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Thread: Power Alternatives For Campers

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default Power Alternatives For Campers

    Anyone have any experience with slightly modifying camper electrical systems and/or buying/building solar panels. I've been told that golf cart batteries from Costco will make a huge difference in how long the power lasts, and someone else told me I could buy everything to build a solar panel from Home Depot for a fraction of the cost of buying one retail.

    Any thoughts?

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    Default solar, and wind

    I'd been thinking along the same lines, and kept stopping at a couple of different sized units at AIH. Those units look pretty nice and not too much $$$.

    Mentioned it to my buddy and he thought I was crazy; said there's a more dependable wind than sun in Alaska; get a small wind power like this one: http://www.windtrap.co.uk/generate-e...-wind-turbine/

    I haven't made the leap yet, but I'm thinking maybe wind power might do better.

  3. #3
    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default In the U.S.

    I've considered wind, but many of the areas I camp are in the mountains where wind is scarce. I guess the best way to go would be to have both. I checked-out that site and it does look interesting. It says it will power two energy saving light bulbs, or 3 bulbs for about 20 hours. That's another obstacle; I'm not even exactly sure just how much power I really need for my 24ft camper. Ideally I'd like something to just recharge the batteries during the day when I'm out and about (using little power) and store it in the batteries for the evening. Then an inverter so I can utilize some of that power to plug-in a small t.v, laptop, etc. in the evening. (I know, it doesn't sound much like camping anymore does it?

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Try RV.net...

    Some of the guys on those forums do a lot of home tinkering with truck campers. Maybe MTBob in the thread below could help:

    http://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/search/parms/sw%7Bsolar%7D|km%7Bexact%7D|kl%7Bm%7D|fm%7B27%7D|p d%7B365%7D|ma%7B%7D/sr/1.cfm

    Good luck.

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    Default alternate sources

    We lived on alternate sources in the bush for a while, I wish I could have afoarded a wind mill then , but it was solar pannels and a 5 Horse power engine driving an alternator= A good 20 amp power supply. At the time I worked at a marina and I was getting batteries reasonable , so I had a large bank. I had a chalk board and the panels and batteries, each on 3
    position switches to monitor their capacity and voltages. recording each on the chalk board was teaching me what works and what doesn't . The alternator was for the winter and the short days and cloudy days and long nights. The 5 Hp gas engine is simple and an automotive alternator and voltage regulator. It can be built small enough to carry with one hand bout like a suit case. The alternator is not directionally dependent so mounting, is any way that suits you.I had ac generators but it was more effecient to spend the gas filling batterries. The other thing I like is 12 volt floresent fixtures , very effecient . My other favorite is the LED lights that are getting better and better all the time . They use almost nothing in power and are impervious to shock. I am learning how to wire them and make my own LED lighting .There are LEDs that are putting incandesent lights to shame ,especially in Flash lights .Check it out.

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default Duh??

    Thanks for the input guys. I'm not extremely mechanically inclined, so Arleigh's generator and voltage regulator discussion went a bit over my head, but you do bring-up and excellent idea that has for some reason eluded me until now. Just taking the time and a few dollars to replace all the light bulbs with high efficiency bulbs should make a difference in how long the batteries last why hasn't this already occurred to me???

    There's a first step.

    So what about the batteries. As a person who sounds like they have a bit of experience with many different types, have you tried the golf cart batteries?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scottsum View Post
    Anyone have any experience with slightly modifying camper electrical systems and/or buying/building solar panels. I've been told that golf cart batteries from Costco will make a huge difference in how long the power lasts, and someone else told me I could buy everything to build a solar panel from Home Depot for a fraction of the cost of buying one retail.

    Any thoughts?
    It is true about the golf cart batteries. That's all I use in my RV. The battery storage capacity is much greater than that of a standard battery. The downside is the expense, as it's 500 big ones for my motorhome.

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Batteries Plus...

    store personnel here in Anchorage seem well-informed-might be worth a call. Their website suggests they deal in golf cart batteries, so they might offer some advice about this particular application.

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    Default gas

    I'm not sure if you are looking for cheaper or more dependable energy or cleaner energy ,but for cabins or trailers propane is really nice. A little propane will run stoves, gas lights ( which work really great by the way)heaters etc. for a long time. propane or other gas fuels are very clean burning by the way.

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    Default

    I really like Alaska Battery. They are great people to deal with and have experience with RV systems as well as solar and wind power.

    Mike

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default I might have found what I've been looking for.

    Just thought I'd throw this out there for anyone who's interested. I'd also love input if anyone has any experience (good or bad) with these, or something similar.

    This sure looks like a reasonable priced solar energy system for my little camper:

    http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product...Cat3960&topnav=

    I'm thinking one of these and a couple of golf cart batteries and I'll be in business.

  12. #12

    Thumbs up

    Putting in LED and Flourescent fixtures are the cheapest and best use of available battery power. Put in an Espar heater and do away with the one in the rig already, they will drain a battery quicker than anything else.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
    ~~Abraham Lincoln~~

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    Default

    the deal with golf cart batteries is they are 6 volt and high capacity - so wiring two in series gives you 12 volt and a very large capacity measured in amp hours (that's the other side of the issue - reduce your amperage needs and you extend the time you run on batteries - do that and expand your battery capacity and you'll be loving it!)

    so keep in mind that you have to have room (and $!) for two batteries and you need to wire them properly.

    be sure to keep them topped off - you'll kick yourself when $500 or so worth of batteries freezes or has a dry hole!

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    Default

    oh yeah - ebay has some great deals on 12v fluorescent fixtures - haven't looked for LEDs there. I think the name of the ebay store I got my last fluorescent from was r and p carriages?

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    Default

    Over the years I had several campers, until I got a new one with elect frig. and a heater with a fan, I never had problems with the battery.

    I know a fare amount about batteries, and charging system and I have never had so many problems trying to keep a battery charged in that camper. I added a large battery and found out the truck can not keep a large battery charge, unless you run the truck for several hours. WITH NOTHING TURNED ON IN THE CAMPER. You can replace the lights with LED @ $28 per lamp and save a little more that one amp/ lamp. Replacing the heater and not running the frig. on DC is the only answer @ a cost of several hundred $$$.

    I looked into solar panels unless you want to spend $1000+, there is no guarantee they will keep your battery charge in Alaska.


    The only answer is to use a generator and a camper DC power supply and charger, if you want to run electronics. IF you are only going to use your camper for the weekend in the summer you will not need a generator only a big battery. There is one way you could redesign your truck charging system to keep the camper battery charge at a cost of $200- $500.

    Before you spend a lot of money only to find out it did not fix your problem, you need to do an energy audit to determine the best method.

  16. #16
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    electric heat is very inefficient by that same token so is an electric fridge since most actually use heat to cool.

    batteries in a camper just aren't meant for that, hence most rv fridges run off propane in addition to electric. Much more efficient way to keep the food cold.

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    Default

    I should have added.
    My camper frig has three power setting DC, AC and propane. If I go for a trip and I have the frig on propane the flame will go out, to guarantee the food stays cold, the frig need to be on DC when moving and then switch to propane.

    My heater is propane heat, a hi output heater in a small space needs a fan to not burn up. When I mention to replace the heater I was agreeing with Akres to use a propane heater that does not have a fan.

  18. #18
    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    That's a bummer your fridge won't stay lit - definitely no good to show up at the camping spot with dead batteries right from the start!

    If I remember right the blower fan for my heater draws about 3 amps - fairly significant for me as my fluorescent light draws less than an amp and I have no other electrical loads, but really a pretty small price electrically (compared with actually generating heat from electricity). My standard alternator has no problem keeping the batteries charged during travel with the heat on.

    I think your fridge is the source of your battery problems much more than the heater - my fridge is old and is only a two way (AC or propane) so I don't even have the DC option - but I've heard the three way models can draw over 8 amps DC - that's a big draw in a camper. Depending on your vehicle's alternator output I could see how you could run into problems if you had the fridge, heater, and lights on (maybe 15 amps - estimating 8 amp fridge, 3 amp heater, and 2x 2amp lights)- and with that load you would have a really short battery life while the truck is off. (a single group 24 with 80 amp hour capacity would only last you a little over two hours with fridge, heater, and a couple lights going. You could get it up to 5 hours with 2x 6volt 200 amp hour golf cart batteries. That's still not very long in between generator runs.

    I think you'd be fine if you find a way to keep the propane burner lit during travel - that might cut the DC load in half. If you look at some of the older campers you might see some of them with strategically placed pieces of duct tape over part of the fridge hatch vents - to keep the wind from blowing the burner out...red green to the rescue maybe?

    As for the original poster - If I didn't have a generator then a small quiet 1K would be my first money spent. That way you can just recharge when you need to. From there you can limit generator usage by extending battery capacity and increasing efficiency. Solar is nice but just too costly and not effective enough for me yet.

  19. #19
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Golf cart batteries, weight?

    Two golf cart batteries worked out well for this guy on RVNet (below), and mounted on the tongue. Are you pulling a camper trailer or using a truck camper? This battery idea is intriguing, but be tough to mount them in my truck camper. Solar sounds completely doable - and worthwhile with our extended daylight. Interesting project.

    http://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fu...d/14078148.cfm

  20. #20
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    Default Generators

    Yeah, I know generators are the easiest solution. I have a cheapie Coleman that came with the camper, but is so darned noisy that I hardly ever use it. I need to bite the bullet and get a Honda, but I just can't justify the 1 or 2 grand to do it. They're quiet...er by a long shot, but they still annoy me in the quiet places I like to camp.

    Solar with a battery bank is just so clean and quiet. The question is, will one of these kits work for my needs? AKJW7 is probably right about solar not being efficient enough yet, but I'm still looking.

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