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Author Topic: Boondocker converter  (Read 2417 times)
mike802
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« on: January 31, 2014, 05:35:44 PM »

Hi everyone:  I am trying to decide which power converter I should go with for my bus.  I haven't done much with the project this winter, put the wires are piling up and I need to get them organized.  I am considering the Boondocker 4 stage power center at this link.  Anybody have any experience with this converter?  Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Its the powermax pm4b-100 100 amp.
Thanks
Mike.

http://www.bestconverter.com/PowerMax-PM4B-100-100-Amp-4-Stage-ConverterCharger_p_472.html#.UuxUWLRXlWE
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2014, 06:16:29 PM »

Built-in desulfation cycle

I would want to know exactlyvwhat they mean by this.
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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2014, 06:59:23 PM »

Equalization?   If so, at what voltage, for how long, and how frequently if automatic?

John
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2014, 07:26:13 PM »

Mike - that looks like a low end model (not a bad price). I would assume a 100amp charger only provides about 1200watts of AC power.  Hardly enough to run a single heater, or a single cooktop, maybe just house lighting and laptops. If you really want to boondock, I would spend some money on a good 2500-4k watt inverter system like Outback or Victron.  It will cost you 2k (plus batteries) but you will not have to worry about replacing equipment in the middle of the desert and for the most part you will have support from the manufacturer. 

I have a low end (500$) sterling 2500w model.  It simply charges batteries, inverts and has pass through for when I'm hooked up to the pole or genny running.  None of the super duper features but we don't run much more than lights and computers when we boondock and run the genny for cooking breakfast and charging and the gas grill cooks dinnner.  Our battery bank is enemic right now (about 200 amp hours) and we are hoping to bump up to something a little better in the future.

Our inverter has a desulfation cycle as well.  You just change the dial to desulfate and it runs.  There are a bunch of details in the manual as to what it does and for how long but I haven't used it yet.  Our inverter was the nicer inverter for the low end models and we needed something quick and easy and so far I've been happy with it. 

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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2014, 08:50:33 PM »

Built-in desulfation cycle

I would want to know exactlyvwhat they mean by this.


The reason I ask is because desulfation is critical to battery life in wet cell batteries....not so much in Agm's.
and if it isn't regulated or at least on a timer then,.....well boiling the batteries dry is worse. There is always a trade off.
If it meets your needs then it is probably a good one.
Remember too that it probably will not deliver 100% output (none do).
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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2014, 01:50:43 AM »

I've only just woken up so this is probably a stupid question - but aren't the terms 'boondocker' and 'converter' mutually exclusive? Converters convert AC power to DC - but if you're boondocking you won't have any AC. (Unless you're running the generator constantly I suppose, but why would you do that rather than using an inverter?)

Jeremy
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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2014, 02:15:27 AM »

I've only just woken up so this is probably a stupid question - but aren't the terms 'boondocker' and 'converter' mutually exclusive? Converters convert AC power to DC - but if you're boondocking you won't have any AC. (Unless you're running the generator constantly I suppose, but why would you do that rather than using an inverter?)

Jeremy

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That is what I thought. I didn't put a converter in my bus just use my 4000 watt trace for charging the 24 volt batteries and a 100 watt equalizer for the 12 volt battery.
John
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2014, 05:45:20 AM »

Good converters work nice if his most of his system is 12 volt the boondocking part I don't get, converters are cheaper and will do the same as a inverter without passing through the batteries to supply the DC if hooked up to a AC supply,could be he doesn't need the DC to AC from a inverter if not the converter is the way to go for him and a lot cheaper I have a factory MH that has both a inverter and converter fwiw the DC fuse panel is almost worth the price of a converter
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2014, 07:15:48 AM »

A converter takes AC power and converts it into DC power for charging batteries. Any good charger will do in this case as long as it is a smart charger. I personally don't like converters-they seem to fail more and when you're boon docking, a converter only works with the generator running.

An inverter takes DC power and inverts it into AC power-exactly what you need for boon docking to power all the AC items you need to run. You can use a straight inverter without charger that is relatively cheap-but you eventually have to charge the batteries. The inverter/charger is the way to go. Then you can have your solar panels charging the batteries, the inverter running 120vac power from the batteries, and if the solar panels cannot keep up with the load, you simply run the generator and the inverter/charger automatically switches to a 3 stage battery charger. When I boon dock, I run the generator (I do not have solar panels) for a couple hours in the morning and again at night since everything in the bus is electric except the propane furnace and stove. A good true sine wave inverter would be good. I'm looking at the Magnum 2800 watt true sine. Close to $2,000, but worth it. Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2014, 07:38:50 AM »

With a converter when AC is not present it bypasses and draws direct from the batteries fwiw and with good one the charger can be turned off if he has no AC load the converter will work just as good as a 2000 dollar inverter for him it depends on how deep the pockets are,with a inverter one has to build a 12v fuse panel for the 12 volt side from the batteries not the case with a converter design a system for your use JMO the new converters are not your granddads Oldsmobile from the past
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2014, 08:01:12 AM »

I kept everything 12v and use this: http://www.iotaengineering.com/power.htm

On the road everything is normal.  When I hook to the pole, everything is still normal but running off the power supply instead of batteries.  No need for house batteries.  Thats just my setup though, I like simple.

I do have 110v for a small fridge which runs off the same 110v line as the power supply.
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2014, 08:08:35 AM »

Wow: Thanks everyone, it has become apparent to me by all your replies that I know nothing about converters!  What I thought was a simple question now has me scratching my head LOL.

I know what desulfation is but the technical how it works stuff, no.

Quote
Equalization?   If so, at what voltage, for how long, and how frequently if automatic?
I have  no idea what this is.

Quote
aren't the terms 'boondocker' and 'converter' mutually exclusive?
Could be, but if someone is using a generator, or solar wouldn't they still have to go through a converter?

Maybe it would be better if I stated just what I was looking to use my bus for.  I did not choose the boondocker because I want to strictly boon dock.  We plan on using our bus for normal camping and boon docking.  I have 12v lighting, a small elec. 12q ft fridge, 2 roof mounted ac units, 2 vents, 2 tv's, 2 radios, and plan on running elec, baseboard heaters along with 2, or 3 propane furnaces, 2 pumps for water, a micro wave, or a convection oven, cooking range will be gas. various 110v outlets, there may be things I will want to add later, or have forgotten to mention.  I do not plan on running all this stuff at once.  The elec. baseboard heaters are only to take advantage of camp ground elec.  In my mind, set up like a normal RV, except for the elec. baseboard heaters.  Future plans are the addition of a generator and solar. I am looking for a good unit that will give me the most power, good battery charging and maintenance,  and will allow for the addition of a gen, and solar.  2k is a lot more that I thought I would have to spend, but it that is what it takes I guess I will just have to save some more and wait a little longer, shes not going anywhere soon.
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2014, 08:14:44 AM »

Quote
I kept everything 12v and use this: http://www.iotaengineering.com/power.htm

On the road everything is normal.  When I hook to the pole, everything is still normal but running off the power supply instead of batteries.  No need for house batteries.  Thats just my setup though, I like simple.

I do have 110v for a small fridge which runs off the same 110v line as the power supply.


I very much like the idea of keeping everything simple!
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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2014, 11:06:08 AM »

I am for the simple, am using the Xantrex 2500 watt inverter that includes the 100 amp smart charger.  Have been using it for 6 years woth no issues.t he setup includes a set of 4. 8D Gel cell at 900 AH rated, run everything but the A/C as wanted/needed. Can go over night easy with out the genset. Next AM, start genset and about 3-4 hours batteries are back full charged.  As said, I am for what works for me and this setup is fine for my needs.
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2014, 11:34:05 AM »


I know what desulfation is but the technical how it works stuff, no.

Desulphation has been discussed on the board before, and I think it's fair to say that there is a fair pinch of snake oil involved in it; the electronic desulphators I have come across claim to do the job by pulsing electrical current through the batteries plates, which is supposed to encourage the sulphate attached to the plates to re-dissolve into the electrolyte - quite how effective it is though is probably debatable.

Previous posts on the subject have (for me at least) concluded that in reality the best way of re-dissolving the sulphate is to deliberately boil (ie. overcharge) the battery, which kind of agitates the plates and the surrounding electrolyte - but of course that is something which is not only potentially quite dangerous (hydrogen production), but will also result in the rapid loss of electrolyte - so it's obviously not a technique which a device sold to the general public is going to use.

Other approaches I've seen mentioned include adding chemicals to the electrolyte and even reverse charging or short-circuiting the battery Shocked So. it's definitely an area where a bit of skepticism should be employed before parting with cash



Could be, but if someone is using a generator, or solar wouldn't they still have to go through a converter?


Yes for the generator (although it's worth mentioning that some (such as the one in my bus) can produce 12v DC as well as AC)

No for the solar panels - solar panels produce DC, but the actual voltage will entirely depend upon the type and configuration of panels you install, and then it's going to vary on top of that according to how brightly the sun is shining. So part of the installation will be a charge controller which regulates the output down to (usually) 12 or 24v DC, which you then feed into your batteries (ie, no converter required)


Jeremy
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« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2014, 12:17:49 PM »

Jeremy,
Correct on lead acid flooded batteries, but bot on Gel Cell batts.
When you raise the voltage on a 12 volt battery to about 16+ volts, it is referred to "Equalizing", on sone batteries we equilize them about every 6 months for about halh hour on a 8D size that is used on sone standby generators.
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« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2014, 12:42:36 PM »

Wow: Thanks everyone, it has become apparent to me by all your replies that I know nothing about converters!  What I thought was a simple question now has me scratching my head LOL.

I know what desulfation is but the technical how it works stuff, no.
 I have  no idea what this is.
 

Equalization is one of a charger's four modes.   Good chargers (good being the operative word here) should first Bulk charge batteries at between 5 and 13% of their 20-hour Ah rating, at least for flooded lead-acid such as T-105 golfcart batteries, then they should switch to Absorb mode when the batteries accept a reducing amount of current, then finally to Float when they get a trickle-charge essentially for maintenance.   In order to prevent stratification of the electrolyte, when the acid is stronger at the bottom and the top is weak, an occasional over-voltage charge called Equalization will bubble the electrolyte and mix it all equally, giving longer plate life to the batteries.

I will be buying two Morningstar TS-MPPT-60 charge controllers for my solar panels  -  here is their explanation of this:  http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/wind-sun/TSMPPT-manual.pdf   See page 19.

Desulfation is, as others have aluded, an iffy process at best.   Until I see incontrovertible scientific evidence that it works, I'll equalize my batteries every month or two.   Besides, with a good solar system there shouldn't be any need to desulfate at all, because the batteries are always being fully charged every day.   Sulfation mainly occurs when batteries sit for a while in a discharged state  -  that is when the sulfate crystals that grow on the plates will permanently harden.   If you don't discharge FLA batteries less than 50% SOC and if you recharge them promptly and fully every day, they won't sulfate.   Off-gridders with cheapo golfcart batteries and a good solar system are getting up to eight years or more life from them, which is unheard of if they weren't being charged by PV.

For serious boondocking the only question about having solar is when and how much you will eventually buy.   Using a generator to fully-charge batteries is expensive  -  at least use a gen to Bulk charge them, then finish with solar.   PV panels may still be coming down in price  -  a few years ago they were several dollars a watt, but last year I bought some UL-listed made-in-USA Sharp panels for $0.81 a watt, crazy cheap.   PV now is relatively cheaper than batteries, so PV systems are now having more panels and less batteries than ever before.   The days of having lots of batteries but only a few panels are over  -  now there's no excuse to not fully charge one's batteries all the time!   This means that sulfation should be less of a problem than in the bad old days when people expected a few hundred watts of PV to correctly charge lots of batteries (which they never could do).

I'll be totally dependent on solar for all my electrical needs  -  my generator will be for emergency back-up use only.   With 2,040 watts of panels I'll have no problem getting my eight T-105s to Float each day by noon:  I can be pushing up to 120 amps into them in Bulk mode!   After they're fully charged, all the panels' output can then power opportunity loads such as power tools, air-conditioning, even the electric heating element in my Suburban water heater.   Imagine  -  free silent dependable electricity for many decades!   Yeah!   (OK, I know nothing's actually free, but for me it's better than the alternatives.)

John    
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« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2014, 12:58:25 PM »

Jeremy,
Correct on lead acid flooded batteries, but bot on Gel Cell batts.
When you raise the voltage on a 12 volt battery to about 16+ volts, it is referred to "Equalizing", on sone batteries we equilize them about every 6 months for about halh hour on a 8D size that is used on sone standby generators.
FWIW
Dave M

I don't know much about AGM batteries but I've never understood 'equalisation' to be a desulphation process as such. But - certainly - the boiling etc I was referring to is only applicable to batteries with a liquid electrolyte

Jeremy

Edit - Iceni John makes some very good points there, especially that a properly looked-after battery shouldn't need to be desulphated in the first place. The fact that I've read-up on desulphation a bit in the past is because I have an unfortunate history of abusing my batteries (even today I don't own a battery tender, never mind a decent solar panel set-up)
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2014, 04:26:12 PM »

This may or may not answer your questions about equilizing batteries, but you can google lots of info.
Dave M

Equalizing Batteries
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2014, 06:45:09 PM »

On the subject of equalization charging....I have been taught that proper battery maintenance is a process that demands frequent equalization, in that the more often that it is done, the less likely the battery will sulphate.
If the frequency is 1 time per month the time period that the batteries need to boil is minimized and thus reduces loss of the water.
The Xantrex Freedom Marine 30 that I have uses a temperature sensor attached to the positive cable ( and it's internal ability to read volts and amps etc.) to assess the state of equalization at plus 14.6v.
incidentally you can not access the eq charge without the remote control to initiate it....
The fellow who repairs Xantrex inverters in Bradenton FL  deals with many inverters and battery banks on the yachty crowds big $$ stuff . (and a poor busnut like me  Grin ) He pushes the monthly method.
 the people who listen to him get the longest battery bank life.
I just removed two 8D wet cells that were not equalized monthly ( I don't listen well) but they were done an average every 90 days.
Yes topping off the batteries to insure that liquid stay above the plates before equalizing is a major pain in the @$# but those batteries were dated Feb 2008. 6years is pretty darn good.
Did the frequent equalizing extend there life ? I like to think so...

now I need to relearn what to do cuz I replaced all of my batteries with AGM's....essentially If I understand correctly...AGM batteries are NOT to be equalization charged....Anyone know if this is correct ?
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« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2014, 07:14:05 PM »

PS @ John....you are likely going to be disappointed on cloudy days....right ?
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« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2014, 09:54:29 PM »

Mike - here is some feedback for you from my real world experience compared to what I thought I'd need before we started fulltiming 8 months ago -

Before it all began I thought I'd need a minimum of 400 amp hours and a minimum 2000 watts of inverter to change the power from our DC batteries (and alternator while running down the road) to AC power for our adventures.  I was planning on using it to run our induction cooktops, power our laptops, charge our phones and additional lighting and possibly the fridge.  

Realistically I got the aforementioned inverter (previous post) and still haven't hooked up the inverter part of it.  What changed is that I mostly have everything we need to boondock running on 12v power.  All our lights,  fans, refrigerator, phones, laptops are setup to run on 12v power.  I have 2 deep cycle marine batteries with 115 amp hours each from Costco that will get us through 24 hours.  If we need heavy power (for AC or heat) we run the generator.  Sometimes we will run the generator to cook breakfast when we boondock and that typically is when we are charging the batteries.  Lunch when boondocking is usually sandwiches, salad or fruit and we will typically grill out for dinner or go out to eat.  We spend a good bit of time in libraries, coffee shops and McDonald's to do school work (with the kids) and my real work so our laptops are charged when we get back to the bus and all 3 laptops will run for 2-3 hours on battery or we swap batteries with a single laptop.

So as you see our power needs are a lot less than what I thought they  would be when I first started out with the conversion.  If you have a TV and watch a lot of it and you need the house style 5.1 sound system or want to run heat or AC or microwave/oven on batteries while boondocking then you need a beefy inverter system with batteries to go with it.  We do not have a TV in the bus.

As a side note - I've got our TV in the conversion van on 12v power (using a regulator) and it works great. I plan on installing a sound system in the bus at some point but that will be 12v as well.  I will be spending money in the future for more batteries before I spend more on an inverter.  We also use a cheapo 50$ 400w cigarette lighter inverter to charge the laptops in the cigarette lighter when going down the road and boondocking.

Sean (odessey) has mentioned a bunch of good stuff on electrical in many posts of the past.  One of the best suggestions he has made is to create a spreadsheet listing the devices you will have(inverted and 12v), how much power(in amps) each device will use (convert all your 120v devices to 12v and add 10%) and then how many hours a day you will use each device.  Take that total number of amp hours and multiply by 1.5.  That should be a good place to start for your battery purchase.  After that - think about how you are going to use your inverter - many ways to tie one into an electrical system.  It can get a little intimidating when you start putting it all together.

Best of luck!

-Sean

Ps - The biggest challenge that we have continually had in the 8 months isnt power but rather getting good internet.  Plumbing is second.




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« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2014, 05:07:06 AM »

Mike, a good place for help in designing your system for your use is Northern Az Wind and Sun they have the load sheets,books,any information needed even down to the wire size, they have a forum there also to answer any questions
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« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2014, 11:04:40 AM »

Ouch. My head hurts. Someday I'm paying one of you to install my inverter system. I have a headache just reading this thread.


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« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2014, 01:34:09 PM »

Thank you everyone for all your knowledge and input, I have learned a lot.

Quote
Mike - here is some feedback for you from my real world experience compared to what I thought I'd need before we started fulltiming 8 months ago -

Sean: I looked into the ProCombi series and it sounds like it would serve my needs just fine.  It looks like I would also have to buy a breaker box also.  The 2500 watt Quasi wave is listed for 799.00 has the price gone up that much, or did you get a deal on yours?
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« Reply #25 on: February 02, 2014, 01:56:59 PM »

Mike - looks like the price went up.  I got the 2500w pro-combi S pure sine from baymarinesupply.com  for about 600 new.  It looks like he only has the 2500 modified sine now.  He does have a pretty good price on some of the magnum inverters.

Sterling makes a good solid inverter and battery charger.  Keep in mind that the 2500 is Max spike wattage and 2000w is about all its rated for on the constant output.  The Magnums aare solid as well.

-Sean





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« Reply #26 on: February 02, 2014, 02:41:10 PM »

The parallax model 555 converter charger works well for me....George
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« Reply #27 on: February 02, 2014, 06:50:18 PM »

Ouch. My head hurts. Someday I'm paying one of you to install my inverter system. I have a headache just reading this thread.


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Scott - Ill do it for free.  Just not in Michigan in the middle of January! I love doing electrical.  Some pics coming soon!

-Sean

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we live in a van (Eagle 10 Suburban)
Driving through the night
To that old promised land'
Iceni John
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« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2014, 07:53:01 AM »

PS @ John....you are likely going to be disappointed on cloudy days....right ?
Clouds, what's them, here in always-sunny SoCal?   Seriously though, I plan on having three days of battery capacity with careful usage, plus there's my emergency standby generator for when the sun don't shine.   2,000 W of panels should still give a few hundred watts of usable power on overcast days, enough to at least part-charge batteries.   As I plan to stay in the sunny desert Southwest most of the time, I'm thinking that solar will work for me.   If I were somewhere else, no, it probably wouldn't be enough by itself.   We'll see!

John   
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1990 Crown 2R-40N-552:  6V92TAC, DDEC II, HT740, Jake.      Hecho en Chino.     
Behind the Orange Curtain, SoCal.
luvrbus
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« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2014, 09:28:15 AM »

They make a voltage regulator for the alternators that will do equalization and desulfation as you drive that's all that is used in the marine fwiw
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Life is short drink the good wine first
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« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2014, 10:14:49 AM »

I have a line on a Trace U2012 modified sine wave inverter with remote new unused,  still in the box, but tested to work,(that I ought to buy as a spare or just to have.....), it would do everything that you want for pretty cheap money....if you are interested...(and I am not) I could help figure out a way to work a deal, it is not mine, at the moment, but it might/could be  Smiley I am thinking of getting it just to  run my microwave.....




http://www.xantrex.com/documents/Discontinued-Products/875-1.pdf




« Last Edit: February 03, 2014, 10:29:02 AM by eagle19952 » Logged
mike802
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« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2014, 03:22:00 PM »

eagle19952:  I looked over all the info on it and it looks like it would work for me, but does it have the battery charger?  The info stated some do and some don't.  I would be very interested in this unit if the price is right!

Thanks
Mike.
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eagle19952
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« Reply #32 on: February 03, 2014, 07:37:33 PM »

eagle19952:  I looked over all the info on it and it looks like it would work for me, but does it have the battery charger?  The info stated some do and some don't.  I would be very interested in this unit if the price is right!

Thanks
Mike.

it has a 100 amp charger...send me a pm.
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Geoff
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« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2014, 03:53:55 PM »

I have a Trace UB2012 (with 3 stage charger)  I bought brand new in 2002, then I bought the remote on-off switch for it so I have $900 invested in it.  Still in box, only tested to make sure it works.  The "B" after the U means it has the charger.  You can PM me too, I'm in Arizona.  I have kept it as a spare in case my SW2012MC decides to take a vacation but after 12 years it just sits in storage.  I am thinking of trading it for a moonshine still.

--Geoff
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Geoff
'82 RTS AZ
eagle19952
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« Reply #34 on: February 04, 2014, 07:21:23 PM »

 My understanding is that the U series are w/o charger and the UXXXXSB  for Stand By has the charger.
I just fail to add that in my post.
The SB models are identified by 3 different dip switches.
The non SB's have only one.
Getting old and trying to remember poop sucks...Smiley

there is a decent one in sacramento for $350, I'm guessing $275 would buy it. I believe it is not an SB.
Notice the red dip SW in the pic.
Have I confused myself yet....Sad


http://sacramento.craigslist.org/rvs/4311310679.html

PS Everything you need to know about some discontinued Trace Inverters

http://www.xantrex.com/power-products-support/document-downloads/discontinued-products/discontinued-products-inverter-chargers.aspx
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 08:11:59 PM by eagle19952 » Logged
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