You and I purchased a Class C Motorhome for a reason. Do we feel that we are getting the recreational performance we anticipated from our motorhome? If not, what can we do about it?
We already know that our Class C Motorhome sometimes performs well, but sometimes it may not live up to the vision we had when we purchased it. If this is the case, there may be some useful information here for us that may increase our rig's recreational performance.
Many times we seem to think of performance in the context of a drive train or automotive running gear. We look at the numbers and keep track of how many pounds a vehicle will pull or how fast it will go from 0-60 mph.
Many of us think that if we keep up with the required scheduled maintenance, we are doing a good job of maintaining our equipment’s potential.
However, a common definition for the word performance is, "The way in which someone or something functions". I think this definition, when applied to the motorhome lifestyle, would be helpful.
Our Original Expectations?
In fact, this definition could be made to include our overall motorhome recreational performance, (i.e. how well our motorhome lives up to our original expectations). This begs the question, what are the expectations that we had anticipated back when we purchased the thing?
Is it doing the job we wanted it to do? And if it is not, what can we do about it? How do we fine tune this recreational experience?
This is a good question... and from talking to fellow RV owners, it seems that their number one frustration is their 12V system when they go off of the grid. When you think about it, if you have electricity life is sweet. You just have to turn stuff on or off as your situation dictates. But, when you do not have power... you have to generate and store some.
This problem is fairly easy to resolve if we learn how to keep our batteries charged. With this in mind, let me tell you a story about my early experience with an under performing 12V system, and how this impacted our recreational performance while camping in Northern California.
I remember the first time that I went off the grid. I took my first Class C on an extended road trip. My wife and I went to Coos Bay in Oregon. However, it wasn’t until we started back to Sacramento, CA, that I noticed that I had DC power issues.
You see, Oregon State Parks have electricity, whereas the majority of California State Parks do not. It only took two days off the grid in California to show me that I had a problem.
My battery (I only had a single Group 26 battery) was discharging right before my eyes. After the second day, I could watch the voltmeter go down... it was scary. If you have ever experienced anything like this, it will leave an impression.
Therefore we decided to push on down the coast to Fort Bragg, CA. We stayed at Pomo RV Park and Campground… a great place if you are in the area.
This was my wakeup call on the importance of a well performing 12V DC system. It showed me how a Phantom Load can undermine your batteries and prohibit maximum recreational performance. Even when you conserve your batteries, you may not have enough power.
It was a real bummer having to cut back on our trip along the lost coast… I actually met a black bear on a trail in the Del Norte Coast Redwoods Park. He went one way, and I went the other! That is another story that I’ll have to put somewhere else on this site.
This incandescent bulb has been around since the 1800’s, and this little light will drain your batteries in a matter of days if you do not pay attention. Most of us have learned that you simply cannot function off the grid for very long without turning the things off when we are not using them.
However, today there are newer and more efficient bulbs available to enhance our rig's recreational performance. These bulbs include new technologies like the LEDs and a refinement of an older technology like the fluorescent bulb. Even the refined halogen bulb can sometimes replace the older, less efficient incandescent bulbs.
We Can Generate Power?
If your choice of a recreational area is anywhere where the sun shines, solar panels, work well to keep your batteries up to snuff. If you research solar energy, you will find good solar energy information that shows that this type of solar generator is especially efficient in cooler climates with full sun. Any sun will do, but photo voltaic cells generate maximum voltage when heat is taken out of the equation. Solar panels generate electricity by converting the sun's energy. They can also be called solar generators.
I'm not saying that you have to limit your recreational activities to where it is cold for these solar cells to work. I'm just pointing out that the use of solar generators makes a good match for those who like to camp in sunny but cold or cool weather.
I have a friend that goes at least once a year up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the whole family enjoys the snow. The trick is, it has to be sunny.
If you find yourself in this type of climate and you have the need to begin heating your motorhome for more than just an occasional chilly night, RV solar generators would make life less stressful by helping you charge your deep cycle batteries.
These are usually larger batteries that can deliver power in hundreds of Amp hours. They will, however, require a certain amount of attention to keep them up to their full recreational performance potential.
Another thing to consider, depending on location, is that a windy area will provide excellent conditions for wind powered generators.
The use of these wind powered generators may or may not increase your recreational performance because they can be a bit noisy and they potentially can distract from a wilderness experience. However, under the right circumstances it is a very good way to generate electricity.
You may also lose maximum recreational performance with your factory-installed propane convection heaters. They are designed to warm your coach up in a timely manner. However, they can use a lot of propane and a large amount of 12V DC power. They will put a drain on your battery.
It’s nice to be able to set your thermostat to whatever temperature you desire and let it do the rest. However, this power problem starts to show itself when people find that they are spending a larger percentage of time recreating off the grid.
Depending on the individual units and how they are set up, the forced air convection heating systems will deplete your batteries and propane... sometimes sooner, sometimes later.
As this energy consumption becomes a worry, some people come to realize changes have to be made. On top of all that, once in awhile for whatever reasons, these factory heaters may just decide not to work.
This happened to us one morning when we were camping at the Sonoma Coast State Campground (Wright's Beach). As I recall, it was a brisk morning and the temperature was something like 34 degrees in our cold Class C Motorhome.
If you do see the logic of using a more economical heater, even if it is only a backup heater, there are many aftermarket choices in heating solutions, such as small catalytic or radiant heaters.
A motor-generator is considered a high maintenance item requiring regular attention to keep it performing at optimal capacity. It will perform its job of delivering 115 V AC for a long time if you take care of it.
It's important that during the off-season, you don’t let the thing just sit there. It is a small motor and stale or bad gas can clog up the jets in the carburetor. It's much easier to run your motor-generator according to the owner's manual than to rebuild the carburetor every year.
More than one gen-set repairman has made the claim that they have never, or very seldom, had to fix a generator that was worn out; their bread and butter comes from fixing neglected motor-generators...
While recreating off the grid, almost everyone will run their gen-set for at least a couple of hours each day, just doing stuff around the coach. Many people want to use this generator as a primary method of charging both the house battery and the auto starting battery.
It was a cold morning in January. Luckily, I had just purchased a little supplemental heater, and it worked just fine. (This just goes to show that we all have different definitions for recreational performance.)
However, unless you set your rig up properly, you are kind of spinning your wheels. Your gen-set will put out around 4000W of power, and most Class C Motorhomes come originally equipped (OE) with only a single-stage 3 Amp battery charger. Check your equipment!
With this scenario, this OE battery charger will not be able to properly top off your batteries, and over the long haul it will degrade your battery performance.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is not a good use of resources. However, your recreational performance would be enhanced with a proper aftermarket 3-stage charger... and you will probably run a generator two to three hours a day anyway. It can work out just fine depending on your battery bank capacity.
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