It's unlikely that you have multiple problems, so here's my suggestions for debugging your trailer.

1. Confirm that your converter is working by connecting to shore power for at least a day making sure your converter is charging your batteries. Report back with the FireFly panel says after your batteries are fully charged. Then, using your DMM measure the voltage directly across the batteries.

2. Consider buying this clamp-on DC current meter. This meter will measure battery current directly. Start with your trailer completely off, disconnected from shore power, and at dusk (making sure your solar is not operating). Measure the current with the system off and keep adding features and documenting the additional current drain. Report back these numbers.

3. Remove your batteries and have them verified on a battery load tester. Autozone or equivalent will typically do this for free.

After reviewing the data perhaps it will be clear what's going on or we can propose additional tests to help you solve this issue. Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2018, 08:02 AM   #15
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Hi

There are fuses (two of them) in the stock solar setup. One often is up behind the AC intake in the roof. The other is down under the sofa behind the "12V" warning sign. If either of them is blown, you get no solar charging.

If you are depending on solar to keep the batteries ok in storage, (and the fuse is blown) that may be why you are killing batteries. You can run them flat pretty fast (like in under a month) if there is no charging available in storage.

A fully charged battery sitting at idle, measured with a DVM will be around 12.6V at normal temperatures. That same battery can easily read 12.1V on the various "panel readouts" under various pretty small loads. Trusting the Firefly readout .... not so much.

Making sure that the inverter is turned off is a *really* good idea. Simple answer is to never use the inverter for anything. Any time you violate that rule, get nervous and turn it off as soon as the task is done.

Forgetting about the use/store switch (or if it is wired wrong) is a *really* good way to kill the batteries in storage on a Classic. A couple of days in "use" and they are dead. A fast glance at the Firefly panel is a good check. If it's lit, you are not in "store" mode.

If you are on shore power, and you check the output lug of your converter / charger after about 4 hours of run, it should be around 13.6V. Best time to check is after sunset so you don't get confused by the output of the solar charger.

You can check the solar charger in a similar fashion, but it's not quite as easy. The converter charger needs to be off (so it does not confuse things). You need to be in full sun and not have a battery that is deeply discharged (or heavily loaded). The charger should get the battery above 13V. If it does, the fuses are ok.

Trying to figure out battery stuff with voltages is confusing and even done correctly it is often misleading. The only real way to know what is going on is to look at amps. There are devices that do this for you. A Victron BMV-712 is a good one, there are others that also do a pretty good job. Installing one can be done DIY, there are some large gauge battery cables to make up and route.

Assuming that each time your batteries were replaced, you got the right parts, you still should have Lifeline AGM batteries. They are pretty rugged devices and not easy to kill. They don't require a lot of maintenance. If along the line somebody put in flooded cells, you got ripped off big time.... sorry about that. They will need to be checked for water level. That assumes you have factory solar ...

If after this, you still want to monitor battery voltages, the right way is to kill all charging and all loads. Wait a couple hours. Pop the cover on the battery box and check at the posts with your DVM. Full charge at 70 degrees should be about 12.6V. If it's around freezing the same battery will be up around 13.1V. If it's out in the full desert sun in summer it may be down around 12.1V.

The magic solar monitor panel sits inside the trailer with the AC or the heat on. It has no idea what temperature the battery is at. It *assumes* that 12.6 is fully charged. In the case of a cold battery 12.6 is the "do not use" point. On a hot battery, fully charged will read "empty" on the little panel. It's not that the panel is stupid, it just does not have the information it needs to give you the full picture.

Lots of fun !!!

Bob
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Old 12-22-2018, 08:12 AM   #16
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How/where do you turn the inverter on or off?
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Old 12-23-2018, 07:42 AM   #17
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How/where do you turn the inverter on or off?
Hi

On a 2017/18 Classic, it's done through the Firefly panel. I would *assume* that the equivalent CZone panel on the 2019.

You might want to update your user profile to match the trailer(s) you own. The answer for an earlier trailer would be different.

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Old 12-28-2018, 06:41 PM   #18
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In my 2018 Classic the solar controller (on wall above range top) has digital read outs for battery capacity in %, and solar charging rate in amps. None of this .2amps down in battery capacity.

Charging amps will be in the .2 at sunrise. Before it will be 0. But once the sun comes up it jumps up to …… to..... oh I forget. But it seems to be 2 or 3 amp rate.

I've run it in the driveway on solar only. It runs itself down with some light use, fan use and radio to 45% over night but is 100% by 10am. I'm on the same batteries that are now 9 months old in my possession.

The fridge is on automatic. I never turn on the inverter.

On a 4 hour drive the battery will be 100%. My truck does not feed 12v to the trailer.

Now I did turn on the solar charger from automatic. You scroll the button down to charge and hold till the charge light comes on. Otherwise it will wait till the battery voltage gets to 12 volts then turn on charging mode.

If you are burning up batteries something ain't right.
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Old 12-29-2018, 05:51 AM   #19
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These trailers are somewhat power-hungry. One thing I've found that is a huge energy hog, even when not "on" or in use, is the inverter. Try disconnecting the power lead to the inverter, and see how much that helps, you may be surprised.
Depending on how much you use the inverter (the front couch has to have 120v to work), you can install a simple on/off switch for it, and just turn it on when you want to use it.
Also, you can get a portable solar panel, and plug it in to the inlet by the battery box, that's what it's there for. You can reposition it a few times during the day to keep it pointed at the sun, and maximize its effectiveness.
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Old 12-29-2018, 06:52 PM   #20
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These trailers are somewhat power-hungry. One thing I've found that is a huge energy hog, even when not "on" or in use, is the inverter. Try disconnecting the power lead to the inverter, ..…………….

Home page on the Firefly, lower right quadrant, inverter button should be unlit. If lit, Green I think, touch it to turn off.

When not plugged in to external power I don't use 110vac items.

On power hungry...……..check your overhead cabinet doors. Some of them have a little plastic bumper, some have a wood block that contacts the switch that turns off the cabinet lite. I took all the plastic buttons out and replaced with wood blocks and have a better light shut off when door closes. Keep door hinges lubed too.
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