Xantrex Inverter System Issues - no shore power with depleted batteries - Dutchmen Owners
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Old 01-24-2021, 09:06 PM   #1
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Xantrex Inverter System Issues - no shore power with depleted batteries

I installed a Xantrex Freedom series inverter and run 4 6-volt AGMs. Itís an awesome setup. I did this because after spending the money on our Voltage 3200 it seemed very stupid to me that you couldnít watch tv or charge a phone unless you were running the generator or on shore power.

I couldnít get to my trailer over the holidays and in the cold my batteries are dead. This system has battery protection where it wonít let you charge the batteries if they drain too low which I was aware of. I have a 3500 watt Champion portable generator so I fired that up and got 30 amps running to the trailer.

I have no power coming to the inside of my trailer. Effectively itís shore power. I understand that it wonít charge those batteries no matter what, but I woudl think that even if I didnít have any batteries in there, plugged into shore power I should be able to have electricity in my rig.

Does anyone have any ideas on this? Iím perplexed.

Thanks,
Karl
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Old 01-25-2021, 04:40 PM   #2
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So I got in touch with an expert who said that the Xantrex Freedom system has to have working batteries to send power to the rig. So without batteries your shore power will not work. That seems pretty stupid and is pretty frustrating. I spent a good amount on that system. Itís awesome but that one item would have given me pause had I known.

Anyway there we have it.
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Old 01-25-2021, 05:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karlr View Post
So I got in touch with an expert who said that the Xantrex Freedom system has to have working batteries to send power to the rig. So without batteries your shore power will not work. That seems pretty stupid and is pretty frustrating. I spent a good amount on that system. Itís awesome but that one item would have given me pause had I known.

Anyway there we have it.
They likely do that because your inverter needs to run all outlets and electrical load in the trailer and if not wired that way then your batteries would only supply inverter power to the items going directly to the inverter so even though frustrating, it makes sense.

How long have you had the system installed. It looks like you have a 2013 rig so might just be time to replace them as the batteries in the system could be over 8 years old now as a 2013 rig could have been purchased in 2012 and depending on when you switched over it might be time anyway. If less than 4 or 5 years old you should be able to bring the batteries back to a safe state by bypassing the converter and putting a direct charge on the batteries themselves. Let me know if you have interest in exploring and I can explain how you can do it.

Good luck.
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Old 01-25-2021, 06:14 PM   #4
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Thanks! So to clarify when the batteries are good and the inverter is on, everything works great. I’m just confused by why low or dead batteries, the shore power is cut off. I would think that even if you took the batteries out, if you had shore power connected everything in the trailer would work.

The batteries are actually less than a year old. I took them out of my RV and brought them in the house to get them up to room temp and my plan is to hook them up to my tender and see how it goes. There’s no external damage/cracks that I can see so I’m at least hopeful. But I’m all ears if I should approach recharging differently.

Much appreciated.
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Old 01-25-2021, 07:18 PM   #5
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So a couple of things:

As for why you need good batteries to run the electrical in the trailer it is because I assume your batteries when good are powering everything. So what they did when they installed it was wire all of the 110 volt electric (the stuff that did not work on battery before you installed the inverter system) to the inverter that is powered by your batteries. If they didn't do this then anything not running back to your inverter would not be able to work off of your batteries and would only work on shore power. So unless you wanted to spend a lot of money basically adding some heavy duty switches and more wiring there is not much you can do. What this means is when you are plugged into shore power all of that power is going from the shore power to your converter and charging the batteries then from the batteries through your inverter to the 110 volt AC system in your trailer. Basically, this means you are never really on shore power directly--you are either running solely off of your batteries or you are running off of your batteries while they are simultaneously being charged by the shore power.

Now as it relates to your batteries I think it is good they are only a year or so old. What I would do is find a battery tender or trickle charger that is designed for a 6 volt system (some motorcycles are 6 volt and really old cars so you should be able to find one) and try to charge your batteries individually and removed from your trailer. It is possible that your very low voltage trickle charge will slowly bring your batteries up to the normal low state and at that point the trailer should be able to then fully charge them once you reinstall them. However, a word of caution here is that you need to make sure you go with a very low trickle charge of like 1 or maybe 2 amps and watch the batteries closely while charging, especially after the first half hour or so as the charge begins to build. After a few hours you can check less frequently. The reason you need to be careful is AGM batteries are sealed which means they are maintenance free but still will produce gas when charging and can expand but because there is nowhere for the gas to go the batteries can bulge or possibly explode. However, the chances of exploding with such a low amperage charge is extremely small.

To further complicate things many trickle chargers are "smart" chargers and they will not put out a charge if the battery does not show a voltage reading within a safe zone--like the system in your RV. I don't know about 6 volt batteries but on a 12 volt system if they are lower than about 10 volts or so the charger realizes there is an issue and does not charge. However, an old fashioned "dumb" trickle charger puts out the same low voltage constantly. This is why they are bad to leave on a battery all the time because unlike the smart chargers they can overcharge and reduce the battery capacity by very slowly boiling out water as they never detect a full battery and never cut off. For your purposes this will not be a risk because you will be checking and taking the batteries off once they hit the normal low battery range.

You might have to do this for each battery but if you are lucky one or more of them will have enough voltage that they might not require it because the charger (converter) in your trailer is looking for a low 12 volt reading and not actually checking each battery separately as they are all eventually connected (first in series by pairs and then each pair wired in parallel). Use a multi-meter and try charging the battery with the lowest charge first.

Be really careful when removing and installing the batteries from your trailer. I like to tape off the leads with electrical tape and then use more tape or something to keep them from touching either the chassis or each other. You have big batteries with a lot of amperage and you do not want to short them. I am not sure what order to do disconnect things with your 6 volt system to prevent any issues or potential problems but it sounds like you do because you are planning to remove them from the trailer anyway.

Hopefully this works for you and saves you from buying 4 expensive new batteries. In the future try to run your generator about once a month or so for about an hour with a good load on it. This will exercise your generator and also top off your batteries in the process.

Lastly, if you are able to disconnect and check the batteries individually while still in the battery compartment you might be able to determine the culprit is only one or two of the batteries. If that is the case then you can save the hassle of removing and reinstalling all of them--but will still have to disconnect all of them to properly test.

Good luck.
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:26 PM   #6
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Thanks again. This is tremendously helpful. Iíll write back when I get through this at least so people know the outcome of the frozen AGM battery issue.
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Old 01-28-2021, 05:49 PM   #7
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I utilize a 100 watt solar panel and a charge controller (about the size of a pack of cards) to maintain my batteries when not in use. Since I installed it, I have not had a battery issue. Or, install a battery disconnect but I prefer the trickle charge of the solar panel.
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Old 01-28-2021, 08:21 PM   #8
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Thank Frank. I have one as well and all summer it was great but we have snow in northern MT now where my trailer is.

AGMs appear to be dead. I have a Genius charger that is great at charging and tending but it couldn't get any of the 4 batteries to charge. As a last ditch effort I'm trying to kickstart one of them with an old trickle charger I have that puts out a few more amps. Will watch it closely but I fear letting them freeze ruined them. Guess I go lithium now...

Does anyone know whether or not there is anything special that I need to do if I want to use lithium in the Xantrex set up?

Thanks again,
Karl
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Old 01-31-2021, 01:21 AM   #9
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Using Lithium batteries

There is more than one kind of lithium battery type chemistry. Unless the inverter charger controller mfg. recommends specific batteries you will need to do your own engineering to be sure you don't exceed discharge rate, charge rate, low voltage and high voltage ratings on all the cells. Lithium metal will burn in the air like magnesium so proceed with caution.
You might be able to buy goof proof off the shelf batteries but I'd do a study of different chemistry types and then study some basic electricity. Don't let the graphs scare you because at the end of the day you will be estimating and not doing much more than multiplication and division. You need to understand the meaning of ohms, amps, volts, watts, watt hours and amp hours and how they all relate to each other. Since your working with DC you can skip most of the AC theory around capacitance and inductance.
.
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Old 01-31-2021, 04:37 AM   #10
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Basic electricity video

Here's a good basic electricity video. That also covers batteries and solar power.
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Old 03-27-2021, 09:27 PM   #11
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Completely dead batteries

Here are a couple of tidbits I've learned with Lithium batteries, they are also applicable to AGM batteries.
1) The Onan generator requires a certain minimum battery voltage, or it won't continue to run. For example, if you run your batteries down and try to jump start the Onan with a portable jump starter, it will start but then shut off when you remove the jump starter.
2) The Xantrex is not the only high quality inverter/charger that doesn't work with dead batteries. All of the Victron and Magnum units don't either.
3) Some higher quality solar charge controllers have a "wake up" mode for lithium batteries. When the sun comes up, they will pulse the output trying to wake up the batteries. I've never tried it on AGMs, but I bet it would work. Cheap charge controllers won't do that.

I always have a portable lithium jump starter with me in my RV. Has saved me many times.
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