Remember that when you leave this Earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given, a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage. -St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, December 23, 2011

Driveway Boondocking

I'm visiting with family, the nearest campground is $45 a night.

I decided to stay in their driveway instead, we had to get a "permit" from the homeowners association.  The first night I stayed parked at the curb because we needed to rearrange everyone's cars. I was inside the house most of the day and did not worry about electrical usage in the RV. My control panel showed that the batteries were fully charged.  When I went into the RV at night, I wanted to turn on a small space heater for about 30 minutes before I went to bed, I do not leave it on while sleeping.  I flipped the switch for the inverter and plugged the heater into the outlet marked "inverter".  The heater did not seem to have as much power as when I was plugged into electricity.  It took the chill out of the air (about 20 minutes) and I turned it off.

I looked at the control panel for the Inverter and it said low battery.

The other control panel said the batteries still had a full charge.

This electricity stuff is confusing to me.  The lights inside the RV work with the Inverter switch "off". I think I need to switch the Inverter on when I want to use that one outlet.  I know that the microwave and refrigerator will not work unless I plug into electric power or use the generator.  I did not have my power cord plugged into the outlet inside the electric cord storage compartment, would this make a difference?

I'm wondering why I was getting two different readings? I tried reading a book "RV Electrical Systems", but have a hard time concentrating on all of the diagrams and stuff written in this book.

I need sometime to come into the RV and say, "do this" and "don't do this" and "this is how this works".

I have an appointment at Camping World on December 29th to have some vent covers installed and to have maintenance done on the generator, maybe they will be able to give me some hints on how this system works.

I want to stay at Padre Island National Seashore this winter and they do not have electrical hookups.  I am not ready to have solar installed at this time, and I'm not even sure if there is a reputable company in Texas to do a solar installation.

I want to know more about how all of this electrical stuff works before I put out money for solar panels. 

I am now parked in the driveway..... and plugged in at the garage.


  1. I don't understand any of this electrical stuff either so I'm totally useless for you. But there's lots of folks out there who know all the answers. Hopefully someone will post some good info for you.

  2. I'm with you on wanting to understand how it all works without getting a lesson in olms and resistance. Just explain what does what in terms of batteries and inverters. I don't need to know why or how. Good luck. I'll be interested in anything you learn.

    Some jokingly call driveway boondocking "moochdocking" since they are plugged into some friend or family electric and water.

    Padre Island sounds great if you can work out the power problem for a long stay.

  3. You can use your fridge on your battery so long as you set it for propane usage. The battery has to keep the fridge control panel going, so that panel generally works off the battery. Which is partly why it's important to keep your battery in good condition for boondocking. You also have phantom draws off the battery during the day & night, so running the generator for about an hour or two a day is needed to keep the batteries charged back up while boondocking as well. Also if you plan on running your genny on the beach, be sure to keep an eye on it & try to keep it clean. Dust & sand will kill a genny. ANd in case you don't know this, check your generator oil after every 8 hours of usage. I always carry extra generator oil onbaord with me. When I boondock, I run the genny each morning, then each evening. I can't help you with the inverter though as I don't think my rig has one. I too plug into power when I stay at friend's homes, but I have to restrain my limits. Can't use the a/c or the microwave unless you know that the power source can handle those things. I sleep with an electric space heater on all night. It's going to stay on all day today too because it's cold out thar! ;-)
    Good luck & have fun!! Oh & Merry Christmas too!

  4. Oh so much to know nd understand.

    I must admit I am totally spoiled and have no idea how I'd manage without my man who does everything handy. I can't even change a tap washer or fix a fuse and I've never filled the tyres with air. He even charges and changes the batteries in my mouse. Long may this dependence last.

    We wish you a Marry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Blessings from Anne and John, New Zealand.

  5. Hi Teri:
    The Winnebago panel is notoriously incorrect when it comes to battery readings-- it will always say fully charged until the battery is woefully dead (and you ideally never want them getting that low!). Your inverter panel is likely more accurate, but ideally, you should think about getting a digital battery monitor panel if you'll be boondocking alot. It will help tell you how your solar panels are doing, and help you monitor when batteries are getting below 50% charge and need genny/solar to start recharging them. An interim solution (not as accurate, but good for checking relative battery usage, and very cheap/easy) is to get a digital display meter that plugs into your house 12v socket (you can also plug it into your cab 12v socket to check your engine battery too) They cost about $10 at WalMart or Camping World.

  6. You stated... "I did not have my power cord plugged into the outlet inside the electric cord storage compartment, would this make a difference?"

    The answer is yes. I had a similar problem and when I checked the storage compartment my cord had come unplugged. I plugged it back in and resolved my issues.

    I'm not sure why you would not have the cord plugged in. Was it just an oversight on your part or is that what you always do? I think you would have noticed a problem before now if you always leave it unplugged.

    Good luck to you and I hope you can resolve your problem soon.

  7. All that stuff confuses me too. When I had someone come look at the panel to the solar he was explaining stuff to me, but now its all a faded memory. RVSue and Me and my dog have solor and seem to be doing really good with it and are both boondocking right now.
    Have a wonderful Holiday with your family.

  8. Hi Teri,
    I sympathize with you about the electrical stuff. Its over my head! Inverters, solar, 30 amp 50 amp and on and on. I'm glad John knows about it. I am catching on but slowly. You'll get the hang of it all I'm sure. After all, it all fits into an RV!

  9. Don't feel bad Teri, I'm a guy and I don't understand any of that stuff either. We've had solar power for about 4 years and all's I can tell you is I know how to put the solar panels up and put water in the batteries. We flick a switch to turn the lights on and lights come on. Generators, Inverters, Amps Ohms blah blah blah. I just don't have the patience, the interest or the memory for all that stuff anymore. I don't know how the internal combustion engine works either but as long as my Jeep gets me to where I have to go I guess I won't worry about it too much....


Hi, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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