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Old 08-19-2011, 07:17 AM   #1
2 Rivet Member
Ely , Minnesota
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 37
Battery Life While Boondocking

I own a 2005 Safari (28'). Have owned it for a year now and I am still learning how everything functions. We have taken several short trips (I am still working so longer trips are limited) and a few 10 day trips. Most of the time we have stayed at campgrounds where there is electrical hookup. The last two three day trips we have had not electrical hookup. In both cases, we have tried to conserve on lights etc. but our batteries have gone dead on the second evening. I do have two Honda 2000i generators so we have been fine, but I am wondering if this short life on the batteries is normal. I have two Optima = Blue top Marine batteries which I had checked last year when we bought the unit and they passed the test. I took the batteries out of the unit over the winter and kept them charged.

I have a Tri Metric Volt/Amp indicator. When the batteries are fully charged it shows about 13.2 volts on the meter. On our last trip the meter went down to between 10 and 11 volts by the second night, but the lights were very dim.
Sometimes we had no lights on, but just the radio, and when we would run the water, the radio would blank out.

So...are my batteries shot? How can I find out? How long should two batteries last with conservative use?

How long does it take to recharge the batteries with both Honda generators running?

Any help is appreciated.


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Old 08-19-2011, 07:43 AM   #2
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1991 34' Excella
Princeton , New Jersey
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Batteries are a storage device just like a gas tank or fresh water tank, they empty as a function of demand. Batteries are rated in Amp Hours. A 600 AH battery will supply a 1 amp draw for 600 hours. Problem is we don't have that many 1 amp draws in our trailers. Common 12 volt bulbs draw between 2 and 3 amps and many of the fixtures used in Airstreams have 2 or 6 bulbs in them.

The only way to extend the duty cycle of a charged a battery is not use it as much.

2004 Excursion 4x4
1991 34 ft. Excella +220,000 miles, new laminated flooring, new upholstery, new 3200 lbs axles

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Old 08-19-2011, 07:45 AM   #3
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1975 25' Tradewind
Dewey , Arizona
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I would check the batteries again. We can go 3 days with our single battery and I never let the battery voltage drop below 12 volts. Letting them drain any lower will shorten their life.

We are very conservative with our battery usage when we are off the grid. The lights in our trailer (75 TW) are real power hogs and we use them very sparingly.

There should be no difference in the charge rate with one or two generators. The converter will have enough power with a single generator running. Charge time will depend on the amount of discharge in the battery(s) and the output of the converter.


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Old 08-19-2011, 08:03 AM   #4
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2012 16' International
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We have a 16 ft with only one battery and can go several days on the battery. We don't use much in the way of lights during the summer but we do run the fantastic fan at night. We have a Yamaha Generator and ran it once a day for about an hour on our last four day boondocking adventure just to keep it topped off. I think our main drag on the battery was the fact that our reefer fan seems to run non-stop.

I found out during our last boondocking adventure while trying save electricity that candles are good
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:05 AM   #5
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1987 32' Excella
Knoxville , Tennessee
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Biggest user of electricity seems to be the blower for the gas furnace. Did you run the heat? We replaced many of the light bulbs with led, so we can have a little light without much draw. I run a CPAP at night that draws up to 5 amps. We can go 3 nights with the CPAP, the fantastic fan some, and some lights. I have 2 standard deep cycle batteries. You either have a pretty high draw somewhere or your batteries are going bad.
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:12 AM   #6

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
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Originally Posted by bertheep View Post
......... I have two Optima = Blue top Marine batteries which I had checked last year when we bought the unit and they passed the test.

Any help is appreciated.

From a member here who should know....

"Anyway, gels are VERY tempermental in their charge voltages and the slightest bit of over voltage will cause the gel to strip from the plates...leaving a scar that doesn't heal and a marked decrease in capacity.

Go with a quality AGM like Lifeline. Built to mil spec and bomb-proof (and bomber proof as well, since they are found in all of our military aircraft)"
Lew Farber -RVIA Certified Master Tech.... MASTER TECH RV SYSTEMS, INC.....AM SOLAR INSTALLATIONS ....
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 08-19-2011, 08:18 AM   #7
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Oracle , Arizona
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We have a single GR27 battery. Interior lighting is LED. Not using the furnace we can easily go 4-5 nights and still have juice.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:28 AM   #8
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1975 29' Ambassador
Reno , Nevada
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first item: keep your batteries above 12.0v as measured after they have had no significant charging or discharging for at least a half hour. They will read about 12.6v or more when fully charged. When getting below 12.4 think about charging them. When below 12.2v put charging high on the list. Going below 12.0v very often will shorten the life of your batteries quite a bit.

The best thing you can do for your batteries is to upgrade your converter. Get one that knows about multiple stage battery charging and proper battery maintenance. Battery maintenance needs to keep a full charge without overcharging and it needs to apply a sulfation inhibiting technique. The Iota, Chargewizard, or WFCO are examples.

A typical RV battery only has about a half a kWh available usable energy storage and most trailers with 2 batteries have about 1 kWh available. That isn't much as a gallon of propane has 27 and typical household usage is 30-60 per day.

Whenever this topic comes up, you'll often find folks who run a month on a couple of AA batteries of those who just get by with a ton of batteries tucked somewhere in their trailer (yes, exaggerating, but not by much!). All these anecdotes are fun but the reality is that tastes vary. An RV has its limits and adjustments are needed to find something suitable for you and how you like to do things.

You have to experiment and use your experience to figure out what works for you. Just don't expect miracles. Getting closer to household lifestyle is why people go for class A moho's. With a trailer, there's only so much you can do.

re: "Go with a quality AGM like Lifeline" -- nice if you have money to burn but they really don't provide cost efficiency in most RV circumstances. Ye olde standard wet cells are much cheaper, rugged enough, and, when properly maintained, can provide good service.
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
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1993 29' Excella
dunnegan , Missouri
Join Date: May 2008
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We replaced our batteries this year and were frustrated because we thought we had just replaced them. Well it was two years ago. We were told that was about the best we could get out of the batteries. Might check that there is water in them, but if it has been awhile---and time does fly quickly---you may just need to replace them.

You should not need to use your 2 Honda generators for anything but air conditioning, hair drying or microwave use, in general. Generators are loud, even the Honda, and totally defeats the purpose of camping in the natural setting--save them for the important times. ( Like when it is 100 degrees---ok 80 if you are a wus like me.) One generator, on occasion, should charge everything you need--or you can use your tow vehicle.

It is hard to get the batteries out of the compartment as they get older because they swell up--good luck!
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:51 PM   #10
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2005 19' Safari
Phoenix , Arizona
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We have a 2005 model Airstream, and the first OEM battery pooped out after one year, and the second died the second year. We switched to Optima Blue Tops as each OEM battery failed, and the second Optima just failed about a month ago (so it lasted about four years).

If you are concerned about your batteries, you might want to removed them and charge them for a day or two with a regular auto battery charger (to make sure they are fully charged). Then, take them to AutoZone, Pep Boys, etc. for a free battery load test. That will tell you if they are starting to go bad.

Also, if one battery is having problems and you have them hooked up in parallel, the bad one will drain the good one. We installed a marine battery isolator switch so that we can use them one at a time. That way, if one goes bad, the other one is still OK; and you can just switch over to the good one until you can buy a replacement.
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Old 08-19-2011, 09:50 PM   #11
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If your Optima's reach 13.2, volts when fully charged, they are in good condition. They will usually last 3-4 years. However, discharging them below 50% capacity will shorten their lives so running them down until the coach is dead is not a good idea.
The reason, you run out of battery power by the second day is that you use all the available amps with lights, furnace, fantastic fan, or ??.
Try running one of your generators to charge batteries for two hours each day. We prefer that option to living in the dark and cold.
Or, a 60+ watt solar charger system with regulator will keep them charged on sunny days if you don't run the furnace much. We dislike the noise of the generator and try to run it as little as possible.
The trick is to go to bed fully charged, then the furnace will make it through the night.
We camp off the grid in the Colorado mountains frequently. Tempuratures often go below freezing. We could never make it into the second day without a dead battery unless we charge our batteries every day which we do with a solar charger and a generator.
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Old 08-20-2011, 05:48 AM   #12
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2005 28' Safari
saline , Michigan
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 407
Both of my batteries and the converter on my 05 28' Safari died this spring. I agree with previous posts about the converter. Get a good 3 stage converter. If yours isn't bad , it probably will be soon.
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Old 08-20-2011, 06:44 AM   #13

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
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Originally Posted by "[I
Go with a quality AGM like Lifeline[/I]" -- nice if you have money to burn........
How ' burn yours as you like......and I'll burn mine as I like.....

Fair enough?

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 08-20-2011, 12:35 PM   #14
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1975 29' Ambassador
Reno , Nevada
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re: "Well it was two years ago. We were told that was about the best we could get out of the batteries." -- if your batteries are properly used and maintained, you should get 4-7 years from them. AGM batteries maybe 6-8.

The batteries with a new purchase often suffer from lack of maintenance and that means they probably won't last long.

If you haven't upgraded your converter, odds are your battery isn't getting properly charged and is suffering from improper maintenance. That also usually results in shorter battery life.

re: "How ' burn yours as you like......and I'll burn mine as I like...." -- a defensive posture indicates some issues that need to be resolved?

I have no problem with how people want to spend their money - if they are aware of what they are doing. So much on these forums, I see people spending money based on a poor understanding of what they are getting. It especially bothers me when I see misleading or incorrect information being provided or strong suggestion not backed by strong support.

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