Comment: Caravan & Camper Battery Charging

Hi All.
Like many I am kind of new to this type of thing and we've just purchased a cheap camper and have heaps of things to fix and improve. We are about to go on a 4 week trip from Sydney through to Cook Town and will obviously need to look at power. We have a 160W portable Solar system to use to power up the battery when at camp, but just wanted to see what others have used when travelling to maintain the battery ie - DC-DC charger or a straight charge from the car's alternator?
We’re only running a 80L 12v fridge/freezer, LED lights, water pump for sink ...so not using a lot of power in theory.
Also wanted to know how people monitor their battery/ies and if anyone has tried any cheap ebay led monitors or built their own system up (not wanting a system that will cost the earth! or that asks for a pee sample to see how many electrons just left my body! ) I am thinking that we will just need something to tell me the charge going in (from solar mainly), what charge state the battery is in and possibly something to warn when charge drops too low
Really appreciate any ideas, suggestions and corrections with my thinking
Thanks Brad
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Reply By: Member - Chris_K - Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 at 16:59

Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 at 16:59
Hi Brad

There are a couple of threads about solar power & DC-DC chargers on the ExplorOz forum - we have one of these little things in our camper...great for peace of mind, and checking where your hard earned amps are going:

http://www.nasamarine.com/proddetail.php?prod=BM1Compact

Not bad value for money either...

Cheers

Chris
AnswerID: 516398

Reply By: Member - Wozikev - Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 14:59

Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 14:59
Hi Brad - I don't know how much storage capacity you have but I think you will be surprised at just how much battery you will use with your 80 Lt fridge, lighting and pump etc. This is not a problem if you're moving every few days as the vehicle will help top everything up. However, if you park up for a few days you will need to top up the storage by either genny or solar. Solar is great in optimal conditions, but we rarely get that, so most times its performing at 60% or less.
Brad, I discovered long ago that caravanning and camping is only as good as your 12v supply. If your 12v lets you down, all the fun goes out of it pretty quickly. With that in mind I invested good dollars in it. I installed a Redarc BMS 1215 unit which controls and monitors everything. They're a bit exxy but I urge you to have a good look at them.
I input to the BMS from the vehicle, 140w solar panel and Honda 2000 or 240v supply, and it outputs to the storage batteries and keeps everything topped up nicely. This is the type of unit I would recomend. I went for the Redarc, being Australian made, but I'm sure there are others. Mind you the Redarc is brilliant. One last thing - remember the golden rule with 12v - 'use the largest wire that will fit in the hole'. I hope some of this has been of help to you Brad.

Cheers .......................... Kev.
AnswerID: 516442

Reply By: The Bantam - Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 18:18

Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 18:18
As kevvy says.......80 liter fridge is not a light load...and you have said the word....FREEZER......well the game just got more expensive.

DO NOT believe the published average power consumption figures for ya fridge..particularly if you are running as a freezer.

We've crunched the figures and worked the examples before.
160 watts of solar and a 100Ah battery will just about keep up with a 40 litre fridge run as a fridge...may be better than keep up if its sunny and not too hot.

Say the word freezer and all bets are off.

SO..how big was that battery and what brand of generator will you be carrying? :)

cheers
AnswerID: 516452

Reply By: OBT46 - Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 23:18

Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 23:18
I have recently returned from 7 weeks through NT.Qld. & back via the top end. Had a camper trailer with 2 heavy duty batteries apart from vehicle battery. Made the mistake of mounting a portable 120W solar panel on top of vehicle which restricted charging trailer batteries only when hitched up. Was running two 40L Engels...one as a freezer, plus Flouro lights which was fine in the cold south, but couldn't managed for too long on solar only in warmer weather.
Should have taken small battery charger to top up in parks. 120W would be fine for 1 fridge, but suggest bigger one for 2. Had a cheap multi meter for monitoring batteries regularly which was fine ( x Dick Smiths ages ago ).
Normally you should be fine with what you intend, but for peace of mind, I would have a second battery & keep the vehicle one just for that so you don't worry about not starting. Depending on vehicle type you can buy "do it yourself kits" for under the bonnet 2nd battery which isn't that hard to install, or just run fridge etc.& solar charge 2nd battery while stopped for extended periods.
Happy & safe travels
Ian
AnswerID: 516465

Reply By: coastie501 - Friday, Aug 16, 2013 at 11:17

Friday, Aug 16, 2013 at 11:17
Thanks all for your advice....better get the wallet out (or just take the cards off the misses .....for a few weeks anway) Glad to get some real info from others that are actually out there doing it and not just in a show room.

Will keep you all posted once set up

Thanks again...Brad

AnswerID: 516510

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