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Old 09-21-2017, 03:54 AM   #1
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New Boondocker, Questions

We have RVed for 40 years but rarely boondocked. We have taken a renewed interest in boondocking but have several questions after our first foray.


Rig: We have a MH with an Onan 5000w generator. We currently have 4 deep cycle batteries which we plan to replace with AGM in the near future but need to understand battery usage better before we buy them. We are currently camping in a national park where we cannot run the generator overnight. Each morning our batteries have been very low(we don't think they are in good shape), 11.6v or lower. We bought a timer for the refrigerator and now turn it off overnight. We do turn it on for 30 minutes during the night to let it cycle and cool down again. This did not seem to help our battery usage at all, seems to have made it worse. Tonight we will not run it for the 30 minutes and see what the battery is like in the AM. We make sure we are fully charged before going to bed.
Overnight we have the usual items turned on, charging phones, satellite stuff, 12v fan(on high), and of course the refrigerator. What should our expectations be regarding battery voltage in the AM with the refrigerator running and without. Does anyone know this info. We are trying to figure out "normal" which I know does not exist.


I hope this makes sense to you and thanks for your responses.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:59 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue46 View Post
We have RVed for 40 years but rarely boondocked. We have taken a renewed interest in boondocking but have several questions after our first foray.


Rig: We have a MH with an Onan 5000w generator. We currently have 4 deep cycle batteries which we plan to replace with AGM in the near future but need to understand battery usage better before we buy them. We are currently camping in a national park where we cannot run the generator overnight. Each morning our batteries have been very low(we don't think they are in good shape), 11.6v or lower. We bought a timer for the refrigerator and now turn it off overnight. We do turn it on for 30 minutes during the night to let it cycle and cool down again. This did not seem to help our battery usage at all, seems to have made it worse. Tonight we will not run it for the 30 minutes and see what the battery is like in the AM. We make sure we are fully charged before going to bed.
Overnight we have the usual items turned on, charging phones, satellite stuff, 12v fan(on high), and of course the refrigerator. What should our expectations be regarding battery voltage in the AM with the refrigerator running and without. Does anyone know this info. We are trying to figure out "normal" which I know does not exist.


I hope this makes sense to you and thanks for your responses.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:33 AM   #3
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right, 'Normal' does not exists, everyone's usage and needs are different and therefore the battery 'longevity' will vary.

you're doing the right thing, though, and your 11.6 or so is not out of range... if you can still start your generator each morning, then you are in fine range. When the number reaches into the 10's, then you can worry.

if you have a Magnum inverter panel, then you may also have a 'LBCO' setting, which allows you to set the 'Minimum' battery voltage before the Inverter shuts itself off - it's called the Low Battery Cut Off. This protects you from unwanted low battery drainage overnight - 'just in case'.
When your generator starts to recharge the batteries, the LBCO will then restart the Inverter...
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:15 AM   #4
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How long do you run the generator in the morning and how long in the evening?
What is the charge level when you shut the genny down at night? I try and get mine to Absorb and 50 amps or less. That seems more than sufficient to last the night.
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:42 AM   #5
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Shutting down the fridge and then running it for a 1/2 hour, in the night, may be using more energy then letting it run for a few more hours before bed.

It may normally only run 15 minutes each hour to maintain temp. You can time that. Once it gets warm, it probably runs the whole 30 minutes when you start it at night, using 2 or more hours of power.

You also want to make sure the ice maker, if equipped, is off and many fridges have a heater cable around the door seal, to stop sweating, that can be shut off. Check the owners manual.

For serious boondockers check the idle amp draw of your inverter. If it's more then 1/2 an amp, you may want to get a more effecent small, ( 1000 watt PSW ), inverter just for the fridge. That way you can shut down the power hungry one.

All RVs should have battery monitors installed. Cheaper then replacing batteries every few years from abuse.
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:59 AM   #6
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http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:10 AM   #7
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You might also try measuring the voltage at the battery with a voltmeter. It might also be a load (refrigerator) pulling down the voltage when measuring it in the morning. The only way to really check battery condition is with all loads removed and having rested for at least an hour. 11.6 volt resting is too low for a good battery life.
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Old 09-21-2017, 09:56 AM   #8
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If you can shut your satellite off at night and your receiver it will help-especially if it's Dish and it hunts every few minutes. We've switched what we need over to 12v and shut our big inverter off at night. Made a huge difference.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:50 PM   #9
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What am I missing here? Is your fridge electric w/ no propane option? 12V combined w/ propane should be minor.
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Old 09-22-2017, 02:55 AM   #10
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I guess I have a lot of reading today.

I also didn't mention we have a residential refrigerator.
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:22 AM   #11
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I'm with twinboat concerning leaving the fridge run but stopping the ice maker cycle (if you have one). Also check if you can stop the automatic defrost cycle. The various electric heaters in a residential fridge will consume a lot of power quickly.

You could also try a plug in power monitor such as a Kill-A-Watt on the fridge to get an idea of normal overnight power consumption. When measuring do a few 24 hour test run starting at 12 noon so you get a full over night and day power measurement. First run leaving everything in auto, Second run no ice maker, third run shutting off the fridge (but leave the inverter on) over night. Compare the numbers and see which is the most efficient way of life.
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:58 AM   #12
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Sue and Tom-

I took a look at your coach's owner's manual. On page 4-3 it says:

Quote:
The inverter is intended to power your 120 volt residential refrigerator primarily when driving your vehicle. The house batteries will drain quickly if the refrigerator is powered from the inverter when the engine is not running. Other 120 volt appliances and other 120 volt devices are not intended to operate with inverter power for long periods of time as they too will quickly drain your house batteries.
The manual also says the inverter is a Magnum. If that is the case, you can add the Magnum BMK (Battery Monitoring Kit) to your coach. Here's a link to the BMK product page, and to the BMK manual.

The BMK, and similar battery monitors (such as the Trimetric TM-2030) are "fuel gauges" for your batteries. You can monitor 12V consumption, spotting loads that may not be needed. And, you know when your batteries are fully charged. Batteries will last for more charging cycles the closer they are brought to full, and the more shallow the discharge. A monitor therefore tells you how long you have to run your generator each day.

A monitor may also help you decide if (or when) you should replace your coach batteries. It could be your existing batteries are in fine shape. They are not that old.

When you consider AGM batteries, you may want to look at buying Lifelines from Randy at bestconverter.com. I've bought a set for each of the coaches I've owned and have been very pleased with them.
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Old 09-23-2017, 02:29 AM   #13
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It sounds like boondocking with a residential rerigerator is not going to work at all. That is a bummer................I now wonder why a generator comes with the motor home. Except for boondocking we never use it.

Bak to the drawing board...............
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Old 09-23-2017, 03:53 AM   #14
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It sounds like boondocking with a residential rerigerator is not going to work at all. That is a bummer................I now wonder why a generator comes with the motor home. Except for boondocking we never use it.

Bak to the drawing board...............

You could add batteries or upgrade the current batteries with higher rated ones. The amount you save in campground fees would help offset the cost.
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