Is Long Term connection to Electric Mains Hook-Up Good or Bad?


We have been writing for a while that long term charging of Motorhome Habitation batteries is not ideal for either the charger or the battery.


Yuasa seems to be the latest to caution against the practice. The website now states that Leisure batteries kept on a permanent 'float'/'trickle'/'maintenance' charge, "will result in internal degradation of the battery". Even when used with, "a well-controlled charging system". 

As a result they suggest that batteries treated this way should be regarded as having a maximum two year life. See :


Battery Maintenance in Non-Automotive Float Applications

1.Typical applications are motor-generators, stand-by applications etc. The Leisure Battery range is recommended for these applications; standard vehicle batteries are not suitable.

2. Batteries used in these applications should be changed every 2 years or more frequently. (Continuous charging, even from a well-controlled charging system, will result in internal degradation of the battery.


For full text read here : http://www.yuasa.co.uk/info/technical/need-know-batteries/



The Banner Energy Bull Wet battery seems to be prone to fluid loss in normal circumstances, but this seems to be much worse when on long term charging, either by connection via EHU or Solar power.

Back in 2014 the Roadpro website was stating that the Banner Wet batteries were Maintenance free,

                   Banner Energy Bull” batteries don’t require maintenance in normal use"

However, as of November 2016 the Roadpro website had changed tack : 

                         "'When used with a solar panel, a battery to battery charger or a mains charger that's on for days at a time, the electrolyte levels of Energy Bull batteries must be checked on a regular basis".



Clear evidence that long term charging from Solar/EHU affects batteries.
 
While the Banner Bull has clearly been highlighted, the issue affects almost all Habitation batteries. 


We think the majority of people believe that their Motorhome battery charger shuts down totally when the battery is full. Yet many of the chargers we repair continue to 'force feed' the battery, albeit at a low rate, even when the battery is at maximum capacity. 

The charger does not 'turn off' as many believe, but drops into a low charge mode, still constantly drawing 230v mains electricity and putting around 13.8v into the battery. 

 

We see signs inside the battery chargers we repair, that shows they are either not designed to run 365 days a year or suffer if they do. 


Victron Energy, manufacturers of top quality Long life Motorhome batteries, are suggesting that the 13.8v charge voltage of the average motorhome charger will shorten a batteries life. The Victron Energy Unlimited document, see below, suggests a maintenance charge of just 13.0v - 13.2v. 

In UPS battey backed installations for Hospitals, Data Centres, etc the maintenance/trickle voltage recommended by the Battery manufacturers for these huge battery banks is between 13.0v and 13.2v. 

Schaudt's latest LRM1218 Solar Charger has dropped the Maintenance charge down from the previous units 14.2v maintenance charge to 13.4v. 

Victron Energy' own chargers now Maintenance/Float/Trickle charge at 13.2v, suggesting as per the documents now surfacing, that long term EHU at the usual Chargers 13.8v wil have consequences.



If you want to understand about batteries and charging, the best 'Battery explanation' document we have ever seen is the one we publish below from Victron Energy. 


The Author of the Victron Energy Unlimited document writes, 

"The flooded battery types that have been discussed have not been designed for float charging over long periods of time (i. e. several months or years). When float charged at the higher end of the 12.9v to 13.98v range, service life will be shortened due to corrosion of the positive plate grids, and batteries with a high antimony content will need frequent topping up..... 

When float charged at 12.9v, aging and gassing will be under control, but a regular refreshing charge at a higher (absorption) voltage will be needed to maintain the fully charged state. 

In other words: the high end of the 12.9v to 13.98v range is fine for a few days or weeks, but not for a 6 months winter period. To my opinion, instead of trying to find a delicate balance between insufficient voltage to compensate for self-discharge and too much gassing at a higher voltage, it would be better to leave the battery open circuit (off charge) and recharge regularly. Depending on temperature, at least once every 4 months or to reduce float voltage to a very low level, for example 13 V".



He goes on to write that Gel batteries are more tolerant of a higher Float/Trickle/maintenance charge. 

However, there is evidence that even these will last longer if not long term 'Float' charged. Just left to settle, then re charged at intervals like that suggested for Wet Acid batteries. 

He writes, 

"All VLRA batteries mentioned can be float charged for longer periods of time, although some studies have shown that a treatment similar to the one proposed here for flooded batteries will increase service life (see, for example, “Batterie Technik” by Heinz Wenzl)".


The full text can be viewed in the document below, section 4.2.


Victron Energy-Unlimited Battery Bible.pdf Victron Energy-Unlimited Battery Bible.pdf
Size : 599.973 Kb
Type : pdf



The Batteries most degraded by constant EHU charging are the ones that use the very technology often adopted for very Deep Discharge batteries in Motorhomes : Lead Antimony batteries, even when the charging voltages are kept at 13.1v.


A paper by battery expert Steve Clark, see bottom of page for full report, states :

"Today, Antimony alloys dominate the market for cycling applications and due to ease of production are common in developing nations. The dominance of antimony alloys in the cycling market is based on the fact that the alloy is extremely resistant to distortion or damage from repeated discharge and recharge cycles".


However, he goes on to say that they should not be 'constant charged' :

"Lead-Antimony alloys are not well suited for stand-by service with a constant charge. The phenomenon of antimony-poisoning where antimony from the grid alloy forms small discharge points on the negative plate surface is a direct result of continuous charging. This results in a continuously increasing float current and water consumption over the life of the battery. The rate of antimony-poisoning is directly related to the operating temperature, charging voltage and the antimony content of the alloy".


This is in addition to the accelerated corrosion they will most likely endure.

We think that the likes of Trojan, Rolls and other specialist manufacturers of ultra Deep Discharge batteries are probably the ones most affected by Antimony poisoning from long term charging? We therefore suggest that you research very carefully the technology inside any Battery you intend to match with Solar or keep on long term EHU. 


The Victron Energy document above notes, "When float charged at the higher end of the 12.9v to 13.98v range, service life will be shortened due to corrosion of the positive plate grids, and batteries with a high antimony content will need frequent topping up..... 


Clearly, Lead Antimony based Deep Cycle batteries will degrade very quickly if subjected to charging they were never intended to endure. Their life will be shortened and Water loss will be high.  

Here is a very dry one we found  earlier :


 

Lead Antimony Acid batteries Steve Clark.pdf Lead Antimony Acid batteries Steve Clark.pdf
Size : 164.528 Kb
Type : pdf


However, there are exceptions. Some Motorhomes, especially British made prior to 2009, tended to have low power chargers, like a fixed 13.5v low current charger. These will obviously have a far less drastic effect on a battery left on permanent charge. Therefore the above comments won't necessarily apply in full. The overall damage to the batteries will depend on the charger, the battery make, condition and technology. Temperature is also important. 



The new Victron Blue Energy 20A battery charger has a new charging stage, over and above the usual 3 stage charger units, called 'Storage Mode', perfect for Motorhomes.


The technical document states :

Storage Mode: less maintenance and aging when the battery is not in use :

The 'storage mode' charge program kicks in whenever the battery has not been subjected to discharge during 24 hours. In the storage mode, float voltage is reduced to 2,2 V/cell (13,2 V for a 12 V battery) to minimize gassing and corrosion of the positive plates

Once a week the voltage is raised back to the absorption level to ‘equalize’ the battery. This feature prevents stratification of the electrolyte and sulfation, a major cause of early battery failure.



Victron Energy are one of the few Battery Manufacturers who also manufacture chargers, hence their depth of understanding of both. One of the reasons we think they are ahead of the competition.



If you want to learn more about batteries try our 'How Does a Battery Work?' page.