I realize that it’s been several months since I posted anything—but there hasn’t been anything to post. We spent most of the Spring, all Summer, and some of the Fall in the New England area and as far west as Pennsylvania. There were friends to visit, places to see (although we have been up here many times and even lived in Amherst, Massachusetts for two years), we presented seminars at a few RV rallies, and tried to live our normal fulltiming lifestyle. However, the “problem” was that it is somewhat difficult to boondock in New England.
Many towns/areas don’t allow you to park an RV overnight. We were mostly driving on non-Interstate roads so pull-offs and rest areas were really rare, Walmarts in many states up here are not the SuperCenter (giant store open 24 hours), there are a few casinos but they are spread out. All of this to say that most of our nights were in a campground, plugged in, and not living on battery.
However, those times we boondocked, everything was fine. I have not noticed any problems this summer and nothing has changed. So, since nothing has changed, there’s nothing to report.
How come I feel like I should apologize for everything going well???
We Did One Upgrade
In the previous section, I mentioned we had upgraded our inverter remote. Something just didn’t seem right but with not a lot of use over the summer, I couldn’t narrow it down. On our way back to Texas in mid-November, we stopped in White House, Tennessee and went to the Inverter Service Company. They are (I think) the best in the nation. They found that my new remote was not compatible with the current version of inverter software. They installed a new control board and everything was good—except my Auto Generator Start was no longer working! Finally, we decided that that AGS module also needed to be updated to match the other two components. With a new AGS module, the total system was as up-to-date as possible.
Note that this upgrade was NOT mandatory for the batteries.
It finally hit me that when boondocking, I wasn’t getting the “run time” I thought I should get from battery only. This was my “gut reaction” only.
We were getting about 4–5–6 hours of “battery time” after each charge. Obviously, this depends on what amperage (power) we were consuming. However, I know from observing this over a few years that, for example, in the evening, the TV is on, DVR, DVD (surround sound), usually my satellite (Internet) controller and modem is on, only one or two lights (but these are LEDS), the fridge, plus all those phantom amps that are ongoing power suckers. Bottom line is that when we are in here for a normal evening it will take about 40–48 amps/hr.
I’m a night owl and virtually NEVER go to bed before 0100 hrs. Sandy goes in between 2100 and 2200 hrs. So that front TV and stuff stays on when I’m up. When I go to bed and turn off all the obvious stuff, that power consumption drops to about 22–26 amps/hr. Sandy is an early riser and then will have that front TV and Internet stuff back on by 0500 hrs thus causing a higher amp draw—i.e., back in the 40 amp/hr range. Finally, all this “normal” living is evening, nighttime, and pre-daylight so solar is not a factor.
So, my usage OUGHT to be roughly…
Evening… 3 hours @ 40 amps/ hr = 120 amps
Nighttime… 4 hours @ 20 amps/hr = 80 amps
Pre-daylight… 2 hours @ 40 amps/hr = 80 amps
Best-Guess Total usage = 280 amps.
I was charging with 4.5 hours of generator run time and this was happening about two times per day. Our agreed-upon charging “target” was to reach a reading (on the inverter remote screen) of some voltage and zero amps. For example… 14.1 VDC + 0 amps. However, after the 4.5 hours charging this summer, I was getting readings such as… 14.1 VDC + 32 amps. I tried an experiment (4–5 times) to see how much more generator run time would be needed to reduce the amp reading to near or at zero. So, when the generator stopped automatically after 4.5 hours, I would immediately manually turn it on for another 0.5 or full hour. I was finding that an additional one hour of generator run time would lower the amp reading about 2 amps—sometimes just 1 amp. Therefore, longer runs were not efficient at all. What to do?
So I came to the conclusion that either (A) the battery wasn’t “taking” the charge that it should or (B) that the inverter wasn’t charging they way it was supposed to or (C) that the readings were incorrect or (D) that the settings suggested by Magnum were not working or (E) that the settings suggested by Lithionics were not working or (F) all of the above or (G) part of the above.
As I mentioned above, we were close to White House, Tennessee, called Inverter Sales, and they said to come on in. We did. The two longtimers there (PJ and Randy) put their heads together and came up with a solution. First (as mentioned above), they upgraded the inverter (changed a control board) to match the new remote. Second, they upgraded (changed the module) of the AGS to match the inverter and remote. Third, they confirmed that the BMK was up to date with everything. Fourth, they then applied their own logic to the settings—theirs were slightly different from those suggested by Magnum and Lithionics. We had a couple of days to sit there so we unplugged and tested everything.
The first test was a generator run time of 3 hours. For additional tests, they increased the run time by 0.5 hour. The final test there was with a four-hour generator run time. Then we had to leave.
On a sidenote, these tests take LOTS of time. There is the initial generator run time but then you have to run down (drain) the batteries as rapidly as possible but not “plunging” them into total discharge. We did not run any high amp-draw appliances to deplete the batteries because that just sucks them down and they actually build back up to some level on their own. We turned on every light, both TVs, all controllers, satellite stuff, and fans. It would take a few hours but the battery would eventually drain to the auto generator start level.
Note that the sole purpose of these tests were to determine how long to run the generator to achieve an acceptable charge. It has to be charged correctly before you can test the actual “usage” time on battery.
Okay, remember we had to leave that location and start heading to Texas (medical appointments) so my plan was to continue to increase the generator run time as needed whenever we boondocked.
Interestingly, the first night out, my 4.5 hour generator run time seemed perfect. Good readings and where we wanted to be. So, the “mystery” at that moment was… how long will we be able to live off “battery time?”
And now the good news…
That first evening/night/morning, living normally (our normally), we got 11 hours out of that battery. Great!
The next night we had to get a campground so no testing.
The third night out (and a few subsequent nights on our way to Texas) I continued to use the 4.5-hour run time and, watching the monitor closely, found that at 4.3/4.4 hours, the system would go into generator shut-down. Each time we watched our “living time” (battery time) and the 11 hours was pretty consistent.
Eleven hours of use is totally acceptable for what I want. That equates to a bit over 4 hours of generator run time in 24.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to continue testing this now. We are here in Texas to visit family through the holidays so we won’t be boondocking at all. We will start testing again when we leave here just after Christmas.
I’ll post more when I know more!