I've been kicking this around a bit as a topic for discussion as it comes up often. Perhaps it deserves a thread of its own so here it is.
Hauling energy around is something that just needs doing. We all do it as part of the job of camping. The how and why come in many different shapes and sizes. Basically, it comes down to a combination of three choices: battery, solar or generator. I don't include plugging in to shore power as that's standard equipment. At its core, we are just hauling different kinds of potential energy. Batteries store a finite amount of energy, generators have, by virtue of fuel capacity, a fixed amount of potential energy. You could make the argument that solar power is unlimited, but that has drawbacks as well. It really comes down to how much you need and how you use it.
Inductive versus resistive energy:
It's often bantied about but not so well understood that, for our purposes, energy demands fall into just two categories. At the end of the day, the total energy used for either is less important than how it's made. Resistive energy can be thought of as a constant. I'll use lighting as my example. Turn on a light and energy "starts and runs" at a fixed rate. If a light takes 5 watts to run, it will not take more than 5 watts to "start up". This resistance won't ever change (for all practical purposes anyway) during the life of the light. Anything with a motor, however, uses "inductive energy". Motors take much more energy to start than they do to run. Why? When you first apply energy to a motor it is in a stalled state. Motors have very low resistance, almost zero, when they are not turning. They are by design, a short circuit. As they spin up to speed, the resistance gets higher. That's because the armature is spinning and the brushes only contact the armature as a short circuit for a fraction of a second. Additionally, the load that the motor is turning (think: A/C compressor) is also stalled and therefore needs a lot of power to coax into moving. That's inductive load. Examples of this are the A/C unit, Microwave, ceiling fan and cooling fans for the converter and A/C housing. The small 12 volt fans take very little power, nevertheless they take exponentially more for that fraction of a second to get going. So if all you need is resistive power for lights and clocks and radios, then batteries will do just fine.
There are a few kinds of heaters but most have some sort of fan motor to push air around. The electric furnace I have in my trailer usus, oddly enough, mostly resistive energy. It uses 800 watts for the elements but never takes more than that to "start up". What that means in the real world is that I can calculate my power consumption as 800 watts. There is no "start up" (surge) wattage like in an A/C unit or refrigerator. (To be fair, my furnace has a small fan motor which draws surge wattage, but it's tiny in comparison to the size of the heating elements.) So that means I can calculate my start up and run wattage ad essentially the same. For an A/C unit's inductive load, I need to have a power source that has twice the running energy to start it up. If the A/C unit is rated at, say, 750 watts, I need to have a power source capable of producing twice that, or 1500 watts.
If we didn't have heaters or air conditioning, it would be easy to go a week on the stock battery. There's not much in the way of inductive load that needs to be considered. Few of us, however, do without those things for long.
So what remains is how to carry the energy we need to run the things we want. Back to the basic kinds of stored energy we go.
The best batteries and solar cells in the world will still provide low voltage direct current. Low voltage d.c. Is a fine way to power modest lights, radios and entertainment systems. Heating (including crock pots, toasters and the like) simply draw more power than it's handy to haul around. I won't stump a primer here on Ohms law but suffice to say, if you need high energy (let's just say, more than 200 watts) you need a/c voltage. You simply can't haul anough batteries to get more than that for more than a couple hours. Yes, you can use an inverter to convert d/c to a/c, but the same rules still apply, plus, converters use power and are not particularly efficient either. You end up adding problems as fast as you solve them.
Batteries have half of their rated power available to use. You wouldn't draw your battery to zero any more than you'd drive your TV until you run out. Any energy calculation must be made upon half the capacity of the battery. A generator can produce 100% of its carried capacity. If your generator is rated at X watts and the gad tank holds Y gallons, you'll get X watts for as long as the generator has fuel. It's easy to calculate how much energy you can haul. It's X watts for Y hours. If the gennie puts out 2000 watts and can run for 6 hours on a tank, you have 12000 watts available. Easy. By comparison, if a battery is rated at X amp hours, by converting to watts, then dividing by 2 (half of its capacity) you have its total available energy.
Solar cells are a variation on a theme. Watts available based upon their size and output. The gigantic variable there is the weather. It's reasonable to assume that most of us use much more electricity at night. So any solar option takes us back to batteries.
I get most of my power from my Jeeps generator. It charges my trailer battery as I travel. When I can, I plug into shore power for convenience. When I want to use my heater (most of you can say A/C) off grid, I use my generator. Whichever way works best for you, bear in mind that the best, most efficient way to haul energy around is with a generator. For those who don't like gennies (even the best generator is, or can be, a hassle) then it remains to choose between the remaining options.
Generators are heavy and cumbersome, but so are a couple of high amperage batteries. By any standard other than convenience, generators, being a poor, distant cousin to shore power, are still the most efficient way to carry lots of power. Nothing else comes close. The math requires it.
So for the vast majority of us, the answer is to plug in (one way or another) or do without...
"Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum to place it on, and I shall move the world"
If you are confused about trailer weight, there's plenty of room in the boat most of us are in so climb aboard! lol Actually, you only think it's hard to visualize. It's actually much worse than that! I'm going to go through 3 of the main components of what makes a trailer go down the road either very well or very badly. Trailer tongue weight, Friction coefficient, and Drag. First, trailer tongue weight:
Trailer weight and tongue weight are one of those things that seems like they should be simple, but understanding what's going on ends up being a bit confusing.
Most folks don't get it right away because they don't understand that trailer weight is always a combination of the two; axle weight AND tongue weight. If you weighed the axle, you'd not get the full trailer weight. You must weigh (and add) the tongue weight AND axle weight to get the trailer weight. I've done a few drawings to illustrate.
Let's start with a simple, cargo trailer with a flat bed:
Spend a couple of minutes looking at what gets weighed and where. Pay no attention to my floating battery and propane tank. They weigh nothing right now! So if you look at the axle weight you'll see it's 1,000 lbs. The tongue weight is 100 lbs, so if you add the two, you'll get the actual trailer weight of 1,100 lbs. Let's say the trailer is 10 feet between the axle and the hitch. That makes it easy. If we put weight anywhere between the hitch and the axle, the weight transfers between those two points at 10% per foot. For example, if I put my propane tank directly over the axle:
you'll see that the axle weight has gone up by 50 lbs and the tongue weight has stayed the same. Add the two again and you'll see that the trailer weight is now 1,150 lbs but the "Tongue" weight has stayed the same.
Now move our propane tank to the very front:
Now the trailer weight is 1,150 lbs, the axle weight is 1,000 lbs and the "Tongue" weight is 150 lbs.
Now let's move the propane tank to the center between the axle and the hitch. It starts to get a bit more esoteric at this point:
Again, you can see that the trailer weight has stayed the same at 1,150 lbs, but the weight of the propane tank is now shared equally between the hitch and the axle. Wait for it...Now it gets "really" weird;
This is the point where folks begin to scratch their heads.
The total trailer weight is 1,150 lbs, so that's not changed. The axle weight has gone up MORE than the total weight of the propane cylinder! How can you add 50 lbs and see the axle weight go up by 60 lbs? Take a look at the trailer "Tongue" weight. You can see that it's gone DOWN by 10 lbs. By placing the weight past the axle center, we are turning the trailer into a lever. We transfer the 10 lbs of weight from the tongue and put it on the axle. The trailer weight is still the same and hasn't gone up or down. The weight is transferring between our axle and hitch. Once you get that, the light starts to shine and things start to make a lot more sense.
Happy May everyone. I hope that you are all weathering up to the situation in good shape.
Stay safe, respect and be thankful for our medical pro's keeping us all upright.
Mask up and camp on.....!
Find someone you know in the medical community and fix them up with a sixer or a bottle of wine. Pay it forward...and backward...
A nearby State Park (Summit Lake) had a single spot available for the weekend, so we decided to make a quick trip. Our second with our [email protected], and our second with storms rolling through. We just got the edges of the storm, Saturday morning, and they were over fairly early and fortunately dropped the temps into the 70s. A branch came down on our [email protected], but I couldn't see any damage.
One thing of note, I got to answer my wife's question as to why I always bring a tool roll with me after the sink drain got clogged. Now I have to add one of those little wire snake things to the tool roll, which would have been a lot easier and faster.
Hi all, just thought I'd share the mod I just completed on my 2021 [email protected] 5W.
I'm not an ice cooler person, and i just wanted some drawers to hold my utensils and cups, bowls, pots and pans, this is what I came up with. I have a 12V cooler that stays in the back of the SUV, so this just seems a better use of space for me, once i get a silverware tray...
Removed the microwave and put in a pull out drawer for additional storage.
Bought the doors from Nu Camp to match the existing.
████ SUMMER VACATION 2022 - PHOTOS ████
Did a three-week June trip in Arizona with my wife and dog.
No significant problems, with just reattachment of the propane regulator back to the front of my [email protected] required.
Left San Diego around 4:30AM heading east on HWY8.
The first two camping spots were reserved, since I knew we would need shore power for air conditioning.
First stop was Lake Pleasant, Roadrunner Campground. Temp on the Rav4 read 122°.
Naturally I had to get in the water and get my tires cooled off.
Roadrunner Campground is located around 43 miles north of Phoenix.
Weekdays are calm with a nice atmosphere. Weekends bring the city day use folks.
A few were real asses.
A lot of day use users. Most just wanted to cool off in the water.
Luckily we found dog friendly Scorpion Bay Grill to indulged.
Our next planned stop was Lake Powell. Driving through Flagstaff, we had to stop for breakfast at the Toasted Owl. A well know dog friendly establishment. As we were parking the car and trailer, we noticed smoke and wind.
Sitting down on the patio, we noticed more. Asked the service personnel which way was north and they pointed directly at the area of smoke.
My wife started to panic and we quickly finished up and got back on the road heading north.
We made it through on Hwy 89 before it was closed for four days.
Made it past the smoke and fire only to run into blowing sand. Visibility dropped down to just feet.
Made it to our next planned stop at Lake Powell, Wahweap RV and Campground.
An extremely expensive campground, but we needed shore power once again for the dog.
We were at Lone Rock in 2019 and it was sad to see how low the water was.
Wahweap Marina nearly reaches across the lake.
Lone Rock no longer sits in water. It is dry.
We did get to go to Antelope Canyon (Upper) and got to see some amazing slot canyon formations. Our tour was hosted by a Navajo guide. Not a cheap event ($100 each), but well worth it. We went at around 10:30AM and saved $20 each from our original booked time of 11:30AM. If you go, be aware of the various time zones (Arizona, Utah and Navaho)
The next day we went to Horseshoe Bend. $10 for parking. The short hike was worth the effort.
Back to the lake and once again the low water level was striking. House boats are limited to where they can go.
Antelope Point Launch Ramp ends about 45 feet above the water. Only ramp open is the Stateline Ramp.
After a five day stay at Lake Powell, we drove to Desert View Campground at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
I highly recommend this campground. Reservations as of 2022 are now required. Desert View offers 49 sites which can accommodate tents and smaller RV's. It is possible to make same day call-in and/or online reservations. No electric hookups, two locations to fill up water containers. With my lifetime National Parks Senior Pass, the cost was $9 per night. Five-minute easy walk on a service road to the canyon edge. No people. Drive to Grand Canyon Village (all within the park boundry) takes about 40 minutes (25 miles) where you can mingle with the crowds and take a shower if so desired.
Let me tell you Desert View Campground is a much nicer experience than Grand Canyon Village area.
After some days we headed off to our next destination. "End of the World" Arizona. this site sits in the Coconino National Forest just southwest of Flagstaff. Hwy 89 had recently reopened, so back down the road we went.
End of the World (also known as the Edge of the World) overlooks the Sedona valley. The dirt forest service roads are noted to be about 26 miles. No permit required. We got a little lost, (ok a lot) and traveled on some rough dirt roads. We took the ride very slowly and carefully. My [email protected] is not a boondock edition and thus has very little suspension. My wife was very concerned taking the trip because of the recent forest fires. The trip was worth it. Even though I was very careful, the roads made a huge mess of everything in the trailer. Everything in the cabinets fell out and all the cabinet doors reclosed themselves. This is where the propane regulator came detached.
Our next stay was 12 miles north of Sedona. We got lucky to find a spot at Pine Flat Campground (Coconino National Forest). This campsite is in Oak Creek Canyon with unmatched scenery. Eighteen out of 56 campsites can be reserved. No electricity. $22 per night. I highly recommend the non-reserved sites on the east side of 89A. We drove into Sedona on a daily basis. Driving south of town for some of the views and to Airport Mesa for more views. We had some good food and beer twice at 89Agave Cantina. Dog friendly outside patio with cooling misters.
Next stop was in Clarkdale Arizona to visit the brother of my wife. That was a great visit.
Clarkdale is around three miles east of Jerome and 3 miles west of Cottonwood.
Our final stop was Mayflower County Park, north of Blythe CA. This park is on the Colorado River, but water access is somewhat limited. During the day, the wind picked up and kept the air feeling cooler. This was an ok site except for mosquitoes. I mean lots and lots of mosquitoes. They were not a problem until late evening, night and morning. They were so bad we got up the next morning, hurried to the car and left.
I love traveling. Home is also good. Now to plan the next trip.
Aside from the fact that the 2015 [email protected] we bought this spring just had a stained wood "backsplash" that aesthetically wasn't the best, it also had several screw holes visible from where the previous owner (as well as me), rearranged the shelves/hooks. And there was a bit of damage from where I had used 3M mounting pads to attach a bamboo bin, that ended up being a little too close to the stove for comfort. So we decided to get some peel and stick backsplash from Lowe's.
Also visible in the picture are two LED light strips I mounted to the hatch after finishing the backsplash to give us more control of light brightness and color (hopefully fewer bugs).
I have since added a satin nickel door kick plate on the wall just behind the stove. It detracts from the look some, but I feel it was needed to provide protection from the stove heat (and any splattering bacon grease).
We left in October of 2021 from Florida, and have been trekking all over. Went through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California, the Oregon coast, now we’re in Washington.
We’ve done a lot of boondocking (currently in an improved campground with no hookups), and so far the solar panels work great in the desert, not so much in the PNW! Too many cloudy days and tall trees! The Tag has had some issues. Windows have separated and now won’t open, the sink faucet developed a leak and flooded our camper, pieces have broken off from the trailer, and some of the interior wood pieces are going to need some TLC and new nails. But, we anticipate issues like this. Our Yakima Slim Shady awning broke off in high winds, but we managed to fix it with some items from Lowe’s. 17,000 miles on the Jeep so far, and only a couple minor mishaps there. But, we have seen and done so much, it’s at times overwhelming. Headed into Idaho next, then Montana and Wyoming, then headed back home slowly via South Dakota.
As with the Little Guy I had last year, I did an electric furnace installation in my new Tag XL. Here are a few photos:
The line-voltage wall mounted thermostat. The thermostat is a "set it and forget it" affair. I just dial in whatever temp I want and go to sleep. The thermometer above it came with my Tag. I just stuck it on there.
I mounted the furnace in the unused space behind the TV. I got a 4" stand-off mount for the TV to give me some airspace. The furnace is a 110V, 1500 watt electric selfcontained unit. I split the heating elements so that only 1 is on normally. This is plenty of heat for the trailer. In the event it's extremely cold or I need a quick warmup, I wired the second heating element into a timer so I can dial in a few minutes of mega-warm to get things quickly up to temp.
Here's the control for the second "high" heating element. It's currently a 60 minute timer. It's the smallest increment they had in stock at the local hardware store. I have ordered a 15 minute timer to replace it.
I've been using the furnace for about a month now. That includes a 5 day rain/cold fishing trip on the Wisconsin River with my oldest. The furnace keeps things nice and toasty and and DRY and is extremely quiet. It's much quieter than the annoying "triple-vortex-of-deafness" A/C aux fans. I'm mounting them in rubber soon to reduce the drumming and decibels by about 75%. I'll get to it. I doubt they could have increased the ambient noise of the A/C and aux fans by just mounting a lycoming aircraft engine spinning a 3-bladed prop instead.
I built a sheetmetal mounting box/plenum for the heater and screwed that to the backside of the panel that holds the TV on the wall. The only downside is that in order to get at it I need to remove the insipid A/C unit and then the TV. The upside is that I shouldn't ever have to take it apart unless I'm bored. It'd take about 30 minutes to remove. I pulled power from the A/C plug-in. In the process of doing that, I ditched the cheesy A/C plug socket and cut in a proper remodel box with heavy duty outlet for the A/C. Since the heater is hardwired, there's no plug for that. It stands to reason that I won't be using both the furnace and heater at the same time for obvious reasons. The furnace draws 6.3 amps on low and 11.6 amps on high.
I still need to build a fashionable wooden angled cover to go over the hot-air out on the left side of the TV but have put together a nice oak grill for the cold-air return on the right side of the TV. This installation took a bit more work than the LG furnace I put in, but it works just as well and adds tons to my comfort.