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Old 02-02-2018, 09:40 AM   #21
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Madaline the Mini Wanderer - '92 Wayne Chevy G30

Oh, and I got my kitchen in. We were planning on using some extra wood counter top, building a frame and cabinets/shelves, putting rails for hang storage, and using a small sink. We made an ikea trip (literally just to walk around and eat meatballs) and saw this tiny kitchen that is absolutely ideal. It's called the Sunnersta mini-kitchen, and it was $112 on sale. I honestly don't think we could've built it for that, and it would have been much heavier. It has railing for hanging stuff, a small sink, decent counter space, storage underneath, and weighs about 40 lbs. When we get it secured into the wall and floor, I think it's going to be an awesome little kitchen.



While I'm thinking about it, let's talk water. I actually have an old 12v water pump from an RV that came with the bus. I don't thin I'm going to use it though. I am currently planning on using two water jugs--one acting as fresh water, the other as grey water. I've seen this implemented a few ways, but I plan on using a foot pump (and maybe an accumulator) to pressurize a sealed fresh water tank, then have it drain to an empty tank. Or I could always use gravity like another post I saw




I have a reverse-osmosis water filter system that used a 1-gallon accumulator. I've thought about making that work, but installing a check valve so the accumulator stays pressurized, but the tank doesn't have to. I haven't given it a lot of thought to determine whether it is actually a good idea, but it seems like it would be a great, cheap way to have water, and I wouldn't have to buy a faucet since I already have the one attached to the system.



Just thinking out loud at this point
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Old 02-05-2018, 11:28 AM   #22
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Love the mini kitchen. Wish I would have known about that when building my shuttle bus.
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Old 03-02-2018, 12:03 PM   #23
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Day 5

Gotten a lot done since I last posted, so I'm going to try to give a good overview in the next few posts.

After getting the wood down, I ended up putting urethane sealant in all the cracks, and around the edges. In hindsight, I should've paid much more attention to flattening this to make the floor sit a little better. I sanded it down a lot, but it's pretty difficult to sand it since it's so flexible. It definitely did well in the back where there are non-tongue-in-groove edges to add some strength.



There was noticable flexing when I would step up in the back, so I added a 1x2 to not compress the insulation. This did so well to seal the egde and add strength that I ended up doing a similar thing in the front. I was really impressed with how firm my floor felt after, and now wonder if I should've done this all around the edges, but I'm still happy with the results.



After getting the floor set, I started on framing and insulating the wall. To start, I put a 2x2 along the edges of the floor that will end up holding the bottom of my wall. I planned my insulation similarly to Taolik's bus but admittedly, his was probably a bit more thorough than mine. The roll of reflectix was abotu 3 inches shorter than my wall, so I ended up piecing it together more than I probably should have. You can get and idea of where they are going to go here, but at this point I was mainly concerned about framing the wall around the edge, where there will be furring strips to hold in all the 2nd layer of insulation.



I ended up adding two 2x2s here so that I could have one actually mounted to the metal stud. The back of the drivers seat doesn't butt up to a stud, but I want my walls to hit there. Looks a bit weird, but it shouldn't be an issue.

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Old 03-02-2018, 12:22 PM   #24
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Day 6, 7

For whatever reason, they were out of XPS at my local stores, so I had to take a bit of time off. Bit of a waste of a weekend, but what can you do.

But in the mean time, I got insurance! I used safeco, which I had never heard of, but it was recommended by my car insurance company. I explained to the agent how it is a converted bus, currently in progress, etc. Even so, I was able to get a year of insurance for $79. I'm officially road legal. And a short school bus makes a phenomenal home-depot truck. I've now convinced 4 people to buy a short school bus instead of buying a work van.

After getting the XPS board for the walls, we put in a layer of reflectix on the outside, and pieced together pieces with aluminum ducting tape. I did a really bad job of documenting this, but luckily I remembered to take a picture before putting in the last piece of foam. I forget how we held it up while we waited for the foam. At one point we used sticky tack, because we have a ton in my house for some reason, but I think we might've ended up just using aluminum tape.


It's hard to see the studs, but they are basically a piece of angle iron. It was a bit difficult to get the foam into the wall spaces and the angle iron, but cutting them to be narrower and them sliding them in place ended up working really well. It left a gap that I was going to fill with spray foam (I know, bad idea. corrosion is bad, and I hope I don't end up regretting using foam elsewhere) but I ended up just putting small strips of xps in there.


Like I said, great stuff foam is bad. And yet, I still chose to use it because I was not using too much and because I had already bought it. I used it to fill in the small gaps in between pieces of foam. It was easy, and I just was able to cut away the excess. The next picture is dark, but I will explain what's going on. Over the metal studs, I put foam insulation tape covered in aluminum tape. I don't know if this stuff is not generally used to wrap pipes anymore, but I could not find it at home depot. Luckily, wal mart had it so I was able to do it pretty cheap. Foam to cover all the metal, then aluminum tape to go from xps to xps. I've heard this is great to prevent condensation and to stop a thermal break.


I can't fully attest to the insulation value, but I will say it was cold outside and warm inside when I was working on this. The windows were quite foggy, and I'm curious how much of a battle the inside humidity will be in the end.

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Old 03-02-2018, 12:33 PM   #25
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Day 8

Ok, I did really bad at documenting this weekend. Usually I look back and see at least a few picture I took, but not this time. So this next piece will just be a wall of text with a couple after pictures.

After I had all the xps in, I cut all excess foam to make a flat surface. On top of that, I put polyiso held on with 1x2 furring strips. Mainly, this is to hold everything in place and have better mounting points for my finished wall. I got the polyiso done with essentially no gaps/pieces, and I taped it together with aluminum tape. There were three rows of durring strips that ran along the length of the bus. I really should've bought a krigg pocket jig for this, but instead I just drilled them into the studs and then covered the screws to hopefully create a thermal break. The stud in the back does not go all the way to the floor (weird, but was just to hold the windows) so the back furring strip ended up just not going all the way back. And it also was not very straight... Oh well, I don't need to mount anything there.

I also started with my wheel well boxes in order to "complete" the edge of the floor. I need to just get these finished, but I really wanted to get the finished floor put in, so I wanted the final edge to be in place.
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Old 03-02-2018, 12:45 PM   #26
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Day 9

We finally have a finished surface. We picked up some vinyl plank flooring for $1.70 per square foot. To be honest, I thought it was going to be cheaper, but this seemed to be the best option found. We were going to (and I guess still might) glue the floor down, but figure now harm in cutting it first then going back later to glue it down. After recently doing some laminate floor insulation, this stuff was a breeze. Utility knife with a straight edge made quick work. Score, snap, place. Score, snap, place. In the front, there is a curved edge around the doghouse, which was a little bit more difficult, but still not terrible.

In the back, there are a few places with gaps along the edge, because it's pretty much impossible to put in a half-inch edge with this stuff. But this is essentially just storage and I am going to make an edge with either silicone or polyurethane after the walls are in place, so it will be covered.



In the end, I'm really happy with how it is looking. So happy that I mounted a gopro on a roomba to get a fancy gif. I don't think it's possible to embed an animated gif, so I guess you actually have to click the link. You can see a seam that wasn't fully seated in the gif if you look closely. I was actually able to fix this just by kicking the floor. I wonder if it will come out as easy as it went in, but it is looking good so far.
http://i.imgur.com/R88jxf6.gifv

In other news, we've decided to document the last steps and our pending trip in video. So hopefully that means I will do a lot better job of documenting design decisions along the way.
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Old 03-11-2018, 09:15 PM   #27
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Days 10-13

I have been pretty busy on the finished walls and the lofted bed. I ended up going with 11/32" (I think) pine siding. I was going to do the 8" board instead of the 4", but they were thicker and more expensive. This stuff was cheaper than wainscoting and seemed much more durable. We cut them to size, then sanded and painted them outside the bus before installing them. They will need another coat, but it was much easier this way. We primed with BIN to ensure the best coverage of the knotty pine, and used an exterior paint (behr premium plus ultra, I think) to help with the many temperatures these walls will end up seeing.

The first and largest boards were trickiest to cut. If I was going it again, I might make sure the seam was not at the front where it is most visible, but hopefully my patchwork will make it where you can't even tell


Did I mention how much fun it is to work without squared or level edges? Took a few cuts to get this guy in place, but it came out alright.


I didn't take a picture of the last few panels. All of this took a lot longer than expected due to the sanding, priming, waiting, painting, waiting, etc. The gap between the panels only overlaps one way, so the seam is pretty bad. Hopefully wood putty will look alright to cover it.

The bed frame was something I've been stressing about for awhile. I was originally going to do angle iron securely mounted to the metal studs, but was not sure how well that would insulate. Ended up just making a lofted frame out of wood that I am quite pleased with.

I built a frame inside the bus, starting with 2x4s mounted all the way into the metal studs. I put in a 1x2 to help fill the gap between the paneling and the insulation (still probably 3/8" gap) and drilled a hole into the stud for a 3" lag bolt. I was surprised how sturdy it was, even without the legs. I know it's a thermal bridge, and I potentially messed up parts of my insulation in the wall, but it think it's worth it for the extra support.


We built the frame inside the bus, which allowed us to get everything to be the exact length we needed. It wasn't perfectly square (about 3/4" shorter in the back) but the middle splits are all straight. After getting the edges and the middle two splits, we were ready for the posts.I don't know if it's because the bus is not level, but this picture makes the bed look really crooked. I swear it's straight.


You can see how we cut the posts to accommodate the rail and a split. The way I cut it, the depth was controlled by the height of the circular saw, and I just made cuts every 1/4" or so. This left me with shims that I ended up gluing into place before screwing the posts to the frame to be perfectly flush to the rail. (My dad came up to help with this, and I am hugely grateful that I didn't have to do it myself.)


I put some thin plywood on top and tacked it down to help spread the weight of the mattress. It's only 5mm underlayment, and I might eventually do something more sturdy, but I think it will be fine with the mattress up there.


You can see in the back corner, that I actually fit the plywood to wrap around the wall. This was mostly because we had plenty of length and had to cut a non-square edge, but this is going to keep me from dropping my phone at some point. I also finally covered the gas tank filler line. I made a littlde frame around the edges in order to mount flat wood (spare pine siding) without hitting the line, put a relatively large amount of polyurethane in all the gaps, and painted the underside of the wood to give it a little bit of extra protection. I might hit it with a real undercoating at some point, but I'm happy with how it came out.


It's very high. If I was doing it again I might drop it 6", but it doesn't feel claustrophobic, and my dog is already a big fan, so not going to change it. Plus we have so much room for storage underneath. I also have some 1x6s that I'm going to put along the face to make it look finished and to hold in the mattress, but I'm going to wait to put these on.


I also started putting wood filler over the seam. It's probably going to take a few coats of sanding and reapplying to get it to look alright, but it definitely looks better (and more protected) than that unsightly seam.

It really is quite cozy. Now to cover up the ugly front of the bus to make the view a bit better.


I will probably be working on the seams and screws, making the walls look pretty if I find some downtime. I have the back panels cut, but I need to sand and paint these as well. I have some family coming into town next weekend, so I'm hoping to recruit them to paint the outside of the bus.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:44 PM   #28
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I've lost count of the actual days at this point, because it's often been short bits of work throughout the week. I've mainly been doing trim work. Boxes for the generator, wheel wells, and batteries; window sills; corner trim; wood putty; paint; blah blah.

To cover the generators, wheel wells, and batteries, I mainly just made a frame then used 1/2" plywood to make a simple box. I insulated the generator box with extra xps foam that I had. I was even able to use 1" and 1/2" to really clean out my garage. I doubt it will do anything, but I figured it might help a touch with noise and heat. May eventually cover it with soundproofing or something, but no plans right now.


I was originally going to put the batteries along the big edge of the generator box. My wife suggested putting it on top of the wheel wells instead of putting accessible storage there.


After testing it, I realized it is pretty much a perfect fit for the battery box to line up with the genset box. There is an inch or two of extra space that is wasted by making it flush, but that's going to help me if I ever need to access the batteries anyway. I put down some wood to put the batteries on, and I sealed the edges real well with polyurethane in case of some leak or something. I'm a bit concerned in the case of an accident, but I think the batteries can be held down well enough with the lid.


This shows the wall between these boxes. This space is a bit wasted, but that awkward angled space would be pretty worthless no matter what I put there. I'm going to put a 2.5" port to the outside and a computer fan to help vent the box. The wires to my alternator will also run through this wall.


All in all, I'm really happy with the current look of it. It's going to eventually be covered with electronics, but it's a pretty sexy box. Just need to add a hinge and latch to the top of the box.



At one point we were going to have real window sills, but decided to use 5.0mm plywood underlayment because we already had it and thought it would add a nice touch to the light look of the current setup. I really liked how it turned out, and it did well to cover. I did have to sand the back edge just a bit, because I forgot to think about the window having to come down and it was about 2mm too deep. Took awhile to sand it down by hand, but what can you do.


I also wanted to add corner trim to cover my exquisite craftmanship. I had up to a half inch gap in place.


We messed around with stair edges and wood trim, but ultimately decided to use 3/4" aluminum angle iron (angle aluminum? Is that a thing?) to match the kitchen and I am really happy with how it looks.


Still need to cut the one for the window sill, but I'm not sure if we're putting on on the front edge just yet. It depends on the couch situation, and whether we can fit a little divider wall there to help hold everything in place.


Decided to go with a little ikea loveseat to give space for the dogs and my wife that serves the purpose a little better than a bucket seat. Going to install some seatbelts, but I haven't decided if it's best to secure the belt to the couch or the bus. Can't decide which is safer in the case of an accident.

Next, I'm adding in a shelving unit between the bed and the kitchen. This will also serve to hold in the kitchen real well since it's light. I'm also about to start the electrical. I don't want to admit it, but I have an electrical engineering background. For whatever reason, this means I'm more nervous about electrical work. With cutting stuff at least I can say "eh, not bad for an amateur." But with electrical work, I am paid to already know what I'm doing (though admittedly, I'm in software and been in computer science for the past few years and have never really done car work).

Here is my electrical system in its current state. Going to rely pretty heavily on DC for lighting, electronics charging, a fan, etc.


-Solenoid to connect to the alternator (50A fuse), house and engine grounds tied together. Currently getting a mechanic to decide if I need a bigger alternator. I think it might only be 105A.
-Battery meter which will be on the edge of the battery box.
-1200W inverter that also has an A/C transfer switch (I have an add'l 3000W inverter in case I ever want to connect the AC to the batteries. I got it for free, but I'm only going to use it if I add in the solar.
-DC fuse block (125A fuse) to distribute my lights, fan, electronics, etc.
-5-stage 30A charge converter (250A fuse)
-small A/C that fits in the bus window.

I also have a nice big switch to disconnect batteries, but I'm honestly not sure what I want to do with it. House battery, engine battery, or solenoid bypass in case of dead engine batteries (though I think I could just jumpstart)?

The circuit above has a circle to indicate the nice-to-have items. I prioritized an alternator hookup since we will be quite mobile and can keep our batteries charged while driving. Definitely going to get the other stuff before going on the trip. We would love to have A/C but I'm thinking it's going to be much more difficult than we're imagining. We picked up a maxxair fan at the recommendation of people who live out of their van. Supposedly I can keep it comfortable enough in temperatures from 50-80 with just a fan. Will eventually pick up a window unit to use with the generator/shore power, but wanted to do some "bus tent" camping to test how the fan affects temperature.

I forgot to draw my potential solar setup in there. I really want 500W solar, but I want it on a roof rack, and know it will probably cost upward of $1500 to get what I want. I really love the idea of boondocking, but I'm just not positive it's worth the price. I've rationalized it a bit by thinking of a grid-tie inverter to add to my house power when the bus is parked. I'm thinking this would also be good for the batteries to stay fully charged.

The electrical system has definitely been something I've dwelled on a lot. One of those things where I could do it cheap or right, and I have no idea which way it'll end up. I have 6 weeks or so before the trip starts, so I really need to start nailing stuff down.

I'm working on the exact route of the trip as well, and I'll update once it's done. Hoping to see Glacier/Banff and also Yellowstone. Coming from Alabama, it's going to an ambitious journey to make it that far and still see all the parks along the way. 4 weeks is simultaneously a long trip, and such a short trip.
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:44 PM   #29
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Looking good. Keep up with updates, I'm at the beginning of my own shorty and this is super helpful.
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Old 03-28-2018, 05:09 PM   #30
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very nice, your are making great progress. Are you venting those batteries? overcharging will get some interesting explosive mixture in your bus. Also in case of accident batteries are not fun flying around if they get outside the box.
good luck,
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:58 PM   #31
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I'm trying to figure out my electrical set up right now as well. I'm also doing all DC but have never tried to assemble a fuse box before. I've made a solar cell phone charging station for a music festival last year but that's my only knowledge.
I found a great resource yesterday:

https://roadslesstraveled.us/rv-mari...arging-basics/

If you're using sealed batteries you want a three stage charge. You only want them to equalize if it's flooded to let off the gas at a higher voltage.
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:18 PM   #32
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very nice, your are making great progress. Are you venting those batteries? overcharging will get some interesting explosive mixture in your bus. Also in case of accident batteries are not fun flying around if they get outside the box.
good luck,
later J
I'm going to drill a port in the wall to the generator box. I have an 80mm 12v computer fan that will run pretty much whenever the batteries are charging to ensure there is airflow through the port. Probably would be fine just having the port, but $3 is pretty easy for a simple solution.

I'm going to have the box latched closed, but I'm not positive how I will latch it just yet. Thinking of a cooler latch to let it wrap around the box. There is an inch or so of space above the batteries, so I will either us something that presses down on the batteries to keep them from moving (assuming my box doesn't open) or will actually strap them down and drill through the floor.
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:53 PM   #33
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I'm trying to figure out my electrical set up right now as well. I'm also doing all DC but have never tried to assemble a fuse box before. I've made a solar cell phone charging station for a music festival last year but that's my only knowledge.
I found a great resource yesterday:

https://roadslesstraveled.us/rv-mari...arging-basics/

If you're using sealed batteries you want a three stage charge. You only want them to equalize if it's flooded to let off the gas at a higher voltage.
This is the charger I'm going to buy I actually realized when I went to grab the link that I was planning on getting the 55a version. My generator and shore are going to be 30a, so I almost bought the wrong version. thanks for saving me $17! That's a great source too, going to read it more in depth later.

The DC system is pretty easy, in my opinion. The main concern you need to think about is tolerance for a specific device. Your DC system will vary from 14v to 12v. For fans, there is no real difference, but with electronics this can really damage the system. That being said, most electronics know that so they have their own voltage regulator, typically a DC-DC buck converter. This steps down the input voltage using a power diode to keep the voltage very steady. A boost converter works similarly and will raise the voltage to whatever you need.

Some electronics are cheap, and you should ensure that the DC voltage is as clean as the voltage that would be coming from the DC power supply that it would usually use. Some electronics are expensive, and you might as well ensure the DC voltage is constant. You can get a 10-pack of buck-converters on amazon for $17. (makes it about a 2-buck converter, eh?)

This is only really necessary if you're really trying to put everything on DC power. I honestly don't know how much I will put on it, but I could technically run a TV, phone charger, roku, xbox, almost everything except air conditioning on DC by stepping it down to whatever the power supply says it needs. It's about 30% more efficient than an AC-DC power supply, which is MAYBE a dollar savings in a residential environment, but people pay $100 to have 30% more amp-hours in a van.

For designing a DC fused system, you just need to know the max expected amperage (to pick a fuse) the voltage tolerance (to know if you need a buck/boost converter) and some time to run some wires. And of course ensuring that you aren't going to run your batteries dry. Now someone, please tell me how I'm wrong before I realize I know just enough to make a real mess.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:38 PM   #34
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Are you set on that charger?

I ask because it's bulk charge voltage is set too low for flooded lead/acid batteries, but I'm not sure about AGM or maintenance-free.

Check with the battery manufacturer before you buy a charger that won't ever fully charge them. FLA batteries need a bulk-charge rate of 14.8 volts, and with temperature monitoring they can go even higher.

This is not a trivial point, that 0.4V really does make the difference between very expensive batteries lasting 4 years, or 8 years

It's also worth installing a battery monitor that will really tell you what is happening with the batteries. The cheap ones are volt-meters and they will register a 100% charge even when the batteries are only at 80%. The better ones cost money, but they measure the power going in and out and are far more accurate. Trimetric is the standard.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:53 PM   #35
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Are you set on that charger?

I ask because it's bulk charge voltage is set too low for flooded lead/acid batteries, but I'm not sure about AGM or maintenance-free.

Check with the battery manufacturer before you buy a charger that won't ever fully charge them. FLA batteries need a bulk-charge rate of 14.8 volts, and with temperature monitoring they can go even higher.

This is not a trivial point, that 0.4V really does make the difference between very expensive batteries lasting 4 years, or 8 years

It's also worth installing a battery monitor that will really tell you what is happening with the batteries. The cheap ones are volt-meters and they will register a 100% charge even when the batteries are only at 80%. The better ones cost money, but they measure the power going in and out and are far more accurate. Trimetric is the standard.
Well, I was sure about the converter until you said that . I guess I'm going to do some more research into charge converters that are best for FLA batteries. I did see that someone used this (well, maybe it was the 55amp) for a lead acid system on another build, though. Always more research to do.

I was not going to splurge on a fancy battery monitor because I just can't rationalize paying 20x more for something that can be done by a $17 shunt meter

This brings me back to my point about doing something right and doing something cheap, and it's pretty tough to find the best middleground. (Is a $400 charge converter and a $200 monitor really worth it for my 2 $100 batteries?) I'd love to have enough scratch left in a few weeks to install solar, and that's entirely another beast of compromise.
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Old 03-29-2018, 07:38 AM   #36
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One other option is open to you.

If you are planning to use an inverter for 120V, then pick an Inverter/Charger. The ones made by AIMS will charge your batteries correctly and you wouldn't need the extra charger.

You could also leave out the monitor. It gives you very useful information, especially about state of charge, but for light use you could use estimates until you have the funds to add it. A voltmeter would allow you to check you were not discharging the batteries too much.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:13 PM   #37
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Thanks for the update and great pictures. I'm just starting my project and I love to see and learn from those that have gone before me.
You have set a high standard in documentation that I hope I can live up to when I get to the build phase. I firmly believe in the FLOSS business model and I want to keep paying it forward
Thanks man.
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