Power To Go: Doubling My RV’s Battery Capacity!

Power to go camping off grid with no access to electrical power, that is! Over the years in my writing with MotoIQ, there are two vehicles that I constantly refer to. First and most obvious is my NX1600 that is also known as the NX GTi-R. The second vehicle is my 2000 Ford E450 Triple E RV – which has popped up as a cameo in numerous articles like James Houghton’s racing at Buttonwillow to full articles like a tuning update and Air Lift air bag replacement. This vehicle has served us for over ten years now and we have some upgrades that we want to share with you. Things that have improved the RV experience for us and our family. Plus, RV (pronounced ‘arvey if you really want to know) serves as my tow vehicle. It is tough to be at the race track with a full fridge, stove, bathroom, bed and so on. But I can live with it. In fact, maybe I cannot live without it!

I will admit it. I’m spoiled to have an RV as my tow vehicle. The comforts of home at the track – that’s simply awesome.
Emmett loves being in the garage and exploring. He’s awesome at keeping track of my 10mm wrenches. But when it comes right down to the facts, we don’t get much done on the car when he’s my helper!

The focus of this article is what we have done to extend the RV’s house batteries so that they last longer with heavy usage. And by heavy usage I literally mean that. We go camping with my grandson, Emmett, who you may have met in previous articles “A DIY Toddler’s Wheelchair” and my Off-Grid Battery Power Supply. As my grandson is medically fragile, he requires medical grade equipment to be with him at all times. You may not see it during the daytime, but during quiet time and especially at night all of this equipment needs to be powered. Each of them has a small built-in battery back-up but that is usually only designed for minutes and not hours. It is not easy to get me to do something unless I see the value in doing it; amazingly, everything Emmett wants me to do I see the value! Or anything that I think will be beneficial for Emmett, I drop everything else and do it. In other words, Emmett has his grandpa wrapped about his little finger. I will do anything I can to make him happy and his life more comfortable.

You see, on August 19, 2015 when Emmett was just 5 months old he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy – and further he was identified as having Type 1 which is the most severe level of this rare disease. From birth his parents watched as movement slipped away from their amazing bundle of joy. The devastation our family felt with this diagnosis was huge, magnified when the specialists informed us that there was no treatment for this genetic disease. That he would never walk. Never again hold things – we literally saw his ability to grasp things slip away from him. Never hold his head up. Lose the ability to swallow so he must be tube fed. Lose the ability to breathe! Yes, there was the potential that he would require equipment to breathe for him. Even now, Emmett uses a bi-pap machine (a more complex version of the more commonly known C-Pap machine adults use for sleep apnea) about 14 hours a day. There was a chance that he would require a tracheotomy but that has never been necessary. Believe me when I say that the devastation that hit our family was real. In automotive terms, his ECU was fine. In fact, his ECU is like a finely tuned stand-alone. His drivetrain was fine. But the engine harness was deteriorating at a pace so rapidly that the prognosis was terrifying. As a result, the drivetrain doesn’t move. Think about it, how do you replace the nervous system inside the spinal column?

This photo looks like Emmett and his dad are trekking through the wilderness and that is what Emmett absolutely wants. In actual fact, they are not even 10 metres/yards off of the trail. Emmett, riding in his “WeCarryKevan” backpack gives Josh directions to go into areas that would be impossible with his wheelchair. The “WeCarryKevan” backpack is the available online but the story behind it is astonishing. A group of guys carried their friend, Kevan (who has the same disease that Emmett does) across Europe after they all graduated from college. What an amazing story and invention.

15 comments

  1. I don’t have a camper… I’m not from Canada… I don’t have anyone in my life with a similar condition to Emmett… But I really enjoyed this article. Thank you.

  2. Incredible article! I don’t understand the innards of automotive repair, but after observing my brother’s love for car-racing for years at Mosport (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in Ontario and then after his move to BC, his love for everything Emmett I can fully appreciate all 7 pages of this article! His love for car-racing, RV Camping and Grandson combined! I love my brother Frank and so proud of him and all his accomplishments!

  3. Great article! Its good to be reminded from time to time that our hobbies can mean so much more and that its important to enjoy life with those we love! Thank you!

    One nit pick though: According to your diagram, if you put your battery switch into the “Both” position you are connecting you banks in parallel not series. In effect it turns both banks into one large 12v bank.

    In the marine world this position is used to charge both battery banks with the alternator while the engine is running, then you can choose between the two banks when your docked or at anchor and the engine is no longer charging.

    Functionally, this doesn’t change how you are currently using the switch, but if someone were to accidently set the switch to “both” you wouldn’t suddenly get a 24v surge that would damage any electrical components.

    1. Joel, Thank you.
      And thank you even more for your update on my battery switch. I’m going to be reaching out to you as you’re knowledge base on this is obviously way better than mine!
      Frank

    1. Rockwood, 6 volt is absolutely a longer lasting battery. But two years ago when I bought a new set of house batteries my RV manufacturer recommended 12 volt. This was the manufacturer not the dealer. I didn’t have time to research so I just went with their recommendation. (I briefly comment on this on page 4). Too bad as 6 volt would have given much better life. And with this upgrade I wanted both banks to be the same, so 12 volt is what it had to be. When it comes time to replace all four, then I will probably go to a 6 volt solution.

    2. Now you’re talking. No savvy sailboat guy would use anything but 6 volt golf cart deep cycle batteries. They work just as well in my RV, just don’t buy cheapies.

      1. JD, if only I were a sailboat guy. I don’t even need to be a savvy one! Ha ha ha. I’ve certainly expanded my knowledge base over the years and 6 volt will be the next step. But only once I’ve used these up!

  4. Given your use case, minimum of 4 batteries will be needed. Biggest bummer about 6v batteries is if one dies, you’re (you guessed it) stuck at 6v only.

    A bunch of guys are experimenting with LiFePOs, but the danger of fire is waaaaaaay too high for me. Anyone who’s seen an RV fire live will agree. They go up FAST

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