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Old 06-07-2014, 01:00 PM   #1
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Upgrading the converter and inverter in my 2014 27FB

*The Converter:*
Now that we have a covered storage location with power, I'm thinking it's time to replace that Parallax 7355 battery boiler with something that allows us to leave the trailer plugged in and charging as needed thru the winter. The only thing we get up here for months at a time is rain...not much sun for the solar panels, especially when under a roof.

I've seen quite a few folks recommend the Progressive Dynamics 4655 as an easy replacement that will do the trick. However, I've also seen passing references to something better - maybe from Magnum? I only want to do this once, so what's the best unit to put in as a replacement?

BTW, I do have a temp sensor on the battery, but its wired into our Zamp solar controller. I'm hoping it won't be necessary to run yet another temp sensor to get a good converter going in there, though I'm willing to consider it.

*On to the Inverter:*
We have the standard 1,000 watt WFCO inverter. It's under the bed on the right hand side. It's partially hidden in the storage compartment under the bed, accessible both from the bed and from outside. It's a tight fit, so if I really wanted to get into it I'd have to remove the divider board in the front storage compartment by emptying the compartment and removing a couple of screws.

Our inverter also has a nice remote button on the wall in the galley near the sink so I don't to open up the bed and push the Big Red Button to turn it on. There are four outlets powered by the inverter: Bedroom, under the Dinette, by the couch just below the main TV, and in the rear overhead storage compartment next to the DVD player. These outlets only work when the inverter is on. I strongly suspect, as others have observed, that the inverter is *not* connected to an AC power line which is why there's no bypass, though I haven't been able to physically check it yet.

As many have observed, the WFCO units are alleged to be inefficient especially when resting / searching for a load, so it seems I may have an amp-gobbling hobgoblin hiding under my bed. The only really good thing about it is the remote control on the wall in the galley, and that the inverter only gets thirsty when I wake it up.

What would folks recommend as a more efficient and reliable replacement for the WFCO 1000 watt inverter, and could the remote on/off switch in my galley still be used to control it? I'd love it if I could just do a drop-in replacement.

Thoughts and recommendations? Thank you!
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Old 06-07-2014, 02:55 PM   #2
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I am one of the people who have said the WFCO is an inefficient inverter. It takes 1.9 amps to just be on, not doing anything.

I chose to leave my WFCO in place and add a second inverter which was more efficient to begin with, and also has a search function, so it turns on automatically when needed. I generally only need the high wattage of the WFCO for the toaster and microwave. My 120 volt warm white LED lights (10 watts each) which give my trailer a nice homy look, my computer power supply, and my occasional TV use and other things all are well under 300 watts total, generally under 100 watts. So, I chose a Morningstar sine wave inverter. It has a standby energy consumption of 0.45 amps (vs the WFCO at 1.9 amps) and best of all, a search function. When there is no 120 volt load it shuts off automatically, only requiring 15 mA (0.015 amps) searching for something to turn on and wake it up.

I have a 2 wire on/off switch for the Morningstar, but since it takes so little power on the search mode I simply leave it on in general.

Now, the real problem is how to decide to hook it up to the loads. If you never need the extra capacity of the WFCO, you could simply remove it and substitute something like the Moringstar, and use the original inverter outlets in the trailer.

My WFCO had a power cord on it, but internally it was not hooked up to anything so unfortunately I could not use the pass through feature that WFCO has as an option but apparently Airstream did not specify. If it had worked, I simply could have fed the Morningstar into the WFCO and only activated the WFCO when needed.

You could use a DPDT switch to change the inverter outlets between inverters, or an external transfer switch. Temporarily I am just using extension cords for my Morningstar, and the WFCO remains hooked up to the original system. Decisions, decisions.

It may be hard to find an inverter with high power output and a very low idle current, and one which has a search function like the Moringstar. But the Moringstar does work great.

SureSine ยป Morningstar Corporation
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:27 PM   #3
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:35 PM   #4
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Magnums can be fully adjusted for their 'turn-on' threshold to anywhere from zero to 50 watts by using the ME-RC Remote. I just installed one last week that would not begin inverting with the microwave in the circuit with only the clock on........it was at the factory default setting of 5W. Setting to zero lit up the clock.

And yes, you will have to use a second, new battery temp sensor ( BTS) as every manufacturer uses their own specific units.

Magnums do have one the best, fully programmable chagring sections available to keep what ever batteries you use very happy!
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:13 PM   #5
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Thanks guys, this is great stuff. So, which specific Magnum converter would you suggest to quickly and easily replace the Parallax 7355? I could always put in the new converter now and then add the temp sensor later when I have the gumption to get that done. Oh, and Lewster, I'd love to come down and have you do it all for me, but it doesn't look like we'll make it down to the Columbia River gorge area this summer.
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:27 PM   #6
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What is the idle current (no load) of a Magnum while inverting? That is the power it takes at 12 volts when on, but not supplying anything. The WFCO takes 1.9 amps. When powering a small load like 10 or 15 watts, that idle current of 24 watts (1.9 A x 12.6 V) can far exceed the demand of the actual device.

The 1.9 amp idle draw of the WFCO, over 24 hours is a real battery eater of about 46 amp hours. That is why I like the little Moringstar, with a 0.45 amp draw at idle, plus the search function which reduces it to only about 15 mA.
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:35 PM   #7
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Just looking at the Magnum MS series specs and they list a no load idle demand of 25 watts, which is very close to the WFCO idle specs, approximately 1.9 to 2 amps. The Magnum does have the search function which is similar to the little Morningstar that I am using, so at least it can shut down automatically.
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Old 06-07-2014, 08:19 PM   #8
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It's far easier and energy efficient to simply leave the inverter in the 'off' position when not needed. It is a simple touch of the 'invert' button on the ME-RC to turn the unit on/off for no load waiting.
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Old 06-07-2014, 08:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvery Moon View Post
Thanks guys, this is great stuff. So, which specific Magnum converter would you suggest to quickly and easily replace the Parallax 7355? I could always put in the new converter now and then add the temp sensor later when I have the gumption to get that done. Oh, and Lewster, I'd love to come down and have you do it all for me, but it doesn't look like we'll make it down to the Columbia River gorge area this summer.
The only 'direct replacement' charger for your P/Lax is the Progressive Dynamics PD 4655. It fits in exactly the same space and still has 3 stage charging, though no temp/comp. It comes with a new, upgraded fuse block which is easy to replace, but time consuming to do properly.

The smallest pure sine wave inverter/charger that would do the job for you is the Magnum MMS-1012. It is not a converter, but an inverter/charger. No inverter/charger installation is 'quick and easy' as there are other peripherals like ME-RC monitor panel, battery temp sensor, inverter fuse and cut-off switch that should also be installed.

It certainly isn't rocket science, but does need a bit of familiarity with RV electrical systems to install properly.
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Old 06-08-2014, 03:21 AM   #10
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Thanks again, folks. Given I'm going to have to attempt this myself, I'll take the easy path and install the PD4655 and its new 12V board in place of the P/Lax 7355 and its 12V board. I've looked at a number of install docs and videos, and it looks reasonably straightforward. We'll see!

Looking forward to no longer caring whether the battery is in Store or Use when I'm plugged into shore power - especially for the winter.
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Old 07-07-2014, 12:06 AM   #11
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Thumbs up PD4655 Installed!

I'm pleased to report that today I successfully completed the upgrade from PLax 7355 to PD 4655. The wiring is pretty straightforward, just follow the directions closely and read through all the tips here on the forums. It took me far longer than it would take most folks, but I got the deed done and everything seems to be working as advertised. Now I can leave the trailer plugged in and in "Use" mode 24x7 and without worrying about my batteries getting ruined. This only matters when the trailer is parked in covered storage or when I have hookups and there's no sun to fire up my 150watt solar panel, but it's a big load off my mind to know that I can't accidentally boil my batteries dry while keeping them fully charged. Also nice to know that when I need to, I can force my controller into bulk charge mode to quickly top off the batteries if, say, I'm using a generator while boondocking in the deep shady woods.

Like everybody else here says, before you touch anything, be sure your trailer is unplugged and that you've disconnected all wires from your negative battery terminal. Then check with a volt meter to be sure you're safe. No point frying yourself over a converter replacement!

Stuff of note, in no particular order:
  • Before you even think about starting this project, surf the forums and read all you can find about the conversion. There are several very good threads in the forums from folks who have done this in the past.
  • Before you start this project, get out your headlamp. It's not going to be light enough in there to do the job, and flashlights are just not sufficient. You need a classic headlamp mounted right on your forehead to get a good view. Make that headlamp an essential part of your tools for this job.
  • Allow plenty of time...more than you expect by at least a factor of two, unless you've done this stuff before. Again, not really that hard, not really that confusing, but because of the tight quarters in there, everything takes much longer than you expect to just physically wire it all up. If you're going to be rushing the job to get somewhere you promised to be later in the day, this is *not* the day to do the upgrade.
  • The new converter has a green wire on the AC side of the circuit. Per instructions,I connected this to the ground bus (NOT the neutral bus!) though I did puzzle over it a couple of minutes. In my case, the ground bus was at the top of the access panel, on the left side (the bar runs from left to right), with lots of other wires coming in, all bare copper. That's the ground bus. I'm actually really happy that the new PD converter has a ground wire. Feels like a very good safety & quality move. I don't understand why the PLax didn't have a ground wire. Boo, PLax!
  • The PLax in my 2014 AS had a very odd and per my electrical guy at the hardware store, not-up-to-code, pigtail for the black wire on the AC side of the circuit. They wire-nutted an incoming 20 Amp wire to a pigtail wire, crimped the other end of that pigtail wire together with the controller wire, ending in a post, which they then shoved into the 20 Amp breaker. My electrical guy said that was a huge no-no and would not sell me such a crimp/post combo. He had me buy a foot of black 12 gauge wire and a properly sized wire nut that would handle three 12 gauge wires. Per his instructions, I then wire-nutted the incoming black 20 amp wire, the controller black wire and the new section of wire (yes, 3 wires into one wire nut). Next I put the single new pigtail wire into the 20 Amp breaker. This, I'm told, is what code requires. Perhaps electrical code is different in OH or for TT vs. houses. Who knows. Otherwise, AS has some 'splainin to do. Per the PD instructions, do NOT attempt to stick two wires into that 20 Amp breaker. That is *very* no-no, do *not* attempt.
  • While I had plenty of slack in the red (pos) battery wire, I had very little slack in the white (neg) battery wire. As a result, while I could run the red wire up and over the back of the new DC board, I had to run the white wire up the front side over circuit 12 (more on this in a minute). Someday I may resolve that, but for now it's a cosmetic thing. It works fine and doesn't cause me any problems with fuse access.
  • Given circuits 1 & 2 on the new DC board are low amperage, I started with circuit 3. I moved old circuit 1 to new circuit 3 and on up until the last one, old circuit 9, wound up on new circuit 11. This leaves circuits 1,2 and 12 empty. Since circuit 12 is and probably will always be empty, I ran the white (pos) battery wire up and over that circuit as I brought it up over the front of the board. Again, for now, no harm no foul. Works great until and unless I need to add something to the 12th circuit. I'll cross that bridge when/if I come to it.
  • I kept careful track of all the individual circuit wires on the old DC board. The individual DC circuit wires are so short that I had to disconnect all but the last two before I could even start wiring up to the new board. To increase the excitement, there were two brown circuit wires. One was allegedly "tan" but they looked identical to me. So, I swapped the last two wires (one of them "tan") after I had buttoned down the first brown wire. Naturally, they have different amperage fuses, so I had to get right.
  • The new PD converter box mounting holes came very close but not precisely in alignment with the original PLax holes It required considerable sweating and swearing before I got the new converter box properly seated, but I eventually got it to work without drilling any new holes. Maybe my box was warped compared to others, who knows.
  • The AC panel cover didn't want to line up properly at first, but by jiggling things around I eventually got a flush mount and easily screwed it in. If at first it isn't mounting as well as it did before you removed it, relax, take a deep breath, swear a little and keep jiggling until you get the fit.
  • Mounting the DC board was an incredible pain in the butt. OMG, the *hardest* part of the whole job! With all those short heavy wires mounted and me bending over the access hole on elbows and knees trying to line things up to screw down the board, let's just say I made up a few new swear words along the way. I finally got it mounted, but sheesh, what a difficult step! This is the step you should dread and think in advance how you could make it easier. This difficulty has nothing to do with getting the wiring right. It has everything to do with thick heavy short wires and very little room to maneuver.
  • The PD instructions do not have you threading the signal wires from the controller to the DC board until the very end. Unfortunate, because by then you already have a couple of wires going up through that hole, making it something of a tight fit. I recommend threading the signal wires sooner - perhaps just before you thread the other two controller DC wires through that same hole. You can wait until the proper step to make the connection, but threading it earlier would probably have been easier.
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Old 07-10-2014, 01:12 PM   #12
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Stopped by the TT yesterday to see how things were going...would I find the new converter behaving, or would I find a pile of melted slag?

Very pleased to see when I got there that the new Progressive Dynamics 4655 had switched from "normal" mode to "stored" mode (e.g. float) all by itself, no problem at all. So, the new converter beautifully (and rapidly, when necessary) charges and then maintains the batteries in a fully charged state without boiling them. Now when my TT is in covered storage, I leave it plugged in with the battery switch in the "Use" position 24x7 so the batteries are always in tip-top shape whenever I need them for a trip. I love it!
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Old 07-10-2014, 05:52 PM   #13
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Glad the PD is working for you too. I have one in both my Argosy and my new FC 20'. I measured the input wattage when in float mode and it seems to be about 10 watts, which is very reasonable. I think you will find that your batteries will last much longer as they will be at optimum charge a majority of the time.

If you want more battery capacity, when you change out things, consider two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series to replace the original pair of type 24 in parallel you have as the original equipment. You will need to raise the battery box lid about 1.5 inches but you will gain amp hours of storage, moving from 150-160 amp hours up to about 220 amp hours. I have Costco golf cart batteries in my rigs, about $90 for each battery.
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Old 07-10-2014, 08:01 PM   #14
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Thanks, Idroba. We're most likely to replace those Interstate batteries with something else when they die or demonstrate a capacity low enough to irritate us when attempting to boondock.

I was trying to decide between a couple of golf cart batteries as you suggested (which requires re-engineering the battery box) and a couple of AGM Lifelines. Would those also require that we re-engineer the box?

Meanwhile, a replacement may be in order sooner than I'd hoped, as we dry camped in the deep woods for two nights over the 4th of July. We went into the 1st evening with a full charge. We ran the fridge and HW heater on propane, and the water pump from time to time, but kept the fans and lights off. By the next morning we had 12.4 volts, per the reading my solar panel controller. That trended down to 12.2 before the sun hit our panel through the trees, which pushed us back up to 12.6 before we got back into the shade. Then the next morning, 12.0 volts. So we made it, but we saved every erg we could. Went to bed when it got dark, etc.

Ah, hang on, we were also running the TPMS repeater and the Voyager camera, as they are automatically on if the battery switch is in the USE position. We may have to re-visit that wiring decision!

Anyway, is there a Capacity Test I can have the dealer do on our batteries to see whether they should be replaced under warrantee? They pass the load test with flying colors, but I know that's only one measure.
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