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Old 05-06-2011, 08:20 PM   #1
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Preparing the MH for Boondocking

We normally stay at campgrounds but this summer we plan on staying a weekend without hookups. I was wondering what kind of testing/preparation we could do in advance so we have a good outcome.

I'm not too concerned about water or sewer since our Journey has big enough tanks. They do allow limited time for generators during the day, but it will be in July and it might be hot at night.

To start with I was wondering what kind of testing I can do to see if my rig is up to the task. We have owned our 2003 Journey for less than a year and wanted to do some tests for the inverter, solar panel, and battery health.

How high should the batteries read when they are fully charged? How long can I expect to run off the inverter, for a particular load? How can I test the solar panel to see if it is working?
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:26 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by resqguy View Post
We normally stay at campgrounds but this summer we plan on staying a weekend without hookups. I was wondering what kind of testing/preparation we could do in advance so we have a good outcome.

I'm not too concerned about water or sewer since our Journey has big enough tanks. They do allow limited time for generators during the day, but it will be in July and it might be hot at night.

To start with I was wondering what kind of testing I can do to see if my rig is up to the task. We have owned our 2003 Journey for less than a year and wanted to do some tests for the inverter, solar panel, and battery health.

How high should the batteries read when they are fully charged? How long can I expect to run off the inverter, for a particular load? How can I test the solar panel to see if it is working?
make sure the electrolyte level in the batteries are full. it is best to use distilled water to fill them. use safety glasses and gloves and keep a box of baking soda handy.
12.6-12.8v is regarded as a resting full battery charge. 12.0-12.1v is regarded as 50% discharged. for maximum battery longevity that is as far as you should discharge your battery bank.
you need to add up the draw of the 120v users (watts) that you intend to operate off of the inverter. divide the total watts by 10 (not 12 due to voltage drop and inefficiencies) to get your amps per hour draw from your battery bank.
example: if you have a 300 ah battery bank, and plan to use 150 ah with a 15 amp per hour load, you have 10 hours of use before deep discharging (cycling) your battery bank.
check these resources for more info.

Electrical Tutorial

http://www.smartgauge.co.uk/batt_con.html

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volta.htm
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Old 05-08-2011, 12:05 PM   #3
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Check to see if your generator starts off the house or chassis batteries. If the generator starts of the house batteries keep a close eye on the charge level or turn on your automatic gen start if you have it. Exercise your generator and check to see it is producing good voltage and last check the accuracy of you gauges on your tanks.
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Old 05-08-2011, 01:23 PM   #4
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resqguy,
To the above good advice, I will add that you should have an alternate means of cranking your generator in case you deplete its cranking battery. If your genny has a seperate cranking battery and you are bringing along a toad, you may simply be able to jump-start it from your car using jumper cables.

I strongly suggest you purchase a 12-volt jump starter for less than $50 as a "fail-safe" to get you out of the woods, but be sure it is adequately sized and kept fully charged. Either way, practice your particular jumpstart procedure and prove it before you go out in the deeper wilderness.

I have a huge jumpstart/standby battery pack that puts out 1200 cranking amps at 12 volts and 1000 cranking amps at 24 volts. The brand is Westward and it cost $300. We purchased it to power a portable TV and a 12 volt fan (DW can't sleep without some kind of air) during the 2004 hurricanes here in Florida. It easily powered the fan all night and we charged it through the car cigarette lighter when we made runs for ice. It will acutally start the big 8.2L diesel when the cranking batteries are weak. (Ashamed to admit that I had to do that! ...Once.)

(If your generator is dependent upon your chassis battery or coach battery for starting, you can still successfully jump-start, but it becomes a little more challenging. Lots of variables here, so I won't take time to go into it unless you come back and indicate a real need to know.)

The assumption is once you can get the genny going, it can eventually (30 minutes to a couple of hours) bring your chassis battery (engine starting) up to a level to crank your rig and get you going, assuming you are energizing a battery charging mode through your INverter or through a dedicated battery-charging CONverter. All that is speculative until you actually prove it on your specific rig.

Use rechargable task lighting (preferably efficient LEDs) to limit your battery use. You will save your house batteries and put ample light exactly where you need it if you use an inexpensive head-mounted LED task light. No need to light up the whole coach with those overhead lights which you will have to constantly remember to turn off. All you need is enough light to see whatever you are doing and to move around safely. You can easily recharge these task lights while your genny is running for your daily cooking, house battery charging, AC use or whatever. Go ahead and spend just a few dollars more on a lightweight, comfortable high-tech headlight so you will be more inclined to use it. You won't regret that purchase.

We use a few of the LED "tap-on" lights for low-level general lighting in combination with our head-mounted task lights and we virtually never turn on a light switch. The tap-on lights run for 100s of hours before needing a new battery and almost as long on rechargable batteries before needing a charge.

Try to shed any "phantom" loads... Do you really need that LED clock blinking on the VCR/DVR or radio while you are boondocking? Remember, even when some devices are "off" the are in a standby mode and sucking up the watts. (Don't forget your satellite box and its power supply hidden up there in the cabinet.) Your inverter is also a parasite, even when you are not using it.

You will find many ways to maximize your boondocking time and it will be a very interesting quest as you try to improvise and overcome...

Best of luck to you and let us know how it is going and anything new you learn along the way.
Jim
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:07 PM   #5
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You can also start the Generator, if the house batteries are too low, by using the switch on your dash that is the emergancy start. It hooks all the batteries together.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:18 PM   #6
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I have gotten into the habit of using the battery disconnect for the chassis battery whenever I am dry camping, if all else fails I can start the engine and/or genny from it.
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:47 AM   #7
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Two comments:
1. Have experienced that old batteries will read as if they are ok, but won't DELIVER as expected. If the batteries are as old as your coach, I would definitely replace them, regardless of how they "check out".
2. My Tour is a 2006, but charger may operate the same, and that is, it "checks" for the existance of a battery before delivering a charge. If the house battery is less than 9 volts (eg: dead), even when plugged into shore power, it will not even start charging the battery. When that first happened, I thought I had a Charger/Inverter that I was going to have to replace.
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