No converter - solar, battery questions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-17-2015, 06:00 PM   #1
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No converter - solar, battery questions

Hi All. I was doing some work in our little Scamp today and decided to take a good hard look at the mess of wiring in it and see where everything goes. Imagine my surprise upon realizing that our Scamp 1982, does not have a converter, nor is there a single wire running from the electrical box to the battery. Shore power comes into the camper and goes only to the electrical outlets and light. Nothing to the battery. It also isn't wired to be charged from the vehicle while driving (we only have a 4 pin for towing). That being said, we've used the battery plenty, including running the inverter from it, so I know the battery works. Unfortunately, after testing it, it is at 11.8, which I know is badly low. So my questions:

1. Should we rewire things so that the battery charges while towing? Is this the easiest fix? We would need to pay someone to do this because neither of us is inclined to do electrical stuff. This would mean the battery and the electrical systems remain completely separate.

2. Should we add a converter and then add wiring to the battery so it charges off of shore power? Again, we'd pay someone to do this as it would be a complete camper rewire.

3. It is wired for solar, with a round 4 pin plug on the outside of the camper, with wiring leading directly to the solar controller and then to the battery from that. This seems like a straight forward fix, just get a solar panel and plug it in, except I can't find any solar panels that look like they would just plug in to the connector. Most seem to attach directly to the battery.

4. We have a battery charger that plugs into a wall outlet and connects to the battery (battery minder/tender/charger type thing). Can we just use this to charge up the battery before and after trips, keeping an eye on the battery while out to make sure we don't let it get so low again?

I'd love thoughts and input. Thanks!
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Old 09-17-2015, 06:15 PM   #2
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This is a picture of the outside connector



This is the inside wiring. The black wire comes in from the solar outlet on the left then the wires go through the controller and to the battery.
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Old 09-17-2015, 06:23 PM   #3
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This is the same with lots of small older trailers, to not have a converter, like the '76 Trillium 1300 I am working on.

I am not going to add a converter, what I have done, along with complete rewiring, is to add a 4.2A CTEK battery charger to the battery for when connected to 120V. I changed the wiring harness to 7-pin to charge while driving. I haven't added solar yet, but will do that too in time.
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Old 09-17-2015, 06:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
This is the same with lots of small older trailers, to not have a converter, like the '76 Trillium 1300 I am working on.

I am not going to add a converter, what I have done, along with complete rewiring, is to add a 4.2A CTEK battery charger to the battery for when connected to 120V. I changed the wiring harness to 7-pin to charge while driving. I haven't added solar yet, but will do that too in time.
Good to know! Thank you! I like the idea of both solar and charging the battery from a battery charger.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:01 PM   #5
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That's a generic plug, they have been used in the past for 4 pin trailer tail, stop and turn lights. I'm betting that the p.o. had a set of portable panels that they set up and plugged in to use.


But you might want to evaluate the controller you have before trying to just add a panel. They sorta have to match up in terms of capacity.


The easiest solution(s) would be to just add a quality "smart"battery charger and a charging line from your tow vehicle. Depending on your use either one may be enough. Most battery tenders are fairly low tech and won't do all the things that a good charger can do like recharge to full charge and also have a desulfate cycle built in. Both of these features will give longer battery use and life.
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Old 09-17-2015, 07:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
That's a generic plug, they have been used in the past for 4 pin trailer tail, stop and turn lights.


But you might want to evaluate the controller you have before trying to just add a panel. They sorta have to match up in terms of capacity.


The easiest solution(s) would be to just add a quality "smart"battery charger and a charging line from your tow vehicle. Depending on your use either one may be enough. Most battery tenders are fairly low tech and won't do all the things that a good charger can do like recharge to full charge and also have a desulfate cycle built in. Both of these features will give longer battery use and life.
Thank you, Bob. I don't think we'll use much...we still tend to reach for the flash lights first. I think it's those tent camping years ingrained in us! It seems that a good battery charger and adding tow vehicle charging is a must. Eventually we'd like to use the solar, but maybe down the line further.
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Old 09-17-2015, 08:49 PM   #7
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I usually camp in campsites without 120 volt ac. Here in SoCal there are rarely full shaded sites so I always put out my 2 - 30 watt solar panels one on each side of my escape vent. This has been more than enough to keep my battery charged while out camping. I have removed my trailer 12 volt light bulbs and replaced them with Led bulbs. This helps allot. I am no longer conservative with my lighting usage. I don't have a bathroom so no power hungry 12 volt items sucking power. I do have a heater sucking power when cold. I do have 12 volt charging from the tug when hooked up and towing. I have a pd4045 converter/power distribution panel for 120 volt ac and 12 volt dc charging when I am at home or rarely at a powered site. When I bought my trailer used it had nothing except seperate basic connections for both ac and dc.
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Old 09-17-2015, 09:34 PM   #8
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Thank you Steve. I see many folks switching to LED lights, so we may have to look into that, too. I so appreciate the feedback.
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Old 09-18-2015, 01:47 AM   #9
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After a friend overzealously designed a crazy solar unit that would rise and point in any direction, I decided that this was a bit like duck hunting with a howitzer.... So, with no original 12 system but some wiring, I put a good battery on my Boler and bought a simple solar panel (20w). The controller for it was all of $19 Canadian. It connects to the battery but has a connector on the other side that simply plugs into the solar panel. I just put it on the bed or in the car and set it out when I camp. Works just fine. All lights converted to LED so that's sure helped too.

Now to add a 12v plug and maybe a couple USB plugs. Also have a Wagonmaster gravity furnace that struggles in our part of the world (Yukon) so adding a couple 12v old computer fans on top of it to blow in, and a switch to turn it on when needed.
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Old 09-18-2015, 04:46 PM   #10
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Emily,
I think you have the makings of a good system, but much depends on what kind of a solar controller you have. Hopefully it is a three stage controller [either PWM or MPPT]. In my opinion, most of the converters used by Scamp are junk and you're better off without one. Basically, I use my converter as a fuse holder and never plug into shore power. I have been working with solar on my rig for nine years now and have a system that I think works well without ever "plugging in". I'd be happy to show it to you sometime and discuss the various options available to you; some very inexpensive, some not. I store my Scamp at a storage yard near Pecos & I-76 and could show it to you at a mutually convenient time. Not sure what part of Colorado you live in. In the meantime, I'd suggest that you obtain a good quality three stage battery charger and charge up your battery. That is the most important thing to do until you decide what your long term solution is going to be.
Rick
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Old 09-18-2015, 05:48 PM   #11
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As far as I am aware, Scamp changed over to Progressive Dynamic converters several years ago. But I agree, the "American" brand used in earlier units had a propensity for board failures that was well beyond acceptable.


Most progressive Dynamics converters and Power Chassis incorporate an excellent 3 stage charger for not all that much more than a quality, stand alone, charger with that capability.
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Old 09-18-2015, 08:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick in arvada View Post
Emily,
I think you have the makings of a good system, but much depends on what kind of a solar controller you have. Hopefully it is a three stage controller [either PWM or MPPT]. In my opinion, most of the converters used by Scamp are junk and you're better off without one. Basically, I use my converter as a fuse holder and never plug into shore power. I have been working with solar on my rig for nine years now and have a system that I think works well without ever "plugging in". I'd be happy to show it to you sometime and discuss the various options available to you; some very inexpensive, some not. I store my Scamp at a storage yard near Pecos & I-76 and could show it to you at a mutually convenient time. Not sure what part of Colorado you live in. In the meantime, I'd suggest that you obtain a good quality three stage battery charger and charge up your battery. That is the most important thing to do until you decide what your long term solution is going to be.
Rick


This is the solar controller that is in it. We would LOVE to see what your system looks like in your Scamp and generally pick your brain about all of this! We love the idea of solar and it seems like it should be rather straightforward, and nice to have. My husband (Kyle) actually works up north, near 64th and Sheridan/ Sheridan and I-76 and drives by I-76 and Pecos every day. I'll message you his email and maybe he could meet up with you some time? No hurry on our end, but would definitely love to do so. In the meantime, we have a battery charger, so we're going to bring our little Scamp home tomorrow and get the battery charged up. So much to learn and so thankful for all of you here!
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