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Old 04-24-2010, 07:00 AM   #1
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boodocking, battery use

We'll be dry camping out West this summer. This is all new for us and we purchased two, new deep cycle 12-volt batteries for our 28' International I think our interior llights are halogen, but not sure. Other than lights, no drain. How many nights can we safely use and not drain our battery. It's been recommended that we attach a >>>>meter to our battery, not sure what you call it. Any suggestions.

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Old 04-24-2010, 07:25 AM   #2
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I think the question should be how many lights and for how long. We do not have the halogen lights and can run two lights, an inverter, and a 19" LCD TV for about 7 hours continuous use before the batteries get low enough to make the low battery alarm on the inverter start to activate. If it's just one light, the inverter, and TV then it's more like 8.5-9 hours. The battery meter might be fun to look at, but the low battery alarm on the inverter does a good job of letting you know the batteries are getting low.

So Long!
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:33 AM   #3
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With two deep cell you should be able to boondock around 6-8 days, with lights only (once you change your halogens to led) :-) an occasional fantastic fan if needed. Leave the TV at home.

It is a really great feeling to go spartan.
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:42 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by AirstreamGypsy View Post
With two deep cell you should be able to boondock around 6-8 days, with lights only (once you change your halogens to led) :-) an occasional fantastic fan if needed. Leave the TV at home.

It is a really great feeling to go spartan.
We have one GR27. Using LED's, no inverter, and minimal use of the furnace to take off the chill in the morning, we can easily do 5 days. It is comforting to have a Honda genny along to top off the battery now and then.
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:51 AM   #5
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You are mistaken if you think there are no other drains than lights. The carbon monoxide/propane detector is always on. The refrigerator draws a small amount of current, even when on propane, to operate the control board and, if you have the deluxe thermostat for your a/c, it draws a very small amount. Not to mention the water pump.

Given all that, if you replace the light(s) you use most often for reading etc. with LED's, you should be able to go at least 5 days if all other drains are used judiciously.

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Old 04-24-2010, 07:57 AM   #6
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We use our Airstream heavily off the grid in the fall for hunting in Colorado.
We have a two battery 12 volt system like rywnc.
Nightime temps in the Colorado Mountains often drop below freezing.
Our observations are as follows:
1. A solar charging system is very valuable because it helps recharge the batteries but it also has a very good gauge for ascertaining the state of charge of the batteries. The Airstream stock charging light system is not very helpful.
2. We have a 2000 watt Honda generator and use it to help the solar charger (one panel) keep the batteries well charged. With heavy furnace use and or cloudy weather, the solar charger can't keep up.
3. Batteries last longer if they are not allowed to go below a 50% discharge. Example 100 amp hour batteries, 40 amp hour useful load. (It takes a long time to get above a 90% charge and when boondocking we never get above 90%).
4. We are careful using lights. Using lights alone, it would take a couple of nights to dishcarge the batteries. Furnace and Fantastic Fans are power hogs.
5. We don't have an inverter on the A.S. An inverter uses battery power just by being on even if it isn't inverting.
How far you want to go with upgrading your Aistream and buying generators depends on how much you boondock. If it is an occasional night at well above freezing temperatures, you will be fine with the stock system. If you spend a lot of consecutive days off the grid, you will end up upgrading your system.
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:01 AM   #7
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I like handn's approach. One of the biggest indispensible current draws will be the furnace fan ... when you need the heat. This varies in summer depending on altitudes you'll be camping at. We bring very good bedding or sleeping bags and set the thermostat in the low 50s at night to restrict how much the furnace runs.

I've never found the time to watch TV when camping; we don't have one in the Safari. We've found some fabulous local radio stations. Last fall's great discovery was CKUA in Calgary, Alberta (available online and for internet radios). Obviously a TV cannot be supported on battery more than the briefest time any day.

Sorry to say, the halogen lights in the ceiling are amp burners. We aren't great conservers of power when boondocking but those lights are one thing we rarely use unless we need them only briefly. We'll use the under-cabinet light when the cook insists. Otherwise we have a couple LCD lanterns we use for nighttime use inside the coach. I did see that Jackson Center now has LED replacements for the ceiling halogens -- I'm sure others have posted decent online sources too.

It's hard for you to get word-of-mouth and satisfy usage requirements in your particular situation. Will you have a chance to do some camping local to you before you head west? Ignoring the electric hookup of course... An inexpensive VOM meter will let you measure voltage, and convert this to understand the % discharge on your batteries. See

Battery recharge through the umbilical is a very slow process and could take two- to four-hundred miles driving to top off the batteries. Solar panel output is good at keeping batteries topped off in storage; don't expect them to recharge 50% depleted batteries even on the best sunny day. I like my Honda eu2000i. Easy & convenient -- AND we use the overhead lights during dinner prep when it is plugged in and running.

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Old 04-24-2010, 10:40 AM   #8
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Just to add to handn's and CanoeSream's good advice, installing led replacement bulbs will save you a LOT of amps.

We identified the lights we most enjoy using at night while dry camping and replaced them with led bulbs (reading lights over the couch, the lights over the sink, dinette table, cook top, bathroom sink and reading light over bed). The led bulbs use a small fraction (1/10th or less) of the amps the conventional bulbs use and will last many times longer as well. The lights we didn't replace (ceiling halogens) we just don't use.

Another step we took was to unplug the wiring harness behind the Sony stereo unit (radio/dvd) to get rid of a constant amp drain (I discovered the drain using a 'fuse buddy' amp meter). We use a little solar/battery powered portable radio instead.

After our first dry camping experience (when the previous owner's aging interstate batteries began to die on the 2nd day), I increased the height of the battery box and installed 2 Trojan 6v golf cart batteries (260 Amp hours). The extra amp hours can easily double your time off grid. And it helps to have a small generator on hand just in case (don't want to ruin those expensive batteries).

Dry camping is a lot of fun, not only because you can camp in some beautiful, out of the way places, but also because the challenge of reducing your electric and water use can be highly entertaining.
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Old 04-24-2010, 06:13 PM   #9
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We are by no means boon docking experts, but we are doing it more often these days... OK, maybe not PURE boon docking in the strictest sense so much, but dry camping at least...

We have replaced the forward bank of halogen ceiling lights with LEDs...the halogen lights are power hogs but the LEDs are very light on power use. We heartily suggest making the switch to LED lighting to save power. We also have several small, inexpensive LED lanterns that we use when we are off shore power...

We are not the most frugal power savers because we do like to watch the news (if we can get TV reception) and we like DVD movies... We do not use the furnace fan (another power hog) unless we absolutely have to... Instead we use a propane-canister-powered catalitic heater to take the chill off.

We have 1 small solar panel that helps keep our 2 deep cycle batteries up, but is not enough to keep us going for extended periods. So we got a 2000w Honda generator to keep us going.

Much depends on your power usage and how conservative you can be... If you're going to seriously do dry camping and/or boon docking a generator is a real bonus and eliminates a lot of potential stress.

Have a blast!
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:31 PM   #10
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Led Lights

Originally Posted by rywnc View Post
We'll be dry camping out West this summer. This is all new for us and we purchased two, new deep cycle 12-volt batteries for our 28' International I think our interior llights are halogen, but not sure. Other than lights, no drain. How many nights can we safely use and not drain our battery. It's been recommended that we attach a >>>>meter to our battery, not sure what you call it. Any suggestions.
You are going to want to go LED for sure. They use 12 % the power and heat is something to consider as well. They burn allot coooler.

For the main part of the room warm white.
Click here to see them

For under counters I like Bright White but most women don't.

The reading spot lights product a bunch of heat. You almost can't stand to read for very long they get so hot.

Click here to see the replacement for them.

They work great!!!! These guys do free shipping on orders over $30.00

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Old 04-24-2010, 07:49 PM   #11
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We boondock and dry camp quite a bit and have found the Honda 2000i generator to be our best buddy. We use it in the morning to run the coffee pot, microwave oven, and the hair dryer. Plus we run it for an hour and a half or so while were getting ourselves together to top off the batteries and power the TV not using the inverter. Pretty much the same at night. For us, the generator is key to making boondocking almost effortless. We've had ours about 7 years and we boondock/drycamp about 60 days a year, year in and year out.
So Long!
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Old 04-24-2010, 08:04 PM   #12
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Welcome to the forums. I'm glad to see that you're planning to jump right into dry camping and boondocking. I find it much more enjoyable then camping with hookups.
As others have said LED bulbs are the way to go. My 1981 had 16 incandescent 1141, and 1156 bulbs. I changed 4 of these over to LED's last year and the remainder during the winter. I could tell a big difference in just changing out the 4, I believe that I read Led's offer a 95% energy savings over incandescents. I'll be interested in seeing what the difference is now on all LED bulbs. As has also been mentioned, your furnace blower motor is the biggest user of energy. I'd recommend doing an energy audit then estimating your daily usage against your "available" battery amp hours. You can find most of this info online. I upgraded to 3 31 series deep cycle batteries. 1 of my old 1156 bulbs used 1.5 amp hours per hour. By contrast my TV/DVD uses 4 amp hours per hour and my furnace blower uses 10 amp hours per hour. If I budget 200 amp hours from my batteries I would run out of water and holding tank space far sooner then I would battery power unless I have to use my furnace. 2 cold nights with the furnace going all night and I'm done. If you change to LED I'd think you could do the same thing on 2 batteries.
When camping in moderate temperatures I've gone 5 nights on several occasions with a family of 4, and that was before going LED.
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Old 05-04-2010, 04:19 PM   #13
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yamaha 3000 watt super quite generator, 180 watts of solar power... 525 amp hours of battery power...40 gal water bladder......go anywhere do anything
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Old 05-04-2010, 06:10 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Pacerized View Post
... I'd recommend doing an energy audit ...
I just happen to have some of that info...

1991 'stream power draws -

.9 amps for the fridge .4 w/defrost off
.5 water heater startup, .25 running
6.5 heater fan, 7.8 heater burning
fantastic fan 1.82 amps runnin on low, 2.5 med 3.4 high
2.4 kitchen sink florescent (big double bulb)
1.9 stove fan, 1.0 light 1156?
1.1 bath low (florescent), 7 high (6 vanity bulbs + Florescent)
11.0 living high (6 x 1141 + 2 florescent), 2.2 low (florescent only)
2.0 step light (2 - 1141?)
1.5 flat oh reading light (1-1141?)
Directv 18 watts, 61 with 13" tv (measured on 110V after the inverter)

Various nonmeasured lights are combinations of the above items.

I might have the 1141/1156 bulbs reversed...

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A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
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