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Old 08-08-2012, 03:47 PM   #15
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I get the 'How long will the battery last?" question in my shop all the time...To me, that's a 'how far is up' question...

Without knowing all of a particular rigs uses of 12 volt energy, how long those items are in actual use, etc., etc - is almost impossible to answer...

Your 12 volt battery (s) is/are similar to an electrical 'fuel tank' - the longer you draw from that tank, and at which rate of flow will determine how long you get to use it...

I find in my own real world, on our rig, I learn how long the 12 volt system will function (off shore power) by experience - AND - a voltage monitor system ( http://www.bestconverter.com/ )...when the voltage gets below 12 volts, it's time to start thinking about running the genny (Honda e2000) to re-fill our electrical fuel tank!...Our voltage monitor actually has an alarm that can be set to the the low-side voltage you wish to be alerted too...cool idea!...

With our 3-stage converter/charger, I can tell (via the voltage monitor), during charging, when the system goes into it's 'float' mode, telling me to turn off the genny...

BTW...12.16 volts indicates about 50% remaining
11.96 volts is about 25% remaining

With regard to charging the AS's batteries while on the road, via the TV's 7-wire connector:

1. If you have a new rig, make sure you've got the fuse installed in the TV's towing fuse panel - some new vehicles with the tow package don't actually have the fuse itself installed from the factory...

2. to check to see if you are actually getting a charging voltage back at the trailer batteries...With everything hooked up:
A. using a digital volt meter - check the voltage at the battery in the trailer with the TV's engine OFF...
B. start the TVs engine, and while at a fast idle, again note the voltage at the battery in the trailer - if charging you should see a rise in the voltage up to or over 14 volts, depending on the battery's actual state of charge, the TV's alternator's output rating, etc....
C. if you DON'T get a voltage rise in 'B' above, check connections back to the TV, including that fuse I mentioned, using your digital volt meter to find where the problem lies...

Hope that helps...happy trails...
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Old 08-09-2012, 01:19 AM   #16
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Thanks for all the info! Looks like we have plenty of things to try out. So far based on what you all are saying, and what we have checked on the battery, we need a new battery. We are going to swap in a new battery for this weekend to go to our first rally!

We probably wouldn't be shopping for a generator so soon if we hadn't had such a rough start on the battery situation. That's why we are so curious how long the battery should or could last.
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Old 08-09-2012, 02:19 PM   #17
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My 2004 chevy truck came from the factory with the fuse on the line that goes to the 7-pin connector not installed. Just 'cause it's cheap to check, see if you have power on the truck end of the connector. Took me a while to figure out that the battery wasn't charging after having driven all day.

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Old 08-09-2012, 04:00 PM   #18
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quilter, thanks for posting-- I hope your problem gets solved soon, but we've learned a lot about batteries in the mean time. Stuff we shoulda known five years ago.

Just in terms of nursing your battery along between charges, we've come up with the following.

We turn the main battery switch to "store" when we are away for the day hiking, sightseeing, &c; and sometimes also at night. Our blue gel ice pac method, mentioned above, keeps food really cold all day without having to run the fridge fan. Apparently some people just turn off the fridge fan but it supposedly makes your fridge run more efficiently. Other people freeze water bottles instead of cold pacs.

If the night temperatures will be cold enough to turn on the furnace, we seriously consider camping at a place with an electrical hookup. We carry a small electric space heater that really gets the Bambi toasty. For places without hookups, we turn the furnace on at a really low setting, and pile on extra bedding. The main problem then isn't staying warm, but condensation inside. This is solved by finding a golden mean for the furnace setting, and leaving the roof vents slightly open.Any wet towels, jackets, &c get stored in the truck, not inside the Bambi.

We also have some sort of back-up for things that run off the battery, like extra camping lanterns. However, restoring the battery power with the generator really helps. And we seldom camp where we need AC, or small electrical appliances.

Good luck!
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:07 PM   #19
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As one who does a lot of boondocking, I say buy the generator. Ours is invaluable.
Airstreams aren't well insulated. At night, the interior of mine cools to close the outside air temp. If you run the furnace as we do to keep the inside temp over 50, the batteries will be about half discharged in the morning.
Buy the bigger generator. It will run the converter to charge the batteries and run the microwave to cook dinner or make coffee at the same time.
We have a solar charger. In bright sun, it will mostly charge the battery in a day. We have a 25 footer and a small panel. Adding solar is worthwhile if you do a lot of boondocking. It will reduce the generator run time. If you have a 12vdc plug in your trailer, you can get a small cheap solar panel that you stand up outside and it plugs into your 12 volt plug.
Before we had a generator we tried to charge the batteries by plugging into the vehicle. Due to the small gauge wire, it takes a very long time.
Check into your converter. Many of the Airstreams have a single stage Paralax converter. Mine would ruin the batteries in two years because it would overcharge them when the trailer was plugged in. I upgraded to a three stage converter from bestconverter.com. When the batteries are fully charged, it only trickle charges them. Plus, the recharge time is faster because there is a bulk charge that puts a lot of amps in the batteries in a hurry.
When you get a new battery, I would check to see if there is some kind of short or drain in your trailer that ruined the old one. Easiest way is to fully charge the battery, turn off the isolator, wait 24 hours and they hook your battery to an automatic charger. If there is a short or a drain, the charger will go to its capacity for a significant time to recharge. If no short or drain, the charger should almost immediately switch to trickle charge.
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Old 08-10-2012, 06:51 AM   #20
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We have a solar charger. In bright sun, it will mostly charge the battery in a day. We have a 25 footer and a small panel. Adding solar is worthwhile if you do a lot of boondocking. It will reduce the generator run time. If you have a 12vdc plug in your trailer, you can get a small cheap solar panel that you stand up outside and it plugs into your 12 volt plug.
Solar is good even if you don't boondock. It will also keep your batteries topped up while the unit is in storage, if you park where it can get sunlight.
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Old 08-10-2012, 02:13 PM   #21
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The auto store did their battery testing/conditioning test and confirmed the battery was dead. The Airstream dealer swapped it out this morning. We'll see how this new battery goes, but I'm betting we'll be good.
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Old 08-10-2012, 06:05 PM   #22
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The auto store did their battery testing/conditioning test and confirmed the battery was dead. The Airstream dealer swapped it out this morning. We'll see how this new battery goes, but I'm betting we'll be good.
Congratulations...good move...you will definitely have a better camping experience with a brand new battery!

Happy Trails!
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