Interior lighting: dumb it down please! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-01-2011, 09:06 AM   #1
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Interior lighting: dumb it down please!

Okay, assume I am the complete idiot they write those books for. Honestly, I know next to nothing about RV wiring and am trying to understand how this LED stuff works...

I'm doing the big winter Burro makeover and want to update the very very minimal original interior lighting. This original interior lighting amounts to: a 12v wired-to-the-battery light attached to each side of the kitchenette overhead cabinets. We're installing some overhead shelves and they're in the way of the attachment points. Apart from being inadequate, they're not in useful locations, anyway.

For the coming year of travel, we'll be doing a lot of campgrounds with electric hookups. So I'd like to have whatever lighting I install be compatible with the shore power.

Here's my problem with working off a deep cycle battery: I store my trailer in a rented space in a storage facility (no driveway at my city rowhouse), and I don't have a place there to trickle charge a battery when it's not in use. And I don't want the hassle of dragging the battery home after each trip to plug it in. My long-term plans will include doing a solar installation of some kind that could be used to keep a battery charged up while parked, but that won't happen on this current round of improvements. Right now I don't want to invest in another battery (the current one is dead dead dead) until I have a low-hassle care and feeding strategy.

So here's question 1: as I poke around sites like superbrightleds dot com, it seems to me that these are almost exclusively DC powered things. With future solar powered off-the-grid flexibility in mind, is there a way I can string up some DC LED strips and fixtures but still power them up from plugging in? Inverters? Converters? I'm not sure if a gadget like that is what I need. All that hardware on superbrightleds looks alienesque and I can't make heads or tails of it.

Question 2: if it's possible to run some LEDs like this, what do I need? I want to mount something under the front overhead shelf to light the dinette table, and something under the rear shelf to light the bed for reading, etc, plus some task lighting over the kitchen area and maybe some subtle overhead lighting with wiring tucked under the headliner.

Right now all my lighting comes from AA battery powered LED puck lights and battery powered camp lanterns. They've been super useful but not having to recharge those batteries would be nice.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:15 AM   #2
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Hi Jen.

Lights- Dome lights. Camping world currently has dome RV lights on sale for about $6.00. These will have an automotive bulb in them, probably a 921 lamp, with a wedge base. Once installed, you replace the bulb with a led "lamp" which will have all the LED's and the support electronics to run on 12 DC. Look for a 10-15 led lamp. I prefer warm white LEDs. Their light is similar to an incandescent.

Battery- An AGM (absorption glass mat) battery will survive long periods of time without recharging. They are very expensive $250 but should last 2-3 times the typical rv battery. I'm on year 5 with mine. I charge mine once in mid winter but that is not really necessary. Between trips it is always a good idea to disconnect the battery.

AC to DC- in the RV world this is done by a converter. A converter is really two circuits in one package. The first is a DC power supply and the second, a battery charger. Whether you need one or not depends on how much power you use when camped. For light users a battery charger would probably do. Today most things in the trailer run off 12 volts so the power supply part of the converter substitutes for the battery. You plug it in to the AC outlet and it converts it to 12 volts DC. But, if your current demand is low then the charger alone might suffice. In that case you are running off the battery at all times but when there is shore power you simultaneously charge the battery. That's a start. Raz
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:40 PM   #3
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Jen,
You will need a converter that changes 120v to 12v for your lights. Or purchase a battery charger to plug in and just run your lights directly off your battery. But if you plan on adding a furnace blower, fantastic fan, a water pump then a converter is the way to go. A simple 35 amp here is $150 WFCO 8935 ANP 35 Amp
For your lights, you can remove the old ones and reroute the wires to your new location sand buy the new light with led installed here is one Kaper II LED Lights
For your battery in your storage lot get a simple 5 watt solar, no controller needed, simple alligator hook up it will keep it charged and maintained. here Sunforce 50022 5 Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger
Finally, you will need one of these to disconnect your battery while in storage from your trailer to eliminate any parasitic drain. This you install between the battery and your trailer. Cut off switch Cal-Term Products 41860 - Battery Cut-Off Switch
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Old 12-01-2011, 05:00 PM   #4
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here is what I used in Nest Egg- I installed all along the underside of cabinets, wired to a switch, 10 of them did a fantastic job, also one for the step light and closet lights
Amazon.com: LED Dome Convenience Light Auto Airplane Aircraft RV Boat Interior Cabin Cockpit LED Lighting: Sports & Outdoors
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:58 PM   #5
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solar battery chargers

I have used a trickle charger for years. It has clips for battery attachment and long wires for placing the small solar panel anywhere. The wires are long enough to just lay the panel on the roof of your RV. Check out Portable Generators, Heaters, Power Tools, Welders | Northern Tool + Equipment.
They have several and the cost is very reasonable. Marg in NW Califonia
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Old 12-01-2011, 09:18 PM   #6
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If you need to run new wires for the extra light fixtures, you can do that in wiremold casings like this:
Nonmetallic Raceway, White-NMW1 at The Home Depot

The base has adhesive or can be screwed down. Put your wires in the base and snap on the cover. You can add more wires later by just removing the cover. They make a whole assortment of connectors for corners.

David
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Old 12-02-2011, 05:11 PM   #7
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Thanks all! This is great info!
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:40 PM   #8
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Followup question: what is all this stuff about fuse panels? I see fuses and panels being mentioned in various discussions inre. RV wiring. When I bought my Burro, it had a battery, and the two lights and the vent fan were wired directly to the battery, the end. No fuse panel or anything like that. I'm looking at this diagram below and it suggests I should stick a fuse panel into the system. Can you guys fill me in on these?

Is it feasible then, that for this year I could run my lighting by connecting shore power to a converter to the lighting and skip the battery? Or do I definitely need to have a battery present in order to operate 12v lights? Can I do AC source -->converter-->lights, or does it have to be AC-->converter-->battery-->fuse panel-->lights?

And to clarify, the total list of stuff I am running that is electric would be the lights, the refrigerator (for now I have an AC only dorm fridge), and charging laptop batteries and camera batteries. No furnace, no air conditioner, no kitchen appliances. Oh, and maybe the vent fan. I've never used it thus far because the battery has always been too dead.


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Old 12-02-2011, 06:57 PM   #9
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The fuse panel is located inside your converter. When you have a converter it converts 120v to 12v and each 12v circuit has a fuse, like 10amp, 15amp that protects the circuit from overheating, just like in your house, a circuit breaker. Years ago you had fuses in your house.
You can operate your 12v lights, fans, outlets for charging batteries while plugged in to 120v and with your converter operating. If you unplug from 120v then everything 12v will automatically operate off your battery. Any appliance using 120v will only work while hooked up. This could be a/c or 120v refer or electric heater or anything you could plug in at home in your house.
You do not need a battery here AC---converter w/fuses----lights---or with(optional battery)
but if you have brakes or wish to boondocks then you need a battery. Also the converter will charge your battery and keep it charged as long as you are plugged in to 120v.
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:04 PM   #10
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Thanks again Jim! I do have trailer brakes - did I make a bad by removing my battery and then towing 325 miles? (if so....whoops! but I didn't notice any sort of difference in handling...)

I sort of guessed that the trailer brakes are powered from the wiring connection to the car? Am I wrong about that?

I am trying to imagine the coming year in mostly campgrounds with hookups, while my bank account recovers from the winter makeover, and then getting a good battery and an AC/DC fridge NEXT winter.

You guys see why I ask to dumb things down, right? Nowhere in my historian training did they teach us about batteries and wiring.
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jen b View Post
Thanks again Jim! I do have trailer brakes - did I make a bad by removing my battery and then towing 325 miles? (if so....whoops! but I didn't notice any sort of difference in handling...)

I sort of guessed that the trailer brakes are powered from the wiring connection to the car? Am I wrong about that?

I am trying to imagine the coming year in mostly campgrounds with hookups, while my bank account recovers from the winter makeover, and then getting a good battery and an AC/DC fridge NEXT winter.

You guys see why I ask to dumb things down, right? Nowhere in my historian training did they teach us about batteries and wiring.
Yes the brakes are powered by the tow vehicle, but there is an emergency cable that, in the event your trailer becomes disconnected from the tug, the on board battery will activate the trailer brakes and stop the trailer. It is a backup system- like belt and suspenders. Do you have a little cable you run thru your chains? That is your emergency cable for that reason.
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:22 PM   #12
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Yep, I've got the breakaway setup. I guess it's not powered by unicorns, then. That's a compelling reason right there to have a battery on board, I suppose.
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:27 PM   #13
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Yep, I've got the breakaway setup. I guess it's not powered by unicorns, then. That's a compelling reason right there to have a battery on board, I suppose.
Plus in the event your tow vehicle battery goes dead you have another battery that can get you home or a hot shot with cables.
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Old 12-03-2011, 07:06 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jen b View Post
Followup question: what is all this stuff about fuse panels? I see fuses and panels being mentioned in various discussions inre. RV wiring. When I bought my Burro, it had a battery, and the two lights and the vent fan were wired directly to the battery, the end. No fuse panel or anything like that. I'm looking at this diagram below and it suggests I should stick a fuse panel into the system. Can you guys fill me in on these?

Is it feasible then, that for this year I could run my lighting by connecting shore power to a converter to the lighting and skip the battery? Or do I definitely need to have a battery present in order to operate 12v lights? Can I do AC source -->converter-->lights, or does it have to be AC-->converter-->battery-->fuse panel-->lights?

And to clarify, the total list of stuff I am running that is electric would be the lights, the refrigerator (for now I have an AC only dorm fridge), and charging laptop batteries and camera batteries. No furnace, no air conditioner, no kitchen appliances. Oh, and maybe the vent fan. I've never used it thus far because the battery has always been too dead.



Just to provide a different point of view....With the fridge and the battery chargers directly connected to AC, all that's left are the lights and a fan. I guess I don't see the need for a converter. A good quality battery and a charger will do what you want quite nicely. Based on the idea that anything you know is trivial and anything you don't is complicated, what ever you do I would advise hiring a professional to do or at the very least examine your wiring. Also, if your battery is always dead it might be good to have your tow vehicle wiring checked. Good luck, Raz
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