Dry camping power problems

Discussion in 'Power - Site Power/Batteries/Generators/Solar' started by Allen R Glass, Apr 6, 2021.

  1. Allen R Glass

    Allen R Glass New Member

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    Need some help figuring out my next steps, because what I'm doing now isn't working for us.

    My wife, 3 dogs and I went dry camping in Southeastern Ohio this weekend in the Aliner. Temperatures down in the 20s overnight. Only power use was the heater (thermostat at 55 degrees), 1/2 hour of LED lights, refrigerator (set on propane) and CO monitor.

    On the first night my battery, a standard Interstate Deep Cycle 12-volt that came with the camper, would no longer power the heater fan by about 4 a.m. It was fully charged about a week before we left, and had been connected to shore power until just a few minutes before we left at 4 that afternoon.

    So I took my new 500 watt-hour Bluetti, fully charged, and plugged it in as shore power to the normal 30-volt input on the camper (with appropriate converter) thinking that would be the best way to recharge the battery. That night, same thing.

    I plugged my 100 watt solar panel into the Bluetti to recharge it and got to about 60 percent. Plugged in as shore power again, knowing this was a bit of a lost cause, and the heater cut out by about 2:30 am.

    We can survive without power. We've camped in tents in even colder weather. But dang it, the camper was supposed to make things more comfortable, and when we've been plugged into shore power, it has. But that's not the way we really like to camp. Should I use the gear I've got differently, replace something, add something to my system?
     
  2. CentralMtnsExploring

    CentralMtnsExploring New Member

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    As a starting point, I would suggest bringing the battery to an autoparts store and having it tested. The battery should easily be able to handle the furnace fan and ignition sequence all night long.
     
  3. gladecreekwy

    gladecreekwy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, somethings wrong. I can get several days out of my battery with the same power usage. Either the battery is bad or there’s some other draw.
     
  4. generok

    generok Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I hate to be a buzzkill, but I had terrible luck with Interstate deep cycle batteries. I got one good season out of them, then they would no longer hold a charge. I found out I was not alone when I did some shopping. That really got me because I had Interstate brand loyalty for years as auto batteries since my father was a dealer of them for decades. But, the deep cycles they make (they just came out with a new line too) just didn't seem to last.

    Get the battery checked. You should be able to run the furnace 2 nights easy, and more if you have a way to put a little more charge in it each day.
     
  5. firepit

    firepit Well-Known Member

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    As others have said...check battery.
    Was it first trip with camper?
    Is the camper new or used?
    If used there should be a date on the battery.
    If new they usually give you a cheap battery.
    A good new battery i bet will solve your problems.
     
  6. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    If I planned on using my furnace more than one night, I would upgrade to a Group 27 or 31 (which I'm doing as my first pup project of the year).
     
  7. Allen R Glass

    Allen R Glass New Member

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    Not my first trip with the camper, but my first cold weather without shore power. We winter camped with electrical power and used an electric space heater, so I haven't really pushed the battery before this.

    The camper was new last May, but there was an episode in August when it sat in the driveway without power, and the CO monitor drained it completely. I was out of town dealing with my Mom's prolonged illness, so I couldn't do anything when the pet sitter said it kept beeping at her whenever she came by... for days. That was probably not good for it, ya think?

    I now know to disconnect the battery and charge it monthly with a good quality charger.

    I don't really expect a dealer to give me anything but the cheapest battery they can, but it blows my mind that they can't keep customers happy with a simple tip sheet on how to maintain key systems.
     
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  8. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Dealers can’t give tips because 99% of them have no idea how campers and their systems actually work. Camper dealers just sell. They would sell toasters tomorrow if they ran out of campers today. That said, check the battery (as already suggested)... it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to start with.
     
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  9. NMroamer

    NMroamer Well-Known Member

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    Going to catch some flack over this but your way to recharge the battery is minimal at best. Take the Bluetti out of the circuit and get a charge controller for the solar panels. That still only give you 8.33 amps of charge under ideal conditions.
    Unless you run the solar panel to charge the battery ALL day you are playing a losing game for power.
    I boondock camp so generator noise is not an issue. 1000 watt Honda generator and a 15 amp battery charger for a couple hours every afternoon and I am all set for the night. Going to a limited power source is a steep learning curve.
    Some take years to figure it out.
     
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  10. Allen R Glass

    Allen R Glass New Member

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    I'm not going to give you flack. Generator or not is a personal choice. I'm just more likely to go without power than have to listen to a generator for a couple of hours.

    Others manage on just solar. With a little help, I'll figure it out.
     
  11. gladecreekwy

    gladecreekwy Well-Known Member

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    We manage our TT with four people with solar only. One 100w panel and two group 24 batteries. Easily takes care of our needs.
    The trick is to need less.
     
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  12. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    We manage on solar only, since it works well where we usually camp. After years of tent camping, then a bare bones first popup, and one with just a furnace and lights for the second, we're used to conserving power. One light fixture on at a time for most of the time we need it, furnace set pretty low at night, etc. We upgraded the TT to dual 6v batteries and have a Zamp 160 for a solar panel. The solar panel is put out for all dry camping, except for overnight stops.
    In a few places, we do have to chase the sun, either because the trailer is in the shade, or it's early/late in the season. The most memorable trip chasing the sun was a visit to my late MIL, in SE Ohio, in October, under trees and a rainy week. Just how much was solar panel output issues is a bit of a question though. One of the things we found at the beginning of the next season was that a fuse/relay/whatever that tiny box on the frame is had become loose. We realized we had a much lower volt reading inside the trailer than at the battery, once that was tightened up, all was fine.
     
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  13. RichRL

    RichRL New Member

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    Every time you run the battery dead severely limits its life. You should never let it go below twelve volts. Charging for short periods of time doesn't help either, it takes a long time to get a battery to full charge. Solar would be your best choice if you have a properly sized system and good access to full sunlight.
     
  14. Dnodoz

    Dnodoz New Member

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    Our 1st attempt a dry camping in our then new 2018 Aliner was a total bust. We had to cancel our reservation in Rocky Mountain Natl Park an go to a full hookup campground for any kind of power.

    When we got home I traced the reason our battery was completely drained and dead to the wire cluster in the compartment behind the converter. The manufacturer had about 8 or 9 negative wires twisted together with one wire nut. One wire had popped out of this sloppy connection. I replaced the wire nuts with bar connections and that solved our battery drain.

    It’s costly but we then doubled our battery capacity by switching to a lithium ion battery setup. A Lifepo4 battery doesn’t limit drain to only 50% like the factory battery. You get the full 100amps to use.

    If you have a solar controller on your panel that can charge lithium than you don’t have to worry about changing the Aliner’s WFCO converter.

    Since our initial fix, we added a 2nd Battleborn 100amp battery, moved both batteries inside in the dinette seat, changed to a Progressive converters device added 220w of flexible solar panels permanently installed on the front hard dormer.

    Overkill, I know, but we also dumped the factory Dometic 3-way fridge for a AC/DC only compressor fridge. We had trouble keeping food cold with an absorption fridge in the TX heat. It is only a 2.3 amp draw when the compressor is on but we still felt better not worrying about power capacity.
     
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  15. gladecreekwy

    gladecreekwy Well-Known Member

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    Here’s our set up

    https://www.popupportal.com/threads/simple-solar-set-up.128482/
     
  16. nhcaveman

    nhcaveman Barrington, NH

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    Anytime we have dry camped in the cold regardless if we use the furnace or the Big Buddy heater we used it sparingly. First we make sure we have an extra blanket on the bed, then we would run the heat until the camper was warm and shut it down and go to sleep. If I happen to wake during the night I might run it again for a few minutes before going back to bed. In the morning we would warm up once again, but we would take conserving power seriously. And as you say it's a personal choice so we now have a generator, but haven't used it much as of yet, but I think the amount of dry camping we do is going to increase this year.
     
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  17. bdr129

    bdr129 Member

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    I would second BikeNFish...get a new Group 27 battery or larger. My battery is going on 5 years old and still will hold a charge for multiple days camping without recharging. Granted, I replaced everything with LED and other low-power usage items, and I rarely use the heater/blower, but we do use the plug in bunk end fans quite a bit. I would guess your battery is just not holding a charge, the only other reason would be you have a phantom connection and its pulling steady current out of your battery.
     
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  18. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    The thing about solar is you need to use it to maintain a battery, not to recharge a depleted one. Get a solar charge controller for the pup and make deploying and connecting the panels part of the the set up routine. Leave it out in the sun for the whole time and it will keep your battery charged enough to camp.

    Using the Bluetti to charge the pup and then trying to recharge it via solar is a useless exercise, your simply wasting too much time and power. Better to hook up jumper cables between the pup and the TV and let the TV idle for an hour, assuming your TV has any charging ability available other than to run itself.
     
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  19. afidmt

    afidmt Member

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    Since you said that battery was fully drained - I would guess that is your problem -- get it checked - and I'll bet you'll find out it's damaged --- I agree with all above - at the minimum get a new group 27 battery and you would be ok -- My new TT last year -- the dealer gave me a "New" group 24 Maint free -- I'm getting the same -- barely 2 days out of it and that's being really Frugal -- I'm looking to upgrade to a Lithium this time -- going to bite the upfront costs - but look forward to having a long lasting solution -- Good luck -- keep us up on your progress
     
  20. lifespeed

    lifespeed Active Member

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    You ruined your battery by completely discharging it, then allowing it to remain in the discharged state.
     

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