Starcraft Battery Charging - best setup for free camping

MickB

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Nov 24, 2017
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#1
Hi All,

We'll be picking up our 17.58-3 OB in Feb 18 and I was after people's thoughts on different options
for charging van battery/batteries if mostly free camping. The new Journeys will have the J-Hub BMPro system
which I'd say is very similar to previous systems. My understanding, battery charging is done by the battery
management module by solar and/or a trickle charge through pin 2 on the 12 pin plug (3mm2 wire on Jayco plug
wiring document) while towing. Is this correct?

Is there another common mod ie DC-DC charger circuit to speed up battery charging while towing? Especially
if it's a short trip to the next campsite and the sun is not shining. Or is just adding another battery the better
option rather than modifying charging circuit and then if budget allows maybe buying a good quality small generator?

Thanks
 
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Drover

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#2
I would check out the BM Pro manual, you can download a very informative copy, I know the manual provided by New Age for the system is rubbish, not sure on the Jayco version of the manual, basically you either use it or shut it all down and rewire............I wouldn't worry too much about charging from the vehicle for short trips, upgrading the tug connection can be a costly evolution for little gain really, if you have an aux battery in tug for a fridge etc then yes but for just the van when you have solar, No.......................... I rely on solar with a gennie back up which is hardly used except for when washing machine needs a run........If your getting compressor fridge then 2 batteries and 200w plus panel would be minimum.
 

MickB

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Nov 24, 2017
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#3
I would check out the BM Pro manual, you can download a very informative copy, I know the manual provided by New Age for the system is rubbish, not sure on the Jayco version of the manual, basically you either use it or shut it all down and rewire............I wouldn't worry too much about charging from the vehicle for short trips, upgrading the tug connection can be a costly evolution for little gain really, if you have an aux battery in tug for a fridge etc then yes but for just the van when you have solar, No.......................... I rely on solar with a gennie back up which is hardly used except for when washing machine needs a run........If your getting compressor fridge then 2 batteries and 200w plus panel would be minimum.
1512825019072.png

Thanks Drover I finally found a pretty good manual off the Setec website. The last paragraph is interesting.

I wasn't sure whether a Ctek or Redarc DC DC charger connected direct to the van battery terminals might be the go. I've
never used one, only heard of other people using them, and I'm not sure what would happen if the solar panel is trying to
charge the battery via the J35b at the same time as the car (external source) is trying to charge it.
But a second battery like you said would be cheaper and easier to install I guess. I will be running a portable 40L compressor
fridge as well as the 3 way fridge in the van. I noticed the Honda eu20i genie is on sale for $1499 until sold out. Very tempted!!
 

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Drover

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#4
That looks like the one, I recently had to get up to speed with the system with a mates van, I think you will find that the BM will switch to whatever is the best power source, it won't charge the batteries from solar if 240 is plugged in, possibly the same when 12v plugged in if tug is better than solar, I have found that I need 2 batteries just to ensure I have better storage. If you eventually fiddle around with the wiring make sure the cables go back on the terminals in the same order or the magic brain box will get confused and a good read of that manual is invaluable.
You will more than likely find that the AUX terminals on the BM have the tug supply plugged in, the absolute best way to work it out is to see how things go once you get it, no sense buying stuff because someone said you need it, "someone" could be wrong, too many go out and spend heaps of $$$ and find they never use it.........

Besides you may need all your $$$$ when you find you really need to upgrade the Playdoh to a Colorado.............:) .....;)

Oh and don't forget the piccies............................:becky:
 

AdrianVVV

New Member
Jul 25, 2017
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Melbourne
#5
Hi Mick,

I'm sure there are a million ways to answer that question depending on how much power you need, how often you will be charging via the car or an external source and how complicated you want to make things. I'm currently putting together a design for a 2012 Expanda for our more off-grid camping and have mentioned some of my thoughts below, I hope they help, mine is slightly more on the complicated side..

Firstly I looked at the BMPro manual you posted. It doesn't appear to have a solar charger, I assume Jayco uses a separate regulator probably direct to the battery. Otherwise I agree with your thoughts the BMPro unit appears "very similar" to that of the previous Setec unit. The Aux input seems slightly different and appears to just connect the terminal to the battery via a relay to allow charging via an external source? (seems odd to me). On the old Setec this terminal trickle charged the battery.

My plan is to have a Projecta IDC25 DC-DC/MPPT Solar unit charge the van battery from the car when running and solar including fixed and portable panels. I can use the portable panels when needed and rely on the fixed for day-to-day use. There are a number of options for the DC-DC including Ctek and Redarc. I chose the Projecta because I've had good experience with their products, it is a nice looking unit with good specs, and the price was right.

To run all this I have a 13mm2 (6GA) from the car aux battery system through to the van via an Anderson connector. The total draw from the car will be near 50A when you add the 3-way fridge, reversing camera (minimal), the DC-DC and consider some voltage drop.

I am also adding a direct line from the car (aux) battery to the van battery that will link the van-car batteries and bypass the DC-DC. This will effectively provide more battery capacity which I can't otherwise fit into the 14ft van. This would only be enabled for stationary situations and as a bonus the van solar charger would also charge the car aux battery. My battery monitor would only track current in and out of the van battery, so monitoring actual usage will be harder. I also accept that when running in this mode the car battery may not achieve full charge due to the voltage drop, however it's probably good enough. I will eventually report in once I get it all up and running (but don't wait up, it'll be a while).

For your install I agree with @Dover, maybe just see how you go after a few short trips, I'm assuming you have factory solar panels and some way of monitoring battery condition i.e. volts, amps, watt hours etc. note the BMPro on it's own doesn't do that. The compressor fridge will be your big issue I think.

Once you have an idea of what you want I recommend sketching out some schematics and planning the install before buying or installing anything. Take your schematic and check it actually fits and all the cable sizes etc. are suitable. I'm about 5 revisions down that path!

Hope that helps, interested to hear what you do.

Adrian
 
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Drover

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#6
The BM Pro does have an integrated solar controller and it all works from a separate monitor which depending on van has a variety of names........I wouldn't buy one myself ad I prefer individual units, far better fail safe, one integrated unit fails you loose the lot.........
 
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MDS69

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Jul 6, 2014
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#7
I thought the OB vans charged the battery via solar at all times ie when set up at camp or driving.
 
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AdrianVVV

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Jul 25, 2017
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#9
Interesting... sounds like there are a number of different ways the vans can come new from the factory. The Jayco website is still showing a Setec unit with an option to install the drifter which sounds different to the BMPro that @MickB is getting. I thought I read somewhere they were changing over to the Jhub system (maybe on this site?), but it isn't clear from their website.
 

MickB

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Nov 24, 2017
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#10
In the 2017 StarCraft range the Coast to Coast monitor was standard and the Drifter was the upgrade option. In the 2018 the J-Hub, or J-Control as the dealers call it on the order forms, is the upgrade option ($599) and has been standard on the 2017 Journeys I thought (could be wrong). But this is only the display interface the brains is still the J35B . My understanding is that the J35B is a staged battery charger for 240V and solar inputs but not for the aux. input ie tow tug pin 2. Thanks for your post @AdrianVVV I haven't had time to fully read it and reply just yet, been a busy day with the kids finishing up school.
 
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MickB

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#11
@AdrianVVV sounds like you have a bit of fun ahead of you. Good luck with it, make sure you let us know how your going with it. It definitely sounds like
your covering all bases. I have no preference on brands myself as long as you buy good gear. My only issue with the old Cteks was that the car input
didn't like the Prados eco alternator and so I had to install a relay to select car or solar panels which then was wired to the solar input only. I think the
latest Cteks have been upgraded and can handle lower inputs on both input terminals.
I have a Ctek D250s dual DC-DC charger in my existing van which I installed together with two 120ah batteries and a 200W panel on the roof.
As long as I don't set the van up in a super shady spot it handles our 1 to 2 week free camp holiday every year plus a couple of other smaller trips.
The main load is the compressor fridge, charging devices, lights all LEDs, fans and the charging of the Companion hot water unit. My main issue will
be getting our new 17.58-3 and not having the same ability to free camp because the charging system is not as versatile without adding a DC-DC charger
into the mix. The whole idea of getting a new van was being able to do more touring which our existing van is not setup to do.
I also agree with @Drover comments and I'll probably have to sell my existing van with all the gear in it which means I don't want to have to go
and spend $$ straight away on another unit. I'll see how I go with two batteries.
And by the way @Drover the Playdoh is here to stay, I've run out of money lol
 
#12
Jayco fitted with BMPro J35 battery management system.
DC to Dc chargers from RedArc or Projector will not work with the J35 unit because they look for a battery to start.


From Setec Customer Support (SETEC)


Mar 7, 16:36 AEDT



As discussed, please find attached Owner's Manual on JHub (J35C power supply and Tablet control unit).
Consider the upcoming BC300 high amp shunt to cater for this connection (should be available about July this year).
Auxiliary charging is recommended to add DC-DC charger\booster, the Miniboost is a BMPro brand that is designed to be compatible with the J35 power supply, where as other brands from RedArc or Projector will not work with the J35 unit because they look for a battery to start.
https://teambmpro.com/product/miniboost/
If you require further assistance please contact us at SETEC Customer Service.
Regards Chan.
 
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MickB

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Nov 24, 2017
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#13
Hi Adventurer, thanks for info.

I'm down to 3 options
- Buy MiniBoost and wire to aux input
- Buy Redarc or Ctek and wire direct to battery ( management system won't recognise the charging though because it has been bypassed)
- Buy a 2nd Ritar 100Ah battery, connect in parallel and update the settings in the J-Control to 200Ah

The most interesting thing I learnt off BMPro was that because there is a wire connected to the aux input of the J35B from factory this disables the solar input when it goes high ie car is connected. So because I wired my car 12 pin as per Jayco's instructions, a 3mm2 hot wire on pin 2 is also wired through the van to the aux input (as well as possibly performing other functions). The J35B manual states that the input does not in itself act as a bulk or staged charger as does the solar input. So I lose the 10A, if sunny, that could be coming from the solar panel (160W) and rely on my 3mm2 wire from my car battery (10 meters) which is being charged by an eco/smart alternator. Can't imagine this will do much charging while I drive to my next campsite? So I will be disconnecting the existing wire into the aux input even if I don't go ahead with any of the 3 options. Unless I buy a caravan cover and then do not plug a 240V lead while stored.

The aux input will accept the bulk/staged output of a MiniBoost apparently and happily charge the battery up to 20A boost or 30A on bypass. Which is interesting because the J35B manual states that the maximum charge rate is 15A. Maybe the aux circuit is treated independently of the built in J35B charger and therefor can pass through more current?

I hope BMPro's comment about other brand chargers not working is true? I've heard of people using the analogy that the power has to be pushed in not pulled in. So the circuit must sense there is a voltage on the aux terminal and only then close the contact which isolates the aux input to start with. This makes sense then if the 'other' brands need to sense a voltage first before they can operate. Very interesting all of this!!

I'm quite happy for construction feedback as I'm trying to learn more about this, these are only my thoughts and opinions.
 
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#15
Hi MickB
I asked the question can I increase my battery storage from 240 amp/hr to 360amp/hr..

From . Setec Customer Support (SETEC)......360Ahr batteries is not a problem of charging but will definately take longer as the J35 is currently charging at Maximum 15Amps. In the near future we will release a 30Amp charger to be available exclusive to Jayco, this can be considered for upgrade at a later stage if you wish. The RedArc and other brand DC-DC chargers is not recommended because they are not compatible to the J35 power supply and needs to be connected direct to battery, this results in the J35 not seeing the auxiliary charge current and will provide an incorrect state of charge reading. This is why we recommend our Miniboost DC-DC charger which compatible to our system
 
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Drover

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#16
I just re- read the OP and really I see no need..............Big Mal has a 200w panel on roof, 200ah of batteries and it is charged by the solar and when on the road its not charged from the Ute at all, the solar does the job, we free camp add a 120w portable and use the Honda for the washing machine, rarely use van parks and when at friends places use 240 just for the fridge, our Projecta 7 stage charger is rarely used so I don't think you need the expense of a DC to DC charger, honestly a waste of money if just for charging the van when it has solar....................We travel for a couple of months at a time so it gets a work out.

So my advice would be to forget about charging from car, add another battery you will get more bang for your $$$$$$

Also we have an inferior PWM solar controller..................
 

MickB

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Nov 24, 2017
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#17
That's a decent amount of storage you have there. Just drive a bit longer before your next campsite.
I have to be a bit careful of my payload so might stick to one battery with MiniBoost and wait and see how that goes.

It's good that Jayco are finally catching up with a half decent BMS.

I think I'll be buying the MiniBoost and wiring a completely separate circuit from the car to the MB into the J35B aux using 6 AWG/13mm2.
Already have the separate circuit for fridge through Anderson. Now I understand why I see some 4wds with two andersons!!

Wire size chart.JPG
 

Drover

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#18
It didn't always have 2 x 100ah batteries, worked well with just one but the extra means I can run things longer, thing is my panel has it all charged up in a couple of hours, if you really need an extra boost from the tug then what chargers everything up when free camping for a week ????? You don't want to be hooking up every day or so to charge .............and when on the road the solar would be charging things up just the same as when your camped.
 
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Crusty181

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#19
It's good that Jayco are finally catching up with a half decent BMS.
I have the Setec III, 2 x 120ah batteries and 1 x 150 panel on the van. One of my batteries is coming up to 10 years old, which was load tested 3 years ago to 100% of its original capacity. The system is all very un-compliated; the panel charges the battery, the Setec III charges the battery via the car and there isnt any confusion or other gizmos. It just works ... so from my perspective Jayco already had a pretty good BMS :)