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Old 07-21-2013
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Battery death

I have a house bank of 4 vented batteries with a NewMar shore charger (20 years old). The batteries are getting on in years (although they have not been cycled much as I mostly day sail) and I had them tested (and topped off) this last April. They came out marginal, but I thought I could get through this year with them as I am not cruising. I am doing something on the boat everyday (as it is at the dock at my house) and this afternoon I got a surprise of a nasty smell when I opened the boat up. I first suspected the head, but it was not that; when I went to turn on the battery switch I noticed that the battery compartment (under the aft quarter berth) was especially warm (it has been in the 90's here and with the boat closed for T-storms it does get warm). I immediately disconnected the shore charger and investigated further. There was a hissing/humming sound coming from one of the batteries; it was boiling off fluid! I disconnected all the batteries and removed them from the boat. The hissing battery (#4) has one cell that looks to be dry and even disconnected it is still hot. Battery #3 also has a nearly dry cell (both read 12.8 volts still). Batteries #1 and #2 still have fluid in all cells but some are low and they read a bit higher voltage at 13.1 volts.

My question is; is this the way batteries die? Or should I suspect the shore charger? When I initially turned on the battery switch my bank meter read 13.1 volts, which is not too unusual, but I did not look at the amp load (it should have been Nil) as I wanted to turn everything off because it seemed too warm.

I have had the boat (and these batteries) for 5 years and normally I check the fluid a couple of times a year and it seemed fine. This is the first time I have noticed real boil off and I am not sure if it is due to the hot weather, leaving them on shore charge or because their time was just due.

thanks for all comments.
Ron
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Old 07-21-2013
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Re: Battery death

Sounds like a cell shorted to me.

Five years is a good run and batteries are not all that expensive. Go buy AGM or at least a proper sealed marine lead-acid replacements and you'll be fine.
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Old 07-21-2013
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Re: Battery death

why should he buy expensive AGMs for primarily day sailing?
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Old 07-21-2013
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Re: Battery death

Shawn,
I agree, another set of vented batteries is fine by me. The question is how do I recognize when batteries need replacment? Is what I am seeing that indication? Did I wait too long? Is there something else I should be looking at (the charger)? When and why do people decide to replace their batteries? Do they test them and see that they have little life left or do they die by shorting and show the symptoms I am seeing and this is the normal process?

Ron
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

Your battery charger is killing your batteries. We had one of those chargers when we bought our boat in 1998. Get rid of it and get into the 21st century with battery chargers.

Wiring a new charger From Maine Sail: Marine Battery Chargers - Installation Tips & Considerations - SailboatOwners.com
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

Quote:
Originally Posted by T37Chef View Post
why should he buy expensive AGMs for primarily day sailing?
Why? Only because it'll last for a very long time just sitting there on charge unused for long periods with no maintenance - but if money is the issue, I'm sure SLAs will do just as well.

One issue with vented lead-acid batteries is the need for regular maintenance. At less than $200 for a quality deep-cycle 12V marine SLA battery, it simply isn't worth the trouble spending nearly as much on vented ones... and if he isn't using the boat much, perhaps he has better things to do.
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

My expensive AGM's on my Gemini - hooked to a solar panel with a MPPT controller and a modern 3 stage charge performed a catastrophic failure after 5 years.

There are no pre-indicators for a shorted cell other than low voltage when it should have been charged fully. In a 4 battery bank that can be masked because the banks voltage will be averaged across the 4 on a monitor. You'd have to disconnect the batteries and test them individually on a schedule - not something a non-cruiser would be doing I think.

Like you I have my boat at my home dock, and 4 batt's in the bank. I leave it hooked and charging all the time and the fridge and fans are running. Because I have a center cockpit with enclosure I can leave hatches and cockpit ports open for ventilation. It still gets to over 100 below decks, especially recently.
Question is do you have a temperature probe on your batteries - that's an important part of the charging regime if you want to prolong the life of the bank? If your charger is not a 3 stage, capable of monitoring and allowing for temperature it's time to junk it.
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

Ron,

A few thoughts on your situation.

1. The batteries seem to have been very low on electrolyte (first no-no), and in a very hot environment, most likely with a non-temperature compensated charger connected (second no-no).

2. Most batteries don't just die....they are murdered (through neglect, over- or under-charging, contamination, poor installation/connections, etc.). You said you checked the electrolyte level "every six months". This is nowhere near enough, especially in a hot environment.

3. That said, there's no easy way to tell when a battery failure...especially a bad cell....is going to happen. Even with excellent care, batteries do fail for one or another reason, including old age.

4. If you're just doing day sailing, don't spend your money on AGMs...they would be the worst choice, as they are for many sailors....despite all the hype and rhetoric.

5. If you're going to neglect the batteries, gelled batteries are a much better choice PROVIDING that you have a modern battery charger set up for gels. Properly set up, they can have a very long life and require very little maintenance. But, they do cost twice as much as flooded lead-acid batteries (FLAs).

6. I think it would be a good idea when you replace the batteries to replace the battery charger with a modern multi-stage one with temperature compensation. One of the best out there at the moment is the Sterling Power ProCharge Ultra AKA Professional Mariner ProNautic P. These come in several sizes; for your application one of the smaller ones like the 20A model would do the trick nicely. These are illustrated in MaineSail's piece on installing a new battery charger. I've tested and installed several of these and really like them.

7. When you do install new batteries and charger, pay attention to the cabling and connections. Either get a professional to do the job for you, or make sure you have the proper tools to do a really 1st class job. If you're going with FLA's, a small investment in WaterMiser caps would be well worth it. I have them on all 10 of my T-105's and they make monitoring/rewatering very easy, as well as cut down on water loss.

8. With proper installation and treatment, new FLAs should last 6-8 years.

Good luck,

Bill
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Last edited by btrayfors; 07-22-2013 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

Quote:
Originally Posted by CapnRon47 View Post
I have a house bank of 4 vented batteries with a NewMar shore charger (20 years old). The batteries are getting on in years (although they have not been cycled much as I mostly day sail) and I had them tested (and topped off) this last April. They came out marginal, but I thought I could get through this year with them as I am not cruising. I am doing something on the boat everyday (as it is at the dock at my house) and this afternoon I got a surprise of a nasty smell when I opened the boat up. I first suspected the head, but it was not that; when I went to turn on the battery switch I noticed that the battery compartment (under the aft quarter berth) was especially warm (it has been in the 90's here and with the boat closed for T-storms it does get warm). I immediately disconnected the shore charger and investigated further. There was a hissing/humming sound coming from one of the batteries; it was boiling off fluid! I disconnected all the batteries and removed them from the boat. The hissing battery (#4) has one cell that looks to be dry and even disconnected it is still hot. Battery #3 also has a nearly dry cell (both read 12.8 volts still). Batteries #1 and #2 still have fluid in all cells but some are low and they read a bit higher voltage at 13.1 volts.

My question is; is this the way batteries die? Or should I suspect the shore charger? When I initially turned on the battery switch my bank meter read 13.1 volts, which is not too unusual, but I did not look at the amp load (it should have been Nil) as I wanted to turn everything off because it seemed too warm.

I have had the boat (and these batteries) for 5 years and normally I check the fluid a couple of times a year and it seemed fine. This is the first time I have noticed real boil off and I am not sure if it is due to the hot weather, leaving them on shore charge or because their time was just due.

thanks for all comments.
Ron
Ronnie--

As soon as I finish writing this note, I will be leaving for a local golf-cart vendor's shop to exchange 4 7-1/2 year old T-105's for new. Our bank gave up the ghost in much the same manner as did yours although the first sign that things were not well with ours was the gas sniffers repeatedly going off, which I suspect was caused by the hydrogen gas and the frequency with which I had to add water to the two batteries first in line to the charger. Our charger is a Heart, controlled by a Link 1000, that provides a 3-stage charging process. Despite its age, if the NewMar follows a similar sequence, there would be no reason to replace it. If not... The "death throes" of our batteries was exactly the same as you describe. One cell cooked dry, undoubtedly due to an internal short, less than 3 days after watering the cells, last week. (The battery was so hot and distorted, I was concerned that the darned thing would catch fire.)

Our golf-cart company battery guy suggested that our batteries lasted so long because we have the 3-stage charger, religiously check the water levels weekly to ensure the plates are never exposed, and periodically "equalize" the batteries per the technical instructions on Trojan's web site whenever the hydrometer indicates much of a difference in the specific gravity of the electrolyte between the cells. The only additional measures I will take with the new batteries is to swap the order around such that the first in the charging line becomes the last every year and add the hydrocaps described by Bill, above. And, unless we're planning on using the yacht, I will not keep the charger running quite so often/long.

If you have difficulty finding affordable T-105's, Main Sail (an acknowledged expert on matters electric) recommended US Battery US-2200 XC2 batteries as an equivalent but somewhat less costly replacement. Fortunately, I found that T-105's are quite a bit less costly here in Florida ($106 each) than they are in other venues, simply because so many are sold. (By comparison, in January '06, we paid only $65 each for the batteries. Of course, since then the price of lead has quadrupled so the increase is somewhat understandable.)

N'any case, good luck with your swap out. Check your golf-cart companies for replacement batteries. They seem to be the least costly source, at least here in Florida.

FWIW...
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Last edited by svHyLyte; 07-22-2013 at 07:07 PM. Reason: Correct spelling error
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Old 07-22-2013
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Re: Battery death

Hopefully this doesn't mislead the thread or I can start a new one...

I just did a redo of my house & start bank to coincide with the new engine install. What is the "best" way to run the cables for the charger?

A little more info:
2 each L16 Trojans - wet cell
Freedom 10 Inverter/Charger with Link 2000 battery monitor
Has three stage charging and temp settings
ACR & 1,2,Both,Off Switch

IIRC the diagram I was referring for the install, a combo I drew using multiple resources...I have the positive cable from the charger to the positive on the house bank and the negative cable to a bus bar/switch. I recall reading that perhaps a better install would be to have the negative cable from the charger go directly to the negative on the house bank?

Thoughts?
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