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Old 07-13-2012, 09:13 AM   #15
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I think the best way to start is to get a 10amp meter and measure the batteries draw when everything is switched off. You may find that radio panel, subwoofer and so on draw a lot of power and are easy to disconnect. The fridge on gas should draw power only for controls and that is low. Basically if you get this base draw below .5 amps you will be good to last on batteries about 2-3 days. Then you run the generator, make bread for next 3 days, recharge and you are good for next 3 days. In winter you may need to run generator a lot, maybe all the time to keep heating pads going, furnace running.
All this can be done with 25 lbs quiet Honda 1000 w, gas consumption negligible, runs over 8 hrs on one fill of pint size tank. I am not interested in anything else, been using it for last 2 years.
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Old 07-13-2012, 09:25 AM   #16
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Chad, first of all, get the second battery, it will help you a great deal.

I am often camping without hookups and I always bring my generator along. I have the Honda 2000 and it has been good for me. I never run the AC but I do top off the batteries regularly when I am out for more than 3 days. It is important to keep your batteries above 50% if you want them to last for any length of time.

Turn your fridge to gas mode and turn off the little switch that helps to defrost the unit. I have a 2006 but my fridge is different than yours. On mine the toggle switch is sort of hidden on the strip that separates the food and freezer compartments.

If you do go the generator route, get one that is quiet, you will regret getting one that is loud, regardless of how much money you save.

The 1000 will work great if you only want to recharge your batteries. If you plan to use some appliances like microwaves and hair dryers then the 2000 would probably be a better choice. If you are going to use your AC then you will need something larger. The Yahama 2400 might be worth looking at. Both Hondas and Yahamas have proven to be pretty good units.
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Old 07-13-2012, 09:42 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Chad J View Post
I'm thinking maybe just buying a 2nd battery is the way to go.
Is it as easy as just connecting 2 batteries together? Will I have charging issues?
Almost that easy. There are a few things to watch out for, but nothing terribly difficult…

1 - Make sure there's enough room in the battery box for another battery without having to shoehorn it in. You still need some venitlation space around the batteries when you're done.
2 - Get another battery of the same size and type. Whether wet-cell, AGM, whatever, you need to match what you've got because each type takes a different voltage regulator for recharging. Also, it's important to get the same number of amp-hours for each battery so they discharge at the same rate.
3 - Make sure you hook up the batteries in parallel, not series (connect batteries positive-to-positive).
4 - Make sure both batteries are fully charged before you connect them together.

Doing this, you double the available amp-hours, and so potentially double the time between recharges. However, you also double the amount of time it takes to recharge.

Note that having extra amp-hours doesn't give you extra amps; you'll still be limited to 30 amps current draw at any one time.

While you're thinking of a second battery, you might consider a solar panel for battery recharge. It will only trickle-charge, but every little bit helps.
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Old 07-13-2012, 09:44 AM   #18
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Chad

Just connect the two batteries in parallel- pos to pos and neg to neg.

When the fridge is on propane power the electrical consumption should be negligible. If you have LED interior lights and minimal tv or fan usage, you may be able to go 7 days. Last time I was out for four days, i used about 25% of my battery power. They recommend not going below 50% before recharging.

My little Honda 1000 works great for me now. If I were doing a lot of camping in hot weather and running my 5k AC a lot, I might also get a Yamaha 1000w genny setup to run on propane. I could then run for days on end and not have to mess with refueling.
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Old 07-14-2012, 11:44 AM   #19
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Solar?

Chad, if your goal is to keep the battery charged and you do not need to use the air conditioner or other 120VAC appliances, you might consider solar. We have a 19' International with a 100W solar system, which keeps our batteries charged without any problems, but we do not use an inverter or any 120VAC appliances. Solar is automatic, maintenace free, lighter, quieter, and better at topping off the batteries. Our system is built-in, but a good portable panel system should work just as well.

I also agree with the idea of a second battery, but I don't know how it could be easily added to your 16'.

~ Ken
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Old 07-14-2012, 12:11 PM   #20
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KenS, could you attach a photo of the roof of your Airstream, or send a link via PM? I have a panel I would like to mount, but I am having trouble figuring out where it will fit. --Thanks.
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Old 07-14-2012, 01:06 PM   #21
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Pheonix, photo attached. I considered several options, but ended up using two 50W panels, as shown in the photo. (Two panels also provide some additional reliability - not all eggs in one basket.) Locations I considered for 100W panels: Roadside between front vent & AC, center-rear behind rear vent (extending onto end shell), and on our tow vehicle roof rack.

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Old 07-14-2012, 01:20 PM   #22
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Ken, this is really great installation. Also the idea of TV roof location is new to me and I like it since it would be so easy to do (I am actually thinking about the pick up camper top roof) and easy to remove. I do not want to sidetrack this thread but i think this relates to generators. Could you describe the disadvantages of such installation, is the panel heavy? Looks to me it would be easy to clean from snow or other stuff.
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Old 07-14-2012, 01:42 PM   #23
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Was thinking about mounting several panels on our pickup tonneau cover, but I'm concerned about them being low and easily seen/stolen. Airstream roof is better.

I currently have one 100w panel; looks like several 50w panels is the way to go.

Thanks!
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Old 07-14-2012, 02:03 PM   #24
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We have a 19' Bambi and as long as we don't need AC our 1000 Watt Yamaha meets all our needs very comfortably for extended trips. We've had this generator for 8 years now and have never felt the need to swap it for a larger unit - it is reliable, easy to start, quiet, economical to run and easy to pack. If it looks like we're going to run into seriously hot weather we will shift our strategy and use a regular campground with electrical hookups for a while.

Most often it's regular use is during our fall trips - when overnight temperatures will dip low enough to want to use the furnace. Our normal routine - if using the furnace steadily - is to run the generator 2 hours in the morning and an additional one or two hours in the evening. This cycle usually has us going to bed with 12.6 or more showing on the voltmeter and leaves us with no less than 12.2 volts showing before firing it up in the morning.

I should point out that we do have an "energy conservation mode" when using the generator - we use LED lights, keep TV watching to times when the generator is running, and keep the trailer a little cooler overnight than we might normally do if we had shore power.

The couple of appliances that we have which might tap the unit are the vacuum cleaner, wifes hair blower and her curler. These were purchased to draw below 1000W or have a setting that does not exceed 1000W.

Having said all of this - your need for AC really defines your requirements - if this is important where you live then you will want something a lot more substantial.



Jay
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Old 07-14-2012, 02:51 PM   #25
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bovk, to avoid sidetracking, I will just say the only disadvantage is some extra cost: two 50W panels vs. one 100W panel and extra cable. The panels are typical for Airstream installations (this system came from AM Solar). PM me if you would like more information.

~ Ken
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Old 07-14-2012, 03:35 PM   #26
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This has been really helpful thread! I wish we'd known a lot of it when we first started out. We also have a 16' Bambi of about the same year, and when we first got it, we had big problems with our lone battery unable to power even the basics for more than a night.

Like, nobody told us at the dealership, novices that we were, that if we were boondocking any length of time, we should get two batteries mounted rather than one; and not to run down the battery below a given level. Our local RV place owner told us last year that we needed a bigger battery, and that has made a huge improvement.

We have a Honda 2000 generator, and we now run it at least briefly whenever we see the Bambi diagnostic gizmo on amber for the battery. Even half an hour of generator use seems to boost it back into the green zone.

Should we be hand-checking the battery more often?

We try to conserve the battery when boondocking as much as possible, but a big drain seems to be the fridge fan. The fridge runs on propane, yet the fan runs on battery. My solution so far has been to put several of those blue freezer pacs in the freezer at night when are inside, then turn off the fridge and power during the day (when we're out doing stuff,) and move the frozen pacs into the fridge as though it were a picnic cooler. Then I refreeze them again at night.

Also, if I read at night, I use a flashlight rather than the Bambi reading lights. We don't try to run other appliances unless we have a hook-up.

We don't use a coffee-maker, for example. We heat up water on the stove burner, and then use a "manual" drip-style coffee pot.

KenS-- or Anyone here have any experience of solar panels with a 16' Bambi? Is there enough roof space up there to mount the panels and make a difference? (I read the solar panel thread and most people felt that roof-mounted was better than portable.)

What about replacing the reading light bulb with LED lights to conserve the battery? We stopped at a big-box hardware store to get some, but they didn't carry the right size.

Thanks for any advice.

Jeanne
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Old 07-14-2012, 04:52 PM   #27
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It sounds like you have been camping in the dark, which is entirely unnecessary, especially with a Honda EU2000i generator. If you do not already do this, just get a 30-amp RV adapter plug and connect your Airstream to your generator using the shore power cable. This will charge your batteries and provide AC power for any 110-volt appliances you may have. During the day or in the evenings, just crank up the generator and use all of your lights and appliances like you were hooked up at KOA.

However, to use your air conditioner, you'll need two EU2000i's connected in parallel. If your generator has two 15-amp connectors, you'll also need the EU2000i "Companion" that has one 30-amp and one 15-amp connector, and a parallel kit, which contains cables and a circular, marine, locking RV adapter. (If you don't need air conditioning, then you don't need the second Honda.)

A single EU2000i will power a hair dryer, microwave oven, electric coffee maker and most other appliances; although, not all at the same time. A Kill-O-Watt meter (or similar device) will allow you to determine how much current each appliance uses, although most have labels that indicate power requirements. Just don't simultaneously use appliances whose total power exceeds the maximum rating of the generator(s). See link below, provided for reference only:

Amazon.com: P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor: Home Improvement

A second battery, and perhaps a marine battery isolator switch, would also make a big difference. However, the Honda generator is a big advantage.

http://www.amazon.com/Perko-8501DP-M.../dp/B00144B6AE

The LED bulbs are unique for RVs, boats and probably some auto applications, so it is unlikely you'll find the right ones at WalMart or other big box stores. Camping World and other RV parts stores probably have them, but these are not the cheapest sources. Below are a couple of links mentioned in other threads on this forum. However, I have not purchased from either of these; and the links are provided for reference purposes only:

LEDs 4, Recreational Vehicles

45 High Power SMD LED 1156/1157 Tower Bulb Specifications

Regarding your refrigerator, the blue freezer packs are OK; but a slightly different approach is to freeze water bottles, then move them to the refrigerator section to help cooling. After they thaw, use them for chilled drinking water or swap them out with other frozen water bottles and return them to the freezer. Also, a small battery operated refrigerator fan like in the link below will circulate the air and improving refrigerator performance:

Camco 44123 RV Fridge Airator - Walmart.com

The external refrigerator fan doesn't actually use as much power as the FantasticFan, if you have one. You might consider replacing it with a ball-bearing, 12-volt computer fan, which draws less electricity and is much quieter. We bought one of these at Fry's Electronics, but it's available at other electronics parts stores. Numerous other brands are probably just as good and about the same price:

Enermax UC-MA12 Magma 120mm Case Fan - 120mm, Twister Bearing Technology, Batwing Blade Design at TigerDirect.com

For low-current LED lights, look at WalMart, Costco, and other places for small RV or closet fixtures that use batteries. Also, there are LED booklights that use batteries. And, more recently, there are LED lights that use computer USB connectors and cables that plug into 12-volt plugs that often contain multiple USB connectors.

Just a few suggestions...
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Old 07-14-2012, 05:31 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Chad J View Post
All good advice, thanks.
We can usually go about 4 days on just battery power but thats w/o use of the fridge or a/c. I'd like to get at least 7 days w/fridge.
Does the fridge have a big draw on energy?
I'm thinking maybe just buying a 2nd battery is the way to go.
Is it as easy as just connecting 2 batteries together? Will I have charging issues?
The electronics in the refrigerators today are not a huge draw, but they go on 27/7 and add up. Somewhere in the range of 1 amp average draw so over a couple of days, you eat up a lot of the power in a single battery.

Many have put second batteries in parallel and in fact many Airstreams come that way. If you do it, it is best to get two identical batteries at the same time and have them physically located near each other, with good sized wire between them.

I personally prefer two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series which will give you better deep cycle capacity than two 12 volt one in parallel. They will also charge better than two in parallel.

I would try a second battery to start, and if possible the 6 volt ones in series. If that does not work then maybe a generator is in your future.
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