Join Date: Jun 2011
Bestyblue -- If you're seeking a quick answer to your initial question/post, then the answer is to take the generator (aka genny). However, as with anything, there are several different generators, each having different levels of quality and features. Previous posters have recommended the Yamaha or Honda brands, and I would concur (and I'd go with Honda 2000 if asked to pick between the two). Better quality means $$$. I would be surprised to learn that your dealer provided you with a quality genny (eg, Honda or Yamaha). If the dealer doesn't give you a quality genny, then rather than getting a piece of junk, ask for a cash/credit payment (eg, $500) and apply that towards a quality genny. That's the quick answer.
I'm assuming from your post that you know very little about electrical wiring/currents, as well as many other issues/topics related to trailering. I apologize if my assumption is wrong. It's shame that your dealer (or perhaps the salesperson) didn't explain the overall "picture" to you. Here, I hope, is a general overview of your trailer with respect to your electrical systems.
Your trailer operates under two different types of current: AC (for Alternating Current) and DC (for Direct Current). There are many resources on the web and in book form that explain AC and DC, so I won't explain here. But, in due course, you should take the time to educate yourself about them (not difficult).
In general, AC is the type of current used in your house; DC is the type of current used in your car for things such as your radio and lights. Your trailer has a blend of each.
When you plug your trailer into an AC source (eg, a generator), you can think of the AC current taking two different, simultaneous routes in your trailer (to my techie friends: I'm merely simplifying here). For the first route, the AC current goes directly to your electrical panel (similar to your home electrical panel). Once there, it provides AC current for items such as the air conditioner, the microwave, the electric water heater, the outlets in and outside your trailer which might be used for the TV and/or stereo receiver. If you're not plugged into an AC source, then these limited items will NOT work because they require AC current.
For the second route, the AC current goes to a device in your trailer called a "converter." A converter takes the AC current and "converts" it to DC current. Why is that necessary? Because most electrical devices in your trailer are designed to operate on DC current (similar to the lights in your car). Okay, so after the AC current is converted to DC current, the DC current is available to operate items/devices such as your lights, water pump, slide-out (if you have one), and so forth (the converter is also a battery charger, and provides DC current to your battery). If you take a moment to look at your power/electrical panel, you'll see several "automobile" type fuses (called blade fuses), each fuse associated with a device or a few devices. The devices listed with the fuses operate on DC current. So, while you're plugged into an AC source (also called shore power), all devices -- both the AC devices and the DC devices -- should operate (regardless of whether you have a battery installed). However, unlike the devices that require AC current, the devices that operate on DC current will work even if not plugged into an AC source (or shore power) provided that your battery is installed or hooked-up. Why? Because your battery provides DC current to those items/devices that require DC current. (if no battery installed and no connection to shore power or generator, nothing will operate).
With the foregoing in mind, I hope that you now understand/appreciate that a battery cannot directly run the microwave or the TV or any other device/item that requires AC current. Why? Because the battery only provides DC current. The only way to operate AC dedicated items/devices when only using a battery is to install/incorporate an inverter in your electrical system. An inverter takes DC current and “inverts” it to AC current, which is then fed to AC dedicated items/devices. Please understand that this is NOT what your dealer/salesperson was trying to tell you. (there are many factors to understand before installing an inverter, and you need to know of them whether you install the inverter or have it done professionally).
Let’s also briefly discuss the wrong/bad advice you received about charging your battery. No battery used in an RV (or boat) will charge “in minutes,” regardless of whether the power source is from your SUV while driving or from shore power or generator when plugged-in. The web has many sources regarding battery info, and I recommend that you learn, at the very least, some basics about batteries. After all, the battery is the “heart and soul” of your trailer. First, your SUV should not be viewed as a preferred method to charge your battery. Your SUV does provide a charge to your battery while driving (or idling at a campsite), but it’s more of a trickle charge (ie, slow charging). There are several reasons for this (and I won’t go in detail here), but suffice it to say that charging your battery from the SUV should be of a last resort, and, if used, will take many hours to recharge the battery by a small amount.
What about when plugged into shore power or using a generator? (remember that your converter is a battery charger when plugged into shore power or an AC source such as a generator). Only a few minutes? Nope. Probably at least a couple of days (again, many factors come into play). One of the biggest factors is the type of battery charger employed (and your converter has the battery charger built into it). I don’t know the type of converter (hence battery charger) that Jayco is currently installing into its new trailers, but let’s assume that it’s a “basic” = “simple” = “non-multi-stage” charger, which is designed to provide 13.6volts to the battery. If we were to consider the state of discharge of your battery, PLUS the thickness of the wire (referred to as the wire gauge) going from the converter (aka battery charger) to your battery, PLUS the round-trip wiring distance between the converter and battery, PLUS the “basic” battery charger, it could take days before your battery is close to 100%. Bottom-line: trailers are NOT made with dry-camping in mind; they’re made/designed to be plugged into shore power.
Finally, to answer your question about the best option for dry camping, which means operating under DC current conditions, the ultimate goal is to conserve your battery. Obviously, the larger your battery capacity, the longer you can dry-camp before having to re-charge your battery. How long can you go before having to re-charge? The answer: when you’ve depleted approximately 50% of the battery amp/hours. For example, assuming that the battery label states “105 AH,” where AH = Amp Hours, you would need to re-charge after using roughly 50 amp/hrs. To determine when you reach this number, you need to know how many amps each item/device requires and the amount of time used in a day. For example, let’s assume you have three ceiling lamps, each lamp comprising (the usual) two incandescent bulbs, each bulb consuming 1.5amps (or each lamp consuming 3.0amps). For all three lamps, that would be 9.0amps (3 x 3.0). If you had all three lamps “on” for 4hrs in one day, that would be 36 amp/hrs consumed. You would have roughly only 14amp/hrs remaining. After one night, you would have to re-charge with the generator (but remember, even if you fired-up the generator for 4hrs, your battery would not be fully re-charged).
I’ve thrown some numbers/calculations at you to illustrate that you need to determine your needs and amount of time you intend to dry-camp. This will help you to determine the size of your battery bank – one battery? two batteries? If you plan to replace your battery and go for a larger battery bank, I would suggest going with two 6 volt golf-cart batteries which will provide you with approximately 230AH (keep your 12V battery for a back-up). (note: a less expensive route would be adding another 12V battery to your new 12V battery and wiring in parallel; if you did this, you would add the AH number stated on each 12V battery to arrive at your total AH (eg, 105AH + 105AH = 210AH)). If you intend to place the batteries at the front of the trailer, keep in mind that you’ll be adding to your tongue weight (which leads to an entirely new topic!). For example, each golf cart battery weighs about 70lbs.
Conclusions: If you want to “try things out first,” get a good quality generator (eg, Honda 2000) and plan to re-charge every day. (note: if you’ll want to run the air conditioner, you’ll need two Honda 2000 generators). If you want to increase your AH, install two batteries (either two 12V batteries wired in parallel, or, two 6V batteries wired in series). With two batteries, if away from shore power for more than 2-3 days, you’ll need a generator to re-charge your battery bank.
I hope this clarifies a few things. Good luck with your new trailer and happy trails!