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Old 01-05-2017, 12:42 PM   #1
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Location: Zephyrhills, Fl
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Advice managing house batteries 36LA

We're very new to Rving and call a 2016 Tiffin 36LA home now. We love it so far but have only made a few short trips and lived only where we had full hook ups. Next month we will be more adventurous and will be hitting road west bound. We'd like advice on managing the house batteries while dry camping a few nights here and there. Our 36LA has four 6V batteries under the steps and there is a central voltage monitor where everything else is located on the kitchen wall. While plugged in it reads 13.4 -13.5 or so. With the engine or generator running that reading goes up around 14.3. I unplugged the power (gen off) and watched this monitor while having only the main ceiling lights and one tv on. Within 10 minutes the reading was down to 12.7, then 12.6, 12.5. I understand when dry camping we should only have on a few lights, although I assume LED's don't draw much power, and only one tv when needed. And the residential frig will continue to kick on and off as needed. Do I need to unplug the other TV's and receivers, etc? And the most important questions is, at what point do I need to kick on the 7000k generator? I see charts out there that show 12.5 as being still 80% changed. Can I go as low as 12.0 before starting the generator?

Thanks for your much appreciated input!

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Old 01-05-2017, 01:38 PM   #2
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with the way things are going lately with crime, etc. You might want to reconsider dry camping and find a KOA, etc. With winter getting started I would guess you will be mostly on I10, so even though you might not run into snow be aware of icy conditions. Good luck on your trip and try to have at least a 1/2 tank of gas, when you stop if your dry camping. Gen should stop if you go below a 1/4 tank of gas. Dave

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Old 01-05-2017, 02:18 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by allegro1x View Post
with the way things are going lately with crime, etc. You might want to reconsider dry camping and find a KOA, etc. With winter getting started I would guess you will be mostly on I10, so even though you might not run into snow be aware of icy conditions. Good luck on your trip and try to have at least a 1/2 tank of gas, when you stop if your dry camping. Gen should stop if you go below a 1/4 tank of gas. Dave
Spoken from non-experience. We boondock almost all of the time. In 10 years as full timers, we have never had a problem with any crime. There are more crooks in RV parks than there are in the wilds. We love the freedom of the night sky, the sound of silence, privacy and no RV park expenses. We would never ever stay in a KOA, why would anyone want to pay that kind of money for a table and fire ring?

Your batteries appear to be weak. You may want to have them checked. You might want to check some of the websites under boondocking that you can find on google for the experience and tips other have to offer. There is a wealth of information. We've been boondocking for over 10 years, and only use RV parks to wash out our tanks, do our laundry and fill backup with water (usually one day). BTW, we spent $136 last year on RV parks.
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:31 PM   #4
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We run our geny when the house batteries get to 12V. We are not full timers but boondock in National Parks a lot.
If we pull an oops and get the house batteries too low to start the geny, we start the motorhome to get the power necessary to get the geny going - plan B you might say.

You might want to test your battery longevity while at a park (disconnect power and see how long you can go until at 12V then plug back in to recharge).

I wouldn't start replacing batteries until you know what you have and what you need. Batteries will show a little lower while under load then increase a little when the load is removed.

You own a self contained home so might as well use it. I'm not an expert, but here's my take:
The residential refrig is probably your major draw = the refrig plus the 'DC to AC inverter' 100% of the time. The 'DC to AC converter/inverter' and associated 120V loads are probably the big draws.

FYI - We turn our Propane RV refrig off when boondocking to save several amps the control board draws - we limit/eliminate items requiring refrigeration and use the refrig as a cooler.

You can unplug the TV/antenna/entertainment - we just plan/watch a DVD on the laptop prior to bedtime or sit by a fire. Anything you can unplug/do without will save power.

Other info - while the geny is running, do all your 120V AC work (vacuum, microwave oven, coffee pot, heat/AC, crank the refrig to coldest setting then turn it back down to normal when geny is shut down, ect). Anything to save power when you are back on the battery. You might schedule your battery charges in the morning (breakfast) and/or evening (TV/lights). Just think power conservation while on the batteries by eliminating non-essential power draws.

This is a link to a LOT of 12V info:
Tom and Amy from Northern Virginia.
2000 Allegro 454/Workhorse P32/TST/Crossfire
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:36 PM   #5
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A full rested battery, will read 12.6 volts at 100% state of charge.
12.0 volts is right around 50% charge. That would be the best time to recharge them, for the longest life of the batteries. Go lower and the life gets much shorter, but no harm unless below about 11.5

I have a battery monitor. It is a Tri-metric brand. It involves installing a shunt device in the negative battery cable.
There is also a simple to install monitor made by Balmar. Just two wires directly to the battery posts and it figures everything from that.
A monitor is the best way to know what's going on with your batteries.

If you read your voltage with the fridge running, it would be lower then if it wasn't running. Using voltage alone for monitoring state of charge is almost fruitless.
Even the battery manafuctures say to get a resting voltage. That means 2 to 24 hours later.

There is a ton of info about living on batteries. I do it for 6 months a year, so I need to treat my batteries right.

If your batteries are failing, don't spend a lot of money on replacement, until you learn how to care for them. The best, expensive, battery will die in two years if abused.
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:55 PM   #6
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You may find this helpful. Most information I have found
indicates going below 50% of charge will greatly shorten
the life of the batteries.
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Old 01-05-2017, 03:26 PM   #7
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As you can see--lots of things to learn about battery management. The chart provided above is a great tool for understanding battery state of charge [SOC]. The key phrase here is: "...a battery at rest". Technically, that is no draws for three hours--so you can't observe a battery under draw to assess SOC--after 3-5 minutes of no draw--better reading.
Key points from your observations: #1- 14-14.2volts is pretty typical for your engine alternator; #2- around 13 volts for your inverter/charger once float stage is attained; and #3- once charging is complete and there are no significant draws or charges, batteries will drop fairly quickly to 12.6 or 12.7 volts [full charged and steady state].
Great questions....dry camp where you want--pay attention to your surroundings-just like your mother taught you [smile].....
PS--don't see anything that wrong with your observations--bats seem pretty normal. However, 4 six-volt bats isn't a very big bank for a residential fridge and watching TV, and perhaps your furnace fan, etc.
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Old 01-05-2017, 03:41 PM   #8
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I think you have a Magnum controller and inverter/converter. If you plan to do a lot of boondocking, I would suggest upgrading your Magnum controller from an RC50 to an ARC50, and adding a ME-BMK shunt.

What it does is allow you to manage your batteries with SOC (State of Charge). It removes the problems and uncertainty caused by fluctuating voltage, depending upon whether the battery is at rest, or drawing current.

SOC is simple and similar to a gas tank, your battery now shows % full. I trigger my auto generator start at 60% and auto stop it at 85% full. You're not looking at voltage, trying to determine whether you are closer to being at rest or consuming current, and then looking up on a chart to figure what you think your SOC is.
DaveB, Raleigh, NC
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:03 AM   #9
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advice house batteries

We have a 2014 36LA and it comes stock with with a Tripplite 1500W modified square wave. We upgraded it to a Magnum 2000W pure sine wave inverter with all options. Cost nearly $4000 for install and options. The reason I bring this up is that the Magnum system is much better at battery maintenance and charging. Not only that, the pure sine wave is much better for electronics and motors. Like the fan motor in the frig and fan in the BR. We are pretty sure that the MSW Tripplite caused our frig electronics to fail. Whirlpool fixed it for $290. Tiffin was just out of warranty.
So just MHO, check your batteries for distilled water and ditch the Tripplite. Can't believe Tiffin puts that in their units. Your batteries will probably last longer with charges and longer lifetime, and you will be rescuing your electronics when dry camping.

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