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PostPosted: July 27th, 2017, 11:33 am 
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Location: Houston, TX
I have a 1999 Premier, and this summer the fridge finally died on me. Just won't cool. So I'm looking to replace it and am seriously liking the sound of those marine compressor fridges a few people here have switched to. I'm still doing my research on what is available, what would fit my space/needs, and so on, but as I understand it, one of the biggest things is that I'd need to upgrade my battery capacity to be able to handle the fridge pulling off it 24/7. I am not particularly great with electrical circuits, but I'm recruiting someone who is to help with wiring and testing.

I've seen a few different threads where people talk about what they did, but I have some questions that I couldn't quite work out the answers to. Specifically:

  1. Where do you put them? Do you add another tray into the storage compartment? Did you find room for them in the coach somewhere?
  2. How are they connected to the rest of the electrical system? Do they need to be connected directly to the other batteries in series, or can they be added to the electrical system elsewhere?
  3. Are there other parts for the electrical system that need to be changed/upgraded to handle having more batteries on board?
  4. I was thinking about getting something like one of those Zamp suitcase solar kits to hook up when I'm dry camping. Does that type of charger change anything?

I really appreciate your help. I've learned a lot - and gotten some very ambitious ideas :roll: - just lurking on this forum.

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PostPosted: July 28th, 2017, 4:29 pm 
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Joined: October 20th, 2015, 6:57 am
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Location: Northern NJ
bump in case people didn't see :)

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PostPosted: July 28th, 2017, 7:05 pm 
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Hi Kirah,

1999, a good year :D (Well of course they all are.)

Kirah wrote:
I've seen a few different threads where people talk about what they did, but I have some questions that I couldn't quite work out the answers to.


It's great that you took the time to read through some of the other threads. Some of this may be repetitive, but I know that for me, when I'm first figuring something out, repetition is no bother!

Plus, I think it'll be good to ask you a few things to help shape any responses. Because, as in many things, there is no one way, and no one "best" way. There are some hard and fast rules (safety) and numbers (physics), but a lot of the rest depends on a few factors. Maybe you can address these?

1) How you plan to use your rig. The more narrow your use pattern, the easier to design for it specifically. But even knowing it's NOT narrow is a help. For examples: Boondocking (no hookups whatsoever), campgrounds with full hookups, mostly on the move, etc. Then, as far as your own style goes, are you looking to replicate a house? Camp in a "hard tent"? Something in between?

Chinook basically built them to drive from power post to power post. And they did it with late 90's tech and knowledge. So even if one's goal is to go power post to power post now, some upgrading might be in order. If your goal is the opposite (which mine is - I almost exclusively boondock), then you'll want to re-assess the whole system. In that case, some things may need beefing up; others may be eliminated.

2) What is your budget and your bent? One one end you might do the minimum, buy cheaper batteries, and just replace them when they die; on the other you want a fully "even" system wherein all the components will play well together - you don't mind spending more up front. Or somewhere in between.

3) Learn a bunch, buy some tools and do it yourself? Learn so you know what you're asking someone else to do? Or hire someone for the whole deal.

4) Do it all at once "while you're in there" -- or spread it out over time (which will involve some re-do's here and there).

I guess you could think of the RV/electrical system as a body. Just putting in new batteries (for example) is kind of like buying new running shoes for a marathon but your body hasn't trained at all. The shoes are then kind of a drop in the bucket. Okay, not a great analogy, but hopefully you get what I mean.

Kirah wrote:
[*]Where do you put them? Do you add another tray into the storage compartment? Did you find room for them in the coach somewhere?


Physically, up to three Group 27/31 will fit in the battery area (I'm presuming you have a 1997 chassis with the battery storage as the forward end of the larger compartment under the water heater door). That said, I'm not sure I'd want that much weight in that "hung" compartment without beefing it up a bit. Might be fine, might not...

If you plan to go AGM (vs. flooded cell, which need to be vented) then you can consider putting them under the couch (essentially inside). There is a remote possibility they could outgas, but it's so remote that most people consider it acceptable to have them "indoors." I have AGM's, which I installed under the couch. The under-couch location does have the side bonus of simplifying upgrading the wiring. Also, if you ever have thoughts of going to lithium batteries, they don't like heat (ever) or to be charged when freezing (they can be used though). I figured I'd be doing that at some point so that's another reason I moved my bank indoors. Also if you are not going to have temperature compensated charging (although I hope you are!), at least they will be closer to 77ºF more of the time).


Kirah wrote:
How are they connected to the rest of the electrical system? Do they need to be connected directly to the other batteries in series, or can they be added to the electrical system elsewhere?


Batteries should really be the same age, size, etc. if possible. So if you are getting new ones, you would not keep the old ones. So the new ones would be wired in with cables just like the old ones (possibly with upgraded fusing, etc.). The only reason to put them in series is if you have 6-volt batteries (but they would not fit in the lower compartment as well, just due to their dimensions). If you got 6-volt batteries, then you would need to have pairs, and wire them in series (to make each pair 12 volts). Presuming you get 12-volt batteries, then you wire them in parallel, because they are already 12 volts (and the amp hours in each battery add together to make a bigger bank but always still at 12 volts nominal).

Kirah wrote:
Are there other parts for the electrical system that need to be changed/upgraded to handle having more batteries on board?


Well yes and no. No in that you *could* just throw more batteries in. But yes in that actually, the way it's wired stock is not really up to safety standards, and by putting in more batteries it makes it worse. I say that because your batteries are basically a power plant. The bigger the power plant, the more power stored in it, thus the more power to "unleash" if there is a problem (short circuit, etc.). Plus (IMO) there's just something more wrong about putting something semi-inadequate back in place after you've removed/handled it vs. just living with it as-was. Also, if you are buying new batteries (unless you are going the "disposable" route, which is viable as long as that is what you want), you'll probably want to make them last. That involves better (smarter) charging, plus fixing the "leaky buckets" of long thin wire runs, poorly regulated charging, etc. Then add some fusing to keep the power plant where it belongs (inside the batteries unless you call for it).

The other big thing to think about is this: Okay, you have more amp hours to use, but now how are you going to put them back? Doesn't mean you have to have a huge system, just a balanced one.

Kirah wrote:
I was thinking about getting something like one of those Zamp suitcase solar kits to hook up when I'm dry camping. Does that type of charger change anything?


Not really, to my mind. I mean, it's just another way of putting power back. I use portable panels myself (have been for a couple of years now). Only difference is that I don't have a suitcase; I have two panels (the thin light type), and a separate charge controller under the couch - that's my preferred way as I'd rathe choose my components and also wanted an easier upgrade path because I do plan to add roof panels. But won't get rid of the portables because I like to be able to park in the shade in summer, and in winter it's very easy to aim/angle the portables and also not to have the way I park in a site determined by that.

****
So in summary:

1) Decide your use case scenario (or scenarios, maybe with percentages if you have multiples).

2) Decide your type of approach.

3) Come up with an overall plan so you end up with a balanced, safe system. Power to use, and a way(s) to put it back.

4) Dig in :D

Kirah wrote:
I've learned a lot - and gotten some very ambitious ideas :roll: - just lurking on this forum.


Bring it on! Nothing wrong with only reading, but we like it even more if you participate :D

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 3:33 am 
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Superb advice, B~G. Seriously, you should consider writing the book “Zen and the Art of RV Maintenance”

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 4:52 am 
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Posts: 16
Location: Houston, TX
Wow! I'm gonna have to read that at least twice more and do some Googling before I even know what questions to ask next :D Thanks so much!

To answer your questions:

How do I use it?

I live in coastal TX, which gets HOT, so the camper is great for extending my camping season, as long as I have air conditioning! That's my main use case - go somewhere, hook up, and use it as shelter to cool down between hikes. But I also get to do longer trips every couple of years, when I can end up in state parks, National Forests, or overflow parking. And every so often I end up just camping in someone's driveway for a few days.

When traveling, it's often my only vehicle, so it spends much of the day on the highway, on washboard, bumping through a wildlife refuge, or just parked in a lot or a pull-off. On long highway days, I'll often pull into a rest area mid-afternoon, crank up the generator to run the A/C, and take a good nap in a real bed - man I love this thing!

At home, I have a rented garage where I can plug it in to keep batteries charged (I plug in the house batteries and put a tender on the engine battery). It gets really hot in there, though, in the middle of the summer, but not as hot as sitting in the sun. My house batteries are pretty much shot right now, but they do hold just enough charge to run the water pump and lights for a few minutes if I need to stop at a picnic area instead of a rest area. I was going to replace them this fall when it cools down enough to go camping again.

What's my budget and goal?

My goal is to have something reliable that I won't have to fuss with, and that will tolerate some neglect - high temps, low temps, multi-month stretches with no use at all. It needs to be able to run an efficient DC fridge, lights, water pump, a couple of small fans, and occasionally the furnace.

I don't think I know enough yet to be able to even estimate the cost, but my gut is that I'd be willing to spend about $2-3k to get the electrical set up, including a portable solar kit, though of course I'd love to do it for less and keep that cash for travel money. I don't have a feel, yet, for whether that's way high or way low.

Learn vs hire

I'm recruiting my brother to help out with this project. He studied electronics as part of his college degree and likes building odd little robots and things, so I figure he's the right person to help me make sure I don't light something on fire :o He's not worked on RVs at all, though, so this is new territory for him, too.

That said, I do want to learn how it works, and I expect to be doing most of the research for figuring out what we need to do and what we need to watch out for. In the future, I'd like to be able to do more of my own troubleshooting when weirdness pops up, and there's nothing like taking things apart and putting them back together to figure out how they work.

My current level of electrical expertise is enough to replace a car stereo head unit or a wall switch in the house or a car battery. I've never soldered anything in my life, but I did just make a customized cable to connect my car to the camper when I'm towing (nobody sells one with the ends I needed). I'm very weak on theory, beyond knowing vaguely what resistors and capacitors are.

If we do find ourselves out of depth on parts of the job, though, I will absolutely hire someone to help.

All at once vs over time

I'd rather get it all done in a weekend or two, if we can. When the weather cools down enough for us to tolerate working in the garage, well, that's also prime camping season!

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 8:09 am 
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If you liked your propane fridge,you might want to checkout one of the places that sell and install Amish made replacements for Dometic units.There are a number in Indiana,that make this a quick easy while you wait,and competitively cost effective.I recently purchased an all in one lithium (battery,inverter,receptacles)unit called Kodiak by a company called Inergy(at a significant discount not that that matters)to run an off grid cabin.......To proceed to the point, I researched energy star mini fridges,and went with a unit that was a good size and had a rating of $22 a yr yo run,well when it came and I opened the box the attached yellow tag stated $39,I decided to give it a try on my Kofiak which purports 95 ah s of power,of which running this fridge full time takes about 40 ahs.No problem I thought my 320 watts of solar panels can easily replace that.....Problems, 1) The 3rd day the Rainy season began along with clouds,doesn't matter how many panels you have can't make electricity without sun,2) the kodiak creates 110 with an inverter which has an integral small fan,that is a small,minor noise annoyance.The kodiaks advantage is A)that it's basically plug and play,which means you don't need to mess with wires and B) on the road rain or shine it will charge very very quickly via the 12 volt outlet (upping the fuse 5 amps)like a couple hours will give you enough to run the mini fridge for a day.Thats a standard energy star unit,like say from homedepot,which are relatively cheap.Not the wonderful but expensive 12 volt units that use the Danfoss compressor which take significantly less energy,and which the Kodiak could run without the inverter and fan,for several days (if running nothing else.Essentially the philosophy here is you keep your present system and dedicate the kodiak to certain tasks like say a fridge.The kodiak is small like a shoe box and light 20 lbs.I am still evaluating it so until I do,I Am Not at present recommending it to theirs here,as much as bringing to your attention.....As a Guinea Pig Rooney will update the forum as more long term experience is acquired.The deal I snagged on the unit was significant and I will share that with interested parties by personal message if desired.As for Blue -go's assessment of chinook electrical he has honed that reply to a tight succinct epistle,totally on the Money......Rooney 2001 Premier


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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 9:28 am 
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Location: 1999 Concourse
{Edited to add: I see Rooney posted while I was typing. In my experience he's a good analyzer, so I'm glad he chimed in (also, I would never have gotten the cab pillars out/in if it were not for him :D).]

Okay, let's dive in :) But let me preface this by saying I'm not an electrician. I have learned by being around boatyards, reading the ABYC standards (cookbook approach to best practices on boats), talking with people who are trained, reading articles online, and doing (on my own RV/boat). As always, electricity can be dangerous, keep in mind your comfort level, etc. etc.

I "get" coastal Texas. I lived in a similar climate for around five years. Hot and Muugggyyyy!!!! (and damp and chilly in the winter, yay). So yeah, I don't think you're going to be removing your air-conditioner (I did, but my situation is completely different).

Your answers make all the difference, so we can start barking up the right tree.

Kirah wrote:
To answer your questions:

How do I use it?
...main use case - go somewhere, hook up, and use it as shelter to cool down between hikes.

--But I also get to do longer trips every couple of years, when I can end up in state parks, National Forests, or overflow parking. And every so often I end up just camping in someone's driveway for a few days.

--When traveling, it's often my only vehicle, so it spends much of the day on the highway, on washboard, bumping through a wildlife refuge, or just parked in a lot or a pull-off. On long highway days, I'll often pull into a rest area mid-afternoon, crank up the generator to run the A/C, and take a good nap in a real bed - man I love this thing!

--At home, I have a rented garage where I can plug it in to keep batteries charged (I plug in the house batteries and put a tender on the engine battery). It gets really hot in there, though, in the middle of the summer, but not as hot as sitting in the sun.


Okay, so right away, my thought is you need a GOOD shore charger, and definitely one with remote temperature compensation. You're plugged in probably 95% of the time (including when you're not using it in the calculation), and you live in a hot climate. Batteries hate heat (sorry to say). BTW, the generator also passes its power through the shore charger so you kind of get double-duty. .

Then, you need to make sure the charge gets to the batteries, so I'd plan on re-wiring at least the run from the charger to the batteries (right now it's a looooooong, skinny wire, and that's not good. First of all it costs you some power, but more importantly it causes voltage drop. So you buy a good charger, set it up just so (to the tenth of a volt, tenths are important), and then, whammo, lose a bunch of tenths of volts on the way to the charger through the skinny wire.

Conveniently, this is when you could organize things (wiring-wise), fuse correctly, etc.

Now let's move on down the line, because none of the rest of it is quite as cut-and-dried as far as what you may want. But I can easily/confidently say you need a good shore charger, and the wiring to let it do what it will be trying to do (charge properly).

Kirah wrote:
What's my budget and goal?

My goal is to have something reliable that I won't have to fuss with, and that will tolerate some neglect - high temps, low temps, multi-month stretches with no use at all. It needs to be able to run an efficient DC fridge, lights, water pump, a couple of small fans, and occasionally the furnace.


Well..... yeah, all of that together is a challenge but let's run through some ideas:

1) Reliable
If you wire things properly and choose good components, they are not likely to go out (and if they do, well, it's more of a fluke).

2) Tolerate neglect. That one is tougher. Mainly because of the heat. No batteries really like heat. Some merely hate it, and others won't tolerate it at all. Lithium.... forget it. AGM.... they aren't gonna love heat, but on the other hand you'll be charging them/maintenance charging them as you'll be storing plugged in, which is a plus. AGM self-discharge less quickly, which can be nice in storage, but then you're plugged in, so maybe not as important. Good old flooded aren't going to love heat either, but they are cheaper to buy and to replace. OTOH, flooded cells rule out an under-the-couch install, without some complicated venting scheme. So I'd say that's up for consideration with no obvious best choice (but not lithium - so AGM or flooded cells).

Oh, also, no batteries like to just sit partially charged, although AGM dislike it the most. But again, you're plugged in, so no matter.

OTOH, cold is just peachy for storing batteries, so at least you'll have "winter."

So part of me wants to say to go for flooded cell batteries, just cause the heat's going to be hard on them and they are cheaper when you inevitably have to replace. The other (smaller) part says AGM because they can be put under the couch, which makes it convenient to wire and place components (but that's only a one-time thing) but which will also at least mean they are out of the heat when you are using them (because air-conditioning).

I love solar, and for me it's the power source I use 99% of the time; but I'm not sure it's a top priority for your use case, in case something has to go by the wayside. Here's why I say that:

1) Storage is plugged in and under a roof (no sun).
2) Solar won't run air-conditioner, so you'll be running generator for that anyway when on the road.
3) Plugged in.... it's not used (unless you get into some bad power situations at campgrounds, which just happened to a friend of mine last month) (but then you might just run generator, as most of the other campers did).
3) Okay, maybe for those times you are in a forest service campground (in fact, yes please! I almost can't go to rustic campgrounds anymore because they are just one big generator-noise-fest).

So maybe if it makes the budget cut, a 100- or 200-watt solar system with ground deployable panels (maybe if you can get to sky within around 30' this could be a backup if your storage power goes out too).

Alternator charging is fairly obvious here, so I would recommend upgrading the connecting wire (for less voltage drop and also because it cannot be fused at the size it is - so not the safest). Also remove the ancient (and probably recalled) Sure Power combiner and replace (I like the Blue Sea 7622, and the fenderwell isn't the best location, but it can be anywhere along that wire). BTW, the 7622 is bi-directional so then your shore charger should send some charge to the start battery when you are stored.

You could also put on your radar a "DC to DC charger." This takes the relatively "stupid" alternator power and makes it "smart" like your shore charger does. On the other hand it sounds like your long travel days aren't that often, and the alternator will still do the job. So I'd put that at a lower priority, but just know it's out there (but the wiring re-do between the start and house banks is high priority).

Now to go back to the shore charger, what you have now is the "brown box." It's probably under the sink counter somewhere with a visible door. That is a giant combo box (easy peasy for them to put in when building) and includes a bunch of things.

1) Shore charger module (crappy one).
2) Automatic transfer switch (chooses either generator or shore as a source).
3) AC breakers
4) DC fuses.

It also has the mysterious "converter" which maybe somehow "converts" some of the shore power to DC when you are plugged in. Personally, I put a low priority on this function once you have a good shore charger, because with that when you are plugged in your DC comes from your batteries, but the shore charger is always either charging or maintaining, so it kind of doesn't, if that makes sense.

You can get relatively inexpensive charger modules that are better that fit into the brown box, but... to my mind they are still not great, especially for your situation (heat). They don't have temperature compensation, and although there is a specific set of voltages that each battery bank "wants," that is ONLY true at 77ºF. At all other temperatures, that requirement changes (less voltage when hotter; more when colder). A better stand-alone charger will have a small wire with a ring terminal on it, and you simply place that on a battery terminal. Now the charger will monitor the temperature of your batteries, and adjust the voltages accordingly (using a set amount of addition or subtraction that you can customize). Since your shore charger is going to be the heart of your system, I'd plan on a stand alone. I have the Sterling 60 amp, and conveniently one of my fellow sailors has written a good article on this charger and installing it, but there are other good ones too. But for now I'll stop burying you with detail :D

But back to the brown box. If it were me, no question, that thing would be coming out (in fact mine is gone), and I'd go more marine style in my components. Here's what I have, just for example, to cover the same bases as the Brown Box:

1) Shore charging
Sterling Pro Charge Ultra 60 amp charger (fully adjustable and with temperature compensation) (they also make it under another name, which I forget at the moment, and which may be the one I have. I think it's ProMariner, IIRC).

2 and 3) AC breakers, plus transferring (gen to shore or vice-versa)
Blue Sea 8467 breaker panel

4) DC fuse panel
Blue Sea 5029 12-position fuse block, but you could also consider a pair of 5046's. There are also nice breaker panels that kind of match the DC one above, but they are much more expensive, and I don't find that I blow things, nor do I need to use them as switches (which you can do with the panel). But they are very nice (put one in for a buddy).

In the setup above, there is no automatic transfer switch. I didn't feel there was really any need for one, since I don't have an auto-start generator, and they are somewhat prone to failure (not hugely, but if you don't have one, then not at all). The 8467 panel has a built in toggle. Because of how the toggle works, you can only be on shore or gen, but not both. But you do have to toggle it whenever you switch from one to the other. Since it's a nice looking panel, I don't mind having it visible, and also there are lights on it that are nice to check when you hook up (power, polarity, etc.). Also makes it easy to switch on/off when plugging in (a good idea).

You can just add a new charger (off to one side), and keep the rest of the brown box, but it's not as tidy (electrically), and the transfer switch is a slight weak point (but you can always carry a spare).

I always say to calmly double time or money estimates, but let's run through some really rough ideas of numbers. I'll round up :mrgreen:

1) Good shore charger (size yet to be determined, there are various ideas on choosing size): $500
2) Blue Sea 7622 combiner $200
3) Blue Sea DC fuse block $50
4) Blue Sea 8467 AC panel $300

5) Tools, lugs, fuses, cabling/wire, bus bars, switches, cushion clamps, etc. $1000+ (the sky's the limit) (but you get to keep the tools :D). This is what you'll be using to re-wire the big bits, organize power, fuse it, etc.

6) Batteries $300-$1200, depending on how you go (flooded cheaper; AGM more expensive).

7) Battery monitor (gas gauge for your batteries - important IMO) $250

8) Solar $1000 (roughly) (small system) (wire and lugs already included in #5 though :D)

Off the top of my head, I would have said $4000 for the basics, so that doesn't look too far off (that was before I calmly doubled it... mostly kidding :lol: . If it were me, and I wanted to stage it, I'd leave off the solar for now. You'll already have the wire, tools, lugs, etc. so to add it later won't be a big issue. I know, since when do I say leave off the solar?!? But it's all about use case. I see you making best use of a rock-solid basic electrical and shore/gen charging system, with alternator available as well.

Not sure if you meant to include the fridge in this, but depending on the size/brand, I'd say $1000 - $1500. There are other ways (house type fridge with inverter), but you said you like the idea of the DC compressor unit (they will also automatically switch over to AC when available). And I can't argue with that, as that's what I have and like :) But there are alternatives (basically they would be to save initial $$).

That brings us to something not mentioned yet, which is an inverter. I'd put it down on the list, since you are typically plugged in, running generator, or driving. Inverters make AC power from your batteries. Of course you already have AC power if you are either plugged in or running the genny, and if you are driving (and if you have a DC refrigerator) then there is little need to add an inverter, I don't think. But I just wanted to mention it, since they often come up in these sorts of conversations.

I carry a really small (less than 100 watt) inverter that plugs into a cigarette outlet, which I can use to charge small things when I'm driving (or when not driving, but I just have a habit of doing it when I'm driving). These would be things like toothbrush battery, drill batteries, etc. Most of my life is on DC, but you don't really have that need (which is convenient). This is why knowing how you use your rig is so key, and you do so that's great. You can focus on what you can really use, and add other things later if/when you want to.

Sounds like you are up for diving in and learning, which I think is great. When I started out (pre-Chinook), I was fairly confused, and I didn't spring for the $ tools, but rather had other people make certain decisions for me, and tried to have the cable making hired out. That didn't end up working well for me (decisions either weren't what I wanted, or I had a vague uneasy feeling because I didn't exactly know how it all worked) (and cables would not be the right length, something would change, lugs wouldn't face the right direction, etc. Even when I did buy the big crimper (for the big cables), I thought "Oh, I'll do this job then re-sell it on eBay." Ha! I've used that thing over and over again during the three or so years I've owned it, and loaned it to several friends. Best money I spent.

BTW, although you can solder, it's no longer considered necessary or even best practice. A good (good!) crimp is preferable, because they are much less troubled by vibration. ABYC says you can solder, but you have to take more care about supporting the joint at X distance, etc. Of course a crappy crimp is just crappy, but then so is a crappy solder joint. Good news is, good crimps are easy with the right tools. If you're not an old-time solderer, at this point, I'd go with good crimps.

Also, there are lots of ways to make it a bit cheaper here and there, depending on your time/money balance, your bent, etc.

Here are some of the places I source things. Being in Texas you can pretty much go to either coast conveniently.

http://www.fisheriessupply (FTZ lugs, Blue Sea, charger, pretty much anything).
http://www.pkys.com (Blue Sea and other components)(good prices, will discuss things)
http://www.amazon.com (Blue Sea, Ancor cabling, charger - great prices usually, with some ridiculous outliers)
http://www.geniunedealz.com (FTZ lugs, sometimes wire)

http://www.suremarineservice.com (refrigerators - great sizing tool too, furnaces, etc.)
http://www.truckfridge.com (re-branded Vitrifrigo and other DC fridges, but only smaller sizes).


And a few articles you might find helpful, from a knowledgeable, professional, fellow sailor (he goes by ABYC standards, which is good):

Main page where you can find all articles (each is posted as a "gallery"):
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/boat_projects

Shore charger:
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/inst ... ry_charger

Terminating and labeling wires (I have the big FTZ crimper and the "cheap but good" small wire crimper, plus the Ideal Stripmaster for up to 10AWG. The battery one applies to all larger cables (run to charger, combiner wire, battery jumpers, etc.):
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/wire_termination
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/battery_cables
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/wire_labeling

Fusing (breakers, fuses, etc.):
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/battery_fusing
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/batt ... wn_averted

Battery monitoring (I have both a Victron and a Smart Gauge, but if I had to choose one... Smart Gauge (when non-lithium batts). Good news is, they have come down in price quite a bit. They were close to $400 when I got mine some years ago, now they are closer to $250.

http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/batt ... _of_charge
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/smart_gauge
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/battery_monitor

I'm sure I've missed things, and there is more than one good way to do the electrical. I tried to write down a combination of my opinions and some generally decent ideas. There are quite a few knowledgeable folks here, so I'm sure you'll get some alternative ideas.

BG

PS: One thing I didn't mention, but which you might find handy if you are on shore power often, is changing the shore power cord so that it plugs into an inlet on the Chinook, vs. being hard wired and coming out of a door. Reasons I prefer the inlet are that there is no "mouse hole" to worry about, plus I can unplug and drive away without cleaning and stowing the WHOLE cord in the Chinook compartment. If you do that, you might consider going straight to a Smart Plug vs. a Marinco style inlet. The inlet connection is standard fare on boats (and on later Chinooks). And yep, there's an article :D

http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/inst ... smart_plug

PPS: As you'll find out, voltage drop is the enemy when you are running at 12 volts. So when it comes down to actually ordering supplies and doing, calculating voltage drop (and fusing) is key. But that's later.

PPPS: Still awake? Brain on fire? :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 10:02 am 
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Location: Houston, TX
A Rooney wrote:
If you liked your propane fridge,you might want to checkout one of the places that sell and install Amish made replacements for Dometic units.There are a number in Indiana,that make this a quick easy while you wait,and competitively cost effective.


I actually hated the propane part of the fridge - it was always fussy, never wanted to flip over automatically to propane when I unplugged. I'd have to stand there flipping modes until the burner finally lit properly. It was better behaved after the first day of a trip, but it always made me say dirty words.

That combo of off-level driving/parking and hating the propane is what really led me to consider a marine compressor fridge, but all-electric gives me a little anxiety unless I know I can run it 24/7 without a hookup, when I need to.

A Rooney wrote:
I recently purchased an all in one lithium (battery,inverter,receptacles)unit called Kodiak by a company called Inergy(at a significant discount not that that matters)to run an off grid cabin.......To proceed to the point, I researched energy star mini fridges,and went with a unit that was a good size and had a rating of $22 a yr


Thanks for the info on running a mini fridge off an inverter. Do those small domestic fridges work well off-level? I always had the impression that they really wanted to be level, and even in campgrounds with hookups, I'm often on a noticeable slope (my bed is made up so that I can easily switch my head to the uphill end).

Is the Kodiak you're talking about this Kodiak Solar Generator? https://www.inergysolar.com/product/kodiak/

I'm not sure that I understand how you use it. My first guess is that you'd plug the AC charger for the Zodiak into an outlet in the camper, and plug the fridge into the Zodiak, and then if you're off grid you could plug a solar panel directly into the Zodiak to recharge it?

Unfortunately, after reading Blue~Go's latest post, it sounds like a lithium battery is not a good idea in the heat, so I'd have to remember to take it home with me.

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 11:12 am 
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Blue~Go wrote:
So yeah, I don't think you're going to be removing your air-conditioner (I did, but my situation is completely different).

Not a chance! 8-) I'm actually considering a replacement because mine is LOUD. But that come AFTER I get the stuff fixed that's actually broken right now.

Blue~Go wrote:
Okay, so right away, my thought is you need a GOOD shore charger, and definitely one with remote temperature compensation. You're plugged in probably 95% of the time (including when you're not using it in the calculation), and you live in a hot climate. Batteries hate heat (sorry to say). BTW, the generator also passes its power through the shore charger so you kind of get double-duty.

Sounds like I'd get benefit from this even if I did nothing else.

Blue~Go wrote:
2) Tolerate neglect. That one is tougher. Mainly because of the heat. No batteries really like heat. Some merely hate it, and others won't tolerate it at all. Lithium.... forget it. AGM.... they aren't gonna love heat, but on the other hand you'll be charging them/maintenance charging them as you'll be storing plugged in, which is a plus. AGM self-discharge less quickly, which can be nice in storage, but then you're plugged in, so maybe not as important. Good old flooded aren't going to love heat either, but they are cheaper to buy and to replace. OTOH, flooded cells rule out an under-the-couch install, without some complicated venting scheme. So I'd say that's up for consideration with no obvious best choice (but not lithium - so AGM or flooded cells).

My instinct is to go with flooded cells, because they are cheap and I have an unfortunate track record of doing stupid things... like leaving the switch in the wrong position for two months. I have killed more batteries in the last 5 years than I am eager to admit... The last year has been better, since i got the new garage set up, but I'd rather not have a small fortune wrapped up in something I'm proved to be good at ruining.

Is there a way to reinforce the outside storage compartment to reduce the risk from adding weight there?

Blue~Go wrote:

OTOH, cold is just peachy for storing batteries, so at least you'll have "winter."

For some definitions of "winter" :lol:

Blue~Go wrote:
I love solar, and for me it's the power source I use 99% of the time; but I'm not sure it's a top priority for your use case, in case something has to go by the wayside.

I agree. I mentioned it primarily because it is something I'd like to have available, not something I plan to need imminently, but I wanted to make sure that whatever I do, I'm not blocking myself from adding solar charging in the future.

Blue~Go wrote:
3) Okay, maybe for those times you are in a forest service campground (in fact, yes please! I almost can't go to rustic campgrounds anymore because they are just one big generator-noise-fest).

For sure! I HATE running my generator in quiet spaces. It gets almost all its workouts at truck stops and highway rest areas, where I just blend in with the crowd.

Blue~Go wrote:
Alternator charging is fairly obvious here, so I would recommend upgrading the connecting wire (for less voltage drop and also because it cannot be fused at the size it is - so not the safest).

What size wire would you recommend using instead?

Blue~Go wrote:
Also remove the ancient (and probably recalled) Sure Power combiner and replace (I like the Blue Sea 7622, and the fenderwell isn't the best location, but it can be anywhere along that wire). BTW, the 7622 is bi-directional so then your shore charger should send some charge to the start battery when you are stored.

THAT would be nice. For some reason, when I first got this camper, I'd thought the car and house batteries were tied together so that they all charged at the same time. I killed one of my engine batteries that way - I just assumed it would charge as long as the coach was plugged in, but it went flat flat FLAT. Awkward!

Blue~Go wrote:
I always say to calmly double time or money estimates, but let's run through some really rough ideas of numbers. I'll round up :mrgreen:

...

Off the top of my head, I would have said $4000 for the basics, so that doesn't look too far off (that was before I calmly doubled it... mostly kidding :lol:

Heheh. About right. And it always takes a million trips to the store.

My guess was based on $1k for the solar, $1k for batteries, $1k for "everything else", with the fridge as a separate project (did some window shopping on West Marine, so had an idea for ballpark on the fridges, too). So, considering some of "everything else" includes some pretty pricey parts... not surprising it went up!

It sounds like there'd be benefit from these upgrades even if I never got around to adding in another battery or a solar kit or putting in a new fridge.

I will work through the articles and links and such, but I do have a couple more general questions:

1. Is it important in what order things are done?

For example, if I replaced the fridge this fall, on the assumption that I'd be on shore power all winter, and then didn't upgrade the charger until spring, would it matter? Does it matter if I run a new wire from the alternator before I install a new fuse block, or vice versa?

2. Is almost all the wiring run behind the cabinets, or are there open spaces in the wall/floor/ceiling for some of it? I haven't noticed much of it, but then, I really wasn't looking.

Blue~Go wrote:
PS: One thing I didn't mention, but which you might find handy if you are on shore power often, is changing the shore power cord so that it plugs into an inlet on the Chinook, vs. being hard wired and coming out of a door.

If you do that, is there a way to recover the hole where the cord goes now to use for inside or outside storage? There's a pretty good size space in there.

Blue~Go wrote:
PPPS: Still awake? Brain on fire? :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

lol. Still awake, though it's taking a while to process all the info! Thanks again for taking the time to help me - I was a bit lost where to even start, but I feel like I'm at least closer to knowing what questions to ask!

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PostPosted: July 29th, 2017, 3:09 pm 
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I'm still thinking about the order and priority for getting stuff done.

It seems like the temperature-adjusted charging is likely the most immediately useful - it sounds like it should help my batteries survive the heat. I almost don't want to even consider buying new batteries until I've done that.

I really need some kind of solution for refrigeration starting this fall. My mother has offered to loan me a 12v cooler, which might or might not tide me over - depends on if it actually cools :) She couldn't tell me what make/model, so we'll have to see when it turns up. But it doesn't sound like any of the changes you've recommended are important for installing a new fridge and running it off the existing system, if I can find what I want and recruit a second set of hands to get it installed.

The better wiring from the alternator sounds like a safety issue, which is important, and maybe getting important-er as the rig gets older? Most things that start iffy get iffy-er, in my experience :)

The extra battery won't be important until I'm doing long road trips again, which could be a year away, yet. (This year is booked up with other events) Solar is a nice-to-have, but again, likely use is a year or more out, so it isn't top priority.

Why was the combiner recalled? Was it a safety issue? I'm not sure where to place this on the priority list, whether it's a nice-to-have to help keep my engine battery topped up, or whether it's a safety issue, or whether it's just a risk that one day it stops working.

The replacement fuse box and breaker box sound like a nice to have, to make the system easier to maintain and troubleshoot, and nicer to look at. Is that wrong?

Does any of that sound like I have my priorities screwed up and need to reconsider something?

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