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Old 07-08-2009, 08:18 AM   #1
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Generator and battery charging lesson

Greetings!
We spent 2 wonderful weeks in Virginia recently.
Had a great time in that great state!
Our 1st week we stayed at Loft Mtn camp ground in
Shenandoah National Park. Since they have no hookups
we were on battery power for 8 days.
We have 2 group 24- 12v batteries in parallel.
Nothing special.

We were pretty frugal with lights but did not do without.
I pulled one bulb out of the light over the sink and also
the one in the bathroom. We have an energy saving
fluorescent light over the table. We used lights only
when absolutely necessary.
We also have an LCD TV that we watch occasionally
using a little cigarette socket inverter.
Obviously the fridge was on gas mode.
Can only guess that we watched 4 hours of TV in the
1st 4 days.

We arrived Sunday afternoon and set up.
We ran the batteries pretty flat by Thursday afternoon.
I have a little cheapie generator that's supposedly rated
at 1000 watts. It claims to have 1200 watt surge with
1Kw continuous but I'm pretty sure it kicks it's breaker
at much over 800 watts continuous.

Anyway on Thursday afternoon during "generator hours"
I connected a charger to my batteries and fired up the
genny. I have a little portable 2/10/25 amp charger
that I use to charge with.
Now you are wondering why I don't just plug in the
trailer?
I have discovered that my onboard power center does
a fine job of charging and maintaining my batteries but
it's a bit too gentle on the batteries. In other words it
does charge them fully but it does it slowly. When I start
that generator I want it do get the job done as fast as
possible. The genny is 2 cycle with a fairly large muffler
but it ain't no Honda. It's not nearly as loud as a weed
whacker but it's noisy enough.
My portable charger running in 25 amp mode is working
the genny harder and charging the batteries faster than
the onboard power center does.

As I said, I ran the genny for 1 hour on Thursday.
We were running low on charge by Saturday afternoon so
I ran the genny again. This time because I was still
trying to figure out the fastest way to get a charge,
I did plug in the trailer rather than using my portable
charger.
I noticed immediately that the genny was working harder.
I could tell by the exhaust sound and a very slight smoke
from the exhaust that it was laboring.
I thougt "GREAT" my batteries are really getting a
charge now!!
I ran the genny about 90 minutes.

We attempted to watch TV at bedtime that night and
found that the inverter was kicking out and my battery
indicator was showing zero!!
Yikes!! Wanting some entertainment as well as
needing the fridge to continue to operate I plugged
my truck back in for the night so we could "borrow" some
juice from it's battery. We were leaving the
next morning and would have AC power at our next stop.

Once I got home I attempted to discover why my
battery charging attempts seemed to go down hill
as the week progressed.
After this long story here is what I discovered--

My dometic refer has a little tiny rocker switch above
the freezer door. This is labeled "environment" or something.
It is a heater that warms the area between the freezer
and fresh food doors. That little strip you can see below
the freezer door can sweat in humid conditions so they
put in a heater to warm it up!!
YIKES-- It uses a considerable amount of juice when
it's on. My freezer door is so close to this switch that
it can actually bump the switch to the ON position.

Also we had the fridge in "auto" mode. So as long
as I was charging the batteries with my portable
charger or on battery power the fridge was in gas mode.
BUT when I plugged the trailer into the genny on Saturday
the fridge automatically switched back to AC mode and
it was sucking up nearly half of my genny power as
I was trying to charge batteries.

Lesson here-- If you are on battery power be sure
and check that little "environment" switch above the
freezer door AND be sure the fridge is on manual GAS
mode if you plug into a genny to charge batteries.
Otherwise the fridge can really suck you dry while
you're charging.

At home I got out my industrial clamp on ammeter and
did some more experimenting.
I found that I can boost my charge rate by nearly 10 amps
if I plug BOTH my trailer and my portable charger
into my little 1Kw genny. The portable charger drops
from 25 amps down to about 18 but the onboard trailer
power center adds it's juice at the same time
My genny is putting out an extra amp of power with
both running at the same time verses just the charger.
This is 1 amp at 120 volts. That translates to nearly
10 extra amps at 12 volts so I am getting 10 more
amp hours per hour when I charge with both units
at the same time.
That's enough extra charge per hour to watch a movie on the TV if we want to

Sorry for the long winded story but maybe what I learned
can help someone else out there!
Happy Camping!
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Dan & Rita D
2017 Nissan Titan 5.6L King cab 4wd
1999 Suzuki Intruder Motorcycle
Blue Ox WD hitch

Camping days 2010-53, 2011-47, 2012-41, 2013-41, 2014-31, 2015-40, 2016-44, 2017-63, 2018-75, 2019-32, 2020-41
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:55 AM   #2
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That is excellent advice and a good piece of investigating. Since the fridge element is about 350 watts, you're right that it was consuming a good bit of your 1000 watts. I had forgotten about the "switch" on the fridge door. That was a good catch.

Glad to hear about the boost from hooking the charger and converter together. Glad they weren't bucking each other.

Hope you had a wonderful trip too.
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Old 07-08-2009, 09:50 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bama Rambler View Post
That is excellent advice and a good piece of investigating. Since the fridge element is about 350 watts, you're right that it was consuming a good bit of your 1000 watts. I had forgotten about the "switch" on the fridge door. That was a good catch.

Glad to hear about the boost from hooking the charger and converter together. Glad they weren't bucking each other.

Hope you had a wonderful trip too.
KyDan, this is an interesting post. Like Bama Rambler, I had forgotten about that fridge element, and will check it today to make sure it is off. Also, when charging the batteries through the converter, I sometimes forget to cut my fridge on gas only......I hope your post will remind me to do that from now on.

My Yamaha EF2400is has a battery charger built in, so I might do some spearminting (that is a Ricky Ricardo word )to see what is the best way to charge my battery.

What dates were you at Loft Mtn.??? I camped there June 26th and 27th. I was on site E98 that trip. Heading back to Big Meadows this weekend to meet up with friends from the valley.
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Old 07-08-2009, 10:35 AM   #4
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KyDan thanks for that info, I wasnt even aware of such a switch, I will check it out when we head back up to the site,

Hope that you had a great trip despite the battery issue..
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Old 07-08-2009, 02:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnguy View Post
My Yamaha EF2400is has a battery charger built in, so I might do some spearminting (that is a Ricky Ricardo word )to see what is the best way to charge my battery.

What dates were you at Loft Mtn.??? I camped there June 26th and 27th. I was on site E98 that trip. Heading back to Big Meadows this weekend to meet up with friends from the valley.
We were at Loft Mtn June 15-22

My little genny also has a built in 12v charger but it's rated
at 6 amps. I used it one morning last fall when we'd
"borrowed" so much power from my truck that it wouldn't
start to take us home! Only about 10 minutes was enough
to get the truck fired up. Had not bought the charger at
that time so the genny 12v output was very handy indeed.

My genny was putting out 6.5 amps at 110v according
to my clamp on ammeter with both the trailer and portable
charger plugged in. Since Watts = Amps X Volts that works
out to about 715 Watts from the genny. That's pretty near what it's capable of. At least it's earning it's keep
at that rate and I feel like I'm getting charged as fast
as possible given what I have to work with.

The little genny only cost $140 including shipping on
Ebay from a power seller dealer. My son borrowed it
last winter when we had a severe ice storm. He was
able to keep his freezer going and watch his big screen
TV using it so it's definitely earned a spot in my garage.

Here is a link to the generator on Ebay if you're interested.
http://cgi.ebay.com/WILDFIRE-1200-WA...3%3A1|294%3A50

And we did have a wonderful time hiking in Shenandoah
as well as discovering all the historical stuff at Jamestown
and Yorktown was much more interesting than my history teachers let on way back in American history class!

We managed to hike/walk 60 miles and had a great time.
Thank you Virginia!!
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Dan & Rita D
2017 Nissan Titan 5.6L King cab 4wd
1999 Suzuki Intruder Motorcycle
Blue Ox WD hitch

Camping days 2010-53, 2011-47, 2012-41, 2013-41, 2014-31, 2015-40, 2016-44, 2017-63, 2018-75, 2019-32, 2020-41
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:28 PM   #6
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Thanks for the detailed information! I am sure it will be useful to many.
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KyDan View Post
We were at Loft Mtn June 15-22

We managed to hike/walk 60 miles and had a great time.
Thank you Virginia!!
Missed you by 4 days.

60 miles is a lot of mileage....congrats on that.

I try to hike sections of the AT every time I camp on the Drive, as well as making some day trips up there. So far, I have covered the section between Loft Mtn. and Hawksbill Peak.....about 40 miles. Of course, when I couldn't get someone to shuttle me, I have ended up doing some sections 2xs......coming and going so I can get back to my vehicle.

I have also done a lot of the side trails to waterfalls and overlooks.
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Old 07-13-2009, 05:37 AM   #8
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curious about the evnvirment switch, my refer is dometic and has a switch in the same place, it is labeled auto clmate control. Does it do the same thing? Bought the unit second hand and do not have a manual for the fridge. I have been having a drain on the battery while storing the TT that I have not been able to find. Could be that. Finally installed a dissconnect on the the battery to keep it from going dead while not in use.

Also, there seems to be no temp control for the fridge and its to cold, some items begin to freeze while using, is there any fine tuning to adjust the temp? Its in a 2000 model camper.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:42 AM   #9
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Hi Bikeman,
Since this message is about refrigerators and not really
generators, lets start a new thread in the
Technical issues forum called
Refrigerator is too cold --
http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...0573#post30573
See you there.....
KyDan
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