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Old 06-16-2019, 10:13 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 3
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford B600
Starting with Simple shore power

We are just starting our skoolie journey and have purchased a 1986 Thomas bus that was already converted to an RV but has nothing in the way of electrical set up in it. So we're retrofitting an electrical system into it (fun).
For this year, we are planning only trips to sites with 30 amp service. I hope to run a mini fridge and charge our phones. I was planning to purchase a power inlet a small AC breaker box and some outlets. Wire them up and have my electrician brother in law double check it for me.

In years to come we are thinking of DC lights, fans, house batteries, and solar panels.

Here's my question- we would like to do this in stages. Would it be best to start with my small AC breaker box and just expand from there? Or should we start with something like a power centre and just use the AC portion of it until we are ready to set up the DC side? I've been looking at Progressive Dynamics Inteli-power units. Hoping to find the simplest solution to start and the most cost effective solution in the long run.

Thanks for any advice you can provide!
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Old 06-17-2019, 10:26 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Brevard County, FL
Posts: 911
Year: 1990
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Ford
Engine: 6.6 New Holland Diesel
Rated Cap: 60 kids, 10 window
This is one of those questions that is going to be personal choice. I ended up with a 30 amp.inlet to my inverter/charger to a breaker box because the inverter can do a pass through to the box when plugged in. I use a 12 volt fuse box for all my DC items
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:31 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
Posts: 1,624
Year: 2000
Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
You might consider beginning with a 50 or 100 foot extension cord and an outlet strip. Seriously.

It's only through actually using the bus that a person starts to figure out what he really wants in there. You'll get a better idea about where you want outlets, which things should be powered through an inverter and which things should only be powered through the shore power cable, how many AC circuits there should be, etc. Similar process of discovery for the DC side of lighting, fans, etc.

There's no shame in starting simple with a cord passing through a door, window, or hole in the floor. By keeping things very simple in the beginning you allow yourself the freedom to refine the plan as much or little as you like before any money is spent. That in turn avoids investing in components that won't work for the long term.
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Old 06-17-2019, 06:35 PM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Ashtabula, Ohio
Posts: 1,381
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International
Engine: T444E 7.3L
The only AC powered item in my bus is my fridge. Everything else is 12 volt. When parked where shore power is available I plug in my fridge and power strip and turn off my inverter. Nothing wrong with a good cord and a circuit protected power strip to do the job.
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Old 06-17-2019, 07:57 PM   #5
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: So Cal
Posts: 2,724
Year: 1935
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: Chevy
Engine: 317 ci/tid / Isuzu
I'd say FD's extension cord idea is a very reasonable way to go for the reasons he stated.

That said, I've always just gone ahead and jumped in the deep end--30 amp shore, 3000 watt inverter and 3000 watt quiet inverter genny. I'd have put in solar as well but my 20' long skoolie just doesn't have enough roof real estate to make it worth while.

I chose the progressive Dynamics 9245 smart charger with the remote "fob". I've used it for several years and so far so good.
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Old 06-17-2019, 10:50 PM   #6
Bus Nut
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Greater Boston
Posts: 504
I was also thinking the extension cord and a power strip for starters.

A mini fridge won't draw that much, charging a phone is negligible. Get a 4-outlet strip, and you probably won't be able to plug in enough to get into serious trouble (without blowing the breaker on the campsite end.)

The other reason I'd start this was is that you can get a plug-in unit that will generate 12v from your 120ac - so you can start wiring your lights and fans in 12v DC, directly, the first time. Then, once your power center/batteries/solar is hooked up, you can just change your power supply from the plug-in to the battery/solar setup.
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