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Old 01-31-2014, 02:22 PM   #1
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Easiest way to get power?

I don't even have my van yet but am trying to work out some logistics while I am searching. I think I have most everything figured out that are critical except for the electrical side of things. First off, I don't know much about how the electrical system works other than it can shock you... and I think a 4th grader knows that So my question is what is the simplest way to add shore power to my van (when I get it). I really won't need much, just enough to charge a computer, phone etc, maybe a few lights and I plan to put an electrical Fan-tastic vent fan in as well. But even the lights I could work around with battery powered lamps etc. With the bit of research I have already done, it looks like people are using some type of battery panel set up, solar or generator or a mix of these. I have also seen plugs on the outside of the van to plug a 110 or 220 cord into if you have access to that. What would people recommend as far as setting something up that will not only be safe, but will also be fairly easy for me to set up? The battery system looks nice because you can use it with or without external power (camp site, parking in a friends driveway). But having the plug on the outside looks nice as well because you can just plug it in and your good to go. Is there a way to integrate both of these systems so you can switch back and forth depending on where you are? I have thought about getting a power inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter but I don't want to take the chance of running my battery down and getting stuck. Thanks for any advice and I apologize for sounding ignorant... but I kind of am.

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Old 01-31-2014, 04:13 PM   #2
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

Photocodo,

Check out the 12 Volt Side of Life for a good, comprehensive intro to RV electrical systems.
Part 1
Part 2

Hope this helps.
Brent
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:27 PM   #3
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

In the FAQ's in this section there is a basic write up of RV electrical systems at the bottom of the page that might help you a bit. It is more structured towards larger RV's and may be more than you need.

Maybe all you need is something like the goal Zero.
http://www.goalzero.com/p/165/goal-zero ... -generator

They can't supply much and are kind of expensive but are clean and portable. I would even like to have one for by the campfire to power my Sat-receiver. Just don't think of it as having a large power reserve like most SMB's have.
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:36 PM   #4
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

For your described loads, it sound like keeping it all 12-volt would be simplest. Maybe add a small inverter for the computer if it requires AC (most newer machines, even desktops, use a low voltage DC power supply). You could use a simple converter for shore-charging the batteries, which will only need a basic 120-volt extension cord. But if you had solar, you may not even need shore power. The batteries can charge while driving, and the solar can take care of stationary power, or top off with the engine occasionally.
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Old 01-31-2014, 11:41 PM   #5
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

Thanks guys, The article really helped me understand what I'm dealing with and what my needs really are. Since I will only be charging basic things like phone, laptop etc. and won't be running much other than lights, vent fan and maybe a few other odds and ends, it seems like a basic 12v system with an inverter for a couple 110 outlets will be sufficient. I will be using my van as a daily driver as we'll so there will be plenty of run time to charge my house batteries. Maybe solar will be in my future but probably not for a little while. I still have aw ayes to go and am sure I will have plenty more questions but this gives me a great starting point and a good direction to head in.

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Old 02-01-2014, 12:12 AM   #6
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

FWIW - My largest load when camping is usually the radio, but it's not usual for a half dozen or more USB devices to be daisy chained to the front 12V outlets. I also have a 2000 watt inverter which is usually used for powering an array of computers and battery chargers at the track, and sometimes even engine pre-heaters. I use the stock Ford aux battery isolator, and the inverter is powered exclusively by the aux battery so I can always start the van. More battery capacity would be nice sometimes, but the V10 is quiet enough to idle for stationary power. Sometimes up to 10 hours in a day, and as a bonus that provides a nice climate controlled area to take a break in. I wouldn't do that in a diesel due to the noise alone, plus most of the newer diesels are not supposed to be idled extensively.
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Old 02-03-2014, 02:07 PM   #7
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Re: Easiest way to get power?

I'd strongly advise at least pre-wiring for solar.

With those uses, unless your daily drive is quite long you could still have trouble topping up house batteries. And unless you make some sophisticated changes to the standard alternator charging schemes (there are some threads here about that) the charges from short stop driving are not very efficient, in addition to not being long enough.

You didn't mention a converter, which you'll also need. The outside shore connection should accept at least 30 amp connections, as they are common at campgrounds with hookups. Be careful wiring that as it can give you that nice shock you referred to And check with your insurer about whether the wiring passes muster; I seem to recall my AAA agent wanted that RVIA sticker SMB put on.
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