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quick and dirty power for power outage


BrianT

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We're in the midst of an ice storm. Power went out about 3 hours ago. RV battery gave up and that means no heat. It's supposed to warm up into the 40's today but some electricity sure would be nice, even just some 12 volts for a light. For now, the world is still a solid sheet of ice.

 

Anything that gets done would have to be me telling my wife how. I'm physically not able.

 

My brainchild is hooking up the RV battery to the car via a set of jumper cables for a bit of charging. But I don't want to damage either the car or the RV.

 

Am I treading where angels fear to go on this one? Or is there a respectable way to make it happen safely?

 

Just wondering.

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Any hardware store close by where you could rent a generator ? Jumpers would work if you have a small battery bank but if car had to charge a whole lot I'm not sure if alternator could take it for a long period of time.

An olympian Wave heater would solve the heat problem but they are spendy

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Any advice on the safest way to do it?

 

Should I connect all of the wiring with the engine shut off (and everything possible inside the RV) and then start the car? And after letting it charge for a while, then maybe kicking on the furnace while the car is still running? Or maybe there is a better sequence?

 

We'll be ok today. But if no electric by night, we'll need to do something.

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Any advice on the safest way to do it?

The easiest way to do this would be to connect the power cord which you tow with as it will charge the batteries, but unless you have modified it with a larger cable than standard, jumper cables would be much more effective and take less time.

 

Connect it just as you would to jump start another automobile. I connect both cables to the battery to be charged, carefully placing them so that they will not touch or contact any metal. I then move the charge supplying vehicle close enough and leaving the engine running I connect first the positive cable and then the negative one. I would connect the negative to a good solid metal part on the engine if possible but if not the battery post will do. You should have the engine running before connecting. I would then also find some way to increase the engine RPM up to a moderate speed as that will improve the output from the alternator and charge your RV's batteries much more quickly.

 

Once the charge has been applied for 5 minutes or so, it would be fine to turn the furnace back on and take advantage of the supply to get things warmed back up while it is available and to thus make it longer before you need to connect again. You should be able to fully charge your RV batteries this way. If you have a meter, check the voltage applied across the RV batteries from time to time as it will rise as the batteries charge level increases. When it reaches 14V or a bit more you should allow it another 10 - 15 minutes, then shut down.

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What Kirk said, but don't waste your time with the trailer connection. Jumper cables will give you a much better charge regardless of whether or not you have upgraded the trailer connection (which is highly unlikely). The larger the wire and the shorter the battery cables are the better, if you have more than one set.

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In my experience the 12V charging from a small generator is very poor. You would get a much better charge by plugging your trailer into the generator and using the converter in the trailer to charge the batteries. The second choice would be to use the car with the jumper cables. For example, the Honda 2000i only puts out 8 amps DC charging, and the voltage is not specified. Generators are not chargers.

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In my experience the 12V charging from a small generator is very poor. You would get a much better charge by plugging your trailer into the generator and using the converter in the trailer to charge the batteries. The second choice would be to use the car with the jumper cables. For example, the Honda 2000i only puts out 8 amps DC charging, and the voltage is not specified. Generators are not chargers.

Very sound advice. No point in my repeating it but do take note.

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I don't know what's being used or exactly how. What they're supplying in 12 volts in limited shared timeslots is working now. I suspect the 120 volt side of the generator is powering someone else.

 

I can't get out to even look, only watch my dear wife pacing.

 

I figure it's better having a 12 volt leg than nothing.

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A battery cables are the best - disconnect the other 12 volt charge

car running before hooking up the jumpers.

After your back to reasonable, disconnect the car jumpers and back to the camp 12 volt.

 

Remember that with 12 volts, the stronger charge is going to supply the weaker charge, stuff flows down hill, the same applies from the strongest to weakest batteries.

 

Our trucks all have 125 volt sine inverters in them (1000 watt) and the Honda is at 1600 watts.

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When jumping with your vehicle there are a couple things that would be good.

 

-- First take it out and drive it until it is warm, idling in cold weather and a cold engine is really hard on it.

 

-- Second, keep an eye on the engine temp, if it starts to fall you can stuff a sheet of cardboard in front of the radiator to keep things warmer. You can also use a big towel or something similar to block the air flow, just keep it safely away from the fan.

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Not an efficient way to do it, but you appear to have no choice. I would also raise the hood of the car to keep the alternator as cool as possible. It will be open due to the jumper cables but open it all the way for more cool air. Here in Florida the police routinely open the car hoods when at a situation where they have to run lights etc. to keep the systems cool..

 

When the real world returns look into a larger, deep cycle battery and possibly a blue flame heater (for next year). <_<

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I now have one LOW capacity 120 line running into the rv as well as the 12 volts hooked up from the generator as before. As I've typed this, I've learned that the rv park owner has managed to get propane for us!

 

With the 120 line, we have taken the opportunity to plug in our deep freezer, which still has a lot of good food in it as well as recharging some of our little things like cell phones and computers.

 

We are hearing rumors of more and more people getting power restored around us so it's possible that tonight may not be so bad. But we're planning for the worst. We will survive. We may not be as comfortable as we'd like but I think we can keep the rv from freezing up and ourselves at least warm enough.

 

So far, it hasn't been even a practical possibility to get the car close enough to the rv battery to use a standard set of jumper cables. About the closest position still needs a pair close to 30' long as things sit. Sheets of ice abound.

 

Thank you all for the suggestions.

 

On the upside, we only lost one skylight to the ice meteors falling off the trees, as far as I know, anyway. There's a hole about the size of a baseball in one. I figured I could get some epoxy and slather it up good enough to get me to spring weather. For now, a heavy duty trash bag covers it.

 

I am thinking that I may need to have someone come and look for me, to see whether there should be an insurance claim involved as I have no idea whether there could be substantial damage to the roof. There was a LOT of ice, and big chunks falling onto it. If any of you have suggestions in that regard, I'm interested.

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I've no experience with the extreme long term winter conditions you are going thru. Sure sending good thoughts to you, and others as you survive this nasty period!!

 

One of the reasons we the large Heat Buddy with a tap into our on board LP tank. We also have two 20lb bottles in the bays, used for the Amazing campfire in a Can, which can also be used for the Heat Buddy if ever needed.

 

I was also reflecting upon our solar panel system as I read your post. We learned in Breckenridge that 6" + inches of snow on the roof, does impact the solar panel output!! Reading about your dead batteries, and the impact of not even having 12V available for lighting. I'm wondering if for extreme times like this if an emergency portable solar panel would help? (If not for your main battery bank, perhaps for rechargeable flash lights and keeping our cell phones topped up?) Of course being the Southern California winter expert that I am (- :)!) - suppose the reality is portable solar panels may have a problem in snow falling conditions too - as I'm sure the power of the sun is reduced.

 

All our best to you, be safe!!!

Smitty

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Gorilla tape or Eternabond on the plastic and call it good - until spring. More strength than a garbage bag. Do what you have to.

 

Remember that 120 volts at 1 amp is the same as 10 amps at 12v through the charger. Probably all your going to get out of the jumpers anyway. And, the deep freeze is adding interior heat to the camper, so that is twice as good.

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