Electrical Basics - What would you do? - Fiberglass RV

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Old 09-01-2016, 04:41 PM   #1
Name: Jennifer
Trailer: Trillium Jubilee
Nova Scotia
Posts: 40
Electrical Basics - What would you do?

So I have some *very* basic questions about rv wiring. I have totally gutted my 1980 Trillium Jubilee. The existing wires are a mess.
What would you install? I have electric brakes, interior/exterior lights, a fantastic fan, would like the ability to charge phones/laptops, a larger bar fridge, a hot plate, and a small space heater.
I like the idea of using some solar.

Thoughts? Any advice would be much appreciated!


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Old 09-01-2016, 05:33 PM   #2
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Name: Charlie Y
Trailer: Escape 21 - Felicity
Posts: 979
Depends on how much you want to be off-grid, in which case you would want USB outlets that run off 12V, otherwise there are combo outlets for one AC outlet with two USB outlets but they run off AC power. The other route is to put in 12V sockets (like for cigarette lighters) and use USB plug in adapters with them to get charging power with only 12V being used.

Anything that makes heat needs to have an AC outlet to plug into or you need a good sized inverter combined with good battery size. Solar would help with recharging for that method.

Charlie Y

Don't drill holes, try custom storage you design: http://RVWidgetWorks.com
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Old 09-01-2016, 06:28 PM   #3
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Name: Carl
Trailer: 1981 Trillium 5500
Posts: 314
My trailer isn't gutted but I'm about to gut at least the entire electrical system and start anew.

In planning an electrical system, I believe you must not only consider your own needs, but also the needs of the next owner. One day you will sell this trailer, and if for example your electrical system is mostly AC-based (120V fridge, heater, hot plate), anyone who'd like a trailer like yours to camp off-grid will turn away.

We mostly camp without hookups, this means on the battery only. We have very limited need for electricity, mainly lights at night, occasional use of the furnace if it's cold, and some way to recharge the iPhones.

I'm planning on a single Group27 deep cycle battery. The size was appropriate with our popup camper which had similar power requirements. Our trailer already has 2 small 15W solar panels and charge controller that I intend to keep (and maybe eventually upgrade to larger panels).

All interior and exterior lights will be LEDs. 12V dual USB sockets front and rear.

Although we won't be using it much, I will upgrade the outdated converter with a newer unit, from either Progressive Dynamics or Iota, model to be determined, but it looks like a 30A unit should be more than enough. We could live without a converter, but IMO a trailer needs a converter, and if it's not for us it'll be for the next owners. I don't think a trailer would sell well without a converter and decent AC system.

So I will also update the 120AC side of the system. Right now the trailer has a 15A system, which I think is enough for our needs, but I might as well look at upgrading it to 30A. We may never need the higher amperage, but who knows, maybe one day the next owner (in 50 years from now ) may want to add air conditioning or recharge his iPhone... version 57!). I will install new 120V outlets, GFCI where required. If my newer converter is a standalone unit, I will need to add my own DC fuse box, and appropriate AC circuit breakers.

There will be appropriate fuses at the battery, converter and solar panels. To monitor everything, I will install 12VDC and 120VAC voltmeters and amp meters. I will also install a battery master switch, to turn everything off in the trailer when we're not camping. I will install a charge line to allow my tow vehicle to recharge the battery and power the fridge if required.

I've already bought pretty much all I need at my local electronic shop, Amazon and DealExtreme. All I need now is more time to work on the trailer!
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Old 09-01-2016, 07:40 PM   #4
Name: Jennifer
Trailer: Trillium Jubilee
Nova Scotia
Posts: 40
tractors - The 12v socket idea is a good one for charging, thanks!

Carl - Thanks for all the specific info, that's going to come in very handy. Your advice about thinking about the next owner is sound. Do you have propane in your trailer? I'm slowly making my way though your blog - it's awesome. I really appreciate the time you put into it and all that I'm leaning from it!
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Old 09-01-2016, 08:31 PM   #5
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Name: Carl
Trailer: 1981 Trillium 5500
Posts: 314
Yes, propane is a must for us. My trailer has a furnace, oven, and hot water heater that runs on propane.
And the fridge of course.
Trailer currently has two 20lbs tanks. I'm planning to go with a single 20 lbs tank, and the space use for the 2nd will be for my portable 10lbs tank that I use for my portable grill and camp stove. Then, the only things the tank on trailer feeds is the fridge, furnace (occasional use), and interior range/oven (not used that much, coffee in the morning and that's about it, as we cook mainly outside).
Same setup as on our popup, works great for us.

This makes me think, I forgot to mention I will add propane and CO detectors to my trailer, hardwired to the 12V system. Very important.

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Old 09-02-2016, 12:52 AM   #6
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Name: K C
Trailer: 1980 18' Sunrader Motorhome and 1971 Trails West CampMite Campster
Posts: 776
As you put in the new interior just make it easy to add new wiring as needed by creating some wiring chase ways you can use to run new wires through or along. Put in some terminal block strips but size those terminal blocks with more spaces than you need at present. That is how I am handling it in my remodel. How would I know for sure how what I might want after a few years have gone by? Plus of course our needs change over time and equipment changes over time. So start out by building in adaptability.

Build in a chase way(s) up to the roof for things like solar, antenna wires, lighting, fans, etc. It not only keeps things looking tidy it makes changing your mind easy. If you have a floor to ceiling closet that is a good location for that kind of thing. So are corners. My chase way to the roof will be located in the support structure that divides the kitchen counter from the dinette and also serves as support for the roof. I am not going to have a closet and I don't have a bathroom wall so other than in a corner that is my best option to visually integrate it. It will also be used for some 12volt and 110 outlets at the counter level and hold some reading lights on the dinette side as well. The panel that closes it off will be removable.

With the use of a chase way you could run new wiring to a location as an easy afternoon project upgrade.

The different types of wires can be separated from each other within the chase way. Everything should be clearly labeled and wiring diagrams made.
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Old 09-02-2016, 05:40 AM   #7
Senior Member
Name: Joe
Trailer: 1999 Casita 17' SD
Posts: 312
I have updated the 12 VDC wiring on our Casita eliminating ALL 3M Scotch Lock splices.
Often the white negative wire is overlooked. ALL 12 volt consumers use it so I have updated that to 8 gauge throughout the trailer using bus strips to make good connections.
In my opinion Casita and I'm sure others have skimped on wire size.

You can find good quality marine wire on the WWW if you look at affordable prices.
AVOID SPEAKER WIRE when rewiring your trailer.

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Old 09-02-2016, 08:28 AM   #8
Senior Member
Name: JD
Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 770
One of the most overlooked things in electrical systems is the power return side of things.
So many times the guys (electricians) tell me that the thing (whatever it is) has power, but wont run or pull in or whatever it should do.
Guess what the problem is??
In my rebuild I ran a separate ground return back to a central point for each load and of course it has to be the same size as the power feed wire.
Since I installed a PD4045 it had many fused circuits and I used most of them to insure that the circuits would be easier to troubleshoot later.
I used multi conductor cable to help keep the wires corralled up
Care when you wire it up will save problems later.
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Old 09-02-2016, 11:57 AM   #9
Junior Member
Name: David
Trailer: Boler
Posts: 11
As a retired electrician I completely agree with what Redbarron said here. I'm rebuilding my 72 Boler and I plan to have a small breaker panel with a central buss bar for the negative wires. Each circuit will have a positive and negative wire originating at that point. There are charts available to show you proper wire sizes for your load and the distance they have to run. You can get sheathed cable with two wires in it which is a good idea if it is not in conduit. Also use stranded wire never solid house wire. Stranded wire will hold up to the vibrations of a trailer going down the road and don't use wire nuts(I think they are called Marrets in Canada) for the same reason. Tinned stranded wire is the best but more expensive. This is my first RV but I come from 34 years of sailboats and these things I mentioned above always worked well for me. I don't plan to put an inverter in my trailer but I will have a battery charger. As someone above said planning for the future is a good idea. If you use conduit anywhere leave a string in it to make pulling a new wire though easier. All the above goes for the AC wiring too. Make sure your white 12V Negative and white neutral AC wire don't get tied together any where.

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