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Old 11-03-2010, 12:57 PM   #1
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1962 24' Tradewind
Saint Louis , MO
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New electrical system

Dear folks,

We're starting to make plans for rehabbing our 1962 Trade Wind, which just got delivered yesterday.

As far as I can tell, this trailer has no existing 12V system at all. I can't find any batteries or 12V connections, and the "panel" is just a 2-circuit, 120V thing mounted in the streetside underbunk compartment.

I would like to install a 12V system with batteries to run LED lights. I'd also like the ability to run small 120V appliances from batteries or shore power. (No A/C, microwave, or coffeepot from the batteries. No problem.) I can think of two possible ways to do this:

1) Buy an inverter/charger. This'll draw from shore power if available, and use batteries if not, and would charge the batteries as well. This would have the advantage of making any 120V outlet potentially powerable from batteries. I think that I would then have to buy a separate 12V breaker panel to power the 12V stuff. My unanswered question is how to hook the power from the tow vehicle into the system.

2) Buy a converter and a separate small inverter. This would seem a simpler way to go, and should integrate easily with the tow vehicle. The disadvantage is that I'd have separate 120V outlets for "inverter" and "shore power."

Am I thinking about this correctly? Any advice?

Thanks...
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Old 11-03-2010, 03:04 PM   #2
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1959 24' Tradewind
The Grass Capital of the World , Oregon
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sky's the limit

I have a 59 Tradewind configured with both AC and DC. I'll post photos of the system configs when I get home so you can have an idea of how Airstream set it up at the factory. I'm not sure my AC system is original but my DC is.

Search "Charge from Tow Vehicle" to find a billion threads about this. I think it's more trouble than it's worth. I found this simple-to-follow FAQ section about DC batteries a while back. It might help you think about your power budget in terms of keeping your 12v batteries healthy (don't ever use more than 50% of the battery if possible, but try and regularly use 20% of the battery, etc.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - DC Battery Specialists

I bought a $90 solar panel (15w) and a $20 charge controller to connect to my deep-cycle battery to keep it alive over the winter (and forever), I'll post pics of that too. Simply a trickle charge to compensate for the lights and such. It's not permanently installed to the Airstream - right now it's on my house roof.

You lose a good dose of energy with an inverter, although some are much better than others. Seems like the weight of the battery bank necessary to power the inverter may be a detractor. But here's a quick formula:

FORMULA:
Total the amps on your batteries and divide by 12. Take that number and set it aside, we'll get back to it in a moment.
Total the amps on the devices you will use on the inverter, add another 1/2 amp for the inverter itself.
Take THAT total and divide into the first number you came up with.
The result will be your runtime in hours. The more batteries you put in parallel the longer runtime you can expect.


from this website

Inverter FAQ

How is your trailer configured - dinette, gaucho? Do you have a battery box on the outside of the trailer, under the front window, above the hitch?
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Old 11-03-2010, 03:13 PM   #3
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I'll stop plugging solar panels now...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpaceEgg View Post
I bought a $90 solar panel (15w) and a $20 charge controller to connect to my deep-cycle battery
Looks like prices are dropping. A similar panel now costs $55. 15W Crystalline Solar Panel 12V
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Old 11-03-2010, 03:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tlsmit1 View Post
I would like to install a 12V system with batteries to run LED lights. I'd also like the ability to run small 120V appliances from batteries or shore power. (No A/C, microwave, or coffeepot from the batteries. No problem.)
Consider fluorescent lights as well. For diffuse nondirectional lighting I believe they are a better choice. There are many 12 volt DC fluorescent fixtures available.

Quote:
1) Buy an inverter/charger. This'll draw from shore power if available, and use batteries if not, and would charge the batteries as well. This would have the advantage of making any 120V outlet potentially powerable from batteries. I think that I would then have to buy a separate 12V breaker panel to power the 12V stuff. My unanswered question is how to hook the power from the tow vehicle into the system.
I am thinking of installing a setup like that using an inverter from Magnum Energy. They are not well known but come highly recommended from a forum member who is a dealer and has installed inverter-chargers from several vendors. Magnum has some midsize units around 600-800 watts that might be exactly what you are looking for.

In general you will have some sort of fuse or breaker panel for each system, 12 volt and 120 volt, no matter how you wire your trailer.

Quote:
2) Buy a converter and a separate small inverter. This would seem a simpler way to go, and should integrate easily with the tow vehicle. The disadvantage is that I'd have separate 120V outlets for "inverter" and "shore power."

Am I thinking about this correctly? Any advice?
Tow vehicle hooks up the same way with either setup. Tow vehicle charge line is hooked up to the trailer batteries in parallel with the charger-inverter or converter as the case may be.

The setup you describe is what I have now and I find I really don't use the inverter very often (I'm considering the move to the Magnum inverter-charger because it charges better). It's nice to have it available to charge phones, laptops, cordless drills, etc. particularly for guests and visitors who may not carry a 12 volt phone charger with them. Also handy for the kitchen mixer since I haven't been able to find a 12 volt one
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Old 11-04-2010, 01:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpaceEgg View Post
I have a 59 Tradewind configured with both AC and DC. I'll post photos of the system configs when I get home so you can have an idea of how Airstream set it up at the factory. I'm not sure my AC system is original but my DC is.

I bought a $90 solar panel (15w) and a $20 charge controller to connect to my deep-cycle battery to keep it alive over the winter (and forever), I'll post pics of that too. Simply a trickle charge to compensate for the lights and such. It's not permanently installed to the Airstream - right now it's on my house roof.
so far only found pics of the solar panel. more to follow. In battery pic with red box, the red box/tub now contains solar charger with breaker switch and two emergency disconnect portions of the wire in case situation gets "critical".

Not the "instruction-by-photo" I was hoping/intending, but that will follow soon.
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Old 11-04-2010, 05:38 AM   #6
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Some early Airstreams were built and equipped for just using in full service parks. They had no 12 volt systems. Other trim level had both 12 volt DC and 115 Volt AC circuits, but no converter. Wall sconces and overheads had both 12 volt and 115 volt light bulbs. To modernize them you only need to install a converter. If you want to boonedock, you may need an inverter or solar. The decision is bigger batteries, small generator, or solar. Solar is the most expensive per kilowatt hour. It is an emotional (green) decision.
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:59 AM   #7
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Ac/dc

As promised - sorry it took me so long to update - I took the photos this morning. I have the pre-wired 120v and 12v sconces and also the dual system light fixtures (AC one light bulb, DC other light bulb) above the beds and sinks.

The DC pvp pipe is drilled thru the subfloor and runs to the front of the trailer and threads through the battery box. These photos should explain the rest.

Solar is an emotional decision? The same logic could be used to encourage kids to sell hard drugs. Money's money right?

Good luck with the electrical restoration. I only set fire to my trailer once!
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:01 AM   #8
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Ac/dc

The bottom right corner photo is the entire AC system. Still not sure if it's original, but the AS is wired for AC, so maybe it was replaced if not original?

Happy trails!
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:37 AM   #9
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Saint Louis , MO
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Thanks for all the responses. The pictures of the restoration look great.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward an inverter/charger solution. This will let me--for the moment--just install a small, new 110 breaker box and replace the shore power cable. This way I can use the interior plugs and lights while we mess around with other stuff (floor, bathroom, axle, belly pan...). Much later in the game, I can put in the inverter, batteries, and 12v panel.

One leftover issue: the way I am thinking about the system, the batteries can either charge from the inverter/charger or from the tow vehicle. You wouldn't normally try to do both at once, but I could imagine somebody plugging in the shore power cable before the hitch cable was unplugged. Does anything bad happen if both systems try to charge simultaneously? Or do these sources need to be switched so that they're mutually exclusive?

Thanks again...
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:45 AM   #10
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62 Tradewind, Great find and keep us up on your restorations.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpaceEgg View Post
How is your trailer configured - dinette, gaucho? Do you have a battery box on the outside of the trailer, under the front window, above the hitch?
Actually we have not yet found a location for battery. Wondering if perhaps what we have was a "Park Model."
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