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Old 05-28-2012, 07:35 PM   #1
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Default Battery Charging with a Portable Generator

We often "dry camp" for several days. When we dry-camp, we use minimal electricity. All that I can think of that are ever on are:
- the Propane detector,
- the refrigerator (on propane but using electricity to light the flame),
- the stereo face plate (glows with time showing, but all TV/Stereo are off).
-water pump for washing dishes and showers.

We don't even use any cabin lights, using portable battery lanterns instead. Despite minimal use of electricity, we find we run out of battery power in 2 to 3 days at most. Very frustrating!

We are considering buying a Honda 2000i portable generator. But our purpose will not be to enable us to run anything electrical. Instead, what we want to do is to recharge our batteries each day so that we can dry camp longer while still using minimal electricity.

Our question ... is that possible? Can one recharge batteries with a portable generator? If so, do we need any other particular equipment? And, if so, how long each day would it take a generator to recharge our batteries (2 batteries on a X210UDS)? [/b]
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Old 05-29-2012, 05:50 AM   #2
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Why not run your truck to charge.
I have hook up a 2nd battery when dry camping and use TV ect.
About 1/2 hour a day(1 hour if needed) hooked up to truck is good if I dont run them all the way down .
I have a 15 watt 1 amp solar panel also (Im thinking of putting 4 panels on the roof permenently.)
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:38 AM   #3
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The Honda 2000i has an accessory item specifically made for charging 12 volt batteries.
I have the Honda 2000i and the companion Honda 2000 and got the battery charging adapter but haven't used it yet.
When hooked to the tow vehicle, I always make sure the disconnect switch is pulled out so the battery will charge from the tow unit. If the disconnect switch is pushed in, neither the the shore cord nor the tow unit will charge the camper battery.
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:21 AM   #4
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I only dry camp as well. We run a generator for a few hours a day to keep the battery charged. With a new battery, less than 2 years old, we can run indefinately. I found it is better to plug the trailer into the generator and use the built in converter to charge. The 12 volt charge charger built into the generator takes longer to charge than the power converter. Also a few tips:
1: Buy LED replacement bulbs for your lights. They use very little power, about 10% of the stock bulbs, you shouldn't have to use a portable lantern. Make sure to get "warm white" bulbs. There are a lot of threads on here about what different people are buying and what they like.
2: the water heater uses a lot of electricity when switched on even though it is propane. Switch it off when not needed. It uses the power even when the flame is off.
3: There is an electric heat strip on the fridge to prevent condensation around the door seal, turn that off. Even when off the fridge will power but there is not much you can do about that.
4: The radio uses a lot of power even when off. I wired in a switch to the "accessory" wire on the stereo. This turns off the lighted front. The stereo still get's power from the "main" power line to maintain the clock and station memory. I found the manual online that showed which wire was the right one.
5: Keep your batteries topped off when not camping. Letting a run down battery sit even for a few days will kill it. Sulphate will build up on the plates.
6: Don't use your batteries for too long, they loose capacity over time. If you can handle the cost, and battery life is important, replace every 2 years (this varies on how hard you use them, even deep cycle batteries are damaged by discharging them too much). A lot of places will pro-rate your battery. Costco, for example, has a 1 year free replacement, and then pro-rates after that.
7: Consider a solar panel. I havn't done this yet but am thinking about it. Get 50 watts at a minimum, those little 15 watt panels won't do much.
8: If you only want to charge, the Honda EU1000 would be sufficient. If you actually want the capability to run the AC and everything else, the Yamaha EF2400is will do it all. Some people have luck running the AC on the EU2000 but it wouldn't work for me.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:04 PM   #5
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I doubled up on batteries on mine...I have two, but run the generator often enough that I don't know how long it'd last on just batteries alone. But that might be a cheaper option to explore before going the generator route.
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Old 05-30-2012, 10:27 PM   #6
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I agree with chupp21 ..... In fact in our previous TT, a Trailmanor, I had the EXACT same reaction and questions you post, Carl Main! We had gone from a Pup with plenty of lights, a fridge, water heater, etc. that gave us over a week on one .. one .. battery. So when our battery ran out on our Trailmanor on our first boondocking outing, the only option we had was to plug into the TV. charging from the TV alternator does not put nearly the charge into the battery that the WFCO will. Talk about burning gas to charge the battery! The one item the TM had that sucked power was the recycling toilet and bathroom fan.

I had some very good email dialog with a tech at WFCO (The TM had a very similar, tho smaller, model to the one in the FF214) that helped diagnose best charging .. which was with the WFCO running plugged into a generator. We now have the Yamaha EF2000i and my experience with the Trailmanor was that I would run it about 20-30 mins a day in late morning and the battery was topped. Never used a tank of gas on the gen in 2 weeks. This was after taking the following actions ....

As far as charge bleeding .. What chupp21 says is right. #1. I changed all my lights to LEDs; We turn off the hot water heater when not needed (also cuts on gas use) as it stays warm almost all day anyway; #2. I have not yet attacked the radio, because the Jensen piece of junk in ours is going to be changed out for a quality head unit, but a disconnect is needed there. #3. Be sure, if you have it, to turn off your TeleV antenna amplifier; #4 If your control panel has lights for each of the switches ( for battery power to lights, etc. those little lights bleed power. So you could pull the panel and disconnect those lights. But if you're going the generator to charge battery route, doing that is so minimal, the extra 5 mins or less charge time is minimal.

Question for chupp21 .. how do you turn off the heater strip on the fridge? That sounds like a good move!! As you say, the control panel on the fridge will still be drawing, but that should help there.

Finally, if you are really serious about boondocking, look into switching to golf cart batteries (takes 2 6v in series to replace a 12v.) They are heavier than 12 v but 2 of them will give you far more amperage and last much longer. They also are a bit spendy, but if you want to have worry free dry camping .......

On the LEDs, I get 36 LED dome light panels for each of the 921 bulbs replaced. Off eBay they run about $3-4 apiece. Not quite as much light, but very nearly so and MUCH less power use.
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:12 AM   #7
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Thanks to everyone who has replied to my inquiry about using a generator to recharge our batteries. You've been very helpful.

We already have LEDs throughout the trailer, although we don't use any lights during dry camping. And we do turn off the water heater when we're done with it each time.

Between Google searches and your input I seem to have gotten contradictory recommendations about whether, when our purpose is to recharge the batteries, it is more effective to connect the generator to the trailer's normal shore-tie input, or to connect it directly to the batteries with cables. If you have anything further to say about that I would appreciate it.

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Old 05-31-2012, 01:22 PM   #8
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I was getting the same contradictions when I went through this too. To clarify, when I was in contact with the tech from WFCO on this subject, he had me do several tests with my multi-tester and report back to ensure the WFCO panel was working as it should. All was well and he informed me that the WFCO unit would put a higher charge (and the tester showed this) to the battery when it detected it needed it. He said that the only way I might get a higher charge rate would be to plug a separate dedicated charger into the Gen, then attach that to the battery, of course with the battery fully disconnected from the trailer. Then again, too high of a consistent charge rate can cook off the H2O and damage the cells. And as I said, we got by easily with 20-30 mins of gen a day that brought the battery up to full (checking with the hydrometer) on our Trailmanor.

We'll be dry camping for over a week in June, so I'll try to report back on how that goes. We do use our lights, tho we are judicious about not over doing it and turn off what is not in use.
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