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Old 05-15-2019, 07:53 PM   #1
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Boondocking tips for Interstate

Would like to know if anyone has boondocked a week or more in Interstate, and if so, how? I recently upgraded solar and batteries. I can go up to 3rd day with fridge and occasional fantastic fan on my battery and solar. My limited experience has involved cloudy days so by 3rd day, it's looking a bit scary. Does running generator an hour a day recharge enough to get you thru another day? It seems our major limitation is that our fridge does not have option to run off propane like the trailers. If you want to carry food, you will have to plug in every few days, otherwise you would probably be fine especially if you have plenty of sun. Is my assumptions correct?
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:57 PM   #2
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ooh bad grammar, didn't proof.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:04 PM   #3
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Great question. It might help to refresh us on what your battery & solar capability is.

But as far as using the generator, you'd need to run it more than an hour for regular batteries. Probably 3-4 hours to give them a decent charge. The good news is you could run a/c or cook in your microwave during that time.

If you have lithium batteries, you'd get more charge with less generator time, but someone with lithiums would give you a better estimate than me.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:25 PM   #4
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I upgraded to 400 solar and lithium, but I have run into rain and clouds each time. Interestingly, I was at a campground and the guy opposite me wasn't sure his hook up was working, so he asked if he could unplug mine and plug in my side to see. I didn't think about air conditioning, but I had it on. While I was unplugged, my air kicked on. He asked, how is that? So I guess I have enough power for limited air under the right circumstances. But so far, with no hook up, by day 3 with fridge and freezer, I'm running into limited time without doing something. I've talked with several people who don't do perishables in fridge...just pick up as you go. I kind of like planning and preparing my meals when packing up to go. I'm learning. I love travelling in the interstate but I really wanted the freedom to go anywhere without worries....unrealistic?
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Old 05-16-2019, 09:23 AM   #5
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I would think if you ran your generator for a few hours in the morning and then again for a couple hours before bed just to top things off you should be fine.
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Old 05-16-2019, 09:46 AM   #6
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There are lots of versions of boondocking so I think the answer is... it depends. As you mentioned solar helps.

You upgraded to solar but you didn't say how many watts. My back of the napkin indicates 300 watts might do the job for us. With solar, I feel like more is better but the Interstate has such limited space on the roof it's difficult to add large amounts of solar.

1) Boondocking at a remote site, staying put all day, not running the vehicle engine or the generator, not having solar (we don't have it) would kill our two six-volt batteries in 1-1/2 days because of the fridge.

2) Driving the vehicle every day, for a number of hours, staying overnight without hookups, not running the generator keeps our house batteries at an acceptable level. We recently did this for 5 days and had no problem but we drove 300+ miles each day.

3) If we don't drive the vehicle we need to run the generator (once again we don't have solar) approximately 1 hour in the AM and 1 hour in the PM to keep the batteries at an acceptable level.

4) Plugging in overnight, every other day, keeps us going fine if we're not driving enough to keep the batteries charged or if we're not running the generator two times a day.

5) One thing that drains our batteries quickly is using the electrical system in "Inverter mode." In our 2010 I think inverter mode uses the batteries to make 120 VAC and then runs the refrigerator on AC rather than DC. I could be wrong but that seems to be the case. Converting DC to AC then back to DC is a big waste.

6) We are very careful and use the lights sparingly, we only turn on the propane to heat water and run the generator for 1 hour in the morning and again in the evening. If we're only heating water and not running the generator we only turn on the propane solenoid for 30 minutes or so to heat water in the AM and PM. If you don't have an interior switch for the propane solenoid this should be a high priority upgrade.

7) We use a small 12V box fan, Endless Breeze, instead of the rooftop vent fan if possible. That way we use the vehicle battery to operate the box fan rather than the house battery to operate the roof-top fan.

On Edit: I see you mentioned 400 watts of solar in a subsequent post. I'm surprised that wasn't sufficient. Guess I'll have to do some more calculating on that napkin!
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Old 05-16-2019, 10:12 AM   #7
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Generator, use it.
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Old 05-16-2019, 10:24 AM   #8
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Thanks. As I mentioned, I did not have good sunny days. I think overall, I'm probably doing well. I was able to go 3 days without moving, no generator, and fridge on. I questioned because I recently met a group that travels, trying to find free sites where they camp a week and then move on for another week. I didn't think to ask them how much they are running the generator because I had not done any significant boondocking. Most times, I'm only spending 1 night and I couldn't do that previously without draining batteries, so the upgrades were truly life changing. I just got back from Jackson and I asked them what they tell people who get their boondock package. I told him I was able to get 3 days without generator and he said that's about as good as it gets. He wasn't sure if people got that with theirs. I also had not filled my propane because I was thinking no need for heat. Now, I think I should make sure the propane tank is pretty full.
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Old 05-16-2019, 10:28 AM   #9
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I donít have solar, just the generator, which I prefer not to run because of the propane consumption.

But, I can, itís there.

I have found that a small bit of driving or running the engine 15-20 minutes will recharge the coach battery sufficiently for extended boondocking.

My frig runs on propane when not connected to electricity, and I also go into extreme conservation mode for lights.

And, no television or AC.

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Old 05-17-2019, 04:42 PM   #10
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Lithium for Boondocking

It isnít about the solar, itís all about the batteries. Lithium batteries have SO many advantages. Put in three lithiumís and live the way you want. I never worry about power anymore. Everything on all the time!
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Old 05-17-2019, 04:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gulliver72 View Post
It isnít about the solar, itís all about the batteries. Lithium batteries have SO many advantages. Put in three lithiumís and live the way you want. I never worry about power anymore. Everything on all the time!


The OP indicated they have lithium batteries but didnít say how may Amp-hours.
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:29 PM   #12
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I can't see where it tells me available amp hours total. I have victron connect and it will tell me amp hours used, then time remaining. Like today, I brought it home and plugged in, very cloudy day... it shows a negative. No. For amp hours used which was only around 1 and infinite time remaining. When boondocking without running generator or driving I was down to a few hours remaining. I have 1 total discharge in history since the installation in December and I thought I had shut everything down before that happened but I guess I cut it too close
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Old 05-23-2019, 12:44 PM   #13
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The number of amp-hours available when the batteries are at full charge is related to the set of batteries you have installed. You mentioned lithium which are light weight and typically have similar amp-hour ratings to conventional batteries. And you increase the amp-hour capacity by adding more batteries. Look on your battery, call the installer, check the model number on the internet or similar to find out how much capacity you have in your battery system.

One advantage of lithium is said to be that they can be discharged to zero (or near zero) without degrading the battery significantly. That is not true with conventional batteries regardless of whether they are wet-cell or glass mat - lead-acid batteries should not be drawn down below 50% of full-charge.

Without getting into too many details... let's say your lithium battery bank is rated at 200 amp-hours. You can utilize almost all of that 200 amp-hour capacity. In our van we have wet cell batteries rated at approximately 200 amp-hours but we can only use 1/2 of that capacity before we need to recharge.

Every situation is unique in some way - solar (or not), wet/AGM/lithium, inverter, appliances, age of battery, etc. - but all these scenarios have a few common items. Some of these factors are: how much capacity do you have (amp-hours), how much drain you put on the system (number of amps X number of hours), and the means at which the capacity is replenished.
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Old 05-23-2019, 01:05 PM   #14
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Ok. Thanks. That all makes sense. I think I have 300 amp hours . It's one big lifeline liPo4 battery. But I like using my fridge and freezer, +/- fantastic fan. Biggest downside that I see now after talking with so many people is that my Interstate fridge will not run off propane. I think if I had that option, I'd be able to boondock indefinitely with my solar and lithium. Visiting kids, I'm usually parked for 3-5 days with no hook up. I just need to run generator or take a few road trips instead of having it sit. Otherwise I'm usually plugged in or just spending the night on the road. Overall, quite happy with the upgrades. Thanks again for your input.
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