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Battery setup help

Discussion in 'General Expediter Forum' started by dc843, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. dc843

    dc843 Active Expediter Researching

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    Starting to make plans to buy van next month and im a little confused on the details of installing all the electrics....aux batteries, roof ac unit, genererator, inverter etc.

    I want to have about a 900-1100 ah battery bank most likely of 2-4 batteries. I want a smart isolator that will isolate the aux batteries from the main ones when van not running and charging them when it is. And a battery monitor. Then run a 3500w inverter off of that that i will plug in various appliances, tv, fridge, microwave, fans, playstation, etc.

    Then a rooftop ac unit that is connected to a generator on a swing mount on the trailer hitch, which i want to run through the batteries so i can also charge the batteries through the gen and the extra power that the ac unit doesnt need can be collected in the batteries. Not sure if this is possible or not please let me know my options.

    What im confused about is the details on all the items i will need to make this happen such as the wiring, power distribution stuff, and what i need to actually connect everything.

    I know this is pricey i dont plan on doing this when i first start ill just do the bare essentials and save up some for this.
     
  2. Worn Out Manager
    Amused

    Worn Out Manager Veteran Expediter Owner/Operator US Air Force

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  3. Ragman
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    Ragman Veteran Expediter Driver

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  4. Turtle
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    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    900-1100 amp hour battery bank. Whoo weee that's a lotta lead.
    If you want to do that with just 2 batteries, it's not gonna happen. The largest you'll find in a 12-volt battery is about 220-240 Ah. In a 6-volt battery it's a 430 amp hour L16 battery.

    More amp hours than that and you'll need to go with 2-volt cells. Using 2-volt cells, of course, you'll need 6 of them to make 12-volts. 2-volt cells start in the 500 Ah range, and go up to over 2000 Ah.

    A Rolls-Surrette 2-volt 1100 Ah battery will run you about $1000 each, weighs 142 pounds, so 6 grand and 852 pounds of batteries.

    For 4 batteries, your best bet is L16 batteries, also known as floor scrubber batteries. You'll need to decide on wet cell or AGM (do NOT use gel batteries unless you seriously know what you're doing, because even a couple tenths too high a charging voltage will kill them dead). 6-volt AGM batteries in the 430 range will run you about $550 each, and wet cells will run you about $325 each. But 2 pair of 6-volt 430 Ah batteries wired in series/parallel will give you 840 amp hours.

    I have four Trojan J305-E batteries, each battery is 305 Ah at 6 volts, and I wire them in pairs to get me 610 Ah at 12 volts.

    Before you can size a battery bank, or an inverter (3500 Watts? Holy crap, you gonna run a circular saw on a jobsite in the outback or something?), you need to know your daily electrical usage for how ever long you want to go between fully recharging the bank. If you want to figure 2 days between charging, you need to know how many amp hours you'll use in those 48 hours. If you have a TV that pulls 3 amps, and you watch that TV for 6 hours a day over 2 days, that's 3 amps x 12 hours = 36 amp hours. If you run a microwave that pulls 120 amps for 15 minutes, that's 30 amp hours.

    Let's say your amp hour requirements are 95 amp hours per day. For 2 days that's 190 amp hours. Because you don't want to discharge the batteries more than 50%, you would double that figure to be 380 amp hours, and that's the minimum size battery bank you need.

    You want to be uber efficient with your appliances. Everything run though an inverter will lose an extra 10% in the inverter process. So 100 Ah becomes 110 Ah though an inverter. Use as many 12-volt appliances as possible. Use 12-volt fans and lights. Spend real money and get a 12-volt fridge like one from Dometic or Engel, Whynter, Norcold, etc. They'll draw roughly 3.5 amps (when the compressor is running) versus 10 or 15 amps with a cheap dorm fridge from Walmart though an inverter.

    I have a Dometic CC-40US fridge, that can be set for anywhere from 3.2° F to 55° F, so it can be either a fridge or a freezer, but not both at the same time. I leave it set at 34° F. They make dual zone units that can be both a fridge and a freezer at the same time, though. The CC-40US is a 40 quart fridge, 1.3 cubic feet. Holds 51 soft drink cans. This isn't one of those Coleman or Koolatron thermoelectric coolers that keeps things 20 degrees or so cooler than ambient, this has a for-real compressor like a regular fridge. The CC-40US has a lighter weight compressor than the CFX-xx line of coolers. Mine is $500 (but I got it free with my Load One Gold Rewards points :D). If I were to buy one, I'd buy the CFX-65DXUS Dual Zone 65 quart fridge, at about $700.

    The gist is, instead of spending a snotload of money on a snotload of lead, you can save weight (and money in the long run) by investing in highly efficient 12-volt appliances that will be far less taxing on your batteries, allowing them to live longer.


    WIth a generator you'll be able to keep your batteries charged while sitting, so that's good. Won't have to idle to recharge batteries, and the alternator will charge them when driving down the road.

    When I'm sleeping the inverter gets turned OFF. A powered-on inverter will draw between 1-2 amp even if nothing is plugged into it. The Espar and the Dometic fridge still runs, of course, because those are 12-volt appliances connected directly to the battery bank. The roof vent fan is also 12-volts.
     
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  5. Warlock4

    Warlock4 New Recruit Researching

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    Why do all you guys want so much power?? And so many appliances?? I spent 30 yrs on the road and didnt have anything but a tv and microwave in the truck!! If you’re gonna buy a van and run that for your living, you need to keep expenses down!! Learn to be frugal!! Can’t you swing in and use microwave in store?? I can see in a big truck where you are very limited on where you can go!!
     
  6. Turtle
    Adorable

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    First, yeah, in a big truck you're limited on where you can go. Pretty much limited to a truck stop. You know, those places where they have lots of trucks AND a microwave inside. So, you don't really need microwave in a truck or van. I'm not really sure what argument you're trying to make.

    In any case, whether you're in a big truck or a van, you still gotta live in the thing. And you gotta be comfortable otherwise you won't want to live in it.

    If you're in a big truck you can kinda get away with running low amp draw appliances off of the 4 or 5 starting batteries, but you can't do that in a van with one cranking battery that isn't even a hybrid truck/marine battery. You need a house bank, and/or a generator. Even the 1 amp draw of an Espar is too much for a cranking battery. Use a cranking battery for what it is designed for: to start the engine and run the vehicle's electrical system. Then use a house bank for everything else. If you have a generator to recharge batteries and run high draw appliances, even better.
     
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  7. dc843

    dc843 Active Expediter Researching

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    wow thanks so much turtle that's super informative. Just to clear some stuff up, the reason I want all that battery power and 3500w inverter is because I plan on running an portable AC unit and not messing with a generator at all (I know in my OP I said I was going to but ive changed my tune on it) I'm currently looking at a haier brand portable 8000btu ac unit that uses 900 running watts. No clairification on the starting watts I need to call them, but I assume from my research its going to be about 1800-2500w. With a 3500w inverter I can run that just fine (I believe, please tell me if I'm missing something with that), if I need to I can unplug all other power sources with the AC uses its starting watts, but I think I can probably keep some going.

    "that's not going to be enough to cool your van" Well, first of all, I'm going to insulate the f*** out of the van. Ive seen people that have done this say that a 5000btu is enough. on top of that I'm going to get those curtains that semis use for there sleeper that keep heat/cool in. One behind the front seats and one a foot or so behind my bed (bed running wall to wall behind the seats) with the ac unit in there with my to lower the area of cooling even more.

    As far as batteries and AH, I was looking at the Trojan 4**ah (400 and some change I don't remember exactly) 6v AGM batteries. the range I gave was just a general figure as I didn't know all the stuff you just told me, but yeah ill keep at whatever 2 of those is. around 850ah. Since theres going to be a constant 900w draw just from the AC, not to mention my fridge, tv, chargers, fans, etc. I want it to last as long as possible.

    When they get down to 50% ill idle to let them charge up again, no big deal, side question how long approx. would 850ah bank take to be charged from your alternator at 50%?
     
  8. RoadTime
    Paranoid

    RoadTime Veteran Expediter Owner/Operator

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    That A/C unit size should be fine. I run a 5100 BTU with moderate insulation and it does a pretty good job with cooling.

    That said, trying to run the A/C, fridge and everything else off the battery bank without a generator for any length of time won't last long.

    Just because the inverter can run it, doesn't mean you should.

    I have a 420ah battery bank with 2 solar panels and struggle with enough power to last with just the cube fridge, TV, and espar.

    Running my 700watt microwave for 3-8 mins will deplete my bank by 5-10%. So I only use that when absolutely necessary or on when on the generator. I would recommend a good battery monitor like a Xantrex so you know what the current state of you bank is and not hoping you have enough power left.

    Even if I doubled my bank (which would be rather crazy) I still would not ever consider running the A/C off of it. The power consumption is just to great and won't last long. The down side with the small btu units is , depending on temperature, you can expect it to be a constant draw as it tries to maintain the temperature. Add the rest of your stuff and it will deplete your bank super fast.

    Having all the comforts of home is nice, but sometimes unrealistic. At least with out a generator




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  9. dc843

    dc843 Active Expediter Researching

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    Yeah you are right. I just did a aux battery calculator. based off of using 1500watts, which is a little high of an estimation to add 600w on top of the AC but just for kicks, with 12v batteries (2 6v) comes to about 115amps. in order to run that straight for 12 hours I need about 3000ah of batteries lol. pretty sure that will be a damn good chunk of my payload gone, not to mention how much it will cost.

    with that being said, I still want to use a portable AC unit as I don't want to be cutting a hole in the van, I'm trying to do this all myself and that's something I really would need an expert to do. So id still like the big inverter, but I might go a little lighter on the batteries, ill just keep a generator to use when the AC is running, but probably not a mounted one just one I can set outside the back doors. Even better if I could find a 12v AC unit but the few ive saw were really expensive considering their btus, otherwise ill just use a plug in one and the big inverter.
     
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  10. dc843

    dc843 Active Expediter Researching

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    for me its straight convenience. If I'm in my underwear sleeping and I get up cause I'm hungry I can just use my microwave on the shelf instead of getting dressed and going in the store. The whole cost for everything I'm doing to set up my van will only be around $2500-$3500, and that's based off of everything new I'm sure I can get even better deals on craigslist. When you think about the money a van makes in its lifetime that's not that much when you consider how much better your life on the road will be than without.
     
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  11. RoadTime
    Paranoid

    RoadTime Veteran Expediter Owner/Operator

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    That first cut is the hardest to make

    After the initial OMG I'm going to cut a hole in the van part is over, its pretty easy to do more yourself when you realise it wasn't as hard/bad as you thought.

    Given my low skill level I'm amazed at what I have been able to do


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  12. Turtle
    Adorable

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    Rookie mistake. Understandable. That's 850 Ah, but at 6 volts.

    Just to be clear so there is no misunderstanding, when you connect two identical batteries together, depending on how you connect them, you either double the voltage and the Ah stays the same, or double the amp hours and the voltage stays the same.

    For example, two 6-volt 400 amp hour batteries connected together either becomes one large 6-volt battery at 800 Ah, or one large 12-volt battery at 400 Ah.

    When you connect two batteries together using positive-to-positive and negative-to-negative connections, that's a Parallel connection, and the volts stay the same and the Ah of each battery are added together. So, the volts stay the same and you double the amps.

    A Series connection is when you connect the negative terminal of the first battery to the positive terminal of the second battery (think multiple batteries in a flashlight). That will keep the Ah of each battery the same, but will double the volts.

    I have four 6-volt batteries (305 Ah each) connected in series/parallel. Two paris of batteries are connected in Series to make each pair into one large 12-volt battery of 305 Ah, and then I connect those two in Parallel to keep the 12-volts and double the Ah to 610 Ah.

    Breathtakingly longer than you think. OK, you've got 400 amp hours to put back into a battery. You fire up the engine to idle and at first you might get 30-50 amps coming from the alternator (assuming a 150 amp alternator). But that won't last more then a few minutes and the charging currently will quickly drop tp 20, then 10, for several hours. As the batteries get to 90% charged the current will drop to 4 or 5, for several hours. Realistically, putting 400 amp hours back into a battery from the alternator will take 18-24 hours, at a minimum.

    As Roadtime noted and I think you've discovered, it's not practical to run any kind of resistive heat appliances off an inverter. Those include air conditioners, electric heaters, clothes dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators.

    There's also something called the Peukert Effect, which is kind of like driving speed and fuel economy. The faster you drive the worse your fuel economy. The same with amp draws. The faster you draw amps from a battery, the fewer amps you have available in the first place.

    Battery Ah ratings are (almost always) at the 20 hour rate. Meaning, the number of amps available if you draw the battery at a rate that will deplete the battery in 20 hours. Draw at a rate faster than that and you have few amps, draw at a rate slower than that and you have more amps available.

    You might want to think that a 100 Ah battery would last 100 hours at a 1 amp draw and would last 1 hour at a 100 amp draw, but no. That would be too easy. At a 1 amp draw it would last 140 hours, and at a 100 amp draw it would only last 30 minutes. (it will last one hour at a 60 amp draw)

    The simplest example is a 100 Ah battery. It's rated at 100 Ah because it will last for 20 hours at a 5 amp draw. A 400 Ah battery will last for 20 hours at a 20 amp draw.

    But, if you take that same 400 Ah battery and pull 50 amps from it, the battery becomes a 329.98 Ah battery, the 50 amp draw becomes a Peukert Corrected Amps of 60.61, and the run time will be 6.6 hours (actually, 3.3 hours at 50% discharge).

    The same 400 Ah battery with a 5 amp draw becomes a 535.17 Ah battery, and the run time will be 107.03 hours.

    Peukert’s law expresses mathematically that as the rate of discharge increases, the available capacity of that battery decreases.To see if I can make your eyes roll back in your head, I post the actual formula thusly...

    Peukert.PNG

    There are online Peukert calculators so you don't have to do them manually, and I've also attached a spreadsheet for Peukert calculations which makes it really easy to see different scenarios at a glance. The defaults (in the purple boxes) are for a Trojan T-105 battery. The Peukert Exponent for that battery is 1.21. For my J305E-AC battery the Peukert Exponent is 1.24. For Trojan L16H-AH batteries the Peukert Exponent it is 1.30.

    You don't need to become a Peukert Expert (unless you're on a sailboat where your life depends on your batteries, then you kinda do), but it's something you need to be aware of. The spreadsheet helps with that.

    Now back to the 900W draw, just for clarity and giiggles.
    Remembering that amps x volts = watts, and therefore watts / volts = amps, 900 Watts is 900 / 12v = 75 amps. Plus another 10% for the inverter loss, that's 75 + 7.5 = 82.5 amps from the batteries.

    With a 440 Ah battery bank, using the handy dandy attached spreadsheet, you can see that an 82.5 amp draw turns the battery bank into 320.29 Ah, and you can run that draw for a whopping 3.88 hours (or, 1.94 hours at 50% Dod).

    You might think that 3.88 hours becomes 7.76 hours (and 3.88 at 50% DoD) if you double the bank. But Peukert says "NO!" It's actually better than that because of the bigger battery.

    With an 880 Ah bank, the same draw turns the bank into a 756.77 Ah bank, and you can run that load for 9.17 hours (4.585 hours at 50% DoD).

    It should be clear that you want as much battery lead as you're willing to haul and pay for, but at the same time be very, very frugal with your amp draws. That's why I said earlier to be as efficient as possible with things like a 12-volt refrigerator instead of a 120-volt fridge that runs through an inverter. I started out with a dorm/office fridge (Microfridge) that was very efficient for a 120 volt appliance. It only draws 1.3 amps AC (about 14 amps 12-volt DC), and it was brutal on the batteries. Brutal because it runs all the time. In a van, unlike in a house where a fridge might run about 8 hours a day, it'll run more like 18 hours a day. In the winter it's warm in the van so it runs all the time, and in the summer it's really hot in the van so it runs nearly nonstop.

    If I had a new van and was setting up a battery bank, instead of raw charging the bank from the alternator, which is hard on the batteries, I'd absolutely get a Sterling Power battery charger. Basically, instead of connecting the alternator to your vehicle's charging system, you connect the alternator to the Sterling Power charger first, and then reroute that to the vehicle's charging system with one cable, and then you use another connection from the charger to the house bank. The vehicle's charging system run unimpeded, but you get smart multi-stage charging of the house batteries. And if you want you can even use different battery chemistries for the house and starting batteries (wet for one, AGM for the other). I would also get the remote monitor to go along with it.

    If you use that kind of a battery charger, you'll be consistently charging the batteries fully and properly, instead of raw charging them from the alternator. It's the difference between the batteries lasting 2-3 years versus 6-7 years. Using 12-volt appliances instead of higher amp draw appliances through an inverter will also dramatically increase the life of the house bank.
     

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  13. Treadmill
    Caffeine Fix

    Treadmill Veteran Expediter Owner/Operator

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    My head is still spinning from this post.
     
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  14. Turtle
    Adorable

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    I really don't know why. It's laid out very simply and methodically, each paragraph can stand on its own for easy consumption, and it's written at about an 8th grade reading level. Is it because your eyes really did roll back into your head when you saw the Peukert formula? Cause that'll make some people dizzy. :D
     
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  15. xmudman

    xmudman Veteran Expediter Owner/Operator

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    Turtle, have you considered a career in wiring vans when you go off the road? I bet expediters would flock to Murray like hippies to Woodstock to have you help them


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