How long do you last?

Discussion in 'American RV's' started by bashers, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. bashers

    bashers Read Only Funster

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    Since we've started touring Europe i've been most upset by the poor performance of the batteries on my Tiffin Allegro 1998.
    There are 4 x 88aH batteries that are allegedly 12 months old.

    When we stop at aires/french passion sites or whatever, everything gets switched off bar the fridge or we get down to 8.5 volts within two days!!

    I'm kicking myself as i have 780aH of nearly new batteries sat in the UK which i did not get a chance to fit and am seriously considering the 24 hour round trip in a car to get them!

    Why can't i charge the 3aH battery in my laptop without running this frigging bus down!!

    For example, we set off from a site at 9pm two nights ago as the battery was so low the gas alarm was beeping. It was late and we did not want to drive round the corner AGAIN to charge, as we have been doing every morning
    I'm quite conscientius and wont run the genny for an hour amongst fellow (albeit jealous) campers

    We had no choioce but to embark on a risky and mildly adventurous journey to find a space on another aire arriving at god knows where at 10:30pm!

    How does everyone else cope who does not plug in?

    Any tips?

    I've alread replaced the BA15S 21W bulbs with 5W but there must be a big draw somewhere that i'm not seeing
     
  2. Kon tiki

    Kon tiki Read Only Funster

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    Have you tried usiing a multimeter to see how many amps you are using? It might be useful to try this with everything you can turned off, then put them on to see if something is taking too much out of your batteries.
    I get by with an 85 amp gel battery & solar panel. We have stayed at times up to 4 days but could probably last a lot longer as long as the sun is shining.
     
  3. The Wallace

    The Wallace Read Only Funster

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    As far as I know, if the fridge is running from 12 volts it will kill batteries very quickly.
     
  4. superk

    superk Read Only Funster

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    Can't you run the fridge on gas? I think that's the expectation - Those American fridges are energy hungry:RollEyes:

    :Smile:
    Keith
     
  5. Wildman

    Wildman Read Only Funster

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    can only repeat what has already been said run the fridge on gas, that is the killer, dont run a 2 kw inverter to charge the laptop get a dc-dc converter, get a smaller TV the standard massive TV in an RV will eat amp/hrs, change the bulbs for 12v LED's and only have on what you actually need, when you need them, don't leave the inverter switched on, finally get yourself some Solar panels to keep the batteries charged up. You are not at home now and must learn leccy is a finite thing. Use it sparingly. we have 2 x 120amp/hr batteries, 55W solar panel, and never use a hookup or genny. We do however move every day. But having said that do manage 4-5 days at a show/meet without problems. 3 weeks away last September no problem.
     
  6. Tony Lee

    Tony Lee Read Only Funster

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    I assumed you had a DC compressor fridge fitted rather than a three way running on 12V or 240V via an inverter. Compressor fridges are not too bad - drawing say three or four amps while actually running. A 3-way will draw 10 amps or more and generally it is not controlled by a thermostat so it is 10 amps 24/7. Takes an impractically-large battery and solar system to carry that sort of load without shore power.

    My suggestion would be that you batteries are running down quickly because you are not charging them up properly in the first place. If you are relying on the engine alternator charging the house batteries when you are driving, ask yourself how many hours are you driving for each day. You mentioned driving for an hour and a half at night with the headlights on so just that would have put almost no worthwhile charge back into the battery. Better than nothing but not much if the battery is dead flat to start with.

    If you have a solar system, then maybe it is grossly undersized for the battery capacity. 300Ah of batteries run down until they are gasping for spare electrons is going to take many many hours of sunlight on a large array to get them up to full charge.

    The other problem is it sounds as if you are murdering your batteries in the worst possible way - by running them flat. 8.5V is not flat, it is totally dead and buried. Even if it is measured with current flowing, it is still far below what is safe.

    Another factor is computer use. A few hours a day will use more power than all the normal lighting and pump load combined.

    How big is your mains battery charger - assuming it is even a proper charger rather than a converter that just floats a fully charged battery. If it is say 15 amps, three stage, then to replace say 250Ah would require running the generator for about 20 hours straight. Certainly not very practical in any campsite I might be sharing with you. ;-)))

    Lots of factors and it could be that your batteries are the victim rather than the cause,
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  7. Kon tiki

    Kon tiki Read Only Funster

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    I think that many people think that they can live in a motorhome the same as when at home & the electric we take so much for granted in the house is almost infinite & is related to how much we want to pay. In a motorhome though when not on hook up you are limited to your battery capacity & the ability of how much you can put back into it.
    This said we adapt different methods when we are off on our travels to suit the conditions. In the extreme if we plan to stay in one place for more than a couple of days I make sure that the solar panel is clean (it's suprising how much difference this can make) sometimes if I open the main skylight it can cast a shadow on the panel dramatically reducing it's output. We turn off the main switch during the day if we aren't running anything (I'm sure I read somehwhere that just having the pump & power switched on it can use up to 0.5 amps) We charge batteries/mobiles/laptops etc. during the day (this is when the solar panel shows that it is producing more power than the battery can take) We don't leave the water heater switched on (it's not just gas these use) we just put it on when we need it.
    I am not saying that you should get paranoid about saving power but every little helps & do you really want to go somewhere nice then spend most of the time sat inside the van watching TV :Eeek: personally I have a nice big plasma TV at home for that.
    If your having problems with your batteries running down you either have a fault on your system or you need even more batteries as you are using more than they can supply.:Wink:
     
  8. Tony Lee

    Tony Lee Read Only Funster

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    You asked for tips so I can tell you how I do it.

    BigRig in a converted MCI Tag axle coach.

    512Ah 24V battery charged almost exclusively by about 600Watts nominal 24V panels.
    Can charge from the 300A engine alternator but since we are generally parked up for days at a time, that is not a source we need to rely on anyway.

    Carry a 4kVA very noisy diesel generator strictly for emergencies and apart from a couple of times in gloomy Tasmania, the only time it gets fired up is to exercise it once a month

    2-door 220 Litre fridge is 24V DC compressor-type. Waeco brand with a Danfoss sealed compressor.

    Cooking is by gas cook top and grill. Hot water is gas when free-camping, 240v when on hookup. 9kg bottle of gas lasts three weeks when running HWS 24/7 and normal meal preparation. We have 2 bottles on board.

    Inverter supplies 240V up to 1500W for microwave, TV, satellite TV and satellite internet receivers, and washing machine, some lighting and exhaust fans. 2 computers are in constant use. Most lighting is fluorescent 240V although we do have 24V halogen and a very few LED as well. The LED stuff was just an experiment and since we are never starved for power, they will need to improve a lot before I would be bothered. Webasto diesel heater. Mains aircon that we can run off the battery and inverter for three or four hours if necessary, but since we follow the sun or escape from it, we rarely need AC anyway.

    Given normal solar input, the only limitation to free-camping is how much water we carry. 400Litres washing water and 200Litres drinking water mean two weeks easy, far longer if we only have one long shower a day instead of two.

    --------------------------

    The Hobby we have over your way is quite different, but we have still gone a couple of weeks in France and Spain without hooking up (and then only to do the washing) so size is not everything. 200Ah battery, 160W solar at 12V plus charge from the engine when running. One computer on most of the time plus satellite TV. Fridge and cooking and heating is LPG. Lighting is all halogen or 12V fluoro. Unless the sun is shining, we can only last about three days without moving on or having to cut down on electricity use, but since the water tank is empty and the cassette full after three days, we have to move on anyway.
     
  9. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

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    I have 440ah battery bank, two gert big solar panels and we are pretty much self sufficient, we can literally go weeks without a hook up. . That is with 5 of us, couple of hours TV/DVD a day laptops/phones charging etc. Lights are LEDs all round. In darkest winter we do have a Honda genny as backup.

    The only time we are stuffed is when we have to use the on-board heating, the fans kill our batteries quickly.

    As for your fridge, run it on gas. Especially when you are paying for electricity, AFAIK its cheaper to run the fridge on gas than leccy anyway.
     
  10. Sundowners

    Sundowners Funster Life Member

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    I could only repeat what the others have said, basically the 'fridge uses MASSES of power and any small amount of power used continually will mount up, I was having probs when the trailer was stored, the solar panel should have mantained it OK, I discovered a light in one of the lockers was left on !!!.
    When the truck camper is not being used the battery would only last a few weeks, I found the fuse for the gas alarm and remove it when TC is not used (and gas turned off) the battery will now be fully charged after months of standing un used.
    It is a good idea to find that alarm fuse because when the power runs down in the night you will not keep the whole campsite awake !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:cry::cry:
     
  11. Douglas

    Douglas Read Only Funster

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    We have 300amps in 6 batteries, 200 watts in 3 solar panels, we live aboard for 8 months a year use the TV and computer as much as we want, never had a generator and never used a mains hook up in 5 years.

    Boats and motor homes live by their batteries they are with out doubt the most important item in a modern motor home, even if you can't maintain your own engine you have to learn how to manage your own batteries.

    You may be at the bottom of the learning curve at the moment, so get yourself a cheap multy-meter and start studying. I would add that if your batteries have frequently got down to a genuine 8.4v then there probably well sulphated by now.

    Doug...
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  12. bashers

    bashers Read Only Funster

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    The Fridge is a 2 way so runs on gas when off grid. By "left on" i mean only the 12v to its control panel. And i've since found the fuse for the alarms!
    The laptop is charged off a dedicated small laptop inverter so should only use a couple of amps. But its battery does last 8 hours so that bits good! not so for the the wife's Dell though. 1hr ha ha!!

    I realised after the first two days that i could not use the batteries the way i used to at home.
    It was not long before we trimmed things down to where we are now.
    and we gave up a long time ago with the TV or anything flashy like that

    I think this whole bus wiring needs redisigning anyway.
    The charger (intelli power) puts out 13.6 volts but is half way along the bus. by the time that gets to the batteries through three fuses and a BD its down to 13.2
    The radio WAS powered by the starter battery, as i found out on a campsite in the new forest last month on the fourth day!!
    what t**ser thought that one up? :Doh::Doh:

    Basically till i get back to the UK i'm stabbing in the dark without the DC ammeter.
    I kind of know what needs doing having lived on a boat before, but most of what i need, including keener pricing, is in the UK, so i'm putting the feelers out for whats "expetected" of a well thought out system.
    And this is not one of them.

    I'm resigned to thinking that if the batteries weren't shot before, most probably they were, then they will be by august when i drive the car home.

    I'd love to be hook-up and generator free but maybe it wont happen for a few weeks yet.

    As i only own this bus for 12 months, i cannot justify the expense of a solar system yet, much as i'd like one.
    Just need to find a decent alternator to go with this new battery bank........
     
  13. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    How is it powered now? I had a new radio fitted at Pickering and was told that if I had it powered direct from the leisure batteries then it woild not go on to "full standby" and hence suck power from the batteries. :Smile:
     
  14. Tony Lee

    Tony Lee Read Only Funster

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    I suggested this might be the problem. The battery is likely half-flat before you even start. A pure converter will never maintain the batteries as well as a three-stage charger.

    Sounds as if you sole source of power at the moment is from the engine alternator and this, compounded by the voltage drop you mentioned, means that a couple of hours driving is not going to get your batteries anywhere near fully-charged either. Running your generator will supply your immediate power requirements, but without a high-capacity full-featured charger, the batteries are never going to get a fair go no matter how long you run the generator.

    Large American-style RVs are designed to be driven to a campground with perhaps a short stop along the way - or maybe at most, an overnight in a supermarket parking lot - and then left on shore power for the duration. Most are fitted with a large fixed generator to supply all the power they need. Before they can be used as true boondocking vehicles without needing total reliance on a generator, they need to be upgraded with a large solar system, large battery bank and a quality charger.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2009
  15. bashers

    bashers Read Only Funster

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    My new Panasonic "I'll apparently, but not in reality, play any media you throw at me" DVD radio has this feature, whereby you can tell it it is permanently wired or not.
    Its one feature that does work. In one mode you get loads of light BUT the time is shown, In the other there is only one lit button
     
  16. bashers

    bashers Read Only Funster

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    I found that running the generator to charge was worthless and noisy.
    I received more charge by running the main engine for 30 minutes than i did running the generator for two hours!

    Since this, i removed one resettable fuse between the mains charger and the battery disconnect and have increased the charge voltage by almost half a volt.
    At one point this fuse was dropping volts to 12volts!

    The way forward, as you suggest

    Big battery bank...800ah should be enough
    Good alternator....am currently scouring eBay
    Solar panels....am considering that i may purchase them for the twelve months I own the RV and sell them or keep them for future use on another vessel be it boat or RV. They won't increase the value if left on after all.
    I don't need enough to be permanently free of power but if I could replace half the daily load, then I could double the time I sit on site
     
  17. JockandRita

    JockandRita Funster Life Member

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    Hi Bashers,

    300Ah in 3 batteries, 80watt solar panel, LEDs in all spotlights, 3 x 12v flouros, CAK Battery Manager, 75watt and 300watt inverters and an onboard Honda/Electrolux genny, which is only used to power the boss's hair dryer or vacuum cleaner, :Laughing: (or my 900watt kettle when at a Tesco Extra car park, and I won't be dragged round the shops.) :Rofl1:

    In France during a cold March, we had to use the genny once for recharging the batteries. That's the only time in four years of ownership.

    I hope you manage to get it sorted.

    Regards,

    Jock.
     
  18. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    At least 3 days on a single 85Ah battery.
     
  19. Kon tiki

    Kon tiki Read Only Funster

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    Had 10 days without running the engine or any hookup at the Bristol boat & balloon festival without any problems. The lowest I saw on my 85 amp battery was 12.4 volts, usually the battery was up 14 volts by midday. Watched the TV occasionally but had the radio through the sat. digi box on a lot. Weather was really good though with plenty of sunshine, on the one day it did rain all day the solar panel was still managing around 1 to 1.5 amps.
     
  20. Pat4Neil

    Pat4Neil Read Only Funster

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    Hello,
    We have two 125amp batteries, and 1 solar panel not sure the wattage. But we can run permanently without hook up. Have to be a little careful in winter, as the heating and water heating although run of gas kills the batteries.

    We have changed to LED lights, makes a difference, more so in the winter when you tend to have the lighting on.

    Dont run a TV, although we can watch films via our laptop and tv if we want to.

    Our inverter as just died, this really was a necessity so we will be replacing it shortly, with either a 500w on 1000w, put the pure sine wave inverter are expensive. May just get a cheap jobby for a while.

    Kind regards Pat
     

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