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Old 03-16-2009, 02:45 PM   #1
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2008 31' Classic
2016 Interstate Grand Tour Ext
Lenoir City , Tennessee
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Posts: 178
No electricity/no generator?

We would love to camp in one of our local federal parks, however, there are no electrical hookups and the rules are "no generators at any time; no idling of engines just to recharge batteries." Obviously, we can still use our propane stove, fridge, and hot water system. But, we've never tested how long we can run lights, etc. on just the batteries. Has anyone experimented to see how much life they can get out of their batteries?

Kelly & Matt
WBCCI - #4335
2005 Diesel Excursion
2008 31' Custom Classic "Moonshine"
2016 Interstate "BugOut"
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Old 03-16-2009, 02:51 PM   #2
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Willoughby , Ohio
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We had to 'tough it out' once during a power outage and the batteries worked for two days and still had juice when the power came back on.

Some tips that can extend battery life -

Remove the bulbs from all but necessary lights - your TT probably has at least twice as many as you need.
Use a small flashlight at night instead of the TT lights.
Turn the thermostat down and snuggle more to minimize the furnace usage - that motor will eat up power.
Pretend you are in a tent and use the batteries only when necessary and I'll bet you can go for a week on them - maybe more.

Steve & Susan
WBCCI# 03876
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2005 28' CCD, 2011 Sierra 5.3L, Equal-I-Zer
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Old 03-16-2009, 03:17 PM   #3
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Ottawa , ON
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Too bad you don't have a solar panel or two. They seem to be getting cheaper, the local Canadian Tire stores even have small inexpensive kits including a simple controller.

"Quick! Hand me that solar-powered flashlight!"
If it's to be, it's up to me.
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Old 03-16-2009, 08:25 PM   #4
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Dillon , Colorado
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Dry camping or boondocking is the only way to go unless you're in an area where it's so hot that you have to have A C to sleep at night. Most of the more scenic campgrounds including national park campgrounds don't offer hook ups so you really limit yourself from some of the best camping experiences if you don't try camping without hook ups. How long you can last on your batteries depends on what battery set up you have and your daily energy needs. I'd recommend checking out the battery forum and searching for "energy audit" to get an idea of what you use. If you really like to dry camp, upgrading your batteries is a lot less expensive then buying solar or a generator. I run on 3 29 series batteries that each have a 125 amp hour rating but I can only run these down to about 50% without causing damage to them, so I have about 188 amp hours to burn. If you have agm batteries you can safely run them down further but the cost is much more. With this set up we've gone 5 nights several times without running into problems. This includes lighting, and running the converter to watch a movie when we feel like it. We usually run out of water and tank storage before having any power issues. The single biggest user of power would be your furnace blower motor which uses about 10 amps per hour of operation, so if I had to run my furnace at night I'd be lucky to get more then 2 nights on the batteries. All this requires conserving power and water which you get better at with time. You can find a lot of threads on lowering your energy needs through led lighting etc., but you should have all you need now to enjoy dry camping for a few days at a time.

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Old 03-16-2009, 08:51 PM   #5
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Tennessee is not that cold at night during the summer, so you should not use your furnace. As stated above, the furnace is your biggest KWH hog. If you own a small catalytic heater that will use no power, but you will have to allow for some ventilation. florescent or LED lighting would also help.
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Old 03-16-2009, 09:00 PM   #6
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If you try dry camping, remember to unplug the umbilical from the tow vehicle so you don't inadvertently drain the battery in it overnight.An AGM battery for the coach would be a good idea as well. they can be drained and recharged a lot with little ill effect. Make sure you have the manual crank for the tongue jack in case you drain the battery completely, so you can hook up to leave. The halogen lights in your coach are power pigs, we've found some LED replacements for them that consume less than a tenth the power. Your fridge will draw some power, just to keep the circuit board energized. Use the Fantastic Fans with the fan turned off, just the vent opening and closing.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 03-17-2009, 04:44 AM   #7
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AGM batteries are not different than flooded cells when it comes to how depth of discharge affects cycle life. Deeper discharges reduce their cycle life. The same is true for golf cart batteries, be they flooded cell or AGM. Although they have greater cycle life than automotive form factor batteries, that cycle life is also reduced by deeper discharges. The rule of thumb is not to discharge below 50% but some in static installations (i.e. homes, not RVs or boats) don't go below 75-80%.

All that said, it may be more useful, even if certainly more expensive in the long run, to discharge the batteries deeper (than the recommended 50%) and replace them more often, rather than add more batteries, with their additional weight and space requirement. Putting more batteries up under a front gaucho puts a significant extra load right where the A frame attaches to the frame.

Observing battery voltage, including through the bar graph on the range hood, is a poor way to estimate state of charge. Observed voltage is affected by surface charge as well as any load on the battery. A battery monitor such as the older Xantrex X-10, newer XBM, and the Trimetic 2020 do a much better job of that.

The key to extending battery charge life is to CONSERVE. Make sure you turn off the Winegard antenna power when you aren't watching TV. Use your awnings instead of Fantastic Vents. As Terry said, you can open them without the fan running. If you close the trailer windows at night for security, you can run one vent and leave the other open without running. Fantastic Vents use considerable power over time.

If your trailer came with fluorescent lights, definitely use them instead of incandescents. Airstream installed the fluorescents in ours in pairs, so you can choose to only operate one and save battery power. Better yet, get all your work done before the sun goes down.

As others have said, the furnace fan motor is a big load. Dress warm so you can keep the temperature setting low.

Again, if you're going to be doing significant boondocking, get a battery monitor.
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Old 03-17-2009, 03:26 PM   #8
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Friendswood , Texas
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We have a new 28' Safari and took it to Rocky Mountain National Park last year where there are no hookups. We were extremely conservative with electricity, used flashlights inside most of the time, etc. Never used the fantastic fans, never used the furnace. Just ran the water pump when necessary, ran the fridge (propane but the electronic brains need 12V). Never used the audio system, no inverter, no solar panels. Short answer - we made it exactly a week. No generator and never plugged into the TV until we were ready to leave. So I think that is the max.
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Old 03-17-2009, 03:49 PM   #9
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I've installed separate LED lights in a few places. I use them when I really need to conserve, but I still have all the other lights when I'm plugged in. They also work well when I get up earlier than Sam and she wants to sleep while I have breakfast. The furnace fan really does eat the most, but even with that we get 2-3 days on just the batteries.
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Old 03-17-2009, 03:51 PM   #10
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I've replaced most of the inside lights with LED's or CCF's. Left two with the halogen or xenon lamps. Also have several single LED lamps to be able to find our way around the trailer in the middle of the night without turning on other lights. They are also a safty feature to find the way out and use very very little energy. We also have a small propane lantern for outside and as an emergency backup, which of course requires an open door or window if using it inside. Make sure your battery is fully charged before you go by having the trailer plugged in for several days.

Aluminum tenting is the best...
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Old 03-17-2009, 05:35 PM   #11
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As you can see most of the answers here depend on one's usage AND the kind of system you have. Your lifestyle will determine a great deal. I see you have a newer Airstream, so somethings are going to chug your batteries when boondocking even when conserving. Your fridge is one of them... I bet it has fans than run, along with the electronics... if you use your fridge without the power on and use dry ice... you can likely extend your camp stay. Your water system too likely uses quite a bit of power when you turn your water on.

We have vintage. Our refrig runs great, no fans ~ only propane. Same with our heater. Our water is a pressure tank so it uses very little power and usually only runs the compressor twice, so essentially our usage is simply lights. We are often outside until bedtime... so we get by nicely. It is our black tank that makes us get up and move when boondocking!

I would suggest a little "test"... go camping one weekend and try to reasonably conserve and see how your batteries hold out.

I do agree with Pacerized above, the National Parks have some of the greatest spots ~ as do the forest service campgrounds! Give it a try, go for weekends and see how you do! You will learn to conserve. We can easily make it a week in our Bambi with only 1 battery.

Have fun!
Mrs. NorCal Bambi Traveling in S Tardis ~ from the Great State of Jefferson
My blogs: Yreka History
Siskiyou County Camping
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Old 03-17-2009, 06:50 PM   #12
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Good comments -

a couple of more. First, carry along a small squirt bottle of water - perhaps an old dish detergent bottle - for rinsing out the toilet ... fills black tank slower and doesn't run pump.

Second, consider a kersoene lantern like this: Lehman's - Products for Simple, Self-sufficient Living They put out enough light to see your way around and maybe read ... but do annoy the smoke detector if inside. I have to temporarily take the batteries out of mine and then put them back before bedtime. They also produce some heat and a bit of CO2 and moisture, so a little venting is neeeded. Or just go to bed when it gets dark and get up when it's light!

Third, lots of quilts / blankets / snuggling help maintain warmth in cool weather without running the furnace.

Finally, use lots of backpacking-type cooking, coffee making, etc. tricks to minimize energy consumption and use only a little propane or (wow!) cook over a small campfire!
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:19 AM   #13
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We love to camp in the National Parks and do so often. Contrary to what someone has told you generators are allowed although their hours of use are restricted. As an example check out the Death Valley web site on campground s, Death Valley National Park - Campgrounds (U.S. National Park Service) . You will see that generators may be run from 7AM to 7PM.

We have some LED light, use modern gel batteries and two 135 watt solar panels on the roof but always take our generator, a Honda EU2000i, in case we need 120 volt power and since solar may not be enough if we have three days of cloudy rainy weather with night time temperatures near freezing.
Don (KD6UVT) & Gail Williams

What do you want to be in life, a spectator or a participant?

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Old 03-20-2009, 05:30 AM   #14
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"We love to camp in the National Parks and do so often. Contrary to what someone has told you generators are allowed although their hours of use are restricted."

That has been our experience, and some campgrounds allow generators only in a 2-hour period in the am and pm. Our biggest issue was morning coffee, resolved with a stove-top percolator from WalMart, which does a fine job. As we have gotten better at this, we don't need to use our generator at all, but also don't boondock for more than a few nights at a time. We spent three nights boondocking right on the Rio Grande last year, which was incredible, and had plenty of power. Our biggest problem is keeping comfortable inside, when the fan pulls tiny bugs through the screens to swarm around any light that is on.

Boondocking as a newbie is a leap of faith, really, you've just got to try it.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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