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Old 07-24-2003, 11:40 AM   #1
2 Rivet Member
2004 28' Classic
Kenney , Texas
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 84
Question Newbie needs Classic 28' power management info

We are just *this* far from making an offer on a 2004 28' Classic. There's some info I'd like to get, though, in the area of onboard power supply and management. If you've got the time, I've got the questions:

1) First of all, is there a paper/writeup/web site someplace that has a thorough disussion of Airstream power issues (generators, inverters, converters, batteries, charging, etc.)?

2) When the trailer's being pulled, what's going on in the trailer as far as power is concerned? Is the tow vehicle charging the battery (or both batteries, if so equipped) and anything on board is running from the batteries?

3) What's the deal with battery disconnect switches? Why are they needed? Under what circumstances does one want to disconnect the batteries? Why?

4) Lights, fans, etc.: they run off of DC? At all times?

5) If I'm not on shore power, are the 110 outlets hot? If so, how is that supplied? Is it clean?

6) Fridg and microwave - under what circumstances are they useable?

Etc.... You can see that I have no idea how power is supplied and managed in the trailer. (Don't tell me to ask the salesman [aka "Sales Consultant" - ha! He tried to tell me that the batteries were stored in the little tool box, or whatever it is, that's mounted on the hitch A-frame ]) At any rate, any basic info would be greatly appreciated - thanks.
Dave Jenkins
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Old 07-24-2003, 12:07 PM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 358

I'll leave part of # 1 to some of the 'better informed'. The manuel has quite a bit of answers to your questions. Most all TT do not have generators onboard. Those that want them may get a Honda EU2000i or a pair for running A/C. Invertors can be purchased separately for your power needs *except* for A/C and microwave. (Heater type appliances draw too much for most inverters.) The converter does a good job of charging the batteries. Be sure you have good batteries; (in near new, I'm sure you will.)

#2. When towing you will be sending a small charge to the TT battery - but not much. Nothing much will be using power unless you left some lights on. Most RV frig now run on propane.

#3. I disconnect the batteries very rarely, like when I'm working on a circuit.

#4. The converter changes the 110 to 12 volt for the lights and fans throughout the TT. You may have several 110 volt lights that work only on shore power. I have two.

#5. 110 is only hot when you plug in to shore power (or when you have an inverter set up for doing this).

#6. See above.

Hope this helps,
Steve in Sav'h
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Old 07-24-2003, 01:27 PM   #3
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2001 34' Limited
The State of , Ohio
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With the exception of the air-conditioner, microwave oven, an electric heating element in the gas water heater if you have one, and things plugged into the 120VAC outlets, everything in the trailer runs on 12 volts DC. This includes the lights, fans, the water pump, the circuit board, fan motor, ignitor in the furnace, the circuit board, ignitor, and gas solenoid in the refrigerator, the circuit board and ignitor in the water heater, the radio, and the LP detector.

The master disconnect switch disconnects everything from the batteries, except the LP detector for safety reasons, to keep them from discharging the batteries. However, the self-discharge of the batteries, combined with the draw of the LP detector, can discharge them over time.

When the trailer AC cord is not plugged into campground power or an external generator, all these 12 volt things are powered by the batteries, and none of the 120VAC things work (i.e. there's no inverter, something that turns 12VDC to 120VAC).

When the AC cord IS plugged into an outlet or external generator, a converter (something that turns 120VAC into 12VDC) is powering all the 12V things AND charging the batteries. The AC cord that is powering the converter also powers the air-conditioning, microwave, electric water heater element, and things plugged into the 120VAC outlets. Keep in mind that not all of these things can be run simultaneously since the trailer power is limited to 30 amps. When using one or more generators, you're also limited by the generator output.

When the trailer is plugged into the tow vehicle, the vehicle alternator can charge the batteries, but not very fast, certainly not nearly what a good converter can do.

The refrigerator is always usable. If you leave it on the Auto setting, it will use 120VAC when you're plugged in, and switch to gas when you aren't. Even when on gas, the refrigerator is using 12VDC electricity. It has a circuit board that is always on, an ignitor that fires when the flame should come on, a heating element around the door frame that reduces condensation (turn that switch OFF!), and on modern refrigerators, the gas is controlled by a solenoid that draws about one amp when the flame is on.

The microwave is only usable when on campground or generator power. That's why we have a gas oven as well as the microwave.

If you will be "dry-camping," aka "boondocking," you want to avoid using electricity, especially battery power (vs generator power) to create heat, and use gas instead. This includes making coffee in the morning when you wouldn't want to wake others up with a generator. You also want to use 12VDC appliances, where possible, such as the TV.

You CAN use a small inverter to power some 120VAC things from the 12VDC batteries, however, it's less efficient than using 12VDC appliances, since some power is lost in the inverter. Using a large inverter to try to power high wattage 120VAC appliances, such as a coffeemaker, microwave oven, or hair dryer, from the batteries, really eats up their charge, and can overheat them. Unless you have a bank of 4-8 golf cart batteries, a generator is best for these. As far as I know, there are no 12VDC satellite receivers, so you'll either have to run the generator OR use a small inverter. Sat receivers use so little power that the inverter isn't a problem.

We use two Honda EU2000 generators paralleled to provide enough power for running the AC and microwave simultaneously when boondocking. Our daily routine is to run them for about 4 hours from 5PM-9PM or so, to recharge the batteries, directly power the lights, water pump, etc (through the converter vs from the batteries), and directly power a TV, sat receiver, or DVD or VHS player. At the same time, the generator is powering all the chargers for the notebook PC, digital camera, PDA, cell phone, etc, which are charging those devices internal batteries.

Hope this helps,
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Old 07-24-2003, 05:11 PM   #4
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2004 30' Classic Slideout
Fenton , Missouri
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Be sure you turn the master disconnect to off when you are not using the trailer. You would be surprised how quickly the batteries discharge. All those electronic boards in the refrigerator, water heater, furnace are all pulling some power even though they are turned off.

Also note that some refrigerators have a high humidity switch that keeps the exposed surfaces around the door from sweating in humid weather. If you leave it on and are not supplying external power, you will again discharge the battery at a much higher rate.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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