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Old 05-02-2012, 05:43 PM   #1
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Would like the option to Boondock

Hey all,

I'm looking for some serious guidance towards outfitting my Tracer 3150 to handle some occasional boondock camping in the summers. I see that most of the folks here get pretty serious on this subject, so please excuse my ignorance with my request.

My wife and I have four kids 12, 10, 8 and 6 plus the dog. We have had the opporutnity to camp at a couple public sites this year so far to understand how things work and such. My goal is to be able to outfit the Tracer to handle the a four day extended weekends without electricity and being able to dump grey & refill fresh water durring that same period. I will also have the occassional tailgate setup for outtings that would mainly consist of four to five adults, no kids.

In reading some posts, there is a strong emphasys on energy and water conservation. The Tracer has a 48gal Fresh/30gal Black/30gal Grey. I replaced all the interior lights with LED's and looking to replace my single cheap marine deep cycle battery with two decent (not Trojans).

What do I need to consider in order to make this work out so we are comfortable. What would I need to consider if I wanted to run the A/C?

Thanks, Joe
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Old 05-02-2012, 06:43 PM   #2
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You will not be able to run the AC unless you have a genny. With 6 people in the TT water conservation will be a big issue.
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Old 05-02-2012, 07:11 PM   #3
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Joe,

Your next biggest issue while boondocking after fresh water and dirty water management is power.

I was a bit knocked back when you said you were going to put in a couple of "decent" batteries, "but not Trojans."

We boondock a LOT and I have two OEM Deka DC-24 batteries and when they go a pair of Trojans are going in those holes.

http://www.batteriesinaflash.com/dee...-cycle-battery

That will give me 260AH capacity for about 400 bucks. What do you have against Trojans?

With your brood you will be needing plenty of battery supplied AC so you will also need a fair sized (1500 Watt range) pure sine inverter to keep up with the kid's electronics.

Like Caper said you will also need a good sized generator to keep the batteries charged. If you want to run the Air (you did not say what size you have) you will need about 2400 watts generator power.

There are some mods you can do to the air conditioner to make a 13.5K air conditioner work with a Honda 2000. If you have a 15K only a 2400 watt unit or up will most likely work well for you.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:16 PM   #4
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I boondock 95% of the time and with your four kids and wife I would say water management will be your biggest problem. Spend some time training the kids because most will treat it like they are at home and leave faucets run, etc. Take bottled water for drinking and cooking and use paper plates etc to minimize dish washing. I would invest in a good generator sized to your needs as well as a good battery bank. Trojans are among the best. They are spendy but well worth the investment and if you take care of them will last for years. I had four years on a set in my last TT and they were still going strong. Personally I prefer two 12 volts instead of the 6 volts. I run two Trojan SCS225 batteries and they last a long, long time, even running the furnace allot. They are big batteries so you have to have room for them. The LED lights help allot. If you intend to run your AC off the generator be sure you size it accordingly. Try one before you buy it to make sure it works. You can install a soft start capacitor to help. Even with a soft start capacitor my Yamaha 2400 wouldn't start my AC reliably. I am at 6500 ft and often camp at 8000 ft so that does make a difference. I just bought a 3000 watt Honda to replace the Yamaha 2400. It starts the AC without fail.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:20 PM   #5
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Though Trojan batteries are rated and reviewed very highly, the dang things are just that much too tall for my stock battery box. I just ordered a couple these... US Batteries

You are off to a good start by replacing your bulbs with LEDs. If you camp in warm climates, you will need a generator for the AC. Water... you can never have enough, and with the bunch you have, you won't last long with the stock tanks. You will either need a way to haul extra water, transport water after you set up camp, or forget it. There are collapsible water bladders that might fit in your tow vehicle, and a portable waste tank of some sort will likely be needed unless you camp where you can bury all your human waste... I've never seen a boondocking spot like that FWIW.

Some folks disperse their gray water but I won't get into that debate.

For a true test of your families ability to dry camp, set it up in the driveway and see how long you last.
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:27 PM   #6
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Red face

Herk, I just thought spending $200 per battery was steep was all. I have nothing against Trojan batteries, in fact I see them as a refrence point in what to look for in a true deep cycle battery.

My thought was if I'm not going hardcore, I could take a step or two down from Trojans to spend elsewhere. Although I might change my mind once I finish evaluating the pros and cons with this project.

I have an additional question regarding pure sine wave inverters. I was looking up a Samlex SK1500. Where do you place this in the TT? I already have a PI EMS-HW30C surge protector, is this something I would connect additionally to the TT's main power input?? Or would I be limited to only using the two plugs and USB port from the inverter itself. Again sorry for the ignorance here, trying to make sense of this key area regarding power inverters.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:01 PM   #7
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Would an inverter be neccessary on the generator as well, if I already had something like the Samlex SK1500 alreadyinstalled in the TT?
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:11 PM   #8
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You are talking about two different things. The Inverter Generator uses a different type of alternator from the Conventional Generator. Usually the Inverter alternator produces 3 phase AC power. This power is then converted to DC current. The DC Current is then converted (inverted) into 120 volt AC power. The resulting power is often much cleaner* than the power from a conventional generator.
The 1500 watt inverter takes 12v power and coverts it to 110v power. An inverter generator like you are talking about supplies 110v power. You don't have to have the 1500 watt inverter if you want to run the genny all the time. It will power your 110v needs and charge the batteries as well.The 1500 watt inverter just gives you the option to run off your batteries. You will need to recharge with the genny or solar panels.
Personally I would put my money into a good quiet generator (Honda or Yamaha) and add the rest later.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:30 PM   #9
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Samlex SK 1500W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter

I like the specs on this inverter. Don't forget you will need a 150 amp fuse inline to the batteries.
1500 watts divided by 10.5 volts (low voltage cut out) = ~150 amps.

You should locate the inverter as close to your batteries as possible to eliminate wasted battery power in line loss.

I used extension cords to power my AC equipment when boondocking until I dropped the belly pan for a tank sensor upgrade and ran hard wire to dedicated inverter duplex outlets.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:34 PM   #10
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A dumb question for you guys. Could you mount the inverter in a handy location and plug the shore power cord into it?
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Old 05-02-2012, 11:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by rkswyo View Post
A dumb question for you guys. Could you mount the inverter in a handy location and plug the shore power cord into it?
I think I know what you are asking.

You want to hook your camper's shore power cord through a 30->20 amp adapter and plug it into your inverter in order to power your 120 volt ac camper items off your battery; right?

Sure!

Lets see how big an inverter you would need. 30 amps times 120 volts equals 3600 watts, No Problem! They make those!

Now how much battery bank do I need?

3600 watts divided by 10.5 volts (low battery cutout) = 350 amps

How long will the standard 75 amp hour battery last trying to deliver 350 amps? This is actually more complicated that it sounds.

From this graph you can see that the bigger the amp demand, the less capacity a battery has. Say for sake of argument your 75 amp hour battery was even capable of delivering 350 amps without melting (it can't BTW). And further it can somehow manage 25% of capacity at that draw (which it won't get that high). 25% of 75 AH equals 18.75 AH

How many hours will the 18.75 AH battery last trying to deliver 350 amps?

0.05 hours or about three and a half minutes.

We won't get into the converter trying to charge the battery with the battery.
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Old 05-02-2012, 11:31 PM   #12
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Where do you come up with 30 amps? I would not run microwave, converter or air conditioning off of it. Just tv and dish reciever. Just seemed like it would work and was curious. I guess from your response it was a dumb question.
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Old 05-02-2012, 11:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by rkswyo View Post
Where do you come up with 30 amps? I would not run microwave, converter or air conditioning off of it. Just TV and dish receiver. Just seemed like it would work and was curious. I guess from your response it was a dumb question.
I reread that and I realize I came off pretty flip. It is late and I totally apologize.

In fact, I actually thought of doing that at first myself until I examined it further. I should have just said "Bad idea" and left it at that.

Again I am sorry.

The real show stopper is the converter and the fridge (which will switch to AC heater if it "sees" 120 VAC) unless you remember to switch it to GAS only. The converter will see the low battery and try to charge it with the inverted battery power. If your camper has a seperate AC circuit for the converter you could switch it off. In my camper that breaker kills power to the entire entertainment suite as well.

You will also have limited control over what gets plugged into the camper's outlets (like transformers for cell phones, etc) all of which will be stealing your limited battery capacity. Hitting a switch by accident could destroy your battery's remaininig capacity and result on a "no heat" night.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:04 AM   #14
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I didn't figure it was the best way to do it but taking the precautions you mentioned thought it could be done. A couple guys and I were talking about this at work the other day.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:34 AM   #15
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http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...aws-17300.html

when on shore power you have about or should have 30 amps available .
If your plugged in with a 20 or a 15 amp with adapter you should have that available.
look at the list and start adding up what you can and cannot run with the available amps.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:25 AM   #16
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I didn't figure it was the best way to do it but taking the precautions you mentioned thought it could be done. A couple guys and I were talking about this at work the other day.
If you plan on doing this, (I still do not think it is a good idea) you will need to find the circuit protection for your converter and switch it off. Closely monitor every AC item to make sure it remains off; unless you need it on.

I used a heavy duty extension cord from the inverter outlet right to the TV area using a Surge Strip at the end. This gave me control on what was HOT at any given time. Now I have a Duplex there that is connected to the inverter, but still use the surge strip method. 150 AH does not last long running off the inverter to power the TV and our computer that contains our movie collection, as well as, all the DC needed to run the DC items like lights, sound system, and still have a battery to run the heat if needed at night (We get about 2-3 hours of TV in the evening if we will be needing the furnace to last till morning). Adding all the parasite AC loss by "Hotting" up the entire camper through that giant cord will most likely cut that some more.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:55 AM   #17
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Herk your set up is solid!

So if I understand correctly, the picture with the five wall plates; is the inverter outlet the only direct connection to your inverter? Then you plug in the power strip for use when boondocking off the inverter?
That inverter outlet is hardwired to the inverter & batteries and the wiring runs under the TT belly (but enclosed)?

If I'm missing something, please clearify.

Did you do away with your plywood based circuit board or is that how the batteries and inverter were tied together? Which area in your TT houses that? It seems large, but that could be misleading from the photograph. I am trying to imagine where in the front I could place a similar setup without it getting digged up from stowwing other items while traveling. I asked my neighbor yesterday about this but he only uses puplic campgrounds and thought I was nuts. So I'll leave out of further discuissions
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:01 PM   #18
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Joeyo, I camp about 95% of the time in BLM or Nation Forest areas. Mostly just me and the misses. Water is our biggest problem. I’m running a 2400 gen so electricity is not an issue. Over long weekends its always the darn grey that gets close, and I never dump grey in the woods. We do dishes and take quickie showers and I take about 20 gal of water with us. (my tanks are 50 fresh 30 and 30). With a group of 6, I’m thinkin your black and grey will fill up. I do have a folding toilet seat so in a pinch I can dig a cat hole, but usually dont need it. Think it was $30 at walmart and stays in the camper. Guess my only suggestion is an additional/portable dump tank and try and keep the showers to a min. Have fun!
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:18 PM   #19
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The Electrical upgrade was done when the camper was about a week old. It was also before I "photo documented" what I was doing.

I put a 3/8 inch plywood "wall" between the forward compartment and the main compartment. I did this to separate my tools from the battery compartment and added a second battery before there was more than a couple of cycles on the old one.

As to how I use my inverter and the Duplex you are exactly correct. The only thing we use our inverter for is the computer; TV; and Phone Chargers. We move the strip plug from one to the other depending on whether we are boondocking or not.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:25 AM   #20
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I agree with everyone else that water will be your biggest issue, especially with 6 people and a dog. To extend your range, I would recommend an auxiliary dump tank and a pair jerry cans with water.

The other way to minimize water usage are paper plates, cups, eating utensils; they don't need to be washed.

Power
I disagree with the use of inverters. These devices are power hogs and will inhaled battery power. Bigger only gets moves you from a power piglet to a power hog.

What is wiser is to keep as many appliances as possible as 12 volt units. There are exceptions. Most devices rely on at least DC, and it is usually more efficient to DC appliances on DC than converting to AC and back again to DC.

Having a fused DC bus is a pretty good idea. There are plenty of 12 volt fans, LED and flourescent lights that run on 12 VDC. If you can keep as many of your essential toys on 12 VDC all the better.

As indicated, you will need a minimum of a Yamaha 2400 inverter style genset to a 13.5 KBTU A/C, at least a 3KW to power anything larger.

Let me add that the contractor grade 2400 watt gensets are iffy on 13.5 A/Cs. The reason for that is the way the gensets operate. The inverter style have the correct voltage and frequency, so the A/Cs have an easier time start on those.

Anyway, we will probably boondock down to the power level 20 days this year. Boondocking on water alone about 24 days. My present trailer is not as frugal on power as the old TM was (too many incandescence lights), but I will be improving it over the year.
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