Friday 2nd December 2015
We’ve had a problem with our leisure batteries for the last few weeks – whenever we switch the Sargent PSU charger off, within about 30 seconds the Sargent PSU display over the habitation door reports ‘ Leisure Battery – dangerously low’.
How could this be?
I had bought two new Varta 110Ah leisure batteries in June or July 2014 – they were now only 6 or 7 months old, they were fed by solar power as well as the Sargent PSU Charger and had performed faultlessly – until now.
Initially my thinking was that the readout may be wrong; possibly due to those nasty Portuguese road surfaces.
I also read somewhere that other MoHo’ers have reported a similar fault that was eventually found to be a poor/’gunged-up’ connection where the feed goes into the back of the main Sargent PSU ‘box’.
What should have been key to me was that the Fox regulator for the solar input also reported that the batteries were below an acceptable level.
Could it be that the guy that installed the solar system had taken a feed for the Fox regulator reading from the Sargent PSU feed? That would explain the Fox reading being the same as the Sargent reading.
Before I messed around with fuses and connections inside Twernt and the Sargent PSU box, I thought that it might be prudent to check out the batteries – they can’t be goosed, they’re new!!!
I isolated both batteries and got a multimeter readout of 12.1v and 12.4v – should have done a load test while I had them isolated (precautions were EHU lead removed and 12v system in the ‘off’ position).
We then spent a good few hours examining events and locations from a 12v Leisure Battery point of view to no avail.
In any event, the loss of the Leisure Batteries wasn’t affecting us whilst on EHU as the Sargent charger was able to maintain them sufficiently to run all 12v needs, and our needs were being more than met by the quality and surroundings of a luxury villa!
On a return to Camping Playa Granada, as a form of load test, I set Twernt to 12v only mode and I then noted that the water pump droned to a halt very quickly and that 12v lights quickly faded – that will do on the load test – dem der batteries were kafuggered.
Unless I could identify why they were ‘no more’, I wasn’t happy to replace them as the same thing could well happen to any replacement(s).
Back to thinking our way through Leisure Battery history.
All was well at Portimao where we didn’t have any EHU and we therefore relied on the Leisure Batteries, from there we went to Albufeira where we had EHU.
After Albufeira we went to Cabanas de Tavira – Camping Ria Formosa – and then I ‘twigged’ it.
At Camping Ria Formosa the staff visit your pitch to ‘lock-in’ your EHU lead to the supply post. You have to ask them to visit your pitch and remove your lead on the day that you leave the site.
When we arrived the site geezer ‘locked’ our EHU cable into the supply and Amanda confirmed that we had ‘juice’ in Twernt.
I remained outside ensuring that the EHU cable was laid in ‘rows’ as I had read that keeping a EHU lead ‘curled’ up either on the ground or on a reel has led to quite a few MoHo fires in the past – it is not good practice and therefore I faff around to make sure that the EHU lead is never touching another part of the lead at any point in the journey from Twernt connection to the EHU supply.
I did think that the examples of fires resulting from ‘curled-up’ EHU leads may have something to do with the quality of the EHU lead itself – are there any EHU leads that are mass-produced to a price in, say, China, and they have a thinner insulation/plastic coating than BSI standard EHU cables? – everyone looks to save a sheckle or two but it’s not worth it with some products!
About one week into our 4+week stay at Camping Ria Formosa it was noticed that the Reverse Polarity light was on at the Sargent PSU box.
In yet another forum topic that I had read in the lead-up to full-timing there had been a piece from an electrics expert stating that it is OK to be on Reverse Polarity insofar as appliances will still operate OK – just don’t mess with them by exposing wires and fiddling around, etc.
I therefore took the view that we would be OK (as we had been for one week or so) plus it would now be a hassle to call the site geezer back to re-connect the 2-pin Euro plug the other way round.
What the forum ‘expert’ had failed to mention and what I had failed to consider was the impact on the Leisure Batteries from the Sargent PSU Charger which, in essence, reverse the polarity over time in the batteries and render them pretty much useless.
That had to be what happened!!
I’m not sure what else was happening when the solar was supplying a charge to them through the Fox Regulator!!
It really doesn’t bear thinking about – it is possible for batteries to explode when subjected to this kind of treatment – we had been lucky (as had our pitch neighbours no doubt!).
I am no electrics expert but had trusted in what I had read from a forum expert – lesson.
Leisure Batteries are silly money in Spain – saw them @ €275 …..each!! – I had paid something like £220 for both (actual amount is in the ‘Set-up £’s’ page of this blog.
The decision was made to buy a decent sized car battery and operate with that until we get back to the UK.
I sourced one at the AlCampo Supermercado in Motril and chose the top one that they had – @ 91.5Ah – and paid €94.95 for it – fitted it to Twernt today and tested everything out in isolation and all 12v lights, etc. are working hunky-dory.
The goosed Varta batteries are staying with me as I’ve also read that, in some cases, it may be possible to take them to a battery centre where they have specialist chargers that can recover batteries from this type of cock-up.
I am also thinking that the Oxford Maximiser battery charger that I have may do a similar job – it is designed to restore lead-acid or gell batteries from an almost write-off position back to a usable state. Motorcycle intelligent trickle charge batteries are clever little things so this must be worth a try when we’re next on EHU – better still, let’s wait until we’re back in the UK and can then place the battery 50 yards away from anything an explosion could do damage to.
Should be fun.
I have recorded the above in the hope that it may trigger something for all other newbies to check for whenever they are on EHU.
A lot of these sites are either not regulated as they are in the UK or it may be that they don’t operate to the same standards as our CC and C&CC sites, etc.
‘EHU leads and they’re only £10’.
“I don’t believe it!”
“Margaret, you’ll never guess what’s gone and happened now!”
What was that TV programme where they said ‘Stay safe out there’?
Back to blogging the life shortly!!