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.

More battery woes!

This trip lumbers from bad to worse!

The voltage needle had been fluctuating slightly as I used the computer so I decided to investigate. Checked all the wiring and stuff, went to check the batteries and…they’re bone dry! I can only assume that the slightly higher charge voltage on the battery to battery charger gave them too much juice on the way over here and boiled it all off.
As luck would have it I had about 5 litres of de-ionised water so I topped them all up, did a charge, then ran an equalisation routine. Sadly even after all that they’re not delivering as they should. I should get about 225 amps out of them but over the next couple of days it seems I’m getting about 200 or less.

I bought these specifically because they are a solid workhorse of a battery, 60 kilos of pure lead so cross your fingers that they improve.

Half work – half play.

Today was my first day back at work since last Friday so I was nervous as to how the MiFi would perform. It has seemed ok so far albeit slightly slow, but the work interface uses sockets so needs a very reliable connection. I had lots of problem sin the morning, with the interface lagging like mad and game info not opening. However later on I took the SIM card out of the MiFi and put it into and old dongle I had which is a PAYG one. Connection was MUCH better! Work that one out lol

I noticed that the voltmeter on the wall panel was jittery the last couple of days so I set out to check the batteries and connections. Amazed to find that all six cells in each battery were dry 🙁 Big sigh cos you would think I’d know better given all the problems I’ve had with batteries. However as luck would have it I had 2 large unused bottles of de-ionised water and along with some boiled water it was enough to restore water levels back to where they should be. I believe the only reason the batteries aren’t broken completely is the fact they are huge Trojan’s.


Trojan batteries update

Last August I got my new Trojan batteries, you might have read about it here. It’s coming toward the end of April now so I thought I’d give an update on them.

Trojan J185 H-AC monoblock 12v deep cycle battery
Trojan J185 H-AC monoblock 12v deep cycle battery

When first installed I was told it may take as many as 100 cycles for them to achieve max capacity. A cycle is where the battery is discharged then charged fully again. It’s possible that I am nowhere near my 100 cycles yet. I’ve had them about 9 months, that’s less than 40 weeks, and they will be recharged perhaps 3 times every 2 weeks. So very roughly they may have experienced 60 cycles so far.

At any rate what I can say is that all the other batteries I’ve had have started to deteriorate within weeks of being used. The Trojans don’t seem to have deteriorated at all in 9 months.

I did borrow a Smartgauge off a friend. This little device measures the voltage and current of the batteries and tries to gauge accurately how much ‘life’ is left in them. Life as measured in amp hours (ahrs). I found that the Smartgauge has not even a clue when the battery is fully charged, and inaccurately reports when it is discharged. So it’s now been disconnected. I’m glad I had the chance to borrow one as they cost about £160 new. The only truly reliable method of testing a battery’s state is to use a specific gravity or SG meter, or hydrometer as they’re also known as, about £3 from auto parts stores. I dream of owning an electronic one but they’re about £3,000!!

Anyway, in use, and regular checks with a hydrometer show that these batteries are performing flawlessly. Finally I’ve solved my battery problems and I am a very happy bunny indeed. 🙂

Power to the people

For those who’ve followed my blog from the start, you’ll know that I’ve had a bank of Elecsol batteries, a bank of unbranded lead acid batteries, a bank of Numax batteries and I have successfully killed them all! The Numax faired the worst, they starting deteriorating within 6 weeks of installation, and the setup was darned good. The Elecsols, although I would never touch one again with a bargepole for several reasons, have probably faired the best til now. But compared with their stated abilities, they faired very poorly.

Over the last few years I’ve learned quite a lot about batteries, their applications, appropriate usage, care and maintenance. What I have learned is quite simple:

You can kill any battery no matter what it is if you don’t care for it.
Even average batteries can last you years if you care for them properly.

Now, although I know how to care for mine, the life they lead with me is slightly unforgiving at best, and very demanding at worst. As I said once before I don’t blame Numax for making bad batteries, I blame Adverc for incorrectly recommending the use of Numax’s. So I have spent time recently in Llandulas in North Wales, enjoying Wales and thinking about what to do.

Here’s a recent sunset I observed from where I’m parked.

Llandulas sunset
Llandulas sunset

So, after a lot of thought and research I have chosen my next batteries, and as luck would have it Tayna are only about 2 miles away and can supply them in 2 days. They are going to be…dun dun dunnnn…

I present to you, Trojan, J185 H-AC 12v, true deep cycle, monoblock, open lead acid battery.

Trojan J185 H-AC monoblock 12v deep cycle battery
Trojan J185 H-AC monoblock 12v deep cycle battery

Check this baby out. At the 20 hour rate it delivers 225 ahrs. It weighs in at a colossal 58 kilos and is about a third of a metre high.

Now, as we know batteries shouldn’t really be discharged below 50% of their capacity. However as this is just a solid hunk of well built lead, you can discharge these down to 20% of their capacity. Of course it will shorten it’s lifespan, but even doing this it will still last longer than most batteries on the market. I do intend to use them as frequently as possible to the 50% DOD state though.

I got what I think is a great price: £225 each, so I bought two. This price is about equivalent to the six Numax’s I had and also to the combined cost of the 5 Elecsols. The most difficult thing has been in getting rid of other  stuff so that I can carry the batteries’ weight. I’ve emailed Trojan’s tech support many times already getting information from them that I needed and they have been superb. I’m looking forward to good things so watch this space!