I recently completed some some upgrades the the house electrical system on my 2012 EXT. The main issue that I was trying to address was a lack of battery power after minimal use and after storage indoors (unplugged) for 30 days or so.
Via this forum and a few people who were generous with their advice and patience, I was able to complete the effort in 2 stages.
The first stage was to replace the original house batteries with LifeLine batteries. I bought 2 GPL-4CT 6 Volt batteries from Mark @ Centex (512.308.9002 Official Lifeline and Sun Xtender Battery Dealer Distributor
). They provide me with 220 amp hours of power; about a 30% increase over my original batteries if I recall correctly. I was hoping to go with the larger 6CTs, but there is no way they would fit in my battery box. I basically had the shoehorn the 4CTs in. Mark provided great support and helped me gain a good understanding of battery life and recharging and helped me get all of my inverter and solar charger settings correct.
For the the second phase of the upgrade, I installed a 1000 watt Magnum inverter, 3 100 watt solar panels and the solar charger/remote to go along with them. The Magnum inverter was model MMS1012. The solar charger and remote were Blue Sky models. The Solar Controller is a Solar Boost 2512i(X)-HV along with an IPN ProRemote. I purchased everything from Dave at AM Solar. Welcome to AM Solar_Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987
. (541) 726-1091. AM Solar sells the panels with an option to get them as a kit. The kit contains all of the parts you need to install the panels and controllers (wiring, heat shrink, mounting hardware, etc), along with detailed instructions. You just need to figure out where to mount everything and how/where to run all of the wiring. Dave and AM Solar team were very helpful when I called in a few times to ask for assistance. I have to say that when I received the shipments from them I was a bit overwhelmed at first; there were lots of parts and lots of wire. My total cost for all of the parts was $3461.
The most helpful of all with Lewster from this forum (Lew Farber). Talking things thru with him beforehand gave me the confidence that I could tackle this upgrade. A call or two during the install helped keep me on track.
I just returned from a quick trip and could not be more happy. We had the refrigerator on, watched a movie at night and had the furnace on as well as some lights. My battery was at 84% in the AM, much better than my previous batteries that would have been somewhere around 50%. Even better tho was that they were 100% charged with a few hours of morning sun. During the day now, I can run the inverter, the refrigerator and my communication amps (Internet and cell phone) and still sit at 100% power when it is sunny (which is most of the time in California)
The Phase 1 battery exchange took a solid day to do.
The Phase 2 inverter and solar upgrades took me just shy of 5 days.
I could of shaved off a day if it weren't for the battery box and TV antenna. The battery box is wedged in tight between the lounge framework and side of the van. It took a long time to get wires disconnected/reconnected there, as well as working around that area to run new wires. If doing it over, I would eliminate the battery box (and go with the larger battery size). The TV antenna was securely mounted and I fought its removal for awhile before I went commando on it and destructively removed it. What ever Airstream uses for sealant is very durable...
It also took a bit of time to figure out my existing wiring. I had a factory installed solar system (50 watt) that had to be removed. I had wiring that went to the Battery Isolation Manager that wasn't supposed to be there and I was leery about taking it away, as the new system does not hook up to it (not directly at least).
Running all the wiring is tedious, but not too bad. The worse area was getting the wiring in from the roof penetration and fished behind to the 'control center' in the upper bulkhead.
Lessons Learned and General Thoughts
- Patience is a virtue; especially when trying to fish all of the wires thru the various areas
- Have a box of band aids available. Every finger, as well as the back of both of my hands, bled at some point during the install. There are sharp corners, wires, etc in all of those blind spots where you are poking your hands and fishing wiring
- A saying we have at work is very applicable here. 'Plan the work and work the plan'. In other words, think thru the work that you are going to doing and line up everything that you need to perform it (tools, ladder, drawings parts, etc). Then do the work that you had planned. I'm a little OCD and would sometimes get distracted by other things that I found would need addressed
- Safety. It goes without saying that there are some 'dangers' involved. The AC/DC voltages and amps are sufficient to mess you up a bit, as well as do some damage to your rigs components. Make sure you disconnect everything and ensure nothing is energized prior to sticking a wreck on the electrical connections. Roof access isn't bad, but respect the height. It's tight up on the roof now with 3 panels, AC, vents, etc. Don't do foolish things to get on or off the roof.
- In the end, I'd give myself a B+ for the finished product. I would have liked to have gotten the wire runs under the lounge better organized. If I had to do it again, it would redo all of the existing wiring. The AS run wires were quite messy. I did my best to clean them up, but could only do so much. The good thing is that the wiring is all hidden.
- Enjoy it! Overall, it was a very fun project. I learned a lot and feel proud of my accomplishment. There were a few times I got frustrated. Don't let it bother you. Simply step away for a bit and doing something else.
Overall it was a great project with a high rate of return for me. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate it a 5 for overall difficultly. '1' being a fuse changeout. '10’ being an engine rebuild. Nothing was that difficult; its just more of the effort required to run all of the wiring.
Attached are a few pictures. I don't have one of the roof, however it is the same that others have posted. 2 panels in the rear running parallel to the sides of the van (in place of the TV antenna), and 1 running perpendicular in front of the AC (where the old panel was). Also attached a a wiring diagram of the some of the associated components in the 2012 electrical system that may be useful to some.
Thanks again for all who post to this forum and are generous with their time, advice and opinions.
2012 Interstate EXT