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This page aims to distill the knowledge contained in HandyBob's RV battery charging puzzle 2 page.
Particularly useful and pithy statements are quoted directly.
HandyBob and his wife are fulltimers in a 5th wheel and have no generator. He prefers quiet and and wants folks to stop using generators, or at least use them more considerately.
“Batteries are not sponges that soak up amps. They are a lot more like tires that need to be filled up with air pressure. You need volts (pressure) to get the amps (volume) to go into the battery… Batteries self regulate the amps they will accept depending on level of charge and voltage. The amps going in will drop as the battery fills, and if the voltage is not high enough the battery will not be charged all the way up before the amps taper off.” – HandyBob
Manufacturers give absorption voltages ranging 14.4V - 14.8V (temp compensated) and that is not too high.
Chargers do not read specific gravity, but can estimate State of Charge by holding constant voltage and watching current decrease over time.
“…the power stored in the upper range of a battery’s charge is greater, so it is very important to get a full charge.” – HandyBob
“The difference between 14.4 & 14.8 volts is not 3%. That difference is nearly 20% of the charging range (12.2 to 14.8 volts)” – HandyBob
Use short runs and oversized wires to minimize voltage drop.
Most OEM monitors (led displays, gauges, and idiot lights) are bad, tricking the owners into believing their batteries are fuller than they are. The monitors will read too high when charging and too low when discharging.
The battery bank must rest at least an hour before a reasonably accurate measurement can be made. A hydrometer reading is best but a multimeter will get you in the ballpark: 12.7V is full and 12.2V is 50% state of charge (the bottom of the deep cycle).
Battery bank life will be longer when it is charged fully and not discharged past 50% DoD. A full charge is also important to capacity:
“a 95% charged battery has 10% less usable power in it than a 100% charged one, since you are trying to keep it in the top 50% of its operating range (5% of full = 10% of 50%.)” – HandyBob
Bob recommends the use of AH e-meters like Link or the Trimetric 2020/2025:
“…trying to run a battery system without a good meter is like driving a car with no fuel gauge” – HandyBob
The meters will require configuration/adjustment when after installation, as the batteries age, and when the system is altered.
It is common to find appliances use less power than their placards state:
“The label has to show what the appliance will not exceed, not the actual energy use.”
Bob recommends matched 6v golf cart batteries. He prefers Trojan (particularly the T-105) and avoids Interstate.
Get charging specs from the manufacturer and follow them; this is particular important with new or exotic chemistries. He does not use AGM or Gel types because the lower charging voltage means less energy harvested from the panels.
In multibattery systems the connecting cables should be the same length and gauge. Crimp connections well, avoiding the use of hammer/die crimpers.