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Batteries: House and Starter

Old Starter Batteries

Starter Batteries

These are the batteries that get your vehicle going. For smaller vehicles you will find them (or the one) under your hood. For larger vehicles like my F-650, there are several batteries connected in series in a cabinet under the cab.

My F-650 had four Group 31 batteries with a rating for 1000 cold cramp amp in a cabinet underneath the passenger rear door. The batteries were connected in series so that the voltage output was still 12.4 volts. These batteries were good for the first several months of use, but as the weather got cold, they were not getting the vehicle started reliably. I took the vehicle to a local Interstate Battery store where they tested the batteries and found that they were not meeting the cranking specs (they were outputting about 700 amps). Replacing them was an instant improvement in starting the engine!

House and Starter Battery Schematic

House Batteries

These are the batteries that power the rear living area of your RV. Ambulances don’t have these. The power in the rear of an ambulance comes from the engine (DC power) or an inverter (AC power). If you want power while the vehicle is not running then you need to install some house batteries.

Types of Batteries

There are several different types of batteries that are used in vehicles. Each type of batter has it’s specific intended purpose. You need to understand the capabilities and uses of these different types of batteries to be sure you install the right battery for the right job. Some of the common types of batteries are listed here.

  • Lead Acid: the common battery used in vehicles, usually for starting the engine
  • Lead Acid Deep Cycle: these have a similar chemical structure, but are able to be more deeply discharged. These batteries are often used for RV house batteries.
  • Absorbent Glass Mat: similar uses as the lead acid types, instead of lead plates these batteries use a fiberglass mat which absorbs the electrolyte solution.
  • Nickel Metal Hydride: Often used in hybrid vehicles, these batteries suffer from self-discharge, making them less reliable to use after storage
  • Lithium Ion: Often used for electric or hybrid vehicles, these batteries can also be used for powering appliances and lights when the engine is off

Choosing the right type of battery for your application takes an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of battery types.

Lead Acid

This type is the common type of battery used in vehicles as the starting battery. These batteries provide a large amount of power initially, but cannot sustain the power for long.

Lead Acid Deep Cycle

This is the common battery used for marine and off-road or camping. They are based upon the same technology as the typical lead acid but they plates are thicker and can provide a longer duration of power. They are less expensive than Lithium Ion, but weigh a lot more.

Lithium Ion

These are the batteries that most people choose for long lasting power, a large number of use cycles, and very light weight. These batteries are measured in Ampere – Hours, which gives you an idea of how long the battery will last under a particular load.

Learn About Battery Technology and How to Charge Batteries

Great video explaining the technology and how to charge your batteries.

Positioning the house batteries near the electrical system

Doing the Install

In an upcoming post I will show how I completed the installation of the house batteries. Some of the challenges I know I will face include:

  • Where to place the batteries
  • Connect to the existing electrical system or run a separate system
  • Providing a charging system for the house batteries
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2 replies on “Batteries: House and Starter”

You mean the original batteries were/are connected in parallel? If they were in series, the volatages would add…

There were no house batteries originally. I had to install those new, and I did install them in parallel. The starter batteries were already installed in parallel, as this vehicle is an F650 diesel and needs a lot of cranking amps to get it started.

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