Northstar or Odyssey for trailer/solar application? Other options to consider?

Outside somewhere

Overland certified public figure brand ambassador
I need two AGM batteries for a trailer that will power a large fridge, led lights, run a 1000w inverter, charge small electronics etc. I am undecided on the solar setup but it will be around 150/200w. I'll have power coming from the jeep while in transit.

After looking here and elsewhere I am trying to verify the consensus was or still is that northstar and odyssey are still go to brands for the task. Specifically looking at the NorthStar Group 31 103Ah AGM Deep Cycle Battery and the Odyssey 31M-PC2150ST Battery 100ah. I considered an east penn/intimidator because there is an east pen facility north of where I live but I've seen a some recent reviews of trouble getting their distributors to honor the warranty. And after having two optima die in less than a year and issues with their warranty I won't touch those.

From what I have seen in reviews it looks like the northstar very slightly edges out the odyssey in personal preference as the warranty is the same and specs are almost the same. With a discount and free shipping the northstar's are $12 cheaper ea.

With that said are there any other options I should be looking at that can handle heat, cold, vibration, hard use etc?
 

Ducky's Dad

Explorer
I am on my third Odyssey 31 in one truck, and my first Northstar in a different truck. The Northstar seems to be a better battery for my situation, because neither truck is a daily driver. I have to put the Odyssey on an AC conditioning charger every couple of weeks, and I never put the Northstar on a conditioning charger. The current Odyssey and the Northstar were installed within a month of each other. The Northstar and Odyssey 31 specs are almost identical, but the Northstar has a tiny edge in reserve capacity, if I remember correctly. The Northstar is $12 cheaper in your market, so that seems to clinch the deal.
 

Outside somewhere

Overland certified public figure brand ambassador
I am on my third Odyssey 31 in one truck, and my first Northstar in a different truck. The Northstar seems to be a better battery for my situation, because neither truck is a daily driver. I have to put the Odyssey on an AC conditioning charger every couple of weeks, and I never put the Northstar on a conditioning charger. The current Odyssey and the Northstar were installed within a month of each other. The Northstar and Odyssey 31 specs are almost identical, but the Northstar has a tiny edge in reserve capacity, if I remember correctly. The Northstar is $12 cheaper in your market, so that seems to clinch the deal.
Thanks, pretty much confirms what I've been reading.

I'm just wondering how these options would do for a dedicated solar setup to run the above mentioned items? I see all these other AGM's that are non labeled, no brand name batteries listed for solar, some have higher AH ratings and are cheaper but I can't find reviews on them, can't find who makes them. Didn't know if any of those were worth looking in too.
 

Ducky's Dad

Explorer
I'm getting close to installing solar on the truck with the Odyssey, just to mitigate the hassle of constantly charging and reconditioning that battery. My current stumbling block seems to be the charge controller, because I would like to use solar to keep the Odyssey topped up, while also charging the two Optima 34Ms that are house batteries. Don't know if charging profiles are significantly different, but 100% OCV is substantially different, 12.85V for Odyssey vs 13.1 or 13.2V for Optimas. I used to charge and condition those batteries independently, but that just burns up a lot of time. Calling Bogart later today to see if they have a profile that will work on both battery types simultaneously. Re the third party batteries, most of the 31 AGMs seem to be private labelled by Deka or Northstar, so you can probably call them to confirm if you find one you like.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
Don't know if charging profiles are significantly different, but 100% OCV is substantially different, 12.85V for Odyssey vs 13.1 or 13.2V for Optimas.
For charging it doesn't matter if the full charge voltage is slightly different - any charge controller is going to float at a voltage that is higher anyway. Most common is 13.6v.

The problem would be that the Odysseys want 14.8v for both bulk and absorb, and that's higher than most batteries would spec. But the Optima charge specs list several profiles. Basically, you could get away with up to 15v as long as you don't overheat the battery.

If it's a temp compensated charge controller, it's going to adjust the voltage based on temp anyway, so just make sure the temp sensor is on the Optimas.
 

Ducky's Dad

Explorer
I left a message for Bogart, no relevant info on their website. Spoke with a tech at Solar Blvd, and he suggested a Morningstar PWM controller if I go with a 12V panel, or an MPPT controller from Morningstar, Outback or Midnight Solar if I can fit a 24V panel. So far, it looks like a single 100-120W 12V panel is the most I can fit, so about 6-7 amps in full sun. I'm still committed to only one controller for space and simplicity considerations, and will favor the Odyssey for charge profile because it is a bigger PITA than the Optimas. The Optimas seem pretty happy no matter what I do to them, but they won't hold 13.1OCV if I charge them simultaneously on shore power with the Odyssey, then disconnect when charging/conditioning is finished
 

ajmaudio

Adventurer
I left a message for Bogart, no relevant info on their website. Spoke with a tech at Solar Blvd, and he suggested a Morningstar PWM controller if I go with a 12V panel, or an MPPT controller from Morningstar, Outback or Midnight Solar if I can fit a 24V panel. So far, it looks like a single 100-120W 12V panel is the most I can fit, so about 6-7 amps in full sun. I'm still committed to only one controller for space and simplicity considerations, and will favor the Odyssey for charge profile because it is a bigger PITA than the Optimas. The Optimas seem pretty happy no matter what I do to them, but they won't hold 13.1OCV if I charge them simultaneously on shore power with the Odyssey, then disconnect when charging/conditioning is finished
What do you want to know about the bogart? The owner will get back to you, he is very helpful in my experience... but I can help offer my experiences as well. As to batteries... you might check out Crown or U.S. Battery. Both made here... both seem to be very well made. I dont have any crowns but I have a group 31 US Battery going into its 3rd season and its been very good. Prices are also very fair, especially given that they arent chinese.
 

Outside somewhere

Overland certified public figure brand ambassador
For charging it doesn't matter if the full charge voltage is slightly different - any charge controller is going to float at a voltage that is higher anyway. Most common is 13.6v.

The problem would be that the Odysseys want 14.8v for both bulk and absorb, and that's higher than most batteries would spec. But the Optima charge specs list several profiles. Basically, you could get away with up to 15v as long as you don't overheat the battery.

If it's a temp compensated charge controller, it's going to adjust the voltage based on temp anyway, so just make sure the temp sensor is on the Optimas.
Fwiw,
If you need different charging profile on different batteries you can always use charge controllers of respective profile but powered from the same solararray.
Example, car needing basically trickle charging, inexpensive small PWM controller will do. Use the expensive superduper controller for cyclic charging the house.
My situation, the car is 24v, house & trailer is 12v.
Since you guys seem so knowledgeable about chargers do either of you have any input on the topic of my post? Thx.
 

Outside somewhere

Overland certified public figure brand ambassador
What do you want to know about the bogart? The owner will get back to you, he is very helpful in my experience... but I can help offer my experiences as well. As to batteries... you might check out Crown or U.S. Battery. Both made here... both seem to be very well made. I dont have any crowns but I have a group 31 US Battery going into its 3rd season and its been very good. Prices are also very fair, especially given that they arent chinese.
I haven't heard of crown so I will look them up. I did see the Georgia made US batt's in a couple of searches but I passed on $260-280 for a one year warranty. Thanks for the info.
 

Ducky's Dad

Explorer
I had some time today so I did some research. Battery recommendations for true solar apps seem to lean toward Trojan, Concorde, Crown, and some seem to favor Lifeline. None of these seem to be the dual purpose batteries (like Odyssey) that most of us seem to favor for our vehicles. In the dual purpose battery realm, there is a lot of support for Odyssey, no one seems to recognize Northstar, and a lot of complaints about Optima, Interstate, and Deka. I considered buying Dekas a couple of summers ago when I got my new Optimas, and my dealer reminded me that the Deka only has a one year warranty and that he gets a lot of warranty claims on them. I bought a Northstar 31 for the Tundra because I wanted something other than the Odyssey 31s that I have had a lot of trouble with. Did not get an Optima 31 because the Optimas do not have the capacity, size for size, that are claimed by Odyssey and Northstar. I did buy a pair of Optima Blue DP 34Ms as my house batteries, and they have been just fine. I have had a pair of Optima Yellow 34s in another truck for five or more years and they have also been fine. I still think that in a DP Grp 31, Northstar is still the way to go. When my current Odyssey 31 fails, I'll almost certainly replace it with a Northstar.

I also researched controllers and have concluded that there is no reason to get an MPPT controller for a small 12V solar array. The better PWM controllers from Morningstar and Bogart seem to be the smart way to go, and they are available with optional monitors. Bogart did call me back and our conclusion is that the SC2030 will work in my application, but because I have two different battery capacities (a G31 and a pair of G34s) with different 100% OCVs, I can't optimize charging for both and the monitor function will not provide useful state-of-charge info other than volts and amps. Bogart said the charge profiles seem to be close enough as to not be an issue, but the different capacities will be the issue. I can use the Bogart controller, but won't get my batteries to 100% off the panels. Morningstar has the Sunsaver Duo controller that allows you to direct the charge to two different batteries or to two separate battery banks independently of each other, from a single panel. Standard charge distribution is 90/10 or 50/50 to the two batteries, and the user can reprogram that if necessary. And there is a remote monitor that works with that controller, so I'm leaning that way. Will call Morningstar tomorrow for more info. Both the Bogart and Morningstar seem to allow user-set parameters (bulk, absorption and float voltage, temp compensation, etc.), but Morningstar has the duo advantage. Bogart suggested I spend some time reading this blog:
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/
Lots of good info there, mostly related to big RV and offgrid solar installations, but some nuggets that apply to us.
Ol' Bob really likes PWM controllers from Morningstar and Bogart, and seems to favor Morningstar for MPPT controllers. He also seems to favor flooded lead acid batteries over most AGMs. There is a lot of material there and I still have to work through a lot of it.
 

ajmaudio

Adventurer
Sounds like your on the right track. I did at least a couple hundred hours of research in solar last year and I would def stay on the Morningstar/ Bogart train. I have both and both do what they are supposed to and do it well. Interested in the duo.. let us know what you find. Flooded vs AGM I do agree flooded makes more sense unless you need the mounting/location options of AGM. I am running flooded, no regrets.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
Since you guys seem so knowledgeable about chargers do either of you have any input on the topic of my post? Thx.
For the camper I have now, I buy decent quality engine cranking batteries and don't abuse them.

Then I buy the cheapest deep cycle I can find, totally ignore the 50% rule and beat the battery to death.

I end up having to replace the deep cycle twice as often, but I pay half as much so it's a wash on price.

But I get double the energy budget and/or carry half the weight for the same energy budget - just depends on how you look at it.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
To program the Duo you'll need their interface and software.

There used to be an issue with that screwing up the controller once in a while, but that was years back so I'd assume it's been fixed long ago.


HandyBob rocks. I only found one mistake in his Battery Puzzle piece.

I too favor flooded. AGM was originally for planes (works at any angle) so definitely get AGM if intending to do acrobatics. Otherwise, flooded has a lot of advantages.
 

Ducky's Dad

Explorer
I too favor flooded. AGM was originally for planes (works at any angle) so definitely get AGM if intending to do acrobatics. Otherwise, flooded has a lot of advantages.
The truck I am dealing with now is a Power Wagon, and a few PW guys who "upgraded" from the factory G65 FLA battery to a G31 AGM have switched back to the FLA because of hassles with the big AGM. On paper, the G31 Odyssey is the way to go, but it's such a big PITA that the FLA makes sense for some. I wanted the extra CCA and reserve capacity of the Odyssey, so I'll stick with a big AGM unless something better comes along. The guys who have gone back to FLA realize that they are sacrificing some capacity and that they will replace the batteries more frequently. Having said that, I'm only getting about 3-1/2 years out of my Odyssey 31s, so they get replaced regularly. Odyssey has told me that shore power conditioning is virtually mandatory with that battery because no factory alternator/charging systems provide the right voltage for that battery (14.7V), so even in a daily driver there will be sulfation.

For my house batteries, I'm stuck with AGM because I have to mount them on their sides. But I have never had charging or maintenance problems with anybody's G34 AGMs, so that's OK.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
The guys who have gone back to FLA realize that they are sacrificing some capacity and that they will replace the batteries more frequently.
Replace more frequently? Why?

Flooded often have better life cycle curves than AGM. That's one of the advantages I mentioned before.
 
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