Electrical Management

Quartzsite Getting There Staying There
Agenda Electrical Management Name Tag/Sticker Request

One of the concerns expressed about attending Quartzsite is there is no plug in power.  Energy management is a good thing to master, regardless of where you camp.

There are two electrical systems in our RV’s. The first system is a 12V Direct Current (DC) system that powers the interior lights, the refrigerator, the propane furnace, the entertainment center, the water pump, and the exhaust fans, and the energy for that is stored in the batteries. Stock batteries have the lowest energy storage capacity, and lithium batteries have the highest. The batteries are charged by the RV engine alternator, solar panels if installed, and the coach generator.

The second system is a 120V Alternating Current (AC) system. The 120VAC system is powered by a generator, plugging into the grid (not available at Q) or powered by an inverter that transforms 12VDC battery energy into 120V power. Depending upon the year and floor plan, batteries installed and modifications, the inverter only powers selected 120VAC outlets. In some later coaches, the microwave is powered. Generally, the Air Conditioning (not anticipated that it will be necessary at Q) is not able to be powered by the inverter. The compressor refrigerator is powered by the batteries; the gas absorption refrigerator is powered by propane and 12VDC.

The 120VAC energy the inverter supplies is limited to the energy stored in the batteries. The use of high wattage appliances, portable electric heaters, hair dryers, induction stoves, etc. will quickly deplete the batteries of energy. Use the generator to power those devices when not plugged in.

Ideally, the RV will have has a battery monitor installed to monitor the State of Charge (SOC) of the batteries. If your coach does not, the One Place or indicator board will give you an indication of the battery voltage, from which the SOC may be inferred. Batteries under load will show a lower voltage than at rest. If your One Place shows a voltage of 11.9V, while a large appliance is running off the inverter, it does not mean you batteries are discharged. A voltage of 11.9 in the morning is not abnormal, and does not mean that your batteries have been damaged. It means that they need to be recharged.

Batteries are generally at the lowest charge state in the morning. At Q, the propane furnace may have been running all night. Many use a CPAP. The sun still isn’t high enough to adequately charge the batteries, if you’re equipped with solar. Appliances have been running all night. This is a great time to turn on the generator, and give your electrical energy a boost. Make the coffee, run a hair dryer/curler/blower, use the microwave to prepare breakfast, use the induction stove or plate.  Let the generator run after you have finished using the high wattage 120V appliances to charge the batteries. Depending upon the batteries, and how much energy you consume on a daily basis, you may have to run the generator for an hour or two in the morning.

If you have Solar, delay charging all your devices until later in the afternoon when there is a better chance that the batteries are at full charge, or are in a float stage. The excess power from the panels will be utilized by the inverter, or better yet a 12V device plugged into a 12V female or USB port. A small 150W 12VDC to 120VAC charger has a lower overhead than using the 2,000W inverter to charge your 12V devices.

In the evening, when preparing the evening meal, turn on the generator beforehand, and leave it on after you are finished. Hot water is not always necessary to be always available. Either turn on the electrical HW heater while the generator is running, if you have that type, or only heat water with gas when you need it. Leaving the HWH on for 12 minutes while heating with propane provides hot water that will stay hot for a while. Place the Truma HWH in Eco mode.

LED Lights are highly efficient. Even with their efficiency, if you don’t need illumination, turn the lights off. If you no longer need the fan on, turn it off. Make sure that the chassis radio power switch is turned to chassis and not coach. There may be a 5A DC draw from the chassis radio if the switch is set to coach. Consider disconnecting the chassis ground cable by the accelerator pedal if you have a pre 2000.  Turn off the antenna booster. Turn off the coach entertainment center. Don’t run the propane furnace during the day. If it’s a sunny day, make sure the shades are up so the sun heats the coach.

At night, only leave on what electrical device you need. Make sure all non-essential devices are turned off. Unless you need 120VAC power all night, turn off the inverter.  If you use a CPAP, an effective power saving strategy is to purchase a 12V power supply for your unit, and wire in a 12V female power socket into any lamp fixture. Block off the cab of the coach so as to limit heat loss before you turn on the propane furnace. Set the furnace at 65° so it cycles less frequently. Using the heat pump is not an option, and other combustion heat devices inside the coach are not safe.

Quartzsite is the perfect opportunity to better understand the electrical usages of your RV. You will be surrounded by hundreds of helpful, knowledgeable campers. There are a number of places in the immediate area to improve your electrical systems. It’s not a place to avoid because you have concerns; it’s a wonderful learning experience with plenty of support.

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