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Old 11-01-2013, 04:28 PM   #1
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Help With Battery Decision

I am looking for some help in deciding which battery option I should choose for our new 21' Escape. In addition to the standard battery, (whatever that is), they offer a group 29 battery for $50; they also offer a dual six-volt battery option for $200. Although we're long-time campers, we have very little experience camping without available electric hook-ups. We live in Florida, where all the parks seem to have electricity available – probably because of the need for air conditioning. When we pick up our Escape next June, we want to visit several of the national parks on our way back to Florida, and I see that most of them don't have electricity available for campers. I don't think that the solar option or a generator would be cost effective since we'll probably never again camp for extended periods without electric hook-ups. With that in mind, I have a couple of specific questions to help us decide on the battery choice for our trip back to Florida.

First, about how long can you camp with just propane and battery power? Assuming that we will use common conservation practices of limiting electrical use, would a three night stay be reasonable without fearing draining the battery too much?

And second, about how long does it take the battery to become recharged while driving? For instance, if we camp at Yellowstone for three nights without an electric hook-up, would the approximately six hour drive to Devils Tower result in fully charged batteries, ready for another stay? If driving doesn't charge the batteries fast enough, we could intersperse our camping with commercial campgrounds where we could stay for a couple of days and be sure of a full charge.

Thanks for any insight you can give,
Ray N.
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Old 11-01-2013, 05:10 PM   #2
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With LED lighting, and not running the furnace, 3 days is quite doable. Of course if you add other appliances, an inverter to make coffee, etc all bets are off. In my case I have both solar & the dual 6V batteries, and can go for 2 weeks without hookups, even when I make a pot of coffee every day.

If you are going to spend almost all your time with hookups, the 6V battery & solar options are not worth it.

As to recharging from the vehicle, much depends on the vehicle's wiring. If the wire size used between the tow vehicle battery (alternator) is too small, not much current makes it to charge the trailer battery. On the other hand, a #10 or larger charge wire combined with a oversized alternator that is often included with a vehicle tow package will usually replenish a battery drawn to above 50% in a 6 hour drive unless you run your refrigerator on 12V while driving.

I can't give you specifics since I charge with both solar & the tow vehicle, and my batteries never get below 80%, but I've seen at least 8 amps on the vehicle charge line. Over 6 hours that would be 48 amp/hrs. Maybe someone that charges with the tow vehicle only can give you a better idea.
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Old 11-01-2013, 05:25 PM   #3
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By charge wire do you mean the ground? I was told to get a #10 ground installed if I intended to run the fridge on 12V while traveling. And, I was told if I did run the fridge while traveling, the battery would get no charge ( not enough power available to do both ).
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Old 11-01-2013, 06:56 PM   #4
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With the standard battery and LED lighting we go 3 days with no problem. Just remember things like the water pump will be a large drain on the battery. You might want to consider a portable solar charger to help keep up. Something like this would help and you could always sell it to me when you return from your trip and are done with it.

90 Watt Portable Solar System - Economy Series | Off The Grid RV Solar StoreOff The Grid RV Solar Store
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:02 PM   #5
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Escape uses Interstate batteries - std is 1 Group 27 12V, the $50 gets 1 Group 29 12V. The 29 has about 15% more capacity - see the first group, not the Pro: RV Deep-Cycle/Starting Batteries

The dual 6V is RV 6-Volt Deep-Cycle Batteries, and yeah, the numbers cannot be directly compared.

We had a 17" Casita with 1 Group 27 - and could easily go 3 or 4 days as long as we didn't need the furnace. I recommend at least the Group 29 upgrade. If you really plan to camp mostly with hookups I would not get the dual 6Vs, which give you roughly double the capacity of 1 29.

6 hours should get you at least most of a charge.

Not something I would normally recommend - but for your 1-shot trip:
Do you or a friend have a 12V battery used with a trolling motor? You could carry a fully charged one on the tow vehicle and swap it out if the original gets low. I would also take a good battery charger to recharge at a hookup park if needed.
Or could you rent/borrow an RV (quiet inverter) generator just for this trip?
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
By charge wire do you mean the ground? I was told to get a #10 ground installed if I intended to run the fridge on 12V while traveling. And, I was told if I did run the fridge while traveling, the battery would get no charge ( not enough power available to do both ).
Both the positive charge wire (usually run from the tow vehicle battery to the pin 4 of the 7 pin connector through a fuse & sometimes an isolation relay) and the ground connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer should be at least #10 wire if you expect to get the full value of the tow vehicle's alternator to the trailer's battery (or the refrigerator running on 12V). Since the refrigerator running on 12V consumes most of the output of a typical alternator, you are correct that there will be little charging of the trailer battery if the fridge is on 12V.
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:01 PM   #7
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BTW, I had to specifically ask the installer to use #10 wire and was charged an extra $25 for the wire since he didn't normally use a wire that heavy and had to buy some.
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:24 PM   #8
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I'm in the same boat.. what battery(ies) should I get? I was reminded, it's not about the PAST camping experiences I've had... but the FUTURE camping experiences I hope to have. That's a tough call, when no one knows the future may hold. I can only hope that I make the right decision that applies to what I've done in the past... but hope suits the needs for the future. That means brainstorming (in my case brain cramps). YMMV
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:33 PM   #9
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I feel that with one 12v battery, it is easier to add another one at a later date, if the need arises vs carrying around the extra 60# of the dual 6's and never needing the extra capacity. In addition, if your tug battery goes down, you have a back up with the 12v set up.
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Old 11-01-2013, 09:04 PM   #10
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We spent two weeks boondocking each summer during the past four years. Until this year we used our trailer without solar and with the dual six volt option. With LED lights we were able to last for up to ten days during the summer. That was only using the electrical devices built into the camper and not using the furnace. The biggest draw at that time was the pump, if you take lots of showers you can be sure it will be less days.

Last year we spent two weeks in Yellowstone and the Tetons, never had electricity to recharge. The charging from the car while travelling between sites, perhaps 2-3 hours was insignificant. Because the batteries were low from use, the car charging never was able to make a full recovery. Eight hours of car charging would be the least I would expect, even on shore power I contend the batteries take up to 24 hours to make a full recovery. You cannot rely on car charging,

Because it was darker and cooler we had a real struggle with keeping the batteries above 50%. We made ten days again but at a significant sacrifice and the small charges from the car. We would have liked to use the furnace but could not due to the need to maintain battery charge.

As an alternative, why not look into an inexpensive solar solution? Since solar was not available at the time of our purchase we wanted that capability but only needed it 10% of the time. Adding $800 in roof top solar for the infrequent times we needed it did not seem to make sense. We have added a portable 75 watt solar unit to our equipment. The total cost was $159. I was so impressed with the design (I can't take credit) I published a brochure on how to build the unit. It is very simple but very effective. If you send me a private message with your email address I will be happy to send you a .pdf of the instructions.

Being portable, we do not take the solar on all trips, it is not necessary if you have shore power every 3-5 days. This season our disabled son needed to have his iPad charged every day, took 2-3 hours of charging. With the solar we always charged his iPad during the peak sun time and kept the dual 6 volt batteries above 50% for the entire two weeks. Two iPhones were also charged on an as needed basis.
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