12 volt and 120 volt - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-31-2020, 08:48 AM   #1
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12 volt and 120 volt

Hello, everyone. Thank you for all your help with renovating my Scamp. I have another question. So, what are the benefits of having a 12 volt system vs a 120 volt system. When I got my Scamp, it was 120 volt, and I wanted to keep it that way, but my friend told me that I should make the lighting 12 volt for convenience. I have little to no experience with electrical work so I have many questions. Do you need a power inverter for both a 12 volt and a 120 volt system? Can you use a battery with both systems? If someone could explain both systems to me that would be very much appreciated.
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Old 03-31-2020, 09:04 AM   #2
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Best bet is to do some Internet research.. you will get extensive information about such a general question, and then can ask specific questions that can better be addressed here.

https://www.google.com/search?q=camp...tems+explained
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Old 03-31-2020, 09:39 AM   #3
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OK. No interest in furthering the debate on what is needed for camping. So I deleted my comments.

Let me instead suggest searching via google, not just this forum. The debate rages on and on and on....
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Old 03-31-2020, 10:16 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by thrifty bill View Post
You need a converter. ...
No you don't.

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Originally Posted by thrifty bill View Post
...Propane and 12V with a battery are critical for dry camping and boon docking. ....
No they aren't.

But I would agree that is the best option for most people. However some people just use a stand alone battery charger instead of a converter. Some don't use propane, or at least don't have propane installed in the camper, even for boondocking. And they use portable lights instead of lights installed in the camper. Sometimes a camper is nothing more than a hard-sided tent, but you likely do want one or both electrical systems and propane.

So there is much to consider, and covering the entire topic of how the 12 DC and 120 AC systems work, what they provide, etc., is impossible to fully cover in a single thread.

We can start with general terminology.. as mentioned, a converter powers your 12 VDC items from 120 VAC Shore power and charges your battery. An inverter is the reverse. It takes the 12 VDC and turns it into 120 VAC. But its not very effective. Many or most campers have a converter but few small campers also include an inverter.
(I know it sounds crazy but some people go all electric!).
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Old 03-31-2020, 01:34 PM   #5
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Having just 120 volts would require that if you use any electric devices in the camper, then you must have a 120 volt supply to power it, either a power pole at the campground, an outlet from your house, or a generator running. 120 volts is pretty much the only way to power the air conditioner and microwave in our tiny campers without adding an inverter (12 volt to 120 volt) that requires a battery bank.

Having a 12 volt system means you do not have to be tethered to a power source, so you can use 12 volt appliances (fans, lights, furnace fan) anywhere that you park your camper, whether it be a campground with or without hookups, a WalMart, Rest area, boondocking, beach, etc.
For the 12 volt system to work, you would need to install a battery (the higher the capacity, the longer you can go without recharging). The battery would need to be recharged every few days to keep working, either from your cars engine, solar panels, battery charger, or if you add a 120 volt to 12 volt converter, from your converter when you are plugged in. (A battery charger works just as well as a converter but is less convenient)

One of the benefits of having 12 volt battery capability is that you can use your camper if your house loses power and still be able to use the 12 volt system for the furnace, fans, lights, some phone charging ability, etc (especially if you have a solar panel to charge it back up)(air conditioner and 120 volt outlets won't work on 12 volts)

I assume that your camper doesn't have electric brakes, since if it did, you would at least want a small 12 volt battery to power the emergency brake disconnect.
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Old 03-31-2020, 01:36 PM   #6
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Sorry I don’t know how to link with another thread but if you look for a recent one titled “Surfside Disaster” and skip ahead to post 17 and on there’s some good discussion about your question.

Try this: https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...ter-89827.html

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 03-31-2020, 02:06 PM   #7
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120V AC wiring requires a certified, or at least knowledgable electrician.
Actually so does 12V DC wiring. Bad splices can cause problems.
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Old 03-31-2020, 02:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annalisewellman View Post
Hello, everyone. Thank you for all your help with renovating my Scamp. I have another question. So, what are the benefits of having a 12 volt system vs a 120 volt system. When I got my Scamp, it was 120 volt, and I wanted to keep it that way, but my friend told me that I should make the lighting 12 volt for convenience. I have little to no experience with electrical work so I have many questions. Do you need a power inverter for both a 12 volt and a 120 volt system? Can you use a battery with both systems? If someone could explain both systems to me that would be very much appreciated.
With a trailer, you most likely already have a 12 volt battery and are wired for it. That is an excellent power source for running LED lights, the fridge ignitor for running it on propane, running a propane furnace, charging your laptop and your phone, etc. The on-board camper battery should charge from your seven pin plug, or you should wire it to make that work. A Renogy suitcase 100 watt solar system is also a very nice setup for battery charging, and likely all you'll need for limited power use. Get used to how much that system will produce and then upgrade as you see fit.

Don't cut corners by buying the cheapest and smallest battery you can find. Get the biggest and best one that will fit your battery box. Or two of them. Get a cheap cigarette lighter socket volt meter to monitor your battery voltage. Very important to monitor the voltage or you'll ruin the batteries.

Remember: "usage will always rise to meet capacity". You'll find the limit of the system and probably want more.

If you want 120 volt household current, to run a microwave or other appliances, you have to either be plugged into shore power, or make it somehow. You can run a generator to make it, which is loud and inconvenient, or you can run your 12 volt power through an inverter to make it.

An inverter wastes about 10% of the power from the battery. So if you can run your stuff on 12 volts, it's more efficient. And as soon as you start running heavy loads, like a microwave, coffee maker, hair dryer, etc, on 120 volts, you'll need a lot more battery power and more charging ability to keep up.

If you need just a little 120 volt power, such as needed to run a DVD player, or to re-charge a cordless drill, for instance, you can use a cigarette lighter style inverter of about 150 watts to do it. These are cheap and small and work well for small loads.

Having 120 volts, while out boondocking is nice, but it is much more complicated and demanding than simply using a simple 12 volt system. However, If you have a cigarette lighter socket, you can plug in a USB converter and charge phones, computers, bluetooth speakers, and battery powered lights. You can clip the transformer off the end of the wire to some DVD players and plug it into the 12 volt system.

Did you notice how many times I mentioned a cigarette lighter plug? A very handy way to get started and have a simple and common style power plug for 12 volts. Adaptable to many things. Two, would be better so that you can leave your volt meter plugged in all the time to monitor the solar and the state of battery charge.
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Old 03-31-2020, 02:39 PM   #9
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The igniter for LP in the fridge does not use 12VDC.
it is a Piezeo electric device that produces a spark by passing a magnet by a coil.
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Old 03-31-2020, 02:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne Collins View Post
The igniter for LP in the fridge does not use 12VDC.
it is a Piezeo electric device that produces a spark by passing a magnet by a coil.
True but that device is controlled by a 12v circuit board.
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Old 03-31-2020, 03:01 PM   #11
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True but that device is controlled by a 12v circuit board.
that must be the larger fridge with controls inside.
Ours is the smaller one w/ controls outside.
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Old 03-31-2020, 03:21 PM   #12
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The igniter for LP in the fridge does not use 12VDC.
it is a Piezeo electric device that produces a spark by passing a magnet by a coil.
Two problems here:

A piezo is not a magnet and coil. Magnetos use magnets and coils.

A manual Piezo ignitor uses a spring powered hammer blow against a piece of quartz to make a spark. The button is manually pushed, and the mechanism snaps the hammer against the quartz. No outside voltage is required.

An electronic control module in a modern propane fridge uses 12 volts to generate a spark with a coil. The flame is only on when cooling is required, and it lights after receiving a signal from the thermostat. A small 12 volt current is required to run the system, open the gas valve, create the spark, detect the flame with flame rectification, and shut off the gas if no flame is detected, or when the thermostat is satisfied. Then try again, or turn on a trouble indicator if so equipped. It cannot work without an outside power source. It works much like a modern forced air furnace in homes.

Older propane fridges used a system similar to what home water heaters use, with a thermocouple and a manual ignitor. In that case, the flame is always on. The electric gas valve is held open by a small voltage generated by the hot thermocouple. If the flame goes out, the thermocouple cools and the voltage from it goes away, so the gas valve closes and stops the gas flow. When starting it we have to hold the button down to override the thermocouple voltage and hold the valve open until the thermocouple warms up enough to keep the gas valve open with its voltage. The thermostat, if it has one, varies the size of the flame with a mechanical thermal bulb and capillary tube system that adjusts the gas valve. This system requires no outside electrical power source.
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Old 03-31-2020, 03:41 PM   #13
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Read this, parts 1 and 2
https://www.woodysrv.com/blog/the-12-volt-side-of-life/
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Old 03-31-2020, 04:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raspy View Post
Two problems here:

A piezo is not a magnet and coil. Magnetos use magnets and coils.

A manual Piezo ignitor uses a spring powered hammer blow against a piece of quartz to make a spark. The button is manually pushed, and the mechanism snaps the hammer against the quartz. No outside voltage is required.

An electronic control module in a modern propane fridge uses 12 volts to generate a spark with a coil. The flame is only on when cooling is required, and it lights after receiving a signal from the thermostat. A small 12 volt current is required to run the system, create the spark, open the gas valve and check for ignition. It cannot work without an outside power source. It works much like a modern forced air furnace in homes.

Older propane fridges used a system similar to what home water heaters use, with a thermocouple and a manual ignitor. In that case, the flame is always on. The thermostat, if it has one, varies the size of the flame with a mechanical thermal bulb and capillary tube system that adjusts the gas valve. This system requires no outside electrical power source.
Thank you for your clarification.
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Old 03-31-2020, 04:28 PM   #15
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Thank you for your clarification.

Thanks.
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Old 03-31-2020, 06:02 PM   #16
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As a person with "electronic technician" title in my background and your admission that "I have little to no experience with electrical work so I have many questions," I would suggest that you find a friend who has electrical (real electrical) knowledge who can give you hands on help with your project. Reading through this string I see a mixture of confusing information, good but probably over your head information, some irrelevant information, some just plain wrong "information."


Electricity, like gas, is something you don't want to mess with unless you know what you are doing. Improperly done either can result in disaster.


If you don't have any knowledgeable friends have a professional do the work.


Whether you have no electricity, 12v, 120vac, or both depends on what you will use your trailer for and what kind of convenience appliance you want to have. Twelve volts will power lights, automobile type radio, some small tv sets, and the controls for most RV appliances (furnace refrigerator, hot water heater, etc.). You'll need 120vac for things like air conditioner, microwave, electric space heater, and other things that you might find in a S&B home. Need for converters and inverters again depends on what you are using the electrics for. Again, find a knowledgeable friend to discuss all this with. Starting at basically ground zero you need face-to-face back-and-forth real-time conversation you can't get in a forum like this.
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Old 03-31-2020, 06:39 PM   #17
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OK. No interest in furthering the debate on what is needed for camping. So I deleted my comments.
...
Bill my friend, I hope I did not offend by my alternative ideas. No need to delete you comments as they were spot on for most people. I only wanted to point out that, as they say, YMMV.
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Old 03-31-2020, 07:29 PM   #18
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... find a knowledgeable friend to discuss all this with. Starting at basically ground zero you need face-to-face back-and-forth real-time conversation you can't get in a forum like this.
I was just thinking the same thing... reading up on the topic is important but what will really help you is talking to one or more experienced RV owners in person. Discuss the way you plan to use the camper, and what needs you have. Note I said "needs" and not "wants." Some "wants" (like an inverter or generator) can more more trouble than they are worth. Then again, for a few people whatever is a "want" for me is a "need" for them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wilyoung View Post
... Reading through this string I see a mixture of confusing information, good but probably over your head information, some irrelevant information, some just plain wrong "information."
BTW, I'm wondering what wrong information you saw. I must have missed it.
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Old 03-31-2020, 07:38 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by wilyoung View Post
As a person with "electronic technician" title in my background and your admission that "I have little to no experience with electrical work so I have many questions," I would suggest that you find a friend who has electrical (real electrical) knowledge who can give you hands on help with your project. Reading through this string I see a mixture of confusing information, good but probably over your head information, some irrelevant information, some just plain wrong "information."


Electricity, like gas, is something you don't want to mess with unless you know what you are doing. Improperly done either can result in disaster.


If you don't have any knowledgeable friends have a professional do the work.


Whether you have no electricity, 12v, 120vac, or both depends on what you will use your trailer for and what kind of convenience appliance you want to have. Twelve volts will power lights, automobile type radio, some small tv sets, and the controls for most RV appliances (furnace refrigerator, hot water heater, etc.). You'll need 120vac for things like air conditioner, microwave, electric space heater, and other things that you might find in a S&B home. Need for converters and inverters again depends on what you are using the electrics for. Again, find a knowledgeable friend to discuss all this with. Starting at basically ground zero you need face-to-face back-and-forth real-time conversation you can't get in a forum like this.
It didn't sound to me that she was going to dive in and re-wire her trailer herself with no knowledge.

I don't see anything wrong with opening a discussion about the merits of different systems. This is how someone can open the door and begin to see where they might want to go with all of this, and why. We can't just turn everything over to the "experts" before we know where we're going. And later, after being intimately involved with the process, she may have some of the appropriate tools and developed skills to fix things out in the field while camping. An important part of learning is admitting we don't know. And not knowing doesn't mean someone is going to do it wrong. It means they are curious and willing to learn. Excellent.
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Old 03-31-2020, 08:03 PM   #20
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I kinda thought that was one of the purposes of these forums so people could pose questions and get answers, opinions, and basically enjoy the benefits of the experience available. The end result is someone who has maybe more questions, points to ponder and generally has moved forward from where they started.

Hopefully the OP now has more knowledge than before. I know I do.
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