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Old 08-01-2012, 04:43 PM   #1
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1954 22' Safari
Little Compton , Rhode Island
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 34
Battery and inverters questions for vintage Airstream

I'd really appreciate some sage advice from you veteran Airstreamers out there.
I'm putting my new acquired 1954 Safari into shape (floors, wood work, plumbing, etc) but am really in the dark (no pun intended) about what to use for my 12 volt source and my voltage inverter. All that stuff is missing and the wiring is pretty hacked, too. ( I do have 110v breaker box and wiring in place). I have an original, working Cold Trail refridg which runs on 110 v that I'd like to keep, operating it on a generator and a voltage inverter. Other than that, the only 12volt needs I have are for the on-demand water pump and cabin lights. I'd like to do some camping in areas where there is no shore power.
Could someone please recommend a suitable set up for me? (there's nothing like the voice of experience!!).

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Old 08-01-2012, 05:52 PM   #2
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1977 31' Sovereign
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1989 34' Excella
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You will need an "converter" which will be used to charge your batteries and operate the 12 volt DC appliances while you are plugged into shore power. You will not be able to use your 110 Volt AC refridge when you are not plugged in. The amp hr. requirements for the fridge using an inverter to generate the 110 will kill any batteries you might install. Like you said you might just run it on the generator. The only thing I use my inverter for is running my ac TV.

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Old 08-01-2012, 09:18 PM   #3
2 Rivet Member
1954 22' Safari
Little Compton , Rhode Island
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 34
54 Safari battery set up

I understand the difference between "converter" and "inverter" and this reply was extremely helpful. I'm a bit confused as to the placement of the battery (or batteries) in the 54 Safari. Would the access hatch area in the rear be the best storage for them? (Much of my electrical stuff is missing). Anyone know what was used originally? Also, if stored in the hatch, would I originate the DC circuitry from there. Was there a special panel designated for DC use?
Any ideas greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-01-2012, 09:50 PM   #4
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1957 22' Caravanner
Port Hadlock , Washington
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Most likely your '54 had no battery originally. 12 volt systems were mightly simple then. My '57 had only a single overhead 12 volt light and it was powered by the tow vehicle.

On your 110 volt fridge running on an inverter, I think you'd need a big battery bank to do it for any length of time, like dwightdi said. Not sure what specific power draw you'd have with your refrigerator, but I'd guess it would be somewhere above 75 amps per day.

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Old 08-01-2012, 10:09 PM   #5
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Southwestern , Ohio
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Originally Posted by Collapso View Post
I'm putting my new acquired 1954 Safari into shape (floors, wood work, plumbing, etc) but am really in the dark (no pun intended) about what to use for my 12 volt source and my voltage inverter. All that stuff is missing and the wiring is pretty hacked, too.

Welcome to the forums!

As far as the 12 Volt stuff being "missing", there is a good chance that your 1954 Safari never had them. In the early 50s a lot of Airstreams were essentially configured as "park models"--you towed them from one campground to another and plugged into AC power when you got there. The fact that your original refrigerator runs off of AC power suggests your trailer might have been configured that way.

Our 1960 Pacer was like that--there was no battery in the trailer and only one 12 V light fixture. The rest of the light fixtures were all 120 V AC. The one 12 V fixture was connected to a 12 V power line to the tow vehicle battery. There was no water pump either, the Pacer used the pressurized tank system whereby you could either connect the water inlet to city water or pour water into the tank and pressurize it through a tire valve.

By the way, in the early 50s most cars used 6 V electrical systems, also, so the exterior lights on the trailer may be set up for 6 V. (Or they may have already been converted to 12 V by a previous owner.)

If you are going to install a coach battery in the trailer I would recommend mounting it forward for reasons of weight and balance. It should either be external to the cabin or in a separate compartment vented to the outside. On the Pacer there was room to mount a marine-style battery box on the tongue behind the LP gas bottles, and I built my own 12 V fuse panel. The battery was kept charged by a modern Intellipower convertor located under a dinette seat. There was also a small inverter under the dinette seat to power the 120 V interior lights when not connected to ground power.

If you don't mind pulling the wiring I would replace the 120 V lights with 12 V and run everything off of 12 V like modern trailers have done since the mid-60s. If you can afford LED lighting, it's great for boondocking--same amount of light as incandescent for about 10% of the power consumption.

Good luck with your project!

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