Off the Grid

Today’s catch up post is about my biggest modification. As fairly new RV folks we had considered the prospect of dry camping as something that sounded like fun. The thought of be all alone and self sufficient seemed very appealing. The first step to this was making sure we could make coffee. Actually what I really wanted was to be able to be able to run the refrigerator in the outdoor kitchen while driving and run the indoor refrigerator while driving without using propane. I needed to keep the beer cold. Having to buy ice and deal with a heavy ice chest just wasn’t making me happy.

The idea was to upgrade from the toy like single battery that came in RV to 4 6 volt golf cart batteries. I did a lot of measuring and had plenty of room for everything in the front storage locker.

Removing the old was no problem. It was actually a brand new battery so I sold it to recoup a little of the cost of the new ones.I located a 4 battery box on amazon that would just fit in the space. Making sure there was a vent and drain in the bottom was first on the list. You don’t want battery acid in the compartment and you need an entry point for fresh air.

Making a drain out of pieces of the old battery box and rtv’ing it in place was my solution. It was a perfect fit.

Next up was properly venting the fumes to the outside. I used the existing vent hose and again utilized pieces of the old battery box.

Hooking everything into the existing electrical was a challenge and not for the faint of heart. I have some electrical experience and would not recommend this for a layman. There is a ton of conflicting information out there on the internet and you need to be able to weed out the BS or it is not going to be safe. The first thing I needed to do was open everything up and see where I was going to run the wiring.

Hmm. That’s a lot of extra space! I wonder if I can use it for something …. TBA

It’s a jungle in there.

Having a fifth wheel made this project a lot easier. There is plenty of room to crawl around in there and have access to everything. The inverter I am installing is a Xantrex Freedom 2000HFS 2000 watt with a built in 3 stage charger. The 3 stage charger will help extend the life of my new batteries. Disconnecting the old converter was easy. I just unplugged it and took out the fuses for the leads going to the batteries. If I ever need it due to a failure It can be hooked back up in a few minutes. With this setup I needed a transfer switch to go from shore power/Generator power on the cord to the inverter power. It was easily located in that compartment.

Because I was in there anyway I chose to also install a built in EMS with surge protection. This allowed me to monitor my electrical usage from inside the coach. This is very important when you have a 50 amp setup and are trying to use 30 amp power. Watching the amp draw from each on board appliance as it is used lets you really get a handle on energy management.

For the 120v side I used 10/3 Romex for everything and on the 12V side I used 2/0 cabling. I know this is all overkill but in the case of electrical more is much better than less. I also had the equipment to build all my own battery cables which made for a cleaner installation than premade ones. To protect the 120v input to the charger and the 120v output to the coach I purchased a breaker box with two 30 amp circuit breakers and for the 12v side I purchased a 200amp resettable circuit breaker. I think the final product came out pretty well.

The only hiccup to my set up is that because I wired the inverter into the whole coach system I have to make sure it does not engage automatically when we lose power. I wouldn’t want it to kick in while the a/c’s are running for example. It isn’t a big deal because it has a remote panel inside to turn it on and off and I knew this was an issue going into it. Overall it performs as expected and I have no issues with it. I have camped overnight using only the inverter because I didn’t want to go out in the rain and plug in the power cord when we got to the campsite. It keeps the fridges running indefinitely while travelling down the road so the beer is always cold when we arrive and there is no 100 lb ice chest to lug around. We have yet to truly use it dry camping but someday ….

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