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Old 10-05-2012, 08:13 AM   #1
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Portable 12 Volt Battery Chargers

History:
Living here in New England the Winter Weather can be hard on 12 Volt Batteries... There are two house batteries plus the engine start battery. We store our vehicle at an "outside storage" area during the winter. There are no electric receptacles available for battery maintenance at the storage facility. So, for the past three winters, I've gone to storage every two weeks throughout the winter and faithfully ran my generator and/or the engine for thirty minutes to keep a charge on the batteries... as directed by the Dealership (Technician); given our circumstances. It should be mentioned that during winterizing, water levels in the batteries have been double checked as well. Everything has been working fine until this past winter, when one of the two house batteries froze. I replaced both house batteries with new ones and I plan to continue to go to storage every two weeks and to continue the process mentioned above. However, I've been thinking of purchasing a suitable portable solar panel and controller that will plug directly into the cigarette lighter to provide a trickle charge to the batteries...

Questions:
By inserting the solar panel plug into the cigarette lighter receptacle... "Will the power be directed to the Engine Start Battery and the two House Batteries as well? Is it necessary to leave the House Battery Override Switch in the "ON" position throughout the winter with the Solar Panel in use? Further, when I run the engine, and/or the generator will I have to disconnect the Solar Charger each time or doesn't it matter?
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Old 10-05-2012, 10:38 AM   #2
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I would recommend removing the batteries, take them home and keep them on a trickle charger.

If you want to go solar, I wouldn't get anything smaller than 75Watts and a good comtroller. In the NE in the winter the sun ain't that great and you also have a snow problem. So you wouldn't want it flat. I would not rely on a cig lighter plug.

You then have 2 banks of batteries, of different kinds. I would hook solar directly to coach batts and then install one of these:

http://www.lslproducts.com/TLSPage.html

I would recommend one anyway unless your system had a B.I.R.D.

I would not rely on running the engine or generator to charge them for and hour. You would want a good battery tester so you KNEW they were fully charged before you left.

The easiest, cheapest and most reliable method is to take them home. Up to you of course.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:01 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clyon51 View Post
I would recommend removing the batteries, take them home and keep them on a trickle charger.

If you want to go solar, I wouldn't get anything smaller than 75Watts and a good comtroller. In the NE in the winter the sun ain't that great and you also have a snow problem. So you wouldn't want it flat. I would not rely on a cig lighter plug.

You then have 2 banks of batteries, of different kinds. I would hook solar directly to coach batts and then install one of these:

Ultra TRIK-L-START Starting Battery Charger/Maintainer

I would recommend one anyway unless your system had a B.I.R.D.

I would not rely on running the engine or generator to charge them for and hour. You would want a good battery tester so you KNEW they were fully charged before you left.

The easiest, cheapest and most reliable method is to take them home. Up to you of course.
I would agree,,, only takes a few minutes to take them out and home with you... (+ the above recommended way to keep them charged at home) That way you know they'll be good come spring time.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:13 AM   #4
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Using the lighter receptacle will charge whatever battery bank the receptacle is powered from. Whether it charges both banks depends on several factors, the most important being the design of your electrical system. You didn't mention the year/make/model, so I won't hazard a guess.

Odds are one of those small, portable solar panels won't provide enough power to charge anything during a northern winter. And that assumes you keep snow and leaves and dirt off it and it actually faces the weak winter sunlight several hours a day.

You don't need to disconnect anything when running engine or generator.

You didn't mention battery type, age or condition. Is it possible that the frozen battery simply was unable to take/hold a charge? Batteries don't last forever, especially in typical RV usage. And once a battery state-of-charge gets low, it is susceptible to freezing. You could check the battery charge per cell with a hydrometer while you are checking the water. That will tell you how it is holding up.
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Old 10-05-2012, 12:30 PM   #5
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It depends on the vehicle and how it's wired. Some vehicles require the key to be forward to connect the AUX power socket to the battery, others do not require the key to be in the ignition. You'd want to check in to it before you bought a Solar Battery Charger that plugged in to your AUX power socket/Cig lighter socket.

An easy way to do this is to plug in a 12v appliance, turn the key off. Does the appliance still work? If so then your cigaret lighter socket is always connected to the vehicles power grid. The only way to know for sure if the socket is to the house batteries or to the engine batteries is to contact the manufacturer or read the vehicle maintenance book.
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Old 10-06-2012, 08:40 PM   #6
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I have a 1995 35' Bounder that lives outside from mid.Oct to mid May,It has a solar panel on the roof and I put another in the front window on the dash hooked directly to the starting battery, no problems for the past several years.
For winterizing all the drains are opened until they stop running, close them and dump about 4 gallons of RV plumming antifeeze in the water tank, run the pump and open the taps, flush toilet, shower etc. until they are all running pink, shut off the pump, close the drapes and don't forget the bounce sheets to discourage the mice and squirrels. I don't do anything else until spring.
I live in central Newfoundland and the winters can be a challange!
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