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Old 04-22-2009, 07:13 AM   #1
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Reduce current draw when boondocking?

I would like to try boondocking, but am new to all this and would appreciate suggestions as to how to reduce the current draw on the batteries...

Would like to keep only the fridge turned on at all times... have tried turning off the coach batteries, but that turns off the fridge...

And I would like to be able to turn on the HW heater only when I need hot water... but have closed the valve on the propane tank and turned off the HW heater at the HW "on/off' switch and turned off the breakers in the electrical panel, but I still have hot water...

Also, I have two solar panels on the roof to charge the batteries and am wondering if turning off the inverter will reduce current draw without causing problems.

Driving a '99 Magna, #5653...

Suggestions and comments appreciated!
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:45 AM   #2
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Reduce current draw when boondocking?

When boon docking I turn off the invertors whenever they are not needed.
The do draw power while not operating anything.
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:09 AM   #3
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Thanks Dennis!

Buck
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:25 AM   #4
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Reduce current draw when boondocking?

I posted this on the Country Coach Owners Forum, but it has dawned on me that you folks that actually boondock will be better able to answer my questions...

Would like to try boondocking, but am new to all this and would appreciate suggestions as to how to reduce the current draw on the batteries...

Would like to keep only the fridge turned on at all times... have tried turning off the coach batteries, but that turns off the fridge...

And I would like to be able to turn on the HW heater only when I need hot water... but have closed the valve on the propane tank and turned off the HW heater at the HW "on/off' switch and turned off the breakers in the electrical panel, but I still have hot water...

Also, I have two solar panels on the roof to charge the batteries and am wondering if turning off the inverter will reduce current draw without causing problems.

Driving a '99 Magna, #5653... Heart Freedom 25, 2500 Watt inverter.

All Suggestions and comments appreciated!

Thanks, Buck
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Old 04-22-2009, 10:09 AM   #5
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The frig should be on gas and the control circuit will draw some power. If you are shutting off the gas, how does the frig work. Trying to operate the frig from batteries and an inverter is not the way to go.

Agin, shut down the inverter when not being used. Also limit the use of lights. Another big user of power is the furnace.

Ken
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Old 04-22-2009, 12:56 PM   #6
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Hi:

Glad to see you are thinking about boondocking. Some pieces of the power puzzle are still missing. How many batteries do you have and what size? Also, how long do you want to stay? How big are the solar panels?

You may be shooting yourself in the foot a little. If I understood you correctly, you turned off the gas at the bottles in an attempt to stop making hot water. In all likelihood, you are not making new hot water, but rather the water is still hot from the last time you had the HW heater on. It can take an hour or more to cool down. Also, by turning off the gas, your refer will not function and your food will spoil. The only thing you need do is make sure the electric to the HW heater is off and flip off the HW switch. In reality, when running on propane, the HW heater takes little from the batteries. Plus, once hot, the heater turns off and uses only a very tiny amount of electricity to run the temp monitor. I turn mine off, not because of electrical use, but I see no need to waste propane heating water I won't be using for a while.

As you found out, the refer needs 12 volts to function. The draw is low, around .5 amps just sitting there and 1 to 1.5 amps when cooling. It has to hold open a gas solenoid which takes some power. If you want to keep your food cold, there is not much you can do about refer currents.

Another "fixed" current draw is from whatever monitor/alarms you have, like CO alarm, gas alarm, etc. Not much here either, but a little.

Your stereo and radio (if any) probably use a tiny amount of current to keep the memory alive for stations, clock etc. There is not a lot that can be done about "fixed" draws. Using a 50% limit on battery draw, my TT will be out of power in 4 days, just sitting there with the refer on and nobody in it. The real savings come from usage on the large draw appliances. If you have an inverter, you should find out if it is set up for "search." Many inverters have this feature or something similar. The inverter can detect when no AC is being used so it goes into a sleep mode and uses almost no current. You can turn it off, but then what's the point in having it? Inverters can draw an incredible amount of current in use. It is not unusual to see loads greater than 100 amps DC when running a microwave and other such large appliances. Logic would indicate to keep inverter use to a minimum, but then the question is: why have something you can't/won't use? If you wait to use the inverter in powered campgrounds, it is a pointless item. Without data on your batteries, I can't go further with power recmmendations for the inverter.

The solar panels can help a lot, depending on their size. I don't think mounting them on top is a very good idea. Solar panels don't work very well in the shade. So, you have a choice, broil in the direct sun and get lots of power, or get in the shade and don't get so much power. I've seen setups where the owner uses "loose" panels and leaves the RV in the shade and props the panels on the picnic bench in the sun. That should work. But, you have what you have. If power is a worry, then parking in the sun is your best option.

Boondocking in cold weather is a problem because batteries lose much of their capacity when the temps go down. Typical furnaces pull around 8 amps. Most single RV batteries have trouble lasting through the nite in cold weather.

The water pump is also in the 8 amp range, but it usually isn't on that long. Incandescent lamps are around 1.3 amps per bulb. Some people use flashlights instead.

It doesn't sound like you have a generator. A generator will remove any power shortfalls. Good luck on your boondocking adventures!
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:02 PM   #7
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It sounds like you are set up well for Boondocking. Your propane should last for as long as you want to Boondock so don't worry about that. Make sure your refrigerator is set to propane. On propane it only uses 12vdc and doesn't draw much current. Also make sure the 120vac water heater element is switched off. We leave our water heater on propane all the time. Your inverter doesn't draw much current unless it is powering something. It depends on how your inverter is wired into the AC electrical system. It may only power 1 or 2 circuits or it may power every thing. The best way to find out is to disconnect the shore power and then try all your AC receptacles to see which ones are hot. Most of the time the entertainment center and the bedroom TV are powered as well as a couple of convenience outlets. Sometimes every thing runs on the inverter. If you would post the size and type of your inverter that would help. We can usually go about 10 days with out having to empty holding tanks or add water. We have a small Honda i2000EU generator that we use to supplement our solar power. We use the coach generator sometimes for running the microwave which won't run on our Honda. Honda use averages about 1hr/day. We use the satellite receiver, TV, Internet router and two computers several hours each day.
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:30 PM   #8
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Thanks Ken...

I only shut down the propane while trying to "figger" out why I still have hot water with the propane turned off, the breakers turned off, and the Atwood HW switch in the "OFF" position...

I did turn off the inverter while driving back to Land O' Lakes from Parliament Coach in Clearwater and the house batteries held up fine... I have two solar panels on the roof that charge at 13+V @ 20 amps, so that should keep me going for a few days if I do as you suggest and keep my lights turned off when I am not using them.

And I hadn't thought about the furnace, but when it is on, even tho it is burning diesel fuel, there are several blowers running and a pump that circulates coolant thru the tile floor so my little feetsies don't have to walk on the cold floor... will just have to learn to "rough it" and leave the furnace off when boondocking.

have checked the current draw with a Fluke clamp-on ammeter and still have a little over 3 amps going somewhere even with everything I can find turned off... Guess it is the control circuit for the fridge and the HWH levelers...

when i get this problem whipped, will have to "figger" out how to fire up my 6C21 triode amp while boondocking...

Buck
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:02 PM   #9
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The above are pretty good coverage of the power usage.

My suggestion is that the Magna probably came pretty well equipped for multiple modes of living including boondocking. You likely have a generator. Some folks don't like running the gen due to noise or fuel usage, but the convenience is hard to beat. If parked in the sun, your solar should help replace small loads like are mentioned above to run the house the way it came equipped. But microwave usage particularly (mine draws 150A off the inverter) and extended lights/TV/etc. at night will take batteries down a lot. I'm guessing you have the equivalent of six 220ah 6V batteries (cuz of your 2500watt inverter), you might have eight.

Try running the gen when cooking dinner at night. If you have a monitoring system like an auto-gen-start or good inverter panel it should show the charging rate so you can keep track. With the batt's topped off from the evening gen cycle (before camp goes quiet, so you don't alienate neighbors), you should be able to watch sat-TV, read, etc., and enjoy a good night's sleep. Then check the battery voltage in the a.m. If I'm really using a lot of juice, I run the gen in the a.m. to top off again, otherwise just once a day.

As suggested above, you have a lot of system capacity, just sitting there depreciating if you are not using it. Might as well enjoy your nice rig and the convenience of its features.
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Old 04-22-2009, 09:01 PM   #10
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Hi texigan,
I'm a boondocker. Here is what i do about my AMP consumption. A little math will fix your worries. My solar panel is 80w giving me 6A per hour in an ideal condition. So, getting 7Hrs sunshine a day will give me 42AH per day. (6A x 7 hrs). So, i have a 42AH per day for my electrical consumption not even using the reserve capacity of my battery. ( i have 4-6V batteries). Now, remember i still have my generator standby just in case i need more AMP. My Amp consumption a day per my meter is between 35AH to 40AH. The biggest eater of electricity in our rig is our microwave. It draws 150A per hr but we dont use it more than three minutes which means 7.5A (150 divide by 60min per hr x 3 mins equals 7.5A). Unless I use the micro for an hr, my battery will be dead. I have never been drained so far since i boondocked as long as my consumption will not exceed the supply of my solar panel. In short my load should be equal or less from my solar supply. And if i exceed my solar supply i still have my rv generator waiting to help my needs.
If i were you, I will not be worried because you have a well equipped unit knowing your 20A-solar panel is big enough to supply your boondocking needs. I wish i have that kind of solar panel. In a sunny day, your solar panel can normally supply 100AH in 5 hrs, how much more if 10Hrs.I don't think you will consume 100AH per day. Wow you have a very nice electrical set up in your rig.. Someday, I'm gonna add 200W solar panel so i can get a 20A charge to my batteries like yours. BTW, I do my own electrical installation, it's fun.
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Old 04-22-2009, 09:56 PM   #11
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Consider practicing boondocking while at a CG. Unplug the rig and try different things out to see what you can/cannot get by with. If things fall apart in the middle of the night you can always plug back in and try again the next day doing something a little different. Sounds like all you need is a little practice to build confidence!
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Old 04-29-2009, 12:51 PM   #12
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Solar Down Rating

Usually when figuring solar production from your panels there is a down rating of 50%.

This is due to the fact that they are rarely in the ideal production environment. Even partial shade on a part of one panel will reduce the entire array considerably. The ratings are under ideal conditions with the exact angles is relationship to the source.

Also there are solar radiation maps to determine the number of hours of productive sunlight for the location and time of year.

As an energy saver I have changed light bulbs in none reading areas to LCD (huge savings). I have also removed the second light bulb in some of the double fixtures in non critical areas. Since we like to read in bed I added a couple of those "puck" style LCD lights available at Costco and Camping World. They can be aimed and run a very long time on a couple of AAA batteries.

Does anybody know if the water pump when in standby with the switch on has a phantom load draw and what it might be???
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Old 05-03-2009, 02:58 PM   #13
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Thanks for the help!

Hello folks and Thanks for all the replies and info!!!

I apologize for not answering sooner, but I parked the ol' Magna and have been crusing the Carribean Sea for the past few days... Nope, I didn't take my computer or cell phone...

To begin, the replies plus a little investigation of my own have resulted in the following:

It is now obvious to me that I need to keep the propane tank turned on, and let the fridge do it's thing on propane and the small amount of power it draws from the batteries...

And it is good to know that I can switch off the inverter when not needed...

Plus, I will keep the HW heater breakers turned off so that it won't take a notion to heat water with electricity when I don't need hot water, 'cause I can still turn on or off the HW at the "Atwood" switch inside the Magna to heat water for a shower or to wash dishes when needed...

And, as several of you pointed out, other devices such as Propane detectors, CO2 detectors, etc. are drawing a small amount of power... I can't afford to turn them off but there are other devices that are not absolutely neccessary such as the "Comfort Control" center which draws about 100 milliamperes and can be cut off when not using the A/C, heat pumps, or fans...

Also, my backup camera is always on "standby" and is wired to come on anytime the transmission is switched to "reverse", so I can't turn it off without doing a "re-wire", which I don't want to get into...

The HWH computerized leveling system is always on when the coach has been leveled... it is normally in "sleep" mode, but awakens to check the leveling and make corrections if needed several times each day... another current "draw" I can't eliminate...

The "sensor" circuits that monitor the fluid levels in the propane tank, the black water tank, the gray water tank, the fresh water tank, etc. are needed and can not be turned off...

Several of the toggle switches on the "monitor" panels do not actually turn voltages "on and off", but control relays that do the actual switching... some of those relays are "normally closed" and are being held open by the coil that is activated by the toggle switches... another current "draw" that can't be eliminated...

For example, the "house battery disconnect" switch operates a "normally open" relay that is held "closed" to connect the house batteries to the coach.

Also, the "transfer switch" must monitor the electrical circuits constantly to make sure the coach is connected to the proper power source... (such as turning on the genset when plugged into AC causes the transfer switch to switch from the AC lines to the genset output.)

Yep, the water pump must be used at times, as I will be using the potable water in the holding tank when boondocking... It draws a couple of amps when running, but only comes on when needed, and goes off a few seconds after the water is turned off...

I also found that the transformer that powers my laptop and my cell phone charger draw a small amount of power even if the laptop is turned off, and/or the cell phone is not being charged... So when trying to conserve the house batteries, will only plug in the computer and/or cell phone charger when needed...

The items mentioned above, things I need and can not turn off, amount to a continuous drain on the batteries of slightly over 3.4 amperes...

My coach was drawing over 4 amperes, but I discovered that the lamp in my water/sewer hook-up compartment was not turning off when the door was closed... I adjusted the switch, and eliminated almost 1 ampere of un-neccessary current draw...

The two solar panels were mounted on the roof when I bought the coach, so can't do anything about them other than use whatever they put out to charge the batteries... Even tho they are not mounted in an optimum position to capture the sun's energy, they still provide 13.8 to14.2 volts at 14 to 15 amperes for most of the day, which should easily handle the residual current draw of 3 amperes...

The house batteries are a pair of Werker 8DA, 12V, 1300 amp-hour, deep cycle batteries... they have been taken care of and are in good condition... testing under load indicates a minimum of 1241 AH available from each battery, even tho they are three years old... When replacement time comes, will consider two golf-cart 6V batteries in series if the math shows they would give me an increase in amperage capacity.

Yes, I do have an Onan 8KW diesel generator aboard and can charge the batteries when needed...

To me tho, the essence of "boondocking" is go to pristine "off-the-beaten-path" places and I do not want to ruin the "ambience" by "polluting" it with noise from the generator... So, I will learn to conserve as much energy as possible and will only run the generator for "emergencies" like charging the batteries or running the microwave or coffee pot...

Yes, to "borrow" a phrase from Mr Tiffin, I do believe in "roughing it smoothly"...

Again, Thanks for all the replies...

Buck
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Old 05-03-2009, 03:58 PM   #14
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The 8DA batteries are monsters - the Prevost conversion house battery of choice (except they tend to run 6-8 of them which can run an A/C unit all night on batteries via inverter). Golf cart jobbies won't even come close. Take good care of these beasts. You should get 6-8 years on em.
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