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Old 07-09-2007, 08:59 PM   #1
Bus Nut
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Leaving in a hurry!

I'll apologize beforehand- I'm using dial-up and the search function is slow as Christmas, so I'll ask a question that I know has been answered before: How much additional load can an alternator take running down the road? We're leaving for CA the first of next week. The bus was gonna be completely bare bones (mattresses, couch and a couple of ice chests), but I'm ending up with some extra money for the trip. So, I'm thinking of getting a 2000 watt continuous invertor (from Harbor Freight) and a portable refrigerator. I'll have time to hook the invertor up but not enough time to set up house batteries. Will my stock alternator be overloaded? I'm also gonna try to hook up electric fans for my radiator (my 3208 has the old mechanical linkage) so I know that's gonna put an additional load on it. I can't find any markings on the alternator to indicate it's rating.
Any ideas? Also, if you had a week to get ready for the trip, bus was in good shape, seats were out, what would you try to get done to make it better (let's say you had an extra $1000 for upgrades)?

Daddy, can we go on a trip again??
'85 Thomas SafTLiner RE
3208 NA CAT MT643
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Old 07-09-2007, 10:53 PM   #2
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Re: Leaving in a hurry!

Most dorm size fridges will draw 1-2 amps running and 5-7 amps at start up on the 120 volts side. That equates out to about 10-20 amps running (your battery will absorb the surge load). That's on the high side, but better to plan high.

For what it's worth, I can run two dorm firdges, my 27 inch CRT TV, stereo, and PS2 off a single 750 watt continuous inverter. The only time I have a problem is if both fridges kick on at exactly the same time in which case the voltage drops JUST low enough for the PS2 to reset. It was frustrating enough to cause me to put a UPS on it.

Please please PLEASE don't try and run your inverters off the starting batteries. Even if you have an 8D or three Group 31's (most typical set up I have seen) you will be taxing it with that set up. Starting batteries are for starting, deep cycles are for running stuff like an inverter. Underway it won't matter, but stopped it will.

A pair of 6 volt golf cart batteries and wiring or a single 8D deep cycle will run you about $200 either way and will net you about the same number of amp hours. It's a worthwhile investment.

Also, power inverters are most efficient at rated load. It's not a big deal and I understand entirely why you would get a bigger inverter now than you need seeing as your demands will likely increase in the future. I just wanted to give you some food for thought.
Skooling state at a time...
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Old 07-09-2007, 11:38 PM   #3
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Re: Leaving in a hurry!

Yeah, I'm definately planning on house batteries. It's just that I won't have the time to set it up (I don't think!). For what it's worth (future plans) we're renting a house on 100+ acres and my landlord (who also has a house here) has a complete setup for living off the grid from solar panels, wind powered well and a bank of batteries. His son used it on a small cabin on the property before moving away. Now it's just gathering dust. I'm planning on seeing if he'll make a deal for some of it.
I haven't figured electrical needs longterm but I have 5 children so I'm thinking it'll be more than normal. Also, if I can make a deal on the batteries (it looks like there's 4 8d's) and the solar panels maybe I can just run everything off my battery bank.
For the trip I would just run the inverter while the bus is running and then switch to AC when we get to a campground.

If I borrowed one of the batteries for the trip what would I need to set it up? I guess I could set the battery in the rear engine compartment by the air cleaner...
Daddy, can we go on a trip again??
'85 Thomas SafTLiner RE
3208 NA CAT MT643
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:50 AM   #4
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Re: Leaving in a hurry!


FYI Harbor Freight has their 1000 watt inverter on sale until the 23rd, at least where I am. I picked one up since my 400 watt just wasnt cutting it for my three amps and interior lights and surging it with an occasional blender. The 1000 watt will surely be enough but if you want the bigger one go right ahead.

Presently for my battery bank I am using three different brand regular car batteries hooked up together utilizing a battery isolator. Quite frankly the battery isolator was a breeze to hook up to the alternator, house, and starter battery. I know its not the ideal setup but I had the batteries setting around. I can tailgate all day and run the stereo loud, lights in the evening, a tv, and the blender and have never had the low voltage alarm go off on the inverter. The alternator that came on my 1984 Bluebird Ford B700 gasser was a 160 amp that i had rebuilt. Some french sounding name or something.... Most busses I believe come with at least a 120 amp or greater alternator.

If your bus is good mechanically and your not worried about your tires I would spend money on making any part of the trip more comfy.

--Buy a shower curtain and a camping porta potty and set it up in a corner of the bus.
--Change out the bus seat for a captains seat from a van or something.
--While your at Harbor Freight buy one of their battery powered racket ball racket looking bug zappers (on sale now also), very handy for all those pesky bugs that wont stay out.
--Consider making some screens that you can put in windows that are down to keep those pesky bugs out.
--Buy some matchstick style roll down blinds and put them up so you can keep unwanted light out.
--A 15' x 15' tarp attached with some eyebolts or such on one side of the bus and poles under the other side staked down with rope makes for a great make shift awning to lounge under on a budget.
--find someone that can give you some carpet remnants to make the floor much more comfy for the trip.
--always carry tools to do easy fixes on the fly...extra belts, hoses, hose clamps, duct tape
--buy one of those back up bulbs with the beeper in it !!! safety first while camping !!
--couple of lengths of 2x10 in case where you camp isnt totally level (I didnt have them one trip and felt like i was walking crooked after the weekend lol)
--another good thing to carry with is a couple of tire chucks to use just in case your sleeping and the kids pull the brake, you never know...

Ok, Im rambling with useless ideas.... must have been the empty beer cans

Maybe when Im sober I can think of some usefull ideas.

Have fun on your trip !!!

TonyC in Iowa
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Old 07-10-2007, 07:17 AM   #5
Bus Nut
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 264
Re: Leaving in a hurry!

Hey, some good ideas! More beer! (Actually haven't had one in years...)
I'll keep the list handy- some I have written down already- does that bug zapper really work? I'm glad we don't have a Harbor Freight in town- I'd be like a drunk every paycheck going to the store. I already love playing the game of when a certain item is going on sale.
Where's the best (cheapest) place to get an isolator?
For the tarp I'm thinking of maybe putting the fasteners in the drip rail above the windows?
My tires are great- 90% on the front (two pice wheels though). I drive a school bus so our head mechanic has agreed to go over the bus with me before we leave to make sure everything is okay-dokey.
Keep the ideas coming!
Daddy, can we go on a trip again??
'85 Thomas SafTLiner RE
3208 NA CAT MT643
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