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Old 08-02-2018, 01:19 PM   #1
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Dry Camping

In March I purchased a 2018 Flagstaff 25DKS Travel Trailer. I just camped without electric hook up for the first time. The battery went from 4 bars to 1 bar in one day. Even with only toning one interior light as needed in the evening and water pump only as needed, the battery discharged in one day. I was concerned there might be a warranty issue, so I spoke to my dealer. They indicated this is normal. The only way to get more than one or two days with the battery is using an optional solar cell, which it is wired for.
Is this really correct?
(The Jayco I traded in would run over a week on battery.)
Thanks for any information anyone can share...
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Old 08-02-2018, 01:55 PM   #2
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Sort of correct. You're trying to apply a singular rule to a varying set of conditions.

Batteries have two main variances: quality and capacity.

Capacity needs to be measured in terms of Amp-Hours. For example, if I wanted to operate a 50 watt light bulb in my camper for 3 hours, that would require 15 amps. 50W/12V*3hrs = 15. Batteries shouldn't be discharged below 50%. So, assuming that the entirety of my power use on a camping trip is that one light bulb and I camp for 3 days, then I'd need: 3 * 15 *2 = 90 Amp-Hr capacity battery. That allows me to pull 15 amps out each day and still not draw more than 50% of the battery's total capacity.

So, you need to do some math and some research. There are a few things that are always on, like your CO/Propane detector. These have small parasitic draws. Your light fixtures have a known power draw, as does the water pump. If you run the furnace, the fan will draw power. And, so on. Again, you can search on these components and find pretty good consumption data.

Add it up and calculate a daily power need. Then, figure out the capacity of battery (or batteries) you require. You may need more than one.

Let me give you an example. In my 2007 Fleetwood pop up, I had incandescent light bulbs in my light fixtures. Each bulb drew 1.45 amps and each fixture had 2 bulbs. So, I drew 2.9 amps per hour of use per fixture. My furnace drew 4.2 amps. My pump drew 4.75 amps. My water heater drew 0.66 amps. My LP/CO detector drew 0.05 amps.

I used about 1 hour of lights. My furnace ran for about 6 hours per night. I didn't use my water system, so no pump or water heater. And, my detector ran for 24 hours. That totals to about 30 amps in a day. In a weekend, I'd camp for 2 days and use 60 amps. Therefore, I needed a battery with a capacity of 120 amp-hours.

Capacities aren't as readily available as CCA (cold cranking amps) or reserve capacity. You have to search for it. CCA and the other common ratings have to do with starting an engine ... short bursts of a lot of power and voltage. You don't care anything about those ratings. You don't want a "starter" battery for starting motors. You want a deep cycle battery for storing power. That's a nice segue to the second topic ...

Quality. You probably have a really crummy starter battery from the dealership, size Group 24, which is just about the smallest capacity.

What you want is a true deep cycle battery. What you'll find at Walmart, Sears, Autozone, etc. is a Marine battery, which ends up being a sort of hybrid of starter and deep cycle. You'll have to go to a specialty battery, industrial store to find true deep cycle batteries (at least, that's been my experience).

The better the battery, the more resilient it will be to the charging and discharging cycles. Better batteries will give you the rated storage and capacity for a longer period of time. Cheaper batteries may not meet their specs and will wear out faster ... they will all wear out eventually.

Battery state. 12 V batteries do not discharge in an intuitive fashion. That is, a fully charged 12 V battery doesn't read 12 V on a multimeter. Similarly, a dead battery doesn't read 0 V on a multimeter. Full is going to be near 13 V, a dead battery will be 11.5 V or less, and a battery at 50% capacity and in need of a charge will be around 12 V.

With that said, you can certainly use a multimeter to check your battery on occasion. More can be learned here, as the 12 Volt Side of Life.

If you use a solar panel to charge, you'll need power of the panel, charging voltage, and estimates on sunlight. For example, if you have a 100 W panel operating at 17.1 VDC, you get 5.85 Amp-Hrs out of it. If you get 5 hours of good sunlight and an 80% efficiency (wiring, non-peak sun, etc.), then you get around 24 amps in a day put back into your battery.

If I apply that to my earlier calculation, it means I'm pulling out 30 amps and putting back 24, for a net draw of 6 amps. If I wanted to camp for 4 days, then I'm only using 24 amps and I'd only need a 48 amp-hour battery ... any crappy group 24 battery would suffice.

Good luck.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:04 PM   #3
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Your Jayco probably had less parasitic power drains, than today's newer RVs.
Add that your dealer installed a cheap 12v Group 24 dual purpose marine battery, it adds up to the battery lasting only one night.
Did you run the furnace? That's the biggest power drain in RVs.

If you plan on doing more dry camping, you'll need a dual battery setup, preferably 6v golf cart batteries and either a solar system or an inverter generator to recharge the batteries.
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Old 08-02-2018, 03:43 PM   #4
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67L48 gave you a lot of good info. The fridge can be an annoying power drain. Some (many) fridges have a defrost circuit that sucks at least a couple of amps almost continuously. Disabling the defrost could make a big difference.

My little A-frame had a continuous-run fridge that took no DC when running on propane. But a surprise was the stereo. I put in a switch to disable BOTH power wires. I put in 2 GC-2 (6V golf cart) batteries to carry us for 4 nights of dry camping with reasonable heater or vent fan use.

Now that we are moving to a high wall A-frame with the bigger fridge that has a defroster and a DC control board, I will have to find a way to disable the defroster, as well as the stereo. And then change out the stock battery for a pair of GC-2s again.

hope this helps
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Old 08-02-2018, 03:56 PM   #5
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with only one battery I would say to be expected. the stock "solar" prep is nothing but a trickle charger. for any long term dry camping you would need generator or a solar upgrade to keep battery charged. as others have stated lots of draw. antenna booster, carbonmonixe detector etc.
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Old 08-02-2018, 07:59 PM   #6
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Do yourself a favor and buy a Honda 2000 generator.
All I do is dry camp. The Honda’s are whisper quiet,easy on fuel and light weight. They keep my batteries charged.
For running the AC, you’ll need a pair tho. I hook 2 together to run the AC, which I vary rarely have to use in the mountains where I live.
Like already stated, a pair of good deep cycle,type 27 batteries are a must.
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Old 08-02-2018, 08:46 PM   #7
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Do yourself a favor and by a Champion 2000 or Harbor Freight 2000 inverter generator. I dry camp 3/4 of the time and the Champions and Harbor Freight inverter generators are whisper quiet, easy on fuel, and weight about 50 lbs each.

Also, consider adding a second battery or going all out and installing two golf cart batteries along with the generator.

Good luck with your decision. If you go Champion or Harbor Freight inverter generator you'll have plenty of money over the cost of a Honda to get upgraded batteries.
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Old 08-03-2018, 01:44 PM   #8
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You don't need to immediately jump to a generator. Just about all we do is dry camp. The above posting on batteries and amp hours is great. Do some studying on various batteries and compare by their amp hours. Buy 2 and make sure they are true deep cycle batteries. Not marine batteries. I have two 6 volt batteries in series which basically creates one big 12 volt battery. If I monitor my use, I can get 3-4 days on that being careful. If you are like us and dry camp in a place like the high Colorado mountains where it can drop to the high 30's or low 40's at night, don't expect to use your furnace to keep it comfy inside like 65+ degrees. We use ours to keep it from getting what I call stupid cold. Keep the furnace to about its lowest setting and use warm blankets.

I also have 200 watts of portable solar which can get my batteries pretty close to full in one day of good sun. We had somebody running a laptop plugged in for several hours, charging all kinds of handheld devices off the camper, playing the stereo for several hours a day, all kinds of lights on and off, water pump and furnace at night. We had no problems with 4 nights of camping. I also had a cloudy day where I couldn't get a good solar charge and was concerned but still had enough juice to get through the night.

There are all kinds of batteries out there with different levels of amp hours. The key is balancing amp hours you want, against money you are willing to pay, against the weight you are willing to carry.
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:06 PM   #9
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If you do decide on a generator, the 2000 watt A-IPower invertor generator at Costco is $499.99. It has a three prong twist lock outlet and a 30 amp adaptor that fits in the twist lock. It also comes with parallel cables, tool kit, oil and oil funnel. It has uses the Yamaha MZ-80 engine. There is nothing else to buy and it's half the price of a Honda. With one generator you can run every pretty much everything except the A/C and a hair dryer. With two, you can run it all. When the propane side of my hot water heater crapped out I was very glad to be able to use the electric side. I also like to use the microwave and the toaster.
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