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Old 08-19-2014, 05:03 PM   #1
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What's the best overall electrical system

Hey,

I've been reading the electrical forums and I want to know prior to buying my airstream what is the best overall setup? As far as house wiring goes I'm fairly capable of rewiring a house. RV wiring has me confused as to what is the best system.

Ideally I want a 50 amp service for AC units my concern is where and what type of converters/inverters should be put in. Is solar worth it over a generator? Is dual solar and a generator best? Should better batteries be installed like golf cart batteries with more amp hours? Where should surge protectors be? What is a transfer switch? When not hooked to shore power should a grounding rod of some kind be used with a generator? How much power do you really need?

I want to run a tv maybe for an hour or two a night. Charge electronics such as iPad and smart phone. Have some lights on. AC on when necessary. I don't use microwaves and I'm not going to be using a coffee pot. I also don't need everything to work if I'm boondocking I just want to make sure I get the best user friendly system that works in a variety of settings.

So much info to sort through with regard to wattage, voltage and amps. I'm also not real familiar with 12volt dc systems and what they are capable of running and how to tell whether an appliance or a tv can run off of it.

Thanks
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:40 PM   #2
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What's the best overall electrical system

There will be those who will disagree with me, but when I rebuilt my trailer I discarded all of my 12V stuff except for the water pump, scare lights, and a few utility lights.

I run everything through a 5,000 watt inverter.

This made for a simple installation, and coupled with compact fluorescent lighting it works well for me.

Oh, I only run a 20 amp breaker on my inverter, so yea, 5,000 watts is overkill.
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:49 PM   #3
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There will be those who will disagree with me, but when I rebuilt my trailer I discarded all of my 12V stuff except for the water pump, scare lights, and a few utility lights.

I run everything through a 5,000 watt inverter.

This made for a simple installation, and coupled with compact fluorescent lighting it works well for me.

Oh, I only run a 20 amp breaker on my inverter, so yea, 5,000 watts is overkill.

I DISAGREE! Ok, not really, but you begged for it.


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Old 08-19-2014, 05:52 PM   #4
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Lol.

One thing that I have learned about internet forums.....

There WILL be disagreement.

That is why I never posted about my unorthodox build while I was building... I am hard headed that way.
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:00 PM   #5
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J Morgan:
I don't see anything wrong with what you have done. My only question is; Why did you keep the 12 volt pump?
With the advent of inverters. The technology of travel trailers and motor homes will change.
There are many motor homes out there that are using a residential refrigerator for example.
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:12 PM   #6
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What's the best overall electrical system

You know,,,,, I used the 12 volt pump because I didn't know that 120 volt pumps available until after I bought my 12 volt pump.

I also run a 10 cuft 12 V residential fridge. My tow vehicle powers it no problem going down the road, and my two batteries power it for many hours when parked.

No doubt my trailer is not as energy efficient as a stock configuration might be, but it works well for my use.

I also modified a fried Generac generator to 12 volts to top off the batteries. It is mounted tucked into the spare tire well under the trailer and runs on propane.

In theory the generator is big enough to run my a/c, but I have only tried this in short test runs of about an hour in length. I haven't had the courage to really try it for long spurts, I do not want to fry my inverter.....
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Nomad_Pete View Post
Hey,

I've been reading the electrical forums and I want to know prior to buying my airstream what is the best overall setup? As far as house wiring goes I'm fairly capable of rewiring a house. RV wiring has me confused as to what is the best system.

Ideally I want a 50 amp service for AC units my concern is where and what type of converters/inverters should be put in. Is solar worth it over a generator? Is dual solar and a generator best? Should better batteries be installed like golf cart batteries with more amp hours? Where should surge protectors be? What is a transfer switch? When not hooked to shore power should a grounding rod of some kind be used with a generator? How much power do you really need?

I want to run a tv maybe for an hour or two a night. Charge electronics such as iPad and smart phone. Have some lights on. AC on when necessary. I don't use microwaves and I'm not going to be using a coffee pot. I also don't need everything to work if I'm boondocking I just want to make sure I get the best user friendly system that works in a variety of settings.
I'll try some

First, if you know a residential electrical system, RVs are about the same.

The Airstream has two power distribution systems one for 110v AC stuff, another for 12v DC stuff.

"50amp" RV service is a bit of misnomer, it is 220v system (2 hots and a neutral). So it provides more than twice as much power as 30amp service (11,000 wats vs 3300 watts).....

30amp RV service is a 110v system (1 hot and a neutral) - most Airstreams.

One of the AC breakers in the distribution box feeds 110v into a converter which produces 12v DC current. That feeds a typical 12v fuse panel like you have in a car or a boat.

Even when an RV has "50amp" service, there are not usually any 220v circuits - just two banks of 110v breakers.

Rooftop RV air conditioners are 110v and draw about 12 amps.

Transfer switch works just like one in your house to move between external AC and a built in generator. I suspect it also makes sure there is no voltage on the exposed male end of the external power cord receptacle.

As you know ground is tied to neutral - generator should be wired that way too.

Surge protector shoud be wired directly in front of the distribution panel but they usually are not due to space so folks put them outside on the power cord.

The Airstream 30 amp electrical system is set up well for a variety of situations. Microwave, oven, TV and air conditioner are AC only. Everything else you need to camp is 12v or propane. (I installed a 12v LCD TV however its very low current)

I've not much to add on solar. Big and expensive and lower watts compared to generator but quiet and free power to recharge the batteries, pretty much anywhere you have sun. Generator is 110v so your RV does not know the difference from being plugged into the grid. Solar produces 12v so you'll need an inverter if you have any favorite AC appliances.

hope that helps some.
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Old 08-19-2014, 09:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Wayward View Post
I'll try some

First, if you know a residential electrical system, RVs are about the same.

The Airstream has two power distribution systems one for 110v AC stuff, another for 12v DC stuff.

"50amp" RV service is a bit of misnomer, it is 220v system (2 hots and a neutral). So it provides more than twice as much power as 30amp service (11,000 wats vs 3300 watts).....

30amp RV service is a 110v system (1 hot and a neutral) - most Airstreams.

One of the AC breakers in the distribution box feeds 110v into a converter which produces 12v DC current. That feeds a typical 12v fuse panel like you have in a car or a boat.

Even when an RV has "50amp" service, there are not usually any 220v circuits - just two banks of 110v breakers.

Rooftop RV air conditioners are 110v and draw about 12 amps.

Transfer switch works just like one in your house to move between external AC and a built in generator. I suspect it also makes sure there is no voltage on the exposed male end of the external power cord receptacle.

As you know ground is tied to neutral - generator should be wired that way too.

Surge protector shoud be wired directly in front of the distribution panel but they usually are not due to space so folks put them outside on the power cord.

The Airstream 30 amp electrical system is set up well for a variety of situations. Microwave, oven, TV and air conditioner are AC only. Everything else you need to camp is 12v or propane. (I installed a 12v LCD TV however its very low current)

I've not much to add on solar. Big and expensive and lower watts compared to generator but quiet and free power to recharge the batteries, pretty much anywhere you have sun. Generator is 110v so your RV does not know the difference from being plugged into the grid. Solar produces 12v so you'll need an inverter if you have any favorite AC appliances.

hope that helps some.

Similar to a subpanel in a house, I believe the ground should NOT be bonded to neutral in the breaker box.


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Old 08-20-2014, 08:41 AM   #9
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What's the best overall electrical system

Most inverter generators are not bonded. There for; if you have a surge protector it may not like the generator for that reason. You may have to use a "special" pre wired cord to connect the generator to the coach. There is a thread currently running on this topic.
Look for Richrexw's thread.
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Old 08-20-2014, 10:22 AM   #10
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I appreciate all of the info especially from wayward. With house electrical I've never run short of power because I can always add a breaker and I don't have to worry especially with most houses having 200amp service. I understand what you are saying about 50amp service with regard to rv hookups how it is kinda sorta but not really 220v with the two hots and a neutral. I've read on some of the forum posts that the cold startup amperage for AC is 18amps and if both AC units hit at the same time you are screwed if hooked to 30amp service. I've honestly only worried about watts when doing formulas for how many lights I can put on a single circuit. So much information. I'm also worried that having too large of an inverter will be inefficient because they have some power loss in them. Do converters have power loss as well? I've read a lot about golf cart batteries having more amp hours. I've only ever worried about cold cranking amps to start my vehicles in the winter never the amp hours.

With regard to airstreams I guess I feel like I will be on an electricity diet. I just want to make sure I buy the right appliances. How do you know what tv to buy that runs off of 12v and won't you also have to run either satellite or a DVD player with it that would be 12v? So realistically how long are your batteries going to last boondocking and is that why people have solar purely to recharge the batteries rather than truly using them for direct power? Also I have little experience with generators but from what I've read on the forums there seems to be some confusion on what is truly considered grounded as far as a generator goes. I'm very possibly wrong on this but I thought the generator had to truly be grounded like with a grounding rod in order to not damage the generator or the things it is running. I use generators once and awhile at work and it seems they work fine for powering lights and electronics for construction with no extra ground on a honda 2,000eu.

For the record I am by know means an electrician but I truly try to fully understand what I'm doing and why. I understand how to wire things up what I don't get is why or how AC/DC systems work together. Or why exactly a sine wave inverter is best. I understand that it is best I just don't fully grasp the inner workings. At the end of the day I want my airstream that I buy to have a useful power system to fit my needs, and hopefully a working knowledge base as to how to maintain and repair that system.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:05 AM   #11
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Similar to a subpanel in a house, I believe the ground should NOT be bonded to neutral in the breaker box.
Excellent point. I've not looked closely in the Airstream's distribution panel, but as you say it seems like it is a sub panel wrt grounding. Ground wires form a bonding circuit connecting all metal appliances and boxes together.

My simplistic understanding is...... that all copper ground wires must be set up in a direct path to the grounding rod by the main service panel connected to the utility company. That is so unwanted static charge between metal appliances and/or Lightning heads directly out of the house.

Bonding the ground to neutral in the subpanel would let such a charge appear there, before it headed out the house.

I never thought about it... but the campground hookup box must also be wired as a sub panel (no ground-neutral bonding).
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:34 AM   #12
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With house electrical I've never run short of power because I can always add a breaker and I don't have to worry especially with most houses having 200amp service.
If you add up the current capacities of all your house circuit breakers, they likely add up to far more than 200amps. If you put full load on even half your house circuits it is likely the main breaker would trip.

A 30 amp circuit in the Airstream is the same deal. It really works out fine, just like the house because we really do not have everything on at once. Turning on two rooftop A/C's at the exact same time might create that scenario, and that is why RV's with 2 A/C units have 50amp/220v service.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad_Pete View Post
I understand what you are saying about 50amp service with regard to rv hookups how it is kinda sorta but not really 220v with the two hots and a neutral.
Actually it is exactly the same as a residential 220v subpanel with no double pole breakers used

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I've read on some of the forum posts that the cold startup amperage for AC is 18amps and if both AC units hit at the same time you are screwed if hooked to 30amp service.
There is a handy gadget for increasing the number of high current appliances to an RV without upgrading the incoming service. It is called a priority switch, load shedder, or automatic energy select switch.

It works by hooking two high current loads (up to 20 amps each) to the output side of the breaker. But the breaker will only serve one of them at a time. So for example: the bathroom receptacle takes up a 20amp breaker but is rarely used and only for a short period, for say a hair dryer. Use this switch to put you second AC unit to the priority side of it. If you are blow drying your hair when the AC calls for power, the power to the hairdryer circuit goes off.
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Originally Posted by Nomad_Pete View Post
I've honestly only worried about watts when doing formulas for how many lights I can put on a single circuit.
Wattage calculations are important when comparing 50amp RV service to 30amp. Upgrading 50 amp service to 30 amp sounds like a power increase of about 60%. But it also goes up to 220v so it is actually more than 200% increase in power.

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I'm also worried that having too large of an inverter will be inefficient because they have some power loss in them. Do converters have power loss as well?
Inverters are inefficient but it is only a concern when running off battery power. Converters to 12v are more efficent but there really are no high current 12v loads when you are hooked up to 110v.

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With regard to airstreams I guess I feel like I will be on an electricity diet. I just want to make sure I buy the right appliances.
I think that you will find that 30amp/110v service in a compact Airstream is plenty

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How do you know what tv to buy that runs off of 12v and won't you also have to run either satellite or a DVD player with it that would be 12v?
It takes a bit of internet searching. I look at the online photos owners manual for ones that have external "bricks". If the brick converts 110v to 12v and plug it straight into the Airstream's 12vdc circuit. 12vdc and 5vdc are most common. 12v to 5v converters are very efficient but take up space.

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I understand how to wire things up what I don't get is why or how AC/DC systems work together.
They are separate systems. The RV factory installs a converter at the factory to charge the batteries so we can run 12vdc stuff when hooked up ro 110v.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad_Pete View Post
Or why exactly a sine wave inverter is best. I understand that it is best I just don't fully grasp the inner workings.
Do not worry about it now unless you have critcal AC suff to run when on batteries (eg medical equipment). You can study up once you have your Airstream.

Quote:
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At the end of the day I want my airstream that I buy to have a useful power system to fit my needs, and hopefully a working knowledge base as to how to maintain and repair that system.
If you buy a late model one it will be quite useful and well thought out. If you buy an older one you can upgrade in stages. There is a wealth of knowledge here.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:24 PM   #13
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Once again wayward thank you for taking me to school I still have a lot to learn. I meant with regard to a residential 200amp service no one ever really runs 200amps at one time so you can always add another breaker or run more than one high amp appliance at once. With a 30amp service and dual AC running from what I've read it's not going to work and if it does you can't really run anything else.

It also seems that there is some variation between rv hookup sites and that good power sources are hard to come by. As I said by no means an electrician and when it goes beyond 110ac for house wiring I know enough to be dangerous so I subcontract out any 220work. I still slightly confused when people say the 50amp breaker is essentially 220v but for the rv it's two 110 breakers. So I guess my question is does the rv distribution panel take the 50amp 220v and split it into two 110v breakers? If that is what it does then does then do you have a 50amp circuit breaker or do you have two 20amp breakers? The reason I ask is if I buy an older one and have it wired up with 50amp service I want to know what to ask them to wire it up for.

The automatic energy select switch is a very cool idea. Thank you for informing me about them.

The reason I was concerned about converter power loss is I would eventually buy a generator or maybe two honda 2,000 and link them together and I know if you don't buy a big enough one you can't run everything you want. I just want a generator to run at least on AC unit and some supplemental power if I do buy one. Where I would be boondocking hopefully I wouldn't need AC to often. I generally go to places like Joshua Tree and Zion national park in the winter and would boondock in between.

I feel I may be coming off as someone who needs way to much power. That's not the case I know for the most part as long as I don't need AC I won't need hardly any power. It's just that I'm thinking of making an airstream my permanent home and it's a lot of money to spend I just want the home to have everything I need. I honestly don't need much more than a few lights and my iPad or a tv once and awhile. AC is huge for me though I pave asphalt for a living as my main source of income and after shoveling 300 degree asphalt in 100 degree heat all day I need my home to be cool.

I really appreciate all of the information. At this point I'm leaning towards buying an older used airstream and all of this information helps a great deal. I come home from work and just read the forums for hours every day trying to understand what systems are the best. This thread I started is just one area of the many topics I have been researching. I'm currently researching plumbing, trailer tires, sway bars, load leveling, batteries (like using golf cart batteries over what comes stock to increase amp hours), rivets, subfloor issues, leak issues, solar power, generators, where I can even park the thing when I get it, how hard remodeling is, and so many more, and now that I'm aware of filiform corrosion I'm super scared to buy a new one.

So thank you to everyone who is posting. I truly appreciate the knowledge.
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Old 08-21-2014, 04:23 PM   #14
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Welcome to the forums. With a name like Nomad Pete, I would say that you are destined to become an Airstream owner.

There are lots of different ways to design your electrical system.
The bottom line is to do whatever is right for you.

I would not worry about 50 amp service. You only need this for 2 A/C units and you are sitting in your trailer during the day.

When I started out, I was going to have solar, maybe 4 golf cart batteries and a 1500 watt inverter. The reason for 1500 watts was to operate my wife's hair dryer, the microwave and a toaster.

What I have is two golf cart batteries and a 400 watt inverter. I use the inverter for powering a 50 watt 14" floor fan, an outside table lamp and recharging cell phones. Everything else electrical is powered by 12v and my two golf cart batteries. I tend to boondock mostly by myself, but if my wife is with me, I have a 1000 watt Honda gennie for her hair dryer and making toast. My gennie also powers my small 5,000 btu/hr A/C unit, but we rarely need A/C.

The two GC batteries work for me because my electrical loads are very low. My lights are all LED. My tv is 12v and only uses about 40 watts. My jack antenna amplifier is 12v. The water pump is 12v. My indoor fan is 36 watts.
My weak link presently is the furnace fan. I am going to replace the furnace soon and the new one furnace should use less than have the power that the old furnace fan uses. My fridge is new, but the design is old and 12v power is only used for the igniter. I typically boondock for 4 nights at a time. I have a Voltminder, so I can keep track of my voltage all the time. My voltage at the beginning of a trip is usually about 12.9v. After 4 days camping in warm weather, no furnace, my voltage is only down to 12.7v.

If you would like more details on what I have done, I have a thread "Dan's 66 Tradewind Improvements." Here is the link.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f116...nts-94152.html

This system works for me, but there are certainly lots of other ways to get there. Just find what works for you.

Good Luck, Dan
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