New Camper

Submitted: Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 17:47
ThreadID: 138199 Views:3973 Replies:8 FollowUps:21
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Hi all,

I have just had the privilege of purchasing a new camper and am enjoying it so far, being new to the scene I opted for 3x 100AH batteries to cover myself being away for a week or so, how long should I get out of these bad boys running a 110L fridge freezer LED lights at night only, normal water pump etc, I also have a solar panel however found myself running pretty low after about 5 days, fridge shut off and Ampage was in the mid 10’s also having a fridge freezer combo( everkool) does anyone know what is the ideal temp to run the freezer at for enough chillage in the fridge? Cheers
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Reply By: RMD - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:28

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:28
Johnny R
I think you want the batteries to be good Boys, not bad ones. Firstly, were the batteries fully charged beforehand?
Depending on the ambient temp and fridge/freezer setting, the freezer aspect will use plenty of amperage hours. If you don’t know what the running current draw of the fridge actually is then it is hard to work out expected time use before considering the other devices you also use.
You said the ampage is around 10, I presume you mean amperage of 10 amps and at that constant drain, the 3 batteries will last about 30 hours and will be fully depleted to below a safe level for long life.
Although you have a solar panel it must be able to provide reasonable amp output through the regulator to even attempt some recovery while the sun shines.
A 100 watt solar panel will never give 100 watts in real life and it’s output will be around 6 amps in really good sun conditions. If yours is like this then it is just dribbling a bit of power, not much at all, into the batteries and will not keep up with the drain of amp/hours in a 24 hour period.
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Reply By: Johnny R - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:37

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:37
What shouldn’t voltage not run under? Should I invest in a generator?

Best John
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Follow Up By: RMD - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:47

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:47
Johnny R
If you think you need a generator, more solar is another option, the generator doesn’t have to be a large one. 1 Kv should do it ok. BUT you need a high output amperage 240v charger to run off the generator so a decent amount of charge current can be delivered to the three batteries. A 40 amp 240v to 12v dc charger will only deliver about 13 amps to each battery. If trying to recharge about 50% of charge to each battery then the Genny will have to run for around 5 hrs to get the batteries charged to near full. That is starting from approx 12.2v.
Trying to charge 3 large batteries from the extremely piddley 8 amps of the 12v genny charge system will see you running it all the time on holidays, day and night.
Therefore the cost is Genny + a good 240v high output charger. “Meanwell” make them.
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Reply By: Darian - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:42

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 19:42
One of the electro-gurus might be along soon (I'm not one), but an observation or three of mine might be of use until then....(I fritzed my first set of 3 x deep cycles in my van, due to neglect...been trying to make electrons my best friends ever since :-).
Presuming you have deep cycle batteries of some quality ($$$)...
1. Monitor their voltage when they are working (NOT when idle...batteries that are idle can show 12 volts +, but soon plummet when a device starts up)...your best indication might be when the fridge is running.
2. Don't let their voltage get below 12 at any stage ! To do so shortens their lifespan significantly. In round terms, a well charged deep cycle gets down to 12.8 (+or-) quite soon, but then does all of it's good work as it slowly depletes to 12 volts.
3. Ensure that any regulators used are set for your battery type (you need a suitable regulator too of course... for whatever charge method you employ).
4. To save your batteries when they approach 12 volts, you have no option but to start charging. Some solar is ok, more solar is better (portables can often be best for catching the sun early and late in the day), but...if you can't get the sun you have to generate power ! Using the car \'s alternator via the hitch plug might get you by, but my preferred method is via my 1kw pure sinewave generator that I carry for the purpose.
Oh...and....just as the sun doesn't always shine for the solar panels, generators often can't be used too (noise pollution for other campers and or park regulations etc.).
Summary ? Keep them charged right up as much as you can for as long as you can and never go below 12 volts.
Good luck with it.
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:08

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:08
Thanks Darian,

Much appreciated,
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Follow Up By: nick g1 - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:22

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:22
Go to the blogs section on this website and lookup
Electricity for camping blog. That explains everything. Absolutely fantastic info
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:24

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 20:24
Thanks heaps guys
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Reply By: Keith B2 - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 21:53

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 21:53
Johnny, if you drop below 50% state of charge you will shorten the life of the batteries. Also I'd suggest you get a battery monitor to keep an eye on things.

I have a 95 litre Evakool set on LOW ECON and it keeps stuff cool or frozen as the case may be. I run it off a 200 watt solar and an 85AH battery and still have to run the engine at a very fast idle from time to time if it's cloudy for more than a day or two.

After checking the capacity of your alternator and Anderson plug wiring, you might consider a 60 amp DC-DC charger. Sterling Australia has one. Also some more solar would make sense. Nobody likes to be camped next to anyone with a genny.

AnswerID: 625097

Follow Up By: Shaker - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 22:11

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 22:11
Is there a difference between a four stroke generator & a diesel running at a fast idle?
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Follow Up By: Keith B2 - Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 22:50

Monday, Apr 22, 2019 at 22:50
Good point shaker. My 200 Series at about 1200rpm is fairly quiet. I think a 1KVA generator producing say 60 amps from a charger would be running pretty much flat out. Depends on the genny I guess.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 06:56

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 06:56
I've got a Honda 1Kva and you wouldn't know it was running as it is usually drowned out by the ambient noise around the camp, when I run it - which isn't often, as I have adequate solar if the sun is shining.

My experience has been nobody likes a generator until something fails and they can't run the Expresso machine... ;)

Cheers Baz - The Landy
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:43

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:43
Thanks Keith,

Much appreciated
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Follow Up By: Alloy c/t - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:25

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:25
Baz , will never forget the ludicrous / ridiculousness of Genny VS 4.2lt Patrol on 1 side and a 6lt Cummins conversion Patrol 3 campsites away at Kolan Creek a few years ago , 'Generators Banned' at the council run camp ground due to 'noise' , Mate camped next to me on the right hand side puts his little Honda genny OVER the fence ,off the property 30mt away in the dunes , and runs it in the late morning to recharge batteries , meanwhile at 7am Mr 4.2 patrol starts vehicle and lets run on fast idle for next 2 hrs , and Mr. 6lt does same from 6am to 11am to recharge their batteries , ....Yep ,Mate next door told to 'pack-up' and leave ......No generators allowed due to noise ....
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:32

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:32
Hi Alloy

I’m hearing you, mind you we only run ours (rarely) where it is permitted.

Cheers, Baz
FollowupID: 898715

Reply By: Member - McLaren3030 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:34

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:34
Hi Johnny R, Let me say at the outset, I am not an electrician, nor am I an expert on all things 12 volt, however I have been camping in the Bush for many years. We mostly free camp away from any 240 volt power source. There has been some good advice given in replies to your post already, the best being to check the blog section on the forum regarding 12 volt systems.

My current set up is an Off Road caravan with 2 x 150 Ah deep cycle batteries, 2 x 200 Watt roof mounted solar panels, the van has a 190 Ltr compressor fridge. This normally keeps me going for up to a week in 35+ degree heat, with good sunlight. I also carry 2 x 120 Watt folding solar panels for when the sun doesn’t shine as much. So far this has seen me through most times, wth one exception, when we also had to use the car for an hour both morning & night to top up, we had three days in a row of rain.

Unless I missed something, you did not say what size your solar panel was, but I would suggest that 5 days with your current set up is pretty good. Of course there are a few factors that have an influence on how long your batteries will last. Ambient temperature, how many times you open the fridge, fridge not in direct sunlight etc.

Before spending big money on a generator that you may not be able to use, depending on where you are camped, I would be looking at more solar panels. The Solar Blankets will give you “more bang for your buck” with regard to output, take up less space when folded, but the good ones are expensive. Traditional folding type can be used to “chase the sun” by moving them every hour or so to get the best angle to the sun, and you can get 160 Watt panels these days. However, they take up a bit of room when travelling.

If you really want to be self sufficient with regard to 12 volt power, solar panels in conjunction with a generator when it can be used would be the ideal set up. IMHO, for your current set up, I would have at least 300 Watts of Solar, before getting a generator. Particularly if money is an issue.


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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:41

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 08:41
Thanks heaps Macca,

I agree more solar seems to be the go and I will look into those blankets as my panel does take up a lot of room, I am pretty convinced I ran that freezer way to hard,

You live and learn

Best John
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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 15:26

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 15:26
Possibly, but not necessarily. Freezer should be set to -18 according to food standards, but you can get away with -12. If I understand your fridge/freezer set up, it is a combination unit but with only one compressor supplying both the freezer & the fridge, with the freezer supplying the “cold” for the fridge. It all depends on how many times you open the fridge as to how hard the unit has to work

Some people suggest to turn your fridge off when you go to bed, as if it is well insulted, it will stay cold enough overnight, and then turn it on again first thing in the morning. I do not do this, as I am not convinced this is efficient, as the fridge will not “run” very much overnight anyway, and perhaps have to run harder in the morning when you turn it back on.

When we do not take the van, we use a 60 Ltr Engel as a fridge, & and a 35 Ltr Waeco as a freezer in the car. The car has 130 Ahr deep cycle battery, and the two folding panels I mentioned earlier. This allows us a good two or three days in the one location without having to start the car providing there is sufficient sun.


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Reply By: Member - Penski - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:18

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 09:18
If your Evakool is one of the RF fibreglass models then -12 degrees for the freezer works well. Sometimes liquids close to the fridge divider start to get ice in them after a day or so. Mine is 82l. Also, in higher ambient temperatures of mid 30's plus mine runs almost continuously, particularly when the drawer is closed and airflow restricted.

As others have already said, you need more solar for that amount of battery. I have 400w of solar for 330ah of battery and that seems about right for my use.
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 11:42

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 11:42
Yeah i'm thinking more solar and lower my fridge setting,

Thanks heaps
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Reply By: Member - cruza25 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 10:27

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 10:27
Hi Jonny,
You have some good replies already.

Is the fridge a white fibreglass unit with the compressor on the end. I have this type in the 85lt size and run it at -15 temp and medium setting with the divider in the centre so I have freezer and fridge arrangement.

Make sure you have good size cable from the car to the trailer via the Andersen plug to the trailer to avoid voltage drop.

Do you have a dc-dc charger in the trailer or is it just the alternator charging via the starter battery. For 3 batteries at least a 40 amp charger minimum ( if batteries 50% flat then150 amps needs to go in, so a 4hour drive with a 40 amp charger) If it’s only 25 a charger then you would need to drive all day to recover 3 flat batteries.

What is the tow vehicle as this will indicate charge voltage and alternator output.

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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 11:41

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 11:41
Thanks heaps for the reply,

I have a DC - DC in the camper and nice thick cabling from the car, how many days does your fridge last at -15? also what is the temp in your fridge? yeah it sure is the white fibreglass with the compressor on the end,

Tow vehicle is a Ford Wildtrak

I was running -21 at a low setting,

Thanks again
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Follow Up By: RMD - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 14:35

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 14:35
Do you know what the start/threshold voltage is for your DC DC unit to begin charging? Since it may require a higher than nominal battery voltage to begin, if the Ranger has an ECU controlled alternator, it may not be supplying sufficient to start the DC DC unit and possibly not actually doing much charging of the batteries when travelling. I presume it does run ok and delivers proper charge to the batteries. Worth a check to see if, while running, the aux batteries are getting fed up to approx 14.7 volts on bulk charge and dropping to float at 13.7v later. If not they might not be fully charged when you initially stop.
A little digital voltmeter on the batteries will quickly indicate what is the real situation.
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Follow Up By: Member - cruza25 - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 15:07

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 15:07
Hi Jonny.
Mine is a cub camper with 2 batteries 105ah each. I have a cheap 160w folding panel. A dcdc projecta 25amp charger with solar input is fitted. ( I have removed the regulator off the panel as you can’t run 2)
I always put the fridge on 2 days before we go and freeze everything in the house freezer as required. At -15 the food stays frozen hard. I have one of the Coleman wireless thermometer devices (about $39 off eBay). Depending where you hang the sensor -6 at the top -10 at the bottom and about 2 in the fridge side.

So far we have only stayed for 4nights max between stops and have had enough sun power to keep above 12.4v. Driving between stops for a few hours plus the solar when parked has been ok.

I think a solar blanket or 2 will definitely be needed for longer stays or when reduced hours of sunlight happen.

Ambient temp will make a big difference too. Ours is mounted in a aluminium box on the front of the trailer and gets pretty warm if the sun is on it. I will get some self adhesive insulation from Clark rubber before my next trip.
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 17:45

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 17:45

I also have a 160W panel with a projecta 25amp DC to DC however have 3 batteries at 100amp,

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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 17:48

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 17:48
I’ll also connect her up to the car and check the output on the DC to DC,

I cannot thankyou Guys enough the response has been outstanding,

Best Ringo
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Reply By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 18:35

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 18:35
Hi Guys,

Stupid question but if I add a solar blanket to my 160w how do I connect both together, ie can I use an Anderson splitter?
AnswerID: 625117

Follow Up By: RMD - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 19:18

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 19:18
Johnny R
That is not a stupid question at all. If the maximum open circuit voltage and presumably the full output voltage which is slightly lower and stated in the specs of panels is similar, then yes you can link the panels with a Y feed Anderson or a Y MC4 splitter. That way the regulator, either an MPPT or PWM device, which will hold the voltage lower than full output voltage and will use the current flow available from the panels to good use.
I have had two 80w panels linked in parallel and also added, when required, a folding 120 w panel also paralleled. All works ok and increases the charge into the battery/ies.
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Follow Up By: Johnny R - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 20:03

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 20:03
Thanks champ,

So I assume connecting to a DC to DC would work also as my regulator is bypassed?
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Follow Up By: RMD - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 20:23

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 at 20:23
That is exactly what mine does. A dc dc unit is switching the input current the same as a MPPT regulator does and then they use a microprocessor to calculate and modify/control the charge at various stages during the charging and go to a float voltage when fully charged.
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