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Old 07-31-2018, 06:29 PM   #1
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Basic electric for boondocking

First of all dealing with anything electrical scares me. Secondly, most of the work on my skoolies basic electric was already done. My bus has hookups for shore power, but I plan on boondocking and not just visiting parks. For now solar is not an option because it's not in my budget. I would like to find links and threads for other skoolies that have a battery bank, and an alternator charge converter.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:42 AM   #2
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Any advice on tutorials to follow? What I need to order from Amazon? Prayers to prevent electrocution?
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:50 AM   #3
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In your situation, I'd say a small generator would be a good investment. I wouldn't want to solely rely on the alternator to keep up a large house battery bank.
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:07 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Mr4btTahoe View Post
In your situation, I'd say a small generator would be a good investment. I wouldn't want to solely rely on the alternator to keep up a large house battery bank.
Good suggestion.

I did a LOT of boondocking in my first bus. I didn't have solar.

I had a generator, inverter/charger and a 400 A/H 12 Volt battery bank.

I developed a routine of starting the generator when I got up in the morning and letting it run through breakfast. The generator run time topping up the batteries and supporting bigger loads like the coffee maker and blow dryer.

If I needed, I would run the generator during the day for air conditioning or power tools.

One thing to keep a close eye on is making sure that you achieve 100% SOC on a regular basis or you can trash your batteries.
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Old 08-06-2018, 01:43 PM   #5
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thanks for the feedback. So even if I go with a generator I need to figure out how to get a battery bank set up to power the electrical panel. i feel that for now alternator charging is a step towards having more power for a while than waiting till I can get a generator. My bus has a few other items I need to work on and my timeline to get on the road has drastically decreased.
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:06 PM   #6
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The battery bank will probably cost you more then a generator. If it we're me, I'd start with a generator... Then the battery bank. The generator can handle all of your electrical demand... All of the time right off the bat. As far as wiring goes... Simple... Plug it in just like you would at a camp site with hook ups.

You need a load center... Some form of breaker panel if you don't already have one.

What do you already have?
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:09 PM   #7
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:18 PM   #8
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I'm starting out with just an inverter generator as my main power source tied into the load center. I will add a battery bank at a later date and rewire everything and do what PNW_Steve did
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:42 AM   #9
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Chess and jjhwick119,

I'd really encourage you to include at least a single 12V battery to start. That is far from ideal but provides a very small bit of power without having to run that awful generator. "Awful" meaning for your neighbors (like me that really hate the sound of those things - they are all loud and awful!! ). That single battery will let you charge your phone, laptop, run a few lights, water pump, etc. One can be had pretty inexpensively from anywhere or even a used UPS battery from Craigslist.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:06 AM   #10
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No worries, I wont have any neighbors before I get batteries. My bus will be sitting for another 7 months and I'll have batteries by then
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Old 08-07-2018, 08:16 AM   #11
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Generator

I have several generators as we own a sound company & do many outdoor weddings. We use Honda Generators for those. I plan to buy the so called Honda compatible generator from Harbor Freight. It is supposed to be as quiet as a Honda & I would only run something that quiet to keep my neighbors happy. It will not be as good or last as long as Honda's are the best portables made but it is half the price.

Solar is always an alternative & I plan to put up to 300 watts on the roof later but that will never be enough to run the rooftop unit or most of the stuff I use to cook. Plus the more batteries you carry the more weight you are dealing with.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:37 PM   #12
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I'm kind of embarrassed but I watched your video a few times and am still a bit lost. Hopefully by the time I begin wandering I will no longer be lost when it comes to electronics. In the meanwhile I'll keep reading here and watching more YouTube videos.
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Old 08-08-2018, 07:03 AM   #13
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What are you lost about, I am not an RV Mechanic but have a cousin that is maybe he can answer some questions. I haven't gone the solar route yet still using basic 120 external power & as far as the internal bus power it is all DC of course. I watched your video you are building a great system there. Like your controller system. My bus is a dual purpose unit, mostly used for moving sound gear & advertising at major events like the Blue Angel Air Show. But I am also planning to use it for travel & letting my IT company pay my expenses while I do remote & onsite training work across the country. It probably won't ever be as nice as yours is turning out. By the way the little I see on your carpentry work it's looking good. Keep the faith it will come out well.
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Old 08-12-2018, 10:14 AM   #14
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Agreed, generator first.
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Old 08-12-2018, 03:24 PM   #15
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If your bus is on the road, I'm with JD on this - even if you simply get a single deep-cycle battery and a cheap inverter, that way, you can at least plug something in without having to start up the generator. Even stupid things - say you want to charge your phone. Maybe you want a radio or alarm clock. Some lights. Your laptop is about to die and needs a charge.


(Technically, you could just run this stuff from the starting batteries, but I know I'd end up falling asleep with my laptop going or something, and getting myself stuck somewhere.)

I think a single 12v deep-cycle battery and a small inverter should be under $250, total.

If you're still building it, like jjhwick119, I can see waiting to do one large battery bank.
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Old 08-14-2018, 04:28 PM   #16
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My bus is set up with a minimal boondocking system. There is a spot for two batteries. One wire to the engine for charging. Iím not sure how it is connected, may be through a relay so it gets disconnected when the engine isnít running. The battery powers a water pump and some lights. Iím going to upgrade the system, but if I were to keep it, I would do some minor improvements. I would add a battery monitor to make sure I donít drain the battery more than 50%.. That will help prolong the life of the battery. I think my battery is connected to the engine via a relay, if not, I would add an automatic charging relay. If I wanted the best I would invest in a B2B Battery-to-Battery charger. That is a smart charger, will charge any type of battery - provides multi-stage charge adapted to battery type. Otherwise, you would want to have the starting battery and the house battery of the same type and size, and same age. Also make sure the alternator is capable of supplying the starting battery and the house batteries, if not get a bigger one. The alternator will never charge the batteries to 100% from what I have read, unless you get the B2B. You could probably get a generator for less, but here are some options.
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Old 08-14-2018, 04:47 PM   #17
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I just thought I'd throw something out there I haven't noticed anybody talked about the dangers of the hydrogen gas admissions from batteries all batteries have to be vented to the outside of the vehicle if they are in a living space otherwise they should be mounted underneath the bus where the hydrogen gas can safely be vented off hydrogen gas can build up and cause an explosion in rare cases just food for thought
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Old 08-14-2018, 07:14 PM   #18
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Yes...yes they will blow up. Good reason to go with something like an AGM battery that require no venting since they don't outgas.
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