Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

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Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:33 pm

Justification :

Last year I acquired an older used travel trailer. The purpose was manifold

1 - the immediate need, to provide "free" lodging for me while traveling for an education/career 2 week trip.
2 - to provide comfortable lodging for camping and traveling on other trips.
3 - to serve as a portable BOL as was used by many people when evacuating ahead of Hurricane Katrina.

The situation I was faced with last year was that of being a student at a small town college four hours from my home where I would be staying for two weeks. The school allows students to lodge temporarily in a camper on school grounds. There are no hook-ups of any kind provided - it is entirely what is known as "dry camping". Using the camper last year for this was terrific - but one problem that kept coming up was the shortage of electricity. I had three 15w 12v solar panels connected to two 6v batteries (ganged in series for 12v). While the panels helped, they did not come close to replacing all the electricity I used in a day's time. The fridge is propane, but has an electronic control board that uses some power all the time. I also sleep with a CPAP for sleep apnea which uses power 8 hours per night. Additionally, there is electricity for the onboard water pump and for some television in the eveing, and to recharge batteries for portable fans and my cell phone. I had a generator along to use for air conditioning if it got hot, but the times it was hot enough to justify the AC were far fewer than the occasions where the batteries were low and needed a boost. This year, I have determined to not have to run the generator at all unless the AC was justifiable.

To that end, I have embarked on a project to upgrade my trailer to a permanently mounted solar array as it's primary power source.

In the posts below, I will outline some of my goals and methods for upgrading the electrical service in the trailer for extended dry camping use. While I have posted this in the "transportation" section because my trailer has wheels and plates, you should be able to adapt these techniques to nearly any off-grid location such as a tiny cabin or a boat.
Last edited by Neville on Wed May 13, 2015 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:35 pm

First, some pics of the trailer before any work:

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Nothing fancy here - an older rig to be sure. I felt comfortable starting here so I could learn without the added pressure of messing up a brand new trailer and voiding any kind of warranty.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:38 pm

Phase one of the project - The four T-105 Trojan (6v) batteries from my home Micro-Solar setup have been moved to the trailer and ganged into two banks to create 12v power. I installed a new 12v outlet for use with my CPAP machine (I have significant sleep apnea). The new location is under the bunk. Yes, the batteries will have to be inspected periodically which means moving the mattress and unfastening the 4 screws that mount the sleeping platform. Can't really be helped since any alternative would be more work than it is worth for the benefit. There's nowhere else to put 4 deep cycle golf cart batteries.

Here is the link to the original Micro-Solar project:
http://www.whenshtf.com/threads/46911-M ... lectricity

The next step is to wire them into the trailer's electrical system, which I will be working on this week. I am in GOOD FORTUNE because there was a diagram on the inside cover that clearly identified the terminals for connection to the battery bank, and there is an additional knockout hole in the rear of the panel through which to feed the new wires.

The third step will be connecting the solar panels on the roof via a charge controller. For this I have selected a Morningstar 30 amp charger.

Fourth step will be connecting the pure sine wave inverter for the sensitive electronics.

Need to kick this into high-gear because the departure is only 5 weeks away and I want to give everything enough use between now and then to have confidence in it for an extended trip.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:39 pm

Here are the two banks of Trojan T105R 6v batteries in their new location under the right-hand bunk:

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Here is the wiring from the battery bank going up through the furnace compartment (not shown, but directly below fridge and adjacent to the under-bunk battery compartment, plenty of room there) into the fridge compartment. Wiring enters fridge compartment at the lower right, snakes around the bottom, then up to a hole in the upper left. The other wire pair leaves that hole and goes up through the top of the trailer using the existing fridge vent. The hole in the upper left that both pairs go into leads through a cupboard and comes out right under the charge controller.

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Here's the top of the fridge compartment. I've used a piece of pvc to ensure that the wires won't rub and eventually short against the metal fridge vent.

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Here's the wiring going through the cupboard toward the charge controller. It looks like a previous owner had a radio of some kind mounted in here (radio is long gone though). I'm planning to install a wi-fi booster here. There is usually wi-fi at campgrounds and on the school campus where I will be parked for 3 weeks. The problem last year was that with the combination of distance and obstacles (other campers) I got diddly squat for signal, completely unusable for most purposes unless conditions were "just right". My wi-fi booster and external antenna should arrive later today. The external antenna will mount to the crank-up tv antenna so hopefully I'll be high enough to ensure direct line-of-sight signal wherever I am. The goal here is twofold - first, to ensure reliable electronic communications. Second - Netflix baby!

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And the charge controller. This is a Morningstar 30 amp unit, you can find details at this link:
http://www.altestore.com/store/Charge-C ... 224V/p790/

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This is a top view of the battery disconnect switch. This allows the battery banks to be easily disconnected from the trailer wiring for storage or to work on the batteries. This switch is mounted under the left-hand bunk right next to the power distribution panel. I was able to remove a round knock-out in the back of the distribution panel and install a proper wire clamp. The terminals to connect to the main DC circuit are clearly indicated on the panel diagram and were very easy to attach the new wires. These wires go through a pair of holes just bigger than the wire, through the floor, across to the right hand side, and back up through the floor, where they connect to the batteries. The switch only isolates the batteries from the trailer DC circuit. The electrical panel is pictured below... the large terminals on the right are the primary DC circuit attachment points. The scary part was drilling blindly into the floor. You never know what might be lurking there. There are pipes and holding tanks in the flooring. We checked as much as we could prior to just forging ahead, but there is always some risk because you can't really see inside the floor until you drill. We got lucky and didn't hit anything unexpected.

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Here are the panels going up to the roof. They're obviously pretty dirty and due for a good cleaning. There is space for a total of three panels. These are the 140w 12v panels from my home micro-solar project. I still have one panel on the roof at home. The two tongue-mounted batteries on the trailer will be going home, to be fed by that lone panel. I don't need six batteries for the trailer and I would like to reduce the tongue weight by about 100 lbs, and that will help.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:44 pm

Ok, more photos of the project.

This is the fridge vent (usually there is a dome cap over this, but it's removed to install the cables - it's since been re-installed). On the left is the antenna wire, on the right is the power lines from the solar panels. The antenna wire got plain old cable guide for protection because worst case scenario, if it rubs through, no biggie, it's just an antenna wire. The power cables get a PVC pipe guide and (not shown) a thick coating of electrical tape PLUS a double layer of cable guide because if THOSE two rub through and short, there could be electrical damage or a fire. Since these panels will operate 365 days per year and most of those unattended, it pays to be safe rather than sorry, especially if it's something you may be sleeping in!

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Here are a couple shots of the WiFi antenna. It is attached to one of the square arms of the retractable TV antenna using common hose clamps. When the TV antenna is cranked down, the WiFi antenna is flat against the roof. CoaxSeal was used at the coax connection point for a waterproof seal.

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Here are the rails we laid down to serve as an attachment point for the panel brackets. The sheet metal of the roof is way too thin to serve as a solitary anchor point if we get any wind. These rails are fairly thick gauge aluminum and are anchored securely into the framing members of the roof. They feel very sturdy and I have total confidence in them not going anywhere. The panels are 58.5 inches long. I was able to find a local vendor who carried 10 foot lengths of 3/4" aluminum square tube ($16 ea) who was willing to cut them in half for me at no charge. (I can cut them myself but they are sooooo much easier to transport in 5' length) So that gives me a little less than an inch extra on each end with no waste from three 10-foot sections - perfect. Every attachment point MUST BE SEALED to prevent water leakage/damage. BTW all the screws and bolts used in this project are stainless steel. The roof surface is not flat/level and the beam spacing is inconsistent. The rails provide a securely mounted and uniform surface for the brackets to mount onto. We only drilled and screwed where we had something solid behind the sheet metal. So to a certain extent, panel placement was dictated by where there was a: vacant footprint, b: solid mounting points and c: the plug connectors from the panels could reach one another.

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Here is a close-up of the mounting. The panels are bolted to an upper L-beam, which in turn is hinged on a lower L-beam... and the lower L-beam is mounted to the rails. Solar panels do need a bit of breathing room behind them for heat dissipation. The panels have about 1.25 inches of trapped space behind them (if laid flat on a surface) but that doesn't allow for air circulation. The square rails are .75" and the bracket is about 1" so that allows (I think) enough room for some air to circulate even when the panels are in the down & locked position. One of the things you can't really see in any of the photos is that the inner L-beam must have the hinged corner rounded in order to clearance the outer L-beam when opening the panel. We did this by sawing off the sharp corner with a jigsaw to a rough curve, and then fine-tuning it with a coarse file so it opens far enough for the winter setting. I'll admit we could have done a more "professional" job using some kind of jig or template, but most of this was done on-the-fly on the tailgate of my truck using what we had at hand. We didn't fret over it because it's something that nobody will ever see, unless they are up there taking the panels apart.

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I have been using these panels on the roof of my house for about 2 years. On the backside there are a few brown patches. I'm not sure if this is considered "normal" or what. The panels still seem to work all right.
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*img]http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c239/ ... wmyzb7.jpg[/img]]

And here the panels are finally mounted on the rails. The tube there is a short length of PVC pipe with two end caps for storage of the struts, nuts and bolts when not in use. There's actually room in there for a couple of wrenches (good idea because I can never find the right one when needed) that fit the nuts and bolts, so everything is in one handy and compact container when the solar panels are ready to get erected at the camp site.

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Last edited by Neville on Wed May 13, 2015 4:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:45 pm

And here's what the roof looks like, all put back together properly with the panels erected (split the difference and used the equinox setting for the photo shoot). Despite the relatively "crude" construction methods, the brackets measure out to within one degree of the target angles, and everything is safely and solidly anchored to the roof. That's close enough for our purposes here.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 13, 2015 3:48 pm

The design for the brackets is something I came up with on Friday using some data that I found on this site:

http://www.solarpaneltilt.com

I went with an adjustable 4 season (3 setting) design. Most of my use will be during the "summer" setting, but I will have some spring/fall use as well. There MAY be some winter camping, and as long as I've gone this far, why not drill the one additional hole? Winter is the time when sunlight is a precious commodity and it makes no sense to waste ANY of it for want of a hole. Not a big deal under normal circumstances, but if I ever had to use the trailer as a "bug-out" residence at that time of year, I'd really kick myself for not just having drilled out the xtra hole, when it's easy to do now, and potentially very difficult or impossible to do during an actual situation. The location of the holes was calculated using an online triangle calculator and jiggling the numbers around until I got something workable. Since my two most likely locations will be Susanville and Sacramento, I went with the latitude for Chico which is very close to 40 degrees and should suit all three locations. Unless I'm doing some serious traveling, these settings should remain very usable.

The base bracket has holes at 9.5", 18" and at 22" for winter, spring/fall, and summer settings. The panel bracket has a hole at 12" to attach to the brace which is 11" long. (Note that all of these measurements are from hole-center to hole-center.) That should produce the appropriate angles for optimum energy collection for those seasons at our latitude. The base and panel brackets also have matching holes in the non-hinged end, to secure the panels for storage and travel. I had designed a tilting solar bracket previously for my home solar setup, but decided not to actually build & implement it since I thought it would be more trouble than it would be worth in terms of collection capacity. However, since on the trailer the panels have to be flat for towing, it made more sense to make them adjustable for maximum collection when I am actually living off-grid for extended periods, such as this year's anticipated 19-20 day stint (since I have to adjust them for use anyway, after having towed the trailer down the road with them flat to the roof).

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by angelofwar » Wed May 13, 2015 8:12 pm

Tagged for awesomeness! I did a similiar set-up in my man cave for SHTF, but also planned on hooking up a trailer the same way. I went with 12v deep cycle.

Anybody here that can validate the 6v vs 12v debate??? I'm mean, the obvious advantage with the 6v is easier replacement, but...???

Anyways, will be monitoring this for info/tips. Looks so good so far though! Awesome job!
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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Thu May 14, 2015 9:44 am

angelofwar wrote:Tagged for awesomeness! I did a similiar set-up in my man cave for SHTF, but also planned on hooking up a trailer the same way. I went with 12v deep cycle.

Anybody here that can validate the 6v vs 12v debate??? I'm mean, the obvious advantage with the 6v is easier replacement, but...???

Anyways, will be monitoring this for info/tips. Looks so good so far though! Awesome job!
http://www.solarrvpanels.com/index.php/ ... r-your-rv/
Since 6 Volt batteries only contain three cells per battery as opposed to six cells for a 12 Volt battery and since comparable batteries (in terms of amp hours) are roughly the same size (dimensions and weight will vary), the 6 Volt battery is usually constructed with larger plates and therefore tends to last longer in deep discharge situations. Similarly, you may even find that 6 Volt batteries are slightly cheaper than 12 Volt batteries. As a result of the 6 Volt batteries being constructed better and being slightly cheaper, most avid RVers will choose the 6 Volt batteries if they have the space to mount them. If you do some additional research on the web, you can even find people that have tested 12 Volt and 6 Volt batteries side by side. In all of these tests, the results seem to confirm that 6 Volt batteries are superior.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by 50 Mission Cap » Thu May 14, 2015 3:01 pm

Nice work. I just got a Renogy panel to upgrade the solar on my teardrop. It's mostly for the Engel fridge freezer but also for entertainment and charging the toys. We dry camp on Memorial Day (and no cell service) so it's just in time.

Solar has come a long way in a decade. Quality panels for about a dollar a watt. Couldn't have imagined it 20 years ago.

Is the controller MPPT? My Renogy is PWM but with panels so cheap its hard to justify MPPT on a small system.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Fri May 15, 2015 6:28 pm

50 Mission Cap wrote: Is the controller MPPT? My Renogy is PWM but with panels so cheap its hard to justify MPPT on a small system.
Nope, it's a PWM and I agree that unless you're going to depend on it full time it's hard to justify MPPT. I talked to some experienced solar users and while they were strong in advocating it for a total off-grid lifestyle, they admitted it was not such an issue with smaller scale use. Another consideration is the fact that the cost of watts per panel has come down significantly... so much so, that usually the best thing you can do if you're not getting enough juice, is to add more panels rather than tinker any other aspect of the system... it literally gets you more bang for your buck just putting more cells up in the sky.

This project, while simple in concept, turned out to be a LOT of hard work for myself and a helper. We have three full days of labor in it to this point, with an additional half day for myself.

The final phase commences this weekend with the re-wiring of the breaker panel to accommodate the inverter which will power ONE of the three circuits when disconnected from shore power. That will send juice to every outlet in the trailer, except for the microwave (which draws too much power to operate off the inverter anyway) and the air conditioning (again too much power).

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Mon May 18, 2015 1:17 pm

It took us a full 12 hours on Sunday but we managed to get all the wiring done on the panel. Unfortunately we did not have time nor energy left to perform any kind of step-by-step testing of the new system. Due to low blood sugar and fatigue neither of us trusted ourselves to run a proper test with live juice in the dark. We decided it would be a good idea to wait until we were fed, rested and had daylight to actually start flipping live switches. I will be doing that later today and also should have photos of the project progress to post tomorrow.

So here's a look at the changes to the wiring setup (crude schematic, didn't have time to draw it to scale or paint it -much).


First, the original:

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And here's the new:

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Yes, this is a little more complicated to build and understand (I will have it fully documented in the trailer's "run book") for maintenance BUT it should be totally transparent and simple and above all, SAFE for anyone that operates the trailer in my absence. Trailer is plugged in - everything works as original, worst case scenario is the inverter is left on using a bit of extra juice that goes nowhere. Trailer is unplugged - turn inverter on - again, everything works except for air conditioning and microwave... worst case scenario is they forget to turn the inverter on, which will be pretty noticeable.
Last edited by Neville on Thu May 21, 2015 8:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Tue May 19, 2015 1:34 pm

Here are the pics of the final phase of the electrical upgrade. This phase focuses on integrating the AC system in the trailer with the inverter and IOTA 55 amp battery charger.

** DISCLAIMER ** I have years of experience doing minor electrical work like this. If you don't know what you are doing, you can cause elecrical damage, a fire, or electrocute yourself or someone you care about. Please, if you're going to do anything like this, do your homework and use safe practices. Working with electricity is no joke.

Ultimately I decided to go with a mechanical relay switch for the cut-over from inverter to shore power. This makes it very easy for an inexperienced user to operate the system - there is only one switch, on the inverter itself. I was a little bit nervous about making sure to get a relay of the correct type and capacity. The one I got fit the bill - 30 amps across the switched terminals and 120v @ 3amps for the control coil. Also, I determined that for proper safety I needed a couple of circuit breakers... one for the inverter-to-trailer circuit, and one for the IOTA battery charger circuit.

First there came the question of capacity. The trailer itself is wired for 30 amps and the "General Purpose" circuit is protected by a 20 amp circuit breaker. I did a bit of math and my 650w (120v) inverter only produces about 6 amps maximum. The IOTA battery charger, although it produces 55 amps of 12v DC current, only consumes about 13.5 amps 120v AC current. Based on those numbers, I determined to put the battery charger on a 20 amp breaker independent of the trailer main bus, and the inverter feeding through a 10 amp breaker into the trailer outlet circuit. For connection between the charger & inverter on one side (near the batteries) and the breaker panel on the other side, I chose some medium duty outdoor 15 amp extension cord (25 feet) which we cut in half... male end plugs into the inverter, female end plugs into the charger cord. These lines got routed through a pair of holes in the floor just like we did the red & black battery leads. We color coded the cables for easy reference by using some colored electrical tape. A couple of knock-outs in the back of the panel and Romex cable clamp inserts gave us a secure mount for the incoming cable.

So basically we need two things here. We need to wire in the relay so that it controls whether the GP circuit is powered by shore or inverter... and need a place to mount the new circuit breakers. There is no room left on the trailer main bus but that's ok, since we're not going to be drawing power through the main bus anyway. Space is limited in the breaker box, but if we try I'm sure we can shoehorn it all in.

So, here's the panel "before" - pay special attention to the space above the DC fuses on the right, and the space below the breaker switches on the left. "This space for rent" but soon to be occupado!

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In order to give the new breakers a secure home, it was necessary to fashion a bracket of some kind for them to mount into. There was a spare piece of aluminum angle bracket left over from mounting the panels on the roof. Don'tcha love recycling? A bit of quality time with the drill press and jig saw was in order. I'm no precision machinist (obviously) but for what we needed here "close enough" was ok.

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Creating this custom bracket is what took a majority of our time on Sunday. We went through a few test-pieces on scrap aluminum before we were satisfied that we could "do it for real". The biggest problem was getting the size for the switch hole correct. One bit was too sloppy, another too tight, and the one I think would have really worked was only available locally in a half-inch drill chuck size (my press is 3/8 - 'doh!). But we managed to drill the smaller hole, use the jigsaw to open up the top, and then round out with a small dremel sanding drum. After a bit of filing, the bracket and breakers slid right into place for a solid fit. It was necessary to clearance the wall behind the panel to accommodate the nuts for the mounting screws - no one will ever know!

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Because of how these terminals on the new breakers are situated, it is necessary to connect the wires on the two inside terminals BEFORE mounting the breaker in the bracket. Not going to get even the stubbiest of screwdrivers into that tiny space.


Ok, that's complete - now let's turn our attention to the relay switch. To make this a little easier, we decided to remove all the wires attached to the existing breakers. My helper hit upon the bright idea of using multi-colored tape to "code" the wires and breakers so we could match them up better when going back together. That kid is sharp, I tell you.

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Here's the relay going in. Mounting it was pretty easy except for being a tad cramped on space when it comes to my size XL hands. In order to get the necessary wire connections to the new breakers on the right-hand side, we used existing pass-through holes going into the right and left portions of the panel via the converter compartment (below). That made for a little extra wire, but everything is all-internal to the box and very neat.

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We were racing the clock on Sunday and called it quits after the last connector was in place, without actually testing any of the circuits (it was after dark by that time and we were bushed and starving). Because of the hurry we were in, and the complexity of making all these connections, I was concerned that something, somewhere, would up and give us fits when we actually put some juice in the wires. So I took a bit of time on my lunch break and devised an OCD methodical 95-step testing regimen on Monday. When I actually got home and started working through the steps, it wasn't long before I ran into a problem. I was wondering where in the seemingly vast sea of connections we had made, where did we go wrong? As it turns out, I should have learned something from a lifetime of overseas tech support call scripts... the first question they always ask in a thick Indian accent is "Is it plugged in?" Oops. Forgot to plug in the inverter. Ok, now it's a 96-step testing regimen. (facepalm). After that, I was overjoyed to find out that everything worked EXACTLY AS PLANNED. That... never... happens! But it did this time. It was reassuring to see the new breakers work fine under normal load, and then fail under intentional overload (one space heater tripped the 10 amp, two tripped the 20 amp). All the outlets have power, all the voltages read correctly in their various modes, and disconnecting the shore power while the inverter is powered up causes the system to automatically fail over to the inverter power completely seamlessly with the plugged-in and running appliances I had going, never knowing the difference.

Over all, I am exceptionally WELL-PLEASED at how the travel trailer electrical upgrade has turned out! Now I can camp off-grid and not worry about the generator (unless I want air conditioning) and also not have to deal with cords running all over the floor.

And yes, that was a lot of work (a 12 hour day for two people) for something I'm going to use only a few days a year... but it's done, and done RIGHT at least to the extent of my knowledge, skill and experience and I feel a heck of a lot better about having done this than I would have felt about Jerry-rigging a suicide cord or having to live with extension cords all over the place, managing them daily, and tripping over them when I'm incautious.
Last edited by Neville on Thu May 21, 2015 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Thu May 21, 2015 4:05 pm

Time for a little closure on the travel trailer electrical upgrade.

Here's the panel put back together, alongside the carbon monoxide/propane detector and battery disconnect switch.

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Here's the panel (cover hatch open) put back together:

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Here's just before the cover panel went back on the AC side. A bit more crowded now but still room for everything we added.

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Here's the WiFi router installed in the cabinet near the solar charge controller. It was easy to connect the power for the router directly to the LOAD terminals on the charge controller because this router takes a 12v power supply and the vendor had a "pigtail" adapter available - that saved me from having to run any wires for it. The router has a second coax hookup on the far side from the "rubber duck" that you can see, which connects to the cable going through the wall and up the fridge vent to the 6' roof antenna. One antenna outside the tin can, one antenna inside the tin can. As a test, I was sitting in the house, connecting through this router in the trailer, to our home wi-fi (double hop) watching Netflix. So yeah - it works.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Wed May 27, 2015 6:26 pm

And finally -

This one got left out. I had initially thought I'd leave the mattress platform intact, after all, it's only held in place by 4 screws. But they're very long screws, and if you're using a manual screwdriver (as you may be, in a difficult situation) it takes a long time to get the platform off... then, you have to work in a cramped space, competing with the platform for somewhere to be while you do whatever you came to do in the first place.

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This will make it a LOT easier to do the periodic inspection and maintenance such as adding distilled water to any cells that get a bit low. I did cut and glue some lumber into place at the ends to add support & rigidity. Those support struts (that are clamped in the photo) go all the way across the width of the platform. They were cut just a tiny bit long, and then sanded on the ends until they were a good, snug fit... then glued and clamped using carpentry glue. I tested it with the mattress on top, and it feels no different than the other side, even laying directly on it.

It's not pretty or clever, but it does add a bit of convenience to the maintenance tasks making it more likely they'll actually get done.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by sheddi » Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:20 pm

Just getting around to reading this. Nice work :) but your trailer seems *huge*!

The last one I used for any length of time was this big:
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Before you say it - I know, everything is bigger in the USA :D
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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by PsycoBob » Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:20 am

Very nice write up and a thumbs up to your helper for the color coding. I have sheets of little numbered sticky labels designed for electrical work, as well as a handheld label maker that can print on heatshrink for that professional look. Colored tape is a great field improvisation.

The battery box really should be vented- hydrogen gas explosions suck. Hydrogen/air mixtures are explosive from less than 1% all the way to 99+%. Enclosing the batteries in a sub-box and adding a small duct with a 12v computer fan as an exhaust, wired to the solar panel side of the controller would be my preference. It doesn't need to be a perfect enclosure, just enough to help the vent fan suck the vast majority of the gas out.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by sheddi » Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:14 pm

PsycoBob wrote:Hydrogen/air mixtures are explosive from less than 1% all the way to 99+%.
4.1% to 74.8% if you believe NASA:
https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codeq/do ... 871916.pdf page 2-11.
The battery box really should be vented- hydrogen gas explosions suck.
This I agree with 100%.
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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by PsycoBob » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:12 pm

Interesting. The 1-99% bit has popped up repeatedly on lead-acid battery ventilation warnings. Either way, close enough for gov't work.

Further googling has gotten me 18-60% for explosive, 4-75% for flammability.

As with propane tanks, I have a healthy respect for fire and explosion hazards if flooded batteries.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:00 pm

I like having a clock around. And when I watch TV in the evening I keep the lights low or off, both to conserve power and just out of personal preference. So I prefer the lighted LED readout clocks. I don't like the idea of putting fresh batteries in a clock once a year and throwing them away, when I am only actually USING the clock for a handful of days during that year. So - I wanted to have a clock in my trailer that would be "always on" and never need to be reset, but still allowed me to use my master disconnect system. That meant tapping into the on-board electrical system, but also bypassing the main fuse panel and master disconnect switch. It also meant stepping down 12v to 5v. There are many ways of doing this but the most efficient is to us a buck-type voltage converter. This supplies regulated power that responds to increased load.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J3M ... ge_o02_s00

At the local hardware store I found a clock that runs on 5v powered by a plug-in wall wart transformer. As some of you may know 5v is the same as USB. This inspired me to create a charging center where I could plug in all my USB devices (camera, phone, tablet, etc) AND also the clock. As a bonus, I can move the clock to any position in the trailer where 12v is available with the use of a USB adapter. As a bonus, this clock came with a radio, and I'd been wanting a radio for the trailer as well. Two birds, one stone.


Finally got the USB charging station installed the way I want.

Before:

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After:

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Image
Image


The USB strip is mounted to the aluminum L-bracket with epoxy, and the bracket is then mounted to the cabinet wall with a couple of screws. It's not coming loose from there with any kind of road vibration or even if someone were to grab a handful of cables and yank on them. One bit of cable management left to be done, I need a plastic clip of some kind to route the clock power cable along the underside of the overhead cabinet to keep it out of the way and neaten up the general appearance. The USB strip is powered directly from the 5v converter inside the overhead cabinet, which is fed through a small 12v fuse block, which draws power from the 30 amp solar charge controller output. This protects the batteries from excessive drain in the unlikely event the power drops below the controller's cut-off threshold.

Recently, quite by accident I discovered this straight 12v LED clock, billed as a "trucker's" alarm clock. If someone is looking for a straight 12v clock, no radio, then this might fit the bill. I probably would have gone this route myself if I'd found it before I got inspired to "expand" the project to include a charging center. Of course, then I wouldn't have had such a fun and interesting project - I do like the way I set this up. I am considering getting it anyway just to have one for the sleeping area. I like being able to roll over and glance at the clock without getting up, especially if it turns out I have a couple of hours of sleep available!

http://www.equitybylacrosse.com/30902

Image
Last edited by Neville on Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by Neville » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:04 pm

Pics of battery compartment vent fan:

Image

Image

Image

Funny thing, I had a fan (plain old computer fan) already picked out for this project but set it aside and misplaced it. Come project day, I'm pulling my hair out to find it... finally, desperate to just get the project done, I grabbed this one out of an old computer we had just laying around. Turns out it was one of the "light effect" fans (just for show). Well, it wasn't what I planned but it was what I had, so I rolled with it. Along about 4:45 it dawns on me I'm losing daylight and the lot where we park it isn't lit. So with much haste the rig was gotten under way, getting to the lot in the deepening twilight. It took every last bit of daylight to get the thing parked and unhooked. By the time I was buttoning up, it was pitch black. When I opened up the hatch to stow the load balancing hitch, my eyes were met with a serene blue glow, illuminating the storage compartment. What a pleasant, though unintended side benefit of my happy accident!

The fan, clock and usb charging station consumes about .2 amps. I can live with that, I think.

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Re: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

Post by ineffableone » Sat May 21, 2016 3:46 pm

Awesome thread, I just skimmed it, but I will be coming back to read more in depth soon. I am looking at hooking solar up to a trailer for temp (1-2 yrs) housing while building a house on land. I really like the documentation of the process you did in this. It will help me out a lot.
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