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Old 11-12-2013, 10:00 PM   #1
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Question re: Power in my Interstate

New and Dumb, but having fun!

I need help in understanding how all of the power systems work...the batteries, the generator...plugging into shore power..how and when to use which settings...what the heck the inverter is doing and how I should have it set, etc..

I just spent a couple hours reading/browsing my owners manuals, but that doesn't help in understanding the systems.

We were dry camping this weekend, and ran the heater (set to 63). Heater went ran intermittently through the nite. In the morning, we had a "Fault, Low Battery" warning on our rear panel. I'm sure that was not a good thing!! Once we left campground, the warning went off.

We really need to get a better clue as to what is going on.

Can anybody recommend a good "How To" book or web site that will explain to a novice, how things work and what we should be doing in regards to power?
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:17 PM   #2
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Welcome - I feel your pain. No solution for you - more of a comment that 'sounds about right'.

I'm also trying to figure out how to get more life w/o generator or hook up. On my first weekend out I got about 12 hours out of my batteries while dry camping (no heater; just TV antenna and WI-FI repeater). Next time the batteries kicked into 'low fault' was when it sat in my driveway for 3 days with the TV Antenna and LP Solenoid Open; drove me crazy trying to figure it out (thanks to Protag for pointing out many of the drains)

With the heater on it requires the LP Solenoid to use Battery to stay in the OPEN position to allow gas to flow; (the switch on the outside behind curb side rear tire) and I'm sure some power for the fan. If you had the TV Antenna on that sucks juice too, then there is the Inverter (even if nothing is turned on).

That said; my Solar has never recharged my batteries from a low state; only Shore Power for 3+ hours straight seems to really get them back to 100%; even when I drove 6 hours I only hit 75% recharge.

There are lots of pointers on how to 'dry camp' and save power - but basically it seems if you want to dry camp for any more than 24 hours it you might has well have brought a tent and flash light.

I have to say that I am disappointed with my ability to park somewhere and not have to run the generator to get through the weekend. I like my Netflix but seems like I should be able to get more than 12-18 hrs of battery out of my AS.

I'm honestly looking at pouring some cash into a battery upgrade next spring. If anyone has a solution that will get a solid 3 days; I'd love to see the build list.
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:52 PM   #3
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Appreciate hearing your comments. We did watch a 90 minute video that evening, so that probably didn't help. But other than that, just the heater and a few lights were on earlier.

What are we supposed to be doing with the inverter? I don't understand what that does and how we use it.

Oh, and so, the fact that I got the "Fault, Low Battery" warning light...obviously it's because battery ran low, but, does that put us or the RV in jeopardy of anything? If we ran batteries all the way down, then we would just have to probably plug into shore power to recharge them, correct?
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:08 AM   #4
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Running generator, and driving the RV should recharge the batteries, and I've heard running the battery to depletion is bad on them, but I still get about same life so not sure.

Inverter converts the 12v from the battery into 110v for the TV and AC outlets. If you run the TV or have anything plugged. In then it's running on the inverter.

You can to turn off the inverter in the cabinet by cycling the magnum push button (can't Remember exactly what it was called) in a 14 you'll have the new inverter so you shouldn't need to set any dip switches or anything. It defaults to charging your battery when it can.

FWIW: power is applied in following order.
1) generator - even if plugged in.
2) shore power
3) battery

So if your generator is running you only get 20 amps, even if your plugged in to shore power.

Also if you haven't figured it out yet - generator can run AC but just barely. If your watching TV and AC kicks on, chances are the power controller will drop the TV in order to power the AC, and no way are you running the AC and cooking in Microwave if you are on generator power.

Enjoy your new ride!
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:22 AM   #5
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Thanks for helpful lesson #2!!

So should I just leave inverter to "ON" all the time? Or do I need to switch it off or to another setting for some reason?
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:19 AM   #6
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Were you camping with shore power? If so, make sure your converter was turned on - it's what recharges the batteries when you're plugged into shore power. If not, then, yes, you were running off the battery alone and using the inverter to power 120 volt appliances will make it even worse. (Converter = 120 volt AC to 12 volt DC; Inverter = 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC.)
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:20 AM   #7
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Running generator, and driving the RV should recharge the batteries, and I've heard running the battery to depletion is bad on them, but I still get about same life so not sure.
I've depleted my house batteries twice, down below zero charge (9.9 volts or less). The first time it was my fault. I didn't know where all of the parasitic drains were, and it took a while— including much helpful advice from here on the AirForums and the Yahoo Sprinter group— to track down most of them. I had to pull the batteries and recharge them on a bench with a "proper" multistage charger.

Second time was the fault of the Airstream dealer, who had my Interstate in their shop for service, and their technician didn't do a good job of shutting things off when he parked it outside the shop after he was done working on it. If I had been able to pick it up the same day there wouldn't have been a problem, but I couldn't get time off from work until later in the week, and by then the damage was done.

I figure each severe depletion knocked about a year off the useful life of the batteries, turning nominal five-year batteries into three-year batteries.
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Inverter converts the 12v from the battery into 110v for the TV and AC outlets. If you run the TV or have anything plugged. In then it's running on the inverter.
One trick here is that the fridge is a dual-mode 12vDC/120vAC unit. If you start up the fridge the night before a trip to get it cold, make sure the inverter is in "charge only" mode (or the Magnum equivalent; mine's a Tripplite). That will force the fridge into more energy-efficient 12vDC mode. If your inverter is in "invert" mode, the fridge will run on 120AC power automatically, and so you'll not only be running the fridge but the inverter as well, and so drain the batteries faster.

I also installed a Belkin Power-Conserve Switch (Amazon.com: 3 Pack - Belkin Power Conserve Switch F7c016q - Bulk Packaging: Electronics) on each television, so that I can shut them off completely without unplugging them. A television draws power even when turned off; that's why the remote can work to turn it on; the IR receiver in the telly is still powered. With the televisions powered but off, the inverter is still working to provide them with AC power.

You could do the same thing by just keeping all of your breakers shut off until you're ready to run a 120vAC appliance, but breakers aren't really designed to serve as on/off switches, and you'll wear out the breakers faster if you do.
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Also if you haven't figured it out yet - generator can run AC but just barely. If your watching TV and AC kicks on, chances are the power controller will drop the TV in order to power the AC, and no way are you running the AC and cooking in Microwave if you are on generator power.
Actually, if you turn on the TV after the AC starts, you can run both. Barely. I do that when I'm doing my monthly generator exercise, basically using the AC as a load bank to get the generator engine's RPMs up, and watching TV as a timer for how long to run the generator; I run it for the duration of an hour-long program, and when they're rolling end credits, I shut off the AC, TV, and generator, in that order.
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:21 AM   #8
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Your best learners manual is hands-on experience, in our opinion.

Get out there in it and spend time just hangin' out, doin' what you do.

When we are dry-camping, we go into conservation mode. Watching a 90-minute video might have pushed things a bit. We read, I crochet.

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Old 11-13-2013, 09:19 AM   #9
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Thanks y'all. All very informative info. Now let's see if I get some of this...

1. When NOT plugged in, and NOT watching TV, and NOT using any appliances, I should turn the inverter OFF. The fridge will continue running on the 12v battery. And I will conserve my battery power.

2. When I am NOT plugged in, and need to run the heater, I also should have the inverter OFF

3. When I am NOT plugged in, in order to use microwave, or to plug phone chargers into the 120v outlets, the inverter must be ON.

4. In my 2014, I'm pretty sure there's an AUTO setting for the inverter. Does that just mean that it knows whether to invert or convert when I'm plugged in?

Please, please, tell me I'm making progress with my understanding of this stuff!!!
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:23 AM   #10
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Oh, but now I think I remember the mechanic telling me that to run the microwave, I had to be plugged in or running the generator. ??
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:28 AM   #11
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4. In my 2014, I'm pretty sure there's an AUTO setting for the inverter. Does that just mean that it knows whether to invert or convert when I'm plugged in?
The "Auto" setting only switches from inverter to charger and back. As soon as it senses an outside source of 120vAC, it switches to charger mode. Even if that outside source is only 15amp. The inverter will not draw power from the batteries to make up any shortfall in AC power; you can only operate off of one AC source at a time, so if you have any outside source, the inverter switches to charge mode.

The default mode is invert.

The "auto" mode will not turn your inverter/charger completely off; you have to do that manually.
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:30 AM   #12
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Oh, but now I think I remember the mechanic telling me that to run the microwave, I had to be plugged in or running the generator. ??
That's right. The microwave's circuit is never powered by the inverter, only by shore power or generator. Easy enough to verify; while on inverter power, and all breakers switched on, look at the clock display on the microwave. If it's not lit, the microwave isn't powered.
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:31 AM   #13
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Were you camping with shore power? If so, make sure your converter was turned on - it's what recharges the batteries when you're plugged into shore power. If not, then, yes, you were running off the battery alone and using the inverter to power 120 volt appliances will make it even worse. (Converter = 120 volt AC to 12 volt DC; Inverter = 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC.)
We were NOT plugged in...no hook ups at the campground. I'll have to look to see what the settings are on the inverter/converter. I thought this all took care of itself when you set it to AUTO.

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Your best learners manual is hands-on experience, in our opinion.

Get out there in it and spend time just hangin' out, doin' what you do.

When we are dry-camping, we go into conservation mode. Watching a 90-minute video might have pushed things a bit. We read, I crochet.

Enjoy,


Maggie
I agree, Maggie. Although it is amazing how you don't know what you don't know, and this makes it so much more difficult to figure things out!!

OK, so, no more videos when dry camping.

So glad to have found this forum. You all are a wealth of information and will surely help us speed up the learning curve a bit!
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:34 AM   #14
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Protagonist...thank you for those last two replies regarding AUTO mode, and the microwave.

Dang...I think I got a wee bit smarter today!! Thanks peeps!
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