Let’s Go Camping
Camping in the great outdoors is better with batteries. But low voltage can ruin your camping adventure. Low batteries cause refrigerators not to cool, furnaces and water heaters not to light, jacks and slide-outs to fail.
Debunking the Surface Charge Myth
Plug in your RV 24 hours before your trip, check your monitor, battery reads 100%. Congratulations-- you have surface-charged a deep cycle battery. This charge is very light and within hours of camping, your RV could start showing the effects of low voltage. Things not working right? What’s wrong with this RV? Your options now are: to plug into a generator; or run your car and charge through the pigtail. This will only surface charge your batteries. The answer is? Have a battery maintenance plan.
Not an option…
Leaving your RV plugged in to 120-volt for storage is a fast way to boil your batteries. The constant 3amp charge from your converter is great for use, but not for storage.
Leaving your RV parked in storage with your batteries, planning on charging it before the next trip.Option 1
Battery Maintainer. Remove the battery from your RV and take it home to your garage. Put it on a wood bench and attach it to a deep cycle battery maintainer. These can run anywhere from $150 to $300. You get what you pay for with maintainers-- check them out and compare different brands for deep cycle batteries.
Solar is our most popular option due to ease of use. Solar is more than the 1 or 2 panels installed on your roof. The heart of the system is the charge controller that maintains a charge to your batteries to keep them full. This is a simple no mess approach to storage that keeps your RV ready to go anytime. Average cost $1,000 to $2,000. Our most popular roof-mounted system sells for $1,500.
Water Your Battery
Most RV deep cycle batteries are called flooded-cell batteries. Maintaining them is quite easy. Every month in the summer, less in the winter, pull the caps off the top of your battery and check their level. If low, add distilled water. However, only do this when the batteries are fully charged. If not, deep charge the batteries before adding water.
One RV, Two Electrical Systems
Your RV has two separate electrical systems: a 12-volt DC electrical system and a 120-volt AC system. The 12-volt system is powered by a battery (or in some cases, multiple batteries), and it powers the start-up on your water heater, furnace, and refrigerator, jacks, slide-outs, most of the lights in your RV’s living space, your water pump, your carbon monoxide detector, and a number of other things. The 120-volt system is powered by an RV electrical hookup plug or a generator, and it powers daily use items such as the air conditioner, microwave and TV.
RV Power Sources: The Low-Down on Batteries
Your RV’s 12-volt system needs to have a total of — you guessed it — 12 volts. This can be achieved with a single 12-volt battery or several 12-volt batteries wired together in a parallel circuit. However, using two 6-volt batteries wired together in a series circuit (to essentially create a 12-volt battery) is typically better than using a single 12-volt battery. This configuration will usually give you a much longer battery life, or what’s referred to as a deeper discharge time. The trade-off for using two 6-volt batteries is that two batteries take up more space than one. However, that trade-off may be worth it if your camping needs require that extended battery life. When you’re plugged into a campground RV electrical pedestal (or any power source), your 12-volt battery (or batteries) automatically charges. If you’re boondocking or dry camping, and not plugged in, you can use your batteries to power anything that runs off 12-volt. Adding an inverter to the mix will convert the 12-volt battery’s direct current to a 120-volt alternating current so you can power appliances that need 120 volts and use your vehicles electrical outlets. It’s good to know how much discharge time you have, since your RV’s 12-volt system, like all batteries, will eventually run out of juice and need to be recharged.
Keep the Light On:
How to Maintain Your RV Generator
As the source of electricity for your lighting, appliances, and even safety, your generator should always be one of the top priorities on your RV maintenance list. But, what exactly should you be on the lookout for? Read on to discover a few tricks to ensure you get the most out of your generator, no matter what the occasion.
Why is consistent maintenance so important?
One of the biggest perks of owning an RV is the ability to travel nearly anywhere with modern-day luxury at your fingertips. However, this often lands avid motorhome travelers in scenarios where they may be miles away from a mechanic or repair services at any given time, making continual upkeep imperative for use. Items to be inspected, adjusted and replaced are prescribed by the maintenance manual for your generator. Our service department can help you determine what maintenance is required based on the age and hours on your generator.
Each time you embark on a new adventure in your RV, you should be able to take peace of mind knowing every part of your vehicle is functioning optimally to avoid any untimely or unsafe happenings.
Start it up!
Luckily, the most important aspect of maintaining your RV’s generator is fairly easy, as one of the most common issues with generators comes with lack of use. When your generator sits stagnant for extended periods of time, the fuel will begin to decompose, creating a sticky residue that often causes hard starts or surging. Additionally, an infrequently-used generator may accumulate excessive moisture, which can cause added damage.
Even one month of idleness can mean major problems for your generator, and if your RV travel frequency doesn’t put you on the road that often, it’s important to make room in your RV maintenance schedule to gear up your machine and exercise the generator every three or four weeks to keep it in good shape. Once started, be sure to run it for about two hours with at least a 50 percent load on it, meaning either the air conditioner or heating units, depending on the temperature. Doing this will help take care of your generator so it’s road-ready whenever you are.
Check it out.
In addition to consistently running your generator to keep it healthy, you should also be aware of the component and the space around it. Before you turn it on, be sure to check for fuel or oil leaks, and ensure the oil level is safe. The air and fuel filters may also need special attention, so inspect them to make sure they’re functioning properly. Especially when traveling through dry or dusty areas, these filters can get full quite quickly, and may need to be cleaned or changed more often than normal.
Extended storage can create problems with the generator’s carburetor because the parts and passages are very small. Varnish is a result of old fuel that can collect in the jets or on the needles and will diminish their function. A few signs that the generator may be experiencing this problem are difficulty in starting, surging and abnormally high or low run speeds. Take into account that varnish can also be cumulative. Fuel stabilizers work wonders in preventing this problem when used properly. If the varnish buildup has already occurred, you will probably need to have the carburetor either rebuilt or replaced. Most motorhomes are designed so that the generator will stop running when the fuel tank is around the quarter-full mark. After the fuel treatment (STA-BIL is a good choice) is added, exercise the generator for the recommended time and load; you will then be ready for extended storage.
Voltage and hertz are commonly overlooked maintenance considerations, yet these are critical values for proper and safe operation of 120-volt AC appliances and accessories. When linkage and carburetors begin to wear they collect dirt and dust. As a result, many of the adjustments slowly begin to change. After a few hundred hours or several years of normal use, voltage will also change. Sometimes you can detect these problems as the run speed may become a little faster or slower.
A simple meter such as the Kill A Watt P4400 can measure voltage and hertz at a glance by way of its digital read out. If the readout on the Kill A Watt meter is outside the normal limits of your generator’s voltage or hertz, service is in order. You might want to avoid powering sensitive electronic devices until that service is completed.
Whether you’re using the generator or shorepower, being continually mindful of necessary voltage parameters is an important part of RVing. In addition, making a plan to properly care for and maintain your generator will ensure years of extended service so that the next time you push the start button, you’ll have the power to meet the electrical needs of your RV without the in-convenience of hookups.
RV Refrigerator Maintenance and Usage Tips
- Turn it on early — Your fridge will need at least 6 hours to fully cool down. Turn it on the night before you plan to use it. Start with cold stuff — Loading the RV refrigerator with cold items will help it cool down faster.
- Don’t overload it — It’s important to leave space for cool air to move between items, ao make sure not to overpack your camper fridge. Install a fan — If you plan on camping in very hot weather, you will want to purchase and install a small refrigerator fan to help keep your unit cool.
- Keep it shut — Opening the fridge and freezer doors often will make the unit work harder to stay cool, so keeping the doors shut as much as you can is the way to go. Check the seals — Loose or dirty seals can also let cool air escape. Check your seals regularly and clean and replace them as needed.
- Take time to thaw — Trailer and motorhome refrigerators and freezers are not frost-free. If you’ll be using yours for an extended period of time, make sure to take time to thaw them out from time to time.
- Stay level — RV refrigerators can be ruined if run while unlevel, so be sure you’re always level while using yours.
- Don’t sit for long — Leaving your fridge sitting without running it can also damage it. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you run it as often as possible.
- Check for obstructions — Regularly check the back and front vents for obstructions (such as leaves and debris) and remove anything you find there.
- Change the settings — You may find that you need to change the settings based on the weather. For instance, hotter weather may call for a cooler setting. Meanwhile, cooler weather will not require the fridge to work as hard, meaning a lower setting should be fine.
- What’s my temp? – Put a water bottle with a digital thermometer poked through the lid up against the cooling fins in your refrigerator to accurately check your temperature. Add another water bottle in your freezer, and check back later.
RV Refrigerator Types
- 2-way RV Refrigerator: gives the user the option of running the fridge using either 1) AC power (shore power or generator), or 2) LP gas.
- 12v Refrigerator: designed specifically for RVs and runs off your battery. Easiest to use and cools very quickly-- typically has larger capacities than RV LP gas models. If you plan on dry camping solar would be highly recommended.
- Electric-only Residential-type Refrigerators: just like your home fridge, installed by the factory. It’s important for the user to understand that compressors and other internal components of residential refrigerators can be damaged by travel over time. That said, these fridges tend to offer more storage capacity and better cooling.
How Much Propane Does an RV Refrigerator Use?
Many people—especially those who plan to do a lot of dry camping—wonder how much LP gas their RV refrigerator will consume. Obviously, the answer to this depends on the refrigerator in question and the temperature while the fridge is in use, among other things. However, one can typically expect to use an average of 1.5 lbs of propane per day when running their RV refrigerator.
How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?
You see, these RV-specific units do not work in the same way a household unit does. Your everyday residential fridge uses a compressor to keep things cool. Meanwhile, an RV fridge has zero moving parts and uses ammonia, hydrogen gas, and water to maintain the cold temperatures needed to keep food fresh. This type of fridge is called an absorption refrigerator. In simplest terms, an absorption fridge works by using heat to send the fluids mentioned above through various tubes, creating chemical reactions. The evaporation and condensation created by these reactions keeps things nice and cool.
When a camper is connected to shore power or a generator, the heat needed to run the camper refrigerator is created by a heating element. Otherwise, an open flame produced by propane keeps the fridge up and running
Is It Safe to Run on LP While Traveling???
While driving you would need to operate the refrigerator on propane (or AC if you keep your generator on). This begs the question, is it safe to operate on LP while driving on unlevel ground?
The simple answer is that it's your RV and that's up to you. We always tell people that it's completely fine to run on LP during travel and that it's one of the big benefits of having a gas absorption refrigerator. Some people state that problems could arise from the off-level operation of hills and incline driving, but the cooling system should be able to operate just fine. The up-and-down driving will allow the ammonia solution in your gravity-operated cooling unit to flow normally. If you are in an accident and break the gas line in the process, there is a potential for a fire and/or explosion as a result which is very important to know. Norcold refrigerators can run 6-8 hours while losing no more than 4 degrees within the compartment. To ensure maximum performance, open the refrigerator as few times as possible.
How to Winterize Your RV Water Pump With Antifreeze
Once the summer season ends and your recreational vehicle will no longer be used for weekend camping excursions, the vehicle's water system should be winterized. Even if the RV will be taken out periodically during the colder months, the water pump and water system must be protected from frigid temperatures when it is parked. Winterizing your RV's water pump and water system with RV antifreeze will prevent water that may be trapped in pipes from expanding and damaging your water lines.
Drain the fresh water and hot water tanks by opening their draining valves. You will also need to drain the black and gray water holding tanks. Close all of the valves after they are drained, except the gray water hold tank valve.
Turn the water heater's by-pass valve so it is in the by-pass position. The by-pass valve can be found near the water heater's incoming lines.
Remove the water line between the fresh water tank and fresh water pump. You may need a ratchet to loosen the line at the point where it enters the fresh water tank.
Place the end of the water line into the opening of your RV antifreeze jug. Remember to purchase antifreeze that is specifically designed for use in RVs.
Turn on the RV's fresh water pump. Allow the pump to run for several minutes. The pump will turn itself off once pressure begins to build.
Turn on the RVs sink and shower faucets. Leave them on until a small amount of antifreeze begins to pour out and return each faucet to the off position.
Remove the water line from the RV antifreeze container and reattach it to the fresh water tank.
Turn the gray water tank valve to the off position.
Flush the toilet inside the RV continuously until the bowl has been filled with antifreeze. Pour RV antifreeze down each sink and shower drain.
Helpful Video Links
The More you Know with Jayco - Tanks & Plumbing - Jayco RV
The More you Know with Jayco - What do I do if...? - Jayco RV
The More you Know with Jayco - AC Units (1) - Jayco RV
The More you Know with Jayco - AC Units (2) - Jayco RV
The More you Know with Jayco - RV Slide-outs - Jayco RV
The More you Know with Jayco - Tires & Axles - Jayco RV
Jayco JayCares - LP Gas - Jayco RV
Jayco JayCares - RV Slides & Slide Maintenance - Jayco RV
Jayco JayCares - RV Water Heater Basics - Jayco RV
Jayco JayCares - Maintain RV Seals - Jayco RV
RV Battery Maintenance