What can I tow?

G.R. White thinks tow ratings are overrated. This is despite efforts like the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J2807 tow-rating standard.

Alongside power, economy and payload, trailering ratings are the Holy Grail of light truck marketing. However, despite recently adopted Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards that put everyone on the same footing, the value of tow ratings is almost irrelevant in the real world.

There’s only one way to know what your pickup can tow, and it involves a trip to the scales, knowledge of what Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), GVWR and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) are and how to calculate it all. Sure, the salesman is correct when they say your truck could pull this or that, but will they be in court or the service drive with you if something goes wrong?

The problem is that measures like in the J2807 standard have carefully specified conditions and assumptions and the actual usage may or may not reflect those conditions and assumptions. White also runs afoul of the measurement problem in his suggested solution as well. J2807 is an attempt at a s usability measure determined by actual performance evaluation. Weight ratings are engineering specifications that are estimated from design and materials considerations. A key item that should raise a red flag is when White refers to the legal system as the only time that argument has any merit is in cases of gross negligence.

Of course, you do not want to abuse the engineering specifications for your rig but you do need to be aware of their source. GAWR and wheel and tire ratings, for example, are close to individual component specific and that means they need careful attention. GVWR is more vague as it is about the vehicle as a system of parts. GCWR is even less precise as it depends upon assumptions about frontal wind area and other factors that depend upon specific circumstances. It also pays to keep in mind that, as engineering specifications, these ratings have a safety margin built in and there are also usually conditions and assumptions considered that can be manipulated for special circumstances. Speed and temperature are two of those conditions and assumptions that can be manipulated to adjust ratings, for instance. Sometimes, like for tires, these conditions are actually specified.

If you remember a family RV experience as a kid back in the 50’s or 60’s, you will recall a family sedan or station wagon with a 100-200 hp engine and a three speed transmission towing a trailer weighing maybe a ton or so. Downshifting on nearly any grade was to be expected and their wasn’t much in the way of creature comforts such as air conditioning or even bucket seats. These days, the tow vehicle is an SUV or pickup truck with nearly double the power of that old sedan and a transmission with double the gears, too. The trailer likely ways four tons or more. People seem to get irritated if their automatic transmission downshifts out of overdrive going up freeway grades and turning off the AC as suggested on I15 going East of Baker is not a consideration.

Yes, it’s prudent to make sure your rig is competent and capable before you buy but people also learn from experience. You find a tow vehicle and a trailer that fits your needs and is comfortable for your RV experience. The choice isn’t a permanent one as your needs, interests, and preferences will change over time. Equipment also keeps getting better, too.

Take care. Drive safe.

 

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An update on the motion of our regional representative to remove WBCCI affiliation with the SNU:

SNU members and friends,

Keep in mind that there will be no change in SNU operations or planned activities from any WBCCI decision. 

It is the WBCCI that is at risk as its decision will be about whether or not its Constitution and Bylaws mean what they say and whether or not the SNU represents its purposes and activities as represented to the state of Ohio and the IRS. This is why a page on _Questions to consider if you value WBCCI_ has been posted on the SNU website. See the index page for WBCCI Governance.

If you value the WBCCI, it is time to examine this case of its behavior and to make a stand – speak your voice – about what it is doing, how it functions and what should be done to make it a healthier and more vital organization.

Correspondence and presentations from WBCCI members and officials and other information has been added to the website to provide background and depth for the current case. More is added as it is found. Be an informed member of the organization and do your part to make WBCCI an organization that upholds its legacy and purpose; an organization where we can take pride in our membership.

Also don’t forget! Next week is the rally at Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area – camping, with friends, in our Airstreams, to enjoy and learn about the special nature of the Eastern Slope of the Sierra and the Great Basin. This is also Amateur Radio Field Day weekend so it will be a good time for members with ham radio licenses to exercise their emergency communications skills, too.

— 

SNU HQ

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Don’t buy blind

Steve Lehto says Don’t Buy An RV! – Lehto’s Law Ep. 45 in an 18 minute Youtube video. He’s a consumer protection lawyer and has lots of sad tales to tell.

Published on Aug 19, 2015 — Why you shouldn’t buy an RV – or what you should know before you do. Recreation Vehicles are very different from cars when it comes to how the law protects you.

His point is that an RV is a complex collection of many systems put together by folks under a lot of pressure and often bought by people who don’t really know what they are getting into. Automotive Lemon Laws and consumer protections are not as stringent for RV’s and the risks are significant.

Caveat Emptor (wikipedia) applies. Know what you think you are buying. Check to see that what you think you are buying is most likely what you are paying for. And know the RV lifestyle needs and requirements related to the particular RV you are buying. Expect things to break or not work as you expect and know what to do when that happens.

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SNU June Newsletter

SNU Folks,

The June 2016 Newsletter has been posted – Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there.

Topics in the June newsletter: Crocker Rally Review -|- June rally at Hickison -|- SNU Success -|- SNU Kids -|- Remembering Don & MaryLou Damoth -|-  SNU Business – Delegate Meeting & Proposed IBT motion -|-  Randy & Vicki join the SNU in 2005 -|- Lassen Rally Update -|- Share your SNU Memories

June Rally at Hickison

Hickison Petroglyph Area is the site for the SNU rally Thursday June 23- Sunday June 26 2016. Hickison is 20 miles east of Austin just off US 50 at Hickison Summit. The turnoff is well marked and easily spotted. This is a BLM site with individual camping spots and lots of nice juniper trees. Elevation at the campground is 6500 ft.  Be sure and bring wood for campfires RSVP to the SNU at hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org or call 775 972 9392.

Keep Informed about the SNU

— 

SNU HQ

 

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Mosquitoes, Zika, and Consumer Reports

Lifehacker reports that the Consumer Reports’ Mosquito Repellent Rankings Are Now Available for Free. It’s been a rather wet spring in NW NV and that means not only a lot of weeds but also a lot of bugs, including mosquitoes. A decent repellent can make for a much more comfortable outing.

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The gathering at Crocker NFS campground

The weather forecasts scared off a few. The road construction might have given some others pause. For others, those obstacles were just a part of a special experience.


See the photo gallery. The SNU knows how to enjoy the special capabilities of their Airstream RV’s!

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Drive a model T?

Sometimes we don’t know how good we have it. Take a look at the 1911 Model T owner’s manual and compare. These days you do have lots of controls and gadgets to work with but they are for the media and navigation systems, remote controls for locks and windows, and other such conveniences. In the Model T, the controls were critical to getting it to run down the road. There were three floor pedals. Spark advance and throttle were on the steering column. A lever on the floor to the left of the driver had something to do with gears.

I remember my grandfather running the ‘stage route’ down near Payson. It was a short trip but he could count on having to repair a flat and carried a bag of fuller’s earth for the clutch and often had broken axle problems. That was then. Things have changed. 

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SNU May 2016 Newsletter

SNU Folks

 

*The May 2016 Newsletter has been posted* — Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there.

_Topics in the May newsletter_

Ft Churchill Rally Review -|- May rally at Crocker -|- Review of SNU Special Events -|- SNU Enters the Electronic Age -|- Remembering Baxter Swaffer -|- Don’s Region 12 Flyer -|- Jerry & Dyann, Why We Joined

May Rally at Crocker

Thursday May 19 – Sunday May 22, 2016 are the dates for our May rally at Crocker campground. Crocker is a primitive NFS campground off of Highway 70 near Beckwourth, CA. At Beckwourth (coming from US 395 and Reno) turn right on Rt 177, the Beckwourth-Genesee Road. The campground is about ten miles up the road. The turn off at Beckwourth and the campground are well marked with signs.  Be sure and bring wood for campfires RSVP to the SNU at hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org or call 775 972 9392.

Keep Informed about the SNU

 

*For Sale* — 1973 Argosy 26ft trailer in good condition all original. see the photo gallery For more information contact: hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org

— 

SNU HQ 

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SNU at Fort Churchill April 2016

The SNU gathered at Fort Churchill Nevada State Park in April 2016.


See the photo gallery!

One of the visitors to the park was seen on the trail heading down to the river with his kayak. He said family was down at Lahontan State Park to give him a ride back to camp after he had floated down the Carson River. The State Parks Division has done a lot of work on trails and historical restoration at this civil war era fort and Pony Express station.

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A trip south on 95

Here’s one: Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Highway 95, Redlich, Columbus Salt Marsh, and Another View of Boundary Peak

Through Nevada, Highway 95 wanders around quite a bit, attaining a nearly north-south bearing only within four relatively short sections: 1) the Winnemucca to McDermitt section, 2) a section south of I-80, running from Trinity to Hawthorne, 3) the Tonopah to Lida Junction section, and 4) the section running from Boulder City to the California state line. Much of 95’s wanderings, especially those that occur between Hawthorne and Las Vegas, are caused by the highway’s attempt to stay within the state while being subjected to Nevada’s western diagonal border. To do that, the road keeps cutting east, then south, then east again, every now and then actually attaining near parallelism to the diagonal, while completing three major south-to-east curves. These curves are at Hawthorne, at Coaldale Junction, and at or just south of Beatty.

The Silver Fox mentions Lucky Boy and Anchorite passes by description but doesn’t name them. She provides a good rundown on the route and provides some pictures to peruse. For more on this route, see our Destinations page Down the middle of Nevada on Highway 95 – The Bonanza Highway.

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Might you one day have a custom tour guide for your RV?

A geologist decided it would be nice to share what he could see out the window on airplane flights. He built an app. John Farrier describes How a Geologist Designed the Perfect App for the Window Seat.

You can look out the window on the airplane and see beautiful mountains, seas, islands, rivers, and more. What are you looking at? There’s an app for that. Shane Loeffler, a geologist, developed Flyover Country, an app that shows air travelers what geological formations they’re flying over. He tells Fast Co Design that he came up with the idea while flying on a plane

Loeffler wants to develop the app further with augmented reality so that you can simply hold up your phone and Flyover Country will automatically display the geology of the area.

You can get a bit of this with GPS devices and apps that show contour lines. For the RV tours, it would be nice to do this with a tour guide that would tell you what was coming into view and what was interesting or significant about it. There are some steps in this direction but it remains an open opportunity. There are also some efforts to link Wikipedia with mapping software that head in this direction. You can get an app that will show you constellations and stars when you hold it up to the sky at night.

Some of the features that might be useful include offline caching such as Google Maps uses, being able to specify commentary focus such as geology, history, agriculture, architecture, local cultural lore, and others. You might also be able to choose a ‘sophistication’ level from ignorant tourist to topic expert to match the commentary to your needs and interests. The tour guide needs to be location and travel aware so it can comment and what is coming up in a timely manner, It needs to talk to you so as to minimize driving distractions. 

Tour books have been around for ages. A major benefit of touring is knowing what it is that you see. New technologies are raising the possibilities for investigating and learning about the places where you travel and visit. The ingredients are all there. Putting them together in a delicious recipe has some work to be done. 

Can’t wait!

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SNU April newsletter

SNU Folks,

The April 2016 Newsletter has been posted – Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there.

Topics in the April newsletter: Washoe Lake Rally Review -|- April rally at Ft Churchill -|- The SNU & Wally’s Four Freedoms -|- Remembering the Hersey’s -|- Solar Lights -|- Op Notes

April Rally at Ft Churchill

SNU April rally will be at the main campground at Ft Churchill Thursday April 21, 2016 – Sunday April 24, 2016. The sites at Ft Churchill are available on a first come basis. Facilities include packed gravel parking, pit toilets, and a dump station. Ft Churchill is Southeast of Reno about 80 miles. From Fernley head south on alternate 95. It is about 25 miles from Fernley to the Turn off to Ft Churchill State Park. The turn off is on the west side of the highway and well marked. You drive past the ruins of the fort to the campground.Be sure and bring wood for campfires RSVP to the SNU at hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org or call 775 972 9392.

Keep Informed about the SNU

For Sale — 1973 Argosy 26ft trailer in good condition all original. see the photo gallery.


SNU HQ

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Washoe Lake State Park March 2016

Spring breakout — time to see if the rig is ready for another season. The SNU gathered at Washoe Lake State Park


See the photo gallery!

What to do at Washoe Lake State Park? It isn’t for water sports or ATV trails. The brochure at the kiosk notes star parties and several hikes, including one over to Virginia City. Trails for horses seem to be a big feature. Facilities include a dump station, flush toilets and showers, water spigots, paved roads, and shelters over the picnic tables. 

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Glass Creek near Mammoth Lakes

In 2015 the SNU moved down Glass Creek from Obsidian dome to just off U.S. 395. The Glass Creek campground started as just a place to park under the pines but popularity breeds civilization so now there is an effort to define roads and campsites.


Glass Creek Campground

It is a very large campground with minimal facilities and a donation request for fees. You’ll find full timers, people parked for a weekend with their ATV’s on the trails out to the backwoods, and a few just stopping for a while on their U.S. 395 journey. Maybe you’ll even encounter a rally gathering.

See the photo gallery!

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Dog owners, consider your image

Bert Gildhart is a nature photographer. He recently ran across on ugly situation coming to the conclusion that Barking Dogs Not Compatible with Organ Pipe’s Sounds of Silence.

The event was precipitated by a confrontation I had with two sets of campers parked adjacent to us who had barking dogs. Barking was not confined to just a yip, rather it was sustained, and it occurred randomly throughout the day and into the evening.

But the “evil” lady (her husband did not join her) in site 135 marched over and launched into me using every imaginable word she could muster up. She said her dog didn’t bark and that I was a so-and-so liar. I told her to leave and when she turned I told her to have a good day. She turned around and again started dropping her F bombs. Then she stomped off yelling that I was a F—— Nazi.

I should note that for a number of years Janie and I traveled with a Malmut, which we trained not to bark, so it can be done! I should also note that about 50% of campers at Organ Pipe were traveling with dogs, but they, too, had apparently trained their dogs, for most pets did not engage in that horrible nonstop yip, yip, yip.

OK, that’s now in the past. Today, we hope to make it to Death Valley and enjoy the “Super Bloom.”

The problem is that the obnoxious dog owners were probably fully aware of their pet’s behavior and its interference with fellow camper’s enjoyment of the campground yet they not only failed to consider this social impact but added to it by mounting an assault on anyone who would dare to complain. In doing so, they branded other dog owners and this hurts everyone and destroys the camaraderie that we can usually expect from the RV community. It is one thing to have your own problems. It is entirely another to foist them on your neighbors. And it compounds the issue when you assault anyone who dares to object to your nuisance.

Yes Gildhart could have moved on but so could have the obnoxious dog owners. The context indicates that perhaps the dog owners should have moved to camp in a dog kennel for a better match to their circumstances.

Be considerate of both your neighbor and the environment. Leave both in better condition when you leave than when you arrived. 

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Nighttime decorations

Solar lights are a great addition to our off grid rally sites. Lights that need electricity are used for our infrequent rallies at places with hookups. Creativity is also evident in the way we string up lights and the methods for holding stake lights upright on hard ground.


RV lights

See the photo gallery!

Now to come up with excuses and rationales about why anyone would want to light up the campground. Identify the RV so you can find it when returning from an outhouse trip in the middle of the night? Marking hazards to help people about hitting them and possibly getting hurt?

The reality is that the solar powered lights are low intensity illumination that provides decoration and utility for the camp. See the pictures and decide for yourself.

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SNU March 2016 Newsletter

SNU Folks,

The March 2016 Newsletter has been posted Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there.

Topics in the March newsletter – Olive Garden lunch -|- First rally at Washoe Lake -|- 1980 Mid-Nevada Caravan -|- Remembering the Burnhams -|- Belonging to a Unit -|- Send Us Your Stories -|- “They Don’t Build Them Like They Used To” -|- Leveling -|- RV Safety

March Rally at Washoe Lake

The dates are Thursday March 17, 2016 to Sunday March 20, 2016. The rally will be in the main campground area. The campground is paved, there is a dump station and restrooms. Some sites have a shade structure. Sits are on a first come basis. To help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll have a corned beef and cabbage dinner on Friday. Be sure and bring wood for campfires RSVP to the SNU at hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org or call 775 972 9392.

Keep Informed about the SNU

 

 

 

— 

SNU HQ 

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Pulp rags: the I’net to the rescue for light reading

Back in the day – you know, when you paid money to have paper piles covered in ink delivered to your mailbox – there were publications devoted to tales and adventures to entertain for the breaks in the day. The Pulp Magazine Project is an archive of fiction from 1896 to 1946.

The Pulp Magazines Project is an open-access digital archive dedicated to the study and preservation of one of the twentieth century’s most influential literary & artistic forms: the all-fiction pulpwood magazine.

The Project is dedicated to fostering ties between communities of collectors, fans, and academics devoted to pulp magazines, and will offer opportunities for research and collaboration to both scholars and enthusiasts alike. We will provide information on upcoming conferences and conventions, and promote new working relationships between academics and the hundreds of pulp fans, scholars, and collectors beyond the college and university.

Pulp originally referenced the quality of these magazines’ paper: using coarse, untreated paper made from wood-pulp kept production costs low, allowing large shipments of the magazines to be distributed and sold as cheaply, and as far away, as possible; or, without advertising. It was an incredibly successful formula; by 1915, 8 best-selling titles had the combined monthly circulation of 2.7+ million copies—an estimated readership of 15% of the U.S. population.

The PMP archive of digitized magazines consists of full-text, cover-to-cover scans produced in collaboration with a variety of partners.

For SciFi fans, Archive.org has the IF collection.

If was an American science fiction magazine launched in March 1952 by Quinn Publications, owned by James L. Quinn. The magazine was moderately successful, though it was never regarded as one of the first rank of science fiction magazines. It achieved its greatest success under editor Frederik Pohl, winning the Hugo Award for best professional magazine three years running from 1966 to 1968. If was merged into Galaxy Science Fiction after the December 1974 issue, its 175th issue overall.

For a bit heavier fare, don’t forget the Gutenberg Project. These are all digitized which means you can put a library in a tablet sized device that would otherwise take over the entire RV. One caveat is to be careful about how well the translation between the original publication and your reading device was done. The IF collection seems to have rather poor epub and Kindle versions, for instance. The fallback is always just straight text. 

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Batteries: looking on down the road

Major advances often come with a confluence of tools and technologies. That may be happening with energy stores where the RV lifestyle, the survivalist ethos, the ‘alternative energy’ appeal, electronic power devices improvements, and control devices are all contributing towards personal sized energy collection, storage, and usage at reasonable costs. Patrick Mannion says Battery Storage Systems Shine With Solar Deployments in EE Times.

The hidden concept is that the RV may grow out of being a parasite on your home’s electrical system but may become a part of it. The RV and its energy collection and storage devices may become a component serving the household energy needs.

A complication in this is in trying to get cost effectiveness distinct from political ideologies and governmental interference.

Technologically, the efficiency of solar cells continues to increase and module costs continue to fall, to the point that it has increasingly become a viable option in many developed regions as well as an alternative to diesel in regions such as Africa.

That said, solar’s cost parity with conventional power sources remains a discussion shrouded in controversy, nuances, biases and misinformation, much of it due to subsidization of both solar cell manufacturing and deployments.

This at the forefront of some Nevada heat as the Public Utilities Commission decided that the energy company can pay wholesale rather than retail rates for household solar system excess energy and also charge for other costs involved in accommodating small systems into its power grid. As one politician said: it is one thing for you to spend your own money for what you want but it becomes something to discuss when you want your neighbor to pay a part of your costs.

As to exactly what technology might float to the top, there are a lot of options with no clear winners.

advanced storage options include ultracapacitors (not a battery chemistry, but counted as an advanced storage mechanism for the purposes of the report) as well as battery chemistries such as lithium sulfur (LiS), magnesium ion (Mg-ion), solid electrolyte, next-generation flow and metal-air.

There is change and some of it is being seen in RV systems.

This trend toward including ESS [electricity storage systems] with solar deployments has had an interesting effect on architecture and converter design approaches (Figure 4). When battery storage was a rarity, the battery was charged by tapping the mains supply, via an AC-DC converter. When the AC went down, the battery would switch in via a DC-to-AC inverter.

All the parts had to be bought separately, battery, inverter, and metering, while multiple voltage conversions led to unnecessary losses and overall inefficiencies. Even the metering wasn’t too exciting.

Now, that’s changed. A full system can be integrated, including the PV monitoring and DC-DC conversion to charge the battery, as well as the inverter. Metering has advanced to ZigBee or other wireless technologies to provide either computer or app-based monitoring of the entire system.

Mannion mentions Tesla’s Powerwall, a $3,500, 10-kWh storage system for the home, business and utilities. Install that in an RV, hang it on a closet wall, and provide the proper connection to your household system and you’d not only get a good sized energy storage in your RV but also a means to supplement household peak energy needs as well. There are possibilities there and a few things to work out but the future does look interesting.

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Batteries: the allure of lithium

In the eternal quest for RV energy storage, lithium batteries are gaining a lot of interest from those who want something better than the traditional lead acid batteries. Lead acid batteries represent a technology more than a century old and are in wide use in automotive and RV applications because they are cheap, rugged, and will do the job in a package that isn’t too outrageous to handle. Lead acid batteries come in a variety of flavors like AGM, gel, or wet cell but the differences are small in matters of charging, usage, storage, and maintenance.

Lithium batteries come in flavors with significant differences (see battery university). The kind found in most laptop computers have nominal voltages of 3.7 volts per cell (versus 2v for lead acid cells). These are usually thumb sized cells. The battery in a cell phone is a flat structure but its voltages are similar to the round ones. What gets the attention as an RV battery is the Lithium Iron Phosphate type invented in 1996 that has a nominal cell voltage of 3.2v. That means a stack of four cells has a nominal battery voltage of 12.8 volts which is suitable for most existing RV equipment.

The problem is that lithium batteries cost about ten times as much as common lead acid batteries and need more care in charging and use. Technomadia has been testing a lithium battery bank and describes their experience in Living the Lithium Lifestyle – 3.5 Year Lithium RV Battery Update. What they found is that they could replace big and heavy batteries with small and light ones that could be more deeply discharged yet still get several times the cycle life.

And if you have lead, you better hope that you have enough solar panels and daylight to make sure that you regularly make it fully through absorption and manage a full 100% charge – because lead batteries suffer if not regularly topped off.

Lithium batteries on the other hand could care less if you never fully charge them. Ending the day at 50% or 85% charged is no big deal at all. You could go for months without ever getting a full charge and your batteries will be just fine.

They discovered that temperature can make an impact they did not expect. Another factor is that lithium batteries need balance circuitry to prevent over charging or excessive discharge. This sort of balancing is usually handled in lead acid RV batteries by float charging over time as they can handle that over charging without suffering too much. Powerstream has a page on charging RV lithium type batteries that explains things. AM solar also has a good rundown on these batteries. They sell a 100 AH (1.3 kWh) battery for $1199. Technomadia does their cost analysis and summarizes “We have over $6000 invested in our battery & electrical system … so far.” That is for a 6.4 kWh battery bank that doesn’t include the solar system.

If you invest in a 6 to 10 kWh battery bank and figure out how to get a 1 – 2 kW solar system on your RV, you might join those who find they can run their AC for a few hours a day on their RV electrical systems. See the video Off Grid Solar Powered RV Air Conditioning – Is it Possible? where the Wynns describe their experience.

You can find suitable batteries on Amazon: GBS-LFMP100AHX 12V 100Ah 1.3kWh Lithium Battery (Lithium Iron, Lithium ion, LiFePO4, LiFeMnPO4 technology (sponsored link) for $700 with free shipping. (Nominal Voltage: 12.8V (4X 3.2 V); – Nominal Capacity: 100 Ah; – LiFeMnPO4 chemistry; – Operation Voltage Range: 11.2 to 14.4V; – Weight: 12.9 kg or 28.4 lbs; – Dimension: 270 X 140 X 241 mm or 10 5/8 X 5 9/16 X 9 1/2 in). Double the size for $1500! Note that this doesn’t include some of the necessary system extras like AM Solar is offering.

If you do a lot of off grid camping, lithium batteries do start to look like a viable alternative, especially for larger RV’s where several thousand dollars isn’t that big of a deal.

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