Obviously we are concerned that the batteries may be failing and at (or approaching) the end of their life. How should we go about checking this, or perhaps seeking their replacement under the 5 year guarantee? We do not have any original paperwork which you may have supplied with the batteries, and assume that any there may be is with Classic Narrowboats. I am contacting them to see whether they have any such details on their records.
I look forward to hearing from you soon."
After that length in service they will need an equalisation charge charge at 25 amps each battery for 24hours and everything should be fine
I emailed them back, thanking them for their response and asking for advice whether to approach a boatyard or a car battery dealer. No response for a day or two, so I looked on the internet and phoned around. No boat yard could help me, but I found Lee at Earlam Auto Electrical, who was very helpful.
As we have already told you, Lee came and took the batteries, charged them and brought them back, but saying that he thought we would go on having trouble with them, as they were not testing well.
Two days before the batteries were back (18th November), Elecsol replied suggesting that a boatyard was probably the best solution. Once the batteries were installed (22nd November), I replied:
"Thanks for that.
In the meantime, I have rung around and the most help offered was by a mobile auto electrics specialist. I took the batteries off and he then put them on charge as you suggested, 25 amps each battery for 24 hours. The batteries were installed back on the boat yesterday.
I shall of course need to see how the batteries function in the next few days, but the auto electrics guy said he thought they were still not right and that we would most likely go on having trouble with them. Like us, he found that they did not hold charge and suggested that we get back in touch with you.
If you have any further advice, please get in touch. Otherwise, I shall contact you again after a few days, when we have been able to assess whether the batteries are performing any better than before."
By the next day, though, when we started cruising again, it was obvious that all was not well with the batteries, so I emailed Elecsol again.
"We returned to the boat today to resume cruising. Despite leaving the batteries trickle charging since Saturday with a solar panel and wind turbine, the voltage when we returned today about 12.30 was below 10 volts. This after having been charged as you stated and reinstalled on Saturday. There has been NO load on the batteries since they were installed.
I have been running the boat engine continuously from 12.30 pm to 8 pm, in the hope that the batteries would recover. During that time, there has been some load, but almost all the time my voltmeter showed a voltage of 13.9 to 14.2 volts. The time is now 9.15pm and the voltage has dropped to 12.26 volts. I would normally expect it to be above this level in the morning, after an evening of TV watching and occasional firing of the boat's central heating system during the night. At the present rate, the voltage will be too low for the heating to fire at all, so we shall be very cold on board.
It seems that the charging which you recommended has not improved the batteries' condition at all, and may in fact have worsened it considerably.
As we live on our boat full time, the prospect of battery failure to this degree is catastrophic, especially at this time of year and with the present weather conditions.
Please can you contact me URGENTLY to arrange for the batteries to be replaced under the 5 year guarantee, as it seems that there is little prospect of their restoration to effective use. We are currently moored up on the Kennet and Avon Canal between Bath and Bathampton.
I hope to hear from you VERY soon. Thank you in anticipation."
No response for two days, so I emailed them again (25th November), with a copy of my last email. "I am disappointed not to have heard from you in response to my email below.
Our present situation is very uncomfortable and entirely due to the lack of proper battery function as detailed below. In addition, we are expending considerable quantities of diesel to attempt to keep a reasonable voltage on board, though this rapidly drops as soon as the engine is stopped.
Please contact me urgently."
Meanwhile, I wondered why I hadn't heard from Classic. Simple answer – I had used an old and obsolete address for them! So I wrote to them again on 25th November, getting an immediate and helpful reply.
"Hi Dave and Val,
Sorry to hear you are having problems with your Elecsol batteries. If there are any problems elecsol will usually ring us for purchase date, so we can confirm the batteries were supplied by us and when. We have no records from Dave’s time, when he closed down he took all records with him, but if you can tell me the date of collection of your boat, I can confirm the date to Elecsol. This should sort out any warranty problems, they are usually very good with their warranties. When you hear back from Elecsol please let me know and I will see what I can do.
Good old Bill! We had seen him and the rest of the team when we called in on our way through Wheelton back in July 2008, and could see that Classic was in good hands after Dave retired. I replied:
That's great. I have just checked our records and see that we made the final payment on 25th March 2007, so that is the best date to work to, I guess.
I hope to get some contact with Elecsol today. They seem to be slow to reply to emails, so I shall try phoning them a little later. Hopefully they will be happy to refer to you for confirmation, as you say.
Thanks for your help."
I phoned Elecsol later that day (26th November) and left a message on the answerphone. Then phoned again later and made this note of the conversation:
Spoke to S**** at Elecsol 16:55 on 26/11/09. Says not full guarantee for narrowboat use, but will replace where there is a dead cell or give significant discount on replacement battery.
He will now look at my earlier emails and send a reply.
Time went on ticking by, the weather was getting more wintry and our battery situation was getting worse. I emailed again on 28th November to remind Elecsol that our situation was urgent:
"I continue to wait for any response to my earlier emails (see below).
On Thursday afternoon at 4:54 pm, I phoned Elecsol on 0800****** and spoke to S****. I had earlier phoned and left a message on the answerphone, to which I received no reply.
S**** gave me some general information about guarantees being limited when the batteries are used on narrowboats, which I had never heard or read before. He also said that he would look at my earlier emails and send me a reply. To date nothing has arrived.
The state of the batteries is so bad that, even after several hours of charging immediately before, and with the boat engine still running to charge the batteries, a very short load from our washing machine to bring the water temperature up a little caused the inverter to warn of low voltage and threaten to cut out.
I am now running the engine for up to 8 hours each day, whereas normally 2-3 hours running has been sufficient to keep the batteries charged, and still they lose charge so badly that the voltage has always dropped to 10 volts or less by the morning, and no appliances will work properly until the engine is running. The refrigerator shows its low voltage warning light and the cabin lights dim dramatically when the water pump runs.
I accept that batteries will gradually lose effectiveness over their life, but they should still remain fit for purpose. Ours are not, and show signs of continuing deterioration.
We need a meaningful response from you VERY SOON, with a definite plan of action to remedy the situation. Your suggested remedial action seems to have made the batteries worse, and your 5 year guarantee is beginning to look rather meaningless.
If you need to confirm the date of purchase of our batteries, please contact Bill Southworth at Classic Narrowboats on 01254 831444, who will be able to confirm that we took delivery of our boat on 25th March 2007, complete with these Elecsol batteries.
I note from your replies to my earlier questions that your computer seems to be working to an American date format and time zone. Is this a mistake, or is this correspondence actually taking place across the Atlantic? If so, presumably Steve who answered my phone call on Thursday is either based in the USA himself or will be given access to this correspondence in order to reply.
Please give this matter your urgent attention.
I await your reply."
Please read down for all the background to our situation. I have spelled out the continuing and escalating problem and stressed the urgency of it. To no avail!
In brief:– We live on board our narrowboat and are totally dependent on the batteries to run the electrical systems on board. We currently need to run the engine for many hours each day, simply to get some charge into the batteries. Even then, the voltage drops substantially overnight, without any use of the inverter and minimal use of 12 volt appliances such as refrigerator and lights. The heating system is turned off, as it uses some power and when we tried leaving it on through the night (on thermostatic control), it simply failed in the early hours of the morning due to insufficient voltage. All of this started to develop some weeks back, and was the reason for my initial enquiry (8th November). The performance of the batteries has become substantially worse since following the advice given in your email of 10th November. Since that date, no one at Elecsol seems prepared to take any action, not even acknowledging my emails, let alone replying to them.
You may be aware that the very poor reputation of both Elecsol batteries and the (lack of) customer support has become well documented on the internet, perhaps especially on canal boating forums such as Canal World ( http://www.canalworld.net/forums/index.php? ). I am sure that you would not wish this to continue but, while you continue to treat customers as you have treated me, you can only expect it to not only continue but also increase exponentially.
In fact, when I recently asked a national battery supplier about the warranty on Numax batteries and said that I was having difficulty getting the manufacturers of my current batteries to honour the guarantee on them, the response was "You have no need to worry about the N**** warranty. If you are having issues currently, I guess you have Elecsol batteries..? They have a 5 year warranty; year 1 being with the retailer (where there are no problems) and subsequent years being with Elecsol direct where people have reported problems. We stock these purely as people are blinded by the 5 year warranty and will take nothing else. " Speaks for itself!
If you are prepared to honour your much-trumpeted 5-year warranty, then I shall have no hesitation in passing on the good news in Canal World and other forums. Equally, if you persist in your current attempts to ignore my situation, I shall not hesitate to pass on the information to as many as possible, and reserve the right to pursue the matter legally.
I trust that I shall receive at least one meaningful reply from you without delay."
Please return your proof of purchase and guarantee card and we will replace the batteries.
As explained before (see below), we have never had any paperwork regarding the warranty on these batteries. They were supplied new with the boat which we purchased from Classic Narrowboats on 25th March 2007. If you contact Bill Southworth at Classic Narrowboats on on 01254 831444, he will be able to confirm that we took delivery of our boat on 25th March 2007, complete with these Elecsol batteries. He tells me that he will be happy to confirm the date of purchase of our boat and " This should sort out any warranty problems, they are usually very good with their warranties. When you hear back from Elecsol please let me know and I will see what I can do."
I trust this will be sufficient for your requirements. If you need any further information from me, please do not hesitate to make contact."
In the meantime, we continue to need to run our boat engine for 8 hours or more each day, just to have a little charge in the batteries. Under British Waterways guidelines, engines or generators should not be run after 8 p.m., so that is when we turn it off. By 10 p.m. or shortly after, the voltage is well below 12 volts and the heating system will not fire. The boat therefore gets very cold and the heating cannot be re-started until 8 a.m., when we are permitted to run engines again.
The refrigerator (with small freezing compartment) also fails overnight every night and we have needed to throw out any frozen food as unsafe to eat. In the mornings, the refrigerator itself is little colder than the rest of the boat.
This morning there was ice on the outside of the boat and on the inside of the windows. There could hardly be a worse time for us to be without effective batteries.
You have all the information you need to proceed to replace our defective Elecsol batteries without delay. I find it very hard to understand why you are apparently making no effort to speed the process along.
Your email of Wednesday 2nd December (below) clearly indicated a readiness to honour your 5-year warranty. Please do not delay any further."
He said, OK, if Classic will let them know in writing, confirming their sale to me of the batteries, with dates, etc., they can go ahead. Total change of manner at this point, starts calling me 'Dave', much less annoyed. He suggests that Classic fax them the details. "If we get a fax from Classic on Monday, we can replace the batteries on Tuesday"
Thanked him, verified that fax No is as on website – he confirms. I said I will ask Classic to fax them on Monday. All OK"
Please contact me on 07792 592068 to arrange delivery of the new batteries, or if there is any other information that you need to check.
Thank you for your help with this."