Originally Posted by airstreamz
Hi everyone, I am new to this forum, and have recently got our dream Airstream here in New Zealand. It's a 2010 Flying Cloud and we are loving it!
In order to meet the New Zealand electrical regulations, we are looking to convert the voltage to 240v. I have heard that the 110v cable rating in the Airstream is not robust enough for 240v, and need to be replaced? The cable rating for NZ needs to be 450 vac, does anyone know what the cable rating is used for late model Airstreams?
Has anyone successfully converted a 110v Airstream to 240v? This sounds like a very big project, and with much dismantling of panels required.
We are still in the planing process, and would love to gather as much info as possible, and we look forward to your feedback.
Thanks in advance.
Weíve just done an electrical refit and had our beloved 2006 16í CCD (Lilí Al) issued with a New Zealand Warrant of Electrical Fitness. For US and other none-Kiwi readers: this is the official NZ certification of compliance with our national standards for 240V electrical installations in motorhomes and caravans. Itís a legal requirement if you want to hook up to a 240V supply at any campground.
Our criteria in undertaking this project were:
1. To avoid any unsightly trunking and minimize changes to the appearance of the trailer;
2. To achieve warrant of fitness standard (this is different to getting a 240V supply in the trailer, which can be achieved, as others have already pointed out, via an extension lead through an open window).
I think the three keys to success for us were:
1. To find a friend (Matthew) to help us. Matthew is trained in avionics and is therefore used to refitting high and low voltage electrical systems in confined spaces made of aluminum (and working to exceedingly high standards!);
2. To find a friendly local electrical inspector (Paul) who was qualified to certify our trailer and was willing to offer us advice about what he needed us to do as we went along;
3. To take our time and accept that it would cost a few dollars.
So hereís what we did for the refit:
1. We replaced the external hook-up connection with a certified NZ one. This required removal of some of the plywood paneling in the trunk and also cutting away a section of the internal aluminum skin to gain access to the back of the fitting. This damage to the aluminum is not visible as it is covered by the plywood paneling. However, we were able to find a unit that had the same footprint, and even the same screw positions, as the original one. So externally, no cutting or drilling was necessary.
2. We replaced the original Power Centre with a 240V, 30A OZcharge smart charger, a 5-way 240V distribution board (fully enclosed, sealed with fire caulk and fitted with circuit breakers), and a series of 12V
circuit breakers to replace the 12V
fuses on the original Power Centre. All this fitted neatly within the footprint of the original Power Centre (under the foot of the bed in our 2006 16í model) with plenty of space to spare.
3. We installed new 2.5mm, 3-core stranded cable (flex) for the entire 240V system. This is mostly enclosed within conduit and secured with P-clips. It is all hidden behind paneling and cabinetry or run within the cavity between the two layers of aluminum. For example, the route from the external hook-up to the OZcharge smart charger runs between the aluminum skins beneath the trunk door. The only visible trunking is a section of aluminum profile along the wall/floor joint beneath the dinette table to provide a 240V supply to the outlet there. We just couldnít work out another way of doing it. Everywhere else, the new cabling is hidden.
4. An additional requirement was to fit black, heat shrink sleeving over the blue (neutral) wire of the 3-core cable where it terminated at outlets or the distribution board.
5. We installed 6 new NZ-style 240V power outlets. The locations are irrelevant as they are very Airstream model-specific but suffice it to say that the cut-outs for the original US-style outlets accommodate NZ-style outlets very neatly.
6. Where we couldnít get 240V flex to original 110V outlet positions, we fitted blanking plates.
7. Where we fitted 240V outlets directly into aluminum, we double earth bonded these. In other words, in addition to the earth wire already connected via the 3-core flex cable, we attached a further earth wire directly from the socket to the adjacent aluminum using star washers, a bolt and double nuts. We were able to do this invisibly.
8. We earth bonded the 240V system to the aluminum shell and separately to the steel chassis using 6mm multi-strand earth cable (and star washers, bolts and double nuts).
9. We removed all the original 110V outlets, including those for the inverter, which in our trailer was for 110V only and not a multi-voltage inverter.
10. We removed the inverter too (weight saved).
11. We removed as much of the solid copper core 110V cabling as we could. We were required to render it unusable so as a minimum we chopped it back as far as we could reach with wire cutters. Much of it was inaccessible, bonded to the inside surface of the outer skin, or just plain stuck. We had no success at all with trying to chase in the new flex by splicing it to the original cabling and pulling.
12. We had the Dometic fridge converted to 240V, which involved changing the electrical heating element but did not affect any of the 12V
control circuit. We had this done by a refrigeration engineer but you could probably swap out the element yourself.
13. We removed and discarded the original TV (we donít watch TV anyway so why lug redundant weight around?).
14. We gave up on converting the air-conditioning unit for three reasons. Firstly, because we had a quote of 1500
New Zealand dollars to replace the compressor with a 240V unit. Secondly, because we couldnít figure out how to invisibly get 240V flex to the unit. And thirdly, because you donít generally need aircon where we use the trailer. In time I expect weíll replace the aircon unit with a roof vent (and save another 40kg or so of redundant weight).
15. Apart from installing an array of 12V circuit breakers, we didnít need to do anything with the 12V system i.e. lighting, fan, cook top extractor, pump, furnace and water heater controls.
16. We had to provide mechanical support to the shore line so that the mechanical load was not borne by the electrical connection. To do this, we attached a small, stainless steel D-ring to the outside of the trailer a few inches from the hook-up point and attached a clip to the shoreline that hooks over the D-ring. This looks very unobtrusive whereas a hook on the outside of the trailer would look nasty I think.
17. I took the trailer for two inspections. For the first inspection, I didnít replace any of the paneling or cabinetry that we had removed for the refit so that Paul (the inspector) could inspect the routes and fastening of the 240V cabling. For the first inspection, I left the trailer with Paul and he did a thorough check and test and then told me in detail what further work was needed. Once I had completed this further work and completely refitted all the panels and cabinets, Matthew and I returned with the trailer. Paul quizzed Matthew and me on our work, completed a further inspection and test, and then certified the installation. Yay! I understand the future inspections (due every four years) will have a much lighter touch!
The end result of all this work is very pleasing. We have a modern, efficient smart charger to drive the original 12V system and care for the battery. We have a discretely installed, NZ-compliant 240V system with 6 outlets. We have a small, blue sticker in the windshield that says weíre legal. And my wife can use her hair dryer in the trailer! Yay!
Apologies for such a long-winded reply but perhaps this will help other Kiwis get their Airstreams refitted to meet NZ regs.
Best wishes for your rewire adventure!