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Old 01-02-2010, 09:19 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Wyoming
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Year: 1994
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Getting ready to power this thing up!

I'm to the point I've got to get my electrical system squared away and I'm a total 12volt/AC RV wiring FNG and need some help! Please!

Some back ground on what I have going on now and what I'm attentively planning, please feel free to jump in with your advise and experience! I haven't bought anything yet, except the extra battery box and I'm working from a blank slate

I'm running light on the AC side, heavy on the DC side for most house functions.

AC will be light when not hooked up to shore power or to the generator probably just a TV/DVD, stereo and laptop computer/cell phone charging with occasional use of of an outside reciprocal to run small power tools for repairs or some such. No microwave or other AC kitchen appliances. In the future I might have a RV roof top AC unit, but not for now, it's not high on the priority list.

At this point I plan on using the bus alternator (or a dual alternator system) to charge the battery bank or a small generator that won't be mounted in or on the bus plugged into an AC to DC converter/charger. There will be times I may have shore power but being boondocker ready is the first priority.

I have an extra battery box carped from another Bluebird bus that I plan on installing next to the factory battery box, between the two I have room for six batteries total and right now have two engine starting batteries. From what I've read four house batteries should be plenty. The battery boxes are underneath the galley base cabinet which is where I plan on mounting my converter/charger and DC to AC inverter to keep the main power leads short.

This is where I start getting smoke coming out my ear's at the variety of options

I was looking pretty hard at this unit (PD4045) it seems to have what I need in a converter/charger and distribution panel in a compact package:

http://www.bestconverter.com/4000-Series_c_138.html

or:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Paral...Q5fAccessories

or:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/NEW-E...Q5fAccessories

Any opinions or experience with this unit, anybody got any other good options?

I also need some advice on light fixtures. I was contemplating using the original ceiling lights, just moved around where I need them, but they don't seem to be the most efficient as far as brightness goes. Most area's it wouldn't matter, maybe I just need to install some bright reading lights where I need them, such as above the bed in the stateroom in the secretary and above the futon in the cabin area. I've decided I'm going to panel the ceiling in the area's that show to hide the abandoned speaker holes and the abandoned light fixture holes and make a minor thermal break. I also need some advice on switching those 12 volt lights, what are folks using for switches?

Take care and thanks for your help!
Den
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:11 AM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Re: Getting ready to power this thing up!

Thanks Smitty!

It's good to see you finally settled on bus an the it looks like it's coming right along.

Quote:
I would run any power-tools (and Air Cond) straight from the gen. (definately get a small gen). I'd also look into a couple Solar panels (You'll pay for them in spent fuel anyway).
I've got a couple Honda generators, I was planning on hauling the small 3500 watt in the back of my Jeep Wrangler tow vehicle on the road and chaining it to the bus/tree when boondocking, the other unit is bigger, but I'm not sure I would need it and it's a lot heavier to be horsing around.

Quote:
The inverter you're looking at is only 735watts, that would run a blow-dryer at 1/2 power
Oh the hell! I didn't realize it was also an inverter, I thought I was looking at a AC shore power to DC house power converter/battery charger with a built in distribution box.

What do you plan on running in your bus?

Take Care,
Den
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:13 AM   #3
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Re: Getting ready to power this thing up!

The converter/charger looks OK, remember it is just a HOUSING for circuit breakers you provide for your AC. Be sure it takes common breakers, I didn't see a spec for them. The WFCO power center we have uses the common Square D breakers. Remember the converter/charger is only used when you are running the generator or plugged in, it does not include a DC/AC inverter for the few AC items you might want to use when boondocking. But you are already planning to use both.

Recharging your house batteries with a portable generator and the converter/charger will be more efficient than idling the bus. Of course, you want to be able to recharge your house bank when you travel.

You may want to consider two AC panels: One for the shore/generator only loads, and one for the emergency/inverter loads. If you get an inverter with a built-in transfer switch, it will start whenever the external AC fails. If not, you will need a manual transfer, or arrangement where you move a distribution plug from an inverter outlet to a line outlet. It is not a good idea to plan on running your inverter loads off of the battery at the same time as the converter is charging them. This puts un-needed additional stress on both units.

The existing interior lights will be power hogs when boondocking. They are meant for road trips. Each incandescent bulb draws several amps, and to have them up on the ceiling so the light is dim where you are trying to read or work is a waste. But you already plan to have some 'task' lighting.

If you plan to boondock much, try a few LED devices for night lighting to let you walk around without tripping, and combine them with the close-in DC task lighting you are planning for work areas. For example, you might also want to re-locate 2 or 3 of the ceiling lights to become under-cabinet lights over the kitchen counters. A wall lamp or hanging lamp over the dinette will provide better lighting than a bulb in the ceiling.

Jake VonSlatt shows how to make converters to use household fixtures with 12-volt bulbs on his bus site: http://www.vonslatt.com/bus-light.shtml
This will give you lots of choices with buying, salvaging, or re-manufacturing fixtures.

As far as switches, good ones should all have ratings on them. Make sure they have DC ratings and not just AC ratings. Using DC stresses switches more than AC does, and the currents are ten times higher for the same power. Current is what generates heat wherever there is residual resistance. Heat is what generates failures.

Select switches with gold contacts over any other material if you have a choice. Get switches rated higher than you need. Use a 20-amp switch for a couple of 4-amp or 6-amp lights, and use a 60-amp disconnect if you have a 20-amp load. Don't use cheap plastic switches from Radio Shack. Pick up a switch and turn it on and off a few times. If it feels junky, it probably is. You should feel a positive 'click' when it changes position.

One other thing someone might investigate is using the "silent" wall switches they (used to?) make. They cost a lot more than the 89-cent bulk light switches contractors buy, and may have gone the way of the dinosaur. These switches had liquid mercury in a sealed glass tube, and when you tipped the switch, the mercury would flow down to the opposite end of the tube, and connect two probes molded into the glass. Since these are sealed, there will be no atmospheric poisoning of the conductor materials, and the mercury will not be get pitted from the arcs when the contacts open and close. Take the cover off of a round Honeywell wall thermostat and tip the glass tube back and forth to get the idea. Regular residential wall switches are larger than mobile switches, but if you are putting wall boxes in the framing it doesn't matter.

Edit: I missed the added models and posts while I was writing, and ignored the "additional posts" warning.
No, these are NOT inverters, they are "converters" that produce 12-volts DC from 120 volts AC. You still need a separate inverter to make AC from the batteries. The 735-watt rating is the AC power draw required to provide the 45 amps of DC. These units will charge more than a single battery, but the advertised times will be off. The times are probably figured on one deep-cycle "trolling motor' battery typical on commercial camping trailers.

The battery chargers generally use battery voltage sensing to determining when whether to use Boost, Normal, or Storage mode (also known as "float" charge). I measured the computer-controlled modes on my converter and they were right on. Depending on the firmware, you may have to disconnect the AC briefly to restart a new fast-charge cycle if you draw down the bank while in the "storage" mode.

Please note these voltages are chosen for wet cells. The sealed batteries we use for communications want 13.6 volts maximum, and any of these converters will "cook" them. The thing that bothers me about the Mighty-Mini is the desulfation every 21 hours. From all I've read and people I've talked to, "equalization" is only required every 30 days. If you park the bus with the AC connected in "storage" mode, the repeated "desulfation" may cause water loss, requiring periodic water level checks for battery health. A constant 12.2 volts would only require water checks about once or twice per year while in storage.
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Old 01-02-2010, 09:54 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
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Re: Getting ready to power this thing up!

Thanks Redbear for taking the time for a detailed response!

That's just the sort of help I'm needing!

Take Care,
Den
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:02 PM   #5
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Re: Getting ready to power this thing up!

Thanks for the information. I see it was in 2010 but I just got here.
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