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Turning my camper shell into a RV. Electrical help!

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by pacificexplorer, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Nov 2, 2015 at 1:47 PM
    #1
    pacificexplorer

    pacificexplorer [OP] Member

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    Hey guys,

    I have just bought a snug top camper shell for my truck with the purpose of completely building it out right (the first time) and hitting the road. I am very skilled in carpentry, building, and making things move and work. Unfortunately, I am not skilled at all with electrical and solar systems which to me is the major part of this deal. I plan on installing two 100w mono panels on top running to either 3 95aH deep cell batteries. Also I want to install a 30 amp RV hookup for when I am camping in a park.

    Any suggestions as in specific parts or brands you would use including amperage, voltage, watts ect. wiring diagrams, specific dos and donts would also be helpful. I really want to do this right and not just have it rigged up quick. I am very capable of doing this myself with a little instruction. I am open to all ideas.

    Here is everything I want to accomplish.
    I want to be able to charge my batteries with the trucks alternator when the truck is running, (I'm guessing a continuous duty solenoid?) yet when my truck is turned off I want the solar panels to kick in and start charging but as soon as the batteries are done charging I would like for the whole system to shut off (charge controller?). Also would be nice to manually shut down the system completely to run power off of the 30 amp RV hookup (maybe have the option of topping my batteries off with this hookup? I want the RV hookup to run directly to the outlets inside the camper, safely, if possible.
    I really want to prolong battery life, thats why I want to be able to shut down and turn on the system manually, If i can run deep discharges keeping the battery above 30% before charging back to full, instead of a bunch of small discharges to say 70-90%, back to full charge, would this accomplish a prolonged battery life? or the option of discharging one battery at a time or two or all three. I know boats use a switch that allows that option of battery 1, 2 or both. can this be applied and is it viable?

    Also let me know if the solar system listed above is overkill or under. I am a minimalist so i only plan on running my computer for school work, a small fan, or ceramic heater depending on the season, and some small led lights or a small lamp. maybe a small electric stove in the mornings.

    Thanks in advance guys.
     
  2. Nov 2, 2015 at 3:24 PM
    #2
    Aquatic Tacoma

    Aquatic Tacoma Well-Known Member

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    Stock - built correct from the start.
    You mention boats. I have a boat I've cruised the Caribbean with that has solar panels, 50 amp shore power and a generator. Yes, you'll need something to switch 30 amp "park" power because it's ac. This is usually a manual switch available in rv and marine supply stores. As for between batteries look for an ACR (automatic charge relay). This ACR automatically selects between multiple batteries whichever battery needs to be charged, to charge. Also can be selected manually. Blue Seas - brand is what most boaters use. The solar panels have to run through a solar controller unless you want to sit and watch a voltage meter, then disconnect when full. I have the system wired so the excess power from the panels goes to the hot water heater coil and I always have hot water. On my 40 foot sailboat I can get all the electricity I need to live, from the sun through three 140 watt panels without ever touching land. That includes marine electronics. I have a 4.4kw generator which I haven't run for power since 2005.
    Don't scrimp on the wire sizes. Use proper size or one size bigger. Many people don't realize how much is lost through wiring.
    Don't forget safety. The panels will provide electricity even when not hooked to anything. Think shock!
    I am a retired Navy electronics tech but the setup isn't difficult. Just hit the rv and boat web.
     
  3. Nov 3, 2015 at 2:36 AM
    #3
    98tacoma3rz

    98tacoma3rz Well-Known Member

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    Are you adding 3 batteries in addition to your starting battery? You will need to hook up the 3 batteries in parallel with an isolator. Make sure the batteries are sealed if you're putting them in the cab or bed where you sleep, in a battery box. Yes, you will need a charge controller for the solar panels. Here is a link for a 120v on board battery charger. I've had really good luck with it. There is a 3 bank option to charge 3. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBTRN26?keywords=noco charger&qid=1446545985&ref_=sr_1_4&sr=8-4

    You could probably just use this to plug in when you're at an RV park.

    Make sure you upgrade your alternator and wiring as well. If its rainy/cloudy for a long time your truck will need to charge 3 batteries. That can put a pretty hefty strain on your charging system.

    Make sure you get the proper overcurrent protection. probably 150amp circuit breaker between the isolator and battery/alternator.

    If you buy a mechanical solenoid isolator make sure the batteries are of the same make and size.

    you'll need an isolator like this http://www.amazon.com/ProMariner-Pr...1446546791&sr=8-3&keywords=battery+isolator+3
     
  4. Nov 3, 2015 at 7:40 PM
    #4
    Maestro

    Maestro Well-Known Member

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    Overkill.

    Unless you plan on powering something big, you probably don't need that much charging wattage or THREE 95ah batteries (although there's nothing wrong with that).

    I made a system that charges a single 35ah battery to power interior LED lighting, USB recharging, low amperage computer case fans (for ventilation / climate control) and a small 150W inverter which charges my laptop just fine.

    When the truck is on, my accessory battery charges only when the primary is in the full range. I'm almost always carrying two topped off batteries. Solar (one panel) is only useful if I am not driving (and not using the engine). If you are somewhere remote and you have decent sightlines to the sun, you can easily keep your battery topped off - assuming you put a load on it at night - cycling it for the next day.

    http://www.batterymart.com/p-acc-20...NnSF9jeF7wuFHJdHSpzAebwQGLFo8V3icMaAvzA8P8HAQ

    With the amount of load I put on my batteries (which sounds similar to what you are planning) I never was caught without power. My trip was three weeks from the east-coast out west to yellowstone / jackson / denver and back east. Did it all in the wintertime with low sun.
     
  5. Nov 3, 2015 at 8:00 PM
    #5
    Leppz

    Leppz Well-Known Member

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    The system you've described is way overkill.

    It's not going to be worth your while trying to create a battery/solar system to run any heating loads like a ceramic heater or an electric stove. For that, you should get a generator or go with propane.

    For campsites that do have 30A RV plugins most will also have a 15A plugin where you can run an extension cord and run whatever you like. If they only have 30A plugins then get a 30A male to 15A female adapter and then run a cord.

    For just a small fan, lights, charging a laptop and other devices a single 95AH battery would be more than enough. You also don't need nearly as much solar to keep your battery topped up. You'd be fine with one 100W panel. This is still probably even overkill.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2015
  6. Nov 3, 2015 at 9:06 PM
    #6
    Leppz

    Leppz Well-Known Member

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    Considering it sounds like you are permanently mounting solar panels on your roof and also want the alternator to charge your battery while driving I would look at buying a CTEK D250S Dual. This is a DC-DC charger and also a solar regulator. The main problem with running a battery isolator is it requires you to run heavy gauge wire between the two and its not a good idea to run two different types of batteries with an isolator. The CTEK is also a smart charger and will charge you're battery better and more efficiently compared to just running an isolator. With this setup you could mount a single 95AH Deep Cycle Battery in the bed next to a CTEK and only have to run a small 10 gauge wire from the alternator to the CTEK and then a ground from the CTEK to the chassis. I would make sure to buy a sealed battery like an AGM compared to a vented battery. The vented battery will release hydrogen gas while charging. Since you would be potentially mounting the battery in an enclosed space in the bed this could make for a disastrous situation. You can also mount a sealed battery on its side where as a vented battery needs to be mounted upright. This will help you squeeze a battery in the bed if you plan on build a sleeping platform at wheel well height in the bed.

    There is lots to be said about Dual and Auxiliary Battery systems. I would head on over to Expedition Portal for more info on that.

    I have a setup similar to what you've described already installed in my Tacoma. I sleep in the back of my truck while camping and on road trips. I have a single 105AH AGM deep cycle marine battery mounted underneath my sleeping platform in my truck. I have plans of permanently mounting solar panels to my roof once I get a cab rack. I also plan on installing a CTEK sometime soon for charging my battery off the alternator. For now, I have a small 30W panel that is on a removable mount attached to my solar shower/water carrier. I have this hooked onto a cheap solar regulator mounted next to my battery in the bed. My battery is not hooked up to my alternator currently but this system more than meets my needs. I run LED Lights, USB Charging outlets, a small 12V Fan, a 900W inverter that my GF uses mostly for her Hair Straightening Iron. The inverter and hair iron is definitely the largest load I run off my battery. My system handles it fine without running my battery low enough to damage it and the 30W panel is able to recover it fairly quickly. We spent two weeks living out of the truck this summer and I never had a dead battery. I plan on getting a 12V Fridge in the future. I will then probably add second 30W panel on the roof to keep up with this additional demand.

    Besides deciding on a battery, solar chargers, and panels you will also need to build something to distribute the power. This is what I built. Its a small PVC Project box with a Blue Sea Fuse Block mounted inside. I added USB charging plugs, 12V outlets, 12V Volt/amp meter, light switches, and an LED Dimmer. Here's some pics.

    12200953_10156253857150327_1409894069_n.jpg 12200630_10156253857215327_1253535991_n.jpg


    Here's some photos of my full setup. There's still some things I'd like to do it, but hopefully it gives you a few ideas.


    DSCN1575 - Copy.jpg DSCN1573.jpg
    12047764_10156150477120327_1852146543_n (1).jpg 12083801_10156150477060327_197561893_n.jpg
     
  7. Nov 3, 2015 at 9:12 PM
    #7
    agcomptec

    agcomptec Member

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    Hmm, you definitely need to define what you are trying to power before you size the supply side of things. An overkill system takes up extra space, extra money, extra maintenance, extra weight, etc...
     
  8. Nov 4, 2015 at 10:00 AM
    #8
    pacificexplorer

    pacificexplorer [OP] Member

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    Seriously appreciate it guys. All of you are badasses and your information has helped 10x with my research and where I need to start looking. I have decided on just two 95 Ah batteries. http://www.batterysharks.com/Sigmas...JPgXPCDKjc0A6FTY2PgQVEhEV4Tyq1gblwaApR18P8HAQ, and a 175w monocrystalline panel http://marksolarsolution.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=520, both are already purchased and for amazing prices off craigslist, but thats all I have so far. I plan to live out of this machine for atleast a year traveling the coastlines, surfing, performing skilled labor from town to town while going to school online. I want my system to be versatile and adaptable. I plan on insulating the entire bed and being able to run a fan or ceramic heater for harsh climate conditions. Especially for my dog when I am working.(this is my top concern) and the reason I am spending the money. Its kind of sad but I love the little shit. And, partially for my girlfriend for when she flys out to meet me every other month. If it was just me I would be roughing it. I want to add shore power as a learning lesson for myself as well as the convenience and I am pretty set on this. I know I won't always be at campsites as I plan to live off the grid for the most part but it would be nice to post up a few days, plug in to the side of my vehicle and not an extension cord running out the window and know all of my equipment is protected. Electrically speaking.. For some reason I can build anything but when it comes to electricity I tend to overthink its complexity to a whole and turn it into a foreign language. Quite possibly that it just scares the crap out of me. Thanks in advance.
     
  9. Nov 4, 2015 at 11:45 AM
    #9
    Leppz

    Leppz Well-Known Member

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    If you are concerned about cords running out windows or tailgates than I would cut in a recessed 15A inlet into the side of the cap.

    Something like this.

    http://m.platt.com/platt-electric-s...ets/Leviton/5278-CWP/Products.aspx?pid=453539

    Buy the 30A male to female 15A adapter for sites that only have 30A plugins. Carry an extension cord with you and your set. You won't need anything more than 15A for your setup.

    You could then hardwire a plug or two on the inside of the caps to power things like a 120v ceramic heater.

    I wouldn't worry about linking the 12V and 120V with the ability to charge your batteries off 120V when you are plugged in. Keep the systems seperate rather then over complicating things. Keep the lights running off 12V and pick up a 12V fan for keeping the canopy cooled off. You could even install a RV roof vent fan to your canopy. This would be more secure than leaving a window open with a fan in it.
    Your 175w solar panel will keep the batteries topped up just fine for any lighting or fans loads as well as charging any devices.
     
  10. Nov 4, 2015 at 1:52 PM
    #10
    pacificexplorer

    pacificexplorer [OP] Member

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    @Leppz thats more of the answer I was looking for to resolve the shore power issue, but how would I keep it separate or from receiving feedback to and from the solar grid while still using the same plugs hardwired on the inside? diodes?
     
  11. Nov 4, 2015 at 2:44 PM
    #11
    Leppz

    Leppz Well-Known Member

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    Just wire a double pole, double throw selector switch (as you will need to switch both the neutral and hot) before the plug to be able to switch between 120V "shore power" or 120V inverter power.
     

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