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Battery questions


Bruce H
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This fall I picked up a new to me used 2006 Forest River Georgetown class-A . I was pleasantly surprised to find out it has 4 solar panels mounted on the roof. I not that familiar with solar panels but I am learing. So getting to my main topic. The house batteries are 2 6 volt Trojan  T-125 deep cycle flooded. I'm not sure how long they have been in there. I'll be full timing next October and would like to replace them in the spring. I'm thinking of going with 2 6volt Trojan T105-AGM deep cycle batteries . I'm looking for some feed back on these batteries, or are there better options out there.

Thanks in advance

Bruce

 

 

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Biker56 summed it up nicely.

Just to note that the T105's are not AGM's and would require regular water level checks the same as any other flooded wet cell battery.

T-105's are one of the "top of line" batteries. IMHO, well worth the money for a full-timer, and combined with your solar (depending on panels sizes, solar controller and energy requirements) will set you up nicely for short term boondocking/dry camping at will.

A less expensive option would be the Costco/Sam's Club 6v golf cart batteries. They suit many "quite" well. There are a number of things to consider when deciding between this class compared to Trojan's, but if your battery usage is minimal, you can save quite a bit up front.

For more extended boondocking, replacing the T-125's wouldn't be a bad idea... or if your battery compartment is of sufficient size... going to 4 T-105's would be my preference.

While there is no way of knowing for sure, it would be my guess that you probably have 400+ watts of solar panels up there. If so, and depending on their type, ratings, your solar controller, wiring, and where you prefer to travel, it's "likely" they would be able to support 4 T-105's.

Throw in a decent 2000watt portable inverter generator and your boondocking options would only be limited by your water supply, waste tank capacities and how much "stuff's" you can fit in your reefer. ;)

Edited by Yarome
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Staying in the Trojan line, and if the question to possibly extended boon docking (Or perhaps just wanting more contingency in case of power outages.). The T-145's are slotted AH wise above the T-125. (T-105 are conventional GC2 batteries, with each step up to T-125's and T145's adding more AH's. They all have the same foot print, only height is the difference. But do the $ math to AH costs analysis. If you have the room, adding additional pairs of GC2's are sometimes the most economical way to add AH's capacity:)!

And don't be too quick to toss out the T-125's. Next time your in a shop for some reason, or if you have the time to remove them and take them to a shop, have a Load Test done on them. (Top off the water if needed, fully charge them, and let the, rest unloaded for at least 12 hours before having the Load Test accomplished.) This will give you and indication of how they're doing. 

I installed two T-125's in our Bounder (T-145's missed fitting by about 3/4"!!). Had them for 5 years, and sold the Bounder to a neighbor. He replaced them at age 12...  

And for sure, if you do lots of surfing on batteries, you'll quickly determine that one thing is for sure clear - opinions on batteries vary:)!

Best of luck to you,

Smitty

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FWIW, Trojan batteries are supposed to be top-of-the-line.  Supposed to last much longer than Costco/Sam's Club GC2 (Golf Cart) batteries. 

However, abuse the Trojan by not being sure to keep them charged to 100% regularly, letting the water level get down to exposing the plates to the air, discharge them to 80%-90% discharged a few or several times and they will be toast just as a standard golf cart battery will be. 

Also, if you will only be dry camping/boondocking for a few days or a few weeks a year, the golf cart batteries will work just fine, no need to pay twice as much for the Trojan batteries. 

Ditto on checking your current batteries to see how well they hold a charge.  Don't just replace because you are not sure how well they work.

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As a marine service tech for almost 40 years I have dealt with more battery issues than I would rather think about. Once Golf Cart batteries came into common use, the debate on which are best have been ongoing. It has been my experience in both repairing others systems and in my own use as a 25 year liveaboard and cruisers is that given  proper battery maintenance, the only difference between Trojans and the better quality 6 volt batteries like those sold at Sams Club is the price. After about 7 years of heavy use in discharging and recharging our house batteries, they show signs of needing replacement. This is using the batteries EVERY DAY to run systems without charging until about 50% discharged and then doing a proper charge to get them back to 100%. I personally have never seen any benefit to spending more money on the Trojans. Talking about Gel, Lithium Ion and AGM batteries is a whole different discussion. But proper maintenance is the key rather than throwing more money at more expensive batteries. Chuck

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1 hour ago, Al F said:

.... they will be toast just as a standard golf cart battery will be. 

Also, if you will only be dry camping/boondocking for a few days or a few weeks a year, the golf cart batteries will work just fine, no need to pay twice as much for the Trojan batteries. 

Completely agree.

48 minutes ago, chuckbear said:

....given  proper battery maintenance, the only difference between Trojans and the better quality 6 volt batteries like those sold at Sams Club is the price.

I personally have never seen any benefit to spending more money on the Trojans.

Completely disagree.

Personally, I've run 2 trojan banks "full time". The first set I ran for 9 years and were at 76% of original capacity and going strong when they were passed on with the rig that held them. My second battery bank I ran for 11 years and were still supporting full time boondocking needs when they were passed on at approx. 70%. My experience is not at all unique.

Of course, their capacities were diminished so I guess it "could" be said that the "useful life" of a trojan bank could be subjective. I'll conceed that.

Moving past the year count issue though is not the only reason folks invest in higher quality batteries. One of the major selling points for me is the overall construction. I won't go point for point and bore everyone, but to hit one major issue is the difference between layered pressed mesh lead plates vs. solid. Solid is more capable under heavier sustained discharges rates and when accepting a higher rate of charge. Aka, lower rate of sulfation.

What does that mean in layman's terms? Less likelihood of internal shorts and longer duty life, for 2.

Another main point that you're paying for...

Buying a big box store GC battery you're never really quite sure whose battery (the mfg.) you're buying. They may be labelled identically across the U.S. but box store batteries are typically supplied regionally. Ie., the Sam's club battery available for sale in WA state is likely manufactured by company "X" while the battery in MN may be manufactured by company "Y" and the ones in FL... mfg. "Z".

In practical terms why is that important? RV'ers tend to travel. ;) In the event of a single cell group failing... the replacement may or may NOT be of the same "make" which may further exasperate the overall performance of your battery bank.

When you have trojans, no matter where you are, when you buy a trojan... you're buying a trojan with the exact same internals, built to the exact same specifications and containing the same lead chemistry and surface to match your existing bank.

For a serious boondocker, reliability is paramount. Nothing ruins your day more than loosing a cell group X miles from nowhere. The failure rate of trojans vs. box store GC's is considerably... considerably lower. That alone is often reason enough to justify the investment.

[side note: That is also why many of us choose to spread our AH's across multiple cell groups. Lose one of 2 L16's and you're dead in the water. Lose 1 of 4 105's or 125's and you simply rewire down to 2 and limp your way through the remainder of your planned stay.]

Looping back to what Al was saying. You can kill a trojan just as quickly as you can a box store GC. There are many other factors that go in to maintaining a healthy battery bank than just staying above 50% SOC, checking water levels and charging with a "smart" charger.

Again.. not going in to depth, but a few points to consider for those that feel they are not getting the "life" they expected out of their battery banks. Are your loads "top heavy"? Meaning... do you regularly place heavy sustained loads on your bank. Is your charger temp compensated? Are you maintaining a constant charge rate? That's probably a big one that is often overlooked. Running loads during a charge cycle "can" impact the ability to maintain a constant rate of charge to your battery bank. Is your battery bank well ventilated? Not just for off-gassing purposes but to allow for heat dissipation and/or retention when necessary. What ambient temperatures do you typically charge at?

All factors play their part.

p.s. I'm entitled to my opinions. :P

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23 hours ago, Yarome said:

Buying a big box store GC battery you're never really quite sure whose battery (the mfg.) you're buying. They may be labelled identically across the U.S. but box store batteries are typically supplied regionally. Ie., the Sam's club battery available for sale in WA state is likely manufactured by company "X" while the battery in MN may be manufactured by company "Y" and the ones in FL... mfg. "Z".

Would you be willing to document this? It does not fit with what I was told by the company.

23 hours ago, Yarome said:

All factors play their part.

The biggest factor in the useful life of any flooded cell battery is the way that the owner manages the use and maintains the batteries. 

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2 hours ago, Kirk Wood said:

The biggest factor in the useful life of any flooded cell battery is the way that the owner manages the use and maintains the batteries. 

Which is why I chose AGM batteries--maintenance free beyond monitoring usage to keep them appropriately charged when boondocking. Plus AGM's have no off-gasing  so you can even install them under your bed.

Linda Sand

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2 hours ago, Kirk Wood said:

Would you be willing to document this? It does not fit with what I was told by the company.

 

 

Hi Kirk,

I won't bother 'documenting' this, as I should not have too:)! I will share that I frequent Costco's in multiple states during the yearly travels. And many products, not just batteries, are unique to a region. Specially on batteries, I've seen 8D wet and 8D AGM's in Costco's in some states, but never seen them in San Diego. GC2's will vary in product, as well as price, in different Costco's too. 

I don't have a Sam's membership, but suspect the buyer's for a region go out for bids of XXXX amounts, and the purchase orders can be repetitive to the same supplier, or not:)!

So my personal experience I suppose is my informal documentation:)! Anyways, sure passes my filter...

Best to you, and all,

Smitty

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On 12/24/2017 at 11:58 AM, Yarome said:

Completely agree.

Completely disagree.

Personally, I've run 2 trojan banks "full time". The first set I ran for 9 years and were at 76% of original capacity and going strong when they were passed on with the rig that held them. My second battery bank I ran for 11 years and were still supporting full time boondocking needs when they were passed on at approx. 70%. My experience is not at all unique.

Of course, their capacities were diminished so I guess it "could" be said that the "useful life" of a trojan bank could be subjective. I'll conceed that.

Moving past the year count issue though is not the only reason folks invest in higher quality batteries. One of the major selling points for me is the overall construction. I won't go point for point and bore everyone, but to hit one major issue is the difference between layered pressed mesh lead plates vs. solid. Solid is more capable under heavier sustained discharges rates and when accepting a higher rate of charge. Aka, lower rate of sulfation.

What does that mean in layman's terms? Less likelihood of internal shorts and longer duty life, for 2.

Another main point that you're paying for...

Buying a big box store GC battery you're never really quite sure whose battery (the mfg.) you're buying. They may be labelled identically across the U.S. but box store batteries are typically supplied regionally. Ie., the Sam's club battery available for sale in WA state is likely manufactured by company "X" while the battery in MN may be manufactured by company "Y" and the ones in FL... mfg. "Z".

In practical terms why is that important? RV'ers tend to travel. ;) In the event of a single cell group failing... the replacement may or may NOT be of the same "make" which may further exasperate the overall performance of your battery bank.

When you have trojans, no matter where you are, when you buy a trojan... you're buying a trojan with the exact same internals, built to the exact same specifications and containing the same lead chemistry and surface to match your existing bank.

For a serious boondocker, reliability is paramount. Nothing ruins your day more than loosing a cell group X miles from nowhere. The failure rate of trojans vs. box store GC's is considerably... considerably lower. That alone is often reason enough to justify the investment.

[side note: That is also why many of us choose to spread our AH's across multiple cell groups. Lose one of 2 L16's and you're dead in the water. Lose 1 of 4 105's or 125's and you simply rewire down to 2 and limp your way through the remainder of your planned stay.]

Looping back to what Al was saying. You can kill a trojan just as quickly as you can a box store GC. There are many other factors that go in to maintaining a healthy battery bank than just staying above 50% SOC, checking water levels and charging with a "smart" charger.

Again.. not going in to depth, but a few points to consider for those that feel they are not getting the "life" they expected out of their battery banks. Are your loads "top heavy"? Meaning... do you regularly place heavy sustained loads on your bank. Is your charger temp compensated? Are you maintaining a constant charge rate? That's probably a big one that is often overlooked. Running loads during a charge cycle "can" impact the ability to maintain a constant rate of charge to your battery bank. Is your battery bank well ventilated? Not just for off-gassing purposes but to allow for heat dissipation and/or retention when necessary. What ambient temperatures do you typically charge at?

All factors play their part.

p.s. I'm entitled to my opinions. :P

"p.s. I'm entitled to my opinions. :P"  Love your final statement!! :)

About the life of the batteries.  Going by memory, but I believe I saw in Trojan's documentation that they consider the life of the battery ended when gets down to 80% or possibility 70% of new battery life.   Not that Trojan thinks the battery it broken or bad at 70-80%, just that they need to place an end of life so measurements can be made.

An additional thought. Starting with 100AH and your planned usage is to only use 25% (75%SOC) of the total AH's for longest life, then you only have 25AH available.  When that battery is down to 80% capacity then your usable capacity is now only 5%    Multiply the above numbers by whatever is needed to get to your total AH's (400-600-800AH's). 

About failure rate of big box golf cart batteries versus Trojan (or any other big name deep cycle battery maker).  I would love to see a report where someone took, say, 100 golf cart batteries and 100 Trojans and put them through a usage test.  Additionally I would love to see the results of 1/3 taken down to 75% SOC, 1/3 taken down to 50% SOC and 1/3 down to 80%. 

Worth noting, is just how much of an impact the depth of discharge has on battery life. 

Trojan's battery life figures that I have see reports about 2600-300 cycles with 25% discharge, about 1250 cycles with 50% discharge and about 750 cycles with 80% discharge.  That means going from 25% discharge to 50% reduces the life of your battery by half. 

Here is an image taken from a Trojan L-16REB data sheet. 

image.png.4d8cb957fb49c3f191dc3522638a0e01.png

 

I tend to question anecdotal reports of batteries.  As Yarome mentioned, people who rely on their batteries tend to take pains to care for them.  Since many of them invest in Trojan's they tend to care for them.  People with golf cart batteries perhaps are not a careful with their batteries.  If that is a correct assumption, then Trojans would tend to last longer. 

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37 minutes ago, Smitty77_7 said:

 

Hi Kirk,

I won't bother 'documenting' this, as I should not have too:)! I will share that I frequent Costco's in multiple states during the yearly travels. And many products, not just batteries, are unique to a region. Specially on batteries, I've seen 8D wet and 8D AGM's in Costco's in some states, but never seen them in San Diego. GC2's will vary in product, as well as price, in different Costco's too. 

I don't have a Sam's membership, but suspect the buyer's for a region go out for bids of XXXX amounts, and the purchase orders can be repetitive to the same supplier, or not:)!

So my personal experience I suppose is my informal documentation:)! Anyways, sure passes my filter...

Best to you, and all,

Smitty

Don't overlook the fact that Walmart (Sam's Club is part of Walmart) and Costco only sell products which move (sell) in the particular store.  They don't stock the product that they can't sell a certain number in a short period of time.

I think that would account for not seeing xyz product in some stores and not others.

About regional buyers for batteries.  I would expect these discount stores would negotiate for something like these batteries for a 1000, or 5000 to be delivered to the big box regional warehouse.  Not for the big box store to go pick them up from the company.  

I'm not saying the big box stores don't have regional buyers.  Mostly that regional buyers would more likely buy regionally made products which regional populations want to buy. 

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On 12/25/2017 at 3:41 PM, Al F said:

I'm not saying the big box stores don't have regional buyers.  Mostly that regional buyers would more likely buy regionally made products which regional populations want to buy. 

While I have seen different products stocked in different stores, as is true regionally for most big box stores when I last had contact with Sam's organization they claimed that if you compare a specific battery from one area to the next the manufacturer and the specs will be the same. But it has been some time since I did that checking and I don't believe that I ever asked them for proof, which is the reason for my question. It has also been long enough that it might be different now than then.

I can tell you that I personally saw batteries being delivered to the Tyler, TX Sam's Club store by a truck that was marked Interstate batteries, less than one year ago. My golf cart batteries came off of it. Isn't it true that there are only a handful of manufacturers still building flooded cell batteries? 

Edited by Kirk Wood
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Well, thank you all for your comments and battery knowledge. This is one topic that I am not well versed in, so all comments will be greatly appreciated  for me to figure out which direction to go in. I hope to be boondocking about 65% of the time. I figure  to be installing the batteries sometime in late spring.

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1 hour ago, Bruce H said:

Well, thank you all for your comments and battery knowledge. This is one topic that I am not well versed in, so all comments will be greatly appreciated  for me to figure out which direction to go in. I hope to be boondocking about 65% of the time. I figure  to be installing the batteries sometime in late spring.

Welcome to the dry camping/boondocking RV environment.  Your new-to-you rig looks to be pretty well set up for living w/o electric with some reservations.

We spend a lot of our travel time in dry camping places, such as NF or BLM campgrounds and boondocking in remote areas. 

I am just going to hit some highlights here, not going into a lot of detail. 

Assuming you have an inverter which will operate the microwave, coffee pot, or toaster, you will want to seriously restrict your usage of them. 

2 deep cycle batteries only gives you about 200-240AH of total battery capacity.  Of the 200AH only 50-100AH is usable w/o hugely reducing the life of your battery.  Trojan rates their batteries at around 2700 cycles (discharge/charge cycles if only 25% (50AH) of the battery is used.   About 1500 cycles if 50% (100AH) is used and only about 750 cycles if 75-80% is used.

Many details to help you understand RV battery and solar usage and operation is available in these links:

The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1) Batteries

The 12volt Side of Life Part Solar & Inverters

You will want to have a good battery monitor, such as the Trimetric:  http://www.bogartengineering.com/products/trimetrics.html

A good battery monitor will tell you how many AH's you have used and how many are put back into your battery when charging.  Each is extremely important.

You must have this information so you don't over discharge and you will know when you have your batteries at 100% charged, which is very important.

 

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my head hurts.

 

this batt... that batt. even the cheap ones i buy at wally world, last me a good three years.

solar.

gen.

both.

shore power.

 

ouch.

 

boondocking for me. so no hard wired connection here.

guess 4-6 deep cycle batts. maybe solar. if the cost can be cut to a third of now. can buy lots of gas for 4-5 grand.

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On 12/26/2017 at 5:10 PM, Al F said:

.... pretty well set up for living w/o electric with some reservations.

2 deep cycle batteries only gives you about 200-240AH of total battery capacity.  Of the 200AH only 50-100AH is usable...

The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1) Batteries

The 12volt Side of Life Part Solar & Inverters

You will want to have a good battery monitor, such as the Trimetric: 

I'm going to second Al. While mentioned in light detail, every point made is quite critical to successfully navigating the boondocking lifestyle to the degree you have mentioned (65% of the time) and is worth repeating.

2 - 6v deep cycle batteries (200-240ah) will get you from point A to point B with an occassional 2 or 3 nighter dry camping thrown in (rationed) but would be non-sustainable without supplemental energy production. Ie., a decent generator and/or possibly looking in to solar. Routinely devoting time and energy into genset runtime get's old "quite" fast , may not always be reliable, and at times, may not be allowed.

One additional point I would add is the importance of performing a complete energy audit. It's impossible to design the heart of your power systems (your battery bank) without first understanding what your power requirements are.

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On 12/26/2017 at 2:41 PM, Kirk Wood said:

...if you compare a specific battery from one area to the next the manufacturer and the specs will be the same.

I can tell you that I personally saw batteries being delivered to the Tyler, TX Sam's Club store by a truck that was marked Interstate batteries 

Sounds like you answered your own query. You bought interstates from Sam's in TX. Gary bought Duracell's in WA state. I believe that they may have comparable specs, but that's as far as it goes and wouldn't suprise me one bit if that is the ongoing "party line".

Of course... it could be argued, if you're only comparing labels, that a Trojan and a Costco GC have nearly the same general specifications. ;)

Many batteries are produced by a very limited number of mfg's, however, that doesn't mean that every battery produced by a "said" mfg will be produced to the exact same specifications, chemisty and components as every other battery brand that exits their loading docks. They have multiple product lineups and sell what their customers are willing to slap their label on.

For that matter... buying a particular brand of battery also doesn't necessarily mean that all product lines within that brand are produced by the same MFG. Or sometimes.... they switch mfg's. Ie., DieHard was produced by Johnson controls... then exide for a time... and then they eventually went back to Johnson controls.

I'm not knocking box store GC's. They are a great cost saving option for many and I regularly recommend them. However... it's not reasonable to expect to pay $200 less for a set of 4 6v batteries, have your cake AND eat it too. :lol: Heck. Many folks may never take advantage of the full potential going with a Trojan or such offers. That's perfectly fine too, but it's not the batteries fault. ;)

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At this time, Duracell golf cart batteries are a East Penn label. They are in their literature and their name is on the battery. They are the same as Deka.

How can I say Duracell are best value when I have not used any other brand. Or how can you say another more expensive brand is better, for the same reason?

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On 12/26/2017 at 5:41 PM, Kirk Wood said:

Isn't it true that there are only a handful of manufacturers still building flooded cell batteries? 

I'll let you count how many different company's make them.
Looks like it may be more then a handful. :)

Unless you are talking about the ones made in the USA.
Then only 4 for deep flooded.

Edited by Biker56
for more add on
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22 minutes ago, Ray,IN said:

...no-one mentioned performing an equalizing charge, with accompanying SG readings, on Bruce H's batteries prior to further testing. 

I guess I read his OP, and subsequent, as asking for feedback about the merits of going with Trojan T-105's, if there were better options available and how suitable they would be for his intention of boondocking ~65% of the time.... not "should I replace my batteries".

TONS of information not included in this thread, but it seems as if everyone kept their replies fairly germaine to the original questions.

I guess AGM's didn't get covered much. That's easy. Unless you have a specific need, like housing your battery bank where off-gassing might present a problem, or you simply want the maintanence convenience, it's typically difficult to justify the steep price tag of AGM's. They also do provide some minor performance improvements, but again, not to the point that that alone would justify the cost, IMHO.

I currently carry Lifeline AGM's... in the storage space under my bed. Off-gassing presents a problem... or some might say... if my battery bank off-gassed it would solve all of "there" problems. ;) I do still check them regularly, though. At least... they were still there when I looked last April.

Edited by Yarome
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