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Old 07-03-2020, 01:06 PM   #1
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Fridge Problems-Dry Camping in a 2020 Caravel

I recently purchased a 22 ft 2020 Caravel in Oregon. I am back from my first 2 week trip and very upset about the electric fridge drawing down the battery with their stock solar panel on roof. The batteries did not last a day under partly cloudy conditions on the first day out (they discharged to less than 50%). When I dry camp, I do not use the furnance, TV, microwave or fans.

My first thought was that the batteries in the new Caravel were weakened before my purchase. I kept it on shore power at my property before the first trip. Should I assume the batteries are okay or is there a way to check this out?

The salesman, assured me that I could dry camp in the Caravel and the batteries would last "3 days" with out resorting to the generator.

Should I replace the fridge so I would have a propane option? Will a 3 way fridge fit into the existing cabinet space? I assume there must be a reason Airstream went to a an AC/DC fridge. I know propane won't cool as fast and I would have to put up with an exhaust fan noise. Are there other issues? What other options other than finding another trailer should I consider? More solar or better batteries or both?

I have a 200 watt portable Zamp solar panel that I use with my fold down RV Chalet but did not take it on my first excursion through the Blue Mnts because the Air Stream tech person told me I would have to change the wiring configuration to use both panels at the same time.


Thanks much for your time and advice.
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Old 07-03-2020, 05:08 PM   #2
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Fridge Problems-Dry Camping in a 2020 Caravel

Rule # 1: Never believe a salesman.

Rule # 2: Salesmen only lie when their mouth is moving. See: politician.

You can use your suitcase solar if you connect it direct to the batteries or rewire the connector properly.
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Old 07-03-2020, 05:39 PM   #3
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I am slightly confused by this line:

>Should I replace the fridge so I would have a propane option?

If things are stock, that should be a 2-way fridge and thus would have LP and electric power.
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Old 07-03-2020, 05:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CampingDavid View Post
I am slightly confused by this line:

>Should I replace the fridge so I would have a propane option?

If things are stock, that should be a 2-way fridge and thus would have LP and electric power.
The trailer in question has a 12 volt electric refrigerator.
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Old 07-03-2020, 09:18 PM   #5
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Whoops. Thanks Richard. I was looking at the wrong trailer.

Unfortunately, the Caravel user manual doesn't have detailed information on the Nova Kool refrigerator likely in your Caravel, and not knowing the precise model I can't research the exact power draw to give you the actual amount of time you can run the refrigerator on your battery.

If you are dry-camper, even a weekender, it is my unscientific opinion that an LP refrigerator is a must-have. Use Ice Packs or shore power or both to get it cooled down, then switch to LP and be mindful of the door.

Mostly, I wanted to post about solar. This is something I have 3 years of experience in a residential and hobbyist setting. I love using solar to power everything I can!

Solar is a lot more finicky and not as efficient as we all would hope, even with the top of the line panels. We can guestimate what you need for what you are trying to do, but I can tell you I've never met anyone who has solar who wishes they bought fewer panels.

It takes good solar panel placement (angle to sun relative to latitude) and clear skies to really get the best out of it. You also have to be sure you are wired correctly to charge those batteries in the first place.

Just to give you a sense of how bad cloud cover impacts solar production, here are some images from a recent 4-days of weather and the same 4-days of production. Keep in mind, these are top of the line panels perfectly optimized for my location in a stationary position.

Clouds come up and it's a major hit to the energy I can generate. I picked these days because it's a good range of cloudy to clear and low to high power generation.

For context, my personal best is something like 78/79.

Summary:
-LP is a must for dry camping IMO especially if you can't run a generator at all and/or your power system is 1 (12 volt) battery

-Solar is great, I am a fan - but it's high powered trickle charger and not a battery charger except in the largest and most efficient of systems. What a system CAN do and what it ACTUALLY does are very far apart in even the best of conditions.

-
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Old 07-03-2020, 09:43 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by azflycaster View Post
The trailer in question has a 12 volt electric refrigerator.
My bad. Was looking at the wrong trailer.

Does anyone know the model number of that refrigerator so we can help the OP get specific on what kind of power and/or charge capability he is after?

That question has a mathematical answer, but I don't have all the inputs needed to do that calculation because I need more info on that refrigerator or it would be an educated guess.



In the meantime, I found something similar in size so I'll use that as the baseline and then update this thread.

(http://www.novakool.com/products/sin..._3800_4500.htm)
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Old 07-03-2020, 09:54 PM   #7
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Putting a 3-way LP fridge into the 2020 Caravel or Bambi would be quite a job. There are no vents cut into the body. The cabinet is also different to accommodate the Nova Cool. Also, there seems to be a shortage of the Dometic 3-way fridge as others have not been able to find replacements.

I think the best way to deal with this is to beef up the solar to power the Nova Cool fridge. You can see some pretty intense systems on this forum. Just keep in mind what happens with the trailer weight when you start adding batteries. AGM batteries will add pounds quickly. Lithium batteries will drain your wallet.

There are some little solar generators on the market that look quite powerful. I am looking at some from Bluetti and Ecoflow that look pretty good.

Search for some solar threads and see what others are doing.
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Old 07-04-2020, 05:47 AM   #8
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Lithium batteries will be a big up front cost. But in the long run they will probably be about the same operatinng cost as feeding it lead acid batteries. Lithium will give you about 3 times the run time of lead acids and will lower the recharge time from either solar or a generator a whole lot because of their rapid charging curve. Lithiums may last 10 years. My reccomendation is to put in lithium batteries and lithium compatable converter and carry a small quiet generator planning to run it a couple of hours a day. And a 20 amp dc to dc converter to actually get a charge to the batteries while towing the trailer.

All that will probably cost about $3500 or maybe a little less up front but you will save about $250 a year replacing lead acid batteries that have been drawn to far down fairly often, That cost will probably be less than having the trailer modified for a LP fridge and almost certainly cheaper than trading trailers. And you will have a very capable rig when you get it done.

I think that the owner going to lithium batteries is what Airstream counts on the owner doing on the new trailers.

You are sorta in a jam now and there is no cheap way out. So pick a good one. On of the reasons for the DC fridge is that they are supposed to be a lot better fridges than a very small LP fridge. Your food should actually stay cold.
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Old 07-04-2020, 06:27 AM   #9
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You should also get your current batteries checked to make sure they are good, take them to an auto parts store or service center after fully charging them.--Frank
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Old 07-04-2020, 09:35 AM   #10
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I have a 16 Caravel. I added 90 watts to the factory solar for a total of 180 watts and have no issues with battery power. That being said your unit has a larger fridge with a running amperage of 4.1. That’s double what mine is.
There are some great suggestions here but before I would start replacing everything like the batteries ect. I would first consider more solar. Adding to the existing system is easy. Just buy some Zamp panels so they match nicely. You have a port on the roof that should allow you to add 2 or 3 more without having to wire anything. Give it a chance and see how it works. You have two expensive AGM batteries. Have them checked. I would also consider a small generator. No matter how much solar you have sun is never guaranteed. If your not interested in A/C you can look at something like a Honda EU1000 that’s only about 25 pounds and very quiet.
If your still not happy after this and decide to upgrade to lithium batteries the new panels and generator will fit a new system nicely.
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Old 07-04-2020, 10:35 AM   #11
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Lots of good comments. Propane refrigerator = best for boondocking. Need more solar. Lithium batteries would be better. Get a small inverter generator . . .

Let me share my experience with solar. I'm not sure you can put enough solar on the roof to power that refrigerator and your other power needs on a small Airstream. I use three times solar panel wattage as an estimate of power production from solar. If you can fit three 100W panels, that would be 900WH (300W x three panels) of production. I use 13.5V average for charging, so that would be 66AH per day ( 900WH / 13.5v). That is not enough to power a 4.5A DC refrigerator for 24 hours per day. (4.5 x 24 =100AH). I have a DC refrigerator in my Globetrotter. The DC refrigerator does not cycle much, it basically runs day and night.

So you could spend a lot on Lithium batteries, but you still won't produce enough solar to recharge the batteries. I think the only solution is a Honda EU2200I inverter generator (or equivalent). Its small, light and QUIET! Upgrade the charger inside your converter with a PD4655 so that it will quickly recharge your batteries with the generator (3-4 hours per day). The stock converter/charger is very inefficient while charging with a generator. You must change it. The stock converter charger, even on new Airstreams, does not charge at a high enough voltage to quickly charge the batteries. Its designed to charge the batteries slowly while being connected to shore power day and night for days and days.

I would buy a quiet 2000W inverter generator, update the stock converter to a PD4655 and run the generator several hours each day. I think any other solution will cost too much and probably will still not work. The generator is the only guaranteed solution to your problem. And this solution is provided by one of the biggest solar advocates and users on Airforums.
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Old 07-04-2020, 10:45 AM   #12
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3 days out

We have a 2020 19 foot Caravel. We were out for three days and used 135 watt suitcase solar panel. Ran the fridge, the furnace and some lights at night. Used the pump as well. We have upgraded lithium batteries but never had an issue with them draining down too far. Hope you figure it out!
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:23 PM   #13
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Lots of good comments. Propane refrigerator = best for boondocking. Need more solar. Lithium batteries would be better. Get a small inverter generator . . .

Let me share my experience with solar. I'm not sure you can put enough solar on the roof to power that refrigerator and your other power needs on a small Airstream. I use three times solar panel wattage as an estimate of power production from solar. If you can fit three 100W panels, that would be 900WH (300W x three panels) of production. I use 13.5V average for charging, so that would be 66AH per day ( 900WH / 13.5v). That is not enough to power a 4.5A DC refrigerator for 24 hours per day. (4.5 x 24 =100AH). I have a DC refrigerator in my Globetrotter. The DC refrigerator does not cycle much, it basically runs day and night.

So you could spend a lot on Lithium batteries, but you still won't produce enough solar to recharge the batteries. I think the only solution is a Honda EU2200I inverter generator (or equivalent). Its small, light and QUIET! Upgrade the charger inside your converter with a PD4655 so that it will quickly recharge your batteries with the generator (3-4 hours per day). The stock converter/charger is very inefficient while charging with a generator. You must change it. The stock converter charger, even on new Airstreams, does not charge at a high enough voltage to quickly charge the batteries. Its designed to charge the batteries slowly while being connected to shore power day and night for days and days.

I would buy a quiet 2000W inverter generator, update the stock converter to a PD4655 and run the generator several hours each day. I think any other solution will cost too much and probably will still not work. The generator is the only guaranteed solution to your problem. And this solution is provided by one of the biggest solar advocates and users on Airforums.
It’s not a 100 amps a day for the fridge. Maybe in Death Valley mid August with the doors and windows closed.
Additionally propane refrigerators are only going to be best for boondocking if they are installed correctly. On most smaller Airstreams they are not.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:26 PM   #14
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We have a 2020 19 foot Caravel. We were out for three days and used 135 watt suitcase solar panel. Ran the fridge, the furnace and some lights at night. Used the pump as well. We have upgraded lithium batteries but never had an issue with them draining down too far. Hope you figure it out!
There you go! The 19 has the same fridge as the 22. Add one or two more panels and you should be fine.
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Old 07-04-2020, 01:19 PM   #15
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Whoops. Thanks Richard. I was looking at the wrong trailer.

Unfortunately, the Caravel user manual doesn't have detailed information on the Nova Kool refrigerator likely in your Caravel, and not knowing the precise model I can't research the exact power draw to give you the actual amount of time you can run the refrigerator on your battery.
-
I have 2020 Bambi 20’ and suspect the Caravel has same refridge. Running on 12VDC is draws 4.4 amps when running. But it does not run continuously. About every 15 minutes it runs for 3-4 minutes and then stops. My AS is recent purchase, one month ago, and I have made a 4 day trip and a 5 day trip (to within 3-4 hours drive from home) to “shake-down” the system, in regards to workings. Especially the 90 watt installed rooftop solar, a recent Zamp portable solar purchase and a Champion 2000 Watt inverter generator. When I top off the AGM 24T batteries by 8 pm and turn off generator (out of consideration of others) I am only using some lights, one roof vent fan, pump and refridge until I go to sleep around 9-10 pm. At that time only the refridge is left running (and some of those smallish background amp draws). When I get up at 7 am, after 9 hours of refridge running 4-5 times per hour during the night, the Battery % Remaining is still around 80%. For what it is worth.
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Old 07-04-2020, 01:31 PM   #16
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I have 2020 Bambi 20’ and suspect the Caravel has same refridge. Running on 12VDC is draws 4.4 amps when running. But it does not run continuously. About every 15 minutes it runs for 3-4 minutes and then stops. My AS is recent purchase, one month ago, and I have made a 4 day trip and a 5 day trip (to within 3-4 hours drive from home) to “shake-down” the system, in regards to workings. Especially the 90 watt installed rooftop solar, a recent Zamp portable solar purchase and a Champion 2000 Watt inverter generator. When I top off the AGM 24T batteries by 8 pm and turn of generator (out of consideration of others) I am only using some lights, one roof vent fan, pump and refridge until I go to sleep around 9-10 pm. At that time only the refridge is left running )and some of those smallish background amp draws). When I get up at 7 am, after 9 hours of refridge running 4-5 times per hour during the night, the Battery % Remaining is still around 80%. For what it is worth.
I will add a solar component to my comments above. In the morning after 8 am (time I am allowed to use the generator at the NC State Park) I fire up the Champion 2000 Watt Inverter generator and charge to top off batteries until 9 am. Then I shut it down. Went hiking at 9 am for 9 miles on one day and 8 miles on another day with only refridge running as main power draw. Only 90 Watt solar on roof is active and trailer parked under trees with partial sun. Return from hiking around 3 pm, after 6 hours. Battery % Remaining was 70%. So the refridge drawing 4.4 amps for 3-4 minutes, 4-5 times an hour seems to draw down batteries (there are 2 of the AGM 24T) around 25-30%.
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Old 07-04-2020, 01:44 PM   #17
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In the long run, lithium will save you both the hassle of changing batteries every year or two and save you money. If you run any flooded (lead acid or AGM) battery below 50%, you shorten their lives. Lithium can be run to virtually 0%, recharged and still have a long life. Plus lithium charges faster, doesn't discharge anywhere near as fast as flooded, weight less than half the lead batteries.

I have 3 Lion Energy UT 1300 batteries (105 AH each) and their total weight is about 70 pounds ( just over the average weight of a flooded (lead acid or AGM) battery. So l have more payload available.

If you are a Costco member, they are running an online sale (ends 7/5) on the Lion Energy UT 1300. If memory serves, it's $750 (retail is $899) includes shipping plus tax. Sales for Lion Energy seem to come up every few months, so you might check it out.

And just a note, I do carry a Champion Inverter 2000w dual fuel to help over continuous cloudy days or if I need the AC.
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:49 AM   #18
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It’s not a 100 amps a day for the fridge. Maybe in Death Valley mid August with the doors and windows closed.
Additionally propane refrigerators are only going to be best for boondocking if they are installed correctly. On most smaller Airstreams they are not.
Then I wish the Globetrotter had the same compressor refrigerator as the small Airstreams. My Globetrotter refrigerator runs constantly when operating on DC and draws 14A! That's 336AH per day just for my refrigerator, an impossible amount of power to produce from the solar that fits on the roof of my Airstream. If the refrigerators are as efficient as stated, "So the refridge drawing 4.4 amps for 3-4 minutes, 4-5 times an hour", that's only 35AH per day. 35AH per day can typically be produced by 200W of solar panels. So if that is the case, put 200W to 300W of solar on the roof and that should allow for extended dry camping outings while running the refrigerator. If more power is needed, supplement the roof mounted solar with a portable panel. With 400W of roof mounted solar on my 25' Airstream, I could dry camp for months without needing shore power while using up to 100AH per day.
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Old 07-06-2020, 10:00 AM   #19
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Then I wish the Globetrotter had the same compressor refrigerator as the small Airstreams. My Globetrotter refrigerator runs constantly when operating on DC and draws 14A! That's 336AH per day just for my refrigerator, an impossible amount of power to produce from the solar that fits on the roof of my Airstream. If the refrigerators are as efficient as stated, "So the refridge drawing 4.4 amps for 3-4 minutes, 4-5 times an hour", that's only 35AH per day. 35AH per day can typically be produced by 200W of solar panels. So if that is the case, put 200W to 300W of solar on the roof and that should allow for extended dry camping outings while running the refrigerator. If more power is needed, supplement the roof mounted solar with a portable panel. With 400W of roof mounted solar on my 25' Airstream, I could dry camp for months without needing shore power while using up to 100AH per day.
I don’t believe you have a compressor fridge at all. Correct me if I’m wrong.
My fridge seems to be running about 40% of the time during the day lately. Its been in the low 90s. At night I’m sure it’s less. To be conservative I would suggest budgeting on 50%. It should be much less in cooler weather but this way you won’t be disappointed.
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Old 07-12-2020, 11:19 AM   #20
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My 2020 Caravel is not a two way fridge.
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