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Old 01-08-2012, 01:56 AM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Year: 1998
Electrical Help

alright so ive been doing some research about running some electrical outlets in our short bus, and to to be honest im a little overwhelmed.. We have a 1995 GMC 350 gasoline short bus. (4 windows) We are converting it to a "road trip" bus and would like to put some outlets in it for laptops, cell phones, and a flat screen tv. (MAYBE a mini fridge but not sure) We are hoping to run around 4 or 5 electrical outlets? i understand the concept of battery bank and inverting the power to AC but i was wondering if someone could tell more specifically what i need. We do NOT plan on hooking up to shore or at a campground. but maybe watchin the tv at night when the vehicle isn't running. any suggestions or recommendations? THANKS!

1. What amp size of fuse should i get?
2. What kind of isolator?
3. What kind of inverter?
4. What kind of batteries for batteries bank?
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Old 01-08-2012, 09:49 AM   #2
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Re: Electrical Help

as mentioned above, you should spend time reading the archives of this, bno, and bcm forums, and this will help you a lot. While you are at it, also read all the plumbing archive for batteries, if using wet ones, try something like the trojan golf cart ones, or if you have lots of money, use the $500 gel ones... just a thought.
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Old 01-08-2012, 11:55 AM   #3
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Re: Electrical Help

You could start out by reading Phred's Poop Sheets. They have good basic info. Like practice killing cheap batteries before you try killing to expensive ones. But what does phred Tinseth know. Mark has good info also. Some of the info on these sites may be dated (sources and pricing... some legal stuff). But what do these folks know. I'm sure that there are experts here on the schoolie forum who know more. So like Mark said... Read at your own risk.

Who is phred?...
phred = phred Tinseth, SKP #394 wrote technical articles for the Escapees Magazine and other publications for over 20 years. His magazine articles and Poop Sheets came about from making every mistake an RVer can possibly make during 20 years of Full Timing.

You can and should apply Marks Disclaimer to both his and phred's site. If you do find phred's site useful, I would suggest saving the text. It will not be up forever.

Marks Disclaimer
This information may or may not reflect the thoughts or opinions of either myself, my associates, my friends, my enemies or my cat; don't quote me on that; don't quote me on anything; specifications are subject to change without notice; pictures may be slightly enlarged to show detail; any resemblance to actual or imaginary persons, living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental; hand wash only, tumble dry on low heat; do not bend, fold, mutilate, or spindle; your mileage may vary; no substitutions allowed; for a limited time only; this special offer is void where prohibited, taxed, or otherwise restricted; information is provided "as is" without any warranties expressed or implied; user assumes full liabilities; not liable for damages due to use or misuse; an equal opportunity employer; no shoes, no shirt, no service; quantities are limited while supplies last; if defects are discovered, do not attempt to fix them yourself, but return to an authorized service center; caveat emptor; read at your own risk; parental advisory -explicit lyrics; text may contain material some readers may find objectionable, parental guidance is advised; keep away from sunlight, pets, and small children; limit one-per-family please; no money down; no purchase necessary; you need not be present to win; some assembly required; batteries are not included; action figures sold separately; no preservatives added; safety goggles may be required during use; sealed for your protection, do not use if the safety seal is broken; call before you dig; for external use only; if a rash, redness, irritation, or swelling develops, discontinue use; use only with proper ventilation; avoid extreme temperatures and store in a cool dry place; keep away from open flames and avoid inhaling fumes; avoid contact with mucous membranes; do not puncture, incinerate, or store above 120 degrees Fahrenheit; do not place near flammable or magnetic source; reading and thinking about these pages may be hazardous to your health; the best safeguard, second only to abstinence, is the use of a good laugh; text used on these web pages is made from 100% recycled electrons and magnetic particles; no animals were used to test these pages nor the ideas contained within; no salt, MSG, artificial color or flavor added; if ingested, do not induce vomiting, if symptoms persist, consult a physician; slippery when wet; must be 18 to enter; possible penalties for early withdrawal; slightly higher west of the Rockies; allow four to six weeks for delivery; warranty does not cover hurricane, lightning, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, flood, and other Acts of God, misuse, neglect, unauthorized repair, damage from improper installation, typos, misspelled words, incorrect line voltage, missing or altered serial numbers, sonic boom vibrations, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, customer adjustments that are not covered in the information given, random enforcement of Murphy's Law, and incidents owing to motor vehicle accidents, airplane crash, ship sinking, leaky roof, falling rocks, mud slides, forest fire, broken glass, flying projectiles, or dropping the item; other restrictions may apply. If something offends you, lighten up, get a life, and move on.
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Old 01-08-2012, 05:43 PM   #4
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Re: Electrical Help

That's a cute bus.
All the above is good advice - I especially agree with Lorna here
I'm sure that there are experts here on the schoolie forum who know more.
You'll find them quite quickly - and woe betide the person who questions them!
I can save you some time here -
Most of these experts will simply give a piece of advice and you are expected to blindly follow it -
Say for example you go offsite and find something that contradicts one of the 'on-board experts'
You return and ask for clarification why something worked out using the laws of physics, thermodynamics, any of the sciences or common trade practices doesn't agree with what the 'expert' said - understand that from the "expert's" point of view this is not a question, it's a personal affront to the 'expert' and your question will never be answered.
The following sequence is generally followed -
1) You ask the question - the expert says that of course the expert is correct - the physical laws of the nature and/or science don't apply, aren't you aware of the "expert's" resume? And hits you in the head with the resume.
2) Your question not answered, you're bold enough to repose it - the 'expert' immediately incokes a Jerry Springer-esque barrage that questions your sanity, lineage and the horse you rode in on, calls you a blasphemer for questioning the expert, asks what didn't you understand about the resume and hits you in the head twice with the it.
3) Still no actual answer to the question, you doggedly ask again (silly you) - at this point the 'expert' may be joined by auxiliary 'experts' - these people aren't here to answer your question but to offer moral support to the first expert, exchanging glowing compliments about each other's resumes to keep the original expert's spirits up while they all pummel you about the head with resumes. Eventually their little arms will get tired and they'll wander off to drop snarky remarks in other posts, but your question will never be answered.
So save yourself a little grief, verify what the "expert's" here tell you and if it's good information that'll be easy to do. If you can't verify it, at least don't question it.

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Old 01-08-2012, 09:23 PM   #5
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Re: Electrical Help

thanks for your responses guys! i appreciate it. wtd. im starting to realize what your saying. lol bender477. no rudeness has been taken. i have searched several different word combinations in the search and all the posts i find it ends up being about who is right or who can respond with the most clever response without actually answering the question. is there anywhere i can find a cut and dried answer? i have been to dozens of countless different websites and i feel like the more i visit the more im confused! and some experts contradicting other experts about "stranded or solid wire" or whether or not to use an isolator... From what i have gathered so far i need to buy extensions cords and use the wiring from them. but if i was to wire the bus and then decide i wanna put a mini fridge will i need to add more?? im not asking for model numbers of exact isolator or batteries etc i need i just was wondering if someone could say "hey your need this kind of gauge wire, and isolator of this size, and a battery bank of this many" or just a link to someone that has done something similar. i dont mind paying someone money to take the time to explain it to me either. i plan on taking pictures and posting a how to guide on here after im finished because i cant seem to find an effective straightforward one anywhere. thank you again.
"Merlin" our short bus you wanna check out!
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:02 PM   #6
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Re: Electrical Help

It sounds like you have the general gist of it; you need
a) A way of isolating your battery bank from your starter batteries. This can range from anything as simple as a switch that you manually disconnect when you park to a one way power isolator that lets current flow from the alternator to the batteries, but not the other way. Personally, I use a 150 amp relay which is triggered by the ignition key, so when the bus is on, the bank is connectes, and when the bus turns off, the bank disconnects. These can be found at most auto supply stores, or easily online.
b) A way of converting from your batteries at 12v dc to 120v ac: inverter. For what you are trying to run you won't need a whole lot. laptops, cell phones, and even an lcd screen don't use a whole lot of power, but the mini fridge might. They have a tendency of surging a lot of power when the compressor kicks on. I'd go with at least a 2000 watt inverter, which will give you about the same power as you can get out of a single house circuit. This sort of thing is probably best bought online. Check ebay.
c) A way to store power: deep cycle batteries. Hard to say exactly how much you need, but this is something that you can probably start off with just a couple, and grab more down the line as you need them. Batteries are a little hard to buy online because they weigh so much, so if you have a Battery Zone, or some similar battery store, I'd check there. Usually those guys are pretty knowledgable, too and can help you find what you need. If there is nothing like that, an auto supply store usually carries batteries, too. Batteries also have a limited life (3 to 5 years), so don't worry too much about what kind of batteries. Any deep cycle will do. If you were building a sports car, getting something a little lighter would matter, but in a bus it just doesn't much.
d) A way of distributing the power. The inverter will have some plugs and a built in fuse, so you could always just plug into that. If you wanted to run power to various parts of the bus, so you don't have to run extension cords all over, you could go to home depot and pick up a small fuse box. Maybe with 8 or so circuits, and the fuses, wire, and outlet boxes to match. but again, you could probably get away with extension cords run to the inverter itself.

There's a couple other things you might want to consider:
e) A voltmeter to measure your battery power level. You can usually find installable ones of these on ebay for pretty cheap.
f) A way to charge the bus if you are ever parked somewhere with an outlet. You might not plan on it, but you'll inevitably want to do this at some point. I recently found a 100a power supply on ebay for around $200 that I'm very happy with, although that may be overkill for your needs. Typing on my phone so I can't look up the specific model.

Also, make sure you get big enough wires to run to your inverter.

Good luck!
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:21 PM   #7
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Re: Electrical Help

Just saw your last post. As far as wire goes, that's a little hard to say without knowing the size of inverter you get, but try googling a wire guage chart to know the guage once you know the amperage. Remember that your amperage will go up as your voltage goes down (ohm's law), so your 12v side will need thicker wire than your 120v side.
And for stranded vs solid, stranded is theoretically a better conductor, but not enough to really matter. The biggest difference is that stranded wire is a lot easier to run around tight corners, which vehicles have a lot of. It's more expensive, though, where you can buy solid wire pretty cheaply from Harbor Freight. Harbor Freight is a good place to buy 12gu extension cords that you can use to run your power on the 120v side.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:21 AM   #8
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Re: Electrical Help

I guess my post earlier didnt make it earlier.

One thing you need to keep in mind... Those devices need clean power. I would suggest a pure sinewave inverter. Yes they are more expensive but if not you may have issues with them down the road.

The above is good advice. Only thing I would add is to have a 2nd alternator to run your battery bank.
Here is my school bus conversion thread

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Old 01-09-2012, 12:28 PM   #9
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Re: Electrical Help

Originally Posted by bapos
...One thing you need to keep in mind... Those devices need clean power. I would suggest a pure sinewave inverter. Yes they are more expensive but if not you may have issues with them down the road.
There is some debate about the need for pure vs. modified sine wave inverters. I'm not an expert by any means, but I remember a forum member named Lapeer20m stating that he has many years experience using cheap modified sine wave inverters from Harbor Freight without any negative effects on his equipment. Maybe you can search his posts for more details on what he was running. I don't think he is an electrical engineer or anything, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. Speaking of experts, I have a friend who IS an electrical engineer, and as I remember (and I really can't vouch for my memory ) he said that typically appliances that have motors (like a refrigerator) are most likely to need the pure sine wave, but TVs, laptops, etc. do not. I run my laptop off a cheap modified sine wave inverter and haven't had any problems yet. I would advise you to NOT act on my information but rather use this information as a springboard for further research. Did I mention that I don't know what I'm talking about?
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:30 PM   #10
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Re: Electrical Help

Dan, You perhaps may not know what you are talking about but you sure play cool guitar.
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