Ruth and Max enjoying a beautiful rainbow at the Natyra e Qete Restaurant & Camping near Berat, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Berat, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Greece.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Max's batteries... and a lazy rain day.

Max has two 100 AH 12 volt AGM deep cycle batteries. He also has two 100 watt solar panels to keep those batteries charged.

For comparison, our North American motorhome Sherman had four 225 AH 6 volt wet cell batteries, and three 80 watt solar panels.

That's quite a bit of difference. Our usage is quite high given that we are on our laptops a lot. 

Sherman had more than enough battery power for our needs. Max also has just enough battery power for our needs...providing the sun shines every day! But a few days without enough sun will eventually wear down his batteries.

With deep cycle batteries, you don't want to discharge them below 50% capacity. In a perfect world, you don't want them to discharge below 80%, but after all, they are made to use, and we know they will have to be replaced eventually. But the less you deeply discharge them, the longer they will last.

At this time of year here in Albania, the sun does not get very high in the sky. So we don't get much sunlight coming into the batteries even when the sun is shining. Throw in a couple of overcast days, and we're good for three to four days before we will need to plug into electricity to charge the batteries.

So yesterday, with overcast skies and rain in the forecast, we needed to find somewhere to plug in. I came across a listing along our route for a highway truck stop that had electric spots for motorhomes... free! Of course we knew it wouldn't be scenic, and it might be noisy... but it turned out to be better than expected.

There are five spots. Only one other spot was in use when we arrived.
GPS 41.51931, 19.688987

The view out our front window!

But, those trucks were parked and never moved the whole time. It was actually quieter than expected, and the row of trucks somewhat blocked the road noise. Hey, it's free... we can't complain.

Yesterday, reader Creigh Gordon asked how I keep track of our battery usage. 

A resting 12 volt battery reads 12.7 volts when full charged. When it drops to 12.1, it is 50% charged. Max has a high tech touch screen control panel so that we can monitor the state of charge of his batteries. The control panel also shows the net amount of amps going in or out of the batteries at any given time.

When plugged in and fully charged there is a float charge that goes in, keeping the batteries between 13.2 volts and 13.5 volts.

When this photo was taken, there was a net gain of .88 amps going into the batteries. 

When first charging, there is a bulk charge that goes into the batteries. Being plugged in, I have seen that number as high as 20 amps. In bright sun, the maximum on solar is about 10 amps, but at this time of year with the sun so low in the sky the most is about 6 amps. In the evening, using lights and the laptops, there is a net loss of about 3.0 amps and the display turns red.

Of course the batteries also charge when we're driving. But it takes three of four hours of driving to fully charge the batteries, and it's pretty rare that we ever do that much in a day.

I'm always very aware of the state of charge of the batteries. The lowest I've had them is 12.0, and that's only happened twice. Resting voltage would be about 12.1 at that time, so that's as low as I will let them go. The worst thing you can do is let them go totally dead (below 11.5 volts) because that really cuts into their lifespan.

AGM batteries aren't known for lasting a long time, but that's normally because they are discharged too much on a regular basis, and they don't take kindly to that. I'll actually be happy to get two years out of these ones. 

Sure enough, it ended up raining for about three hours yesterday, but it didn't really start to clear up until after 3:00pm, and of course it's getting dark by 4:00pm, so we just stayed put for the night.

But the skies have cleared this morning, and with fully charged batteries we are going back to the coast. We need to do some grocery shopping, and we're going to take the route south of Durres, which we never did when we were here in the spring.

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8 comments:

  1. Free electricity? I always have a small nightlight on the console. Anytime I see a plug in at a place I am allowed to park for a while I check if it is live. A gazebo in a public park is my favorite lucky spot.

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    1. Yep, gotta love free!

      Having something electrical like the nightlight works but really an electrical test meter is the best, then you also know then if the voltage is safe.

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  2. Any thoughts about going to lithium when the time comes?

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    1. Yes, we have thought about but it is hard to justify the price for the amount of electricity that we need. We will see what prices are like if and when the time comes to change out these batteries.

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  3. Hi guys. Jackery have just sent me a freebie Explorer 1000 to review along with a couple of 100W folding solar panels. Hey, I told them they're probably not the right thing for us but I'm not complaining! These things are expensive IMHO and I doubt I'd have bought any of it just for touring. Have you guys considered these battery packs or non-roof solar panels before? Cheers, Jay

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    1. Wow, good for you. Jackery makes a nice product, we have one of the earlier versions of their smart phone battery packs. Still works great.

      Yes, their portable lithium battery packs are pricey, as are their folding solar panels. There are a lot of no-name versions of similar products available for a lot less money. I don't think they are the right thing for us either. First, we have such little storage room. Second, we had a folding solar panel with us for a couple of months when we borrowed an RV for Spain and Portugal back in 2017, and we had one again when we toured Australia in 2019. Based on those experiences, they are just a pain in the butt to store and carry around and set up and move. I understand the benefit of being able to have your rig in the shade while the solar panel is in the sun, but I like the convenience of rooftop solar better!

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  4. Thanks Kevin, much appreciated. We get offers for stuff to review from time to time but most of it is irrelevant, low value or just stuff we'd never use. We've only accepted a single product in a decade but this Jackery equipment does appear to have a very good reputation (and the kit costs about £1500 in the UK, so we'll worth our time). It looks really bulky but our van does have a ton of storage space so we can probably fit it somewhere and it would almost double our Ah (and triple our PV wattage, although I read the unit can't charge at the full 200W). It'll be fun to have a play with it anyway. Happy travels south guys - we're in an AirBnB in Andalusia at the moment but heading back to the UK tomorrow. *shivers*! Cheers, Jay

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    1. Have fun playing with it!

      We loved the Andalusia area when we were there, sorry you have to leave there to go back to chilly wet England.

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