Some Very General Questions

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GaryB

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Hi ? I?ve been thinking about this RVing stuff too long!!!? Having never done it before, I came up with some simple (OK, dumb? ???) questions.? I checked the Library and searched the forums and found some similar discussion, but they didn?t answer my questions exactly:

1. When boon-docking, can all AC devices that normally run on shore power use the DC batteries instead (I know air conditioning cannot)?? Maybe a better question is: what cannot run on batteries (other than air cond. and propane devices)?? ?The reason I ask is because we?re late birds and may not want to run a generator late at night (even when dry camping).? So can things like water pumps, ceiling fans, TV, lights, microwave all run from the DC batteries?? Also, as I understand, water heaters and stoves will run off propane.? Also, as I understand, I can extend the running time of AC devices by installing an inverter with battery set?

2. What is required (equipment wise) to camp in the winter - just heated storage tanks?? It seems as though freezing could be possible at the campground water valve itself or somewhere between that valve and the RV inlet.? I?m sure it must not be a problem since full-timers do it, but I?d hate to go to Florida in December and find out I cannot camp since something is frozen (it?s been in the mid-20s before in Central FL when I?ve been there in Dec/Jan).

3. I?ve read that RV refrigerators sometimes have a problem keeping stuff cold enough.? Is that true?? What would happen if one plugged a small household refrig. into the RV 110/120 V outlet?? Would it work, with the exception of propane capability?? It seems like the refrig. should operate the same way as any other AC device in an RV.

4. Many of the ?mid size?, non-lightweight (30-32 ft) 5ers I?ve seen have GVWRs between 13000-15000 lbs (dry weights between 10000-12000 lbs).? Adding a 20% safety factor for mountain driving results in a towing req?t of 16000-19000 lbs.? None of the gas-powered Dodge Ram pickups (even one tons) have towing capacities that high.? Even the biggest Dodge Ram diesel only has a towing capacity around 16000 lbs.? Am I missing something here?? I hate to get a diesel since I?d only be an occasional RVer (of course, I?ll rent first before buying).

5. If not available through the manufacturer, it is easy (or even possible) to add ceiling fans and 15000 BTU air conditioning later on?? Is 13500 BTU air conditioning sufficient in most cases (assuming sun shades are used, etc.)?? I like to keep cool, although ceiling fans may help temper that.

6. Last question - I hear the front jacks of a 5th wheel are usually electric, whereas the rear jacks are the manual 'scissors' type.  Can I use the front (electric) jacks to level the RV without messing around with blocks?  If not, are auto/electric leveling kits available as add-ons?  The block method seems cumbersome, but then again I've never done it.

Thanks again!
Gary
 

Woody

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I'll try to answer some of your questions by number:

1. When boon docking on just battery power normally you can only use your lights water pump, gas water heater, and fridge on gas setting. AC and microwave take more power than your inverter (if you have one) can generate. You can always use the generator for brief periods to use micro and coffee maker..

2. It depends on how cold it will get where you are. 20's at night is not generasufficient to freeze your water or holding tanks.
 

Carl L

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1.? The only things on a trailer that only work on 120VAC are the A/C, microwave, and things you bring from home.? Fridge, water pump, furnace and lights all work on 12VDC -- the fridge and furnace with propane.? ?If you are desparate for coffee first thing in the morning, consider a 'french press' coffee maker.? ?Then all you need is a teapot on the stove.? ?Don't run your generator before breakfast.? ?You will the focus of a lot of hate from your neighbors still in the sack.? ?Quiet hours in CGs generall run from 8, 9 or 10PM to 8 or 9AM for good reason.? ?Of course, no neighbors, not issues.? ?Inverter can be used? to run A/C, but they are pricey and heating and A/Cs? suck amperage from the batteries.? ?They will blow your power budge unless you have a lot of batteries, like the big motorhomes do.? But for a half a mil a pop they should.

2.? ?I have seen CGs in cold weather country (ie Mammoth Lakes, CA) that have heating tapes wrapping their water spigots -- I suspect that they have buried their water pipes below the frost line in the ground.? ?However, in really cold country it would be best to operate from your tanks and just using the CG spigot to refill your tank.? ?Check in on the Canadian made trailers like the Nash Arctic Fox, their literature should give you a picture of what you will need.

3.? ?Then you read wrong answers.? RV fridges in good repair work as well on gas as on 120VAC.? ?In fact, they seem to cool the fridge a bit faster on gas.? ?All fridges take serveral hours to come down to safe temperatures from room temp.

4.? ?A truck with a 18,750 tow rating can pull a 15,000 traiier in the mountain west.? ?With a 15,000 lbs rating a truck can pull a 12,000 lb trailer.? Tow rating = GVWR /? or GVWR = tow rating * (1.00 - safety factor).? ? As far as Dodge is concerned, don't fall in love with a brand.? ?GMC and, especially Ford have some excellent trailer haulers.

5.? ?Cooling needs are dependent on the cubic footage cooled and the insulation from the outside.? ?If you are into hot country travel, then all the cooling you can get is desirable.? ?Opt for the 15,000 BTU unit at the time of purchase if that option exists.? ?However, my 13,500 unit can freeze us out of our 23' TT in 100+ ambient temperatures.? ?Ceiling fans are unecessary in small space like a trailer.

6.? ? If your trailer's owners manual says that you can use the jacks for leveling, you can use the jacks for leveling.? Believe no other source of informantion -- especially the salesman selling you the trailer.? ? Blocks are easy to use and pretty quickly you get to be able accurately estimate the number require by the hash marks on the trailer level.



 

woodartist

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I'd like to amplify on the ceiling fans. It makes a big difference in warm/hot weather, when you don't want to run the AC...like boondocking. Cost of fuel mandates that you run the AC from the generator as little as possible. Most of the heat will stratify near the ceiling and a little push from the fan works great...as well as sucking cool air from outside....FYI
 

GaryB

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Carl, Thank you for your time and excellent replies.  Thanks also Woody and Woodartist for your input.

Carl - I just wanted to clarify my understanding on the items below. Please correct me if I'm wrong:

1) so the only things that CANNOT run on 12VDC in the absence of shore power (or a generator) are the A/C and microwave (unless I have a big inverter with big battery pack).  Of course, I'll need propane for the fridge, water heater, stove and furnace.

By way, once I buy the inverter and battery packs, is using it free, or do they consume some other type of energy?  Are inverters quiet when using (unlike generators)?

2) sounds like cold weather is not much of an issue unless I go to frigid areas - I plan to go mostly to the South (or southwest) in winter, but was concerned that chilly 20-25 degree nights would cause a problem with outside connections.  But it sounds like that's a non-issue.

3) sounds like RV fridges can work well (if used properly and in good shape) - I just wasn't sure whether I should haul along a small household refrig. (3 cu ft or so), or if that would even work in RV.  But sounds like it won't be necessary either.

4) wow, I've not seen any pickup trucks with 18750 lb tow ratings (even diesels).  Then again, I've been focusing only on Dodge.  I'll look at tow ratings of Ford and Chevy.  I'm guessing most people with decent-sized 5ers must use diesels, or else must be underpowered.

5) I'll upgrade to 15000 BTU if available, otherwise I won't worry about it.  Sounds like 13500 BTU can do a decent job, espec. if supplemented with fans, screens, etc.

Thanks again - your excellent advice is invaluable to me in sorting out this new RV puzzle that has infatuated me!
Gary
 

Wendy

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GaryB said:
By way, once I buy the inverter and battery packs, is using it free, or do they consume some other type of energy?? Are inverters quiet when using (unlike generators)?

We have an inverter and 4 batteries, also solar panels. We can run everything except the A/C and we can run the fan on the A/C unit, just not the compressor. And it's as quiet as a tomb. We bought the solar panels and extra batteries not to save money (cause we're not) but so we didn't have to listen to the generator. Mike is a night owl and enjoys watching TV and playing on the computer until 2 or 3 a.m. and this way he doesn't have to worry about generator noise. And I like boondocking in the middle of nowhere with no noise and this way I don't have to listen to the generator.
 

Karl

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By way, once I buy the inverter and battery packs, is using it free, or do they consume some other type of energy?  Are inverters quiet when using (unlike generators)?
Nothing is free. You obviously must recharge your batteries with the generator, MH engine, shore power, or solar panels. Using the batteries and inverter to make a pot of coffee or heat something up in the microwave can be done occasionally, but both are power hogs. I make a pot of coffee in the evening and keep it in a Thermos overnight. I wouldn't even consider cooking a meal that takes 20    or 30 mniutes in the microwave with the inverter; you'd run your batteries down in no time. Yes, inverters are virtually silent except for maybe a small cooling fan (which you probably wouldn't hear).
 

Carl L

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By way, once I buy the inverter and battery packs, is using it free, or do they consume some other type of energy?  Are inverters quiet when using (unlike generators)

TANSTAFL.  In accordance with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, that inverter is going to put out less power than it gets in.  Batteries must be recharged anyway.  You have to provide either solar, generator, or campground power.


sounds like cold weather is not much of an issue unless I go to frigid areas - I plan to go mostly to the South (or southwest) in winter, but was concerned that chilly 20-25 degree nights would cause a problem with outside connections.  But it sounds like that's a non-issue.

Overnight freezes are no big problem.  Just disconnect your hose and drain it and operate off the tank.  As long as you warm during the day, you should be fine.

wow, I've not seen any pickup trucks with 18750 lb tow ratings (even diesels).  Then again, I've been focusing only on Dodge.  I'll look at tow ratings of Ford and Chevy.  I'm guessing most people with decent-sized 5ers must use diesels, or else must be underpowered.
 

Take a look at the Ford F450/550 line.  More to the point with a 15,000 lb trailer, you have arrived in medium-duty truck country.  So  add Volvo, Peterbuilt, and Kenworth to your search list.


I'll upgrade to 15000 BTU if available, otherwise I won't worry about it.  Sounds like 13500 BTU can do a decent job, espec. if supplemented with fans, screens, etc.

If you push into the towed mansion category, 13500 aint gonna do it.  But then the trailer mfrs seem to install the right level of A/C for their units.  I have seen them with twin 15000s -- but that is 50 amp, 240 VAC country.
 

Bob Zambenini

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GaryB said:
5. If not available through the manufacturer, it is easy (or even possible) to add ceiling fans and 15000 BTU air conditioning later on?  Is 13500 BTU air conditioning sufficient in most cases (assuming sun shades are used, etc.)?  I like to keep cool, although ceiling fans may help temper that.


Gary, I will take on number 5.  I would not buy any RV that did not have an air conditioning unit. Its necessary unless you are going to RV  far north only in winter.

As for ceiling fans. My current RV does have a big 115v blade fan in bedroom and its nice in  a few situations. . But big blades in low ceiling RV are a problem in running into them. Also some have had blades break due to engine and road vibration wear. In the later years of  my model they discontinued this ceiling fan and people were disappointed. One fellow tried to install one but RV ceilings are not able to support add on attachments.

My suggestion is to have one or two, depending on the size of your RV,  Fantastic Vent fans. This is about the only manufacturer who warranty's  their product for life and they are a winner.

Now for the real winner. We have had a small 12 inch box fan that runs on 115 V and has high and medium setting. This is great in a number of cases. Just this week, when I came back to RV which was closed and turned on air, and running this little bugger for a few minutes  moved  the cool air around. Many cases, this is all I need to bring in a little fresh air and not use the air conditioning.

One other small item is a small 115v electric heater. I have had this one for years. Frequently in the morning I just turn it on and knock the chill off and then it is not necessary to turn on the furnace or the roof heat pumps as they are big and noisy. I use this in both mornings and also sometimes watching TV before going to bed.

One other point is to select an RV model and manufacturer who puts in very good insulation in walls and by all means order dual pane windows!

Bob
 

Carl L

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As for ceiling fans. My current RV does have a big 115v blade fan in bedroom and its nice in? a few situations. . But big blades in low ceiling RV are a problem in running into them. Also some have had blades break due to engine and road vibration wear. In the later years of? my model they discontinued this ceiling fan and people were disappointed. One fellow tried to install one but RV ceilings are not able to support add on attachments.

Darn good point!? ?One vacation in Maui, we were in a condo with a 8' ceiling (9'+ is the standard in civilized places).? ?The condo had a ceiling fan.? One morning, I was skinning off a t-shirt and mananged to stick my hand into the orbit of the fan blades and broke a finger.? Ceiling fan blades are not fast, but they are heavy and have a lot of momentum.? ?RV ceilings are even lower in some cases.
 

GaryB

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Thanks again, all, for the excellent and very useful feedback! 

The reason I asked about whether inverters were "free" was because I found the following in the forum Library under "Tech Topics" / "Installing an Inverter"...

"....There are likely to be two, four or more batteries that provide 12 volts to run the inverter and, after a period of inverter use, the batteries will require recharging. In many cases, this is done automatically by a charger within the inverter itself...." 

I took that to mean that the inverter would automatically re-charge itself (via the charger) using its own energy.  But it must have meant that happens using an external energy source. 

Thanks again
Gary
 

Tom

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Gary,

The inverter I was referring to in the article is an inverter/charger which performs two functions - it produces 110V power from 12V batteries and recharges the batteries from an external power source, either shore power or generator. Apologies that this wasn't clear in the article. Time for me to update it.
 

GaryB

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Evansville, IN
Hi Tom,

No problem.  I should have realized that nothing in life is free  :)

My compliments on an excellently administered and utilized forum!  It's tremendously helpful to a novice like me, as well as more experienced Rvs I'm sure.  Although it's mind boggling the amount of stuff to learn about RVs and the RV lifestyle, hopefully it'll become old hat in due time.

One last question (I hope  :)  Is it correct that standard "electric outlets" in an RV automatically run AC-powered or DC-powered devices, depending on whatever energy source is available at that time?  In other words, if hooked to shore power (or generator/inverter), you can plug either AC or DC appliances into the outlet.  But if not hooked to shore power (or generator/inverter), then you can plug only DC appliances into the outlet.  Is that correct?

Thanks again
Gary

Thanks again
Gary
 

Carl L

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One last question (I hope    Is it correct that standard "electric outlets" in an RV automatically run AC-powered or DC-powered devices, depending on whatever energy source is available at that time?  In other words, if hooked to shore power (or generator/inverter), you can plug either AC or DC appliances into the outlet.  But if not hooked to shore power (or generator/inverter), then you can plug only DC appliances into the outlet.  Is that correct?

On my trailer the standard household outlets are 120 VAC only.  There are 12VDC outlets but those look exactly like the automobile 12VDC outlets in your car.
 

GaryB

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Thanks Carl,

Sounds like RV outlets are similar to homes and cars - "cigarette" outlets for DC only and "home" outlets for AC only.

Thanks
Gary
 

Karl

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Gary,

There are some 12 volt appliances available (coffee maker, crock pot, etc.) but the choice is limited and you need the accessory (cigar lighter) type outlets to utilize them. If your rig has them, they will probably not be wired or fused for the amount of current these things can draw. Exception: a small 12 volt t.v. set - mine has one in the bedroom. You're better off getting 120 volt ac appliances. I have two air conditioners; one in the main living area and one in the bedroom, but prefer to use the front one only, especially at night when I want quiet for sleeping. One of those newer 'tower' fans consisting of a number of small squirrel-cage blowers mounted on a tall vertical shaft, does a great job of moving the cool air from the front into the bedroom very quietly. Even without the a/c on, just that little quiet breeze is great for sleeping. Wal-Mart and other such stores have a ton of them.
 

Tom

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GaryB said:
Is it correct that standard "electric outlets" in an RV automatically run AC-powered or DC-powered devices, depending on whatever energy source is available at that time?

Gary,

All AC and DC outlets are separate; Irrespective of which power source is conected to the RV, only AC appliances can be plugged into AC outlets and only DC appliances can be plugged into DC outlets.

DC outlets are fed only from batteries, which might be the chassis batteries or separate "house" batteries. AC outlets can be fed from shore power, generator or inverter. The selection of AC source may or may not be automatic. For example, on our coach a power management unit automatically selects shore power if we're plugged in, selects inverter if I we're not, or selects generator if the generator is running. On some rigs, there might be a switch to select shore power or generator.

In most cases, if an inverter is installed, it will automatically provide AC (which it produces) when no other AC source is available. But the inverter will "pass through" shore power or generator power if either of those power sources are available.
 

Tom

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GaryB said:
Sounds like RV outlets are similar to homes and cars - "cigarette" outlets for DC only and "home" outlets for AC only.

That's correct Gary.
 

joelmyer

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Gary,

Let me clarify #6.  The electric front jacks level the 5er front to back.  There is only one control for both of them.  After you are level side to side then you pull a pin on the 1st leg, the inner tube drops down, you pick it back up one hole (1") and put the pin back in.  The repeat for the other leg.  Use the motor to raise the nose high enough to get it off the truck, move truck, lower until level front to back.

The rear stablizers are just that, stablizers not jacks.  Most everybody uses a battery powered screwdriver to lower raise the stablizers.

Leveling side to side is no big deal; after we get the rig positioned in the site where we want it, we look at the level and decide on the boards - we carry a 2 x 6 and a 1 x 6.  Pull up, put the board(s) down, back up on the board.

Joel
 

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