Thursday, February 02, 2017

My Boondocking Power Plan and some related additions to Umarang

First, the sunrise I saw while camping at Cheyenne Mountain State Park recently:

I have been following with interest RichardM's postings about the farkling of his Fifth Wheel RV and his plan to go Solar for his power needs while on the road.

In the long run, once I retire, I will probably go solar myself but for now, the ROI (Return On Investment) to go solar for the amount of projected road/camping time for the foreseeable future doesn't make it worth it when boondocking.

Boondocking: Camping in dispersed camp sites, usually in National Forests, state parks, BLM public lands, etc.  No hookups for power, sewer, water.

Full disclosure:  clicking on the links in this posting and purchasing, may result in some pennies coming my way for my fuel budget from amazon.

Power Plan:

Instead, I plan to, when boondocking, to use my Honda eu1000i generator (that I bought used a couple or more years ago) to provide electricity for most all power needs in Umarang, our motor home.  I've tested it and it's quiet enough to run right under the coach and it powers everything but the AC and the Microwave and maybe the electric heater.

I got cable lock from Amazon to secure the Honda generator to the RV when its being used.  Just keeping honest folks honest, if someone really wants it they'll take it; that's why I have insurance.  I'll run it till it dies, then probably buy either a Harbor Freight Predator 2000w or Champion 2000w generator as a replacement for less than the cost of a new Honda eu1000i.

There's always the Onan 4K generator that came with the motor home for the heavier demands of the AC unit and the Microwave Oven and such high wattage items.

The plan is, to run the small gennie (uses less gasoline than the 4K generator)  in the daytime and probably up till accepted/published  "quiet hours" which are usually from 10PM - 8AM in most dispersed camping sites run by the National Forest service.  On BLM land, the proximity to other campers will drive the following of "quiet hours" as well.

This means the maintenance of the engine and coach batteries becomes a key factor.  Umarang came with a 98aH 12V Interstate SRM-29 battery.  Best practice is to not discharge a deep cycle battery more than below 50% which meant I have theoretically 49 aH available to me when not on generator.

After some calculation and testing using a clamp on amp meter, I got my power budget down to < 2 Amps.  This is the power needed to run the refrigerator in Propane mode and powering the inverter with the wireless access point powered on.  (the theory is, we're asleep during "battery power" hours)

The demands on the inverter could be higher but I plan to have all electronics charged up while on generator power, so no demands by portable electronics while on battery power.

I plan to use the eu1000i to power the smart battery charger to recharge the coach deep cycle battery each day.  It took it 4.5 hours to go from 12.11V (near 80% discharge after 12 hrs at 2 aH (amp hours)) to 12.84V full charge.

Lighting is provided by LED type 921 lights throughout the coach which really draw very little power.

So, basically I need 10 hours at 2 aH, which should be doable with the existing battery though drainage testing says I'm getting closer to the 20% discharge rate, which Interstate says is OK but it will reduce the number of cycles I can do this.  I don't know when this particular battery was installed; but I do know the previous owner never boondocked.

I think I can reduce power needs to 1aH as well (why run my WiFi access point when asleep?), but more testing needed.

One thing I learned though, is making sure that the battery has sufficient distilled water to cover the lead plates within the battery can be a PITA to do due to space constraints in the battery compartment!  I ended up making such a mess that I bought and installed a water filler kit from Amazon:

Installation was easy peasy, and I  had bought myself a large syringe instead of the recommended hand pump, and so I'm good to go next time I check water levels!  Note: letting air get in contact with the top of the plates in flooded lead/acid batteries ruins those plates!

In order to dry camp in Winter, and without enough battery/solar power, one must winterize parts of the plumbing in the RV.

Heat is provided by the Olympian Wave-8 Catalytic Propane heater instead of the on board forced air furnace which is highly inefficient, uses electricity for the blower fan and is wasteful of propane.  Best part, the Olympian requires no electricity to run.

This means no using the on board fresh water tank but still using the gray and black water tanks; I'll be using a hand pump designed for large 5 gallon plastic water bottles to easily transfer water for use in cooking, washing, flushing.  This method also precludes the power requirements of the water pump since you're not using water from the fresh water tank.

NOTE: The water bottle that is offered with the above pump by Amazon, under the premise of "frequently bought together" doesn't quite work.  I returned it.  Bought instead one of the water bottles at the local Safeway grocery store with the 57.5mm wide cap.  

Yeah, some folks and some RVs fill up their on board fresh water tank and it doesn't freeze.  I choose to not take that chance as the tanks are exposed underneath Umarang.  Testing during previous trips showed the pipes from the fresh water tank can freeze pretty easily when it gets cold enough even when the heater is running within the motor home.

The pipes used for washing/flushing are also within the habitable space of the motor home and as long as I run the heat, should stay unfrozen.  We'll see.

Note: Since I don't have the power (without generator) to run the tank heat pads, one must mix in RV antifreeze when "adding content" to the gray or black water tanks.  RV antifreeze is safe for humans if accidentally ingested, do not use regular car antifreeze!  I figure I can run the heat pads that Umarang came with when on generator power to keep things "liquid".

My thanks to RichardM for putting up with my questions on power usage calculations!

So, in summary, when on generator power, no restrictions on power usage as long as you remember to stay within the power capabilities of the generator.

When on battery, we're asleep, so really not much battery draw.

We'll see how it all works out.


RichardM said...

There is always LiFePO4 batteries. They can be run down 80% so you need less capacity to match your existing AGM battery and they weigh a fraction of lead acid. And, they will deliver their full rated capacity at even really cold temperatures. Just not a lot of current when really cold. Supposedly it is less dollars per usable amp hour per unit time. But I'm not sure I believe them...

RichardM said...

Just placed an Amazon order. See if it works...

SonjaM said...

Interesting to watch the choices of upgrading your RV's between you and Richard.

Boondocking isn't something you'd do much in and around Germany (verboten!), however, in most Scandinavian countries it is legal in most places.

Charlie6 said...

RichardM, I see one purchase, nothing on renumeration yet...perhaps it has to ship first.

As to LiFePO4 batteries, darn things are pricey!

SonjaM, figured folks might be interested in the two paths we're taking...didn't realize boondocking isn't legal in Germany.

Thomas Osburn said...

I am a few years away from being able to do the RV travel thing, but looks great and I enjoy reading and learning.

Thanks for the info.

Charlie6 said...

You're welcome Thomas Osburn...

RichardM said...

Yes, I believe it has to ship...

Steve Williams said...

My brain started to fog over as I read the details of the RV magic. I suppose I"m not ready for that side of life yet. My idea of an RV is a 1983 VW Westfalia vanagon with popup top. The most exotic piece of gear being a sleeping bag.

I loved the short video. The music was great. I need to make one of those sometime....

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Steve for the kind words....your idea of an RV was mine, but then, my loving wife added her input and now it's Glamping. Sadly, once you experience it, its really hard to think of real camping....besides, there is that need of mine for a URRV. (Ural Recovery RV)

RichardM said...

The other reasons I have for batteries and solar are to run the refrigerator on AC power while on the road and to get more life out of the flooded lead acid batteries. I'd like the ability to turn off the propane while travelling down the road. And solar charge controllers really are fully featured battery chargers with an equalization cycle.

Charlie6 said...

We definitely turn off propane while in the road. Fire hazard too high in the event of an accident. Without solar my options are hoping things stay cold till I get to next night's destination, run the 4K while driving or perhaps figure out a way to run the Honda while driving.