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Author Topic: Batteries not fully charged by FM80 or Mastervolt Mass Combi  (Read 11009 times)
Scatter
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« on: November 10, 2013, 07:18:21 PM »

Hi everyone

I'm scratching my head over a problem we're having with charging our batteries. I've been reading around and trying to glean what I can but I'm confused as to what might be happening.

We purchased a canal boat a while back which came with a Mastervolt Mass Combi 12/2000 connected to three 12V '225 L maintenance free' batteries of uncertain manufacture (no labels and I can't see the sides while they're connected). A 7kVA Cummins Onan generator provides power to the Mastervolt and we have had a good five months of trouble free charging of our batteries.

Recently we fitted 4 x 250W PV panels and an Outback FM80 and subsequently the Mastervolt seems to have got a bit confused.  As we're not getting lots of sun at the moment (today excepted) I've been running the generator many evenings. As it's charging, the indicators on the Mastervolt go up through bulk and absorption and into float and the remote charger controller panel is showing a few amps going into the batteries so I shut the generator down.  As soon as I do this the top two of the five indicator lights shut off and it's indicating the equivalent of Abs. After I've left the batteries for a while the voltage settles at about 12.6V so they're a fair bit off fully charged.

Now our batteries have 'maintenance free' stamped on them which I take to mean that they're gel or AGM type. The Mastervolt has a dip switch setting that allows you to specify Gel / AGM batteries and this wasn't selected by the previous owner. So I think that's something I should change but I don't think it's the cause of this problem because it was charging just fine before we installed the panels.

Today when we had lots of sunshine the Outback entered float mode at an indicated 13.6V and when the sun had gone down the batteries settled at about 12.4V so they're not being fully charged by the panels as well. I'm using the factory settings and am just trying to work out how it should be set up for our batteries. It seems like float should kick in at 13.8V for Gel / AGM batteries so that's a change I'm thinking of making.

So that's pretty much it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what is preventing our batteries from charging all the way? Any advice on how we should set up the Mastervolt / Outback gratefully received!

Cheers all!
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camillitech
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2013, 07:39:12 PM »

Hi Scatter and welcome,

sounds to me like your batteries are goosed, 'maintenance free' cycled daily and you'd be lucky to get a couple of winters out of them.

Good luck, Paul
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biff
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2013, 07:41:37 PM »

Welcome to the forum Scatter,
                   " Maintenance free" can still be S.L,A,sealed lead acid.So perhaps the present setting is right.If things were working correctly before the solar panels were fitted,then it must be down to some setting on the Mastervolt which has to be adjusted.
     Worry not,someone will be along to will explain.
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« Last Edit: November 10, 2013, 07:44:58 PM by biff » Logged

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marcus
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2013, 08:17:42 PM »

hello scatter,

I'm assuming your liveabord and using the battery daily? If that's so then your battery may need equalizing. I don't know how much you know about batteries but over time the separate cells get out of balance, and when you re-charge the battery some cells will reach full whilst the others need more charge, but the full cells slow the charge process down. You need to keep charging the battery until all the cells are full.

There's no mention of charging above 13.8v in your description (which would make sense if it's a sealed battery - with a 'wet' type you can equalize by charging at 14.4v or more). To equalize a sealed battery you would need to float charge a battery continuously for at least 24 hrs - probably more if it's been a long time since it was last done.

marcus
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Justme
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2013, 08:30:16 PM »

Sounds like a typical over use & under charge situation resulting in sulphated batteries.

A full charge cycle can take 8 to 12 hours. Running the genny for a few hours just does not cut it.

Your 7kVa genny is going to be costly to run just for the mastervolt inverter charger whilst charging the bats. Try to load it up whilst doing your long charge cycle by doing say the washing. Think about getting a smaller (say 2kVa) genny. Also think about getting a bigger battery bank.

If your "into" learning all about this stuff then there is lots of info & help available in here.

If not get a Smart Gauge which will tell you just how full / discharged your bats really are (after you replace the current ones). Then you will know when to charge & more importantly when to stop.

Edit to add.

Have you done a power audit so you know just how much energy you are really using?

Your 4 x 250watt panels wont be producing mush energy at this time of year.
My 1.2kWp array only did 0.6kWh today (IE 50amph or just enough to run a standard boat fridge for 24 hours).
« Last Edit: November 10, 2013, 08:33:04 PM by Justme » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2013, 08:49:10 PM »

Quote
Today when we had lots of sunshine the Outback entered float mode at an indicated 13.6V and when the sun had gone down the batteries settled at about 12.4V so they're not being fully charged by the panels as well.

I would be surprised to reach "Float" with PV   this time of the year .... how are your Absorption charge  set points ?
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offthegridandy
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2013, 10:13:28 PM »

Hi Scatter and welcome aboard.

If the boat was set up and used by someone who was cruising most days then the batteries would have been getting many hrs of charge. If you are now mainly moored up then the few hrs probably wont cut it. "Maintenance free" could well be modern lead acid batteries (leisure) post a piccy and we might advise better.  If so they will only last a few years and my guess would be that the batteries are getting knackered.

Note that when you report battery voltage unless every thing on board is off then you are not seeing the at rest figure. I'm currently nursing 2 banks of cells one 800 and 1 one 1000amp hr, neither of which hold a good charge.  One minute the volts are showing 24.5V then the freezers kick in and the Volts drop down to 22.9V making the genny start. If yours are car type batteries then a garage could carry out a discharge test if you take them to them!

Andy
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Scatter
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2013, 10:19:52 PM »

Wow, super swift responses! Many thanks for the helpful words everyone.

sounds to me like your batteries are goosed, 'maintenance free' cycled daily and you'd be lucky to get a couple of winters out of them.

I hope not camillitech! It's been an expensive summer and replacing batteries isn't on the list right now...  Undecided They're somewhere between a year and a year and a half old but we live aboard so they do see quite a lot of use so it's not impossible.

                  " Maintenance free" can still be S.L,A,sealed lead acid.So perhaps the present setting is right.If things were working correctly before the solar panels were fitted,then it must be down to some setting on the Mastervolt which has to be adjusted.

Interesting biff, I thought Gel and AGM were the two possible types of SLA battery and that was it. Hmm so much to learn in this field.

I'm assuming your liveabord and using the battery daily? If that's so then your battery may need equalizing. I don't know how much you know about batteries but over time the separate cells get out of balance, and when you re-charge the battery some cells will reach full whilst the others need more charge, but the full cells slow the charge process down. You need to keep charging the battery until all the cells are full.

There's no mention of charging above 13.8v in your description (which would make sense if it's a sealed battery - with a 'wet' type you can equalize by charging at 14.4v or more). To equalize a sealed battery you would need to float charge a battery continuously for at least 24 hrs - probably more if it's been a long time since it was last done.

Hi Marcus, yes daily usage but we've done quite a lot to hammer down our demand as far as possible I'm aware of equalisation and looked into it but thought that it wasn't possible with maintenance free batteries - interesting to hear that a long float equalises them. It's been a few months since we were hooked up to a mains supply and we're not scheduled to plug back in for another 6 weeks when we get to a winter mooring for a couple of months. But maybe we can look at plugging in sooner. We do see >14V in bulk and absorption btw.

Sounds like a typical over use & under charge situation resulting in sulphated batteries. A full charge cycle can take 8 to 12 hours. Running the genny for a few hours just does not cut it.
Your 7kVa genny is going to be costly to run just for the mastervolt inverter charger whilst charging the bats. Try to load it up whilst doing your long charge cycle by doing say the washing. Think about getting a smaller (say 2kVa) genny. Also think about getting a bigger battery bank.
If your "into" learning all about this stuff then there is lots of info & help available in here.
If not get a Smart Gauge which will tell you just how full / discharged your bats really are (after you replace the current ones). Then you will know when to charge & more importantly when to stop.
Edit to add.
Have you done a power audit so you know just how much energy you are really using?
Your 4 x 250watt panels wont be producing mush energy at this time of year.
My 1.2kWp array only did 0.6kWh today (IE 50amph or just enough to run a standard boat fridge for 24 hours).

"Running the genny for a few hours just does not cut it." Sad I'm sure but we don't have many options. What's the best battery technology to be able to handle that kind of regime? Something that you can equalise easily?

The 7kVA genny is overkill and necessarily only ever used at very low load. I'm not sure why some previous owner wanted to put such a biggun in there. It's a lovely generator and we're kind of stuck with it I think.

We wanted to get a decent size PV array to cut down on the amount of generator time we needed but that's not really happened because this problem has reared its head. It's odd that the batteries might have chosen to play up just as we installed the PV - coincidence or might we have done something to mess them up?

I haven't done a formal power audit but know that our demand is pretty low (I work in energy efficiency so aim to cut my energy demand as far as possible). LED lighting throughout, very efficient fridge and TV, a laptop and that's about it.  We're averaging about 0.6kWh generation per day at the moment and got 1.1kWh today. That really should come close to covering our demand I think but I should sit down and add it all up to make sure.

I would be surprised to reach "Float" with PV   this time of the year .... how are your Absorption charge  set points ?

I just checked and it's still at the factory settings of 14.4V and 1 hour. Not knowing what batteries they are I haven't yet got round to tinkering with those settings.

If the boat was set up and used by someone who was cruising most days then the batteries would have been getting many hrs of charge. If you are now mainly moored up then the few hrs probably wont cut it. "Maintenance free" could well be modern lead acid batteries (leisure) post a piccy and we might advise better.  If so they will only last a few years and my guess would be that the batteries are getting knackered.

Note that when you report battery voltage unless every thing on board is off then you are not seeing the at rest figure. I'm currently nursing 2 banks of cells one 800 and 1 one 1000amp hr, neither of which hold a good charge.  One minute the volts are showing 24.5V then the freezers kick in and the Volts drop down to 22.9V making the genny start. If yours are car type batteries then a garage could carry out a discharge test if you take them to them!

Thanks for the advice Andy. I'll get a pic tomorrow and will try isolating them to see what they settle at.




So it sounds like my first priority is to find out what batteries they are. Then I can start looking at the appropriate way to equalise them and make sure that the Mastervolt and Outback are set up correctly for that kind of battery.  If equalisation doesn't improve the situation then we should start thinking about new batteries and look at fitting a Smart Gauge as well. Better get saving...
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camillitech
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2013, 06:39:09 AM »

I do hope it's not your batteries Scatter but I have long experience of wrecking car/boat/truck/tractor and leisure batteries in circumstances such as yours. Twelve months is about average for daily cycled, not charged correctly or equalized.

Can you prize the tops of if they're FLA you should be able to measure the SG with a hydrometer and they should all be the same. The actual reading isn't that important as most of them are pants anyway but they should be within 5 or 10% of each other, next or perhaps before that measure each battery voltage individually after they've been disconnected for ten minutes, again they should be the same. I guarantee they won't be and they're goosed, worth trying an EQ on the genny but that'll take around eight hours. Diesel generators need to be run at 70 to 80% load so yours is WAAAAY OTT and will end up glazing the liners and pishing out oil, it needs worked.

I suspect your problems coincide with the shortening days, lack of charge and spiral into death of your batteries rather than anything else but I'm often wrong  hysteria

Get some of these for a boat http://www.navitron.org.uk/product_detail.php?proID=798&catID=157

Good luck and I hope I'm wrong.
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'Off grid' since 1985,  Proven 2.5kW, Proven 6kW direct heating, SI6.OH, 800ah Rolls, 4.75kW PV ,4xTS45, Lister HR2 12kW, , Powerspout pelton, Stream Engine turgo, 60 x Navitron toobs and a 1500lt store. Outback VFX3048 and 950ah forklifts for backup,
Scatter
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2013, 11:40:12 AM »

They're slightly awkwardly located so this is the best pic I can get of one of my three (rather dirty) leisure batteries:



Battery dimensions (mm): approx 480L x 220H x 280W

So... is it possible to work out what type they are? Can I equalise them?

I do hope it's not your batteries Scatter but I have long experience of wrecking car/boat/truck/tractor and leisure batteries in circumstances such as yours. Twelve months is about average for daily cycled, not charged correctly or equalized.

Can you prize the tops of if they're FLA you should be able to measure the SG with a hydrometer and they should all be the same. The actual reading isn't that important as most of them are pants anyway but they should be within 5 or 10% of each other, next or perhaps before that measure each battery voltage individually after they've been disconnected for ten minutes, again they should be the same. I guarantee they won't be and they're goosed, worth trying an EQ on the genny but that'll take around eight hours. Diesel generators need to be run at 70 to 80% load so yours is WAAAAY OTT and will end up glazing the liners and pishing out oil, it needs worked.

Get some of these for a boat http://www.navitron.org.uk/product_detail.php?proID=798&catID=157

I am a mere novice at wrecking leisure batteries and have much to learn  Grin

Depressing to hear the possible fate of our generator Sad We usually stick the immersion heater on when it's running so I'll make sure we do that every time from now on. Perhaps we should offer a recharging service to passing boats Wink Short of buying an electric bar heater I can't really think what else we can do - removing and selling the existing generator and buying and installing a new one is more of a faff than I have time to deal with at the moment.

Thanks for the battery recommendation. Out of a matter of interest are these considered significantly better than 6V Trojans or are they much of a muchness? The Trojans have been recommended to me in the past.
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Tinbum
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2013, 11:59:01 AM »

The label on the battery will show what they are.
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2013, 12:09:17 PM »

The label on top just says 'Type 225L' and then 'maintenance free' below. I can't see any evidence of labels on the side of the battery but I haven't disconnected them to check if there is a label that I can't see. I've emailed the previous owner who purchased them to see if she can shed some light but she hasn't got back to me.
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2013, 12:19:28 PM »

I would imagine 225Ah leisure battery possibly something like;
http://www.alpha-batteries.co.uk/225-ah-xplorer-leisure-battery/

or a non calcium version

« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 12:26:43 PM by Tinbum » Logged

85no 58mm solar thermal tubes, 28.5Kw PV, 3 x Sunny Backup 5048, 3x Sunny Island 5048, 2795 Ah (135kWh) (c20) Rolls batteries 48v, Atmos wood gasification boiler, Brosley wood burner, 2000lt buffer tank and 250lt DHW
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2013, 12:48:12 PM »

Do those black knobs unscrew?

If they do then they are not sealed at all.

Open them up & check the electrolyte levels.

Top up with distilled / de ionised water & give them a good long EQ charge.
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2013, 12:57:45 PM »

The first thing to do is clean the tops of the batteries, then whip the filler lids off and top up with distilled water as needed, always keep your batteries clean, a good multimeter will measure the volts of the cells from the muck on the top, I have done this with my fluke 77, one probe on neg terminal the other probe dragged across the top of dirty battery....2-4-6-8-10-12v.
If they are getting on a bit, then maybe you should up the settings in the flexmax, so that absorb goes to 29.6 for 2 hours and float is 27.6, the trouble with these types of battery is they go down hill rapidly once they start, maybe the best you can hope for is to get them through the winter and save for some proper batterys for next year.
I would avoid the trojans, indeed any brightly colored casing and go for a set of new forklift cells, they are refreshingly dull and grey, not for looking at, they are designed to cope with the daily demands of a forklift, they take a very long time to die, and can be used right down to 22v, ideal for what we need in a battery, they are also relatively cheap, so you can afford to replace them in ten years if needed.
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