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Old 12-25-2015, 09:04 AM   #1
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New Airstream, what is draining my batteries so quickly?

I picked up a new Classic earlier this week and drycamped for the first time last night. When I unhitched from my truck, the battery appeared to be at 100% (as displayed on the factory-installed solar chargining monitor) around 4p ET.

With nothing but the fridge running on "auto" mode, I came back to the trailer to find that the battery was at 65% by 8p and nearly 20% by midnight.

I'm picking up a generator tomorrow morning (leave it to me to find these issues on Christmas Eve...) but, in the interim, what should I be checking/testing to see what might be causing this fast battery drain?

I'm assuming, of course, that the stock battery setup should be able to run the fridge for at least 24 hours after being at 100% capacity.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:24 AM   #2
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Do you have an inverter and is it on? Look for a black panel with a small green light.

You also could just have bad batteries. It is common if the rig has set on a dealers lot for any length of time.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:28 AM   #3
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It appears the fridge is using 12v as a power source. The fridge running on 12v will certainly drain down the batteries quickly. Most RV fridges will draw between 15 and 25 amps at 12v. It will drain a 200aH battery bank in about 10 to 12 hours.
The power draw @12v should be marked on the fridge label. In auto mode the fridge will use 12v when no propane source or shore power is available. If possible always use propane as it is the most efficient, and 12v operation as a last resort. Check your propane supply to the fridge...
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:29 AM   #4
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Not completely familiar with the new Classics as far as details, but there can be some not-so obvious parasitic DC loads - subwoofer, AV head unit, TV antenna pre-amp. However, I still doubt that would drain the batteries that fast. If you ran them down to 20% (not sure how the factory solar controller calculates capacity), they are permanently impaired with respect to capacity. But I think you must have already been there unless the controller is not indicating full charge correctly. Did you notice what voltage the tank monitor showed when the solar controller indicated 100%?

If they were at 100% and the fridge and a few lights were all you ran and they were at 20% 8 hours later, something is very wrong.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:31 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by lightmind View Post
It appears the fridge is using 12v as a power source. The fridge running on 12v will certainly drain down the batteries quickly. Most RV fridges will draw between 15 and 25 amps at 12v. It will drain a 200aH battery bank in about 10 to 12 hours.
The power draw @12v should be marked on the fridge label. In auto mode the fridge will use 12v when no propane source or shore power is available. If possible always use propane as it is the most efficient, and 12v operation as a last resort. Check your propane supply to the fridge...
I didn't think the newer Dometic fridges even had a 12VDC-only option - it is either propane or AC.

The inverter is a huge parasitic load, though - forgot about that. Good point.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightmind View Post
It appears the fridge is using 12v as a power source. The fridge running on 12v will certainly drain down the batteries quickly. Most RV fridges will draw between 15 and 25 amps at 12v. It will drain a 200aH battery bank in about 10 to 12 hours.
The power draw @12v should be marked on the fridge label. In auto mode the fridge will use 12v when no propane source or shore power is available. If possible always use propane as it is the most efficient, and 12v operation as a last resort. Check your propane supply to the fridge...
Do they have 3 way refrigerators now? I was under the impression that only gas/AC was offered.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:33 AM   #7
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I'm assuming, of course, that the stock battery setup should be able to run the fridge for at least 24 hours after being at 100% capacity.[/QUOTE]

Good assumption -- something is seriously wrong. The major draw on the batteries is generally the furnace fan, and parasitic draws include the propane detector and the inverter. But nothing should run the batteries down as fast as you are experiencing.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:43 AM   #8
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If your inverter is on and your fridge is on auto, it will drain the battery in jig time. When running on the inverter it is best to ensure that both your fridge and hot water heater are on propane. If your inverter is off, the fridge will default to propane and the hot water heater will have to be switched to propane. If your inverter was not on you may have bad batteries which is not uncommon if the dealer let them perish over the course of time due to the parasitic draws that are common on most Airstreams. With factory solar, you should be able to manage the parasitic draws if you park your Airstream in the sun. Jim


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Old 12-25-2015, 09:45 AM   #9
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If the fridge is only 2 way it will still run off the batteries if inverter AC is available. In that case it will still run down the batteries in a matter of hours...
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:50 AM   #10
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Wow, you all are awesome -- I didn't expect so many replies on Christmas Day.

I can confirm that the inverter, water pump, water heater and all lights were OFF. The only thing running was the fridge.

So it seems like I need to dig into two things when I get back to the trailer later today:

1. I need to manually set the fridge to LP to ensure it's not trying to somehow pull the majority of it's load via the battery. (If the inverter was off, shouldn't the fridge have automatically switched to LP?)
2. I need to test the batteries to see if they were somehow damaged at the dealer. (The trailer was built in mid-November 2015 and I picked it up from the dealer this past Tuesday -- so it's certainly possible that something happened to the batteries in the 30 days that elapsed.) What should I be doing to detect any sort of damage to the batteries themselves?
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:57 AM   #11
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On an outside chance, check to make sure that the plunger for the emergence brake break-away, on the hitch is still plugged in. If by chance that it's out, it will drain the batteries quickly.
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Old 12-25-2015, 09:59 AM   #12
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Batteries will have a code on them, usually a sticker, to say when they were manufactured. I'm attaching a chart provided by Interstate battery

Your batteries may have been old and discharged when you bought the AS. You know when you bought the trailer, check the battery manufacturing date and if the batteries are older than 4-6 months from that date, that could be part of the problem.

What brand/type are they?
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Battery_date_codes.pdf (438.6 KB, 115 views)
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Old 12-25-2015, 10:09 AM   #13
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If the fridge is only 2 way it will still run off the batteries if inverter AC is available. In that case it will still run down the batteries in a matter of hours...
I don't believe the refer is on an inverter circuit, just shore power.
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Old 12-25-2015, 10:12 AM   #14
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For monitoring battery banks I would recommend a good battery monitor like the Xantrex Link series. It will give you the ability to measure the battery bank capacity and charge / draw conditions. Having the ability to see what is going on with your charging and drain makes troubleshooting electrical issues much easier. A little pricey but well worth the bucks.
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Old 12-25-2015, 10:17 AM   #15
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There are some elements of misinformation about the operation of the stock Dometic fridge in some of the posts in this thread that I will attempt to set straight.

#1. When forced on propane (or in auto mode when no shore power is present,) the fridge's computer board will use a small amount of 12 volt DC power. This draw is not enough to kill healthy batteries in only a few hours of operation as the OP reports experiencing.

2. The factory standard Dometic fridge cannot cool itself solely on 12 volt DC power. It uses either propane or 110 volt shore power for cooling. Some fridges do work on 12 volt power but Airstream does not install these as stock items in their travel trailers.

3. If you have an Airstream factory installed inverter, the 110 volt AC plug for the fridge which is located in the fridge's mechanical area accessible from outside the trailer is not powered by the inverter. The only way to get 110 power to the fridge's outlet is via shore power (or a generator.) Hence it is impossible to run down the batteries running the fridge off of 110 volt via the inverter as it comes from the factory.

It's likely that this brand new trailer simply has bad batteries. That's not at all unusual as trailer batteries take a real beating on dealer lots for various reasons.

If the OP has accurately observed his batteries at a 20% charge, then they are likely already damaged.
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Old 12-25-2015, 10:39 AM   #16
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I think you said earlier you had factory solar, so that means you have Lifeline AGM batteries. We have that as well and have never seen (or allowed) the batteries drop below 50%.

Dealers sometimes leave trailers plugged into shore power, or just sitting out there on the lot, while customers come and go turning on the inverter, testing things, lights and running the batteries way down repeatedly. This can ruin the batteries, as well as a constant charge by a single stage converter/charger (does the new Classic have a single stage charger?).
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Old 12-25-2015, 10:40 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Flower View Post
If your inverter is on and your fridge is on auto, it will drain the battery in jig time. When running on the inverter it is best to ensure that both your fridge and hot water heater are on propane. If your inverter is off, the fridge will default to propane and the hot water heater will have to be switched to propane. If your inverter was not on you may have bad batteries which is not uncommon if the dealer let them perish over the course of time due to the parasitic draws that are common on most Airstreams. With factory solar, you should be able to manage the parasitic draws if you park your Airstream in the sun. Jim


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Do the new AS have the inverter going to all the outlets? On our 2006 there are only 2 inverter plugs in the front. The outlet for the fridge is shore power only so even if the inverter is on it won't power the fridge.
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Old 12-25-2015, 11:07 AM   #18
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Post #15 is the most accurate statement of the problem and issues involved.

The inverter does not power the refrigerator in any way.

I only mentioned the inverter in my older post as a possibility of a draw when idling and doing nothing. Most take 1.75 to 2 amps if left on. But that would not drain the batteries in the time period the OP mentions.

I believe that the batteries are simply defective. AGM batteries in the solar package and the stupid single stage charger AS provides are not compatible and can be easily damaged on the dealers lot.
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Old 12-25-2015, 11:21 AM   #19
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You should be able to get 3-4 days dry camping, not using the furnace, I will bet your batteries were down before you even started out, charge them up and go again. I have not had any problems with the stock batteries or converters that airstream supplied.... Have A Merry Christmas....
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Old 12-25-2015, 11:35 AM   #20
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I apologize for incorrect information pertaining to the relationship of the inverter and the fridge on new Airstreams with the factory solar. Mine is an after market install with all outlets powered and I indeed have to be very careful to not run the fridge and water heater on 110 when the inverter is on. Sounds like with the info provided by others that you will have a pretty accurate explanation of your problem. Jim


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