Living without AC power - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-25-2009, 10:15 PM   #1
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The new trailer has a good battery, 12v lighting and 3-way fridge but no AC wiring or converter. I am thinking that we should be able to live without an AC system, but I wonder if I'm missing something.

We would change the 12v lightbulbs to LED to minimize the draw. We could get a plug for the laptop to be on DC, and we would use it rarely. I don't think we would want to use any AC appliances anyway. We could add a portable battery charger next to the battery. Eventually, I would love to have a solar panel.

Here are my simple questions: Does the battery get charged every time we drive? Could we use the battery charger to keep the battery charged if we had access to electric hookups at a campground?

My larger questions: how long could we go on just the battery, especially if we had the fridge running on 12v? Does this seem like a doable plan, to just not bother with AC systems?
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Old 11-25-2009, 10:53 PM   #2
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The new trailer has a good battery, 12v lighting and 3-way fridge but no AC wiring or converter. I am thinking that we should be able to live without an AC system, but I wonder if I'm missing something.You can get by without ac power but there will be no air conditioning or microwave

We would change the 12v lightbulbs to LED to minimize the draw. We could get a plug for the laptop to be on DC, and we would use it rarely. I don't think we would want to use any AC appliances anyway. We could add a portable battery charger next to the battery. Eventually, I would love to have a solar panel.

Here are my simple questions: Does the battery get charged every time we drive?Yes Could we use the battery charger to keep the battery charged if we had access to electric hookups at a campground? Yes but be sure it's a four stage smart charger so that you don't boil the battery out while hooked to the charger for extended periods

My larger questions: how long could we go on just the battery,days if just using it for LED Lights and occasional computer stuff etc especially if we had the fridge running on 12v? The Fridge will deplete a battery very quickly.... Does this seem like a doable plan, to just not bother with AC systems?It's doable in my opinion but use the fridge on propane as it's very cheap to run
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Old 11-25-2009, 10:55 PM   #3
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I'll take a crack at some of your questions. I bet there will be a variety of opinions/

LED - They do save energy. We do not have them. I do not know if the extra battery life will be that measurable.

Charging while you drive - If you have the 7 pin connector, then most likely yes. One of the wires on the 7-pin provides direct charge to the trailer battery.

PC - I don't think you will gain anything by running the laptop off the trailer battery. The laptop should run for 2+ hours on its own battery. If you need to recharge the laptop use the same 12v cord that you would use in the trailer in your car while you drive. IGO has a 12v laptop charger available at Radio Shack and elsewhere. I have one but it is not cheap.

Fridge - The fridge is hard on the battery. The 12v option is meant to be used while towing (remeber the 12v feed from the TV). It will run your battery down in no time, But if you don't have AC power, you can run it on the propane.

Keep in mind that the more you are charging while you drive, the harder your alternator has to work in the TV. I think that most vehicles that have a tow package have a heavy duty alternator.

Dave
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:30 AM   #4
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I've gone a little less electric than what you are contemplating.

I don't like the weight, fumes, and bother of a 12v lead-acid battery, so have opted to dispense with it.

Fortunately, I have an old gravity-type furnace that has no fan and only requires propane to operate. If I had a modern furnace with fan I would be stuck.

I set up two LED dome lights with builtin rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries for general lighting, and we have a small fluorescent fixture that uses 8 AA rechargeable batteries over the cooktop.

We have had a few surprises with this setup -- the lights run for only about 2-3 days before the batteries need recharging -- I had expected about twice that. We use the tow vehicle battery to recharge the batteries for the lights and cameras.

We also carry along a small electric heater and extension cord. That was wonderful for the night that the temperature dropped below freezing -- that night we stayed at a campground that had electric hookups. We recharged the batteries during the evening but the cold night pretty much discharged the NiMH AA cells the fluorescent light uses. Now I know better -- I need to keep the batteries at reasonable temperatures if I want to get the most out of them!

We're still experimenting with our setup, and it may change as we gain more experience. But we had a grand time on a 4-day trip to Anza-Borrego desert.
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:32 AM   #5
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I forgot to mention that we have a 3-way fridge, and run it on 12v from the tow vehicle when the trailer is in motion, and propane or AC when it is set up in the campground.
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:54 AM   #6
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This is kind of an aside, but Dana's post made me think of it. I am totally hooked on having/wearing a headlamp at night.

Seriously, when I was sailing we talked about just having them sewn to our heads they were so handy

I like to use mine for reading in bed, so I make sure to get one that doesn't have any sort of lump (battery) in the back. I happen to have one that you can flip a red filter over so you don't lose your night vision, but that's more for boating (might be handy in the car though).

You can save a lot of amps by using these (even if only some of the time). Mine uses three AAA batteries and will run for a LONG time. They tend to start out super bright, go for quite a while, and then get a little bit dimmer and go a loooong time like that before you need fresh batteries.

Mine is a slightly older version of this one. You can get them for less money, as well, if you get a less "nifty" brand or one without the red filter (mine was a gift from a friend):

http://www.amazon.com/Petzl-E49P-TacTikka-...p/dp/B0007Q3R3E



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Old 11-26-2009, 04:59 AM   #7
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The new trailer has a good battery, 12v lighting and 3-way fridge but no AC wiring or converter. I am thinking that we should be able to live without an AC system, but I wonder if I'm missing something.

We would change the 12v lightbulbs to LED to minimize the draw. We could get a plug for the laptop to be on DC, and we would use it rarely. I don't think we would want to use any AC appliances anyway. We could add a portable battery charger next to the battery. Eventually, I would love to have a solar panel.

Here are my simple questions: Does the battery get charged every time we drive? Could we use the battery charger to keep the battery charged if we had access to electric hookups at a campground?

My larger questions: how long could we go on just the battery, especially if we had the fridge running on 12v? Does this seem like a doable plan, to just not bother with AC systems?
I purchased all of my 12 volt LED lighting through the local discount home supply store. Thge round LED replacement lights for under the counter spots work well. For general lighting under the counter I have a multi LED strip light.
I use one small (about 10 inches long X 5 inches wide X 7 inches deep) 35 amp hour personal mobility scooter battery. I got it free from a friend who works on scooters. The other alternative is a pair of computer backup lead acid batteries (used free) obtained from a computer service company.
The battery I use lasts for a week including a cheap 12 volt car fan purchased at Wal Mart. I try to use everything sparingly so can't say how long it would last.
I eliminated my fridge that was in sad shape and used that space for a small window A/C unit and ducting.
My propane heater is the old wagonmaster convection heater from 1972. I dissassembled the whole thing and checked every part. The control valve cost over $200 USD to replace with new. You can find a new Honeywell brand on line as used in European manufactured heaters. Most heaters are never used and the capilary tube plugs up so the thing won't go to high fire.
I recharge everything while on the road with the tow car and with a small battery charger when 120 AC is easy to get. I do have a complete 120 volt system and use it when I can.
Marty
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:24 AM   #8
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Hi Amy,

If you have a multi-tester, you can check your charging system. First measure the battery voltage when not hooked up to the tug or shore power. Normally the battery reads 12.6 volts (or less if not fully charged). Then connect your trailer connector to the tug and start the engine. The trailer battery will read close to 14 volts if you have a functioning charge line from the tug. Normally, charge lines are functional when the ignition switch is on.
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:32 AM   #9
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Just to throw this out there.
An AC system need not be any more elaborate than just an extension cord so you can use AC when available.
Then a small Smart battery charger could easily recharge your battery when needed and usually supply an endless supply of low current DC also.

I try to make everything in my rig run on DC and then I have the flexibility I am describing and have less than $60.00 into it including a cord.

You don't need to overcomplicate things to get extra capability so wouldn't it be better to be prepared for mopre situations than to be somewhere and wish you were?

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Old 11-26-2009, 11:13 AM   #10
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I do not know if the extra battery life will be that measurable.
Dave, it is significantly measurable. By the week, not just by the day or hour. My LEDs use 75% less juice than an incandescent for the same amount of lumens. I have left them on for over a week by mistake and had no significant drop in battery power. LEDs are pretty much Free to use when it comes to denting the battery at all.

I have been running 99.9% without AC for over a month now. I fulltime. I live on a co-op property, and the electric bill is split between 5 rigs, mine being physically the smallest and with the smallest eco footprint. I offered to run strictly off of solar to keep the bill down, and I also get a huge break on my cut of the bill, over half what the others are paying. (Frankly, it should be even less than that, but it is so cheap I don't argue) There is a washer & dryer here, so I use that electric + on very very hot days, my air goes on for the dogs when I am at work. Thats not common tho. I think its only been on twice. Most days, the fantastic fan runs all day for them, leaving me plenty of juice for my evening activities. My TV is on AC, but I could run it on 12v if I choose, and I have a small rarely used microwave. When in full boondock mode, AC and Micro are dead weight. My laptops, same thing, they run on battery and are charged via a small inverter overnite. All else, battery power.

I do not compromise on anything, I don't worry if I forget to turn off this or that light, or if I accidentally leave the antennae boost on overnite.

I heat with a Cat heater, a Wave 6. I have a furnace too, but rarely do I use it. The fan draws current. The fridge runs on propane by choice as well, it works better in that mode.. no frozen lettuce.

Ed is right on, An extension cord and a good charger is all you need to keep the battery up if you don't have solar.
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:58 PM   #11
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I am old tech, We have a 12v fluorescent light in our trailer. It gives good light, no heat and uses little electricity.

Your tug should charge the trailer battery, but verify it before you embark on a trip.
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Old 11-26-2009, 09:34 PM   #12
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I am old tech, We have a 12v fluorescent light in our trailer. It gives good light, no heat and uses little electricity.
Herb,
I love LED for its miserly power consumption, but I still don't like them that much for reading. What fluorescent light have you found that uses little electricity? I thought they were quite a bit more power hungry.

Raya
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:49 PM   #13
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Thanks for all the helpful input. I am feeling sort of proud of myself that my idea will work, since a week ago I didn't really know the difference between AC and DC power!

I do have one question. Does the battery give off fumes? It is stored in one of the dinette benches and I don't think there is room on the tongue to put it there. I was thinking I would put the charger right next to it in the bench and just be able to run a cord in the little door that leads from the back of the trailer to inside the bench.
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:50 PM   #14
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Yes, we do enjoy our headlamps. I had never thought of the red cover, though. Good idea.


Quote:
This is kind of an aside, but Dana's post made me think of it. I am totally hooked on having/wearing a headlamp at night.

Seriously, when I was sailing we talked about just having them sewn to our heads they were so handy
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:57 PM   #15
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Yes, we do enjoy our headlamps. I had never thought of the red cover, though. Good idea.
In addition to keeping your night vision more intact while sailing, they are handy for when you are talking with someone and (repeatedly) forget not to look straight at them with your headlamp turned on (Moi?!? )

*******

If you have a lead-acid battery (the usual kind, where you put water in the top), then yes, it will outgas while you are charging it (actually, other types will too, but not as much).

Many people do put it on the tongue, but then there are the space and (a fair bit of) added tongue weight issues to consider.

If you put it inside, I think it's best to have it sealed off, and then vent the box to the outside. There are bits of hardware for this specific task at RV shops. Basically it's a small tube leading to the outside.

Others on here have set this up though, whereas I have not done it specifically on trailers (yet).

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Old 11-28-2009, 08:53 AM   #16
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You can purchase a sealed battery that will not outgass. They are sold at Walmart and the wholesale clubs and auto stores. They have round cells and the tops are red, yellow or blue and they cost $200+ USD.

It would be less of a problem to install one of those batteries than it would be to modify the camper to retrofit a battery elsewhere.

The Battery Charger: More than likely will Hummmmm when charging so you might not want to run it while sleeping.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:00 AM   #17
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I do have one question. Does the battery give off fumes? It is stored in one of the dinette benches and I don't think there is room on the tongue to put it there. I was thinking I would put the charger right next to it in the bench and just be able to run a cord in the little door that leads from the back of the trailer to inside the bench.
This may work for your application. Necessitates some cutting through the shell tho.


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Old 11-28-2009, 09:08 AM   #18
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I have an Optima AGM battery from 4 years and no fume and no acid leak

Most expensive but more that a candy !!!

I dont care of my battery , several time empty completly and after recharge always plenty of power
When this Optima battery dead completly i replace them with an other Optima !!!

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Old 11-28-2009, 09:55 AM   #19
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I am going to try to figure out if we could fit a battery and the new kind of propane tank on the tongue. That would free up a lot of storage space and put my mind at ease. Having a little kid, I use non-toxic cleaners and no-VOC paint, so lessening fumes to the absolute minimum is a priority for me. It's been hard enough using all these boat products with their danger warnings.

If it is true that the battery only really off gasses while charging and when completely dead and it seems that we will be taking pretty short trips for the first year (and not needing to charge with a charger while out and about), I may hold off on making this decision until our second season.

The other thing I will need to figure out is if there are problems with charging with a portable charger when the battery is outside. Can it get wet?
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Old 11-28-2009, 10:49 AM   #20
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Just have the charger inside and run the wire's from the charger out to the battery.

Bill K


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The other thing I will need to figure out is if there are problems with charging with a portable charger when the battery is outside. Can it get wet?
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