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Author Topic: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)  (Read 179 times)

lisamc

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Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« on: November 18, 2017, 08:39:28 AM »
Hi again.  :)

We've been full timing since August in our 32' 2011 Four Winds Serrano Class A diesel.  We are still figuring out the electrical system.  We have an Onan generator and a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter.  We have a few questions.

1- We recently ran down both the house and chassis batteries while boondocking, and there was no low battery alarm for either. I've read that some RVs have an audible low battery/low voltage alarm for at least the house batteries. Is there a way we can tell if we have an alarm like this that isn't functioning correctly?  And if we don't have one can we install one? The only digital insight we appear to have into the house batteries is a panel of buttons, one for each of our tanks and the house battery, with indicator lights that tell us their levels when we push each button (1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full).  We don't have any panel showing voltage readings etc but we do have our own hand-held voltage reader.
2- I've also read some RVs have an auto start function for the generator when the house batteries go below a certain voltage.  Again, how can we tell if we have this capability (I don't see a section on it in our manual but the manual is for 6 different models so it's hard to understand ours thoroughly), and if not can we add it?  The only panel inside the RV we have for the generator is a digital display of the hours on it, and several generator start buttons.   
3- When the inverter is on, it only powers select outlets on one side of the RV rather than all outlets.  Is that typical in some RVs, maybe to not overload the inverter?
4- When boondocking recently, we had the inverter on to power outlets, and turned the generator on for a bit to recharge the batteries. When we turned the generator off we found that the inverter had turned off.  Is it typical for the inverter to turn off when the generator takes over powering the RV?
5- Does the alternator charge the house batteries at all in transit, or does it only charge the chassis battery? If the alternator doesn't charge the house batteries, then if we use the inverter and outlets in transit and do not run the generator, the house batteries are being drained and not replenished?
6- The previous owner used a dome satellite on the roof, and has a "pyramid regulated power supply" in one cabinet of the cabin.  Is this used to provide the necessary power to the satellite only?  If we are not using the satellite, is this item useful to us? 

I'd love to hear feedback on any of these. :) 
Thanks, all!

Kevin Means

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2017, 10:32:58 AM »
Hi lisamc. There may be something wrong with your chassis battery, or there may be an unusual drain on it if it died while you were boondocking. A lot of RVs have CO detectors that also have low battery alarms, but in my opinion, the most useful boondocking tool you can buy to help you monitor and manage your batteries, is a battery monitor.

I prefer the Bogart Eng. Trimetric RV 2030 monitor. It monitors the number of amps going in or out of your batteries, and will display the amount of battery power remaining, in percentage. That is a very useful feature. It will also display the voltage of a second battery bank (usually your chassis batteries.) The voltage indicators found in most RVs are nowhere near as useful or accurate.

Auto gen start systems are nice when boondocking, but I don't know if they are retrofittable to all RV electrical systems. For what it's worth, we installed a good size solar array a few years ago, and since then, our auto gen start system has not been needed. The batteries don't run down far enough to trigger the auto start feature.

Solar power is another thing you might want to consider if you do a lot of boondocking and you camp in areas that typically get a lot of sunshine. Solar can get expensive, and it's easy to make some simple installation mistakes that can cause you to be disappointed with the results, so ask a lot of questions before you open your wallet. There are several experienced solar folks here who would be happy to help.

Your inverter should stay on when you run the generator. It should go into bypass mode, but it should stay on. You said you ran your generator for "a bit" to charge your batteries. Depending on their state of charge (and health) it can take hours of generator run-time to fully recharge them. You may have only partially recharged them. Another example of why a battery monitor is so usefull.

Your engine alternator should charge your house batteries. Some systems do it differently than others, but the house batteries should charge off the alternator.

Kev
« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 10:47:55 AM by Kevin Means »
2011 Winnebago Tour 42QD
Towing a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited LJ or an Acura MDX
RVI Brake 2, Minder TM-66 TPMS, 970 watts of solar
(Can't wait to spend more time RVing)
Lakeside, California

Alfa38User

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2017, 10:50:42 AM »
Quote
6- The previous owner used a dome satellite on the roof, and has a "pyramid regulated power supply" in one cabinet of the cabin.  Is this used to provide the necessary power to the satellite only?  If we are not using the satellite, is this item useful to us?

This is a 120V to 12V power supply. It could be used to power any 12V item when you are plugged in or on generator. The only way to know if it is useful to YOU is to track down exactly what is connected to at the present time. You have batteries that do the same thing but....
Stu
Montréal, Canada 🍁
Snowbird, Naples Florida
Alfa Gold 38 (2000) 5ver (parked!)

"Of course I talk to myself, sometimes I need expert advise!!!"

Paul & Ann

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2017, 11:32:22 AM »
First of all I wouldnt trust the lights to show the state of charge of your batteries as they are notoriously inaccurate, and also they only show voltage of the batteries, so if the batteries are being charged for discharged the lights will show a false reading of their state of charge.

How many and what kind of batteries do you have?
Paul & Ann  Iowa
2005 Winnebago Voyage 38J
http://stoughrvadventure.blogspot.com/

lisamc

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2017, 12:21:29 PM »
Thanks, all! This is so helpful. 

Paul and Ann- We don't know enough about our batteries yet, so I can't tell you exact what kind they are.  But I know that our 2 12-volt chassis batteries and our 2 12-volt house batteries are housed in the same compartment, as we have a front-end diesel.  One set is the kind you add water to (we think this is the chassis set) and one kind is a "golf cart battery" (I don't know if that helps) and we think those are the house batteries. 

Alfa38User

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2017, 12:38:06 PM »
Quote
One set is the kind you add water to (we think this is the chassis set) and one kind is a "golf cart battery" (I don't know if that helps) and we think those are the house batteries. 

Interesting description but...!!!

You usually have to add water to "golf cart" type batteries and true golf cart batteries are often used for the house batteries as they are deep discharge batteries. They are often a bit larger than an 'ordinary' wet cell battery.

Chassis batteries can be the AGM type where water cannot be added but they could also be "ordinary" wet cell batteries that can have water added.

To clarify which set is which, simply disconnect the positive lead of 1 set and see what fails to work, ie the engine won't turn over or the house lights won't come on!! Do this when NOT plugged in!!
« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 12:51:22 PM by Alfa38User »
Stu
Montréal, Canada 🍁
Snowbird, Naples Florida
Alfa Gold 38 (2000) 5ver (parked!)

"Of course I talk to myself, sometimes I need expert advise!!!"

lisamc

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Re: Battery Management when Boondocking (alarm and auto gen start?)
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2017, 12:47:39 PM »
Lol, thank you for the info, Alfa38, that's very helpful.  We will investigate further at our next stop. 

 

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