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Old 04-23-2012, 05:46 PM   #1
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Is my battery power sufficient?

We are going on our "maiden voyage' camping trip this coming Memorial Day week. My wife and I are both excited and nervous about our trip to New Hampshire's White Mountains. My question is: I anticipate the mornings being cold up there so i was wondering, can I run the propane furnace on just the trailer's battery power alone? I imagine the power would be adequate for the initial ignition to get the furnace going but what about the fan on the furnace's blower? Can the trailer's battery run that for a few hours or will it kill my battery? We will not be hooked up to any city water or electric, just the power from our trailer's battery. Just how much of a load can we put on these batteries without the use of a generator? Thank you kindly for any helpful suggestions.
Jim
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Old 04-23-2012, 05:49 PM   #2
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What kind of batteries and how many?
How long are you going to be?
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Old 04-23-2012, 06:08 PM   #3
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And how are you monitoring depth of discharge? There is n o substitute for knowing the stat of charge.
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Old 04-23-2012, 07:18 PM   #4
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The answer to the question is "no" but the real issue is how to make do.

The furnace runs at about 100 watts.

Your batteries have about 12 usable watt hours per pound. (a typical RV battery weighs 50 - 70 pounds for about a kilowatt hour of electrical energy)

The fridge, alarms, and other such things run about 10 watts. (240 watt hours per day. maybe)

Many folks find that keeping the rig warm at night (65-75 degrees) with the furnace will do in a battery over night.

For battery state, use a digital voltmeter (see What’s the battery doing? Start with a DVM). After a least a half hour of no significant charging or discharging, anything over 12.6v is a full battery. When it gets down to 12.4v you need to think about recharging, At 12.2v recharging is a high priority. The battery should not go below a resting voltage of 12.0v (assuming a 12v system).

The best thing you can do for your batteries is to make sure you have a converter that does 3 stage charging and has a maintenance mode that keeps a full charge on the battery when you aren't using it and implements a suflation inhibiting technique.

Learning how to live comfortably with the battery you have takes a bit of learning. Don't use the RV lights unless you really need to and then only when really needed. Use blankets to keep warm and the furnace just to keep from freezing except maybe to warm up things in the morning. We get so used to taking electrical power for granted it can be a bit of a challenge to avoid over-doing the battery.

If you really want to avoid running the battery down, start paranoid about using too much on batteries until you find out just what you can get away with.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:14 PM   #5
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A good design will have the batteries sufficent to last the night in cold weather.. Alas, I won't comment on how good the designs are (See above post starting with the word "NO") Many trailers are a bit "Anemic" in this regard.

You can always add additional batteries, in parallel. Just hook 'em up with a good set o fjumper cables if you can not mount ''em, If you can mount 'em use starter cable (the kind with bolt hole lugs on each end)

I'd at the very least "Double" what you have (Add a 2nd identical battery). Just to be safe.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:54 PM   #6
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What you have now for battery power is more than adequate for your overnight needs. As long as you have an generator or another way to recharge during the day time you will be fine. I had my class c with no winter packages out in -4 degree f temps and used its battery only for the operation of the furnace. I only was on battery power for a period of about seven hours a night while sleeping. I am sure you will agree that your demand for heat from your furnace will be a lot less than mine was.
Enjoy your first camping experience.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryanL View Post
The answer to the question is "no" but the real issue is how to make do.

The furnace runs at about 100 watts.

Your batteries have about 12 usable watt hours per pound. (a typical RV battery weighs 50 - 70 pounds for about a kilowatt hour of electrical energy)

The fridge, alarms, and other such things run about 10 watts. (240 watt hours per day. maybe)

Many folks find that keeping the rig warm at night (65-75 degrees) with the furnace will do in a battery over night.

For battery state, use a digital voltmeter (see What’s the battery doing? Start with a DVM). After a least a half hour of no significant charging or discharging, anything over 12.6v is a full battery. When it gets down to 12.4v you need to think about recharging, At 12.2v recharging is a high priority. The battery should not go below a resting voltage of 12.0v (assuming a 12v system).
The DVM gets plugged into my truck or the trailer? I am not sure where to plug it in or even if my trailer has a power outlet, or what used to be called a cigarette lighter.

The best thing you can do for your batteries is to make sure you have a converter that does 3 stage charging and has a maintenance mode that keeps a full charge on the battery when you aren't using it and implements a suflation inhibiting technique.
I do have a converter. I am not sure if it is a 3 stage. Say I was paranoid about discharging my battery, could I hook my truck up to it during the day and recharge the trailer battery so that it will be fully charged for the evening? And if so, does my truck need to be running? For how long? I will do as you and others have suggested and not use the lights unnecessarily.

Learning how to live comfortably with the battery you have takes a bit of learning. Don't use the RV lights unless you really need to and then only when really needed. Use blankets to keep warm and the furnace just to keep from freezing except maybe to warm up things in the morning. We get so used to taking electrical power for granted it can be a bit of a challenge to avoid over-doing the battery.

If you really want to avoid running the battery down, start paranoid about using too much on batteries until you find out just what you can get away with.
Believe me, I will start paranoid. If my wife freezes at night, this trip will be a bust and I'll never hear the end of it and my brief foray into the world of camping will come to a screeching halt!
(Please reread your reply to me as I have typed in bold letters some more questions.)
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:52 AM   #8
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You said a trailer, so I'm guessing you have only one battery of moderate size. That will possibly run down overnight if the furnace runs very much becasue the furnace fan uses a fairly large amount of battery amps. And if you use it one night, it will need recharging before the next.

Since your wife's comfort is critical, I would get an extra battery before starting out.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:41 AM   #9
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Best place to measure voltage is right at the battery terminals but it is more convenient to use one of the cigarette lighter outlets in the trailer with a plug-in DVM. This usually works if your connections are reasonably good and you don't have any significant electrical currents going when you measure voltage.

Note that the 'idiot lights' on many control panels are simple volt meters. The real problem with them is you have to 'calibrate' them and think of them like a volt meter (read for state of charge only after at least a half hour of no significant charging or discharging). You are looking for trends, not instantaneous assessments.

re: "could I hook my truck up to it during the day and recharge the trailer battery" -- If you find your battery flat in the morning, this is the way (the backup) to keep the wife happy. There should be a device in the truck to isolate the starting and house batteries to keep from running the starting battery flat along with the house battery. When you start up the truck, that device connects the house battery to the truck alternator which will charge the house battery - or provide enough juice to run things while the motor is on.

The big motor isn't the best option for charging house batteries. A genset is a better fit for size and purpose. Solar's wimpy but can work, too.

A full and complete battery charge takes 8 - 12 hours with a proper charger. What most folks do while off grid is to provide a couple of hours of charge to get the battery up to 90% or so and then full charge when back on grid. - of course, if you spend 4 to 6 hours a day on the road, the big motor does get a chance to put a good charge in the house battery but running the engine for charging alone is like using a sledge hammer to swat flies.

Do check into your converter. I have many friends whose battery problems were solved by upgrading to something like a Progressive Dynamics with ChargeWizard type converter.

A friend (with a lot of experience and who should know better) ran his batteries flat because he had the satellite dish going on an inverter (400 watts) plus the kitchen dining table light (100+ watts) for the evening. The weather turned cold and he didn't have enough battery to last the night. whoops. Now he's looking at LED lighting and less power hungry entertainment.

Batteries just don't store much electrical energy so it is easy to over-do usage if you don't have battery saving habits well entrenched. As you can see in this thread, some folks have it down pat. I know many others who struggle with it much like they struggle to lose weight and keep fit.

Always have a backup plan. This is one reason why camping with friends who have 'been there, done that' and have resources you can borrow is a comfort as well as a lot of fun. Join a club that does rallies and you'll learn a lot and gain a lot.
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