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Old 04-16-2015, 03:36 PM   #1
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Electrical questions about boondocking in Caravel

I need some electrical learnin' from you folks!

My Caravel has one RV battery and an Intellipower with Charge Wizard. All the lights in the trailer are 12v. The Fridge is 3-way but works best on propane so that is how we use it - I don't know if it uses any 12v power when on propane. The furnace is a modern furnace like what is found in new Bambi's, it needs 12v to run the fan. WH is original propane. I have no battery monitoring system.

My goal is to be able to last a week unplugged. Right now I have run out of juice after a 3 day weekend.

So I am switching all the interior lights to LEDs. I probably should add a battery monitoring system. I would like to figure out how much power the furnace uses while running. We usually just run it at night to keep the chill off.

I'm trying to determine if I could do something simple to make it a full week, like adding another battery to the system. There is room to add another battery if I go that way. I don't know if there would then be issues with my Intellipower charging both.

Advice from those more knowledgeable in electrical matters would be appreciated.
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Old 04-16-2015, 03:54 PM   #2
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Old 04-17-2015, 11:39 AM   #3
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Well, I need to understand the system a bit better before I start plunking down money on a battery monitor and stuff. I am getting the LEDs ordered from Dan (as soon as I figure out how to access the bathroom cabinet), so I'll get that ball rolling.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:14 PM   #4
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Your system sounds similar to mine.

What I do......use the interior lights as little as possible.

When it is dark enough that I need light to read, I light a small candle and use one of those tiny, clip on lights.

They are very bright, and the batteries last a very long time.

Still, I could not go a week. By 4 days or so, I need to run the engine for awhile to charge things, or run the generator.


Good luck!


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Old 04-17-2015, 12:28 PM   #5
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Here is what I came up with when I was considering solar for my trailer.

Refrigerator - 0.2A all the time, even on propane = 24hours * 100% * 0.2 A = 4.8 Ah
Furnace - 7.6A when running - figure 30% duty cycle (more if colder) when its on - 7.6 A * 30% * 8 = 18.24 Ah
Water pump - 7.5 A for an hour at each meal but 10% duty cycle - 7.5A * 10% * 3 hours = 2.25 Ah
Water heater (if electric ignition) - 1.5 A at 100% for 3 hours - 1.5A * 100% * * 3 hours = 4.5 Ah
Incandescent Lights - 1.4 A per bulb (based on the bulbs that were in my trailer), say an average of three bulbs on for a total of 4 hours - 1.4A * 3 bulbs * 4 hours = 16.8 Ah

This scenario totals 46.59 Ah per day. It probably doesn't match yours, but you can see from the example how to do it, and how you might be able to reduce power consumption. For example, LED bulbs will draw only around 0.3 A, v. 1.4 for your current incandescents.

As you can see, lighting is second only to the furnace in power consumption.

For optimum battery life you should not discharge a battery below 50% of capacity. Some say even less discharge.

Group 24 Battery = 70 Ah*50 = 35 Ah or less than one day
Group 27 Battery = 108 Ah * 50% = 54 Ah or just over 1 day

Assuming you are fully discharging your batteries, the Group 24 would last less about a day and a half and the Group 27 just over two days.

Adding another battery will approximately double your capacity, but if your existing battery is old you should probably replace it if you are going to wire them in parallel. If you are going to put in a switch to go from one to the other, then you can keep the old battery with no penalty.

Hope this gives you some insight.

Al
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:34 PM   #6
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LED's will help a lot but keep in mind that the Refrig will use a little of your 12v power even when on propane. We have 2 batteries and being stingy with the power and water pump but with the refrig on propane the whole time we've gone 4 days on batteries. We were moving at that point so don't know how much longer we could have lasted but so far that has been our upper limit. That was with NEW batteries. They are on their 4th year now so may not last as well.
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Old 04-17-2015, 02:13 PM   #7
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Best bet...two batteries and a generator for 3 or more days unhooked. LED lights are a plus, and running the furnace at a low temp at night with a sleeping bag on top helps. You don't want to run the batteries down past 50% so topping off with a genny is a must and you can run in conjunction with the furnace in the AM while the trailer warms up.
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al and Missy View Post
Here is what I came up with when I was considering solar for my trailer.

Refrigerator - 0.2A all the time, even on propane = 24hours * 100% * 0.2 A = 4.8 Ah
Furnace - 7.6A when running - figure 30% duty cycle (more if colder) when its on - 7.6 A * 30% * 8 = 18.24 Ah
Water pump - 7.5 A for an hour at each meal but 10% duty cycle - 7.5A * 10% * 3 hours = 2.25 Ah
Water heater (if electric ignition) - 1.5 A at 100% for 3 hours - 1.5A * 100% * * 3 hours = 4.5 Ah
Incandescent Lights - 1.4 A per bulb (based on the bulbs that were in my trailer), say an average of three bulbs on for a total of 4 hours - 1.4A * 3 bulbs * 4 hours = 16.8 Ah
That is very helpful. How were you able to determine how many amps each appliance was using?
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Old 04-17-2015, 06:29 PM   #9
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I vote for two batteries

I think? that the furnace fan motor uses the most electricity because it is used longer than the water pump.

I think the thing that limits most boon dockers is water supply and filled waste tanks.
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Old 04-17-2015, 06:46 PM   #10
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You are actually pretty modest in your electrical requirements, about the same as my son with his 67 20' GT. He has a really great 1 panel solar kit from AM Solar. 2 group 27 batteries. LED lights. Boondocks indefinitely in the summer in northern Alberta. 18 hours of daylight. He installed the kit himself since it comes so well prepared. It all simply provides complete independence except for the usual water and waste caveats. Jim


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Old 04-17-2015, 06:50 PM   #11
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Since we'll be in a dry campground I plan to use the 'facilities' as much as possible to avoid filling up the black tank, and the grey tank (blue boy) can always be put in the car and carried down to the dumpstation mid week. We have like 35g of water on board, we have NEVER run out of water - everything else runs out first

I'll check out the solar kits. Using sunlight to recharge sounds great, but we also try to get shady spots so that might work against us.
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Old 04-17-2015, 07:28 PM   #12
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It's interesting on how Solar might change your preferred habitat. Depending on the length of your stay, you view a potential site differently. Does it have enough sun? Will the shady bits hurt production at the best time of day? Of course, increasing the size of the system decreases the number of things you have to be concerned about. I have found that the only thing I worry about is having enough juice in the morning so that the electric coffee pot comes on at the preset time and makes a full pot of coffee. Jim


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Old 04-18-2015, 12:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
That is very helpful. How were you able to determine how many amps each appliance was using?
Stephanie,

I used a combination of the manuals that the PO left in my trailer and data from internet searches on my appliances. If your water heater has a pilot it may use less electricity, if any at all. The furnace data is probably good, your blower may be smaller. If you don't have manuals, the data may be on a label in/on the appliance somewhere.

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Old 04-18-2015, 02:07 AM   #14
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Yes, my WH has a pilot, it is the original WH. I have a battery powered ignitor on it, so it does not use 12v at all.

The furnace and fridge are both new, I should have the manuals for them. I think the only other device that is wired into 12v is the LP detector, which obviously runs all the time. And the water pump. I can look up what kind it is and see if I can get an estimate, but it is quite old.

Thanks for the tips, I'll see what I can find. Luckily it's a very simple trailer!
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