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Old 08-07-2011, 11:55 AM   #1
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Boondocking

Hi Folks .... we're new to the forum. Bought a really clean 2006 Interstate 18 months ago. Have done a couple of long trips but not much boondocking. Just got back from a week at Acadia NP - all w/o hookups ... and looking for some help / suggestions.

Refrig worked well on propane for a couple of days. Day 2 started having some energy drain problems on a 1 yr old battery so tried turning off frig overnight. Didn't seem to make much difference, so turned it back on. No luck - check light lit. Tried a few more time each day. Hadn't moved the rig; it was spot-on level; and to clear propane lines, I normally run a burner for 20 sec before initially turning on frig w propane, but no luck Any ideas?

Also, would appreciate any battery related insights about boondocking with the Interstate. Ours didn't seem to hold a charge in spite of running the generator for at least an hour each day. We really love the unit, but this experience was a real bummer.

Thanks, WaldoVT
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:32 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Forums, Waldo. Congrats on your purchase and kudos for giving boondocking a chance.

Your battery issues are the kinds of things we talk about all the time. It's all about whether you have a good battery, to start with, and how you manage your usage.

As for your generator, you may want to think about how much electricity you use, and how long it takes to replace it. For example, a generator will not give you a "fill-up" on just an hour a day (unless you only used a very little bit).

Enjoy the search for answers and I suspect that the more you travel in your rig, the more you'll learn.

Pat
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Old 08-07-2011, 02:21 PM   #3
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In my opinion, a large roof mounted solar panel is necessary for happy boondocking. It is silent and does nothing to disturb the tranquility of the spot you have selected for boondocking. We have a 135 watt panel that serves our needs even in cold weather camping when you need to run the furnace, a big power consumer.
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Old 08-07-2011, 08:52 PM   #4
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The refrigerator needs 12 volts to ignite the propane. If the battery is low, the refrigerator won't work, even if you have plenty of propane in the tank(s).

I am unfamiliar with the appliances and electronic devices in an Interstate. What 12 volt items did you use while boondocking, and for what duration? You may need to add a second battery if you continue to camp without hookups. Also, what kind of generator did you use? You may just need to run it longer each day to fully recharge the battery.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:33 PM   #5
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All of the above sounds right. There is a whole discussion on the Forums on boondocking, and many, many threads on batteries and generators. Not too many on battery life in Interstates. But if you've only got one battery, you won't last too long boondocking. My Safari originally came with one battery, and soon it had two 130 watt solar panels on the roof and three big Lifeline deep cycle batteries. This works. Just got back from four days of boondocking, and my state of battery charge never went below 80%, even though parked in pretty shady spot. So - more battery, and some solar will help a lot.

Also, if the battery in your coach is original, it is likley at or near the end of its service life unless it's been cared for meticulously. You likely would do better with a new battery and perhaps two hours of generator run per day ... assuming that you've got a hefty enough converter to cram some juice in to that battery.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:37 PM   #6
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Hey Waldo

welcome to Forums.

my father was born in Underhill and grew up in Jericho. Hopefully the slopes of Mount Mansfield are cooler than the heat wave down here in Texas.
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:38 PM   #7
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Welcome to the forum Waldo.

I would buy an inexpensive digital voltmeter, so you can measure your battery voltage level accurately. It is hard to figure out what is going on battery wise without knowing the battery voltage accurately.

Dan
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:44 PM   #8
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What I'd do is start over from scratch.

1. Replace the battery with two of the largest batteries which fit..probably group 24.

2. Obtain an external 40+ amp 3 stage automotive smart charger, or replace the single stage Parallax converter (model 7355)with a 3 stage unit. I use external charger and actually prefer this method.

3. At the end of a trip fully charge the batteries, and then fully disconnect them by removing cables or installing a master disconnect switch. The stock arrangement bleeds power thru the propane detector slowly discharging the batteries.

4. At the start of a trip, fully charge the batteries. The battery pack is drawing less than 2 amps at 13.8 volts.

5. When boosting with generator, insure it is capable of charging at 14.4 volts.

6. Manage your electricity use, LED lights are a big help.

I don't have solar, use an inverter for frequent laptop, etc., not particularly careful on lighting, and can manage week vacation on an hour or two generator use daily, and could get by on less. The big deal is to be sure when that generator is running, you're getting at least 40 amps into the batteries.
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Old 08-08-2011, 12:43 AM   #9
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WaldoVT, after re-reading your original post, you must have two batteries; or you would have also mentioned that you also had difficulty starting the vehicle engine. Could you please supply more information on your battery configuration, your generator model, etc.; as we are just shooting in the dark without more details.

Thanks.
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:22 AM   #10
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Boondocking with 2006 Interstate

Wow, I really appreciate all of the responses to my posting - this is a wonderful site. Sorry I didn't join earlier.

Updates:
1) Solar panel is probably an option if we do lots of boondocking, but think we'll not go there just yet.

2) After checking with the maker of the battery, the spec for our 2006 rig is more of a European style deep cycle battery ... which from their experience is more usually used for hard cranking than for a house battery. Hmmmm, guess it's time to contact Airstream for more info from them.

3) Battery 'compartment' for the house battery is under the passenger seat and not much extra space - certainly not for a second battery.

4) We primarily use the battery for firing the propane (primarily for the refrig, and only occasionally the range), and occasional use of individual lights. Probably not using the Onan generator enough, and I should investigate LED lights. While I knew that the refrig didn't use too much propane, didn't realize how much juice had to be available to fire the spark.

5) I am DEFINITELY not an electronic kind of guy, but it sounds like the investment of a bit of testing equipment will be a good idea. Hope it comes with 'Diagnosis for Dummies' instructions.

Thanks everyone who replied. Sure would like to hear from someone who has Interstate experience ... esp with a 2006.

Cheers, Waldo
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:49 PM   #11
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It doesn't take much current to ignite the refrigerator burner, but when your house battery goes dead, your refrigerator won't light and cool. Actually, the refrigerator is probably the lowest draw on your battery, even lower than lights.

If you already have a generator, I'd read up on it's use. You are probably correct regarding running it longer. The length of time you need to run it to recharge your battery depends on how much electricity you used since the last charge.

If you don't have room for a second battery, you might consider adding an Optima deep-cycle (blue top). They are pricy, but they're sealed, so you might be able to install one where a wet-cell battery wouldn't fit.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:11 PM   #12
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Question

Hi Waldo,
I also have a 2006 Interstate (rear dinette) and have just replaced the house battery with a DieHard Marine Battery. It had the same footprint as the old battery, but is much taller, so now I can't move the passenger seat forward or back. What battery did you finally get?

My old battery was so dead that I couldn't even light one lamp, and it would no longer charge. The new one seems to have plenty of power. I still have a problem, however. The battery "kill switch" (Use/Store switch) will no longer turn off. Has anyone else had this occur?

My late husband would be able to troubleshoot this situation, but for me it's a big mystery. Can anyone help?
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Old 11-30-2014, 11:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstream25 View Post
In my opinion, a large roof mounted solar panel is necessary for happy boondocking. ...
This thread is a few years old and I'd like to invite folks to chime in with additional bits of boondocking wisdom as it specifically relates to the intrinsic capacity of the Interstate, now that there are more people on this forum (reportedly).

In other threads, I've seen ancillary references to the idea that the Interstate is not optimized for boondocking. Well, other than installing solar in those AI's that were not born with it, what are the recommendations?

My husband and I are still newbies but one thing has already become abundantly clear to me: I am interested in doing a fair amount of boondocking and I want to get skilled at it.

Let me give you our most recent example of boondocking success - and the attached photo speaks for itself. Thanksgiving Day, Texas A&M played LSU, one hundred thousand people in the stadium stands PLUS an uncountable number of additional football tailgaters in most of the campus parking areas - it was absolute pandemonium. Hotels at full occupancy, RV lots packed to the point where they looked like they were vomiting large vehicles into the nearby ditches.

We had a paid parking spot for the game and then just remained there overnight. I taped the paid ticket in the windshield in case campus police had any questions (which they did not). The Interstate, of course, is small enough to qualify for parking in the regular car lot, from which virtually all other RVs are disqualified due to size. That's one of the reasons we got it.

It was one of the most *peaceful* overnights I've ever had on the road - the parking lot cleared out and we had the entire place to ourselves. Why in the hell would I NOT want to do this kind of thing?! I can pretty much guarantee you that there was no such tranquility in any of the other local accommodation options.

We ran on coach battery and had no problems despite the fact that it fell to 39 degrees outside and the furnace cycled frequently (we installed a new marine battery and upgraded to a 3-stage converter / charger a few months ago when we bought the vehicle). I fired up the generator only long enough to run the toaster (because I have to have toast in the morning).
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Old 11-30-2014, 12:14 PM   #14
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I believe the Interstate is designed for the complete self-sufficiency required for boondocking.

We spent 3 weeks last week roaming the federal campgrounds in the Rocky Mountains, staying 1-3 nights each site, and have done the same other places since 2007.

When we need serious heat or air conditioning, we generally opt for electricity, but managed 3 nights at very cold Padre Island NS last year without it.

We can relatively unobtrusively park and spend the night most anywhere that is not prohibited......that's the beauty of being small and completely self contained.


Maggie
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