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Old 10-21-2014, 08:43 AM   #1
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Dry Camping in Cold Weather

I just got back from a trip and did my first Walmart camping each way. I have dual Trojan T-105 6v batteries. The return trip dropped into the mid-30s at night, so I ran the furnace for about 30 minutes to get the interior to the upper 50s. When I turned on a light (all LED), I noticed it seemed dim so I plugged in my volt meter and was shocked to see 11.9 volts. I turned off the furnace for the night, ran the truck for 35 minutes and it returned to about 12.5 volts or so. I used a large jump start battery to run my CPAP for the night and added a comforter and two cats to the bed. The next morning, it read 12.45.
Is the furnace fan THAT big of a hog? I am thinking that I may need 2 more Trojans or a Big Heat Buddy or Olympian to do any cold weather dry camping. The Big Heat Buddy at $120 may be the most cost effective solution.
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Old 10-21-2014, 08:49 AM   #2
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No real surprise that your motor on your furnace would need a lot of power to run. Its either a generator, alternate source of heat, or lots of blankets to get through those colder nights. I see the Big Heat Buddy has an oxygen depletion alarm.....But is that something I would trust to wake me?
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:30 AM   #3
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I have an Olympian and am quite pleases with it. Both the Big Heat Buddy and the Olympian heaters will save a lot of batter power. Both of them require that you keep a window cracked open. We open one at the opposite end from where we sleep.

There is one significant difference between the two. The Big Buddy has a built in low oxygen sensor that will turn it off if the oxygen level is too low. This may be an extra safety feature, but the sensor will also shut it down at higher elevations. I have never heard of one that will operate over 7000 ft. Some will shut down at 5000 ft. The surface of Yellowstone Lake is 7795 ft.

The Olympic does not have an oxygen sensor. Rather, it has a highly efficient catalytic heater, which they claim does not need one. We tested ours by running it on the high setting, with all windows closed. After about 5 hours the RV's CO detector started screaming. On the low setting, it did not set off any detectors, in 8 hours of running with no ventilation.

It is up to you to decide if the ability to function at high altitude is more important than any (perceived) added safety from the oxygen sensor.

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Old 10-21-2014, 09:36 AM   #4
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I have an Olympian and am quite pleases with it. Both the Big Heat Buddy and the Olympian heaters will save a lot of batter power. Both of them require that you keep a window cracked open. We open one at the opposite end from where we sleep.

There is one significant difference between the two. The Big Buddy has a built in low oxygen sensor that will turn it off if the oxygen level is too low. This may be an extra safety feature, but the sensor will also shut it down at higher elevations. I have never heard of one that will operate over 7000 ft. Some will shut down at 5000 ft. The surface of Yellowstone Lake is 7795 ft.

The Olympic does not have an oxygen sensor. Rather, it has a highly efficient catalytic heater, which they claim does not need one. We tested ours by running it on the high setting, with all windows closed. After about 5 hours the RV's CO detector started screaming. On the low setting, it did not set off any detectors, in 8 hours of running with no ventilation.

It is up to you to decide if the ability to function at high altitude is more important than any (perceived) added safety from the oxygen sensor.

Joel
Interesting, and thanks for your input. It sounds like the Olympic and a cracked window would be the best for me as I have in the past and plan in the future to do altitude dry camping.
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:39 AM   #5
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No real surprise that your motor on your furnace would need a lot of power to run. Its either a generator, alternate source of heat, or lots of blankets to get through those colder nights. I see the Big Heat Buddy has an oxygen depletion alarm.....But is that something I would trust to wake me?
I do have a 100 watt solar panel which would work to replenish on sunny days. The umbilical to my truck seems to do a good job while on the road, but I may have to think about a small generator for the extended trip I plan for next year.
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:41 AM   #6
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Interesting, and thanks for your input. It sounds like the Olympic and a cracked window would be the best for me as I have in the past and plan in the future to do altitude dry camping.
That is why I got the Olympian. I leave one window open about half an inch.

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Old 10-21-2014, 10:10 AM   #7
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4 batteries will handle the furnace. Camped down to zero degrees. Need to charge in the morning though.
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Old 10-21-2014, 10:45 AM   #8
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4 batteries will handle the furnace. Camped down to zero degrees. Need to charge in the morning though.
Good to know, thanks.
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Old 10-21-2014, 11:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fred1609 View Post
. I see the Big Heat Buddy has an oxygen depletion alarm.....But is that something I would trust to wake me?
Fred1609
Not to worry!
The Buddy and Big Buddy propane heaters both have an "automatic low oxygen SHUT OFF".... (NOT an "oxygen depletion" alarm).
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Old 10-21-2014, 05:17 PM   #10
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We run the Olympian 8 in the evening and it keeps our 337 sq ft fifth wheel warm to below freezing ambient. We turn on the furnace for half an hour in the morning to get the cabin up to 60 or so (we let it get down to the mid-40s at night) and the Olympian keeps things warm. We do have sufficient battery bank to run the heater all night (and it is an energy hog) and enough solar panels to recharge on a sunny day (right now we are harvesting 4500 W-hrs in northern Colorado).

We have used the Olympian up to 10,400'

Reed and Elaine
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Old 10-21-2014, 06:22 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by SkiSmuggs View Post
I ran the furnace for about 30 minutes to get the interior to the upper 50s. When I turned on a light (all LED), I noticed it seemed dim so I plugged in my volt meter and was shocked to see 11.9 volts. I turned off the furnace for the night, ran the truck for 35 minutes and it returned to about 12.5 volts or so.

Assuming the batteries were fully charged from a full days driving .....there is NO WAY 30 minutes of furnace usage would run them flat.....something is wrong! Maybe a bad cell
In one of the batteries, or they are just plain shot. Have the batteries tested.

Two T-105's should be able to run the furnace overnight.....not just 30 minutes.
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Old 10-21-2014, 06:31 PM   #12
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Also check your battery terminal connection. Make sure they are clean and snug.
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:50 PM   #13
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Your batteries were not fully charged. I would look into your battery charger. If you used them during the weekend , they did not get a full charge before you stopped at Walmart.

12 volt Lead acid batteries chargers need to hold the charge at 14.8 volts for a couple of hours to be fully charged. Most converters only charge to 14.4 (absorption) for only an hour after bulk charging.

Here is some good reading.

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Old 10-22-2014, 07:22 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by mgscott4 View Post
Your batteries were not fully charged. I would look into your battery charger. If you used them during the weekend , they did not get a full charge before you stopped at Walmart.

12 volt Lead acid batteries chargers need to hold the charge at 14.8 volts for a couple of hours to be fully charged. Most converters only charge to 14.4 (absorption) for only an hour after bulk charging.

Here is some good reading.

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It should have been a full charge as I had unplugged from house current that morning, was on the umbilical to the truck for 12 hours, but I did not check the status when I stopped at the Walmart. I didn't even lower the landing gear. All lights have been converted to LED and, even then, we only ran one or two at a time.
I did notice the furnace air only seemed lukewarm, and went out and checked the exhaust to be sure it was hot. It took about 30 minutes to get the interior from 46 to 59 degrees.
My WFCO had just been replaced with a PM Boondocker which ran 10 minutes 14.8, then down to 13.6 for several hours before dropping to 13.2 when I tested it on charged batteries after installation. I definitely need a battery monitoring system and that is on my wish list.
While charging with the truck for 35 minutes after discovering the batteries were low, I saw about 13.4 on the volt meter.
I know the terminals are clean given the batteries were installed 6 weeks ago, but I will check for tightness.
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