Trojan and other batteries

As many of you will know I’ve had countless problems over the years with leisure batteries, mostly related to the fact I was ignorant of battery technology and use in the early days.
I bought 4 x 120 ahr lead acid batteries, then I replaced them with 6 x 110 ahr batteries, they got replaced with 5 x 85 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 6 x 80 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 2 x 240 ahr batteries. Oh yes, I’ve spent a fortune on batteries!

I also spent a fortune on fuse boxes, connectors, distribution boards, and cabling, several hundred pounds on cabling alone would you believe, as you have to have thick cabling to prevent voltage loss. I also attribute the early demise of my original leaf springs to the sheer weight of carrying batteries in the rear of the van. Currently the 60 kg Trojans live behind the front seats so at least they offer traction to the front wheels.

Anyway, both inverters I’ve owned have an alarm that sounds when you hit 10.5 volts, so often I would wait til the alarm went off then recharge. I never realised at the time that draining batteries below 12 volts actually damages them. The Trojans claim you can occasionally discharge right down to 20% of their total rating without damaging them although I’ve never tried that.

I also used to mix and match batteries: 1 x 120 ahr with 2 x 100 ahr batteries, and 2 x 100 ahrs with 2 x 85 ahrs. I never knew that this also decreases efficiency and longevity of the batteries. Often batteries would be part charged and then left for long periods. This was another thing that I never knew affected batteries lives and effectively breaks them prematurely.

So it is with no surprise that you’ll here I broke all of the batteries I’ve ever had. I recall being in Rouen and having to run the gennie every day to enable me to work. 1 set of 6 batteries actually only lasted months before starting to deliver much lower voltage, a consequence of being discharged too far on a regular basis.

The ones that lasted best were Elecsol. They were billed as super light as they used carbon fibre technology, and supposedly could be discharged down lower than any other battery with almost no damage, and remain discharged again, with no damage. In eventually broke all of those too.

When I learned about exactly where I was going wrong was when I bought the 2 x 240 ahr Trojan batteries. They’re massive with tons of lead in and are built to be reliable and withstand bad treatment. However I have treated these better than any other battery by never discharging them below 12 volts, never leaving them discharged for long periods, and always charging them fully instead of part charging them.
The fluid level dropped in them once when I forgot the check the electrolyte level when I drove to Italy, but it wasn’t low enough to damage the lead plates thankfully.

However, in the time I’ve had them they are now giving less performance than they used to do. When I first noticed this I was incredibly disappointed given the Trojans great reputation and their price, however thinking more about it though I realised that I’ve had them over 2 and a half years, and I did almost boil them dry, and they do get recharged every 3 days and at £550 or something, they come in about the same as the 80 ahr Elecsols which cost almost £100 each for 5. The Elecsols lasted about the same amount of time, although I treated them very, very badly. However, at the age that the Trojans are now, the Elecsols were effectively wrecked. On balance it makes me wonder if I’d treated the Elecsols well, I wonder how long they would have lasted?

So I probably need to think about new batteries but given that my solar panels help to keep the batteries topped up and it’s coming up to spring, I reckon I can safely leave the decision til late autumn and see what deals there are at that time.

Battered by batteries!

Last night I was sitting working on the laptop when I smelled a most peculiar smell. I had the gennie running, and as the smell was coming from under where I sat, where the 2 charging units and the 5 batteries are fitted I thought I’d better move pretty sharpish like so I jumped up and switched off the gennie, then came back with the fire extinguisher and lifted the cushions. . . Yes … my toast was done.

Kidding 🙂

No actually nothing had burned, but the mains charging unit was so hot I could not touch it. I suspect it was the thin plastic film that protects the fascia from scratches that was smelling, as it was curled and sad looking. That got binned. testament to the robust build of the Sterling charger, it appears to have suffered no ill effects.

So tonight I set about finding out why that had happened.

First thing I did was check all connections, then I disconnected all batteries bar one, and set the generator away. Small drop in speed as it chugged away so that was fine, I connected the second one, another small drop but that was fine, and I connected them all one by one until I came to the last one, the brand spanking shiny sealed Elecsol that they sent me as replacement for the one that blew up. Nah I thought, as I realised that the magic eye was red. Oops. It shouldn’t be. So I connected that one up, started the gennie and … the gennie struggled to cope. It was as if it was under massive load. So I disconnected it straight away, as last night when I smelled the smell, the charger was actually on float stage and had been for an hour, so theoretically all batteries should have been totally charged.

Very weirdly, the charger is so hot to touch tonight too, even though that new battery is disconnected. I really can’t say I’ve ever noticed it running hot before.

Anyway, out of 7 Elecsols I’ve owned 2 have failed so that’s about 28% failure rate which is enough for me to say, enough. I don’t even want this one replaced. I think I’ll just go with standard wet lead acid batteries from now on as I’ve never had any problems with them in the past. (If you’ve never seen a battery that’s exploded, check the photo out. Remember this was full of sulphuric acid too. The mud is from where it was thrown very quickly out of the door of the van.)
I’m not deliberately dissing Elecsol here, I have no axe to grind at all. Just reporting back the experiences I have. I will ring Sterling tomorrow though to find out if that charger should run that hot, as the B to B charger runs that hot too.

Elecsol anyone?

I’ve decided on my batteries. I have only 1 battery which is a 100 ahr that I got when I bought the van 2 years ago. But to run the satellite rig and a laptop from the van, through an inverter, I’m going to have to do better. I went to a local caravan shop today and they had 4 Elecsols left, at £100 each but he did me a deal. 🙂

Image of a carbon fibre battery
Elecsol 110 amp battery

The Elecsol have carbon fibre inside which is lighter than some matting materials, and very strong. They’re much smaller and lighter than most 100 ahr batteries so that’s a  good thing. Apparently they can be discharged lower and left discharged for longer than any other batteries on the market. I’ve no way of knowing if their claims are true of course.

They come recommended by the Caravan Club too so I’ve bitten the bullet and shelled out for these. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I have to start somewhere right?