Aico Carbon Monoxide Detectors
This official sponsor may provide discounts for members

Discuss Trouble with charging a large 12v battery in the Electrical Engineering Chat area at ElectriciansForums.net

Welcome to ElectriciansForums.net - The American Electrical Advice Forum
Head straight to the main forums to chat by click here:  American Electrical Advice Forum

Hello!

I recently upgraded the 110ah battery in my camper van for a 260ah AGM one.
My solar panels (200w via MPPT, soon to be doubled) struggle to keep up with my consumption, so once a week I hook up the battery to mains using CTEK's 5A charger, which supports AGM batteries but is not recommended for batteries larger than 110ah.

Why is this the case? I can indeed see that it goes into float mode way before reaching 100% - at which point I disconnect it, wait a bit, and reconnect. It goes back to bulk charging and the charge level ends up slightly higher than before, but never reaches 100%. (is doing this bad for the battery? The Ctek charger is supposed to be "smart" and not over charge)

The solar panels are able to get the battery up to 100% on a sunny day, even though I never get more than 9a/h out of them. This charge rate is still way less than the recommended minimum 10% of battery capacity (that would be 26A minimum in my case). How come 9A MPPT succeeds but 5A Ctek doesn't? Is there a charging threshold of sorts between 5 and 9 amps?

TL;DR Is using an underpowered mains charger (5A for a 260ah 12V battery) bad for the battery ; ineffective ; or just slow? I've searched around a lot and I can only see "not recommended" but no one seems to explains why.

Thanks in advance!
 
Have you checked the setup within the MPPT solar controller and the CTEK charger ? AGM voltages will be different to normal wet cell voltages. And where are you getting your "%age charged" figures from ? These are all derived values... you need to look carefully at your voltages until you've built up confidence that the %age charged numbers are correct.
Post automatically merged:

If you check the spec of the new AGM battery... it'll tell you what the voltages are for bulk charging and float etc.
 
Typical charging currents are 10% of the amp hour capacity,
so 260ah should be charged at 26A for 12 to 14 hours
So even 9 amps is not ideal.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4
Have you checked the setup within the MPPT solar controller and the CTEK charger ? AGM voltages will be different to normal wet cell voltages. And where are you getting your "%age charged" figures from ? These are all derived values... you need to look carefully at your voltages until you've built up confidence that the %age charged numbers are correct.
Post automatically merged:

If you check the spec of the new AGM battery... it'll tell you what the voltages are for bulk charging and float etc.
Thanks for your reply. Yes, the chargers are both supplying the right voltages for AGM batteries. I'm fairly confident about my charge % observations. I disconnect the charger and all loads, wait an hour, then check voltage at the terminals. I never get more than 12.6V on the new AGM battery (it should be 12.8V).

My question is: why is a low amp charger (less than 10% of battery capacity) not recommended for a large battery?
Post automatically merged:

Typical charging currents are 10% of the amp hour capacity,
so 260ah should be charged at 26A for 12 to 14 hours
So even 9 amps is not ideal.
Thanks for your reply. Why is 9 amps not ideal? Is it harmful/useless to use my 5A charger on this battery, or does it just take a lot of time to charge?

Suppose I discharge my 260ah battery only by 10%. That uses up 26ah and leaves 234ah in it. My 5A charger should get it to 100% in under ten hours, right? (assuming a less than 5A charge rate due to the charger going into float mode).
 
Last edited:
As long as the charger is capable of supplying the right voltages AND it is not set up to time out (some have max times built in) AND it's rated for continuous service... the charger should eventually charge the battery... assuming that there is no demand on the battery of course. But yes, it would be better to have a charger that can supply a larger current... to give faster recharge times
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
As long as the charger is capable of supplying the right voltages AND it is not set up to time out (some have max times built in) AND it's rated for continuous service... the charger should eventually charge the battery... assuming that there is no demand on the battery of course. But yes, it would be better to have a charger that can supply a larger current... to give faster recharge times
Good news then! I was worried that a low amperage would not charge the battery effectively, due to not shaking up the cells sufficiently or some other chemical fact that's beyond my understanding. :eyes:

So I guess that explains why I have to disconnect my charger and re-start the process periodically : the charger times out and hops on to the next stage, regardless of the battery's charge level. I find it odd that the Ctek charger doesn't detect this and pretends everything is fine. A last question then: is it harmful for the charging voltage to go up to absorption/float levels before it's supposed to? I ask because due to the timeouts, the charger is assuming that it's in the final stages of charging when in reality it isn't; it's still somewhere around 75%. Then I start the process again and it goes up to 80%, and so on.
 
Float charge voltage is lower than absorption voltage... so that's not harmful as such. As long as you're not discharging too deeply, you'll be fine. On my Victron MPPT charge controllers... they will bulk charge for as long as needed to get to the absorption voltage, then hold at that voltage for a period of time (max 2 hrs for me), then drop down to a float voltage. The current during the absorption stage should slowly drop off.

For AGMs... from memory, they like being charged slowly and hate overcharging...so you must read the specs and setups !
 

marconi

-
Mentor
Arms
Esteemed
I have used a £800- £1000 battery bank of large 12V Ah (100, 200) Victron AGm batteries for about 10 off grid PV installations so far. AGM do require their own charging profile to maximise life and make the best use of in my case solar energy. It is important not to overheat the battery during charging so think Isquared R when considering the charge current. The chargers I have used monitor the voltage of the battery and the current and time elapsed to decide when to move to the next stage of charging:

The BULK stage involves about 80% of the recharge, wherein the charger current is held constant (in a constant current charger), and voltage increases. The properly sized charger will give the battery as much current as it will accept up to charger capacity (25% of battery capacity in amp hours), and not raise a wet battery over 125° F, or an AGM or GEL (valve regulated) battery over 100° F.

The ABSORPTION stage (the remaining 20%, approximately) has the charger holding the voltage at the charger's absorption voltage (between 14.1 VDC and 14.8 VDC, depending on charger set points) and decreasing the current until the battery is fully charged.

The FLOAT stage is where the charge voltage is reduced to between 13.0 VDC and 13.8 VDC and held constant, while the current is reduced to less than 1% of battery capacity. This mode can be used to maintain a fully charged battery indefinitely.

So the appropriate charger is necessary and have the facility to be tailored to the battery it is charging.

This is one of a few references I used in my research on how to care for these batteries by careful charging and the bold text above is lifted from it:

Battery Charging Tutorial | ChargingChargers.com - http://www.chargingchargers.com/tutorials/charging.html

Important PS: MAke sure you have close to the battery a fuse/circuit breaker to rupture in the event of short circuit and that the battery terminals are shielded with plastic covers.
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
Float charge voltage is lower than absorption voltage... so that's not harmful as such. As long as you're not discharging too deeply, you'll be fine. On my Victron MPPT charge controllers... they will bulk charge for as long as needed to get to the absorption voltage, then hold at that voltage for a period of time (max 2 hrs for me), then drop down to a float voltage. The current during the absorption stage should slowly drop off.

For AGMs... from memory, they like being charged slowly and hate overcharging...so you must read the specs and setups !
That's great, thanks for your time Zerax!
Post automatically merged:

I have used a £800- £1000 battery bank of large 12V Ah (100, 200) Victron AGm batteries for about 10 off grid PV installations so far. AGM do require their own charging profile to maximise life and make the best use of in my case solar energy. It is important not to overheat the battery during charging so think Isquared R when considering the charge current. The chargers I have used monitor the voltage of the battery and the current and time elapsed to decide when to move to the next stage of charging:

The BULK stage involves about 80% of the recharge, wherein the charger current is held constant (in a constant current charger), and voltage increases. The properly sized charger will give the battery as much current as it will accept up to charger capacity (25% of battery capacity in amp hours), and not raise a wet battery over 125° F, or an AGM or GEL (valve regulated) battery over 100° F.

The ABSORPTION stage (the remaining 20%, approximately) has the charger holding the voltage at the charger's absorption voltage (between 14.1 VDC and 14.8 VDC, depending on charger set points) and decreasing the current until the battery is fully charged.

The FLOAT stage is where the charge voltage is reduced to between 13.0 VDC and 13.8 VDC and held constant, while the current is reduced to less than 1% of battery capacity. This mode can be used to maintain a fully charged battery indefinitely.

So the appropriate charger is necessary and have the facility to be tailored to the battery it is charging.

This is one of a few references I used in my research on how to care for these batteries by careful charging and the bold text above is lifted from it:

Battery Charging Tutorial | ChargingChargers.com - http://www.chargingchargers.com/tutorials/charging.html

Important PS: MAke sure you have close to the battery a fuse/circuit breaker to rupture in the event of short circuit and that the battery terminals are shielded with plastic covers.
Thank you for the comprehensive response & tutorial link, Guglielmo. Makes sense. All positive wires leaving the battery terminal are fused appropriately in my setup, including the one going to the MPPT charger. Battery terminals are shielded at all times except when I hook up the mains charger (crocodile clips). This charger is fused on the AC side.

I'll look for a larger charger. If you have any recommendations as to what models are affordable (Ctek's fancy 25A model is beyond my budget) I'll gladly take them. :moneywings:

Cheers
 
Last edited:

marconi

-
Mentor
Arms
Esteemed
Is this one within your budget range?

12V solar panels charging kits for caravans, motorhomes, boats, yachts, marine - https://www.photonicuniverse.com/en/catalog/full/383-20A-12V-Intelligent-automatic-multi-stage-mains-battery-charger.html

My B-I-L and I use PU to supply our off grid PV equipment and mains chargers. Perhaps give them a call? When we have phoned they have sometimes recommended or sourced items not on their shelves.

I cannot otherwise recommend a stand-alone charger 'cos we use inverter-chargers or hybrid solar inverters (which include a charger as well as PV controller) which are much better value-for money and compact.

I recommend you buy as we have done some insulated spanners, arc flash protection PPE. Folk tend to be naturally careful with dangerous voltages but these gel batteries can cause extremely dangerous currents of 1000s of Amps to flow if they are shorted which causes very, very, very rapid heating and plasma 'explosions' - in an instant.
 
Last edited:
That's great, thanks for your time Zerax!
Post automatically merged:


Thank you for the comprehensive response & tutorial link, Guglielmo. Makes sense. All positive wires leaving the battery terminal are fused appropriately in my setup, including the one going to the MPPT charger. Battery terminals are shielded at all times except when I hook up the mains charger (crocodile clips). This charger is fused on the AC side.

I'll look for a larger charger. If you have any recommendations as to what models are affordable (Ctek's fancy 25A model is beyond my budget) I'll gladly take them. :moneywings:

Cheers
This is one of those areas where it's a classic case of "You get what you pay for"... I'd save up a bit longer and buy quality.

I'm a fan of Victron equipment... not cheap, but it's well built... and has excellent support. Also Mastervolt is excellent... but again... not cheap
 

UKMeterman

-
Arms
I have used a £800- £1000 battery bank of large 12V Ah (100, 200) Victron AGm batteries for about 10 off grid PV installations so far. AGM do require their own charging profile to maximise life and make the best use of in my case solar energy. It is important not to overheat the battery during charging so think Isquared R when considering the charge current. The chargers I have used monitor the voltage of the battery and the current and time elapsed to decide when to move to the next stage of charging:

The BULK stage involves about 80% of the recharge, wherein the charger current is held constant (in a constant current charger), and voltage increases. The properly sized charger will give the battery as much current as it will accept up to charger capacity (25% of battery capacity in amp hours), and not raise a wet battery over 125° F, or an AGM or GEL (valve regulated) battery over 100° F.

The ABSORPTION stage (the remaining 20%, approximately) has the charger holding the voltage at the charger's absorption voltage (between 14.1 VDC and 14.8 VDC, depending on charger set points) and decreasing the current until the battery is fully charged.

The FLOAT stage is where the charge voltage is reduced to between 13.0 VDC and 13.8 VDC and held constant, while the current is reduced to less than 1% of battery capacity. This mode can be used to maintain a fully charged battery indefinitely.

So the appropriate charger is necessary and have the facility to be tailored to the battery it is charging.

This is one of a few references I used in my research on how to care for these batteries by careful charging and the bold text above is lifted from it:

Battery Charging Tutorial | ChargingChargers.com - http://www.chargingchargers.com/tutorials/charging.html

Important PS: MAke sure you have close to the battery a fuse/circuit breaker to rupture in the event of short circuit and that the battery terminals are shielded with plastic covers.
Be carefull to check the DC current breaking capacity of the fuse / Circuit breaker in this application. There is something to be said for BS88 fuse links in this application.
 

static zap

-
Advent Win
A suitably sized charger may have the opportunity to warm the battery if it is below ,optimum charging temperature !
(I know I struggled to charge a near frozen battery -- Summer time less of an issue ).
Having no warm engine to sit beside !
- my over simplified take - (right or wrong ?)
Do stay safe ..
 

Lucien Nunes

-
Mentor
Arms
Esteemed
My experience of multi-step chargers connected to outsize batteries is that they may not transition from one step to another at appropriate times. One model would get stuck in bulk mode because the current never fell below a threshold. One wouldn't complete the charge because the ultimate timeout for the equalise step was too short for the large battery, another equalised for too long and gassed the battery because the time was computed from the profile of the bulk charge which was longer than the makers had allowed for. You need to know exactly what is going on under the hood, to know the impact of unexpectedly slow voltage change on the charge algorithm. If it's just a standard Unitrode chip driving the process, it's simple. If it's a microcontroller running a proprietary program, there are more variables.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #15
Following everyone's feedback here, I've just purchased a Victron 7 stage 30A charger : Victron Blue Smart IP22 Bluetooth Battery Charger - 12V 30A, 3 outputs - https://www.12voltplanet.co.uk/victron-blue-power-ip22-7-stage-adaptive-battery-charger-12v-30a-3-output-uk-plug.html

This coupled with a 400W solar array should manage to look after my 260Ah AGM battery throughout grey winters across Europe.

Can anyone confirm I've made the right choice? On paper it's all good, but I'd like to be 100% sure this model is adapted to AGM batteries. For two reasons:

1) I'm aware that some manufacturers don't configure the End Amps setting correctly for AGM charging, leaving it at 2% (flooded batteries) instead of 4% (due to AGMs having lower internal resistance), therefore overcharging/damaging the battery. This Victron charger has a "high voltage mode" rather than an "AGM mode". There is mention of AGM charging in the manual, but it's almost described like a "once size fits all" charger, which has me somewhat worried now that I've ordered the damn thing.

2) Furthermore, in the user manual, it states the following :

NORMAL (14,4V): recommended for flooded flat plate lead
antimony batteries (starter batteries), flat plate gel and AGM
batteries
.
HIGH (14,7V): recommended for flooded lead calcium batteries,
Optima spiral cell batteries and Odyssey batteries.


Until reading this I was pretty sure AGMs need 14.6-14.8V to charge properly.

What do you think? 😕
Post automatically merged:

Another point of concern about this product: in the user manual, they recommend occasionally reconditioning AGM batteries (see passage from the user manual below). I thought AGMs should never, ever be reconditioned!?
My battery has indeed stayed below 80% for over three weeks due to the weak mains charger & insufficient solar power. Would you recommend a "reconditioning" cycle as Victron suggest?

"A lead-acid battery that has been insufficiently charged or has
been left discharged during days or weeks will deteriorate due to
sulfation¹. If caught in time, sulfation can sometimes be partially
reversed by charging the battery with low current up to a higher
voltage.
Remarks:
a) Reconditioning should be applied only occasionally to flat plate VRLA
(gel and AGM) batteries because the resulting gassing will dry out the
electrolyte"
 
Last edited:
Instyle LED Lighting Specialists UK
This official sponsor may provide discounts for members

Reply to Trouble with charging a large 12v battery in the Electrical Engineering Chat area at ElectriciansForums.net

Instyle LED Lighting Specialists UK
This official sponsor may provide discounts for members
Top Bottom