Adding 12v Sockets & Lights - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-12-2006, 01:27 PM   #1
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Our Scamp 5th Wheel is snuggled up to the curb in front of our house, waiting for me to take it to the Department of Licencing for a change of title and licencing.

The trailer is here: Let The Questions Begin!

We plan on making several changes to our egg: We'll be adding and changing some of the lights, add some 12V outlets, and at some point the gaucho will come out and be replaced with storage and a smaller sitting spot next to the door.

The first change is to add 12V outlets -- currently we have none. I'm not sure how to best wire up the 12V outlets. We want six of them: one on each side of the dinette in the overhead cabinets over the dinette, one in each kitchen cabinet, one on each side of the loft, and one for a "cell phone caddy" next to the front door -- seven in all.

I assume I should add at least one new circuit and a fuse for these outlets, but I do have two open spots for 12V fuses in the breaker panel.

Questions:
1) Should I divide the outlets into a pair of kitchen outlets and everything else or can I get away with one fuse for the whole lot of them so I have an extra?
2) How difficult is it to pull up and replace the rat-fur seam tape/cover over the seams at the back corners over the dinette?
3) What guage wire should I use? Solid or stranded?
4) What connectors should I use?

The lights I more or less know what I'm planning to do. I'll move a few of the existing lights and have ordered some CCFL lights to add over the dinette, the kitchen counters, entry and (possibly) loft. They draw very little power, so the existing wiring should be more than adequite. Hopefully I'll also be able to make a vacu-form plastic housing for them so they'll look professionally built & installed. (This'll be fun. I haven't built a Vacuform mold since loosing touch with a friend who worked as a special-effects model builder for the motion picture industry twenty years ago.)

Thanks for all the help and advice!

--Peter
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Old 12-12-2006, 03:21 PM   #2
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My thoughts...

Stranded wire - this is a trailer, not a house, so stuff moves and flexibility is good; besides, you need to get it in there, which could be challenge without flexibility, depending on routing.

The number and configuration of circuits depends on the intended purpose. You could put a fuse at each outlet, then wire and fuse one circuit to handle the maximum total load. Without fuses at each outlet, the circuit must be limited to what a single outlet can safely carry... I don't know what that is or what loads are expected. If critical stuff is expected to run from these outlets, it should have its own circuit and fuse so it isn't shut off by an overload at another outlet.

Minimum wire gauge is determined by the maximum load, and after safety is taken care of thicker is better to reduce power loss in the wire. That might be obvious, but any more specific choice gets back to that load question again...

Following a recommendations in an earlier discussion of connectors in this forum I tried out the Posi-Products range. I really like the Posi-Lock splice connector, the Posi-Twist (which is a type of wire nut) seems like a mechanically better idea than the typical wire nut (but still means twisting wires together), and the Posi-Tap seems like a really nice way to tap into multiple points along a run of wire. They have inserts to turn Posi-Locks into terminal ends, inline fuseholders, and even a 4-pin trailer connector. All are intended only for stranded wire, and are all no-solder, no-crimp, and reusable.

The sockets themselves are another significant subject. If the devices to be used have "cigarette lighter" style plugs, then various members have suggested marine-type sockets of this design, which are better built and are available with locking collars (which work if you use the matching plug, but allow normal plugs). If you are putting your own plugs on everything, some people like the Speakon connectors (which were designed for speakers but are suitable for 12 VDC), as a durable and locking design - I haven't tried one yet.
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Old 12-12-2006, 03:25 PM   #3
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... have ordered some CCFL lights to add over the dinette, the kitchen counters, entry and (possibly) loft. They draw very little power, so the existing wiring should be more than adequite. Hopefully I'll also be able to make a vacu-form plastic housing for them so they'll look professionally built & installed. (This'll be fun. I haven't built a Vacuform mold since loosing touch with a friend who worked as a special-effects model builder for the motion picture industry twenty years ago.)...
I look forward to seeing the result. I got a pair of 12" CCFL light tubes, and decided that they were promising but I need a fixture with reflector to use them effectively; of course, I haven't built that yet...
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Old 12-12-2006, 04:53 PM   #4
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I added 12 volt lites to my old scamp (i had to sell health) don't forget inside the closet it's dark in there.
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Old 12-12-2006, 07:24 PM   #5
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I would advise you to not charge your cell phone on the 12 volt side of your converter.

I did that a couple of years ago and ended up frying two phones before i found out that

I had 27 volts of alternating current in the 12 volt side of my converter.



I have since replaced my converter.

Harv in Colo.
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Old 12-12-2006, 08:58 PM   #6
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Quote:

I would advise you to not charge your cell phone on the 12 volt side of your converter.

I did that a couple of years ago and ended up frying two phones before i found out that

I had 27 volts of alternating current in the 12 volt side of my converter.



I have since replaced my converter.

Harv in Colo.
A very inexpensive voltage monitor will warn of over voltage or under voltage situations. I use the simple plug into the 12 volt socket one sold by Camping World. But any voltmeter will work as long as you check it often.
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Old 12-12-2006, 09:15 PM   #7
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Quote:

I would advise you to not charge your cell phone on the 12 volt side of your converter.
I did that a couple of years ago and ended up frying two phones before i found out that
[b]I had 27 volts of alternating current in the 12 volt side of my converter.



I have since replaced my converter.

Harv in Colo.
Quote:
A very inexpensive voltage monitor will warn of over voltage or under voltage situations. [b]I use the simple plug into the 12 volt socket one sold by Camping World. But any voltmeter will work as long as you check it often.
I have discovered a somewhat similar problem with my 29 year old Progressive Dynamics converter. I fried the 12 volt exaust fan I had just added to the upper fridge vent when I ran it while connected to shore power. My voltmeter (similar to Byron's) would not indicate any voltage, but just flash on and off untill I switched off the main circuit breaker... I need to get out my multimeter and test the line voltage on the alternating current setting... It has not seemed to hurt the Fantastic-Fan, or the lights other than making them SIGNIFICANTLY brighter; and I have not tried to operate the water pump while on converter power...
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Old 12-12-2006, 09:33 PM   #8
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I have discovered a somewhat similar problem with my 29 year old Progressive Dynamics converter. I fried the 12 volt exaust fan I had just added to the upper fridge vent when I ran it while connected to shore power. My voltmeter (similar to Byron's) would not indicate any voltage, but just flash on and off untill I switched off the main circuit breaker...
Now you got me wondering what would show on my monitor when overvoltage occurs. Guess I'll just have to check it out. Is that possibley the overvoltage indication?

Quote:
I need to get out my multimeter and test the line voltage on the alternating current setting... It has not seemed to hurt the Fantastic-Fan, or the lights other than making them SIGNIFICANTLY brighter; and I have not tried to operate the water pump while on converter power...
I would think you'd want to check the 12Volt DC system first with voltmeter set to DC Volts. Then if necessary switch to AC setting. My guess is that you'll find a DC overvoltage condition.
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Old 12-12-2006, 09:48 PM   #9
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I would think you'd want to check the 12Volt DC system first with voltmeter set to DC Volts.
I did that right away. My multimeter read 13.6 volts DC at the time, which I interpereted as normal charging voltage.

Harvy's comment gave me an idea I did not think of before!
Maybe the simple DC voltmeter's flashing was it's reaction to AC current.
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Old 12-12-2006, 10:23 PM   #10
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Peter:

I'm like a broken record on this one: I would replace all those cigarette lighter-style with Speakon panel-mount and line-mount connectors. Push-and-twist, really smooth action, can't slip out, cheap, and high quality. United Radio Supply in NE Portland. Besides, think about the uniquenesss of having a trailer with connectors made in Lichtenstein!
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Old 12-12-2006, 10:48 PM   #11
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I did that right away. My multimeter read 13.6 volts DC at the time, which I interpereted as normal charging voltage.

Harvy's comment gave me an idea I did not think of before!
Maybe the simple DC voltmeter's flashing was it's reaction to AC current.

That's always possible. Certainly worth checking.
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Old 12-12-2006, 10:58 PM   #12
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Peter:

I'm like a broken record on this one: I would replace all those cigarette lighter-style with Speakon panel-mount and line-mount connectors. Push-and-twist, really smooth action, can't slip out, cheap, and high quality. United Radio Supply in NE Portland. Besides, think about the uniquenesss of having a trailer with connectors made in Lichtenstein!

I'm going to disagree with Per on this one. Not because the Speakon being a better or worse connector, but because all 12 volt items you might want to use will have to have the plug changed. In my case I have charge cords for phones, pdas, gps and a small inverter that all have standard 12 volt cigerette lighter type plugs. When changed they can only be used in the trailer. Sometimes I like to use them in my cars. I suggest that you think about those things before going to a non-standard plug.

As a side note, speakon connectors were designed to be used with audio speakers not 12 Volt power systems. That doesn't mean they won't work that way, but just imagine connecting your expensive speaker(s) to your 12Volt power system.

OK that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:34 AM   #13
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I look forward to seeing the result. I got a pair of 12" CCFL light tubes, and decided that they were promising but I need a fixture with reflector to use them effectively; of course, I haven't built that yet...
Vacuforming is probably the easiest and least expensive of all the plastics fabrication techniques to learn, use, and get professional results from. If you use an existing vacuum cleaner as your suction source you can build a vacuforming table for around 35 bucks, less if you have building materials you can scrounge from. The only other unique tool you need that most people don't have around the house is an electric hot knife, and you can even get around that if you're willing to put up with carefully and slowly cutting the "flash" edges off then sanding them smooth with a sanding block. The forms used as "positives" for the vacuform molding process can be assembled and "sculpted" from wood, plaster of paris, and a host of other materials; the only requirement is that they can be heated to 150 degrees without distortion.

Assuming I have my lights made by the time the Oregon Gathering comes around I'll bring my (as yet unmade) vacuform table and positives and make up some light housings. If your CCFL tube lengths and inverter are the same size as mine are you can take them home and use them in your egg. (Some assembly required.)

--Peter
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:42 AM   #14
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I didn't have any problem mounting my CCFL tubes. A bit of velcro on each end and the the underside of the overhead cabinet. The white fiberglass makes a pretty good reflector. I wanted more light over the stove and sink when boondocking. I also added a 4" red CCFL inbetween the 12" white tubes. When the need to get up in the middle of the night the red light doesn't mess up your night vision. Use that mostly when not in campgrounds that have lots lights.

Yup, I'd like to see your vaccum forming.

See ya at the NOG.
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