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Discussion Starter #1
Our housemate has a power chair that he uses to get around. He has a set of batteries on his chair that are just over a year old and still work pretty well. But when it comes to the chair, pretty well isn't quite good enough. He has to power down and let them take a breather when he's on excursions that are over five miles. For him, that just doesn't work. So, he's going to get a new set.

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What we're wondering is can we convert those older batteries into a power source for a few of our 12 volt props and lights? Currently, we have a problem tripping the circuit breakers when we try to turn on all our front yard lights and props. And, I want to add more. Those blank spaces you see on our stairwell will have new mausoleums this year, each with it's own effect. We have hopes of adding a few more wiper motor props into the graveyard as well.

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I now pull from three different circuit breakers to keep everything up and running. However, one of those will have an even greater load this year as we're building a witches shack. I have a cauldron creep and a set of Jack-O-lanterns going up our stairwell that currently runs on their own 15 amp circuit breaker. (That's way more power than they need, but it's easy to set them all up on the same extension cord coming from the back of our house.) The pumpkins are lit up with those little C-7 bulbs, but this year I was going to switch them over to 3 watt LED flickering bulbs using the same candelabra 110 v sockets. We could just as easily switch them over to 12 volt flickering LEDs running off of a 12 volt power supply. All that we know how to do, and we're comfortable making the changes.

What I have no clue about is whether I can safely put a wiper motor, a reindeer motor, and those lights onto batteries adapted for a standard three pronged outlet, and whether those batteries would last for four hours running those props. If you savvy folk give me a thumbs down on that idea, could the battery be adapted to run all my eagle eye LEDs that light up the graveyard? I think the demands would be far less than the wiper motor, but would free up one outlet used for the graveyard lights to be used for the new props. I am just hoping to take a bit of the load off of my house current, by adding another source of power. If there is a way to run them in tandem as they do on the power chair, we could charge them during the day and put them into service each night.

Please let me know what you think. I know a number of you are way more skilled and savvy about these things. If you give me options, I think we can pull them off. We have a passable electrician in the house who can follow directions. Of course, the more detailed you are with your design options, the more likely we will be to create a critter that will work and be safe. Thanks for any help in advance
 

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Certainly doable for your LED lighting but the wiper motors draw a lot of power and may not be a good choice. Not saying it's impossible but 4 hours on the batteries is probably asking a lot, especially since these seem to be close to end of life. You can certainly double them up for your circuit via parallel connection (positive to positive, negative to negative). That keeps the voltage at 12 but doubles the available amp hours. One thing to be aware of when using a large battery for a power source is that proper fuses need to be utilized for each circuit, preferably as close to the battery as possible. Large DC batteries have a lot of available amps and in the event of a short, the wire will melt very quickly and fire is a real possibility if anything combustible is near.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Certainly doable for your LED lighting but the wiper motors draw a lot of power and may not be a good choice.
I had all but convinced myself of that shortly after making the post. It seemed like such a great idea to centralize the props and lights close to the batteries, but I realize now that running the lights from them would be a much more practical choice. I always feel good when I have people I know are skilled in the craft telling me the same thing.

You can certainly double them up for your circuit via parallel connection (positive to positive, negative to negative). That keeps the voltage at 12 but doubles the available amp hours. One thing to be aware of when using a large battery for a power source is that proper fuses need to be utilized for each circuit, preferably as close to the battery as possible. Large DC batteries have a lot of available amps and in the event of a short, the wire will melt very quickly and fire is a real possibility if anything combustible is near.
This is the kind of thing I guess we will have to read up on. The batteries are only a year old, and they're meant to last much longer. It's just our housemate is a big guy and he never takes chances when it comes to his transport. I figure batteries that can run a heavy chair and equally heavy guy around for about three hours and go over five miles have probably still got a bit of life in them. We're used to buying the little AA and 9 volt battery packs and using them to run difficult to place lighting and props, but the jump to 55 AH is a pretty big one. If it can't be done safely, I don't want to do it. But that's where other's knowledge comes into play.
 

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Using large DC batteries for a power source is safe as long as you use proper fuses. The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to battery age, the age doesn't necessarily relate to how much life is remaining. Typically a deep cycle battery can only be drained and recharged X amount of times. So batteries that are heavily cycled for a power chair will reach end of life sooner than if they were lightly cycled. That being said, it sounds like these will work fine for some of your needs.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Full disclosure: I'm the one that doesn't understand much about the nature of electrical stuff. I can wire a lamp, replace a socket, and that kind of thing, but I'm not that good on cannibalizing one electrical source to make it into another. Since I'm the one online here at the forum, I often ask folks such as yourself the best way to do things, and then present all my findings to the one who actually does understand most of what you're telling me. That said, I also run around the net as soon as you tell me I need to find proper fuses and see if I can find things that will address those needs with a premade dumaflache. I was thinking something along the line of those automotive 12 v dc to 110 ac converters that I could use to simply plug in all my currently wired 110 adapted lights. (Like the pumpkins that use candelabra sockets to power their lights and standard 110 plugs, or the 10 W LED spots that are all prewired for 110.)

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They seem to come prewired with the fuses, cooling fans, and other things that make them seem a viable choice if push came to shove and I was the one who had to figure out how to rig the batteries. I suspect that there is a simple $3 way to do it that only requires experience, and I'm all for that if I can find it, but worst case scenario with the worst electrician in the house, would this kind of thing work out okay?
 

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Yes a power inverter will certainly work although a decent one isn't cheap. I apologize for the misinterpretation, I thought you were looking to power LED's directly from DC current, (like your eagle eyes).
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yes a power inverter will certainly work although a decent one isn't cheap. I apologize for the misinterpretation, I thought you were looking to power LED's directly from DC current, (like your eagle eyes).
Actually, you're totally right in your interpretation. This year, we're taking eagle eyes and going the route of having them all come into a central hub where we were set to power them up with an appropriately powered wall wart. But if linking that central box to the batteries could work instead, that would be the best case scenario. It would mean I could put it all under our porch out of the rain and elements, but still have it right on top of the outdoor electrical sockets for recharging every day. That would be my preference, but learning how to piggy back the batteries, how to properly recharge them, how to connect them to the junction box are all things that at present I have no clue how to do. What I asked above is kind of a "what if I can't figure out how to do anything you suggested. Would this work?" approach.

I go into a lot of things that way. I have what I want to do... what you suggested. And then, I have what I think might work if I can't figure out how to do what you suggested... the inverter box. I keep seeing in my mind something akin to the little caps that are put onto a 9 volt battery coming out from the junction box and clamping onto the batteries. I'm not sure that's even doable, but if it is and the proper fuses can be added to that line where appropriate, that's what I'm hoping to do. But I think by saying that, you're probably going to get a much better idea of just how far my wants are ahead of my understanding and abilities. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So... the education so far. I have learned how to piggyback the batteries together. I think I understand how to join a line to those joined batteries, but I'm totally clueless about the appropriate fuse I should be buying to add to the cord coming from our eagle eye junction box. Do you have a suggestion for that?
 

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A question - are all the lights I see in your yard LEDs? If not then the first thing I would to is replace ALL of them with LEDs. I think you may be able to achieve your goal using the inverted but it sounds like that solution is going to be a total pain in the a$$.
 

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So... the education so far. I have learned how to piggyback the batteries together. I think I understand how to join a line to those joined batteries, but I'm totally clueless about the appropriate fuse I should be buying to add to the cord coming from our eagle eye junction box. Do you have a suggestion for that?
Without knowing how many Eagle Eyes you plan on using for each circuit and how much current each one draws, I think you're probably safe with a 25 amp automotive type fuse. If you have a multimeter, you can check the current draw of one Eagle Eye and multiply that by how many will be tied together. Be sure to connect them together in parallel, not series. As for "piggy backing" the two batteries (paralleled is the correct term), you may not even want to do that if you have multiple leads (circuits) going to the batteries. Split up your lights and connect half to each battery. Use whatever connection is easiest for you at the battery, even alligator clips are fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
A question - are all the lights I see in your yard LEDs? If not then the first thing I would to is replace ALL of them with LEDs. I think you may be able to achieve your goal using the inverted but it sounds like that solution is going to be a total pain in the a$$.
This year, the last of the incandescent will go LED. But those were only the small C-7 lights in the stairwell jack-o-lanterns and a couple of strings of Christmas lights that light up the sign and the cauldron creep's firepit. We do have some of the whirling Gemmy lights in different colors, but I think they're powered by LEDs. That said, almost every light we have is being powered using a 110 adapted plug. I'm not sure how that effects the draw on electrical power from the source, but I do know that the 10W LED spotlights we use are the ones that invariably trip the circuit breaker as we add them to the mix of lights in the front yard. They are all RGB prewired for 110 critters.

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We don't seem to have a problem as long as I keep the power coming from the three different sources, but if we keep adding to the mix with new motors and lights running, I thought it might help to take advantage of the batteries as they're free. Maybe what we really need to do is have an electrician come out and rewire our outlets for 20 amp, but that I know is pricey. We'd wind up wiping out three years of our budgets just to get the power we need. hahaha
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Without knowing how many Eagle Eyes you plan on using for each circuit and how much current each one draws, I think you're probably safe with a 25 amp automotive type fuse. If you have a multimeter, you can check the current draw of one Eagle Eye and multiply that by how many will be tied together. Be sure to connect them together in parallel, not series. As for "piggy backing" the two batteries (paralleled is the correct term), you may not even want to do that if you have multiple leads (circuits) going to the batteries. Split up your lights and connect half to each battery. Use whatever connection is easiest for you at the battery, even alligator clips are fine.
We intend to power the eagle eyes by running their wiring back to a single power source using RCA jacks. The eagle eyes will have their own wiring that plug into extension cords with multiple RCA inputs. Those extension cords will eventually wind their way back to the RCA power box. From the box, a single 12 volt wall wart of proper amperage is used to power the entire unit. It's an old approach, but it does seem to have a history of people using it for years without complications. Done this way, I don't think we need to worry about doing the eagle eyes in parallel, but we might find bypassing the wall wart in favor of a simple direct connection to a 12 volt battery more effort than it's worth.

I watched videos about paralleling batteries for RV use, and they always seemed to have wiring that was made to take the power and convert it to AC. I have seen multiple options of smaller boxes that do that, and I am assuming that such a box is located somewhere in the RV. I was hoping that maybe that conversion would just require some sort of resistors to make sure the flow of 12 volt electricity was consistent and fuses to make sure if anything did spike, it shut everything down.

This is where I rely on people who have done electrical over the years to smack me upside the head if it's just a lamebrain idea that doesn't justify the work for the results.
 

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If you're going to have a cord for each Eagle Eye that's a lot of RCA jacks at your main distribution box. With a set of jacks for each light you are already connecting them parallel (all positives spliced and all negatives spliced). Why not make it easier on yourself by splicing all of them that head out in the same general direction. Nothing special is needed to connect two batteries parallel, just use decent gauge wire and go pos to pos, neg to neg, done. As long as your Eagle Eyes are made for 12v you don't need any resistors, just a fuse.
 

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Guessing is not a good way to solve a problem. So, 1st I would get someone who knows electricity to help you with your situation.

Regarding the battery. My gut reaction is that is may be best to sell the battery and use the funds to buy plug-in power supplies.

-Joe
 

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the biggest down side to using DC power is the power lose over distance. You need to match the power cable size to provide sufficient power at the far end of the circuit. the up side is you can move the batteries to be close to the load and get by with smaller cable. I would suggest you keep the runs as short as possible, use the largest wire you can between the battery and load so the battery is able to provide power for the max time it can. I just ran a 10 amp load fifty foot with a one per cent loss and the power wheel calls for a 350 power cable. that is a cable about an inch in diameter of pure copper stranded wire. which would cost more than your whole project. Keep it close and use 12 gauge copper wire is your best bet on heavy loads like motors. LED lights pull milliamps so you can get by with much smaller wire over longer runs. if you are worried about frying your hardware get a spec sheet and add up all the current loads and add twenty per cent to get a fuse size. Look at instantaneous voltage when it first cranks up and if it is a high peak voltage use a slow blow fuse. wire it in line back at your power source on the positive side right by the battery. You might want to add fuses at each component just in case one of them fries. you have to calculate each fuse size according to that load. components wired in parallel have constant voltage on all components, circuits wired in series have constant current for each component. if the components are very expensive I would make sure there was a fuse in line for each of them. if they are cheap I would not bother after all fuses can fail for no reason and always at the worse possible time.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Here's a picture of what is currently being used. Pardon my inability to be more specific. I'm the one who totes them around the front yard placing them. I'm not always sure how they're configured.

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We only had five of the lights last year as we were testing the idea. We had a 9 volt 2 amp wall wart powering all five lights from a single junction box with no problems. However, this year I hope to expand the number of lights we put out. We have additional spaces we can fill using the RCA junction box, and lots of male end RCA extension cords. The biggest problem we have is that our house electrician doesn't actually like working with the RCA adapters that have to be attached to each light. But that's a family problem that none of you can fix. :)

So, of all the lights, props, etc, that we have, the junction box that powers the eagle eye spots seems the most viable for a 12 volt battery retooling. The lights are all prewired for 12 volt capacity, so the batteries shouldn't cause any of them to overheat.

Taking all the advice you've given so far, and things I've found on the net, here comes the part where I tell you what I hope to do, and what I think I need to do to make that happen. I'm hoping you can tell me first: if I'm on the right track, and second: fill in the missing pieces of what I don't quite get or things you think I need to consider.

First, setting up the batteries to work in parallel. I know I need to make cables to join them in parallel. However, the batteries state they have a type P terminal.

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This one threw me for a loop. But if I understand correctly, for what I'm doing I would use 6 gauge wire with ring terminals and then attach them to the battery with washers, nuts, and bolts through the hole in the P terminal. The wire gauge I'm choosing came from a guide telling me what gauge to use for a 12 volt 55 ah battery set up with under 6 meters of wire being used to parallel the batteries.

What I'm going to try to convince our electrician to do is create a box similar to the one found at:

Our "box" would have only have the voltage meter and the on/off button. It also won't be a plastic box as I have yet to see any box that lets you tote around 84 pounds of batteries. But it seems to me, the wiring approach used in the video would create a viable option to wire our RCA junction box directly to the batteries. It would also allow me to flip a switch and turn the lights on and off every night, and then in the morning, go in and hook up a battery charger to the two batteries.

And that's a question I still have if I create a similar wiring approach. Can I simply take the wires coming off the fuse box and wire them directly into the wiring that once held the 12 volt wall wart? It has an input barrel connector that was used with the wall wart, so couldn't I just wire a similar output barrel connector to the outgoing power source from the fuse box and shove them together? Won't the power coming from the batteries be exactly the right voltage and amperage to run the lights without any go between?

Okay. That's where I'm at. Thanks for reading it all. I know I have a lot of words for stuff you probably understand with far less, but I hope to be as clear as possible. Hang in there. Something wonderful will come out of all your help.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Guessing is not a good way to solve a problem. So, 1st I would get someone who knows electricity to help you with your situation.

Regarding the battery. My gut reaction is that is may be best to sell the battery and use the funds to buy plug-in power supplies.

-Joe
We have plenty of plug in power supplies to run the haunt, we just don't necessarily have plenty of power. Circuit breakers trip when we add to much to the mix, and we were just trying to figure out a way to reuse the batteries to help ease the load. If it turns out that we can't really do much with them, we'll just recycle them and be done with the grand experiment. That's the purpose of this discussion. To find out how viable it really is. Some of the folks whose responses you're reading are actually very skilled electricians. That's why I'm here picking their brains. :)
 

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We have plenty of plug in power supplies to run the haunt, we just don't necessarily have plenty of power. Circuit breakers trip when we add to much to the mix,
The eye LED lights you have been talking about are a TINY amount of draw from the mains, unless you are talking in quantities of thousands. So, don't worry about them at all. Rather, the motors are your most likely issue. They may be your main circuit breaking trigger. If any are binding, they can draw a lot more current. Perhaps it is better to find a way to add a fuse to each motor plug, and when that motor's fuse blows, you know where the problem is.

Note that batteries don't do well if they are fully discharged, so you need special circuitry to cause them to turn off if they get too low. And don't store them discharged either, or they will rapidly loose their ability to take a charge. Batteries are their own set of things to learn, and if you are not very good with electricity, you may be wasting a lot of effort and trashing an expensive battery.

Someone mentioned putting batteries in parallel. Note that if you do this, you really need to also add some protection diodes. This will prevent a battery with a higher charge from re-charging the weaker battery, perhaps at a higher current than it should be done with. Also, if you put batteries in series, a stronger battery will do even more damage by forcing electricity the wrong way through the weaker battery, which will damage it. And since rechargeable batteries will tend to vary in how they age, you are going to have issues if you used multiple batteries, unless you also have the special circuitry designed to protect them.

A bunch of questions still pop into my head.
Have you added up all the amperage your motors should be drawing? I will add that a long power cord (or just a worn spot that reduces the amperage capacity of it) can lower the voltage at the end. If you do that to a motor, it will actually increase its current draw.

Do any have capacitors on the motors, which take in a sudden surge of electricity?

Is your total planned amperage below the amperage rating of the circuit that is blowing?
 

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I figured I was not making myself completely clear, but dc power has a lot of loss on long runs, so depending on what the load is, the distance run, and power load determines the size of the cable. I was thinking 12 gauge wire for a DC wiper motor some one mentioned. the larger the wire the less load the motor puts on the battery, which means the battery will last longer, Just long as you don't get carried away on the cable size . LED lights pull little in the way of power so unless you are running a very long distance between the power source and the lights you don't need a very large cable. Still the best thing to do is keep DC power runs short.
 
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