Battery life

Submitted: Friday, Jan 04, 2013 at 20:24
ThreadID: 99799 Views:2398 Replies:5 FollowUps:7
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To the electronic tech sperts out in the country, I have a small problem, I have a 100ahr battery in our caravan, the story is this . with the old battery we had in the van we could go for four to five days camping in the bush and had enough power to run one light and the TV for a couple of hours of a night to catch the news and run the water pump, our main charging while camped is with a 185 watt solar panel as the one whom rules does not like the sound coming out of the scorpion genny,according to her it is too loud. so I had the solar panel hooked up as usual but I found the battery was flat the next morning and to get a charge into it the vehicle had to be hooked up and used as a generator to put some life into the battery, and then hook the solar panel back up to finish the job of charging. It is only a new battery, and I don't think it should be losing all the power just over night. I did do a couple of test before going to bed on consecutive nights after the light and TV were turned off and the battery was reading at 50% used the first night the second night read at 60%but I was up later oswmbo went to bed early, so I just put it down to extra usage of TV and light, the next morning it was still flat as a squashed coke can. any advice would be appreciated and is it time to call the electricians in again. thanks .
broodie H3
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 08:52

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 08:52

Even a new battery can be destroyed if it is drained too low, once too often.
It may have become calcified, or one or more cells may be cactus.

They only sure way of determining the battery's health is to fully charge it with an AC charger, then have it load tested to see if it holds a charge or not.


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Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 13:07

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 13:07
thanks for the info Bill Me is thinking it is time for the sparkies agian, as the battery has now been on the charger for two days since we have arrived home and it is still reading below 50%, I brought the battery on the 21/12/12, who knows it may be a faulty battery, or the sparkies have wired something up wrong when they did the circuit breakers and Isolator switch. Once agian thanks Bill.
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Reply By: Racey - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 10:54

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 10:54
Assuming the battery is OK, the problem could be a question of sunshine. Whilst travelling around QLD last winter when we had numerous overcast days and/or shade, I found the batteries were not being fully charged. Consequently the working capacity was down and needed a big top up with the generator and AC charger each day. I have since purchased a 120w portable solar panel as an additional input to the batteries.


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Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 13:17

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 13:17
Hi Racey, We have been up in the Dongara area for six days in forty degree tempreture, an I use a 185 watt solar panel,Porable, and that used to keep the old battery as happy as larry, but the gremlins in the system now have this old man very confused, and concerned,as we are off to Augusta next week with some friends and their vans and we do need to be self sufficient, just love flash camping in the bush with good friends,and a wine or two. I am thinking time to get the battery checked out and also the electrics, thank you very much for your input
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Reply By: John & Deborah G - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 15:57

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 15:57
Hi Broodie
You need to measure the load on the battery. That is the number of amps you are constantly drawing. Possibly you have some load on it even thought everything appears to be turned off. A 185 watt panel will at best give 10 amps x 6 hours = 60 amp hours which equates to about 50% charge for your 100 amp hour battery. Depending on the type of solar controller you are using. Try checking the water level in the battery.

I could go on for pages as battery technology is quite complicated. Just maybe the battery is faulty. Regards John G
AnswerID: 501744

Follow Up By: Ross M - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 17:02

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 17:02
I agree with John & Deborah. Presuming your battery is OK.

If you that amount of sola,r the 10 X 6 = 60ah/day, and if in hot 40 degree temp the fridge will be running almost all the time if not all the time. Just one humble Engel will use around 50AH/24 hrs. It will be on at night and the sun isn't.
That alone will be nearing the borderline of what you can make/need and if you use a TV and lights then it won't ever charge up under that situation.
You will have to build in around 100% more solar than you think is needed to cover most situations.

Does your fridge have lots of cool air being supplied to the condenser grills by a fan to move the hot away?
Does your fridge have far more insulation over the case, far more than just a the common thermal jacket.?
Is it in the back of a 4wd where the temps, although 40C outside in the air is probably 50 inside the 4wd.
Some people have fridges in a box on the drawbar = absolute disaster and as hot as you can get there.

When traveling my two fridges have a doona or sleeping bags over the cases to give a good thermal buffer so the fridge can do its job.
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Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 21:48

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 21:48
Hi Ross Deborah and John, When away in the van we seldom carry our waeco with us as the Fridge being three way is run on gas as with the hot water system the only use for power is one light and occasionaly the tv for about an hour of a night we dont run the fan unless we have 240 power or then the generator going. I have had the battery out of the van since we have got back and is on the charger and it doesn't seem to be charging it is still low beyon fifty percent so I am really starting to think faulty battery, and maybe some bad electrical work done by the electricians that did the modifications to the van in the first place, as these modifications were done after we brought the van as it had no battery at all, that being the era that it was built in 1996. I have had the battery back in today and did the measure, and because the battery is so low I could not get any reading at all. The Sparkies will be here on tuesday and they can sort it all out. thank you all for your words of wisdom, and the use of your knowledge, I really do appreciate it, once agian thank you.
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Follow Up By: John & Deborah G - Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 22:36

Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 at 22:36
Yeh we'll it looks like your battery has gone to heaven. Now what you need to do is find out why.
Regards John G
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Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 01:17

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 01:17
that is the Question John how bad is it, dead, maybe but I hope not, and finding out what is wrong is way beyond my expertise
thanks John
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Follow Up By: John & Deborah G - Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 12:10

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 12:10
Hello again Broodie
Well is it a sealed battery or can you view the water level? If you can get access to water level get yourself a hydrometer, not expensive & measure the specific gravity of each cell. This will indicate if you have a dead cell. Using a volt meter measure the voltage going into the battery while on charge, this should be over 14 volts once the battery is nearing full charge.

What does the ammeter of your battery charger read while on charge?

Once you have finished charging put a small load on the battery, lets say a automotive brake light bulb, this will give you about 1 amp load and leave is on for about 10 - 15 minutes to remove any surface charge and monitor the voltage with a multimeter (I don't know how anyone can live without a multimeter).
The voltage will drop fairly quickly from the 14 + volts to about 12.6 and then should stabilise at that for many hours.

If you don't have all that gear take to battery to a battery shop and have them test it for you. Maybe it's still under warranty.

Regards John G
FollowupID: 778057

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 11:18

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 11:18
Before we go off looking for obscure causes of this problem lets look at some simple issues.

1/ the battery may indeed be happens.

2/ it seems that some manufacturers are not "forming" their batteries as well as they once did and/or the batteries are spending some time in storage prior to sale.

Forming is done after the battery is assembeled and this point it is just a box full of stuff and will only work margianlly well as a battery.....during the forming process ( it varies) the battery is charged quite hard for a period...or may be cycled.

If the battery is shipped dry, and filled with electrolite locally it will need forming.

Likewise if the battery is left in storage, it may also require reforming.

If a new, poorly formed battery is fitted to a car that is driven will cop some heavy discharge from cranking and a stiff charge while the car is being it has a fair chance of getting formed.

NEW batteries that are put in caravans and boats, will often get no chance of further forming before thay are used at quite low charge and dischage rates.

NOW...back in the day when we all baught batteries fromwell intentioned autoelectricians and garrages.....these guys would not let a battery out of their sight without a good stiff overnight charge...preferably a full 24 hours.

I've been hearing a few stories of early battery failures of late....I can reasonably put some of them down to lack of formimg.

SO....when you buy a new battery...ALWAYS... give it a good stiff charge straight away......better still make sure you give it something to do early in its life and put it thru a few charge discharge cycles before you rely on it.

As it stands for the original poster....the best you can do is try and charge it on a good quality charger and check that it, carries load and holds charge...if it does not.... its a possible warranty claim.


AnswerID: 501823

Reply By: Herbal - Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 14:36

Sunday, Jan 06, 2013 at 14:36
I didn't bother to read the "follow ups" just the main posts. So someone might have already stated the obvious in a follow up :)

It seems your problem is the solar panel... or more the point your solar panel being connected at night.

There are a couple of options. Disconnect the panel at night. Or fit a switch so that you can turn the panel off at night. Or purchase a regulator with buit in diodes. etc.

Your solar panel produces electricity during the day when the sun is shining. When there is no sun like at night or very heavy cloud or shade, your solar panel USES electricity. It does not use it for anything special, it just draws the power out of the battery.

Many solar panels work around this problem by having built in diodes. A diode simply allows electricity to flow in only one direction. So you need a diode which allows flow to the battery but block flow from the battery. If you have used this solar panel in the past with no probs then it might have a blown diode...They do burn out.

Are you using an inverter for the TV? An inverter can use a lot of battery power in a short time...Remember you can only get out what you put in... A 240 volt TV will draw power from a 12 volt battery 20 times faster than a 12 volt TV. If you are using an inverter, the solar panel might simply not be enough to replace the charge. If this is the case, then tell herindoors that the next camp down is expecting a grand kid, and give her a set of knitting needles and a ball of string. While she is away knitting booties run the genny and get a charge in the battery. Then by the time the battery is fully charged, shewhomustbeobeyed will be back just in time to cook dinner and watch a bit of telly.

AnswerID: 501854

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