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Old 04-24-2014, 12:50 PM   #1
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Beginners Guide Needed (how to for Newbies)

My husband and I just purchased a 2014 Interstate. We have had a couple of small pull-behind campers in the past but they were pretty basic, and we are totally new to generators, inverters, solar panels, and the seemingly complex energy management system in the Interstate. Although our salesman went over things at the time we picked up the unit, even with pouring over the various manuals, much of it is not as clear as it seemed at the time.

Are there any online videos or easy guides that explain how things should work? If not, what are the basics?

Thanks for any help you can give. Mary
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:56 PM   #2
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First, congratulations on your new baby, and welcome to the forums!

Airstream's strong suit has never been documentation. But that aside, I think trial and error may be your companion for a little while, and more specific questions will certainly help forum members to better assist you. If the dealership is close enough, you may want to go back for some refresher instruction - I am sure they would be happy to accommodate.
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:59 PM   #3
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Crazy idea, but what about the Airstream Newbies Guide? Not sure how relevant to interstates though.

Amazon.com: The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming eBook: Rich Luhr, Brad Cornelius: Kindle Store
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Old 04-24-2014, 02:23 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses. Not sure about the Newbies Guide, since the Kindle edition didn't show much. I may purchase just in case.

Here is what happened Sunday night. We drove the Interstate to our daughter's 4 hours away and spent the night in it. We wanted to check it out with no power plugged in since we will be driving from MN to TX next week and probably just pulling into Walmarts for the night.

When I figured out which plugs worked, I was able to charge our cell phones and my iPad. In the morning my husband tried brewing coffee - the first pot worked fine, but by the second pot, the battery was way down. My understanding is that the generator was to come on automatically - didn't happen. I had remembered to flip the toggle switch for the LP when we parked and the tank showed full. So is there something I'm missing or misunderstanding? I figure I probably have something set wrong or am misunderstanding the process.

Also, the battery disconnect. When should it be on, when should it be off? How does it impact the ability for the solar panel to charge the battery (assuming we ever get any sun)?

Mary
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Old 04-24-2014, 02:38 PM   #5
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I have never had anything to do with mohos, but let me ask: did it not come with an Airstream-printed owner's manual?

And usually, there are books from each manufacturer of the sub-systems; generator, would be one, no?
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:02 PM   #6
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Yes, it came with a manual plus multiple books on each component. And I have read them, and highlighted them, but they still didn't answer my questions. Which is why I was wondering if there were some other resources available - really basic type guides for those of us who are a bit challenged when it comes to understanding electronics.

It is possible - perhaps even likely - that what the salesperson said would happen and what actually happens with the energy management system is not the same. Is it truly supposed to automatically switch on the generator when the house battery runs down, or is that just a misunderstanding that the sales person was passing on? I can't find that interaction documented. Having done tech support, I also know that manuals make sense to the people who wrote them (I was one of those), but often don't make much sense to the audience who has to put the info into practice.

I'm comfortable with computers and figure that once I get past the newbie phase of trying to understand the energy management system, we will love the Interstate.

Mary
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:24 PM   #7
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I am not the least bit technically inclined but I know in my B190 ( an older Airstream B van) the generator will not turn on if the gas fuel tank is 1/4 full or less. That's to ensure you don't use the last of your gas and then are stuck somewhere. Not even sure if your generator is the same or works the same way but just a thought.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:26 PM   #8
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Lets start with your salesperson. It does't seem like they did a good delivery to you. I was familiar with big end motorhomes and yet the delivery person took at least an hour and a quarter with me.

The Interstate DOES NOT HAVE autostart on the generator. I'm presently investigating adding autostart components to my 2014 Interstate but not sure if I want to spend that much money, and I can do the install myself. You really should not consider using the inverter outlet to make coffee. Actually the inverter is a 1000 watt output and anything that has heating elements will usually run close to or over the 1000 watts and electric heating elements will quickly drain the batteries via the inverter.

Best thing you can do is post questions on this web and you will receive answers, most of them good and accurate. Also do searches within the Interstate board.

The Master Battery Switch, on the doorframe, is left ON with my unit at all times. BUT then I have mine inside a heated/conditioned garage with ample electric to keep it plugged in. The newer inverter/charger and AGM batteries really like being plugged in at all times when possible. The SMALL 50 watt solar panel on the roof needs long-good sunlight to provide the 50 watts, which is really only good for maintaing your batteries. And that is best accomplished when parked without power to then turn OFF the master switch. There are several small electrical drains on your battery at all times. The propane tank valve does shut off when you turn off the master battery switch.

I posted this list below recently in another question......
1. Inverter receives 12v constantly from RV batteries.
2. BIM (also called Battery Separator)
3. Dash radio is always powered to keep its memory.
4. Solar controller-it probably has some draw as it has an electrical circuit.
5. Tank heaters--only if turned on of course.
6. Rear lounge motor--only if in use to lower/raise the lounge.
7. By-pass engine start push button for Mercedes--only if pushed of course.
8. Master battery disconnect switch--if off then no draw on what is hooked to the main power distribution box.

Per Magnum specs....inverter usually draws 5 watts and NO LOAD 19 watts typical.

So ask away. Best way is to learn from those of us who already have them.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:28 PM   #9
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Mary, we have the 2013 Interstate, but I do not think there is any difference in power management. The standard Magnum controller does not support auto start for the generator. It can be done, but that requires a different Magnum controller (the ME-RC50), and a few other components to gain an auto-start feature. I am having the controller replaced in mine next week, but for a different reason. I am adding a battery monitor so I can track power in and out of the batteries.
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:03 PM   #10
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The generator has to be started manually. The starter control is located in the curbside rearmost cabinet by the other controls and monitors.

I agree that going thru all of the details when you take delivery leaves a lot to be desired as you are totally unfamiliar w/ all of the systems. I'd go back and get it a do-over now that you have some experience and know what questions to ask. What makes it especially hard is when something doesn't function properly but you don't know how it should work.

Unless you were drawing a lot of current besides the coffee pot, I'm surprised that the solar panel didn't keep the battery up between pots unless it was cloudy. You can also start the engine to charge the house batteries.
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:36 PM   #11
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Energy management in an Interstate is definitely a "school of hard knocks" course. The problem with the school of hard knocks is that it's backwards— First you take the test, THEN you get the lesson!

With a 2014 Interstate, you've got a few more options than I do with my 2012. But consider this: You need to keep the house batteries above a 50% charge at all times, and it's better for battery life if you keep them above about 75%.

Also consider: You also need to run the generator periodically to keep it healthy; like any other piece of machinery it can suffer from neglect. Generators run best when loaded somewhere between 50% and 75% of their rated capacity, and the inverter/charger in charge mode by itself isn't enough to load it up. So running the generator just above idle to charge the batteries is not a very good thing.

So my recommendation is— as long as you're not in a venue that forbids running the generator— whenever you're planning to use something that draws a lot of power, fire up the generator and let it handle the load instead of the batteries. Not only will your batteries thank you for not depleting them, but so will your generator for not ignoring it.

All you have to remember then is not to let the house batteries discharge so much that there's not enough juice left to start the generator. And make sure you have enough propane to run the generator— at 75% power, a full tank of propane (14 gallons) is about enough to run your generator for 24 hours, if you don't use your propane for anything else. Using your generator every day or two to charge the batteries, propane water heater, and stove, but not your furnace, you'll probably have to refill your propane about once a week.
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:54 PM   #12
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Thank you all so much. We have a lot to learn and it sounds like this is a great place to get some answers. I will give the generator a try before we take off on Monday. I have also told my husband we will have to find an alternative to his electric coffee pot when we are not plugged in or running the generator. ;-) Mary
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Old 04-24-2014, 09:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaryT View Post
... Also, the battery disconnect. When should it be on, when should it be off? How does it impact the ability for the solar panel to charge the battery (assuming we ever get any sun)?

Mary
Welcome to Air Forums!

I see you are from Little Falls, Minnesota. I spent a lot of time in Little Falls as a child since my grandparents lived there. I was born and raised nearby in Saint Cloud.

Protag has some good recommendations on batteries.

I wouldn't worry about that manual disconnect unless you are storing your rig. The solar still works with it turned off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaryT View Post
... I have also told my husband we will have to find an alternative to his electric coffee pot when we are not plugged in or running the generator. ;-) Mary
You can always heat water on the propane stove to make coffee. We use the single cup Melitta pour over or a device called an AeroPress to make coffee on the road. The Melitta also comes in 6-10 cup versions if you drink a lot of coffee.

Amazon.com: melitta pour over coffee maker

Amazon.com: aero press
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Old 04-24-2014, 09:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaryT View Post
Thank you all so much. We have a lot to learn and it sounds like this is a great place to get some answers. I will give the generator a try before we take off on Monday. I have also told my husband we will have to find an alternative to his electric coffee pot when we are not plugged in or running the generator. ;-) Mary
One other thing Mary: Airstream will send you a dealer rating survey. Don't forget to complete it and include details of any bad or incorrect handover information.
And ask for a coffee maker, if your husband is a coffee aficionado, he may like the Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Percolator (search Amazon for details). They come in different sizes - I like the 9-cup version since they are Italian sized cups.
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