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Old 06-10-2018, 10:24 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Get me started here! Tell me about "load centers".

So I've been searching the internet for over a half hour and haven't come up with a simple answer to a simple question.

What I have so far is that the shore or generator power source is supposed to run into a "load center" / breaker box, which then feeds power to the rest of the circuits. Okay, got it so far. But is an RV load center the same as a house load center? As in, can I go to Home Depot and buy a simple small breaker box, and use that for the 120V electrical system in the bus? (For right now, assume that I'm only using 120 Volts. I have no plans at the present time for running any 12 Volt electrical components in the "house" section, though I may change my mind later.)

I'm mostly thinking about how to run the power from the source to the load center. Is it really as simple as cutting apart a male electrical cord (15A or 30A depending upon what I think I'll need), and connecting the three wires I find inside that cord to posts at the "input" end of the breaker box?

Any advice would be helpful. I know a good bit about electricity from my classes in school, but I've never done any house wiring.
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Old 06-10-2018, 05:57 PM   #2
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Home-type breaker panels such as what are sold at Home Despot and elsewhere will work, but they are bigger and klutzier-looking than panels made for the limited spaces in boats and RVs. However, nice though Paneltronics' and Blue Sea's panels are, they ain't cheap. Square D makes their basic Homeline breakers, but their QO series are better because they are also DC-rated: if/when you eventually need a separate panel for DC loads, it could be nice to use the same type of breakers for it and to have a matching panel.

You need a shore power inlet on the side of the bus for the shore cable to plug into, then that inlet is hard-wired to the AC panel. A power inlet has protruding pins, i.e the opposite of typical power outlet receptacles. Do NOT use a receptacle instead of a power inlet! Whether you use a 15/20 amp inlet, a 30 amp inlet, or a 50 amp (for split-leg 240 volts) depends on your loads. If you eventually have alternate AC sources such as a generator or an inverter, then you'll need some way to select which source you'll be using, either a transfer switch or some receptacles that you can plug into.

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Old 06-10-2018, 11:28 PM   #3
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When I went to Home Depot ("Despot"?! ) today to get the parts I needed, they told me that nothing they had would work properly and I had to get my parts (or at least my breaker panel) through a camping / RV supply place. The smallest breaker panel they had was a 100 amp / 6 circuit panel. (Yes, I would like something smaller, if it can be had for a reasonable price.) They thought that using one of their panels for my purposes would likely fry some circuitry along the way.

Is it really this difficult? Can any of y'all tell me precisely what parts I need and where I can buy them (if they can be found at a common hardware store)? One of the people at Home Depot told me that if he were me, he'd just run an extension cord with a power strip or two. (Lest you think that was his idea, it wasn't... it was mine. I used it as an illustrative example so he would know what type of functionality I would be looking for in the breaker panel / outlets setup I sought.)
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:19 AM   #4
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When I needed a thermocouple for my RV fridge, I asked a big box home improvement person where they were. He told me where then asked what it was for. I said "it doesn't matter, they're the same but it's for an RV fridge". You know what his answer was.

I bought the item and I'm sure it's still working out there in RV land somewhere.
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Old 06-11-2018, 10:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2kool4skool View Post
When I needed a thermocouple for my RV fridge, I asked a big box home improvement person where they were. He told me where then asked what it was for. I said "it doesn't matter, they're the same but it's for an RV fridge". You know what his answer was.

I bought the item and I'm sure it's still working out there in RV land somewhere.

That's great, but it assumes that you know more than they do about this stuff. If you do, great. If you're me, you don't.

Surely someone out there must know the parts I need to buy to set up this electrical system, and is willing to give me a list. I await this eagerly.
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Old 06-11-2018, 03:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Surely someone out there must know the parts I need to buy to set up this electrical system, and is willing to give me a list. I await this eagerly.
You might be waiting a long time. A lot of folks think there are a well documented set of "recipes" for doing these types of conversions. There isn't. Every conversion is custom and built to meet the requirements/goals of the builder. Sometimes this requires a BIG learning curve. That is part of the adventure.

You can use load centers, breakers, romex, etc. from your local home improvement store for the 120VAC side of your "house" (in your bus) power system. It is up to you to decide how many circuits you need, what size/length wire, number of outlets, and so forth. From that and the space available, you can then go about determining which panels might be appropriate. As John already pointed out, one of the "ready made" load centers (RV's and boats) might be an easy place to start if unsure what is needed.
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Old 06-11-2018, 05:17 PM   #7
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Hi,
Go buy an rv panel with 12v or you will regret it. I used one out of a travel trailer i demolished
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Old 06-11-2018, 10:17 PM   #8
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"Surely someone out there must know the parts I need to buy to set up this electrical system, and is willing to give me a list. I await this eagerly."

Here you go, everything you ever wanted. Hope you have an unobtanium Visa card.

https://www.bluesea.com/
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:53 AM   #9
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If your having a hard time figuring this out and cant find the items needed you will probably struggle the whole way through the build and wind up with a less than satisfactory result, i dont mean to discourage you but it sounds like you want someone else to do the work for you? If you have a large bank account or credit limit you might be happy with the end result? Good luck..... i just saw a post and the guy was soliciting a book about builds mYbe you should start there just to familiarize yourself:😎
Camco Heavy Duty PowerGrip 25' Cord with 30 AMP Male Standard/30 AMP Female Locking Adapter- Threaded Locking Ring Ensures a Weatherproof Connection (55501)



30A RV Power Plug Twist Lock Inlet with 3 Stainless Steel Pins

******

https://www.amazon.com/WFCO-WF-8735-P-Black-Power-Center/dp/B004LF14Q4/ref=mp_s_a_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1528807192&sr=8-6&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=rv+electric+pane l&dpPl=1&dpID=51nvZk%2BR19L&ref=plSrch#
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Old 06-12-2018, 02:53 PM   #10
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I think you need to decide and tell us if you want 50 amp or 30 amp service.

I'm going 30 amp because iny head it's the easiest to set up.

1. HD has a 30 amp RV inlet with box. Buy that and install.

2. Figure out how many 120 runs you'll have and buy a breaker box with that many breakers. Install it.

3. Using a wire sizing chart, buy the wire you'll need and install it.

That is probably the simplest way I can think of to wire your bus for strictly 120v that needs to be plugged in only.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:39 PM   #11
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I got my 50 amp panel at a local RV store. The most expensive part? THE FLIPPIN' CORD!
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Old 06-13-2018, 09:35 PM   #12
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QO

From you initial post, yes it is as simple as cutting a plug and wiring it in but please do it right(r) than that by installing a proper box on the outside of the bus with an appropriate plug.

As someone else mentioned us a QO squard D breaker box, it is also called a load center or a service panel. It is high quality, it is the only one I have found that is 12v certified. No one at a home store will give you advice on what you are doing, it is beyond their experience. If you get a one or two space box you will regret it in a year or two, get bigger.

What you will probably get in the end is a 120amp service panel with about 10 spaces, or the one you found at home depot.

You want one with a master breaker so you can turn it off while you are messing with the wires.
If by chance you are just going to use a generator for power then extension cords would be fine with no breaker panel. If you use solar or Ac from a power plant then you want a breaker panel.
From what i have read so far you have not yet said where you will be getting your electricity from, it does matter.
You can look at my build to see how my panel is hooked up.





















Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
When I went to Home Depot ("Despot"?! ) today to get the parts I needed, they told me that nothing they had would work properly and I had to get my parts (or at least my breaker panel) through a camping / RV supply place. The smallest breaker panel they had was a 100 amp / 6 circuit panel. (Yes, I would like something smaller, if it can be had for a reasonable price.) They thought that using one of their panels for my purposes would likely fry some circuitry along the way.

Is it really this difficult? Can any of y'all tell me precisely what parts I need and where I can buy them (if they can be found at a common hardware store)? One of the people at Home Depot told me that if he were me, he'd just run an extension cord with a power strip or two. (Lest you think that was his idea, it wasn't... it was mine. I used it as an illustrative example so he would know what type of functionality I would be looking for in the breaker panel / outlets setup I sought.)
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Old 06-14-2018, 08:28 AM   #13
Skoolie
 
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Chassis: International CE 300
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Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
I believe I made it clear in my original post that my current plan is to be able to get power from either a generator or a shore power source. I would like to wire in a battery bank and solar at some point, but that'll be taken in steps.

I'm not looking to have everyone else do the work for me - I'm doing it all myself, but I need the knowledge so that I'm not wasting time and money doing work only to have the stuff blow up on me when I try to use it. I know enough about DC current and a few things about AC, but I don't know the specifics of wiring a house electrical system. Grounding it isn't as easy as hooking it to the negative terminal of a battery. (There's a "grounding bar" in the breaker box. I've never heard of that before, and I don't know how to set it up.) I've heard of one-phase AC and three-phase AC. I don't know where each is found, or whether or not the same system can be plugged into both without trouble.

It seems simple to me, but that's the problem. When something like this looks simple, I want to make sure that it IS simple before I mess something up. I'm sure I'd have no problem wiring up the circuitry itself. The power source, however, is a different story. If it's really as simple as getting an RV load center from an RV parts supplier, I'm willing to do that. Yes, I'm intending to go no hotter than 30 amps.

As for whether or not I will end up with an unsatisfactory build, I highly doubt that. I'm not building this to look professionally done. I don't have the time or the money to do that. This is a hippie bus. Simple, basic functionality.
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Old 06-16-2018, 11:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
If it's really as simple as getting an RV load center from an RV parts supplier, I'm willing to do that. Yes, I'm intending to go no hotter than 30 amps.

Think hard about that.


If you setup for 50 amps, you can tie into a 30 amp circuit with no problems (it is just an adapter for your power cord). But once you run out of juice you can't easily go the other direction.


Also keep in mind that a 50 amp RV plug is not the same as a 50 amp shop plug. We are talking total amperage here - not about having a 220 circuit on your rig. Everything is 110 volts, it is just that with a 50 amp setup you can use both sides of the 50 amp service and deliver more overall voltage to your system.


Think about what you want to run, buy a Kill-o-watt meter (about $20) and test the things you want to plug in if you are in doubt.


Also you don't need an expensive "integrated" panel that has AC and DC in the same panel. I have a 1994 Grand Teton 5th wheel that had a standard 12 space AC panel like those you get at Home Depot installed at the factory (and this was a $100K rig even back then). They used a double (two space) 50 amp breaker as the "MAIN" and then the other slots were used for the other 110 volt circuits.

My 12 volt circuits are on their own panel (with 12 volt push button reset fuses).

If you want to plan for future expansion with solar and/or a generator, think about adding (or at least planning) for an ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch).

When you switch from one power source to another you have to be careful of the grounds or you will fry everything. The ATS takes care of making sure that one power source is completely disconnected before it switches to another.


Also (and this can be a BIG tip) - plan on an EXTRA 110 circuit for your rig that is NOT tied into the main panel.

When you are at a campground or RV park, there is usually a separate 110 VAC outlet next to the one where you hook up to the 50/30 amp service.

You can run a SEPERATE AC cord from that plug over to your dedicated circuit in the rig. This will allow you to plug in a space heater (or some other AC device) at the SAME TIME as you are using the max power that your main panel can handle WITHOUT tripping a breaker!

Most places charge a flat fee for electric so this can give you extra heat in the winter (or run extra fans, etc in the summer).

It is well worth the small expense of the extra AC cord and plug hookup system to bring it into the rig.

I actually have two of these in my build with 110 volt outlets in different parts of the rig.


Finally you should plan to add a total rig surge protector on your main panel. This is something you get from the RV store (Camping World or wherever). You run your 30/50 amp circuit into it and then the output from that goes into your main system.

This protector can save everything you own from being fried if the campground gets a power surge OR they are simply idiots with a bad ground at the AC post. A good one will even detect if the ground has been wired wrong and the post and will NOT activate your power circuit if that is the case.

Again absolutely money well spent.

You can get them in hardwired or as a version that you plug inline with your cord. I use the hardwire version so I don't have to worry about someone ripping it off.

https://www.campingworld.com/surge-g...-amp-hardwired

Company website here:

https://rvpower.southwire.com/produc...re-model-35550


There are plenty of RV websites out there that have power circuits that show how the surge protector, transfer switch and AC/DC panels hook up to each other. Just search for the RV version of this sort of thing.


Mostly slow down, take a deep breath and as they say on the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - "DON'T PANIC".


You CAN do this and it is not rocket science.


Just take your time, do your research and plan everything out BEFORE you start buying anything. Otherwise you may end up realizing that you went down the wrong road and either have to "settle" for something other than what you actually need, or "adapt" what you have to try and get back in the ballgame.


You are definitely not the first to need to do this and again, the RV community has been doing it for years - so the information and diagrams for whatever sort of final setup you need IS out there if you just as Google the right questions.


Good luck on your project!

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Old 06-23-2018, 08:51 AM   #15
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Sifting through the info

I'm not about to give advice on electrical. I know the OP's question was more specifically about where to get the correct style of a service panel. There's lots of pictures of those on the www.

I will do all my own; design, wiring, redesign, rewiring. I get what the OP is saying about info on the internet in general, can be frustrating. My solution to that is to study pictures, specifically, schematics. However, when it comes to pairing up the components, I will definitely need to rely on experts. Probably expert salesmen.

I've found studying the bazllions of wiring schematics (by searching for images)to be most helpful. I guess that's because different folks use different terminology in their written descriptions and I'm not savvy enough to interpret what they mean. I've attached an image of what I believe to be my objective in the first stage of powering up my short bus. Later I will add solar...partly for the novelty and curiosity of the project. What I worry about the most is designing a system that won't allow me to efficiently add the solar leg.

Hope I didn't rattle on too much - trying to share in the OP's journey.
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