Qwimby1

Best boondocking batteries?

34 posts in this topic

Are Trojans still the best brand and if so what model?  How do you get the most bang for a buck with deep-cycle batteries?  End end end

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Lots of opinions on this one, and much of the reasons for the differences in opinions - is the combo of differences of usage as well as amount of efforts an owner wants to direct towards batteries:)!

From lowest to costliest, with large gaps not filled in:

Wet Cell

-Costco or Sams GC2 6V Wet Cells (X's 2, 4, 6 - etc. Depending upon how large of an AH bank you want)

-Trojan - T105's are the GC2 of Trojan's. They also make two taller batteries that have the same footprint, if you have the headroom and want more AH's. The T125 and T145 respectively. (I had 6 years good service out of X's 2 T125's. The tallest that would fit, and I had zero room for more then 2 batteries in our Bounder.) Gent I sold the coach to, replaced them before  a trip at age 10. And his son still has them in his work shop doing duty for him.

-Others. Interstate, Ever-Ready. Etc., Etc. 

AGM's

-Fullriver are getting good reviews from Boating and RV'ing community, and a lower purchase point then some other AGM's.

-Deka (May have the price between the Deka and Fullriver reversed??)  Deka have been a good bang for the buck in AGM's for along time.

-Trojan does make AGM's now too. And are all thought of.

-Lifeline's - Usually thought of as one of the better AGM brands. I do have X's 4 L16's now, and are very pleased wit their performance. Now in year 5.

-Others. Concorde (Believe the make Lifeline's, but sell a Concorde name too.), Rolls, etc.

Lithiums

I hav not researched these enough recently to provide input on a manufacturer. 

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If you don't mind the maintenance, Wet Cells are the lower cost option, and are still tried and true if maintained well. 

AGM's do provide faster recharging, and usually higher DOD cycles of life. No maintenance. And can be installed on their sides, if space is a concern.

Lithiums do have faster recharging then both Wet Cell and AGM's. They also have deeper safe discharge rates. So a 400AH Lithium Bank, would be the sam as about a 750AH Wet or AGM Bank (If going to 50% SOC). Much lighter weight. More sensitive to temperature extremes. 

--------

No right or wrong on this, just choices to be made:)!

Best to you,

Smitty

 

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In MHO, yes. I still consider them the premium deep-cycle flooded. With the caveat that they are properly maintained. However, they may not be the best fit for all. If your boodocking is periodical or you are new to the game, you might get more bang for your buck going with Sam's/Costco GC 6V cells. The cost is about half of a Trojan so it doesn't sting quite so much if you prematurely kill your batteries.

Where Trojan's will excel is in long term life with maximum storage capacity. VERY well suited for the "hardcore" boondocker where your batteries are your life's blood, but may not be worth the price tag for many. KWIM? 

As far as models. It really depends on the size of your battery compartment. The most commonly used is the 6V T-105, or in the last few years.. the T-105-RE. 

 

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95% of what makes a battery the best is how the owner maintains the battery(s).

- Low discharge level

- A charging system that matches the capacity of the battery bank

- Solar power

- Not using a converter/power supply to finish charge the batteries.

- Using a temperature sensor

- Checking fluid level / using distilled or RO water

 

 

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6 minutes ago, J-T said:

95% of what makes a battery the best is how the owner maintains the battery(s).

I could easily argue the percentage, but J-T makes a good point. If you don't have the supporting equipment to really take advantage of the benefits of a Trojan then it's probably not money well spent.

You can kill a Trojan just as quickly as a Sam's/Costco.

Edited by Yarome

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WOW this may get a ton of different OPINIONS its like asking what brand of oil is best lol

I'm talkin flooded lead acid here NOT AGM,,, NOT Lithium for now at least until a brief rant at the end lol ???

Sure in flooded lead acid deep cycles Trojan is one crowd pleaser AMONG OTHERS

I've also heard good things about Crown

I've also heard good about Rolls Surette (spelling???)

THAT BEING SAID one advantage and why I went with Trojan T-1O5 is they are soooooooooo common and sooooooooooo standard and sooooooooooo readily available about anywhere you go so replacement or warranty isn't as much a problem  as if you went with maybe Rolls or Crown. THATS GOTTA BE WORTH SOMETHING

Interstate or Sams or Deka (spelling??) are also good and almost as readily available and you may find them cheaper and they may be more cost effective over time as Trojans are on the higher end of price compared to Sams or Costco etc

Just because for my pocketbook and that I do serious long term boondocking made me opt for Trojan don't mean its right for a guy with far different uses.

Keeping them charged and maintained and NOT using up limited Life Cycles is more important to me then brand so if you use SMART 3/4 Stage temp compensated charging technology and likewise SMART  solar charge controllers, maybe perform hard core Equalization now n then,  and don't discharge too much over 20 % to 30 % ANY BRAND WILL BE BETTER SERVED and if you don't boondock much a cheaper battery may save bucks

For now I'm hanging with Trojan T-105 and hope to get 10 yrs as I don't use up life cycles much and don't run them down to much over say 20% but when they crap out I'm considering Full River AGM the next go round if I'm still alive then> As technology and safety continues to improve and the price comes down and if I needed say a whopping 1000 Amp Hours of energy storage I may even go the Lithium route after the current gents serve as guinea pigs in the meantime and as  things improve  lol

YOUR MONEY YOUR CHOICE NOT OURS AND WE ALL HAVE DIFFERING OPINIONS so you decide now  

John T  NOT any battery expert do as they say not me

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1 hour ago, J-T said:

95% of what makes a battery the best is how the owner maintains the battery(s).

- Low discharge level

- A charging system that matches the capacity of the battery bank

- Solar power

- Not using a converter/power supply to finish charge the batteries.

- Using a temperature sensor

- Checking fluid level / using distilled or RO water

 

 

The part I bolded, are you saying doing that is damaging in compared to what? Or were you just saying owners who do not bring them up to full charge shorten the life of them? IIRC, wet batteries and AGM's like to be brought up to full charge vs Lithium that is very happy to stay a little less than fully topped off? 

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John makes some good points. Availibility is certainly important, but even more so, when you buy a Trojan, you GET a Trojan manufactured to the same exact specifications anywhere they are available.

With Sam's/Costco's, their stores are supported regionally rather than nationally. What that means is that purchasing a battery in one store does not guarantee you are purchasing the same mfg's battery if you purchase/exchange a battery in another store 200 miles away from where you started.

Mixing battery charge and discharge rates between cells can lead to diminished overall performance and a shorter lifespan.

It's generally a fairly moot point though unless you have a premature battery failure.

To me, reliability is paramount and well worth the price tag in and of itself. There is nothing worse that trekking out to find the "perfect spot" to spend the next couple of weeks... only to discover you've developed a bad cell.

John is kind of a prime example though of where going with a Trojan class battery pays dividends. He lives off his battery bank and has the equipment and knowledge to fully utilize their capabilities.

Just a gross generalized example for illustration purposes (before anyone jumps down my throat, all of the following is arguable). Say he were to go with a box store battery. At year 3 his cells are beginning to loose capacity. His daily available ah's decrease and he'll have to live within an energy budget or replace his cells. Say he replaces them at year 4. Even though the cells still maintain a "decent" charge, his available capacity has dropped below his daily requirements.

To hit a 10-12 year mark would require him to purchase cells 3 times (@$170 per set) and will have had to live on budgeted energy availability, repeatedly.

Going with Trojan's he lives at nearly full capacity for 8 years before any depreciable loss is noticed. He's able to squeeze out another 4 years at slowly decreasing capacity before his cells drop below his daily requirements and need to be replaced (even though his cells still maintain a "decent" charge.).

In that example, in the same 12 year period he would have spend $510 (3x170) vs. $300 on a set of Trojans. Add into that higher overall available ah's over that period of time, reliability, faster recharge rates and the ability to handle higher sustained loads... he's all in the good no matter how you slice it.

For him, and people like him, it's a no brainer and the higher initial price tag actually translates to overall savings and reliable storage capacity to support their chosen daily lifestyle.

As J-T pointed out though... if you don't have the equipment or inclination to maintain them as they should be, you can kill a Trojan just as quickly as you can a box store cell. In that case... you're just throwing money away by buying "name brand" cells.

In reality, $-wise you're really not going to see THAT much of a savings (it was just an example). It's quite possible to get more than 4-5 years out of a box store battery and he may not even keep his current rig that long (batteries tend to go with the rig when sold). The majority of people don't live off their battery banks full time and their energy requirments are very flexible between hook-ups. On top of that... many people don't live the full time lifestyle long enough to realize any savings.

It's up to everyone to decide where they fall within the two battery classes, their intended on-road lifestyle and what their budget can support.

Personally, I'm in the same boat as John. I live off my battery bank full time. I've packed Trojan's for more than a couple of decades and just switched over to Lifeline AGM's about 4 1/2 years ago. I've never heard of anyone regretting having purchased Trojan's, but that being said... I'll be the first to admit that they are not necessary for most and REGULARLY recommend Sam's/Costco cells.

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17 hours ago, BlueLghtning said:

The part I bolded, are you saying doing that is damaging in compared to what? Or were you just saying owners who do not bring them up to full charge shorten the life of them? IIRC, wet batteries and AGM's like to be brought up to full charge vs Lithium that is very happy to stay a little less than fully topped off? 

The primary purpose of a converter/power supply is to supply power when there are no batteries. A converter is always on as it is suppose to be. Always on means always charging. Some have the bulk charge rate (voltage) set to low to charge batteries properly.

The PD we have in our Cameo is a good 3 stage (bulk absorption float) smart converter but it is not a battery charger. It is always on.

The 50amp ProNautic chargers we'll use go to 0.0 amps once the batteries are charged. If amperage remains below XX amps for too long the chargers goes to sleep. ProN comes with programs for wet AGM Lithium as well a 2 programs that can be customized. When dry camping in the winter we'll set the bulk rate on both at 15.2V to shorten the generator run time.

Thought I'd add......the ProN chargers take about 10 seconds to react to a power draw. As such  would only work to power a trailer if battery(s) are used. 

 

 

 

Edited by J-T

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Since your question was "bang for the buck"  for people like myself who rarely dry camp for more than one or two nights at a time and who have a generator for those occasions, I have found that I get my best return on investment by buying pairs of 6V golf cart batteries at Sam's Club. In addition, it is important to mention that this is assuming the use of 6V batteries which means in series pairs. If you have 12V batteries then they will be connected in parallel so be careful when you start to change batteries. While my experience is that most RV folks prefer 6V pairs, I have seen some very long threads with much battery theory that goes into circuit design to argue over which is better 12V parallel or 6V series. If you now have 12V batteries you need to do some measuring to be sure that the 6V golf cart type batteries will fit where the batteries now are as I took some of this advice early in my fulltime days, only to discover when I brought the 6V batteries home that they would not fit into the space my OEM 12V batteries were housed. As a result, I stayed with two 12V and have found that the difference is difficult for most of us to measure. 

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18 hours ago, Yarome said:

I could easily argue the percentage,

Am I high or low?  :)

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19 hours ago, oldjohnt said:

WOW this may get a ton of different OPINIONS its like asking what brand of oil is best lol

I've also heard good about Rolls Surette (spelling???)

 I'm considering Full River AGM the next go round if I'm still alive then>

 

Rolls AGM come out of the same plant as Full River.  The Roll we had we consistently fell short of the rated 20 hour rate. 

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Sam's Club and Batteries Plus Bulbs carry Duracell labeled batteries. They are one of East Penn, Deka, factory brands. They are as good or better than any other GC2 battery. The price I paid at B+B was $109 for EGC2, 230 amp hour battery. 

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JT, based on research and opinions, some from this very Forum, had I gone the AGM route Full River was going to be my choice. While I heard n read good reviews on the Rolls, to me they were quite pricey and I couldn't convince myself they were any better then Trojan as far as "bang for the buck" thus my decision to go with Trojan and I'm glad I did. I used Sams Club I believe it was the EGC2 which were higher rated then GC2 if I recall ??? in my last RV but wasn't as well pleased with them as I am my Trojans.

Oh well different strokes for different folks and different users have different experiences, to be expected of course

John T

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Now of course, you can buy old used batteries and just rejuvenate them with the sauce.

https://www.ebay.com/i/160735661258?chn=ps&dispItem=1

Then of course, top them off with mineral oil. 

No question this would be the best bang for the buck (Tongue with thru cheek on this above input:)!)

Specifically for what is the best for boon docking. Not factoring price, and with assumption of complimentary changing equipment - lithium would be the best for boon docking. Has deeper discharge rates, and faster recharge times. 

But, all of the above comments are spot on. And I'll repeat my earlier comment, really no wrong answer here, just choices, and what you feel works best for you pocket book and or planned usage. 

Smitty

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, J-T said:

Am I high or low?  :)

High. Even with the very best maintanence/usage practices... you can't squeeze water out of rock. B):P

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On 7/17/2017 at 0:01 PM, oldjohnt said:

JT, based on research and opinions, some from this very Forum, had I gone the AGM route Full River was going to be my choice. While I heard n read good reviews on the Rolls, to me they were quite pricey and I couldn't convince myself they were any better then Trojan as far as "bang for the buck" thus my decision to go with Trojan and I'm glad I did. I used Sams Club I believe it was the EGC2 which were higher rated then GC2 if I recall ??? in my last RV but wasn't as well pleased with them as I am my Trojans.

Oh well different strokes for different folks and different users have different experiences, to be expected of course

John T

Hey John

Apologizes....meant to point out that Rolls is an expensive Full River in a red case.  When I pulled the ROLLS out I went back to wet cells but cheap ones that I'm not worried if 400 charge cycles are lost from negligence on out part.

 

 


 

 

  

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Mornin JT, Heyyyyyyyyy NO APOLOGIES ARE IN ORDER as I see it. When I priced Rolls I found  them expensive and just couldn't find enough literature or research to prove to myself (my pocketbook) I should buy them instead of Trojans. THANKS for educating us on who manufactures what !!!!  If anyone has used Crowns Id like to hear their experience as I read n heard including something on You Tube about how good they were?? Didn't a TV commercial claim "They cant put anything on the internet that isn't true"  LOL

As in so many cases you can hear n read BOTH good n bad about a particular brand so all you can do is study and research and ask for opinions then give it your best EDUCATED guess.  Ya know lead n acid is still lead n acid regardless of claims n hyperbole.

Have a good one and fun chattin with you

John T

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On 7/16/2017 at 7:31 PM, J-T said:

The primary purpose of a converter/power supply is to supply power when there are no batteries. A converter is always on as it is suppose to be. Always on means always charging. Some have the bulk charge rate (voltage) set to low to charge batteries properly.

The PD we have in our Cameo is a good 3 stage (bulk absorption float) smart converter but it is not a battery charger. It is always on.

Every sentence in the above quote defies my understanding of the terms and experience with the components.  I admit the possibility that I am just be seriously confused.  :-)  Here is my take:

  • PD says this about the purpose of a converter:  "The power converter recharges the battery and supplies 12-volt power for the lights and appliances when 120–volt AC power is available."  They do not mention the absence of batteries.
  • A converter is only on when connected to shore power, and may have a power switch, depending on model and producer. 
  • Always on does not mean always charging.  Indeed, in the proposed batteryless system there would be nothing to charge.
  • there is no bulk voltage that I know of, as bulk stage is current limited.  Perhaps you mean Absorption/acceptance voltage here?
  • I do not understand the claim that a converter with 3 stage charging is not a charger by any usual definition.    PD even calls them converter/chargers. 

Bluelghtning's question and comments is more like what I would expect.

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1 hour ago, secessus said:

Every sentence in the above quote defies my understanding of the terms and experience with the components.  I admit the possibility that I am just be seriously confused.  :-)  Here is my take:

  • PD says this about the purpose of a converter:  "The power converter recharges the battery and supplies 12-volt power for the lights and appliances when 120–volt AC power is available."  They do not mention the absence of batteries.
  • A converter is only on when connected to shore power, and may have a power switch, depending on model and producer. 
  • Always on does not mean always charging.  Indeed, in the proposed batteryless system there would be nothing to charge.
  • there is no bulk voltage that I know of, as bulk stage is current limited.  Perhaps you mean Absorption/acceptance voltage here?
  • I do not understand the claim that a converter with 3 stage charging is not a charger by any usual definition.    PD even calls them converter/chargers. 

Bluelghtning's question and comments is more like what I would expect.

Yeah, I was kind of confused about all that too and glad you asked that.

I was hoping we wouldn't have to jump into batteries, converters, maybe even adding an inverter on our own trailer just yet until we got on the road and started learning about all this, but It seems I might have to jump in sooner than I would like. We want to eventually boondock on our setup and I know that's going to require a much more substantial battery bank and adding an inverter that we don't have yet and a realiable way to recharge the batteries, but in the interim, I figured we'd stay at campgrounds until we had time to sort through it and get our electrical needs figured out. 

Currently we only have two 12v battieries (don't even think they are really deep cycle ones) in the 5th wheel which the previous owner has said are less than a year old. At their house, it stayed constantly plugged in and they kept battery tenders on the two battetries. He said he kept tenders on it to keep them topped off because they would keep the power cutoff off, so the batteries wouldn't get charged from the converter which made sense. However now that we have moved it to storage or a friends house, we keep having the two 12 batteries go dead after a couple days when maybe the only thing we did was use the jacks off the batteries. We even turn off the main cut off when we leave it as it's not plugged in, but either there is a parasitic drain or these batteries are just totally shot. The later is a good possibility as at least twice now I've found them down around 4-5v each on a 12v battery which is way past dead. I've had to jump off the generator just to get it started and get some power back into the battiers. I was able to atleast move the trailer whehre I have access to a 15amp plug so I'm keeping a tender on them while they are in storage, but that isn't something that is going to be always practical. If I have to replace them, fine, but before i add new batteries I want to figure out what's going on with the current ones before I kill new ones and I'm overwhelmed on where to start. Is my converter so crappy that it's just not charging them? Do I have things in front of the cut off switch like the radio that is causing the parasitic drain? (I've since pulled the fuse for the radio, but there might be other things too). Until we start living in it or take it on a trip, it's hard to pinpoint where my problems are.  

I'm also seriously considering putting the generator on it's own starting battery, so even if the house batteries go dead, I can still start the generator. I have a small lithium battery from a motorcycle that I'm not using that could probably handle that. All it would do would be start the generator and then I have a specific trickle charger for it when it's plugged in or the genny is running to maintain it. The house batteries would get charged by the converter when plugged in or running the generator. Just so much to learn. 

Edited by BlueLghtning

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2 hours ago, secessus said:

I admit the possibility that I am just be seriously confused.  :-)  Here is my take:

Your confusion is valid, but sounds like you've got a good understanding.

Converters can come in two different varieties, and as secessus stated, will only work when 120V is present. One type will provide 12V power regardless if a battery is present or not. The other type uses your battery as a type of "capacitor" and will provide 12V to loads on demand "over the top" of your battery bank (if that makes sense) and will only function when a battery is present.

Before other sparkies start jumping down my throat.. the following is not "technically" correct, but for ease of concept understanding...

When 120V is present the converter is the "primary" 12V source (not only when there is no battery).

They are always "on", but are "idle" unless a load presents itself ("on" doesn't necessarily mean "actively" supplying current). Be it an actual load or batteries dropping below the charge level threshold. To clarify, that does not mean "always charging".

Think of a hose with the water supply on and gradually opening or closing a valve at the end to supply whatever water is required.

I'm not sure how J-T is defining "charger". In the sense that it is "plugged in", refills your battery then shuts itself off when the charge cycle is complete, then no... it is not a "charger".

Think of a water hose with the water supply either on or off.

In the sense that it monitors your battery levels and refills them as needed then yes... it IS a "charger".

I believe there may be a misconception about "float mode". While not all converter/chargers are the same, most smart converter/chargers (like the PD's) do not maintain a constant charge to your batteries when in float mode. They monitor the charge levels and supply a "trickle" charge as needed (based on default levels within their algorithm or end user set thresholds). In that sense they are not always "on", although the converter/charger itself IS.

Secessus - When J-T said, "bulk absorption float" he was describing the different charge states/modes in a 3-stage charger... which supply current to the batteries at different levels. "Bulk mode" supplying the highest level of current and "pushing" the most amount of current.

"Some have the bulk charge rate (voltage) set too low to charge batteries properly." That is true, in a sense, but there are other factors at play that often prevent a decent charge from a stock converter/charger, or even many smart converter/chargers for that matter. Swapping in a "smart" staged charger is not always a "fix".

That opens up another whole dimension to the charging issue that is probably best left for another day. ;)

Edited by Yarome

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1 hour ago, BlueLghtning said:

it's hard to pinpoint where my problems are.

There could be any number of issues at play there. The thing to do would be to first determine if your batteries are actually shot or not by doing your own or taking them in for load testing. The previous owner having them on a "tender" could mean just about anything. If he was using a static trickle charger for an extended period of time.. that can certainly kill em. ;)

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42 minutes ago, Yarome said:

There could be any number of issues at play there. The thing to do would be to first determine if your batteries are actually shot or not by doing your own or taking them in for load testing. The previous owner having them on a "tender" could mean just about anything. If he was using a static trickle charger for an extended period of time.. that can certainly kill em. ;)

Yep, I'm going to work on that and figure out where I stand for right now on the battiers and put some load on them or have them tested. I just want to feel confident I'm not going to immediately kill new batteries right away. :D

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2 hours ago, BlueLghtning said:

I just want to feel confident I'm not going to immediately kill new batteries right away. 

I've read enough of your posts that I highly doubt that. You seem to have your head on straight. ;)

It's not rocket science. Ensure you have the proper equipment (decent converter/charger), the proper wire gauge to support it and a decent amount of lead to dump it in to.

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15 hours ago, Yarome said:

I've read enough of your posts that I highly doubt that. You seem to have your head on straight. ;)

It's not rocket science. Ensure you have the proper equipment (decent converter/charger), the proper wire gauge to support it and a decent amount of lead to dump it in to.

Thanks! I'm doing all that research now. I'll come here asking questions when I have a better idea about things to see if I'm headed down the right path. 

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