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Old 02-14-2019, 06:39 PM   #1
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Want to try Boondocking but....

Hi All,
We're still pretty new to this whole RVing adventure so I need some advice. Here in NY, our season is pretty short and we only picked up our travel trailer in May '18. So far, all trips have been to full hookup campgrounds and we've been hooked up to water and electricity at the least but would love to try going to some of those beautiful places where the camping is cheap or even free. I understand the water system and conservation and the "blue boy" for portable dumping but my real confusion is when it comes to electricity. I've tried to do some research but there is just so much information that it's all starting to get a bit confusing regarding what I need.


To start, I have a 33' KZ Sportsmen that is equipped as I bought it which is pretty much with a basic 12v deep cycle battery and whatever converter/inverter the rig came with. The battery appears to be a no frills type from NAPA and, after some research, I think it's about 33 to 50 Ah. I am in the process of purchasing a 3100w inverter generator and will probably upgrade the battery to at least a 100Ah. I've read about power inverters and converters but really have no idea which to get or what to do with it once I have it such as connecting it etc. (looking at 1000-2000w units) And, should I be looking at "pure sine wave" or will any automotive inverter do the job? Solar is really not on the agenda.


Finally, I'm not looking at long term boondocking; more just the overnight or occasional 2-3 nights at a time stuff to start. I think I'd like a more comfortable TT before I venture to far off grid but it's a start. However, we bought an RV to get some of the comforts o found in a tent such as a little TV in the evening and hot coffee in the morning.


I apologize if I've gotten too wordy or asked too many questions, I just wanted to make sure I provided enough information to get the answers I need. Thank you all in advance for any insight you more experienced folks can provide.
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Old 02-14-2019, 07:22 PM   #2
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Hi. I'm sure you will get a lot of answers or links to more info, but I'll start with some basics... there are 2 electrical systems used in your RV, 1 is 12 volts, like an automobile uses, and the other is 120 volts, like a house uses. The 12 volt system powers things like lighting, water pump, exhaust fans, as well as providing power to control boards of the RV absorption fridge, hot water heater and furnace. It powers the ignitors to light the propane flames of these items too. 12 volt power is also used to run the blower on the furnace, so the furnace can be the heaviest consumer of the 12 volt power if it is used. When the RV is not plugged in, the 12 volt power comes from the battery bank. When you are plugged in, the CONVERTER converts the 120 volt power into 12 volt power. This energizes your 12 volt system. Often, the converter is also the battery charger, so when you are plugged in, that power is also charging your battery.

The 120 volt system in the RV powers the heavy power consumption devices, such as microwaves and air conditioning units, but it also supplies power to the house style 120 volt outlets, so that you can plug in a television or a phone charger or whatever. When not plugged in, an INVERTER is needed to change the battery's 12 volt power output into 120 volt power so you can power that television or whatever. Generally, a pure sine wave inverter is needed to power anything electronic such as that television.

A generator just takes the place of the power pedestal, generally speaking. One is needed to power those high consumers (microwave, AC, hair dryer, coffee pot), and as a way of recharging the battery bank (unless you use solar).

An inverter is nice so that you can watch television and such using battery power. How big and how to wire it in can vary greatly. You can get large ones that can be wired to power the whole RV, or you can get smaller ones that can be wired to power one or a few outlets. It just depends on your wants, needs and budget.

I hope I helped a little to get you started. Don't worry about asking questions, that's what we all come here for. Good luck, and happy travels!
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:44 PM   #3
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I wouldn't count on using the blue boy for dumping when you're boondocking. Usually boondocking places don't have a dump station and I don't think you want to haul a blue boy a good distance. Best to conserve as best you can and leave when your tanks are full.
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Old 02-14-2019, 10:30 PM   #4
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A pair of 6v deep cycle GC2 size batteries. The converter you have to charge them.

What 120vac items- do you want to power? If just TV and similar a 200-250w PSW inverter would handle it.

Run the generator for battery charging and microwave, toaster, etc.

For just a couple three days your onboard tanks will be adequate. No need for a portable tank.
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Old 02-15-2019, 06:25 AM   #5
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Serious boondockers either have a generous solar array or endure the noisy, smelly generator for several hours each day. Conservation of water, tank space and power are important and very doable. It just takes planning.

Suggested reading-
Older posts on this forum
The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com

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Old 02-15-2019, 06:58 AM   #6
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We only dry camp (no boondocking around here) for 3 nights three or four times a year.

I went with 440AH of batteries and 200watt of portable solar panels.

The 2 reasons I went with portable is cost and we are often in shade so can move the panels around.
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Old 02-15-2019, 07:51 AM   #7
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I want to thank everyone for the prompt and informative answers. This really helps a lot and has given me a lot of the information I needed. This is a great forum and I look forward to a good season. Again, thanks. I knew I came to the right place.
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Old 02-15-2019, 11:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar_n_Rick View Post
Hi All, ...
To start, I have a 33' KZ Sportsmen that is equipped as I bought it which is pretty much with a basic 12v deep cycle battery and whatever converter/inverter the rig came with. The battery appears to be a no frills type from NAPA and, after some research, I think it's about 33 to 50 Ah. I am in the process of purchasing a 3100w inverter generator and will probably upgrade the battery to at least a 100Ah. I've read about power inverters and converters but really have no idea which to get or what to do with it once I have it such as connecting it etc. (looking at 1000-2000w units) And, should I be looking at "pure sine wave" or will any automotive inverter do the job? Solar is really not on the agenda.


Finally, I'm not looking at long term boondocking; more just the overnight or occasional 2-3 nights at a time stuff to start. I think I'd like a more comfortable TT before I venture to far off grid but it's a start. However, we bought an RV to get some of the comforts o found in a tent such as a little TV in the evening and hot coffee in the morning.
Welcome to iRV2. You can get lots of good advice here.

I think other excellent posts describe how the TT electrical system works. Here is some additional info.

50 amp/hours is good for one night with good reserve in a New York summer with careful use of 12 volt power. A Honda 1000i gas powered generator is more than enough to power your built in converter/charger. It would replenish the 50 amp battery enough for another night in about 4 hours. It can also recharge cell phones and computers at the same time. It cannot power A/C, microwave, electric water heater, hair dryer, etc. Note: I am not sure what kind of refrigerator is in your unit. If it is propane powered the above analysis is good.

100 amp/hours is good for two nights with plenty of reserve. You could even get three nights with careful management. The same small generator would work the same to replenish in approximately the same 4 hours running it every other day.

Running the furnace for 8 hours (30% duty cycle for 24 hours) would require more. My furnace uses 2.5 amps while running, so 24 amp/hours every day. Yours may use a little more. Add lights, TV, water pump, and other small stuff. You would need a 100 amp hour battery for one night. 200 amp hours would be great for 3 nights with ample reserve. You can probably charge the 200 amp hour batteries with the same generator in the same time. Hopefully your built in converter/charger is 50 amp maximum. The generator will easily run the converter/charger.

The reason to have a larger generator is to run electric heating devices like microwaves, air conditioners, and possibly a refrigerator that has a compressor like your home refrigerator. The Honda 1000i cannot run these devices. The 3100 watt generator you are buying will easily run all of these things. It will not charge the batteries faster than your converter/charger will manage. It is heavier and is likely more noisy.

You can make coffee in a percolator from Cabela's. You can run a Fan-tastic Vent fan on 12 volts to keep cool in New York and New England. The fans come rigged for roof installation as well as free standing.

The choice is yours. What comforts do you want?
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Old 02-15-2019, 10:04 PM   #9
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You will need a minimum of 200 amp/hr in batteries. Two 6 volt GC2 golf cart batteries will work well. Most 12 volt batteries are not true deep cycle batteries.

You would probably get by nicely with a 1000 watt Pure Sine Wave inverter. I would get a generator first as there isn't any installation and it will power everything. A 2000 watt would probably be best, light weight and adequate for charging batteries and powering appliances and TV.
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Old 02-17-2019, 05:02 AM   #10
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The real hurdle most people find when trying to boondock is learning to live without AC powered appliances, especially those power hungry ones that have heating elements in them.

If you can switch to a 12 volt TV (I have a 36"), a coffee perculator etc, you won’t need a huge solar array and inverter. I changed my Blu-ray player from AC to DC just by cutting off the wall wart and wiring on a cigar lighter plug. Look at the writing on the wall wart. If the output is 12V DC you can easily do this.

My only inverter is a 150 watt plug in model that I use to charge the batteries on my power drill.
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Old 02-17-2019, 11:26 AM   #11
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First I would go to 2 (4 would be better since you are retired) golf cart batteries. A 250W PSW inverter is all you need to run a TV (would buy a LED TV, not 12V) and to charge phones. Replace all of your 12V bulbs with LEDs from China for less than $1 each. The new Honda 2100 will run your AC if you add a “hard start) kit to it. The Honda will keep those that feel all generators are loud and smelly happier...OK, that’s not going to happen so “complain less” about you running a generator.

I would start by dry camping in your driveway for a couple days to learn how long it takes to draw your batteries down to 50%...time to recharge by plugging the TT into a 15A outlet. Also, items you need to buy are closer to your driveway than most CGs.

Unfortunately most 12V converters in TT are pretty basic...not smart chargers and not many amps...takes forever to charge the batteries even if you only have one. For $160 you can buy a 100A smart charger that will cut your generator run time in half or more even with 2 or 4 batteries.
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Old 02-17-2019, 12:13 PM   #12
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Now that you have a lot of good information to work from, why not go to one of the developed campgrounds and stay there for the time you would be boondocking without plugging in/hooking up to see how that works. Or, you could do the same thing at home. That would establish a time frame for your your fresh and holding capacities. Water use habits can make a significant difference there. It would also provide some insight into your electrical needs.

To reduce the draw on our battery when boondocking I installed a Wave radiant heater.

Your battery should have the AH/CC amps. marked on the outside. 33-50 amp hours seems really low to me, I would be certain that is correct before replacing it, especially if it is fairly new.

The generator should operate just about everything in your camper, which probably already has a converter to charge the battery. With that and enough fuel, battery power is less important, it just depends on how much you want to run the gen.

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Old 02-17-2019, 01:56 PM   #13
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Sounds corny to camp out in your driveway but you'll learn more in 3 hours doing that than 3 hours reading what other folks online do.

Before you go running out and buying a bunch of stuff, exercise it first. Sure, big batteries, big generators, big inverters all work but if what you have works well enough for what you need, then save yourself the extra work and expense of replacing things. Even if it's not going to work, playing with the one you have can reveal what features or capabilities you'd want to replace it with.

I wouldn't go down the solar road until you've got some time in the rig and understand what the various systems use, and your habits. I personally don't find roasting out in the sun just so the panels are happy, to run more junk I don't need to be worth the trouble but that's just me. An hour or two of genset time during the day checks the box.

You didn't say how many people will be in the camper but my wife and I can easily go a week totally off grid with water and propane to spare. In fact we've never stayed anywhere with hookups since we bought our RV last year. So having hookups to me is just as foreign as not having hookups is for you. It's not as hard as it seems, just be mindful of what you're using and adjust as you go.

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Old 02-17-2019, 03:09 PM   #14
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I agree with driveway camping so you can learn what works for you and what doesn’t in your RV. To save battery power and propane I invested in a thermostatically controlled Empire Vent Free infrared heater.

Infrared Heaters | Empire Heating Systems

We stay warmer, use no battery power and less than half as much propane. And they are almost silent. In 2 winters I have saved enough in propane to pay for the heater and they aren’t cheap. The SR10TW is the model I have. A small USB fan helps circulate the warm air. Search the internet for the best deal as prices vary widely.
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