Using car's battery for yurt power?

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Funkfish
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Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Funkfish » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:14 pm

So I had an idea to use the battery on my car as a power source for my yurt. The main things I'd be using it for are to power my swamp cooler (figjam's model) during the day and to power some LED lighting strips inside my yurt.

I'm wondering if a standard car battery could sustain this. I'd also like to know:
How long could I run it before having to turn the car on to recharge.
What kind of wiring would I need to hook this up.

Any help would be really appreciated!

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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by LowePro » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:24 pm

I asked a similar question, found out that the technology will work if your lights and swamp cooler parts are 12-volt, just connect the pos and neg wires to the correct post on the battery.
BUT--I wouldn't recommend it b/c it won't last very long, maybe a few hours before you'd need to charge it again.

A car battery isn't meant for sustaining loads for a long time and it will run down quick. And a dead battery is no fun.
A Deep Cycle marine battery at 12V is designed to power devices for a lot longer between charges. You can get a battery like this not too expensive.

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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Tue Jul 01, 2014 5:01 pm

In all the reading I've done about batteries, a regular car battery is equal to a 50 AH battery.

They are not meant to be used this way, but probably will be ok for the week if you don't discharge below 50%.

Get a volt meter to monitor your battery.

Full charge is 12.75 volts I think, and when it drops to 12.00 volts, idle your car for an hour and check it again.

A true deep cycle battery is still the best way to go. 8)
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by andy » Tue Jul 01, 2014 5:02 pm

The problem with using a car battery to power a yurt is that while your car's generator can be used to recharge the battery, it's a pretty polluting way to do it, since you have to run a larger car engine instead of a much smaller generator engine, both of which are more than ample to recharge a car battery. Also, car batteries are electric start - so if you go too low on your battery you can't get the engine started to recharge it, while most generators are recoil (ie. yank the rope) start and will start even when your battery is dead. Finally, as the previous poster mentioned, car batteries don't stand up very well to this type of deep cycling.

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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Zhust » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:09 pm

Funkfish wrote:So I had an idea to use the battery on my car as a power source for my yurt. The main things I'd be using it for are to power my swamp cooler (figjam's model) during the day and to power some LED lighting strips inside my yurt.
Quick math ... a car's battery has a full capacity of around 50 amp-hours (trucks are often bigger, so maybe up to 100 AH or so). But because it's a "starting battery", it's not meant to be drained, and can have its life severely shortened (or deadened if the battery is old) if it's discharged to less than 80% capacity or so. So of that 50 amp-hours, only about 10 amp-hours can be used. So if all your stuff uses less than about half an amp on average, you can use the car battery and just start the car and let it idle for about a half-hour each day. (Unfortunately I think the swamp cooler is way more than that, even if you don't run it all the time.)

If that doesn't sound like fun (e.g. you don't want to get in fill the car with extra dust), maybe a 20W solar panel could help. That would top off the battery for a light load and you wouldn't have to start it.

...

If you want to size a basic solar system and battery, start by adding up all the amp-hours you'd use in a day. Like if the swamp cooler is 2 amps and runs all day, that's 48 amp-hours, and if the LED strips are 0.5 amps and you run them 12 hours at night, that's 6 more amp-hours for a total of 54 amp-hours each day.

Multiply the amp-hours by 12 volts to get watt-hours—650 watt-hours in this case. Then figure on 5 hours of full sun in a day: at high-noon you get full power, but each hour away from noon you get less and less. Divide the watt-hours usage by 5 hours to get the size of the solar panel: 650 watt-hours / 5 hours is 130 watts.

For the battery size, get a deep-cycle battery that's good for about twice your usage. (More capacity won't hurt.) so that's like a honkin' Group 27 battery at 100 amp-hours.

Throw in a solar charge controller that's got enough capacity to handle the solar panel and you're good to go.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by BBadger » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:47 pm

Bad idea, and you'll probably need a jump start from draining the battery too much -- assuming you haven't damaged the battery too much.

Your car battery is a starter battery, meant for providing a huge surge of current for starting your engine, but not sustaining it. They have very few deep recharge cycles on them because they're meant to be topped off all the time by driving. Buy a deep cycle battery if you want something for running your lights or motor. Better than paying for a new car battery early.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:10 am

It would actually work.
The led light strips shouldn't be any big deal. The FIGJAM cooler will run all day easily - but if you do this you should run the car around an hour every day and bring jumper cables and park next to a designated jump start vehicle in case you run too far down. A startling battery, contrary to popular belief, won't be immediately destroyed by doing anything other than starting an engine.
I won't say it's the most practical solution because you'll have to run the car every day and probably bring extra gas, but if you get a decent size solar charger you'd probably be ok.

If I didn't have jumper cables and a friend parked next to me to get the car started if I ran it down then I'd never do this.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by chuckularone » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:14 am

I often wondered about that, Captain. I was having difficulty believing that they were as delicate as people made them out to be.
My dad used to use a plain old car battery as his trolling motor battery. It stayed on a float charger in the garage when he wasn't fishing. Lasted a few years before he had to replace it.
I imagine the tech hasn't changed much since then, though the materials may be cheaper.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:17 am

Capt., being a motorhead, how much fuel do you think a vehicle uses at idle for an hour?

Just on average.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by AntiM » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:23 am

Captain Goddammit wrote:It would actually work.
The led light strips shouldn't be any big deal. The FIGJAM cooler will run all day easily - but if you do this you should run the car around an hour every day and bring jumper cables and park next to a designated jump start vehicle in case you run too far down. A startling battery, contrary to popular belief, won't be immediately destroyed by doing anything other than starting an engine.
I won't say it's the most practical solution because you'll have to run the car every day and probably bring extra gas, but if you get a decent size solar charger you'd probably be ok.

If I didn't have jumper cables and a friend parked next to me to get the car started if I ran it down then I'd never do this.
How about those jump pack thingys? We have one and have used it successfully.

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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:27 am

AntiM, I found that they have low AH and the instructions say 35 hours to recharge! :shock:
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:07 pm

FIGJAM wrote:Capt., being a motorhead, how much fuel do you think a vehicle uses at idle for an hour?

Just on average.
That depends...
My Land Yacht has a fuel injected 2.3 liter 4 cylinder and it seems to idle forever on very little.
I haven't ever made any measurements.
I have a '55 Chevy with a hot rod motor with two 4-barrel carburetors that pours gas down the drain just sitting there idling, and my pickup with a 454 seems to idle through it about as fast as you can pour it in.
I'm guessing our FIGJAM-cooled yurter is in a relatively small vehicle but they didn't say.

I'm not saying it's the best plan, but it WILL work and as long as you make arrangements for a jump start you won't hurt anything. I wouldn't depend on one of those jump-boxes, they work when your battery is too low to start the car but they don't always work if you run your battery really really dead.
I agree, a deep cycle battery is a better way to go and you could jumper-cable it to the car to recharge it in the middle of the week if needed. Sometimes people don't wanna buy a deep cycle or solar panel because they have no other use for it and maybe even nowhere to keep it. One or two 5 gallon cans of gas (probably just one) should more than take care of what the car will use and that plan doesn't require buying or storing any extra infrastructure... If you're not a tinkerer and live in a city apartment it may not be such a bad idea.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by unjonharley » Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:00 pm

If you abuse you car battery you will end up replacing it.. In stead of waiting for it to go to hell when you need your car the most.. Go to a battery co. and buy a large rebuilt battery... Not Battery Exchange or Batteries Plus.. A company the rebuilds then.. Last year the Hommer cooler and lights run off such a battery for my camp.. The same battery is coming back to the playa this year.. During the year it is jump all the time off the van.. Keeping it fresh.. You can jump and pump the battery with your car..
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:40 pm

I think my 6.5 turbo diesel idles about a gallon an hour, so even if I did have to do that every day, it's only 8 gallons.

I get back to Fernley with a little less than half a tank left.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by skippy3k » Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:14 am

FIGJAM wrote:I think my 6.5 turbo diesel idles about a gallon an hour, so even if I did have to do that every day, it's only 8 gallons.
Wow. That's 0 MPG. And I thought the MPG of my fully loaded truck was bad.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:34 am

I look at it as spending $4 for 40AH. :lol:
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Zhust » Thu Jul 03, 2014 9:35 am

FIGJAM wrote:I look at it as spending $4 for 40AH. :lol:
Or $16.67/kWh ... :)

As for cars, my girlfriend's 2009 Honda Fit has one of those MPG gauges. Coasting down my side street, it hit 40 miles/gallon at 10 miles/hour, and 10 miles/hour / 40 miles/gallon = 0.25 gallons/hour. That was once the car had fully warmed up ... YMMV, as they say.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Zhust » Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:40 am

Zhust wrote:
FIGJAM wrote:I look at it as spending $4 for 40AH. :lol:
Or $16.67/kWh ... :)
I was running this morning and can't figure out for the life of me how I arrived at that number. I'll even edit it a little and show my work this time (which I do so I don't stupidly mess up the numbers): 40 amp-hours * 14.5 volts (while charging) = 580 watt-hours = 0.58 kilowatt-hours. $4/0.58 kWh = $6.90/kWh. Properly, though, you really only get 40AH * 12 volts (nominal) = 480 watt-hours for $8.33/kWh.

I might as well add two cents more here and note that Energizer or Duracell (maybe Radio Shack, and a few other high-quality brands') alkaline D-cell batteries are rated at 10 amp-hours. String 8 together and you've got 10 amp-hours at 12 volts. The catch is you can only draw about 0.5 amps maximum (you'd be lucky if you could get 1 amp.) But you could run a 1-watt LED all night for the whole week for about $10.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by unjonharley » Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:34 am

At the end of the week and the wash is hung out to dry..

Using your car battery at BM is just a bad idea.

Keeping a storage battery charged with your car is just a bad idea..

Running a bucket cooler and a light for awhile each 24..

I have a large storage battery.. I may have add a charge from the van late in the week.. Or find a camp the runs a EU genny and ask to tap in for a quick charge..

All this and I still have a small generator for back up..
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:37 am

Where does the 40ah figure come from? I call B.S.! You can't just say "I get 40 amps while idling" (I'm assuming you mean idling for an hour?)
The vehicle's alternator puts out different amounts of current depending on engine RPM and the electrical load.
It'll put out a lot more current the more discharged the battery is, and a lot less the more charged it is.
You can artificially turn an alternator up to full output by shorting the field wire to +12V power, but in normal operation the voltage the field wire sees tells the alt's regulator how much current is called for.

Ever notice how the running car's engine drags down a little when you hook up jumper cables to a dead car? That's because the voltage drop caused by connecting the dead battery caused the alternator to increase it's output and it takes more power from the engine's drive belt to spin it.

I always cringe when I see people calculating how long their Burning Man electric stuff will run based on theoretical math because there are usually a few real-world factors left out. You have to test it to really know.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:58 am

By hooking up the jumpers a couple of hours before starting the truck, the batteries begin to balance so that when the truck is started the alternator detects everything as "low" and starts throwing the higher charge rate.

You know more about these alternators than I do, but I thought you said these chevy alternators were rated at 130 amps.

The reading I've done indicates that 40 amps at idle is standard under the described conditions. 8)
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by unjonharley » Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:22 am

For instance, A scooter is rates (on paper) to run 22 miles.. Up to 13 mph

On the road the scooter will run 11 mile.. At that the batteries are down 50%. . And your power will be less than 25%.. Also your speed drop to 4-5mph

If you keep on using the scooter without recharge.. You can and will damage..
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:36 am

I doubt that you gain anything hooking up hours in advance except the possibility of draining the good battery enough to not start the engine. As soon as you hook up the cables, both battery voltages are the same and the alternator will adjust accordingly. The dead one will draw the greater percentage of the current.
The Chevy alternators I use on my MV are CS130s from 15 year old mid-size GM cars, I don't know what's in a 90's truck like yours but it's probably pretty beefy.

40 amps at idle while charging a very low battery sounds about right but if you watch an ammeter I'm sure you'll see that figure taper off as the batteries charge up.

And unjon... while of course I like a chance to disagree with your curmudgeonly ass anyway... no the battery isn't going to be ruined. Running it ALL the way dead isn't good for it, sure. But the LED lights aren't going to run the battery down overnight, and you would notice the swamp cooler slowing down during the day and know to fire up the car for a charging session.

Of course this plan isn't the most efficient in terms of fuel vs. electricity generated. But the truth is it would actually work, and if you lived somewhere, say an urban apartment, where having a bunch of Burning Man junk lying around all year is a bigger problem than "wasting" a little gas, I could see it being viable.
Solar panels big enough to electrocute a fly = expensive. Generators = expensive.
Since the swamp cooler and some LEDs are only a relatively light load, a 5 gallon can of gas seems like a bargain.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by FIGJAM » Fri Jul 04, 2014 1:06 pm

I must have misunderstood my research.

I thought the alternator would detect the full battery and not kick out the extra amps, so "balancing" was what the forums suggested.

That's when battery isolators and splitters showed up in my reading.

I very seldom have to do ANY charging during the week, so all of this was "just in case". 8)
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by some seeing eye » Fri Jul 04, 2014 2:44 pm

Above good advice. To the original poster:

Deep cycle batteries are inexpensive. Unlike many BM supplies, the battery, with a charger and inverter, can be used year round as an emergency supply. If you look at weather disasters, most people want their phone powered, that's within the capability of a reasonable battery.

If you buy a deep cycle battery for the playa, you can bring it to Snow Koan Solar for recharging, of course free! In fact, you might want two, to swap, and a bike carrier, hand cart or wagon to transport it for charging, depending on size/weight and where you camp in relation to their locations.

Once you have a battery, stop by the Alternative Energy Zone and Snow Koan for a free tutorial on adding a few solar panels and charge controller at home to charge your battery.

Oops, maybe after a while we are off the grid!

(also a good idea to bring jumper cables to the event and orient the car park to use them, or have friends to push the car into cable reach position to jump it)
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:29 pm

Having said all that I would still recommend a separate, deep-cycle battery.

But the bigger question is, where the hell's Funkfish? We all started discussing this at length but the person who wanted to know about it ain't even here no mo'!
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by --Ever-- » Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:38 pm

Anyone have a tried-and-true recommendation for a deep cycle battery on Amazon?

Looking to run 100ft of LED Rope on the battery. We used a car battery last year and it kept dying.

Some tools I'll have include my car, an eu2000i and an inverter.
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by Train Wreck » Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:58 pm

Costblow carries a deep cycle marine battery at 115 amp hours for about $100. I'd also recommend you get a separate deep cycle battery charger (~$100 for a decent one) to plug into the AC receptacle of the EU2000-- the charge port on the generator is not "smart" so it has the potential of overcharging the battery if you aren't careful. Charging the battery off your car is not environmentally friendly / uses too much gas as you have to idle a big ass engine for a few hours while the battery charges.

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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by --Ever-- » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:06 pm

Thanks for the heads up on the deep-cycle charger issue. Looking for one now, though searching "deep cycle battery charger" on Amazon isn't yielding clear results.

Lastly, will any old inverter work when using a deep-cycle 115aH battery? Or will will that, for example, maybe bottle-neck it?
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Re: Using car's battery for yurt power?

Post by GreyCoyote » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:30 pm

Ever: For the $$$ its hard to beat this one for a single-battery configuration. It will handle the deep-cycle needs just fine.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Schumacher-Sp ... r/13005744
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