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Old 06-15-2014, 11:31 PM   #1
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Managing Boondocking Power.

We killed our batteries for the first time last night dry camping in cold and rainy weather. Being from Az the wife isn't tolerant of the local 40 weather, so we had the propane heater fan on through most of the day and evening, plus since we were indoors most of day we were using the lights and other 12 volt stuff much more than usual.

We have two house batteries now, and it seems like there's room for a couple more. Is adding two more batteries a pretty straight forward thing? Are there any other power management strategies we can employ.

Lastly, how long do we need to run the generator each day to fully charge the batteries. Obviously it will be longer with four batteries if we do that.

I certainly have learned that I can't trust the battery monitor lights for any useful information. Other than opening up the battery storage area, disconnecting each battery and taking a meter reading on each, what's a good way to measure, or maybe a rule of thumb to determine charge time.
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Old 06-15-2014, 11:46 PM   #2
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It depends on your batteries and the charger, I'm guessing 3 hrs.
If you have a multimeter you can check the voltage a short little while after turning the gen. of, 12 Volt batteries are generally charged at 12.6 Volt.
Peace of mind would give you a good hardwired battery monitor when boondocking like the Trimetric 2025.
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:33 AM   #3
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Previous coach had two six bolt batteries, which we found functional but marginal for dry camping when having to run the furnace through the night. Current coach has four six volt batteries which provide good capacity.

As for running the generator to charge the batteries we would typically do a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the early evening.

Now have 600 watts if solar on the roof, so seldom run the generator any more except to provide for air conditioning and exercise.
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:57 AM   #4
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A problem that can be encountered is some just add two new batteries without consideration to the age of the original two. If the old ones are more then two years old the new ones CAN kill their life cycle.
This is the same thing with an electric cart that you replace all batteries at the same time.

As mentioned, if you plan to do alot of boondocking solar panels are a good idea. As many as will fit on the roof. Once you have a solar system installed & working properly it is very low maintenance.
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Old 06-16-2014, 01:55 AM   #5
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Boondocking in the sun

I agree with the other posters. We had 3 Interstate batts and with our lack of knowledge when we first got the RV, I think we ruined them. After only 3 years we couldn't keep a charge on them to save our lives. When a problem with our inverter/charger sent us to a great RV guy here in Colorado Springs, we switched to 6-6v batts and changed out our meter to a Trimetric. The old one was truly just "idiot" lights. Now we have 4 solar panels and will try that for a year before deciding if we need 2 more but so far so good. Have only had to run the gen once to get the batteries up to float and have lived off solar since then. We spend the winter in Key West so plenty of sun there!

I like to have my lights on so I switched out the lights I mostly use to LED. Expensive but use a fraction of the power the old bulbs use. I can have on 6 or 7 lights and not even use an amp.

The furnace motor does use up a lot of the batteries but hey...I don't like to be cold either! I know some people on here suggest those propane heaters you can use inside but if your coach is like mine, I have no where to put one. So lots of sweaters and blankets and maybe a 12v heating blanket (the only place I find them is at truck stops). We totally dry camp and after a while you figure out where you can save on power draw. We draw the line at the tv!! We are both couch potatoes and it stays on most of the day.
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Old 06-16-2014, 05:11 AM   #6
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If you intend to do quite a bit of boondocking I would suggest a larger battery bank. Change to LED lighting and maybe invest in an AGS, (automatic generator start) that will maintain the battery bank hands free.
We have a very large battery bank, large solar array and have still found there are times when they are not adequate. I feel the AGS is the single best investment we have made for boondocking. I chose a Magnum Energy unit, but Onan and Zantrex also make quality systems.
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Old 06-16-2014, 05:59 AM   #7
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There is only one way to accurately measure battery state of charge and that is with a battery monitor, two most popular are Trimetric by Bogart engineering and Victron. Measuring battery voltage is sort of accurate only if there is no input or output for some hours. Not bringing batteries to full 100% SOC (state of charge) periodically will shorten their life. Adding batteries need to be the same age and make or they will feed to the older weaker battery. Home work Deep Cycle Battery FAQ
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Old 06-16-2014, 10:37 AM   #8
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Look into catalytic heaters.

No moving parts and zero power consumption.

Great for daytime use
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Old 06-16-2014, 10:50 AM   #9
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Managing Boondocking Power.

The furnace fan is a battery sucker if you run it constantly. Ours pulls about 8 amps with everything on. One thing to look into is a separate portable heater which won't draw battery power. We use Mr.Buddy, but there are also lots of great catalytic heaters out there (e.g. Wave). Also switching to LED lights will help.

We have 4 batteries in our bay, and before solar we would run the generator a few hours in the AM and a few hours in the PM. That way you go to bed with a mostly full battery bank and you refill in the morning for the days usage.

Keeping track of your battery voltage will help tell you how you're doing. You can measure at the bank with a hydrometer, or get a battery monitor (fabulous if you plan to boondock a lot). Depending on your batteries ~12.8 is fully charged, ~12.1 is 50% discharged.
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Old 06-16-2014, 11:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cypressloser View Post
Peace of mind would give you a good hardwired battery monitor when boondocking like the Trimetric 2025.
X2 on the Trimetric. I installed one a couple months ago (here) and really like it! Other than running some additional wiring (voltage sense), the installation is very easy (or was in my case).

The problem with using a generator to "fully charge" the battery bank is that the last bit of charge (maybe 10%, I'm not sure) is not done at the bulk rate (voltage) and so it takes quite a while. Typically, using the generator for a couple hours only brings the batteries up to near 'full charge' and that's it.

I know many people can't stand the cold but... When I am boondocking, even in the winter (30ish degrees nighttime temp), I leave the heat off at night and sleep with a bunch of blankets. Then, jump out of bed in the morning, turn the house heater on, and jump right back into bed for 15 minutes or so. Keeping the whole place warm all night seems like a bit of waste (but truly an individual thing).
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Old 06-16-2014, 11:52 AM   #11
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A good option, and where I always start the conversation on boon-docking is with a battery monitor gauge such as xantrex' s, e-meter http://www.xantrex.com/documents/Dis...-01_rev-A).pdf these are getting harder to find, but there still out there (I've got 2 on the shelf for sale)

Other options are available from magnum - the bmk (battery monitor kit) which is part of inverter system as an add on. I've also installed ones that are part of the solar system. Almost any of them do a good job, one of the key pieces that all that I've seen and/or installed is the shunt. If the monitor has a shunt it will probably do a good job for you. I say probably because I'm sure there's more of these gauges out there then I'm aware of and I'm sure some work better then others. But I can say that I know that xantrex's & magnum's work very well.

What it does is give you amp hours. It is a fuel gauge for your batteries, showing you a solid number of where your charge is. So you know when you need to charge & when you can shut off the generator.
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:05 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by varankins3 View Post
I agree with the other posters. We had 3 Interstate batts and with our lack of knowledge when we first got the RV, I think we ruined them. After only 3 years we couldn't keep a charge on them to save our lives. When a problem with our inverter/charger sent us to a great RV guy here in Colorado Springs, we switched to 6-6v batts and changed out our meter to a Trimetric. The old one was truly just "idiot" lights. Now we have 4 solar panels and will try that for a year before deciding if we need 2 more but so far so good. Have only had to run the gen once to get the batteries up to float and have lived off solar since then. We spend the winter in Key West so plenty of sun there!

I like to have my lights on so I switched out the lights I mostly use to LED. Expensive but use a fraction of the power the old bulbs use. I can have on 6 or 7 lights and not even use an amp.

The furnace motor does use up a lot of the batteries but hey...I don't like to be cold either! I know some people on here suggest those propane heaters you can use inside but if your coach is like mine, I have no where to put one. So lots of sweaters and blankets and maybe a 12v heating blanket (the only place I find them is at truck stops). We totally dry camp and after a while you figure out where you can save on power draw. We draw the line at the tv!! We are both couch potatoes and it stays on most of the day.
Sorry to go off topic, but how on earth does someone boondock in Key West. I've never seen any overnight parking anywhere in the keys. If there is, please share it with me, we go down there frequently. Thanks!
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:17 PM   #13
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Sorry to go off topic, but how on earth does someone boondock in Key West. I've never seen any overnight parking anywhere in the keys. If there is, please share it with me, we go down there frequently. Thanks!

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Old 06-16-2014, 04:25 PM   #14
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Sorry to go off topic, but how on earth does someone boondock in Key West. I've never seen any overnight parking anywhere in the keys. If there is, please share it with me, we go down there frequently. Thanks!
Yes, we are retired military and there are 2 camps at NAS Key West. One is full-time dry camp (NAS-Trumbo Point) and the other is at Sigsbee where you spend 2 weeks in FH and maybe 2-3 weeks in dry. It is rotation during the winter so everyone gets into FH. I wish they would allow us to just dry camp at Sigsbee because you have no view of the water down in Trumbo and it seemed to us that the sites were really crammed together
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