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Old 08-19-2011, 06:17 PM   #1
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2006 19' Safari SE
Hutchinson , Minnesota
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 11
How many days on batteries?

My wife and I are complete newbies about to take our first lengthy trip in the AS and definitely want to spend some of that time off the grid. We are wondering how long we can expect to get by on battery power alone and whether we should bring a generator/inverter with us. We have a 2006 19' Bambi with all LED's. Since we aren't TV watchers and don't need to use 110 appliances, our only electrical draw should be lights, water pump and, most likely, some furnace use. (Montana mountains at night...) We are sailors, so we know how to conserve resources.

I'm considering buying a 1000W (I like the light weight) Honda to bring just to charge the batteries, if the advice I receive warrants it. If I do, how long would I need to run it to get a good charge back on the batteries?

Any help?

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Old 08-19-2011, 06:32 PM   #2
2006 25' Classic
Ft Worth , Texas
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Posts: 207
Hipsters, I am sure glad you asked that question I would like to know as well...

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Old 08-19-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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1978 28' Ambassador
Morada , California
Join Date: Jan 2006
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This is an age-old 'How far is up?' question...

It's similar to asking: I just picked up a clean used car - with a full tank of gas, how long will it last - how many miles can I go - what's my MPG going to be???

How big is the tank? How fast do you drive? Do you drive up hill very far? Do you tow anything, etc., etc...

The 12 volt battery is, simply put, an Amp Hour storage 'tank'...the larger the battery, the more Amp Hrs are available to use...

1 Amp Hr = the draw of 1 Amp, for one hour...what ever you draw out of the battery, has to be replaced in a timely manner for it to perform properly - but being boaters, you knew that, right?

The lights and water pump will use few Amp Hrs, but the furnace is an Amp HOG! The squirrel cage blower in the heater uses several amps while running - so the more you use it, the shorter your battery's useful charge will last...

We have (3) group 27 deep cycle batteries, rated at 100 Amp Hrs each, and if we watch some Sat TV and use the furnace on cold days, it's a MUST DO to fire up the Honda genny and recharge the batteries each day - they aren't completely discharged each day, but it's important to top them off for maximum performance...

Most battery guys will tell you to only use about 50% of your battery's capacity between recharges in order to get the maximum life out of them...

Even with all the calculating one does over these issues, it still comes down to your own individual situation, etc...It's a learning curve you'll have to experience...

I find our Honda (we have a 2K model) genny is one of our most important additions - we boon-dock a lot!...It has many uses, and firing it up and plugging the AS's shore power cord into it brings our battery system back up to snuff in fine shape...It's also great when we wish to fire up the microwave oven!

Have a great time on your trip...
Ray & Pat; Morada, CA
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Old 08-19-2011, 07:31 PM   #4
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2002 19' Bambi
Northwestern Ontario , - on the backside of the map and just above the big green spot
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We have a 2002 19' Bambi with a single group 31 battery. We also have a 1000W generator.

When we are in "energy conservation mode" the battery will last 3 days if the furnace is not used - (we also use LED lights in this mode). After 3 days the battery will usually be down to 12.2 or 12.1 volts - and then the generator gets turned on.

In that same mode - but using the furnace regularly - we will be charging every day. The routine then is to turn on the generator for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.

The 1000W generator is a great addition to all our trips (ours is a Yamaha) - it is light to carry - quiet - uses virtually no gas - and runs everything except the air conditioner. We don't have a microwave oven. My wife bought a hair blower specifically for the Bambi that has a 900W setting and a hand-held vacuum which is 1000W.

If boondocking is going to be a part your life - you will definately end up getting a generator - sooner or later.

Bambi - 2002 (The Toaster)
Pathfinder - 2009 (The Buggy)

"I'm not young enough to know everything ....."
(Oscar Wilde)
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Old 08-19-2011, 07:34 PM   #5
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1977 25' Tradewind
Waskesiu Lake , Saskatchewan
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Our 1977 Tradewind has a propane radiant heater as well as the forced air. The radiant has no moving parts and uses no battery power at all - a must if you don't want to drain batteries.

With very conservative light use, and pouring water rather than using the water pump, we can go 10-14 days on the two batteries.
Every home needs a dog, and every dog needs a home.

1977 25' Tradewind (with two ... three... FOUR dogs)
2011 Ram 1500 Quad cab, 5.7 Hemi, tow pkg.
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:02 PM   #6
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2005 19' Safari
Phoenix , Arizona
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We have a 2005, 19-foot Bambi, with two Optima Blue Tops (deep-cycle, marine battery, group 34). We use a couple of LED lights to conserve electricity and can go 5-7 days without recharging, if we do NOT use the furnace. Actually, we have never attempted to go longer, so I'm unsure how long the batteries could actually last.

If we do use the furnace (for a couple of hours in the evening and morning, but not at night; because we use sleeping bags and are OK down to around freezing), we can last 2-3 days. However, we run our generator daily for an hour or so in the morning, and again in the evening, usually to coincide with the use of the microwave oven for meals and TV viewing.

If you buy a generator, I'd suggest getting a 2000-watt model, since they are only a few hundred dollars more; and then you won't regret having bought a 1000-watt generator, if you decide to add a parallel unit to run the air conditioner. We bought two Honda 2000's, and carry the one with the RV plug with us all the time. We only bring the second one with us in the summer, and rarely use it. Please note that we live in Arizona, and this may not be as much of a concern in cooler locations.

While this was quite an expense, the generators give us a lot of flexibility and have extended time between KOA stops to recharge our batteries overnight on shore power. This allows us to stay more often in dispersed campsites (i.e., boondocking, free), and National and State Park campgrounds where the sites are spreadout and more scenic. In addition, National Park and Forest Service campgrounds are half-off with the $10 Lifetime Senior Pass (age 62+).
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:49 PM   #7
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2006 19' Safari SE
Hutchinson , Minnesota
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 11

Thanks for all the quick and helpful responses! I also found an older thread that covered some of the same information, so I think I'm pretty well set. We will be bringing a portable generator, so we can run the furnace and won't have to worry about cold tootsies in the morning!

See you on the road and off the grid...

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Old 08-20-2011, 05:21 AM   #8
2006 25' Classic
Ft Worth , Texas
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Awsome question and great responses. Thanks to all for a great read and useful information.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:12 PM   #9
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
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Battery Life & Leds

I finally got to go camping and try out my new LED lights. I was gone three full days. I barely used any electricity at all. My voltage when I got to the site was 12.83v. My voltage after 3 days camping was 12.71v. Now understand that I was by myself, and I was gone during the day for about 10 hours to a music festival. I only used power for the LED lights and the water pump for shower and sink. No fan or furnace power. Also I have 2 6v golf cart batteries in parallel. Voltage tables indicate that you can bring the starting voltage down about .7 volts to the 40% level before needing to recharge (12.83-.7= 12.13). Based on this I could go 17 days before needing to recharge (.7/.04= 17)(extrapolating). Now I had my little Honda genny just in case.

One useful tool is the Voltminder. I got this when I ordered my new converter from Best Converters. It only cost about $25 and you hard wire it to your 12 volt system and it is always connected and tells you the voltage. This allows you to keep track of how much power you are using when you operate the lights or the water pump or the fan. I highly recommend it.

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Old 08-29-2011, 06:25 AM   #10

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
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Thumbs up

Dock'n power management....

Two grp 27 Lifeline AGM 100ah....

One IOTA IQ4....

One Honda 2000i....

14 daze...four two leggers and two four leggers....

One hr per day on genset....

KISS....keep it stupid, simple.

AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 08-29-2011, 08:46 AM   #11
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,134

Here is a photo of the Voltminder I use to manage the battery level for the two six volt golf cart batteries in my 66 Tradewind (see 2nd previous post).

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Old 08-29-2011, 10:20 AM   #12
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2010 30' Classic
Vintage Kin Owner
South of the river , Minnesota
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There are people who are good at conservation and who have various modifications made to make operation on batteries more practical. These threads draw many posts from people like that.

With a stock trailer though and typical usage you can't rely on camping more than 1-2 days on batteries. Running the furnace overnight is sure to limit you to one night as is running the fantastic fan all the time.
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:15 AM   #13
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2012 31' Classic
Visalia , California
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 477
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In regards to heating, you may want to look into the Heater Buddy, a small catalytic heater. We use one in our 25' when dry camping and it keeps it sleeping temperature. No power usage either!
Roger & Roxie (rore62) Smith (Air#178 - WBCCI#1646)
Visalia, CA (between Fresno & Bakersfield)
2012 31' Classic - Nuestra casa rodante
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Old 08-29-2011, 06:57 PM   #14
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2011 23' Flying Cloud
Durango , Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 434
You might also consider the solar option. With a single 85 watt panel and MPPT controller, we have often camped off grid for three or four days, using the furnace, water pump, fridge fan, LED lighting, stereo and laptop (we're not TV users when camping). We recently spent two weeks in Olympic NP, (five different campgrounds) off-grid, often under thick canopy, and still had no power issues.

Safe Travels,
Joe & Joan Donnaway
Durango, CO
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