Boondocking Discussions on dry camping
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Old 12-29-2014, 09:25 AM   #1
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Default My generator solution

Looking to do some boondocking out west in summer. When temps reach over 100 degrees air conditioning is for us a necessity. I looked at several solutions. The A/C takes almost 3 KW to run. Looked at several good 3 to 3 1/2 KW units. They were in the $2,000 range. The problem is at about 150# they were a little too much for my old back. I was at Costco, and saw a Smarter Tools 2000 generator with a Yamaha engine. On looking at it closely, it seems almost identical to a Yamahs unit. It weighs 46# dry. I can handle that. Our tow vehicle is a Suburban so leaving it in the truck running is not an option. Here is the trick. There is a connection cable kit that will combine 2 that will give a little over 3 KW continuous. I paid $599 each plus $60 for the connection kit. Can't wait to try it all out. When air is not needed, one will work fine for topping up the batteries.
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Old 12-29-2014, 10:00 AM   #2
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That setup should work fine for you.

One problem you're going to run into is that most campgrounds don't let you run generators all the time, since they produce some noise that irritates other campers. It's common to have generator use periods that span about 2 hours in the morning and then maybe 3 hours in the evening. The rest of the day, and night is considered "quiet time".

I think if you're going to be camping at low elevations, where you'll need AC, you'd be best served to camp in places with electrical hookups. That's what we do. Otherwise, we stay in high elevation places (at or above 8,000 ft).

Of course if you don't stay in a designated campground, you can do pretty much as you like.

- Jack
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Old 12-29-2014, 05:15 PM   #3
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That setup should work fine for you.

One problem you're going to run into is that most campgrounds don't let you run generators all the time, since they produce some noise that irritates other campers. It's common to have generator use periods that span about 2 hours in the morning and then maybe 3 hours in the evening. The rest of the day, and night is considered "quiet time".

I think if you're going to be camping at low elevations, where you'll need AC, you'd be best served to camp in places with electrical hookups. That's what we do. Otherwise, we stay in high elevation places (at or above 8,000 ft).

Of course if you don't stay in a designated campground, you can do pretty much as you like.

- Jack
Thanks, yeah that is pretty much like I see it. I think it is really false economy to run a generator in a CG with hook ups. Hooking up is probably cheaper in the long run, and no power shedding in the trailer makes life easier.

We also live in the Southeast where there are no 8000' elevations. That and the humidity can make A/C almost mandatory.

We are just now really getting the Hi Lo the way we want it. Looking forward to a trip to Maine and Canada in late spring.

Don
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Old 12-29-2014, 07:56 PM   #4
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Default Generator

I have read where some have used a winch system to lift a heavy generator.
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Old 12-29-2014, 08:31 PM   #5
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I have read where some have used a winch system to lift a heavy generator.
That is something I haven't thought of. It would probably work well with a pick up truck. I would have to figure out how it would work with a Suburban. The two units at less than 50# each are sure easy to get out. The two would only be used when air conditioning. One will carry everything else with the fridge on propane.

Keep the ideas coming. Hopefully, we are about to get this thing figured out. I am rebuilding the bed platform for the new mattress. I can finish it now that I have a generator. The storage place doesn't supply power. Maybe in a week or so we will give it the first try.
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Old 12-31-2014, 05:34 AM   #6
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Default Generators

Ran in to a problem this weekend... Camped at a campground that did not allow generators! Met a fellow a couple of weeks ago that uses solar panels. Anyone has any thoughts on this one?
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Old 12-31-2014, 09:14 AM   #7
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Ran in to a problem this weekend... Camped at a campground that did not allow generators! Met a fellow a couple of weeks ago that uses solar panels. Anyone has any thoughts on this one?
Solar panels won't produce enough power for air conditioning, but they will produce enough to maintain a charge on batteries. You can get by on less if you're careful, but I would not get one with less than 80W output. You actually will NOT get 80W from this thing in use though. I think you would be lucky to get 40W average, which, at 14V (a charging voltage), means you are sending about 3 Amps into the battery.

To optimize the charge, you need to orient the panel so that it's perpendicular to the sun's rays, which means you are constantly adjusting its position during the day. Shade, clouds and dirt effect the output too, as does heat.

Before considering a campground, I always see if generators are permitted. I have a 1000W Honda generator, that is very quiet, but I still can't use it outside generator hours. AND, if the fire danger is severe, generator usage may not be permitted either.

Overall, I think a generator with a solar panel backup could be the best solution to power requirements.

- Jack
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Old 01-03-2015, 05:56 AM   #8
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Thanks, Jack. Looking into solar power to recharge batteries. Your input helped a lot. Happy camping.
Mary Lou
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Old 01-03-2015, 09:56 AM   #9
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Thanks, Jack. Looking into solar power to recharge batteries. Your input helped a lot. Happy camping.
Mary Lou
You're welcome! I may have to revisit solar too. At one time I tried four15W panels (to produce 60W total). I found I could get just a tad over 2 Amps on a clear day, with the panels oriented perfectly. They were heavy and bulky and frankly, more trouble than they were worth.

I ultimately gave up on them and got a small generator. The single, large output panels have come down in price though, and they might be more convenient.

- Jack
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Old 01-27-2015, 10:50 AM   #10
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Jack. Just to clarify you mean two amps per hr with that set up, correct?
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Old 01-27-2015, 01:41 PM   #11
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Yes, I do Hiltool. I measured the current with a multimeter I always have with me when we go camping.

But, as an update, I'm going to try solar again! I've discovered these panels: 100W Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel | Renogy Store (They're cheaper through Amazon, where I ordered mine.)

I've gotten two, so I have the potential of 200 Watts total, and, I'm going to wire them in series to send the power to an MPPT controller, this one: 20Amp MPPT | Renogy Store which I also found cheaper through Amazon.

The advantage of wiring the panels in series is that it reduces the Amperage to the controller, allowing you to use smaller wires - I'll use 10 gauge. Then, the controller will step the voltage down to a safe charging voltage while raising the Amperage to charge the batteries. I'll have a fairly short run of wire from the controller to the batteries, so I THINK I can stay with 10 gauge wire there too, but, if not, I'll get 8 gauge. I'm fairly sure I'll see between 6-8 Amps output from the controller.

You need an MPPT controller, as opposed to a PWM version, to step down the higher voltage from the series wired panels, and, this kind of controller is supposed to control the charging current better too.

The panels weigh only 4 lbs each, they are very thin, and I plan to secure them to the roof with 4" Eternabond tape all around. I MAY also put screws through the grommets, but I'm not sure of that yet. I'll also use Eternabond to secure the wiring to the roof.

My only problem is how to route the wires into the trailer. I MAY drill a hole to do this, or, I may run the wires down the black water vent pipe. I haven't really gotten to the trailer to find the best approach yet since the weather's been cold and sometimes wet.

The big advantage of this setup, is that I can have the solar panels helping to maintain the battery charge while traveling, as well as maintaining the batteries while camping.

Anyway, when I get to it, I'll take pictures and keep you all updated on my results.

- Jack
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Old 01-27-2015, 02:06 PM   #12
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Jack

I am intrigued. I will have to research this strategy myself- but it sounds enticing. The one thing I would do different is see if I could construct a system that would allow me to detach the panels while camped and place them where I prefer to maximize angle and sun access. I realize this is more of an issue in the northern latitudes where there is more angle to capture as well as more shade to potentially deal with. So- if you would want to engineer and build something like that and then send me the plans I would sure be appreciative.

Seriously, though, sounds like a cool idea and I'd love to see how its working once you get it up and running.

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Old 01-27-2015, 04:51 PM   #13
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Rick, one of the main reasons I DON'T want to have the panels on some exterior mount is that they could be easily stolen. We want to be able to leave the system in a charging mode all day, whether we are there or not - and we usually go off hiking or something similar during the days.

Additional reasons are if the panels are permanently mounted to the roof, they will help out with keeping the batteries charged during travel even with the refrigerator running on DC, especially if we are stopped for lunch or something similar.

And, the MPPT controller is designed to be permanently mounted on a vertical surface, with space above and below it for proper ventilation. There are cooling fins on the backside.

But, I hear you with your concern for the sun angle. I'm hoping that having the panels connected all day long will compensate for the reduced sun angle on the roof. That's also one reason I elected to go with two panels instead of one. I found that my old 60 Watt panel setup could just about keep up with our electrical needs as long as I put them out at every available moment we were in camp and if I kept them sited optimally to the sun. But, it quickly became a chore. And, they were bulky and heavy.

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Old 01-27-2015, 08:32 PM   #14
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We recently went to our local RV show. The dealer from our RV dealership showed us a conventional TT with the option for a plug in solar panel at the lower passenger side. I understand wanting to position it in the sun. I would be concerned about theft at $400.00.
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Old 05-04-2015, 11:50 PM   #15
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As far as solar goes I think the MPPT controller is not worth the extra money, you could add another 100W panel for the cost and even with reduced efficiency of the PWM would ultimately get more amp hours. If you totally cover the roof with solar panels, then to get the most out of them a MPPT would be needed. Even then you will not be able to run a rooftop A/C unit long and you would need a big heavy, expensive battery bank and expensive high power inverter as well.
I just got a smaller 1000W portable AC unit, and a 2000W generator, but hopefully will also add 2-3 of those 100W panels and a simple PWM controller. Still no way you could run even the small AC on solar and battery for more then 1/2 hour or so.
Why I want to try and build a quiet box for the generator. It already is super quiet Westinghouse 2000iXLT), but with some kind of box it will make less noise then the AC does and nobody will know i got a generator running... except I guess they would wonder why I have my AC running and they are sweating.
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Old 03-19-2017, 04:01 PM   #16
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I bought two of these for a road trip out West. Worked out great!
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