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Old 03-03-2020, 10:14 AM   #1
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Batteries... DEAD Yet?

At home, if you like the house lit up bright to feel comfortable, this is not going to be a good habit if you do the same with your Airstream. The power at home is supplied by an Electric Power Plant that runs 24 hours, day and night.

Your purchase of an Airstream with two batteries, standard... is YOUR Power Plant. When this 'battery power plant' capacity drops below 12 volts... you realize that you are no longer at home. Things begin to shut down. It is NOT the Airstream's fault... it is your inability understand all of the limitations of your home on wheels.

Having a Generator for a Hair Dryer, or to watch movies on the television(s) off the electric grid may be a novelty in the National Forest. I discovered the Honda worked well... but was not necessary for our needs. Thus a thread for "Pauper Solar Power" on an earlier Thread. It sure did not charge our batteries very well for the amount of time running. Sold it on Craigslist at a loss.

We got by with One 110 watt portable Solar Panel at Off the Grid campsites with our 2014 25 foot International. The panel was moved when the Sun moved, or shade required moving the panel. Hooked directly up to our batteries with a controller. This one panel provided all of the charging we needed.

A second portable Solar Panel and Controller would had been even better! We ended up buying a 27 foot International and increased our Solar capacity.

Our late evenings and early mornings before sunrise... we were sleeping, recovering from hiking and exploring.

We are conscious of the need to be Power Frugal.

If you do not want to change your habits and life style while off the grid... that is not your trailer's problem... it is your problem.

The Honda hooked up to the trailer was inefficient for our needs. We do not use the microwave. We are careful with the water pump for showers... daily? We use heated water from the cook top and wash up outside.

It is a Lifestyle Change, not a battery problem. If you want to live in your Airstream like you live at home... fine with us. When you complain on the Forum about your batteries being... DEAD. It is your Fault.

Our current Airstream now has 160 watts of Solar on the Roof and a 110 watt portable panel. We are comfortable in the most remote areas you can imagine.

Have you been able make the conversion? Or... are your Batteries already DEAD?

What changes of your lifestyle did you make? If any...
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Old 03-04-2020, 01:36 AM   #2
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Exercise YOUR Batteries while camping

Boondocking (Off the Grid) requires a totally different outlook towards the use of your Airstream and the unavoidable Battery Power demand for most.

Apparently no one has or wants to make a comment or offer, some pointers, to these necessary adjustments that many have accepted as normal OTG activities.

A Battery Killer lurks out there without understanding... WHY ME?

Read some Threads having 'Battery Problems'. As said numerous times, many Airstreams off the Dealer's Lot.., have DEAD Batteries. They sit and are run down to Zero. They will not hold a charge like our 2014. They had to be replaced at the most 'inconvenient time and place'.

Our 2006 with AGM and a 60 watt Airstream installed Solar Panel on the roof was good in 2006 and when we sold the trailer in 2014. BIG difference. Eight years and a happy camper using well maintained batteries.

When you are USING IT. Those with the Lithium and Solar probably can explain it better.

Our 2019 had the Airstream Dealer install the two Solar Panels and AGM Batteries. For good reason... so I would not have to. Then I use the 100% reliable 110 watt portable panel that we lean onto a milk crate and move when necessary for maximum exposure. When in use or parked with power... the batteries will be reliable and healthy.

If you RV Park with power... it takes away some of the possible Dead Battery, but not all.

When you see a "My Batteries are DEAD" Thread. You know what questions to ask.
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:20 AM   #3
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Hey Ray, I just saw this thread with your second post. I believe you will be really happy with the factory solar plus your 100W portable panel. I believe the factory solar was designed with you in mind. With only 160W, it is a minimalist design that will keep the batteries charged for a very frugal user. I think the biggest advantage of the factory solar option is that its always charging the batteries during daylight hours whether you are at your boondocking location or traveling to your next boondocking location. I'm a traveler that doesn't stay in one spot for very long. Maybe someday, after I find my favorite spots, I will spend more time at each. But for now, I'm still actively seeking my favorite spots. I have a handful of spots in several states that I have been going back to each year. Those will probably become longer term locations in the future.
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:48 AM   #4
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More on the dead batteries topic . . .

I ordered my 2017 Airstream directly from the factory with the options I desired. I did not select the factory solar. Because it was a special order, it came with batteries that were less than 30 days old. I was able to murder those batteries within 10 months.

The reason I murdered the batteries is because I did not understand the Airstream's battery qwerks. You say its not the Airstream's fault. Maybe not, but new owners usually learn the hard way by murdering their first set of batteries.

My Airstream was my second camper. In my first camper, a Casita, I installed a battery disconnect switch when I bought it. I never had a battery problem with my Casita in two years with over 89 nights and 16,200 miles of travel. That is because I installed a disconnect switch that eliminated ALL draws when off. When I bought my Airstream, I assumed the "STORE" switch meant that it could be stored with the switch in that position and not kill the battery in less than 30 days. I never stored my Airstream for more than 30 days, but within 10 months the batteries were so damaged from short storage periods that I could no longer use the electric jack to lift the Airstream onto my tow vehicle. Maybe the Airstream dealers should warn buyers that store really doesn't mean store.

The next problem, which again is not exactly Airstream's, is that the standard Interstate batteries are not true deep cycle batteries. When I attempted to boondock with these pseudo-deep-cycle batteries, they would die before morning if I attempted to use the propane furnace. Again, I murdered these batteries by trying to dry camp in Upper Michigan in October by depleting them nearly every night while trying to stay warm. But again, the dealer never said "hey these batteries are sized to only be used while traveling between shore power connections". The stock pseudo-deep-cycle batteries were not chosen with Off-The-Grid campers in mind. If you want to upgrade your batteries to true-deep-cycle batteries, go buy a pair of 6V golf cart batteries and install them in series. Either Duracell EGC2 or Trojan T105 will work great. At ten months, I traded my still-warrantied Interstates as core charges for my true-deep-cycle Duracell's. Further reading for those who want the rest of the story on pseudo-deep cycle vs. true-deep-cycle batteries: https://marinehowto.com/what-is-a-deep-cycle-battery/ I also installed a proper battery disconnect switch that eliminated all battery draws. I then added 400W of permanently mounted solar. I still have the same batteries after 252 nights of dry camping over two years.

So yes, I was responsible for murdering my batteries, not Airstream. But Airstream's choice of an inexpensive pseudo-deep cycle battery, RV codes which require the propane detector to remain active in store mode, and Airstream dealers' lack of instruction on their affects played a large part on why I murdered my factory new batteries within ten months.

P.S. Here again, the factory solar option fixes these battery issues. First, the factory solar option includes true-deep-cycle Lifeline batteries. Second, the permanently mounted solar panels will charge the batteries while in outside storage. If I had the factory solar option, I would still have the original Lifeline batteries and their true-deep-cycle design could run the furnace all night without damaging the batteries.
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Old 03-04-2020, 05:57 AM   #5
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I just returned from a trip in the southwest where I could put my portable solar panel out, point it in the general direction of the sun and not worry about anything, including running the furnace at night. Try doing that in the northeast where you are lucky to find a spot with any sun. Then spend all day chasing the sun around and maybe get 10-12 amp hours. And that's a good day. If you hike, bike or paddle during the afternoon, or if the clouds roll in, you'll get a lot less than 10-12.

We were extremely frugal with electricity and did that for two seasons. The only thing I was really concerned about was the fridge. Then I realized I bought a trailer for a reason, comfort, so I recently bought a Honda. My goal is still to use it as little as possible, and for most of my camping I won't need it. But now I don't have to worry when my batteries show 12.1 and the sun has gone down. And I may even run the AC when the temp and humidity are both 90, but if I don't I can at least run the fantastic fans all night and not worry.
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Old 03-04-2020, 07:58 AM   #6
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Hi

One gotcha is that we all have different trailers made by the same company. As soon as I turn on the fridge in mine, it's pulling right around 2A. One amp goes to the fridge and one amp goes to the control system. Unless I want to turn off the fridge, it's 50AH a day no matter what. My answer to that is 400AH of Lithium and 4 panels on the roof ....

First step = understand your specific trailer

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Old 03-04-2020, 08:53 AM   #7
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Portable Buddy Radiant Heater MH9BX: $50

Thanks for making comments. Everyone likes to follow a thread, but few want to step forward and tell their story. Less than 75 Members help the other... whatever the total membership may be.

On the 2019 International purchase, I DID NOT WANT Interstate batteries. I cannot say it is the battery manufacturere or the Jackson Center to Dealer to Customer... Dead On Arrival.

Batteries from Interstate are available in Las Vegas. A dealer could install fresh batteries when the new trailers arrive. Even those at Costco, now selling Interstate, will have the sticker showing they were... charged... after the Date of Manufacturing.

The Las Vegas Airstream installed Life Line GPL-24T AGM? batteries. They are sealed like the Interstate AGM's. I even checked the date of manufacture, and they were current.

We camp at elevations and times of the years that many consider... not between June to August prime Rocky Mountain region camping season. I bought a 9000btu Portable Buddy Radiant Heater a month ago from WalMart for $72.49. Yesterday at WalMart $49.98. I am getting a second and may keep both or get a credit back on the other.

Fired it up yesterday... it will heat my entire 27 foot International. Can use the battery portable fan, if necessary. This prevents KILLING your you know what.

When some of us post on the Forum... we are not bitching or pointing fingers. It is experience and some take it good, others do not.

Airstream put Load Range C, 14 inch Marathons on my 23 footer. A disaster for me. They use Interstate batteries, another disaster... and Airstream finds them fine. I do not know who to blame for their DEAD Batteries.

Model MH9BX Mr. Heater for $49.98... another Possible Problem Solved. One at a time.
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Old 03-04-2020, 11:12 AM   #8
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Model MH9BX Mr. Heater for $49.98... another Possible Problem Solved. One at a time.

Yup, I bought the same "little buddy" heater while trying to stay warm in Upper Michigan. My wife is afraid to use it. I don't blame her. I will only use it while I'm awake. But now with 600W of solar and 180AH of usable battery capacity, I don't think I'll be needing my "Little Buddy". But, its still under the front queen bed if an emergency arises.
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Old 03-04-2020, 12:54 PM   #9
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Okay, I'll step in with my experiences, although they won't apply to most folks here. My Airstream is a 1962 model. I've kept things as original as possible with the exception of replacing the light bulbs with LEDs, and a new air conditioner. I have a single deep cycle battery mounted on the front that was designed for a fork lift. When I restored the camper I built a portable solar charger. I took it out a few times, but rarely take it along any more. We just don't need it. The only time I've ever run the battery down was the first time we took it out in cold weather. We were in the Tetons at Halloween. It got cold and snowed. We ran the furnace. That killed the battery in a couple of hours. After that, we got a Buddy heater.

Our refrigerator only runs on propane, no electrical connection. We have no microwave. I have a TV in the closet, but only used it once. We occasionally use the Fantastic Fan in the roof. No hair dryer, no toaster. I leave the table saw and welder at home. I have a C-Crane radio that runs on D-cells. The AC only operates on shore power. So, for the most part, the only thing that runs on the trailer battery are the lights and fan. I suspect that I could run the lights on that for weeks. However, we're frugal with our power usage even with the lights. We read at night, but usually use those little blue led lights that you get at Harbor Freight for a dollar or two. I've got 6-8 of them in the camper at all times. We've been out for up to two weeks and haven't run the battery down.
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:08 PM   #10
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Thalweg is the one who turned me onto the Buddy Radiant Heater in 2016. I tried to hold out, but our camping season ends in the cold... and begins in the cold. This is why we have two Blue Heelers to provide heat inside the trailer. With two dogs, it is not a bad idea to provide some kind of venting...

Thalweg has not gone the Dog Route, yet, but we will see.

Recall 'Three Dog Night' group? Obviously from trailer camping on gigs.

I am the guy who puts his tongue onto the 9 volt battery to, well... test it. If it is a faint tingle... trash. It if gets my attention... still good. Do not try that with Lithium Batteries, I hear.

We will be the Alpha Beta Trunk Monkey testers this season. The Buddy Radiant Heater says a lot of things and then says the opposite... like use only the small 1# cylinders of propane and not to use the 20#. But earlier says the 20# is great. They have lawyered up and covering all bases. They DID NOT SAY to ONLY USE OUTDOORS... so, this should be OK.

The Refrigerator fan on the 2006 and the 2014 just runs and runs. You need Solar to keep the batteries charged IF Off the Grid. Or... a portable Solar Panel at the least. The 2019 has the vent to the roof. Took me 13 years to figure this one out.

What does this have to do with Dead Batteries? If you use your trailer's furnace to heat your Airstream interior while not on the Grid, NO Solar and NO Buddy Radiant Heater, NO dog(s) to keep the interior above freezing... you will have a DEAD BATTERY. Get with it... have some imagination. I have too much, already.
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:24 PM   #11
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I have a Buddy Heater. I've used it a number of times. Once it set off my carbon monoxide detector even though the fantastic fan vent was open. That made me a bit concerned and a little less comfortable sleeping with it on.
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:30 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by smithcreek View Post
I have a Buddy Heater. I've used it a number of times. Once it set off my carbon monoxide detector even though the fantastic fan vent was open. That made me a bit concerned and a little less comfortable sleeping with it on.
I found the information/comment below from a firefighter as part of a Buddy Heater review on YouTube - so I don't think I would use one inside. I'll stick with the Airstream furnace since we have a 400AH lithium battery bank. We just need to make sure we have enough propane.

"Bad news for you. There is a reason most of the time it reads 0. That’s a homeowner co detector. The lowest reading you’ll get is 30. I spent many years as a fire fighter. Those detectors are not sensitive enough to detect under 30ppm. 30ppm is considered the safe level of exposure for up to 8 hours, as in working on a car repair shop. Problem is co builds up in your blood over time. And when you move to fresh air your system will never give up all the co. This is why firefighters have so much trouble later in life with high co levels in the systems. I bought the buddy heater and tested with one of the 4 gas meters from our fire trucks in my 8X12 camper with window open 3 inches as directions state. The co level quickly rose to 10 and drifted from between 10 and 20 ppm while in operation. Well under the 8 hour limit. But well over what would be considered safe for long term exposure. So I returned the buddy heater and just use an electric heater that runs off my small generator outside. I’m not saying don’t use it. But be careful. It does make low level co that will be in your blood. Blood is 9 times more likely to absorb co over o2. So it will be in your system and will build up over time. All I have to rely on is 20 years in the fire service. I’m not a scientist or doctor. But I would never use one inside a camper."
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Old 03-04-2020, 02:59 PM   #13
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My experience with the Little Buddy is that it puts out too much heat. It doesn't have a thermostat, so it gets really hot inside the Airstream. CO2 may not be a problem because you are going to need a lot of ventilation to let the excess heat out of the Airstream. It also makes a lot of humidity, but that is also a problem with the Airstream furnace.
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Old 03-04-2020, 03:04 PM   #14
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Hi

One gotcha is that we all have different trailers made by the same company. As soon as I turn on the fridge in mine, it's pulling right around 2A. One amp goes to the fridge and one amp goes to the control system. Unless I want to turn off the fridge, it's 50AH a day no matter what. My answer to that is 400AH of Lithium and 4 panels on the roof ....

First step = understand your specific trailer

Bob
Is the interior light staying on, ours only draws that 1a when the ambient temp switch is on?

Bob
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Old 03-04-2020, 03:49 PM   #15
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Batteries... DEAD Yet?

Uh, no. The Airstream OEM furnace has a sealed combustion system, inhales fresh air from outside into the combustion chamber, feeds the fire, and a fan forces the humid exhaust and combustion products outside through another, separate vent.

The same fan motor has another fan on it that passes interior air over the heat exchanger and blows heated air into the cabin. It can’t raise humidity all by itself.

However, humans breathing, critters if you have any onboard, cooking, and showering will certainly quickly raise the humidity inside an Airstream in the winter to high levels. Need to control all that humidity by using some extra ventilation. Open a vent or crack open window to get some fresh air.

Personally, I would never, ever consider using an unvented heater of any sort inside an Airstream or use the stove or oven for heat. Too much carbon monoxide buildup is possible, and that’s a nasty insidious way to die.
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Old 03-04-2020, 07:24 PM   #16
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Started a separate Thread under Furnaces for heating the interior with something other than the Airstream Furnace to conserve Battery Charge when Off the Grid Boondocking... WITHOUT Solar.

Mr. Heater Buddy Radiant Heater is the Title.

This is more specific and can be chewed and digested as one topic on a separate thread.
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Old 03-05-2020, 08:04 AM   #17
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Is the interior light staying on, ours only draws that 1a when the ambient temp switch is on?

Bob
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Not as far as I can tell. It's an LED so it *might* pull 0.1A or so.

Bob
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Old 03-10-2020, 04:10 PM   #18
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Ray, I’ve been using a Mr Heater Buddy for heating my ice fishing shelter for years. I did a face palm when Thalweg mentioned using it to heat the trailer without any power draw. Mine was at home in the garage. You can easily run them on a bulk tank with one caveat: there is an inline filter available from Mr Heater that MUST be used to trap oil and rubber residue that comes out of the rubber fuel line. There is also a green coloured fuel connection line available that is a plastic instead of rubber. With the green fuel line a filter is not required.
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Old 03-20-2020, 10:54 PM   #19
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I’m not sure if I should post or not, because either I’m in a different universe or I’m a liar. My little single-battery 2008 22’ Airstream does just fine on a Walmart “EverStart” Group 29 Deep Cycle Marine/RV battery.
We run the furnace all night in Montana. We run it all night in Wyoming, and watch a DVD also for 2 hours before falling asleep. In West Texas we run the Fantastic Fan on lower speed and a small 12V circulating fan clipped to the overhead shelf over the bed. We both shower nightly and enjoy the hot water.
Our truck is used on outings during the day, and we use it to recharge the A/S when we move to different areas, but for 3 or 4 days in a row we do exactly as described above. We do have only LED lighting, which is aftermarket lamp bulbs installed in the original incandescent fixtures. We also do have a small contractor type generator which we sometimes use when we’re really waaay out and no one else to be bothered, which we might run the air conditioner, or if necessary we can re-charge the A/S, although we’ve only done that one time in a preventive measure after 4 days when we decided to stay another cold night and were concerned about the battery. We ran it about 3 hrs to recharge the batt that time, and to use the convection/microwave to cook dinner, then shut it down because we wanted to sit out at the campfire and enjoy the stars before going to bed.
We just replaced the battery w/new this week ($99), the replaced battery was installed new March 2017 and died a few days ago (Likely helped to the grave when I failed to check the electrolyte level for 8 months while plugged in to shore power during storage.)
The A/S is usually stored when not traveling in a metal bldg, plugged into shore power, and has a WFCO converter which was OEM, but I replaced it two years ago with another identical 55A WFCO.
It makes me wonder what we’re doing wrong that we don’t have the battery/power problems we read about, tho’...
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:09 AM   #20
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Whatever you are doing it must be right.

That far exceeds the capacity of our 2 batteries in our 25'. I do have the problem of running a CPAC at night. Mine is a 24 volt so it runs on some sort of 12 to 24 volt ransformer/converter and draws some power. My truck puts no appreciable charge in the trailer batteries when we are towing it. So far we have used a generator and run it pretty often when camping without electricity.
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