Care & Feeding Deep Cycle Lead Acid Batteries

There are many more technical videos on You Tube about lead acid batteries, but this short video just shows how I take care of mine so that they take care of me when the need arises.

I try to check our battery water level every 30 days, but it often runs 60-90 days between watering. We are most often hooked to shore power in a campground or RV park and the Trace Engineering Converter/Inverter does a good job of monitoring the voltage and adjusting the charge accordingly so that the batteries do not “cook” and burn off a lot of the distilled water.

What about you? Do you find it easy to check your batteries regularly? Do you use an automatic watering system? Maybe you’ve switched to AGM batteries so you don’t have to worry about watering? Let me know what you do to maintain your system.

Our Adventure to Quartzsite

For over 35 years now, there has been a group of people traveling to a once barren area known as Quartzsite, Arizona. These seekers come by the thousands and are often referred to as “gypsies of the modern world”. Entering the grounds of Quartzsite is like entering another world… Back to the good old days in many ways.

But now, this town of 3800, in January of each year, grows to nearly 100,000.  People in their RV’s come from far and wide to hang out for the winter and enjoy each other’s company while visiting some of the attractions including; rock and gem shows, the worlds largest RV show, ham radio convention, and countless other venues.

Although there are some RV parks at Quartzsite, most folks stay in “campgrounds” of sorts at BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands.  There are berg-quartzsite22nearly 12,000 acres of open desert where one can “Boondock” for up to seven months (for a low fee of $170) or other desert sites where you can set up camp for free.

Although there are pit toilets, black water dump stations, and fresh water stations at the entrances to the BLM campgrounds, it’s easiest if the RV is self-contained to make your stay self-sufficient for a few days or

We have a 70 gallon fresh water tank, 52 gallon gray and black water tanks, a pretty hefty battery bank (to power the 12 volt lights and water pump) along with both solar panels on 2016-12-19-09-21-14the roof and a 8000 watt diesel generator to recharge the batteries.  We also have a 2000 watt power inverter that will take the 12 volt dc battery and convert it to 110 volt ac power so that we can watch our TV at night and make coffee in the morning.

Our refrigerator and water heater both run on propane when we’re boondocking and 110 v shore power when we are connected in an RV park.

So Kathy and I are excited as we plan on heading to Quartzsite on Jan 22nd.  We’ll be there for three or four days and hopefully we’ll have enough food in the fridge and propane in the tank to keep us self-sufficient for that time.

We’re looking forward to being at Quartzite, we’re counting on seeing a lot of cool stuff, meeting a lot of great people, and hopefully NOT spending a lot of money at “The Big Tent” RV show.  We’ll update you with pictures as we get them.  Stay tuned.



Amateur Radio Field Day June 2016

I’ve been an Amateur Radio Operator (radio “ham”) since about 1969 growing up in Detroit and for many years since then I’ve participated in the annual Field Day exercise sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Although many (including ham radio operators) consider ham radio a hobby, it is really a public service.  You see, during events like natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, mud slides, severe rains, etc.) very often there is no immediate source of electrical power.  Yes, nowadays we all have our cell phones, but if the power outage is widespread and there is no electrical power to the cell towers, then the wireless phone in our hand isn’t much good to us.

Over the years, ham radio operators have jumped to the rescue along with other volunteers and we have provided the means for those volunteer groups and government agencies to talk to one another and coordinate the workers and accomplish the mission.

For those of you here in Morrow County, you might remember the tornado that ripped apart the Village of Cardington or the historic blizzard that hit Morrow County in 1978, but you may not know that radio hams were an integral part of the emergency teams working to make peoples lives whole again.

The ARRL Field Day is an exercise in emergency preparedness and to that end hams all over the United States exercise and demonstrate their ability to, on short notice, set up their radio equipment typically in a public place but without commercially available power and then operate over a continual 24 hour period to see how many contacts they can make with other hams all across the country.

The four stations set up this year used either gasoline generator, battery, or solar power to operate their “rigs” and logged their contacts on laptop computers.  Those logs will be submitted to the ARRL who will cross-check and tally all the logs from across the country and then publish the winners of the different classes and areas.

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Solar Still Not Working Right?

Take a look at the video — What do you think?  Do I still have a problem?  I really don’t know for sure what to expect from these solar controllers.  I know we fixed the connection between the panel and the controller and I know we also fixed the connection between the controller and the batteries, just not sure that things are working they way they should.

I shot this video with the coach still plugged in to shore power.  When I got home from work later in the day, I disconnected the shore power and then the ARRAY AMPS read about .2 amps and the charging amps read slightly less than that and the “charging” LED was on steady indicating the panels were charging the batteries, even though the battery voltage display was over 13 volts.  I’m confused …..

Solar Panels Not Working?

As we prepare to head to the 56th annual Escapade at Essex Junction, VT the end of July, I’ve been checking and double-checking the various systems in the coach to make sure all is well and in good working order.

Over the last month or so we’ve replaced the two front tires, (they werG670RVULTe made in ’04 and had about 50,000 miles on them) and although they were not checked or cracked and had good even wear pattern, when they’re that old I just didn’t want to take a chance on another cross-country trip.

We’ve got a Heliotrop brand solar charge controller.  This job of this controller is to heliotrop solar controllermonitor the voltage level in the coach 12 v batteries and, should there be enough sunlight, then send power from the roof-mounted solar panels to the batteries to keep them charged.

This week I noticed that the display was blank even though I knew we had a good charge on the battery bank.  I started trouble shooting the wiring harness that runs from the controller located inside the coach to the battery bank located in one of the rear curb-side basement compartments.  I had 12 volts at the batteries, but not at the controller.  I couldn’t believe that the wire was “open” (it’s 10 gauge insulated wire) and I knew it wasn’t shorted to ground because we hadn’t blown the inline fuse.  There must be a loose connection.

As I looked more closely, I found that the installer of the after-market solar panels and controller had used large red wire nuts to tie the power harness into the battery bank.  Well, as it turned out the NEUTRAL wire nut was really only connecting two of the three wires together.  I didn’t like this set-up when I first saw it when we bought the coach, but now since it’s presented a problem, I decided to install a terminal strip and attach all the wires using ring terminals for a tight, low resistance connection.

So now we have a good solid connection between the solar power control panel and the battery bank, but still no power coming from the solar panel on the roof to the controller.  Now it’s time to get Stu (our son-in-law) up on the roof to check out the connection up there, since my knees go weak when I get up to about the 6th step on the ladder.  I’ll let you know what we find a little later on.

(Update June 22, 2016) So here’s what we found: