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Old 09-09-2013, 01:17 PM   #1
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Please help! New fulltimer with distressing electrical problem!

Problem: When we lack sunlight (cloudy or nighttime), our batteries (not sure which ones) run down. The first symptom is the lights getting dim. Second symptom is the AC compressors will be unable to kick on. Third symptom is that the AC fans will be unable to run. Eventually, if they are left to run out completely, the lights will not turn on at all.

What's not affected: None of the outlets, microwave, or refrigerator are affected.

When this started: We arrived at our Florida RV park on 8/6/13 and plugged in to shore power. At that time, we were able to successfully use both ACs and all of our lights as normal until suddenly, on the evening of either the 9th or 10th, I believe, we lost power for the first time.

What we've tried: (1) We have tried moving what wire connect to what batteries. We have two house batteries (auxiliary) and one chassis battery (main/engine). When we replaced the batteries in July 2013, we thought that perhaps we had reconnected some of the wires to the wrong batteries. None of our wire-moving has fixed the problem. Sometimes the problem got worse. We've moved everything back to the way it was when we drove from Missouri to Florida in early August. (2) We have called a tech out, and **he replaced our converter** to a brand new one. He says the old one wasn't functioning, and he says that the proof is that the fan wasn't turning on the compressor. No idea if that's true, but we do have a brand new compressor. He also verified that all of our fuses were hooked up correctly, and he used a volt meter to check that the correct voltage of power was going into and coming out of the compressor. (3) We have re-charged all of our batteries with a battery charger (left overnight for us by the same tech that replaced the compressor).

How we are getting by: For now, we have a temporary (completely un-ideal) solution. At night, or on the cloudy day, when we begin to lose power, we turn on the chassis engine. After about 10 seconds of running, the lights get bright and the AC is able to kick on. If we turn it off immediately, we will lose power again within an hour or two, but if we leave it running for 45-60 minutes, we will have power for several hours. If we do this right before bed, we can keep the AC running all night and not have to wake up sweating in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, it means we are burning quite a bit of gas, and, honestly, I don't know how good it is for the RV and the electrical system. Additionally, it's very noisy, and I get worried about our neighbors complaining when we have to start it very late at night. I just have to add that it MAKES NO SENSE. There is no reason that starting the engine should have anything to do with whether we're getting enough power from the shore to run our systems. Especially the air conditioners, which are 120volt, not 12volt.

Details: 1998 32' Fleetwood Southwind Storm, no slides, class A. 30amp system. The rig is designed so that you can run one AC unit if you're using the generator, but if you have shore power you are supposed to be able to run BOTH air conditioners. This worked in the past flawlessly, but now something is broken. I only mention this because we called Fleetwood, and they said that we needed to upgrade to 50amp to run both ACs. Not so, and very unhelpful.

Any questions? Advise? Have you ever seen anything like this? Help, please!
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Old 09-09-2013, 01:55 PM   #2
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I assume you realize that your RV has both 12V and 120V power distribution systems. From what you are describing it sounds as if the 120V system is working just fine, which is why your microwave and refrigerator and other outlest are just fine.

To me it sounds quite simply as if your batteries are not being charged by the converter/charger and, therefore, are running down which is why your lights get dim. I presume you probably have a small solar panel on your roof which helps to keep them charged which is why the problem is worse on cloudy days and at night.

Your A/C's operate off of 120V but they require 12V for the thermostats to work; otherwise they won't turn on. I doubt you really had an A/C problem, but, rather had a thermostat problem.

Check to see if your converter/charger has an on/off switch; it might and this could be your only problem. Otherwise, it's possible that the unit itself needs to be repaired or replaced. When you are turning on your engine you are charging the batteries directly off of the alternator which is a bit hard on the alternator when the batteries have been deeply discharged but it is further evidence that what I am saying is true.

I honestly find it amazing that an RV technician couldn't figure this out. Maybe he was so focused on the A/C problem that he didn't see the "big picture" which is that your batteries are simply not being charged.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:05 PM   #3
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Thank you so much for the reply. I appreciate your insight.

I do realize we have 12v and 120v. Thank you for clarifying that the thermostat itself is 12v, as that helps explain why it is affected by the batteries being drained.

As for the converter, it has already been replaced (mentioned in my original post), but perhaps it is no good... or perhaps our thermostat needs replacing?

And yes, we do have one small solar panels which helps to top off the batteries during the day.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:11 PM   #4
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I think Docj nailed it.
A better temp fix would be a smart battery charger, rather than running the coach.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:16 PM   #5
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Just noticed I wrote in my original post that the tech replaced the compressor. That's not what I meant. He replaced the converter. The current converter (120v->12v) is brand new.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ocipura View Post
Thank you so much for the reply. I appreciate your insight.

I do realize we have 12v and 120v. Thank you for clarifying that the thermostat itself is 12v, as that helps explain why it is affected by the batteries being drained.

As for the converter, it has already been replaced (mentioned in my original post), but perhaps it is no good... or perhaps our thermostat needs replacing?

And yes, we do have one small solar panels which helps to top off the batteries during the day.
Your original post says the compressor was replaced but I can't find any reference to having replaced the converter. Maybe my eyes are going bad.

Our posts overlapped; now I feel better, I couldn't find the word converter anywhere!

If he put in a new converter and you are still having this problem then he either didn't do it correctly or the new unit is defective.
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Old 09-09-2013, 02:49 PM   #7
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Hi and welcome to the forum.

The first thing I would do is put a voltage meter on the batteries and see what you're getting. You should be reading something in the 13.6v range when they are charging. If you're seeing them down around 12.2 v when your lights begin to dim... something isn't charging them.

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Old 09-09-2013, 02:50 PM   #8
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Did anyone check the voltage of the "house" batteries. Might have a bad battery that is not holding a charge.
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Old 09-09-2013, 03:14 PM   #9
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You need to use a multimeter to test the system. With just the batteries, you should have about of 12.6 volts. (fully charged batteries, by the way, 12 v would be about 50% charged!) With the shore power plugged in, you should have at least 13.6 v in the charging mode. If you are not finding these voltages, check converter power is on and also any fuses on the converter itself. In the meantime, a battery charger would be a good idea for your equipment list. It can be used to maintain battery charge when converter is not working. You may wish to get the technician that replaced converter a call AFTER you have determined it's not working. It should be a free service call.
Repeatedly discharging batteries as you have described shortens their life. Once you get converter working and batteries are fully charged, it might be worth a trip to Autozone or the like and have batteries load tested to see if they're still good. You might be helped by reading this link: The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
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Old 09-09-2013, 03:30 PM   #10
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I think you need 50 amp to run both ac without burning them up.
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Old 09-09-2013, 03:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
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I think you need 50 amp to run both ac without burning them up.
On a 30 amp rig?

Why?
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Old 09-09-2013, 05:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ocipura View Post
We have tried moving what wire connect to what batteries. We have two house batteries (auxiliary) and one chassis battery (main/engine). When we replaced the batteries in July 2013, we thought that perhaps we had reconnected some of the wires to the wrong batteries. None of our wire-moving has fixed the problem. Sometimes the problem got worse.
Perhaps one of those miss-wired wires is coming from the converter and not charging the batteries as a result.
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:48 PM   #13
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my fleetwood has a battery control center (bcc) The converter output goes to it.
Look under the hood for a plastic box lanbled BCC, This controls the charging of the batteries. If you search the forum you should find diagrams and troubleshooting instructions. You should have main and aux connect and disconnect sw.s make sure they are on. inside the BCC are some circuit breaker thay are reset by pushing the small button on the bottom.
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:15 PM   #14
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I am not sure of the answer on this and someone else might chime in here and tell me which way it is but I do not know if all Inverters are also AC to DC converters. Did your technician replace the inverter and if so does it produce DC. You should be able to check the literature and see if it does. If you do not have the literature look on the internet and get information. If all inverters also are AC to Dc converters then I would have the tech back out checking wiring. I would have agreed with a previous poster that you had a bad battery but your post says you have a solar panel that charges the batteries and your problem does not occur during the day when the sun is out. A bad battery would overwhelm your solar panel worse than it would your shore power AC to DC converter. Also your engine can charge your batteries and they work all night so I would not worry about the bad battery side of it. If your inverter does charge batteries is it turned on. My inverter had a remote switch you push to allow it to charge batteries. Hopefully you just have a problem with something not turned on. Call the tech or even call the company that makes your converter and see if they can offer suggestions
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