Last week we looked at how to conserve your batteries in the boondocks, this week we will look at how to recharge them when they get low.
The most common mistake RVers make is buying a generator large enough to run their air conditioner and think that the larger the generator the faster their batteries will recharge. In 99% of the cases this assumption is false. The average RV comes equipped with a 40 amp converter charger. By description you would assume that this unit would charge at 40 amps per hour. Again a false assumption. The charge circuit is a meager 3 amps per hour. In other words, to put 30 amps back in the battery bank, you will have to run your generator 10 hours! Good thing you are boondocking or your RVing neighbors would not be happy campers. Most generators also have a 12 volt outlet for charging batteries. Unfortunately, the results aren’t much better than using the converter charger as the 12 volt output on most generators is less than 10 amps per hour. There are two easy ways to get more amps in your batteries while running your generator less:
1) Purchase a high quality battery charger with at least a 40 amp charge rate and hook it up when your batteries need a good charge. Now for every hour of generator run time you will put 40 amps back in your batteries rather than the 3 amps your RVs stock converter charger would provide.
2) Install a 3 stage converter charger in your unit of at least 40 amps. (Sizing is dependant on the capacity of your battery bank). This will let you quickly charge your batteries like the example above, but is permanently installed and will do a much better job of maintaining your batteries when hooked up to shore power. Some converter chargers can be easily upgraded to a 3 stage unit, check with your RV dealer for details. Note: You will only need a 1,000 to 2,000 watt generator to power the above two options. A smaller generator means less weight, less noise and less fuel consumption.
Plan on doing other activities that require battery power when recharging your batteries, like showering, doing the dishes, watching TV, etc. The converter portion of your converter charger will supply the power for these items while the charger portion charges the batteries at its rated capacity.
Pages have been written about using solar panels to power the needs of your RV. Solar power is: quiet, efficient and requires no fuel. If you are going to become a serious long term boondocker, you will want to look into solar power. Google: Solar power RV, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy an afternoon of reading.
If you are just starting out boondocking and haven’t had the chance to invest in a generator or solar panels, the charge system on your motorhome or tow vehicle can be used to charge your battery bank. Idling the engine isn’t a very efficient way to charge your batteries, but it can be used to extend your boondocking adventure for a day or two.
Don’t let the availability of a 120 volt outlet keep you from enjoying one of the best camping experiences in life. Get out there and try an unplugged boondocking RV adventure today!
Next week we will look at how to maximize the use of your holding tanks when boondocking.
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Hugh McBride says
question. I was told if I leave my RV’s electrical connection plugged into the tow vehicle, the tow vehicle’s battery can be drained by using electrical devices in the RV. This with the tow vehicle turned off. Apparently there is an electrical connection between the two as long as they are plugged together.
Given this, what if I connected the tow vehicle’s battery to a solar cell designed to keep it charged. What that in turn potentially also charge the RV’s battery. And if not…why no?