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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello All,
I’m looking for the forum’s collective wisdom and experience on an issue with the house battery in my Promaster camper conversion. The usual tech support avenues have been inconclusive, and I haven’t found anything using search so I hope someone can please help me!
Recently, my AGM house battery has been fizzling and expelling bubbles out the top of the battery near the end of a charge. It will set of my LP gas alarm, which suggests to me that the gas may be Hydrogen. Most research I can find says that AGM batteries can release hydrogen during overcharge situations, but this will happen when the battery is at most 13.7V. Any advice or experience is appreciated. More detailed info and questions below:

My Setup:
Battery:
200 Ah VMAX Tanks battery (https://www.vmaxtanks.com/XTR4D-200-12Volts-200AH-Deep-Cycle-XTREME-AGM-Battery-_p_165.html)


Loads:
  • LED lights
  • Fan
  • Propex Heater
  • Cell phones
  • Inverter powering dorm fridge
  • The highest current draw I’ve seen is around 3Amps
Chargers:
  • 300W Solar – Renogy MPPT controller
  • Sterling B1230 B2B Charger (recently installed,but issue originally happened before this was in the van)
  • VMAX Tanks 7 stage shore power charger. Only used twice, but the battery will always off-gas when this charger is running
I’ve spent hours on the phone with VMAX Tanks Tech Support, who suggested charging it again. Knowing it would fizzle and off-gas again I complied, but my feeling is that they don’t understand the situation. The data from yesterday’s experiment is tabulated below. The battery was charged with VMAX’s 7-stage shore power charger.
Time Voltage Current Charger Stage
12pm 13.8 1.6 Bulk
12:30p 13.75 1.6 Float
1p 13.7 1.6 Full
1:40p 13.7 1.52 Full
2:15 13.73 1.6 Full
3p 13.72 1.4 Full
4p 13.7 1.5 Full
5p 13.49 -0.3 Full At this time, the battery began to fizzle and the LP detector was activated.



If someone already knows what’s going on, that’d be great. Otherwise, here are some thoughts and questions I have that might help me get to the solution.
  • Does it seem likely that the gas bubbling out ofthe battery is Hydrogen? Are there any other gasses that could be produced orexpelled from an AGM battery?
  • It seems widely accepted that overcharging can make a battery off-gas. I have never seen the battery charged over 14.7 Volts, so I don’ think this is the cause. Could the battery off-gas in the future if it was once over-charged and I didn’t know about it, or does it only off gas at the moment it’s overcharged? What if it was overly discharged?
  • Am I correct in assuming that this is NOT the norm for AGM batteries? Is this battery damaged or defective? Should I just buya new one?
  • My Sterling charger can get the battery over 14Vduring charging, but in this case the VMAX charger didn’t. Does this indicate aproblem?
Thank you all for your help!
 

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Could you please repost with normal colors so we can read it?

From what I could read, my first step would be to remove the battery, and no way would it ever re-enter my van.
 

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Do you trust your voltmeter? An AGM battery should not be acting in this manner at 13.7 volts.

You later mention that you've never seen the battery charged above 14.7 volts. Is this problem occurring at 13.7 or 14.7 volts? Is that 13.7 volt measurement taken while the battery is under charge or is this a resting voltage after a much higher, prior charge profile? Yes, you said the problem occurs during charging at 13.7 volts, yet, as this is very anomalous, we just wanted to confirm.

Are you literally seeing those 'bubbles' or are you relying solely on your gas alarm? Is this what you mean by 'fizzling' . . . the existence of bubbles? Does it bubble from more than one location? In short, do you have any idea whether one, or all, of your cells are bubbling?

As we understand your situation, this problem is occurring with two independent battery chargers. Although your chargers may have the capacity (if improperly programmed) to overcharge the battery, the fact that two chargers cause the same result suggests to us that the problem lies with the battery. And following this logic, do you have any other AGM batteries that you can test your two chargers on?

We're at a loss. Speculating that maybe you've had a cell failure . . . maybe a short (not sure that this can happen without utterly destroying the battery) . . . which would then explain how you can be overcharging the remaining, good cells while the overall battery voltage is so low.
 

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. ..fizzling and expelling bubbles out the top of the battery.. .
Define 'top of battery'?

The usual pressure for sealed batteries to vent is five to six PSI, this allows for 99.5% recombination of gasses to reduce water loss only as long as man'f charging regime is followed.

Are there cracks in the plastic housing, a defective cover seal hidden under the top label, or is pressure leaking from its designed relief port?
 

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You should keep pestering Vmax tech support. In addition to the bubbling and alarms the readings look odd. 13.8V, 1.6 amp in bulk is not right. Bulk usually means that the charger is putting out max current and the voltage should be higher. Did it switch to absorption phase in between bulk and float? Can you double check the volt readings with a different meter? If the battery is warm and fully charged it's possible that 13.7 could be overcharging it, but I suspect the battery has failed somehow.
 

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From what I could read, my first step would be to remove the battery, and no way would it ever re-enter my van.
+1000 on this. You have a faulty battery. As other have said 1.6amps at bulk is way too low.
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
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How old is the battery?
Since your van is listed as a 2016, I guess its pretty new?
If its still under warranty, I guess I would keep after the manufacturer.

From what I have read the gas would be Hydrogen.

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Do you trust your voltmeter? An AGM battery should not be acting in this manner at 13.7 volts.

You later mention that you've never seen the battery charged above 14.7 volts. Is this problem occurring at 13.7 or 14.7 volts? Is that 13.7 volt measurement taken while the battery is under charge or is this a resting voltage after a much higher, prior charge profile? Yes, you said the problem occurs during charging at 13.7 volts, yet, as this is very anomalous, we just wanted to confirm.

Are you literally seeing those 'bubbles' or are you relying solely on your gas alarm? Is this what you mean by 'fizzling' . . . the existence of bubbles? Does it bubble from more than one location? In short, do you have any idea whether one, or all, of your cells are bubbling?

As we understand your situation, this problem is occurring with two independent battery chargers. Although your chargers may have the capacity (if improperly programmed) to overcharge the battery, the fact that two chargers cause the same result suggests to us that the problem lies with the battery. And following this logic, do you have any other AGM batteries that you can test your two chargers on?

We're at a loss. Speculating that maybe you've had a cell failure . . . maybe a short (not sure that this can happen without utterly destroying the battery) . . . which would then explain how you can be overcharging the remaining, good cells while the overall battery voltage is so low.


Hi Winston, Thanks for the reply.


Do you trust your voltmeter? - Yes. Voltmeter, Victron BMV and Renogy controller all agree.


You later mention that you've never seen the battery charged above 14.7 volts. Is this problem occurring at 13.7 or 14.7 volts? Is that 13.7 volt measurement taken while the battery is under charge or is this a resting voltage after a much higher, prior charge profile? Yes, you said the problem occurs during charging at 13.7 volts, yet, as this is very anomalous, we just wanted to confirm. - Yes, I can confirm that the battery fizzled at 13.7V, under charge yesterday. In previous cases, the charging voltage has been much higher. The most recent fizzle incident was with the Sterling charger at ~14.3V. Most of the time, the fizzling doesn't start until the battery has been charged for several hours.


Are you literally seeing those 'bubbles' or are you relying solely on your gas alarm? Is this what you mean by 'fizzling' . . . the existence of bubbles? Does it bubble from more than one location? In short, do you have any idea whether one, or all, of your cells are bubbling? - Yes, literal bubbles. From only one location, one of the hex caps on the top of the battery.


Interesting theory. It seems to make sense to me, but please let me know if these answers clue you in to something.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
How old is the battery?
Since your van is listed as a 2016, I guess its pretty new?
If its still under warranty, I guess I would keep after the manufacturer.

From what I have read the gas would be Hydrogen.

Gary


Hi Gary! I've enjoyed reading about your build and your site. Thanks for the reply.


The battery is a little more than a year old, although I've only been using it since October. My next step is to keep hounding VMAX. Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You should keep pestering Vmax tech support. In addition to the bubbling and alarms the readings look odd. 13.8V, 1.6 amp in bulk is not right. Bulk usually means that the charger is putting out max current and the voltage should be higher. Did it switch to absorption phase in between bulk and float? Can you double check the volt readings with a different meter? If the battery is warm and fully charged it's possible that 13.7 could be overcharging it, but I suspect the battery has failed somehow.
Hi papab,


There are maybe six hex shaped caps on the top of the battery. There are bubbles fizzling out from one of the hex caps, directly next to one of the caps.


I imagine it would have switched to absorption, but I wasn't there to visually confirm.


I believe the voltage numbers, they match voltmeter, BMV monitor, and Renogy controller.


Thanks for the input. This helps me feel better that I'm not wrongly pestering VMAX, though they claim the battery is "supposed" to do that.
 

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Define 'top of battery'?

The usual pressure for sealed batteries to vent is five to six PSI, this allows for 99.5% recombination of gasses to reduce water loss only as long as man'f charging regime is followed.

Are there cracks in the plastic housing, a defective cover seal hidden under the top label, or is pressure leaking from its designed relief port?
Hi Zoomyn,


See reply above about top of battery.


I don't see any cracks, not sure I can see a designed relief port. Do all AGM batteries have this?


Thanks!
 

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WARNING!!!! Hydrogen gas is explosive. Do not have any flame or spark near the battery as it will explode and spread sulfuric acid everywhere. The acid will burn your skin, dissolve clothing, strip paint, etc.
AGM batteries should not outgas as they are sealed units that capture the moisture and condense back to acid solution. That is why you never have to top off the liquid inside.

MLogan
2017 Trend
Smyrna, TN
 

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Interesting theory. It seems to make sense to me, but please let me know if these answers clue you in to something.
We're a bit short of answers or ideas at this point. Seems that if you had a bad cell, the remaining 5, which by our theory are being overcharged, would be fizzling.

At this point we wonder if "your battery is working" - - by that we mean is it providing the rated amp-hours from a full charge? If you do have a bad cell, we'd expect the overall capacity of the battery to be significantly compromised.

We've undertaken several capacity checks on our battery . . . just rolled out some 18 gauge wire (we had a spool on hand) . . . about 130' as we recall . . . kept cutting it until the Fluke ammeter said "10 amps" and discharged the battery (we did it in stages, 50 or 100 AHs at a time) until the battery was fully discharged. (To 'fine-tune' our test while in progress, we'd throw-on an LED light or three to compensate for the falling battery voltage).
 

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We're a bit short of answers or ideas at this point. Seems that if you had a bad cell, the remaining 5, which by our theory are being overcharged, would be fizzling.

At this point we wonder if "your battery is working" - - by that we mean is it providing the rated amp-hours from a full charge? If you do have a bad cell, we'd expect the overall capacity of the battery to be significantly compromised.

We've undertaken several capacity checks on our battery . . . just rolled out some 18 gauge wire (we had a spool on hand) . . . about 130' as we recall . . . kept cutting it until the Fluke ammeter said "10 amps" and discharged the battery (we did it in stages, 50 or 100 AHs at a time) until the battery was fully discharged. (To 'fine-tune' our test while in progress, we'd throw-on an LED light or three to compensate for the falling battery voltage).
Hi Winston,
Not to get too far off topic, but I've been wondering how I could test the capacity of my house battery so that I have a way to know its time to get a new one.

Understand the coil of wire to make a resistor and can do that.

10 amps sounds like a good test load.

You say you keep going until its fully discharged. Does this mean you go until it won't supply any current? Or down to some specific amperage to the load or some specfiic voltage?
I'm looking for something consistent I can do once a year or so just to see how much the capacity has dropped.

I guess I could use my Victron battery monitor with solar disconnected to track how many amp-hrs have gone to the load.


Gary
 

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You say you keep going until its fully discharged. Does this mean you go until it won't supply any current? Or down to some specific amperage to the load or some specfiic voltage?
Gary,

Our tests are run at a constant current - - we tweak the load as required to maintain this constant current throughout the entire test cycle.

Keep in mind that we're using lithium - - so the criteria may be different. Another positive feature that aids in 'completely discharging' is our BMS which separately monitors the voltage of each of our 20 cells. This helps us determine when we're really at 'zero'.

You might find the 10amps for 10 hour increments handy - - you can start it in the morning and finish later the same day with each test increment. You might also want to let the batteries rest each night - - this way you can record the resulting resting voltage, each morning before starting the next discharge segment, at each chosen discharge level.

The trick is when you get close to full discharge. For lithium this is comparatively easy as the voltage starts falling precipitously when full discharge is reached. For example, we measured no more than a 0.01 volt drop discharging from 90% to 80%. However, when we reached the 'discharge knee' during the last 18 ah discharge (from 0% to minus 3.5% - - we terminated the discharge a 518ah), the battery terminal voltage dropped a whopping 0.55 volts! We literally stand there watching and terminate the discharge when the lowest cell voltage reaches 2.80 volts.

For FLA/AGM we'd use the manufactures published voltage vs. PoC numbers. Considering that lead-acid tends to have a fairly sharp discharge knee as well, it shouldn't be too hard to find a discharge point, at least close to full discharge, that can be replicated in the future.

One interesting sideline of our 18 gauge wire load - - we have used the temperature coefficient of copper to our advantage. If we roll the wire into a spool, it gets warm and the resistance goes up (current drops) so normally we leave the wire 'draped' around the shop. One day we actually changed the shop thermostat to 'micro-adjust' the load current.

Returning the tread to 'fizzling' batteries.

Winston
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks again everyone for the help. Gives me some confidence that I'm not crazy. VMAX finally agreed to replace the battery under partial warranty. Hooray customer support! Hooray safety!


We're a bit short of answers or ideas at this point. Seems that if you had a bad cell, the remaining 5, which by our theory are being overcharged, would be fizzling.

At this point we wonder if "your battery is working" - - by that we mean is it providing the rated amp-hours from a full charge? If you do have a bad cell, we'd expect the overall capacity of the battery to be significantly compromised.

We've undertaken several capacity checks on our battery . . . just rolled out some 18 gauge wire (we had a spool on hand) . . . about 130' as we recall . . . kept cutting it until the Fluke ammeter said "10 amps" and discharged the battery (we did it in stages, 50 or 100 AHs at a time) until the battery was fully discharged. (To 'fine-tune' our test while in progress, we'd throw-on an LED light or three to compensate for the falling battery voltage).
Winston, thank you especially for the insight. Is it possible for only one cell to be overcharged? Re: capacity check, wouldn't fully discharging the battery lead to potentially shorted life?
 

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Is it possible for only one cell to be overcharged? Re: capacity check, wouldn't fully discharging the battery lead to potentially shorted life?
Lead-acid cells are occasionally 'equalized' to keep all cells at the same State of Charge. But for one cell to be fully/over-charged at such an overall low pack voltage seems beyond . . . 'equalization'.

Shortened life? If the battery is defective, then we don't care about 'shortened life'. If the battery is good, we doubt a single deep discharge will measurably detract from the battery's life.

And this raises the interesting question: Does deep cycling a lead-acid battery shorten its life? Possibly not. What's the difference between 500 full discharge cycles and 1,000 50% discharge cycles? Seems like you're getting the same overall amp-hours either way.
 

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The battery is junk. Trade it in and move on. Full discharge and immediate recharge will not appreciably affect the lifetime of a lead acid battery, but why?
 
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