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Old 08-20-2011, 04:31 PM   #1
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Battery Life

We have a 2006 19' Bambi with the standard 2 deep cycle battery compartment. My question is, how long can I use lights and the fantastic fan before running the generator or hooking up to service?
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Old 08-20-2011, 04:57 PM   #2
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There are lots of opinions on this in other threads; but there are so many variables in camping styles, usage and weather, that it's hard to tell. Conservatively, you should be able to go a few days. However, this depends on how long the fantastic fan runs, how many lights you have on at the same time and how late you stay up at night. Also, when winter gets here, furnace use will really drain them fast and one to two nights is doing pretty good, without recharging or shorepower.

Without a lot of discussion, the easiest way to find out is to just go boondocking and see how long the batteries last. The electronic monitor will give you a rough indication (but I don't trust the one in our Bambi). A voltmeter may also give you a rough idea. But, you'll be able to tell for yourself when the lights start to dim and an inverter won't run the TV anymore. Then, it's time to drag out the generator or start planning the next night's stop at a KOA.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:32 PM   #3
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Without a lot of discussion, the easiest way to find out is to just go boondocking and see how long the batteries last.
experience is the best teacher!

Do get a decent digital volt meter (DVM) you can use to check voltage. That will measure the battery state of charge. After at least a half hour of no significant loads or charging, the voltage will be 12.6v or more if fully charged. When it gets down to 12.4v, you can think about charging. When it gets down to 12.2v, put charging as a high priority. Don't let the battery go below 12.0v for best battery life.

You can also determine battery condition by watching how loads influence battery voltage. Old timers could tell how old their batteries were by how much the lights dimmed when the furnace came on, for instance.

The battery status indicators you often find on panels are simple voltmeters. With experience, and being careful to consider the half hour battery rest rule for measuring voltage, they can be somewhat useful. A DVM or a plug-in voltmeter is a bit more precise.

I'd also suggest keeping in mind that things battery have a big margin. Temperature, age, cycle to cycle variation and use profile can each impact available battery capacity by more than 10%. So figuring out things to a gnat's eyelash and trying to predict available battery capacity to the nearest minute or something - while fun - is rather a fool's errand.

It's the same thing with the fresh water supply and waste tanks!
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:28 PM   #4
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I installed 3 Lifeline AGM's & a good 3 stage converter in my 65 Safari. I am able to go about 4.5 days boondocking before needing a charge. I have all LED lights. Our biggest draw is the Sat. TV. If cold temps and furnace runs then time to charge is sooner.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:55 AM   #5
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Thanks for the reply. You mentioned the TV running off the inverter, the only way mine turns on is if I am hooked up to 110ac....is there something I am missing?
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:59 AM   #6
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I neglected to mention that I have a Honda 2000i generator that I use to re-charge the batteries. So, without using a volt meter would 1 hr be enough time to bring the batteries up to full charge? Thanks for the above reply. I had one bad battery and nothing was running for very long so I have no frame of reference.
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Old 08-21-2011, 07:27 AM   #7
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I have an inverter wired to my batteries. My TV, Sat. & DVD player are all plugged into a multi-plug cord. When I'm hooked up to shore power then I plug the multi-plug cord into 110. When boondocking I plug the multi-plug cord into the inverter.
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Old 08-22-2011, 02:53 AM   #8
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Gsnedike, we have a little 300 watt inverter (purchased at Costco) that we use to power 110 volt AC electronics (television, PCs, phone chargers, etc.). Our year and model Bambi did not come with an inverter for 110 volts AC.
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:23 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Gsnedike View Post
So, without using a volt meter would 1 hr be enough time to bring the batteries up to full charge?
Probably not, but it all depends. (No, really!) Lots of variables, but let's make some suppositions for a hypothetical ... let's assume that you have two 100 Amp Hour batteries and you discharge them to 50%. And let's assume that your coach has a 40 amp converter / charger (of course, this scenario assumes that you just plug the trailer into the generator and aren't tyring to use a generator's 12 volt outlet ... not sure whether yours has one).

So you need 100 amp hours to get to full charge. The absolute best theoretical result is that it would take you 2 1/2 hours to get to full charge (100 / 40) = 2.5). The size of your generator is of no moment here; most any generator can deliver the current that your converter needs for this job ... again assuming 100% efficiency, the converter only needs about 4 amps or 480 watts at 120 volt input. So, it's all driven by your converter and the rate it can deliver charging current to the batteries.

Of course, in the real world, as the batteries take a charge, the input current will start to drop ... so it will take longer than 2 1/2 hours ... and without a voltmeter, you won't really know whether you're at 70% charge or 40% ... and in the real world, your charge curves will never be the same as those of a pristine, new battery, etc.

Long answer short: it'll take several hours.

That is one of the beauties of solar; a solar charging system just keeps on delivering current to the batteries (assuming some sunlight!) for so long as they will take more charge. And then it stops. No attention or measurement needed. You go off hiking or fishing or visiting the nearest "Museum of the History of Bubble gum" or whatever, and it keeps working.
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