New converter box/ solar power? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-04-2014, 07:31 PM   #1
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New converter box/ solar power?

So after the earlier discussion about my messed up wiring, I've come to the conclusion that I need to hire someone to fix it. While I'm at it, I think I'd like to put in a new converter box (is that the proper term?), and have it roughed in for future solar power connection.

What do I need to look for when shopping for converter panels? Is there one that will tell me at a glance what current I'm using or where my power is coming from and if my battery is being charged? I had the main power plugged in today but I have no idea if it's charging the battery and I needed to turn on the sink light before I could flip the rocker switch so I knew when I had it on the correct setting.

I like more rustic camping so I'm thinking we'll mostly be boondocking. Luckily, there's not much to power in the camper. Just the lights and the little fridge. I wouldn't mind being able to use a power bar for charging phones or my Bose Dock and a little Kuerig either.

After all that info, I'd be very happy if I could get some recommendations on what to get (besides a good electrician!!)

Morgyn




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Old 08-04-2014, 07:47 PM   #2
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Best place to start is to buy yourself a voltmeter - less than $10 these days. That will let you check whether your battery is charging or not. Another approach is a monitor that plugs into a cigarette lighter socket if you have one. http://www.amazon.com/INNOVA-3721-Ba...s=rv+voltmeter

If you don't need a lot of power the portable suitcase style solar chargers can be directly hooked to the battery when you're camped and avoid a lot of installation expense.

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Old 08-04-2014, 08:46 PM   #3
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A volt meter may or may not help, you have to know how to use it, and have at a very rudimentary understanding of how electricity works. In this case the OP is right find somebody to fix it.

I you're not going to be plugged in a converter is of little use. I have mine turned off and haven't used it in over 4 years. The trailer is a little over 8 years old. FYI we live in it for 3 to 4 months every winter then a few 1 to 2 week trips in the summer.
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Old 08-04-2014, 08:59 PM   #4
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The Innova units and their ilk will give you a fair idea of your voltage, but it won't actually be battery voltage. It gives the voltage on the circuit it's on, which includes all loads on that circuit along with the draw, though small, of the meter itself.

I have been using the Innova unit for a couple of years, but it always shows lower than an open circuit reading on the battery with a dvom, and it will go into the yellow and red zones much quicker than it should.

I'm not saying don't get one, if you're trying to save a few bucks, but use it only as a general guide and double check at the battery with a volt meter if it leads you to be concerned.

There are a number of after market meters out there that will do a better job, but of course you will spend more for those.

Being the cheap guy I am, and knowing enough electronics to get myself into trouble, I bought one of these:

3-1/2 Digit LCD Panel Meter, PM438 | MPJA.COM

Based on info from a couple of sites I breadboarded a circuit and installed it in a box. I have it set up to give me voltage and amps in and out with a couple of switches. Made cheap wire shunts based on info from another site.

Final testing is almost done. Readings are identical to the DVOM. Looking forward to the final install.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morgynm View Post
After all that info, I'd be very happy if I could get some recommendations on what to get (besides a good electrician!!)
The first thing you need to do is determine your needs, then you need to determine how to meet those needs.

This page will give you a start The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)

I don't understand electrical but found this book to be very helpful.
Managing 12 Volts: How to Upgrade, Operate, and Troubleshoot 12 Volt Electrical Systems: Harold Barre: 9780964738621: Amazon.com: Books
I borrowed it from my library before buying a copy.

Then there are the forums here. Learning sounds like a good winter project to me.
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Old 08-05-2014, 06:25 AM   #6
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Lots of learning!!!

Thank you! Everyone here is so wonderful to be passing on all their combined knowledge to new people.


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Old 08-05-2014, 08:15 AM   #7
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I installed a new PD4045 power converter in our Uhaul to charge the battery and operate 12 volt interior lights. I used a large truck battery for when not plugged in to shore power. I'm starting to think I really don't need that big heavy battery as some of our summer camping places have electric, and where we camp for the winter has electric, so at least for the winter I'm going to install a small battery just for short time light use on overnight stops where shore power is not available. Even when summer camping with no shore power I find we use the lights and fantastic fan very little. I know others have dual batteries and solar panels but our needs don't require all that.
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:01 AM   #8
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The PD4045 that Mary and Bob recommended is an excellent choice. It is not just a converter, it is a complete power panel for 120 volt AC and 12 volt DC. If you put one of these in, I think you will be very happy.
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:04 AM   #9
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I'm gonna look into that.


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Old 08-05-2014, 12:03 PM   #10
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I put a small inexpensive voltmeter in last weekend Morgyn. It just keeps me
informed of voltage in the trailer.



We have the PD4045 in our trailer. Everything I read about it is very positive, and probably a good choice.

Best of luck to ya!

Frank
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Old 08-05-2014, 12:52 PM   #11
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I'll see if I can source one locally.


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Old 08-05-2014, 01:04 PM   #12
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Here's where I got my volt meter: Amazon.com: LCD Digital Volt Voltage Panel Meter Voltmeter 7.5V-20V: Automotive

You can get a PD4505 there too! Amazon.com: Progressive Dynamics (PD4045KV) Mighty Mini 45 Amp AC/DC Distribution Panel with Built-In Charge Wizard: Automotive
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Old 08-05-2014, 01:08 PM   #13
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Omg! Here I was thinking it was going to cost around $500 for one of those things! My bank account just did a happy dance!


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Old 08-05-2014, 01:10 PM   #14
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Amazon is my friend...

I assume that's a Scottish highland happy dance?
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