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Thread: Travel Trailer Electrical Upgrade

  1. #201
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Just 2 days away from embarking on this year's winter camping retreat. I'm tinkering together some final fixes & upgrades. Minor stuff mostly but I'll mention a couple of worthy shout-outs here:

    A good wash - it's been probably a couple of years since the old girl's had a bath. I did a bit of research and came away with recommendations for this product:

    Jomax House Cleaner and Mildew Killer
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Zinsser-...0101/100398378

    3/4 cup of this cleaner, along with 2.25 cups outdoor bleach, and fill the rest of the container to the 1 gallon mark. Put it in a hand pump tank sprayer (like used for weed killer) and apply to the surface, let sit 5 minutes, rinse off. Some light agitation (not really "scrubbing") with a soft brush helps. Man, I am telling you, this stuff does a job! I found it worked best when done twice on the same area. There were places on the brand new awning for instance that looked just horrible... a couple of spray on/rinse off applications (3 in a few places) and it looks terrific! Highly recommended. Did not have to scrub the whole trailer, only a select few stubborn spots. One gallon of the bleach and less than half a gallon of the JoMax did the whole trailer more than twice.

    Electric hot water upgrade - I've had this for a while now and have just been avoiding the installation. Now, I'm sorry I did!

    Camco Hot Water Hybrid Heat Kit
    https://www.amazon.com/Camco-Hot-Wat.../dp/B0024ECCJW

    This converts your existing propane hot water heater to a hybrid gas/electric unit. The only involved part here is installing an electrical outlet for the unit to plug into. If you've got that down, the rest is gravy. You *can* clip the plug and wire directly into your electric circut, but I wanted a plug I could quickly disconnect, and see at a glance that it's safely disconnected.

    On my trailer, I reasoned that the only time the electric water heat will be used is when we are grid-tied. That being the case, it made the most sense to run the new outlet off the dedicated microwave oven circuit, which is also exclusively a grid-tied circuit. This way, there is no chance of forgetting the electric hot water is on, and draining the on-board batteries. By retaining the outlet plug (rather than wiring direct) I still have the option to run a cord to it from another source if necessary.

    The outlet and power switch are located under the port-side bunk, near the water heater. A hole has to be drilled in the water heater (not the tank, but through into the exterior compartment) to pass the wires for the heating element. The element replaces your drain plug and comes with a sacrificial anode which protects your tank. After installing it (pretty easy if you can follow instructions) I did some testing to see how it worked. Switch lights up, good... but no heat. What hey?

    Tested outlet (all good), tested switch, all good. Wire coming out of thermostat - good there, got power. Plug the system into the Kill-A-Watt - zero amps given. Must be bad element. Ordered replacement element (thankfully available! recommend having a spare). Swapped out element and shazam now we are drawing amps! System pulls about 350-375 watts. So, I set the thermostat on 150 degrees and sat back to let it heat up. I want to be sure the thermostat works, and will shut off at the proper point rather than heat up too much and blow the relief plug.

    This is really a lesson in patience. Six gallons is a lot of water to heat up from 55-60 degrees to 150 for a heating element about the size of a number two pencil. It took about 4-5 hours to heat the tank enough for the thermostat to kick out. I then let it continue overnight to make sure everything stayed working. In the AM, water is still piping hot and thermostat still working. Houston we have success!

    Though I'm an impatient sort, I can picture using the propane to heat the water up quickly, then turning off the propane system and using the electric element to keep the tank nice and hot afterwards. I would usually only use hot water in small batches at a time, so in actual practice it'll be rare to have to heat an entire tank of cold water, except at startup at a new site. I paid about $95 for this kit in 2017 but I notice now they are going for around $65.

    I got all new gas plumbing for up front - new hose, regulator, stainless braided lines with gauges, and an elastic vinyl cover for the tanks. Then a proper cover for the rear-mounted spare and for the electric jack head, strictly for cosmetic purposes.

    I think we're almost ready to roll! Need help from the wife today with a venetian blind that is stuck and won't come down. She's good at figuring out string and stuff like that. Good to know the old girl will be ready just in case we need her for temporary lodging. Thus the new year begins!
    Last edited by bruss01; 01-28-2020 at 03:26 PM.
    "The thing about smart people is they seem like crazy people to dumb people" - Stephen Hawking

  2. #202
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Sweet Tennessee
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    Congrats , hope you get lots of enjoyable use and she treats you as good as you have been to her.
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

  3. #203
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    Mar 2007
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    Back from the Sierra foothills. It was cold but a welcome respite from daily life... an oil-filled electric radiator and a small wire-element space heater provided ample warmth, along with use of an electric blanket at night.

    Happy to say that all systems performed exactly as expected and the Old Girl is back in service and ready for a year full of many getaway possibilities! It was an unaccustomed luxury to have a full hookup with electric, water and dump service at the campsite. The electric upgrade to the water heater provided essentially "free" hot water via the shore power connection - at the current price of $65 I can't see not installing one. The one small mishap was the new electric mini-fridge tipped over in transit. I had felt it was hefty enough to stay planted, but that turned out not to be the case. Thankfully no major damage done. For the trip home, a local hardware store provided a package of small screw-in hooks and a set of bungee cords to string across the fridge enclosure - everything rode safe and secure on the trip back down the hill.

    It was a fun trip, but still, it's always good to get home again. I have a lengthy list of numerous small maintenance tasks to perform, and of course the two large known issues of getting the (brand new) gas furnace working and the propane fridge re-assembled and re-installed - but as-is, the old girl is up for adventure once more.
    Last edited by bruss01; 02-07-2020 at 01:00 AM.
    "The thing about smart people is they seem like crazy people to dumb people" - Stephen Hawking

  4. #204
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    Jan 2011
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    Sweet Tennessee
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    Thanks for the update, glad to hear that it turned out well.
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

  5. #205
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    East Tennessee
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    3,809

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    Glad to hear your trip and mod's all went good. Nice shakedown trip
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  6. #206
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Our dog Major is one qualifying run away from a "major" achievement.

    It takes three AKC titles to earn what is called a Register of Merit (ROM). That's a proud flag to fly and one that gets attention - especially for those looking to breed an equally accomplished female.

    Major already possesses his Conformation title (Gold level grand champion - GCh) and a title for passing a Doberman specific situational temperament test (Working Aptitude Certification - WAC).

    The final recognition we are pursuing for him is an obedience title. He's completed two legs already, and needs just one more to qualify. We were on the verge of acquiring that one when the lockdowns started last year, which has put those ambitions on hold for a few months.

    We've spotted a two-day show about 1.5 hours north of us in Mid May, about 6 weeks out. Instead of making a 3 hour round trip twice, we've decided to take the travel trailer up and make a weekend of it. With a bit of practice between now and then, and a bit of good fortune blowing our way, we hope to be able to knock this out and secure that ROM for him. The space we have planned is a very basic campsite, no hookups, only $15 a night, ten or fifteen minutes from the show location. It's rural so we may or may not receive decent cell phone signal.

    This will be the first off-grid camping excursion using the electric mini-fridge (the ammonia fridge is still in dry-dock awaiting further work - don't judge!). I will be very interested to see how well the aging (at this point) Trojan lead-acid batteries hold up to that usage and whether there's enough juice left over for the other basic electric use such as lights, phone and maybe a DVD in the evening to wind down after a stressful day at the show. A lot of this equation depends on how clear the sky is on those days.

    This has me wishing I had the ability to upgrade the trailer batteries to LiFeP04 as the 840 amp-hour battery bank recently made for the house has turned out just fantastic. I just priced it out and to duplicate just the battery cells and a BMS (smaller unit, 150 amps which is what the inverter is capable of pulling) would be over $1500 - which is probably outside our budget for the remainder of this year. Maybe next year around tax return time.

    I'll be taking one of my small generators along, just in case it turns out we need more power than we're capable of collecting/storing, but hope to avoid running it.
    Last edited by bruss01; 04-28-2021 at 12:20 PM.
    "The thing about smart people is they seem like crazy people to dumb people" - Stephen Hawking

  7. #207
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Texas
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    Sounds like a good plan. Having the generator along for the ride, just in case is a good idea. Do you know if generators are allowed where you will be camping? Some places wont allow you to have them. If that is the case, just make sure you bring one or two automotive jumper cables. That way, if you are running low on power and generators are not allowed, just hook it up to your truck for half an hour or so to help top it off.
    Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

  8. #208
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    Mar 2007
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    Good thought Cav, though it may take some figuring to work out how to get juice from the truck, since the batteries are under the bunk instead of on the tongue like is commonly seen. There is an access hatch, that might be possible if I can get the truck alongside on the starboard side of her. Need some long jumper cables! I may want to investigate the feasibility of adding an auxillary charging port of some kind on the tongue, now that you have me thinking about it. Probably wouldn't get a lot of use, but might be a real boon some day when it actually is needed.

    I'm also trying to think of a way to harness my Ryobi rechargeable tool batteries to see what kinds of small loads they can take off the main system. With the little inverters Ryobi makes, those actually produce a decent amount of juice for small needs - enough to meet an immediate need say if your phone needs a charge or something. All this may turn out to be completely unnecessary, as I don't have a bead on how much juice the little fridge consumes since I've misplaced my Kill-A-Watt meter - need to see if I can turn that up in the next couple of weeks.
    Last edited by bruss01; 04-28-2021 at 01:32 PM.
    "The thing about smart people is they seem like crazy people to dumb people" - Stephen Hawking

  9. #209
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    South Florida, last exit before the keys.
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    I currently have the small inverter/charger that comes with the 40v ryobi batteries, it has a usb output. I also have the larger ryobi inverter which has the 110 plug and usb plugs, as well.
    It has proven itself for my camping trips and my glamping trips. The only batteries I have so far are the 2.6ah and 4.0 ah.
    In addition I have the weed eater, chainsaw, and blower that accepts these batteries and you wont believe the capabilities or power of them, it is phenomenal.


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  10. #210
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    May 2011
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    Central Texas
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    I found an adapter on eBay for the 40 volt batteries that slides on and gives you a positive and negative wire. I attached a 36 volt to 12 volt adapter on to that, and then wired up a 12 volt outlet on to the output of the converter. Instant 12 volts anywhere.

    If they made the same adapter for the 18 volt batteries Id be all over those since Ive got about 11 of those laying around.
    Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

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