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Old 10-24-2011, 10:54 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by NeatAirstream View Post
The GFCI reset is in your Power Converter Charger under the bed on the cusbside of the trailer. Push down to reset it and the up until it clicks.
Mojave,

Patrick speaks the truth! (I think). Had a similar issue (although not quite the same) on ours; I didn't realise that the breaker had to be pushed right down before being pulled back up into the "ON" position. You might try that on the breaker with the white test button above it.
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Old 10-25-2011, 01:54 PM   #16
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This would be a good place for me to suggest buying a no touch voltage tester. It makes for easy tracking everything high voltage down. About $10 at big box stores. I have at least 4 of em scattered around. I've never said: "Dang! I wish I didn't have this tester."
Yes we bought a tester when we got the Bambi, and it's definitely worth having!

Thanks everyone...it finally worked Woo hoo!
Next question though...none of the outlets work when on battery, is this normal?
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Old 10-25-2011, 02:05 PM   #17
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....<snip>...
Next question though...none of the outlets work when on battery, is this normal?
Glad you got the breaker reset...

Your regular outlets will not work when on battery power alone. They require either a generator or shore power connection.

IF you have an inverter built into your rig, there will be a few receptacles specifically set up to use inverted power. We have a factory inverter (600w) and the outlets it delivers power to are marked.
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Old 10-25-2011, 02:21 PM   #18
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Glad you got the breaker reset...

Your regular outlets will not work when on battery power alone. They require either a generator or shore power connection.

IF you have an inverter built into your rig, there will be a few receptacles specifically set up to use inverted power. We have a factory inverter (600w) and the outlets it delivers power to are marked.
Thanks, I'll double check but I think we tried every outlet. I didn't realize that initially, hope it doesn't become a huge issue when boondocking.

Lisa
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Old 10-25-2011, 02:50 PM   #19
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Your home has one source of electrical power, 110/220 volts AC. An RV has 2 sources: The 110 volts AC it gets from the power pedestal via your shore power plug. It also has an onboard 12 volt DC source provided by a battery. This is the same as what you have in your car.

The circuits are separate. The 12 volts provides power for your lights, furnace blower, water pump, radio, control power for your fridge, ignition for the water heater, etc.; basically those things that are necessary to provide a livable environment when 110 volts isn't available. The gas provides for your furnace, water heater and fridge provided there is adequate 12 volts from the battery and for your stove/oven. Some water heaters can be lit with a match. The 110 volts provides a way to recharge the battery, and allows you to run the air conditioner, microwave, TV, coffee maker, toaster, as well as your fridge and possibly your water heater without gas, etc.

If you were to "rough it" in a national park for a week, your Airstream would seem like 5 star accommodations compared to a tent and sleeping bag on a chilly rainy night, but you would have to settle for a coffee pot on the stove vs your coffee maker. Some use an inverter to convert 12 volts DC to 110 volts AC primarily to operate a 110 volt TV. Some TVs and particularly microwaves and coffee makers, etc. are high current devices and while it is possible to operate them with a properly sized inverter, the current drain on the batteries is substantial requiring a way (generator, solar array or shore power) to recharge them more frequently. Running the A/C without shore power or a big enough generator is out of the question.

Your Airstream allows you to visit and stay in places that are off the grid without having to give up all of your creature comforts, places you might have otherwise only drove past and never took the time to really enjoy. My wife actually found a curling iron that operated off little butane cartridges... She was a city girl when we first met! ;-)
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Old 10-25-2011, 03:06 PM   #20
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Thanks YankeeDoodle, this has been a learn as we go experience with a ton of help from this forum. It's definitely been a HUGE step up in comfort from tent camping. We'd like to work from the RV one day if we can, so boondocking and laptopping are gonna be our main issue. Would solar allow us to use the outlets?
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Old 10-25-2011, 03:32 PM   #21
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Thanks YankeeDoodle, this has been a learn as we go experience with a ton of help from this forum. It's definitely been a HUGE step up in comfort from tent camping. We'd like to work from the RV one day if we can, so boondocking and laptopping are gonna be our main issue. Would solar allow us to use the outlets?
You'd need to add more batteries and an inverter in addition to solar panels, but with careful and enough sunlight on the panels people do that sort of thing.
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Old 10-25-2011, 03:50 PM   #22
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You'd need to add more batteries and an inverter in addition to solar panels, but with careful and enough sunlight on the panels people do that sort of thing.
Sounds like something we'll definitely be investing in one day then. Thanks!
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:08 PM   #23
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Sunlight / Solar & Generators

Virginia is a lot further south than Canada, and we get a lot more, stonger sun. I'm a fan of solar, but the tradeoff to using it is:
  1. park in direct sunlight and bake like a cookie
  2. carry ground mount panels and park them in direct sunlight & hope no one steals them
  3. pray to avoid 4 days of straight rain, and be prepared to head for full hookup territory if you get them.
I had (for sale reasonable now) a Honda 1000 generator. It is good for running an electric skillet OR a toaster OR a coffee maker OR recharging your batteries - in short any modest need for AC current while boondocking.

When the last hurricane rolled through I bought a Honda 3000 Handi, more for a second generator for the business than for the trailer, but now I'm set to go boondocking for as long as I want to, and run the heat pump or the air conditioner. The Fantastic Fans do a good job in most hot situations, but really the furnace gobbles propane and the heat pump with or without a small space heater added will keep the Airstream toasty.

Egad am I spoiled.

Paula
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:28 PM   #24
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Thanks for the info Paula. Currently we live in a rainforest but do most of our traveling in the southwest, so we were thinking solar over gennie but I have a feeling we will have to take that into serious consideration one day if we plan on doing any long term boondocking.

This brings up an excellent question though...does stronger sun charge the panels faster? There are a ton of Canadian cities that get way over 300 days of sunshine a year...but would it still do the trick in the winter?

PS. Turns out Calgary gets an average of 333 days a year of sunshine, who knew?
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:41 PM   #25
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The standard furnace in an Airstream is said to be pretty demanding of battery power (I know this only 2nd-hand through the Forums.) Also, the construction of Airstreams doesn't lend itself to genuine winter weather like you get up there in the Great White North, so heading SW for the winter is probably a good choice.

Re: "stronger sun" charging the panels faster... there are other issues at work as well. Down here we get more hours of sunshine in the winter, in addition to the sun having to burn through a bit less atmosphere because of the angle of incidence of the sun's rays. You'd definitely see less net power per panel on a clear winter day at 49 deg. N than down here at 33 deg. N. Within reason, you should be able to compensate for that with more panels, but of course there are limits to what you can install on top of the trailer.

I'd want a generator backup if I were relying on solar in a cold climate... freezing seems like it would be uncomfortable, and it wouldn't have to be a big generator like you'd need to run the AC.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:23 PM   #26
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Mojave...Clear, sunny days will give you the best solar charging options...overcast or short hours of good sun (or parking in the shade) will diminish charging using solar panels. Another thing to remember is that you don't have a whole lot of real estate on top of your rig, so that limits the number of panels you can install there. As mentioned above, the issues with portable panels are storage and theft. Solar, by the way will not allow you to use your outlet unless you install an inverter to change 12v to 110v. Also as mentioned, using an inverter can be a big drain on your batteries. We have recently switched to an LED Television to replace the LCD that it came with...it draws less energy but still required us to use the inverter. There are 12v TVs available as well if you want to go that route, and TV is important to you. When we are dry camping we usually use the laptop to watch a movie or two along the way...if we have electricity we use the TV and DVD player.

We have a solar panel on our Bambi (factory installed)...not the best or most watts perhaps, but it does serve us well for keeping the batteries in line. I often work from the road and I spend substantial time on the laptop each day to take care of biz and stay in touch with the world. That having been said, we decided the best thing for us to do was to have both solar and generators. We have two 2000w Honda gennies that can be run in parallel to yield 4000w peak power, whcih is enough to run anything we need to run, including AC. A single 2000w will run everything but the AC including a small microwave. We take one Honda when we know we will not need AC...and both when we might need AC...so we are covered. This allows us to boon dock or dry camp to our heart's content. (Or larger issue is fresh water, which will be one of your issues as well with the size of tanks your unit has...we work around it pretty well, though.)
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:27 PM   #27
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If you want to find out about solar 1st hand, you might take a trip to Quartzsite in mid-late January. There are literally thousands of RVs mostly boondocking in the desert for extended periods each year. Every flavor of solar, wind and generators are being used. There are vendors set up at the trade shows selling everything from snake oil to solid proven equipment often at very good prices. You'll need to do your homework to steer clear of the snake oil.

There's a lot to learn about solar; there are a variety of materials and construction methods that make otherwise similar looking panels as different as apples and oranges. You'll need to know how much you realistically expect to get out of your batteries so that you can size your bank and figure out where to put them. Then you can size the solar array needed to keep them charged and obtain a proper controller for the system. As with the batteries, you'll need to figure out where to put the panels.

The complexity and cost is proportional to whether your boondocking is a week/weekend need from time to time or a full time off the grid for months at a time experience.

I agree that you will probably want a generator to supplement solar if you choose that route. I would consider a Honda or Yamaha. They are both quality machines, portable and quiet. They come in different sizes, more capacity are heavier and use more fuel per hour. The ability to pair 2 smaller ones has many advantages. More important, they are good at regulating voltage and frequency, an area where some inferior generators come up short and can damage your electronics.
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Old 10-25-2011, 09:12 PM   #28
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I'm happy to hear you can find quiet generators. That was one deterrent for us. Sometimes at campsites you hear those super loud beasts while trying to enjoy a quite morning coffee outside...not my cup of tea
I like the options I'm hearing though.
We're gonna slowly ease into full-timing a few months at a time and build up to longer durations. Right now we're managing by charging the laptop in the car while driving during the day and using it at night, but the plan is to stay in one place longer now (a nice break from our 'see it all and do it all' tenting days) so we'll be testing the waters on our next trip.

All this new info gives us stuff to ponder for when we're ready to make that decision. Thanks all!

Lisa
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