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Old 09-21-2015, 11:51 AM   #1
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Propane vs. 12VDC How comfortable are you with the current compromise?

Hi All,

Something that bugs me a bit, and I was wondering how others felt on the issue...

Keep in mind, where we camp, there are no hookups. So 100% of what we have is what we brought with us.

Previously (and still by special order) the propane appliances had a standing pilot and used all mechanical controls. My old trailer was this way.

Now, the appliances use electronic controls and use zero propane when not actively operating. My old trailer was the other way around. It used zero electricity when the lights, water pump and heater were off.

It's really nice not using propane when it is not needed...

But, all those electronic controls nibble away at an equally limited resource: the battery.

I was used to the 20# bottle on the tongue running out of propane at the most inconvenient time, swap it and then relight the pilots. But now, I've got two 30# bottles with an auto-changeover valve. Refill the empty when it switches over. I'll never run out of propane ever again.

I was also used to having 4 days worth of electricity in a marine "deep-cycle"/starter battery.

The new trailer gets 1 day and into the 2nd before lights start dimming. Unless the furnace was used on the overnight. Then one day is pushing it.

So, I've taken to running a genset a few hours per day to keep the battery up. (I'll be testing a gasoline engine turning a car alternator "battery charger" this coming extended weekend.)

My position is that I'd be happier if I didn't have to care about the amount of 12VDC I've got available on a day-to-day basis.

How does everyone else feel about the move to relieve pressure from the propane supply and move it to the battery?
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Old 09-21-2015, 12:16 PM   #2
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How many of your lights are LED's? They require considerably less juice from your battery. It also sounds like a solar charger would pay for itself pretty quickly.
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Old 09-21-2015, 12:33 PM   #3
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How many of your lights are LED's? They require considerably less juice from your battery. It also sounds like a solar charger would pay for itself pretty quickly.
All, except the hardly-ever-used porch light. The killer is the backlight on the radio, the igniters and solinoids in the fridge, water heater and furnace.

A solar array is pointless. There is less than 6' of open sky over the 10' wide driveway.

I've solved the problem, I'm wondering how others feel about having to trade battery power for propane?
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:17 PM   #4
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It is an interesting question and I would also be interested in how many rv'ers it really affects also. My guess is that most would never have the problem you are having.

I would like to know how those that it does affect overcome it, but as long as my wife goes with me, we will never be without electricity from the grid.
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:47 PM   #5
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...snip... but as long as my wife goes with me, we will never be without electricity from the grid.

And I've got the reverse issue; The two couples that we are friendly with (and have built nice houses on adjacent properties) and myself, have been pressuring SWMBO to spend the bux and get some electricity delivered to the house/camp site.

The guy across the road even dug a 'test trench' for the conduit. He's even volunteered to do the trenching and backfill.

-----------------

But that's getting off the subject. I've solved my problem of having enough electricity while boondocking. But I am wondering how everyone else is feeling about having to worry: a) is the battery is big enough? b) is there enough in it to get through the night? c) what's it going to take to refill it? d) is it really full? e) how much damage did it take the last time I let it go too low?
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:49 PM   #6
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Aren't you using a dc generator? Seems like I remember this from another thread.
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:54 PM   #7
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Aren't you using a dc generator? Seems like I remember this from another thread.
Yup, I have plenty of electricity at my disposal. But I'm wondering how others feel about having had to switch from, "Do I have enough propane?" to "I have to recharge the battery. Again."

Plus all those 'controller boards'. How many of them are going to be functioning after a couple of winters....
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Old 09-21-2015, 02:56 PM   #8
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It could be me...but if you are only getting 1 day out of a deep cycle / marine battery it is one of two things;

1 - the battery is almost dead - have it checked
2 - you must be in Alaska using your lights all day long

We can go on a normal (car sized) deep cycle for almost a week before having to hook up the camper to a truck to recharge for an hour or two. That is with the same hot water, refrigerator, LED lights, etc.. that you are mentioning.

The amount of amp hours used by those appliances to do nothing more than light them is nominal, unless of course you are trying to run for weeks on 12v and propane (but you are saying 1-2 days and they are dead).

Personally, I would say your battery is just about fried with it giving out that quickly.
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Old 09-21-2015, 03:51 PM   #9
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The two battery users that you may be overlooking are the propane leak detector and the digital amplifier for the antenna. When you are hooked up, does the converter do the charging? The are not very efficient and can "cook" the water out of the battery. Have you checked that?

We make a habit of turning off every light that is not actively needed. We turn on the water heater about 20 minutes before we need hot water and off when finished with it. The water will stay hot for several hours or even over night sometimes.
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Old 09-21-2015, 06:25 PM   #10
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I know my battery is weak, and will be the first item purchased next season. I do carry a small generator and a battery charger. The charger I use is a 10 amp unit. The inverter only puts 3 amps to the battery, so I don't have to run the generator too long to get a full charge. All lights have been swapped to LEDs, use the furnace only when needed, I have found that freezing milk jugs 3/4 full of salt water will keep the fridge from running too long also. Freeze them at home in the deep freezer and we can almost go all weekend with out turning it on.
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