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Old 07-07-2019, 04:28 PM   #1
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Dry camping with residential fridge

We do a lot of dry camping at race tracks with our 2015 Thor Four Winds 33 Super C. The problem is, the house batteries (2 x 12; new) don't seem to be able to keep the fridge running all night off the inverter. We typically run the generator for about 4 hours in the evening which is long enough to get the batteries to about 12.8v, which should be close to a full charge but apparently not enough. Our approach now is to turn off the fridge when going to bed. Not ideal but it works. No help from Thor tech support. They say that's not surprising and, short of adding more batteries, there's not much that can be done. Checked with WFCO tech support and the onboard charger appears to be working correctly. Anyone else with a residential fridge having this problem?
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Old 07-07-2019, 04:57 PM   #2
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Yes, the residential fridge is a power sucker and we woke to dead batteries the first time drycamping also. At a bare minimum, I would swap the two 12V batteries for two 6V golf cart batteries wired in series (you'll have ~2x the repeatedly usable capacity compared to the factory 12V batteries). Of course if you have room, add two more for a total of four and add a Victron BMS (the smart one with Bluetooth) so you know exactly how much you are using and have left and when you have actually recharged them.
We still make sure the ice maker is off, turn the fridge to extra cold when the genny is running and turn it to a warmer setting or off overnight. I also put water bottles in any unused freezer space as extra cooling capacity to move to the fridge in an emergency.
We're energy hogs so I upgraded my batteries and added solar but still have to run the genny more than I like...
I hope this helps.
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Old 07-08-2019, 12:27 PM   #3
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You need at least 4 6V batteries and running your generator about twice as much - 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon/evening. Adding about 400W of solar wouldn't be a bad idea either. Sounds like you need to make some modifications if you want to dry camp often.
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Old 07-08-2019, 12:37 PM   #4
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I pretty much agree with most of the responses. You can get 24 hours off of 4 deep cycle batteries. I too run the genny in the morning and the evening and have a PD converter and always push the charge wizard pendant to "boost" setting. My converter is a 70 amp unit but it is 20 feet from the batteries and i seldom see more than 25 amps for long.

Solar is a tremendous advantage here but not to eliminate the generator time but rather to get you back to 100% SOC after a generator run. More than 3 or 4 hours on a genny is diminishing returns as you will only get maybe 9 amps of charge current. The solar system can run all day and get you back to 100%.

I would be you can do this with 2 deep cycle batteries as well, but you won't have much left for other loads, especially the furnace!
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Old 07-09-2019, 12:47 PM   #5
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You can turn off the refrigerator at night unless you are up and opening the door often. Turn it back on when you get up - and are running the generator. Used to do this on a boat we had and it worked fine.
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Old 07-09-2019, 01:36 PM   #6
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If you charging your batteries to 12.8, with the charger still running, you have been grossly under charging your batteries.

They need to reach 14.4 volts to be charged to about 80 % capacity.

If your reading them with the charger off, then you still need to know if they were up to 14.4 volts, before switching the charger off.

As others have said, replace the poorly built 12 volt batteries, for 6 volt golf car batteries.

They are made for deep cycling, and run low, while driving golfers all over the course.
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Old 07-09-2019, 01:49 PM   #7
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You need more battery capacity. Preferably true deep cycle 6v. Four, or better, six. And fully charge to floating.

In the interim you may dry turning off the refrigerator through the night. It will stay cold enough if left unopened.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:05 AM   #8
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Thanks to everyone for the great advice. Regarding the battery charge, the 12.8v is what I see at the battery with the generator off after 4 hrs or so. What I have noticed is that with the gen on and the battery depleted to around 12.0v, the charger (WFCO 55) only shows 13.8v charging and never goes into the 14.4v “bulk mode”. The WFCO tech person says this is normal but I’m still a little suspicious. It seems like bulk mode would help get a better charge on the battery in the 4 hrs time. Thoughts? Recommendations for a better charger?
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:20 AM   #9
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13.8 may be normal for a WFCO but it doesn't sound like boost and boost is what you need to maximize the value of your genny time. WFCO's are known for being hard to push into boost mode. However, it could be your distance from the batteries or the wire gauge. On my coach I have a nice 70 AMP PD converter with a Pendant that lets me force boost. Still, the converter is 20 feet from the batteries and uses #8 cable so I lose at least 3/4 of a volt from boost when trying to push a lot of current.

As I said before, you should be able to make it through the night, but not by much. Remember that you won't get it all back with 3 hours of genny time at 13.8 volts...and each night you get further and further behind on your SOC.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:44 AM   #10
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BOOST is a strange term they are using for charge modes, all I got to say. I like the terminology Trojan uses, wish the folks who make converters/chargers would use the same terminology.


I am reading my remote pendant instructions now for my PD9245, amazing words - BOOST, what is that? What is Normal?


How about BULK charge, absorption charge, maintenance/float and Equalize(for FLA batteries)?


OK, so I press the button until the light turns on steady - Hooza, it is charging at 13.6VDC at high amps (measured with the FLUKE) until the battery reaches about 85% SOC, then it goes into Absorption charge at 14.4 (14.7 would be better for FLA) at lower amps. At this point shut down the genny and let the solar do the absorption charge to finish the last 15% if you can. Takes longer because the internal resistance increases with charge which is why Absorption is required - stronger push or potential difference. You too can watch this phenomena with a Fluke or any good clamp meter and voltage meter at the battery most negative ground.


Now just why does Progressive Dynamics decide to rename charge states to something the rest of the industry does not use - I will never understand. I just don't get the new term Boost and Normal but I do know that it allows me to get that first 85% charge back into my batteries running the generator, after that it would take too much diesel to complete the 100% charge - let solar do that.
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:17 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebsen View Post
Thanks to everyone for the great advice. Regarding the battery charge, the 12.8v is what I see at the battery with the generator off after 4 hrs or so. What I have noticed is that with the gen on and the battery depleted to around 12.0v, the charger (WFCO 55) only shows 13.8v charging and never goes into the 14.4v “bulk mode”. The WFCO tech person says this is normal but I’m still a little suspicious. It seems like bulk mode would help get a better charge on the battery in the 4 hrs time. Thoughts? Recommendations for a better charger?
How much room do you have for more batteries in your battery compartment?
I would add as many batteries as possible changing from the 12 V. to deep cycle 6 V. GC batteries, preferably Lithium batteries.
You could also wire in a switch which would disconnect the inverter charger and add a larger battery charger which would supply more amperage to the batteries and shorten the charge time and generator use. When done dry camping and driving your coach simply turn the switch back to on so the batteries recharge through the inverter / charger.
A portable generator such as a Honda 2000 W. generator would run a larger charger, be more fuel efficient than the onboard charger and probably be quieter. At just over 50# with a full gas tank the Honda is easy to carry and the exhaust can be pointed in a direction so it doesn't enter your coach or someone else's.
To me the ultimate answer would be to replace the residential fridge with a fridge which runs off either electric or LP. This could be a major project though as it would require a roof vent, a vent opening in the side of your coach, plumbing for the LP and rewiring.
I'm very much like you as we often attend races and stay overnight. My fridge will automatically switch from electric to LP if I shut my generator down. I don't run my generator after 11 PM with the exception of Watkins Glen. Our friend who camps next to me in my son's camper uses a C-pap machine and we get a permit to run the generator all night long. I run one of my Honda generators for this use. It's quieter than my 5500 W. onboard generator and will run over 8 hours on a gallon of gas. I leave my fridge running on LP so the Honda runs at an idle rather than revving up when the fridge kicks in as it would if running in the auto position. I fill my LP tank once a year and it only costs about $30 to fill it. I also run the heat on those chilly evenings which accounts for some propane usage.
Adding more solar is also an option but you will still need more battery capacity to take advantage of the additional solar.
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:33 AM   #12
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Well, you could get a new RV...or

1. Find a place to put one or two more 12 v batteries in parallel with what you have.
2. Take a close look at that converter and its wiring.
3. Get a true SOC meter like a Victron or TriMetric so you can tell where you really stand with SOC.
4. Get a couple hundred watts of solar that will take you back to 100% SOC every day the sun is out after your genny time.

Solar and meter are probably the first I would do.
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:45 AM   #13
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If you add batteries anywhere other than the battery compartment be sure the space you choose is vented or buy batteries with provision for an external vent and run the vent hose outside the chosen space.
The NAPA 12 V. part number 7590 battery would be one choice. This battery is used in Chevrolet HHR's and is mounted in the trunk with a vent hose running through the trunk floor.
Lynn
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