Electrical Reccomendations - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-17-2013, 06:46 AM   #1
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Electrical Reccomendations

I know this is a tall order here, but I find myself in the unfortunate situation of a time and budget crunch, and I need help...

In a nutshell, my Scamp 13' needs to be completely rewired. The PO did a very shaky job of re-wiring the little guy to run off of AC only. I will be full-timing soon, very soon, and believe it is sensible (to say the least) to revert to AC/DC capabilities. Where I live there are few options for service on RVs, and I would like to go into the shop armed with the clearest possible outline of what I need. Ideally, I'd like to incorporate a modest solar set-up, such as Norm's group 24 battery, 80 watt solar panel, and 1200 watt inverter that he described back in the day.

My budget is just shy of a thousand dollars. The PO replaced all of the light fixtures with LEDs, which is great, but as I said everything (including the fridge) runs off of AC. (There is an air conditioner and I have no illusions about being able to run it off of a battery.)

There is no converter, charge controller or anything else left from the original wiring set-up. I confess I feel like a complete helpless idiot right now - because I am - and I need to be talked through this as if I were a slow five-year-old.

So, Brain Trust: What would you do? Should I ditch the solar fantasy? But, since everything is wired for AC, it's pretty much a given I need an inverter, no? I don't need a lot in terms of refrigerated food, so I'm considering switching to a smaller AC/DC fridge.

As I indicated at the beginning of this post - this is a tall order. Is anyone out there willing to hold my virtual hand and give me some ideas as to the best place/way to spend my money? This is the only chunk of change I'm going to have to sink into this, so my decisions need to be wise.

As always, thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge, and I look forward to the day I can repay in kind.
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Old 09-17-2013, 06:56 AM   #2
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Mary, repairing the wiring and installing a battery and converter is not a huge task, though it may be somewhat labor intensive. If you want a refrigerator that operates when not plugged into to AC power, you will need to buy a gas refrigerator or a DC powered compressor type. Either one will eat a large hole in your $1000 budget.

Are you handy enough to learn some basic wiring skills? If not maybe you can hire someone locally to do the work for you - maybe a retiree or someone working off the clock for extra cash. I find these types on Craigslist.

It can definitely be done, and solar is not a big obstacle. And yes, we can talk you through it. Also, there is lots of help on YouTube how to videos, websites and DIY books.
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Old 09-17-2013, 07:16 AM   #3
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Hi Tom - thanks for your fast response! I actually have the fridge part sorted out (Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler, less than $100 from good ol' Wal Mart) It will more than meet my needs. Once upon a time I was handy and more than capable of a task such as this, but a brain injury has left me unable to complete that kind of work on my own. Essentially I need to walk into a shop with a list and say "Do this, buy this." I've tried finding someone off the grid, so to speak, to do the work, without success thus far, but am still looking. Oh so frustrating, knowing I could have done this once upon a time, but hey ... I can walk, talk and most importantly, drive!! Many thanks for your response.
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Old 09-17-2013, 07:30 AM   #4
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I suggest the first thing you buy is this:
Google Books
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Old 09-17-2013, 08:27 AM   #5
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You situation and common sense approach to solving it urges(?) me to make an observation that's occurred to me often reading other posts.

It is my sense that electricians go through a fair amount of training in their apprenticeship and subsequent supervision by a journeyman electrician before they are let out on their own. Some technically inclined amateurs can do a narrow part of what electricians do if we read up or are guided closely by knowledgeable supervision. It would probably take ten times as long for us to do it as a pro and longer still since we’re working in a built-up trailer making wiring runs more time consuming (taking “rewiring” at face value). Simple tasks such as swapping out a receptacle or switch are within most amateurs’ ability but even that needs a little research to be done properly. A complete rewiring of a trailer to include converter/charger and perhaps a solar option would give me pause. It’s not rocket science but it is potentially dangerous if not treated respectfully. Electricity follows well understood rules but if one isn’t prepared to do and understand the research I’d stay away. I observe business managers all the time pooh-poohing engineers about some process they don’t understand because we can’t reduce 4 years of engineering schooling down to a 5 minute presentation for them. So, too, with electricians.

In this case time and resources both are tight. I think you’re wise to know your limitations and I like the suggestion to find someone off the grid to do it. There are no building permits for this sort of thing. I wish you success.
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Old 09-17-2013, 08:30 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Brandegor View Post
Hi Tom - thanks for your fast response! I actually have the fridge part sorted out (Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler, less than $100 from good ol' Wal Mart) It will more than meet my needs. Once upon a time I was handy and more than capable of a task such as this, but a brain injury has left me unable to complete that kind of work on my own. Essentially I need to walk into a shop with a list and say "Do this, buy this." I've tried finding someone off the grid, so to speak, to do the work, without success thus far, but am still looking. Oh so frustrating, knowing I could have done this once upon a time, but hey ... I can walk, talk and most importantly, drive!! Many thanks for your response.
The thermoelectric coolers are very energy inefficient - meaning that they take a lot of power for a little cooling. But if you plan to plug into 110 volts, it doesn't much matter. You might be able to plug this into your cigarette lighter as you drive, but not when parked.

You have a number of further options.

A very low cost plan is to just add a battery, an inverter and a battery charger. Since you are all wired for 110 volts, just plug into the inverter to power your lights, etc when you don't have shore power electricity. You will not be able to run a refrigerator or a large power consumer off the battery. Recharge the battery from the battery charger when you have shore power.

An upgrade would be add to a solar panel and a charge controller.

A further upgrade would be to add a converter with fuse panel and add 12 volt fixtures in place of all the 110 volts fixtures like lights, fan, etc. You wouldn't really need an inverter if you did this initially.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:00 AM   #7
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Thanks, Steve. As I work things out on this ethereal paper, it occurs to me that what I am after is systems design. I have no intention of doing this work myself, but what I need is to have a very concrete plan when I hit the shop for the $45/hour labor. In fact, if I could even shop around for the components myself, I could construct my budget accordingly. Thus far, I know I need/want:

1. A battery (size?) and battery box
2. A charge controller
3. Solar panel (85 - 100 watt)
4. Inverter (capacity?)
5. 12v DC outlet(s)
6. 12v DC lighting

Do you (anyone reading) think that it is unwise to invest my limited resources in solar at this point? A brief browsing session on the internet turned up several kits like this:

Amazon.com : Windy Nation 100 Watt Solar Panel Complete Off-Grid Kit : Patio, Lawn & Garden

However, they do not include the all-important inverter.

Before I confuse myself any further, I think I'll wait for more input. Thanks, all.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:06 AM   #8
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i would do a 12 setup with 100w or less solar panel, a good battery , a cheap smart battery charger to charge your battery when needed...

converters are very expensive, if you want to go on the cheap side, you can use a computer power supply when connected to AC power..., most of them can supply over 15 amps in 12v and cost less than 25$.
computer psu also supply 5v so they can help you setup usb connections for charging.
thats what i'm doing in my uhaul.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:11 AM   #9
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Hi Tom -

Good thoughts - I do realize that the refrigerator is, shall we say, less than ideal - but I also know my eating habits, and I'm more the icebox kind of gal - half and half for the coffee, some yogurt and Vitamin Water is about all that lives in my 'fridge. I like the idea of leaving the wiring as is - i.e., not rewiring the whole shebang but adding an inverter. So let me ask you this - what do you think of a kit like this:

Amazon.com : Windy Nation 100 Watt Solar Panel Complete Off-Grid Kit : Patio, Lawn & Garden

And, what size battery and inverter would be appropriate for such an array? Thanks.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:11 AM   #10
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Item 4: are you looking for an inverter (12v to 120v) or a converter (120v to 12v with battery charging capability? Remember, inverters suck battery juice like it was free. It goes out much faster than it comes back. A non-solar charger (as is usually found in a converter) is nice to have when you have hookups.

Item 5: Where do you want them located. Sometimes when recharging you want the outlet out of the way. When you're using it then you want it handy. You probably want to tell them where.

Also, do you want some 120v outlets? How many? Where?
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:14 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tartosuc View Post
i would do a 12 setup with 100w or less solar panel, a good battery , a cheap smart battery charger to charge your battery when needed...

converters are very expensive, if you want to go on the cheap side, you can use a computer power supply when connected to AC power..., most of them can supply over 15 amps in 12v and cost less than 25$.
computer psu also supply 5v so they can help you setup usb connections for charging.
thats what i'm doing in my uhaul.
Can you elaborate a little on the computer power supply use? Interesting.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:21 AM   #12
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Item 4: are you looking for an inverter (12v to 120v) or a converter (120v to 12v with battery charging capability? Remember, inverters suck battery juice like it was free. It goes out much faster than it comes back. A non-solar charger (as is usually found in a converter) is nice to have when you have hookups.

Item 5: Where do you want them located. Sometimes when recharging you want the outlet out of the way. When you're using it then you want it handy. You probably want to tell them where.

Also, do you want some 120v outlets? How many? Where?
Since it's wired for AC only, I'm looking for an inverter, battery and charger (charge controller?) so I can have lights, at least, when off shore power. There are a couple of 120v outlets - I thought having a 12v outlet might be handy but not strictly necessary.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:34 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Brandegor View Post
Can you elaborate a little on the computer power supply use? Interesting.
what do want to know exactly?

basicaly a computer PSU has 3 voltages, 12v, 5v and 3,3v

the wires colors are.:
black negative
yellow 12v
red 5v.
there are other wires that need to be connected to power up the psu but i dont have my plan with me..ill find out and let you know...
all 3 volatges are regualted, safe for a computer so it's very good PSU to use in a small RV to power LEDS, recharge ipods etc.
ther are like 25 wires coming out of the psu, but inside of it all black, all yellows and all reds are connected to 3 posts(one for each color).

the rest is designing a plan that works in your system.


heres my plan, i'm not done with it yet but that basically it.
power bar serve as the main 15A breaker and supply 110v to psu, charger depending on the demand. Its not a good thing to always charge the battery when you are on 110v.
sorry its in french but you get the idea.
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:46 AM   #14
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Hmmmm... Do it right the first time and you won't have top do it again.....

After doing more than a few re-wires of FGRV's I usually start out with the Converter/Charger. The weapon of choice, hands down, is the Progressive Dynamics PD-4045 power center. That gives you a 12 circuit 45 amp converter, a 3 stage battery charger and a AC dist panel. Best price (<$160?) seems to be from Frank Bear at his teardrop trailer site.

If boon docking is on your schedule, I would also suggest the somewhat larger Group 27 battery vs. the smaller Group 24, it's good for about 50% more usage and is only slightly larger/more expensive.

Also consider resale value, that nice new, modern, converter is a real plus in Scamps. A Disneyesque solution will be minus for most buyers.

$45/hr seems to be about 1/2 of what most dealers charge for labor and is a very good price. It takes about 2-3 hours to install a new power center in a stock Scamp and it might take longer if non-standard wiring is an issue..

To save further you might consider advertising for an electrician with RV experience on your local Craigslist etc. I was charging $25 an hour for RV work at my home garage and hardly ever burned down anything (LOL)

Good Luck
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