Installing a battery - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-30-2007, 07:00 AM   #1
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Trailer: Compact II 1974
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Well, I ended up buying the 1974 Compact II that was listed here:

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/board/in...howtopic=23249

I paid $3000 which may seem a bit steep in retrospect, but I'm sure you all would know better than I (I'd love to know what you think though). But my wife, 4-week old baby girl and I are starting to think longingly of our first camping trip. Plus the thing fits into my little garage in San Francisco, which is great!

I have a question for you all and am hoping to get some conceptual help here. The trailer is rigged with 2 12v lights but there is no battery (though the wiring still exists). What I would like to do is be able to have power when we are away from campgrounds. I plan on using the 12v for a short spans of light in the evening, night-light for our daughter, perhaps setting up an inverter for a laptop, and then buying an electic water pump. I am also thinking of buying a 5-watt solar panel to charge on-the-go as well.

Conceptually however, I am a little weak. I am basically looking for assistance in understanding, once I have the components, how the system will be set up. I have found this website:
http://www.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/12volt/12volt.htm

It provides some help. Apparently I will be installing a fuse panel and running the pump, inverter and lighting through that. The solar panel will, I imagine, hook up directly to the battery. As for the battery itself, I will put it in a battery box that ventilates outside... Unfortunately my father-less upbringing and training as an academic (professor) have left me ill-equipped to move beyond this. If anyone can provide help (in words, pictures, or deeds if you are in the area) I would be much obliged.

Also, if you must provide the infamous advice that I struggle to hear, "Have a professional do it!", please let me know what I can expect to pay. After $3k for the trailer, $200 or so for parts, and an academics' salary, I am hard-pressed to find much more cash lying around.

thanks in advance!

David

p.s. If anyone needs advice on postmodern theory and its applications in a post-industrial consumer society, I am more than glad to help!
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Old 03-30-2007, 07:28 AM   #2
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Hi David

I personally like the location of the Scamp battery box. It's located on the trailer tongue and outside the trailer. Batteries tend to leak some and generate hydrogen gas when charging. I think most will require a marine/RV battery (I assume the marine service aspect is due to the bouncing around the battery gets during towing... thick plates in the cells and deep cycle capability for charge-discharge capability). The Scamp website may have an electrical diagram if it's of any help. You could probably make due with a inexpensive "smart charger" to keep the battery charged up.

Good luck with the new camper!
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Old 03-30-2007, 07:56 AM   #3
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Thx for the reply. When there was a battery, it was indeed located on the tongue and I am not totally adverse to doing that again. I also bought a smart charger on ebay (2/10/50 Amp) but was thinking that the solar thing would be good on the road.
As for the Scamp I'm not sure how it helps exactly but I did find this:
http://scamptrailers.com/wiring.html
The battery I am thinking of getting is this:
http://www.exide.com/products/marine_rv/or...deep_cycle.html

Quote:
Hi David

I personally like the location of the Scamp battery box. It's located on the trailer tongue and outside the trailer. Batteries tend to leak some and generate hydrogen gas when charging. I think most will require a marine/RV battery (I assume the marine service aspect is due to the bouncing around the battery gets during towing... thick plates in the cells and deep cycle capability for charge-discharge capability). The Scamp website may have an electrical diagram if it's of any help. You could probably make due with a inexpensive "smart charger" to keep the battery charged up.

Good luck with the new camper!
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:08 AM   #4
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I have a Compact 2, and it's factory battery location is under the right side dinette seat. Personally I agree with John & Sandy, the hitch mount would make me feel a little better due to the possibility of leakage, or gas coming off the battery. I'm just not motivated enough to change the battery location, have to run new cables, stuff like that.
I DEFINITELY think you're on the right track, with your making plans for not just a battery, but also a solar supply system and all. Although I don't have any solar myself, I can really appreciate the wisdom of it, free energy and all. I THINK there might be a need for some kind of charger controller though, so that you don't get an overcharge effect from the solar supply. I would think it would be wise also to add an onboard electric charger, for when you're plugged in at a campground, or even in your garage, so that your battery is always fully charged and ready to go. My Compact did not have one when I got it, and I added one (Bought at Walmart for less than $20!).
Also, I can relate to the wonder of being able to park the unit in your garage. Mine fit in the garage at my old condo very nicely, just barely clearing the doorsill by an inch or so! hehe But once I had it in the garage, I was able to easily roll it around by hand, pop the top up, and have it plugged in to 'shore power' for charging up, lights, cooling down the fridge before a trip, or whatever! I think, in this day and age of such limited parking all over the place, or unsafe street parking, having RVs like our little fiberglass units that you can fit in such small places/parking spaces is REALLY GREAT! hehe
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:16 AM   #5
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Congrats on the new purchase David!

First off, a 5 watt solar panel is not going to help you much at all. 5 watts will keep a charged battery charged, but thats about it. It will not actually bring up the level of the battery if you are using the battery. You would need a minimum of 15 watts just for nitely lights. Forget the water pump or invertor. 5 Watts is a slow trickle charger at best.

I run off 60 watts and still need to be careful at times.

What you want to do is not difficult to understand. Try not to let it intimidate you. It's not much more complicated than wiring your home stereo. BUT, it isn't as forgiving if you make a mistake. For safety reasons, it needs to be done right.

Consider driving down to THIS rally in a couple weeks, and I will help you with it (Thats the purpose of the rally!)
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:32 AM   #6
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Also, to add..

You would do a lot better with the solar if you switched to low current draw lighting such as LEDs and cold cathodes.

These are also not rocket science to install, but you will have to buy them.

A charge controller would not be necessary with anything under 15 watts for solar, but, as mentioned before 15 watts is a minimum.

The beauty of solar is you don't have to get it all at once. You can start small and add more panels as your finances let you.

HERE are my experiences with boondocking with solar and how I used alternative methods to the traditional RV systems to make it work very comfily.

Currently (Excuse the pun) I have what seems like a cruise ship in comparison to that trailer, but I am converting all the systems I can to duplicate the old one.
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:56 AM   #7
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Thanks Joseph and Gina! Most of our trips will probably be between 3-4 days, so perhaps a solar panel isn't necessary at this point? If a battery could do what we need, then I would just as well upgrade at a later date to solar when my bank account recovers a bit.

Gina- that rally looks to be the perfect thing for a beginner like me. If we feel like the rhythm that we are starting to establish with little Lucie (our baby girl) continues to take hold, then perhaps we truly can make it.

As of this point I will start gathering the parts I need, namely the deep cycle battery, smart charger (should arrive soon), electric water pump and possibly an inverter (any idea how powerful this needs to be for a laptop?- I have read here in other forums that it should be as low as possible)...

okay posts will get shorter now- i was just handed our baby and am 1-handed now!
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Old 03-30-2007, 09:07 AM   #8
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David, yes, your invertor needs to be just enough to do the job.

I personally use a 100 watt one, and I use it to charge only.. use the computer off the internal bettery, deplete it, then recharge with the comp off. That way you are not trying to light the screen, turn hard drives etc and it takes MUCH less energy.

Running 3-4 days without a charge is probably unrealistic. 2 at the most, being conservative with incandescants etc. With a baby, you will no doubt be running a heater too. THAT will take it out of the battery quickly.

You can get a 15 watt panel off ebay for around 85 bucks.
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Old 03-30-2007, 09:14 AM   #9
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The heater in there doesn't have a fan, i think so it should require nothing more than propane... right?
So 15 watts should do the trick, huh? And no 7amp charge controller? Ugh... back to online banking!

Quote:
David, yes, your invertor needs to be just enough to do the job.

I personally use a 100 watt one, and I use it to charge only.. use the computer off the internal bettery, deplete it, then recharge with the comp off. That way you are not trying to light the screen, turn hard drives etc and it takes MUCH less energy.

Running 3-4 days without a charge is probably unrealistic. 2 at the most, being conservative with incandescants etc. With a baby, you will no doubt be running a heater too. THAT will take it out of the battery quickly.

You can get a 15 watt panel off ebay for around 85 bucks.
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Old 03-30-2007, 09:24 AM   #10
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15 watts will keep the lights going if you are careful. It's a toss up on the controller. 15 watts is the recommended start point.

I would feel comfortable without one if I was able to monitor the battery frequently. I wouldn't go any higher with one however, especially if you were going to leave it (Battery) sitting for days without use.

If you just use the solar "When you are out" you shouldn't need a controller for 15 watts.
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Old 03-30-2007, 04:48 PM   #11
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One thing I personally wouldn't do is add an electric water pump unless you need it for a shower (in fact, I was getting ready to replace mine with a manual pump on my Jayco 16' when I traded it in on my 91Scamp13) and here's why:

1. Manual pump uses absolutely no electricity, just some arm excercise.

2. You are far less likely to waste water with a manual pump.

3. You are far less likely to accumulate gray water with a manual pump.

If the person who removed the original (I presume it existed) converter also removed the fuse panel (may have been integral with the converter), you can get replacement fuse panels at some auto parts stores or a wider selection at marine parts stores like West Marine.
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Old 03-30-2007, 04:55 PM   #12
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David,

PLEASE be careful with your heater! I am assuming you have a cat heater (please tell me it's not a Mr. Buddy.. they are NOT catalytic heaters!)

If so, leave a window open on ALL sides of the trailer. Cat heaters deplete oxygen like crazy, and babies lungs.. well, you don't need the story from me.

I had a Wave 3 from Olympian in my 13, and it worked VERY well for what you are doing electrical wise, but I never slept with it on, and was always careful with it while awake.

What Pete Says about the water pump is true. However, I can see needing one so two hands are available to hold a baby.
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Old 03-30-2007, 05:49 PM   #13
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On my Compact Jr i just used a motorcycle battery for the 2 small lights.That all i needed.
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Old 03-30-2007, 06:07 PM   #14
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Joseph-I have convection type heaters in my Love Bug and my (sorry) pop-up camper. Both heaters have vents that put all exhaust from the furnace outside and they also use outside air for the combustion chamber. If they are not rusted through, they are perfectly safe. I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing a carbon monoxide detector. Battery operated ones can usually be purchased for under $25. I would have a CO detector in my camper no matter what type of furnace you have. Alot of people get confused when you tell them that your heater uses no electricity, they assume that you are using something without an outside vent.

I have obtained an extra heater for the eventuality of one of mine wearing out because they are very difficult to find. The best part about these ehaters is that I never hook up to any power and I always have heat.

You can PM or e-mail me if you want more information.

Bob Cupp
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Old 03-30-2007, 10:24 PM   #15
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A few things-

I think I'm sold on the manual pump. That's actually what i was gonna replace anyways.

The heater is indeed fully vented to the outside and even the pilot light is sealed behind a thick glass plate. however, I have already gone onto ebay and gotten a CO detector- great advice!

As for the solar panels, I'm still going back and forth on this one... I'll let you know!

Btw, this community rocks!
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:09 PM   #16
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My battery in my 1973 Compact II is in the original location under the right dinette seat. I'm using a sealed AGM battery for no maintenance and no gassing. The fuse panel should be located under the same seat on the wall side. I have 3 15 watt solar panels for 45 watts of solar power and a 7amp charge controller. By having 3 small panels there is more options on where to locate them on the roof. All the wires enter the trailer under the seam between the popup canvas and the fiberglass lower section. I have camped a week at a time with no hookups. Like Gina says get some low wattage led or cold cathode flouresents for lighting. A small 12 volt pump like the one I bought from JC Whitney complete with faucet and switch doesn't take much power to run. If you've ever tried to wash your hands while hand pumping you'll apreciate a 12 volt pump. Mike
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:37 PM   #17
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Thanks for pointing out the convection heaters. I forgot about them because they ARE so rare.

I will not have nitemares about bad things happening to baby now

I have an atwood furnace with a fan, and have actually found it isn't as hard on the battery as I thought it would be. I set it very low (60) at nite and only hear it kick on once or twice. I have gotten used to sleeping with out heat, so it is actually a step up.

David, if you read the site I linked to about solar charging and conservation, you will find many "tips" that will apply to your situation. Many are just common sense things, but sometimes its good to read real world experience with stuff.

Even tho I have all the bells and whistles in my new trailer, I still practice MOST of these methods. A little more room and convinience does not mean I will limit myself to having an electrical cord nearby.

I am going out for 4 days next weekend without hook ups, and expect no issues. I ran for 3 days last weekend just on the solar, including using my shower every day, using my computer and using the TV. I had no power wants.
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Old 03-31-2007, 07:44 AM   #18
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Running 3-4 days without a charge is probably unrealistic. 2 at the most, being conservative with incandescants etc. With a baby, you will no doubt be running a heater too. THAT will take it out of the battery quickly.
Actually my wife and I ran the camper from the battery for five days without problem BUT you must minimize draw on the battery by using the old fashioned kerosene lamp for exterior light, LED's for interior, the propane heater was used only to get the chill off in the morning and the frige running on propane. The portable PC was charged in the tug and our LCD TV viewing limited to less than an hour (news/weather) per day.
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Old 03-31-2007, 11:20 AM   #19
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Hello David,

Congratulations on your keen purchase!

Please keep in mind your tongue weight and your Toyota Corolla tow vehicle. Battery location under the right side bench is likely still your best choice.

It is fantastic;
-that you found a trailer that suits your needs, especially fitting in a San Fransisco garage (If only there was a current day "San Francisco-Egg" model).
-that you found it almost local and had an adventurous one day trip.
-that you and I had fun rigging it to the Corolla. I hope in the future our families will meet at camping events!!

Sincerely,
-Flint
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Old 03-31-2007, 12:50 PM   #20
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David,

Welcome to the world of FGC (FiberGlass Camping). It is not too difficult to calculate and get a rough idea of your electrical needs and what batteries and solar can provide. This is what you said above:

-2 - lights (guessing they are 18 watts each) = 36 watts x 2 hours per day = 72 watt hours

-1 - nightlight (guessing 8 watts) x 10 hours = 80 whrs

-1 - electrical water pump, 45 watts x .5 hours = 23 whrs

-1 - laptop (guessing 30 watts) / .8 (efficency of inverter) x 3 hours = 114 whrs

Total = 289 watt hours per day

Now we convert to amp-hours so we can look at battery capacity so divide by 12.6 volts = 23 amp hours. So that is what you are using each day.

Looking at the Exide battery you said you were interested in, it is rated at 100 minutes at 25 amps so that figures out at 25 x 100 / 60 minutes = 42 amp hours. Now you can only use about 50% of that so you don't damage the battery. That gives you 21 amp hours which you can see is about the amount of electricity you want to use each day. So you would only get one day out of the battery before needing to charge it.

Looking at a group 24 battery (comes standard on many trailers, but is lead acid so it needs to be vented to the outside or mounted outside), they are 85 amp hours / 2 = 43 amp hours available.

Going to the slightly larger group 27 battery - 105 amp hours / 2 = 53 amp hours. With those batteries you will get closer to two days per charge.

Now turning to solar, remember you need 289 watt hours per day. A rough approximation is that you can get 6 hours of sunlight per day (4 hours at full charge + 4 hours at half charge = 6 hours at full charge). Dividing 289 watt hours /6 hours = 48 watts. So you need to provide about 50 watts of solar to provide for your needs. You will also need to buy a solar controller so you don't cook your battery.

I hope that gives you a better idea about electricity. You can adjust the numbers above to more closely match your needs. Also, as others have pointed out, switching to LED lights etc can cut your usage down. Allow for cloudy days, being parked under a tree (if you mount a panel on the roof), or higher usages.

Good luck!

John
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