Popup Electrical Power

Waunakee

New Member
Jul 1, 2022
1
We have been using a 1999 Jayco 10UD popup once a year since buying it new. We camp once a year, for 8-10 days straight in June, at a particular state park campsite having some electric hookups. With the increasing popularity of the park, it appears that 2023 may be the first time in 23 years that we will not be able to reserve an electric site.

I am looking for alternative ways to have power at a non-electric site, and I'd like to get the opinions of others who are more knowledgeable and experienced in doing so.

1. Our furnace/fan draws 3.4 amps at 12VDC (i.e., 40.8 watts). Even given the cool nights near the Canadian border, I estimate from past experience that the furnace/fan is actually only on perhaps 25% of the time at night, or maybe two hours of actual run time each night. I assume that if we purchased a 100 amp-hour lithium battery, we would be able to draw the battery down to 20 amp-hours without harming it. In this scenario, the daily usage for the furnace/fan would be only (2 hours)(3.4 amps) = 6.8 amp-hours. Question #1: Is this a correct assessment?

2. Our refrigerator is capable of running on propane, but we've never done it since we have always had electric hookups. The manual says that it draws 11.7 amps at 12VDC, or 140W. I really don't know what percent of the time it is actually drawing this much current. If I assume that it draws it 50% of the time (i.e., 12 hours/day), this would consume (12 hours)(11.7amps) = 140 amp-hours each day which means that the battery wouldn't even power the refrigerator for half a day. Question 2: Does anyone have any idea what the daily amp-hours a small 2.4 cubic foot refrigerator like this might draw, assuming the outside temperature averages about 75 degrees during the day and perhaps 55 degrees at night? Maybe I am way off in my assumptions, and the refrigerator doesn't really draw down the Lithium battery any more than the furnace would?

We are quite willing to minimize the use of lights if necessary, and if really necessary operate the refrigerator on propane. I can think of two alternatives:

Option 1: Buy a 100 amp-hour Lithium battery and use it only for the furnace, which if my assessment above is correct, would give us 11.7 days. We might even consider buying a second one to take along for added insurance, or if it is reasonable to also use the battery to power the refrigerator and a few lights.

Option 2: Although the campground doesn't allow the use of generators, I don't think that running a small Honda EU2200i generator (2200W maximum, 1800 watt continuous rating) during the mid-day, in conjunction with a typical automotive battery charger, to recharge the Lithium battery for a short while would bother anyone, since they are so quiet (57 dB at 23 feet; normal conversation is 60 dB). Question 3: Any idea how long this would take to charge the Lithium battery? If the generator can put out 1800 watts of power at 120VAC, is it providing (1800 watts/120VAC) = 15 amps, and therefore, at best, I could recharge a battery at a rate of 15 amp-hours each hour that the generator runs?

We're not comfortable using a small propane heater in the popup at night, so that's not an option for us.

Question 4: What has been your experience, what would you suggest, and is there another option to consider?

Sorry for the lengthy post, but having a source of electrical power is important to us so that we can continue to use our popup when we can't get an electric site.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.
 

Snow

Super Active Member
Jul 19, 2007
12,150
Ontario
1- run the fridge on propane.. on 12vdc setting your battery will be dead within 24 hours.
2- take additional blankets, furnace will make the battery dead within a short time, specially if the battery is also running the fridge.
3- if campground rules are "no generators" allowed, follow the rules..
 

1380ken

Super Active Member
Nov 7, 2013
2,917
Mass
You are right, running a generator at a campground that doesn't allow generators wont bother anyone. Good plan.
 

Dingit

Super Active Member
Mar 8, 2017
2,061
As Snow points out, you're using numbers that are for running the fridge on DC, not on propane. On propane it might use a little bit of DC for electronics or it'll use none at all, depending on age and model. So it's not as bad as you think!
 

kitphantom

Super Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
Dec 26, 2009
13,740
Albuquerque, NM
If you can, do a real-world dry run at home. That will give you a better idea of what your specific set-up will do. Having a battery in good conditin will also help matters. And no, please do not run a generator in a campground that does not allow them, even though it may be relatively quiet.
With a 1999, I'm assuming the fridge has a pilot light rather electric ignition. Not sure how that era stands on using power or not for controls, but it's likely pretty insignificant if it does. They also tend to "sip" LP, if that enters into your calculations.
The furnace can be a power hog, as we've found out with both our last popup and our current small travel trailer. We mostly dry camp, and tent camped for decades, so conserving resources is part of our routine. Heat retention measures, and good bedding go a long way, as does not trying to keep the inside at tropical temps. We often have had to be flexible, such as using fleece clipped up around the sides of the popup, so we could take them down during the day and open windows.Camping in the mountains and high deserts mean we can have a temperature swing from freezing to the upper 80sF on occasion. Usually less (like low 40s to upper 70sF), sometimes a bit more.
Solar is a good thing to have. It works well where we camp, but I'd be using it most of the time even if we camped where it didn't work as well and we had a generator (we don't).
 

Sneezer

Super Active Member
Aug 8, 2015
3,042
DFW, TX
Get your fridge to work off propane and that will help. Don’t do thegenerrator thing if the park doesn’t allow it. Few things worse than a camper that blatantly decides to not follow the rules. Even with a quiet one, it is not cool to do, and I guarantee someone will complain to the rangers.

Make sure your battery is in good shape. Maybe consider a 2nd? Solar will help keep it topped off. Will you have good sun during that time frame? If you do I suspect a good set of panels will keep your battery charged even with using the on board furnace at night, although I would just go with warmer bedding and fire up the furnace in the morning to take the edge off.
 

davido

Super Active Member
Jul 17, 2014
1,366
We have been using a 1999 Jayco 10UD popup once a year since buying it new. We camp once a year, for 8-10 days straight in June, at a particular state park campsite having some electric hookups. With the increasing popularity of the park, it appears that 2023 may be the first time in 23 years that we will not be able to reserve an electric site.

I am looking for alternative ways to have power at a non-electric site, and I'd like to get the opinions of others who are more knowledgeable and experienced in doing so.

1. Our furnace/fan draws 3.4 amps at 12VDC (i.e., 40.8 watts). Even given the cool nights near the Canadian border, I estimate from past experience that the furnace/fan is actually only on perhaps 25% of the time at night, or maybe two hours of actual run time each night. I assume that if we purchased a 100 amp-hour lithium battery, we would be able to draw the battery down to 20 amp-hours without harming it. In this scenario, the daily usage for the furnace/fan would be only (2 hours)(3.4 amps) = 6.8 amp-hours. Question #1: Is this a correct assessment?

2. Our refrigerator is capable of running on propane, but we've never done it since we have always had electric hookups. The manual says that it draws 11.7 amps at 12VDC, or 140W. I really don't know what percent of the time it is actually drawing this much current. If I assume that it draws it 50% of the time (i.e., 12 hours/day), this would consume (12 hours)(11.7amps) = 140 amp-hours each day which means that the battery wouldn't even power the refrigerator for half a day. Question 2: Does anyone have any idea what the daily amp-hours a small 2.4 cubic foot refrigerator like this might draw, assuming the outside temperature averages about 75 degrees during the day and perhaps 55 degrees at night? Maybe I am way off in my assumptions, and the refrigerator doesn't really draw down the Lithium battery any more than the furnace would?

We are quite willing to minimize the use of lights if necessary, and if really necessary operate the refrigerator on propane. I can think of two alternatives:

Option 1: Buy a 100 amp-hour Lithium battery and use it only for the furnace, which if my assessment above is correct, would give us 11.7 days. We might even consider buying a second one to take along for added insurance, or if it is reasonable to also use the battery to power the refrigerator and a few lights.

Option 2: Although the campground doesn't allow the use of generators, I don't think that running a small Honda EU2200i generator (2200W maximum, 1800 watt continuous rating) during the mid-day, in conjunction with a typical automotive battery charger, to recharge the Lithium battery for a short while would bother anyone, since they are so quiet (57 dB at 23 feet; normal conversation is 60 dB). Question 3: Any idea how long this would take to charge the Lithium battery? If the generator can put out 1800 watts of power at 120VAC, is it providing (1800 watts/120VAC) = 15 amps, and therefore, at best, I could recharge a battery at a rate of 15 amp-hours each hour that the generator runs?

We're not comfortable using a small propane heater in the popup at night, so that's not an option for us.

Question 4: What has been your experience, what would you suggest, and is there another option to consider?

Sorry for the lengthy post, but having a source of electrical power is important to us so that we can continue to use our popup when we can't get an electric site.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

You can run the furnace off the battery. If your furnace consumes 3.4A with a 25% duty cycle, running 8 hours per day, is indeed 6.8AH/day.

Your fridge should only run on 12v power when you are towing. When you're at a full electric site, it should be on 110VAC, and when camping without hookups, it should use propane. If you were to run it on 12vdc, it consumes 10A per hour. 100% duty cycle, 100% of the day. So 10x24=240AH per day. Forget running it on 12vdc.

You should figure your actual energy budget. I'm pretty sure you're under-estimating the duty cycle on the furnace. And you're not considering water pump, solenoid for the water heater, cell phone chargers, and lights.

Consider these numbers:

Furnace: 10h x 33% duty cycle x 3.4A = 11.22 AH.
Water pump: 2AH
Water heater: 24h * 5% duty cycle x 1.2A = 1.4AH
Cell phone charging: 5AH
Lights (LED): 4h * 100% duty cycle * 1.2A (for a couple of lights) = 4.8AH

Your energy budget is approximately 24AH per day.

A 100w solar panel (solar suitcase, or permanently installed) will replace 32AH on a good day. 15AH on a bad day. On average, it will at least keep up with your energy usage. Even if it falls a little behind, it will sustain you for a week or more, if you have a typical Group 24 flooded battery.

My setup is two Group 24 batteries, one 100w suitcase solar, and an energy budget slightly less than yours (because my furnace consumes 3A not 3.4A). I never have any trouble running down on a week-long trip. Not even close. I almost always replenish what I use, just with solar.

Campgrounds are quite familiar with Inverter style "quiet" generators. They are not an exception to the rule. they are part of what the rule was made for. They may be similar to a conversation in noise level, but they disturb the general peace more than a conversation; conversations don't drone on for three hours a day non-stop (usually) with no break. Even quiet generators make mechanical noise out in nature.

Some campgrounds allow them. If you camp at ones that do, feel free. Use your generator. The rules protect you from karens whining about it. But if the campground says no generators, respect the rule, please.

You sound like a good candidate for solar.
 
Last edited:

Dave Brick

El Cheapo Family Camper
Nov 29, 2010
229
We have been using a 1999 Jayco 10UD popup once a year since buying it new. We camp once a year, for 8-10 days straight in June, at a particular state park campsite having some electric hookups. With the increasing popularity of the park, it appears that 2023 may be the first time in 23 years that we will not be able to reserve an electric site.

I am looking for alternative ways to have power at a non-electric site, and I'd like to get the opinions of others who are more knowledgeable and experienced in doing so.

1. Our furnace/fan draws 3.4 amps at 12VDC (i.e., 40.8 watts). Even given the cool nights near the Canadian border, I estimate from past experience that the furnace/fan is actually only on perhaps 25% of the time at night, or maybe two hours of actual run time each night. I assume that if we purchased a 100 amp-hour lithium battery, we would be able to draw the battery down to 20 amp-hours without harming it. In this scenario, the daily usage for the furnace/fan would be only (2 hours)(3.4 amps) = 6.8 amp-hours. Question #1: Is this a correct assessment?

2. Our refrigerator is capable of running on propane, but we've never done it since we have always had electric hookups. The manual says that it draws 11.7 amps at 12VDC, or 140W. I really don't know what percent of the time it is actually drawing this much current. If I assume that it draws it 50% of the time (i.e., 12 hours/day), this would consume (12 hours)(11.7amps) = 140 amp-hours each day which means that the battery wouldn't even power the refrigerator for half a day. Question 2: Does anyone have any idea what the daily amp-hours a small 2.4 cubic foot refrigerator like this might draw, assuming the outside temperature averages about 75 degrees during the day and perhaps 55 degrees at night? Maybe I am way off in my assumptions, and the refrigerator doesn't really draw down the Lithium battery any more than the furnace would?

We are quite willing to minimize the use of lights if necessary, and if really necessary operate the refrigerator on propane. I can think of two alternatives:

Option 1: Buy a 100 amp-hour Lithium battery and use it only for the furnace, which if my assessment above is correct, would give us 11.7 days. We might even consider buying a second one to take along for added insurance, or if it is reasonable to also use the battery to power the refrigerator and a few lights.

Option 2: Although the campground doesn't allow the use of generators, I don't think that running a small Honda EU2200i generator (2200W maximum, 1800 watt continuous rating) during the mid-day, in conjunction with a typical automotive battery charger, to recharge the Lithium battery for a short while would bother anyone, since they are so quiet (57 dB at 23 feet; normal conversation is 60 dB). Question 3: Any idea how long this would take to charge the Lithium battery? If the generator can put out 1800 watts of power at 120VAC, is it providing (1800 watts/120VAC) = 15 amps, and therefore, at best, I could recharge a battery at a rate of 15 amp-hours each hour that the generator runs?

We're not comfortable using a small propane heater in the popup at night, so that's not an option for us.

Question 4: What has been your experience, what would you suggest, and is there another option to consider?

Sorry for the lengthy post, but having a source of electrical power is important to us so that we can continue to use our popup when we can't get an electric site.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.
davido has given really good advice. Solar is your best option. If you can swing it, a solar panel and a solar "generator" ( jackery or other brand), makes things really simple, as far as charging phones or tablets. Otherwise, just use the panel to top off your house battery. If you haven't already, replace all your interior lights with LEDs, which draw very little power. Also, solar panels are durable and don't need gas or maintenance, and are silent. They seem to be rated to last 25 years or so. Also, no question, run the fridge on propane.
 

decypher

Member
Jul 16, 2020
73
If you budget allows, I strongly suggest you consider a LIFEPO4 battery. Much more energy stored, longer lifecycle, and less worry than flooded lead-acid. Honestly, the caveots are making sure your power plant supports the charging option and that you don't try to charge in freezing conditions. Outside of that, cost is the only factor, IMO
 

SteveP

Super Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
May 21, 2015
2,550
If you budget allows, I strongly suggest you consider a LIFEPO4 battery.
My first though was "Naw." But the more I think about it the more sense it makes. An LA battery, to remain in top shape for dry camping needs to be maintained, either a battery maintainer or charged monthly to avoid sulfation, plus periodic checking for fluid level. An LA battery left untended for a year will need to be replaced yearly. A disconnected LFP battery stored at 30 to 50% SOC would need to be checked, and possibly charged twice during the year.

A 100 AH LFP battery with a 100 or 200 watt solar system, with an LI capable controller, should keep you going indefinitely based on your stated needs. Use the solar for a couple of days prior to your trip to top off the battery. Just don't expect it to run your A/C or power your wall outlets.
 

decypher

Member
Jul 16, 2020
73
My first though was "Naw." But the more I think about it the more sense it makes. An LA battery, to remain in top shape for dry camping needs to be maintained, either a battery maintainer or charged monthly to avoid sulfation, plus periodic checking for fluid level. An LA battery left untended for a year will need to be replaced yearly. A disconnected LFP battery stored at 30 to 50% SOC would need to be checked, and possibly charged twice during the year.

A 100 AH LFP battery with a 100 or 200 watt solar system, with an LI capable controller, should keep you going indefinitely based on your stated needs. Use the solar for a couple of days prior to your trip to top off the battery. Just don't expect it to run your A/C or power your wall outlets.
Bingo. Size is an issue for me as well and LFP is more compact. I can rely on it when I need it unlike LA counterparts.

I dont think you even need to charge the LFP 2x year if its not used (Though they are built for a higher cycle usage).
 




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