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Old 03-15-2012, 05:34 PM   #1
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Electrical basics

Alright. I know so little about this, I do not even know what to search. In setting up my blank E250, I want to plan out my wiring correctly, but really know nothing about what I am about to undertake. What I want to end up with is a couple of outlets in the camp portion of the van. Won't ever do a microwave, and a fridge is unlikely but I suppose possible.

I have been reading about shore power, house batteries, converters, inverters, solar, shunts, isolators, fuses.... and so on. The more I read, the more confused I get.

My question is where do I start? I might do a fridge, but will mostly plug in my laptop, iPad, phone, maybe a light....and I seriously doubt that shore power will ever be used, but I suppose the ability to do so makes sense.

Is there a shopping list someone can suggest?
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Old 03-15-2012, 06:50 PM   #2
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Re: Electrical basics

Check out the SMB manuals for some basic information. A couple of manuals are available under 'Sportsmobile Manuals' in General Sportsmobile. You can also find information about some of the parts (separators, furnace, etc.) in the same location.

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Old 03-16-2012, 10:13 PM   #3
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Re: Electrical basics

Buy a book called "Sailboat Electronics Simplified", by Don Casey. It will talk you through everything you need to know, and why / how to pick components along with working out all the load / sizing issues.
Believe it or not, boat electronics is VERY similar to RV, except it's usually done better

http://www.amazon.com/Sailboat-Electric ... 0070366497

It's a quick read / cheap and very useful.
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:32 PM   #4
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Re: Electrical basics

There are a lot of resources on the internet, and you just need to put in the time to figure this all out. If you can do basic arithmetic, you'll have no problem. Just remember, Volts x Amps = Watts. Often people use water pipes as an analogy, volts are like pressure, amps are like volume or flow, and watts are a combination of the two that describes the ability to do work. One example is at the science museum where they have a Van Der Graff generator that shoots huge arcs of electricity to a person standing there. The voltage (think pressure) is in the millions pushing the 'lightning' out across the room. Yet, the person it's hitting isn't injured since the amps are very very low.

Conversely, a car battery can put out enough amps to injure you very badly, but since the voltage is low, your skin provides enough resistance to protect you. Touch the terminals with dry skin and nothing will happen. Get your hands wet or have a cut in your skin and it's a different story.

Basically, you need to figure out what you want to run. Your vehicle's alternator and solar panels both put out direct current. You house has alternating current, and these are very different. If you don't know about these, look 'em up on wikipedia. DC is also the form of energy that batteries store. You can convert DC to AC using an inverter, and you may want one to run any items that you would otherwise plug in to your household outlet. Inverters are rated by the wattage output the produce. Also you'll have to decide between modified sine wave (cheaper) and pure sine (compatible with sensitive electronic equipment, which may include computers).

Any time you convert from DC to AC, you pay the price in that it takes some energy to perform the conversion. Therefore, it's best to run as much as possible on DC power. The RV world has a ton of DC appliances. Anything that can be plugged in to a cigarette lighter is running on DC, such as cell phones. Lights, fans, car stereos, cell phone chargers are all good candidates for running on DC. I only use AC to charge my laptop, and occasionally my DeWalt cordless tools.

Batteries are rated in amp-hours, and you can research that and figure out how much power storage capacity you need. Remember V x A = W!!!! Remember that you should only draw down your batteries to 50%, so you'll need twice as many as you thought, damn!

Did that help at all??
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Old 03-17-2012, 10:29 PM   #5
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Re: Electrical basics

2horse, are you having SMB do the work or planning on doing this yourself?

Electrical connection laundry list:
1. Heat
2. Water pump
3. Lights
4. Detectors (carbon monoxide and propane)
5. Frig
6. Microwave
7. Inverter
8. Charger
9. Charge manager

That's ac and dc, so you need shore power and a couple 100 amp-hour batteries. Is this what you are looking for?
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Old 03-18-2012, 04:18 PM   #6
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Re: Electrical basics

Kind of.... I will be doing it myself, after a few more hours of reading apparently.

The inverter, Charger and Charge manager is what I was not really understanding. I guess I need to figure those pieces out and get to work.
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Old 03-18-2012, 04:46 PM   #7
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Re: Electrical basics

Your alternator puts out ~12v and charges the batteries.

An inverter takes 12v and makes it 110v for use.

A charger takes 110v and makes it 12v to charge the batteries.

The inverter can have a charger built in.

A charge manager (assuming we're talking about the same thing) takes solar power and charges the 12v batteries.

A separator connects the house 12v system with the starter 12v system, or not so you can charge or use from either side.

An isolator connects a 12v system one way but no the other so you can charge both but not use both. A separator is probably always a better choice.

Your 110v and 12v systems will be entirely separate. As much or more care should be taken with the 110v as your house electrical as both can kill you. I'm pretty sure 12v can kill you too, but mistakes are more likely to cause fires.

That said you can't have enough 12v power outlets. There are multiple sizes, so be careful what you buy.

Put fuses in accessible locations and use fuse blocks to distribute 12v power. Fuse everything but don't hide any of the fuses (behind panels etc)
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Old 03-18-2012, 08:05 PM   #8
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Re: Electrical basics

Just remember that Watts = Watts. I say this because at the same total power consumption (watts), lower voltage will require more Amps to make the same watts. More amps = more current = heavier wire is required.

So my point is.... Make high-amp wire runs as short as possible, because distance adds resistance, creates adds heat, which means you are losing watts. So it's best to put the inverter as close to the house batteries as possible, and use longer 120v wire runs instead.
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Old 03-18-2012, 08:06 PM   #9
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Re: Electrical basics

@ Jage, That is interesting stuff..thanks.

If you ever have your SMB near Denver I'd love to see it.

Michael
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:26 AM   #10
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Re: Electrical basics

From where I am, his van is always near Denver.

Mike
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