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Old 08-26-2009, 12:17 AM   #1
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Default Electrical Questions for newbie

I just picked up a 04 E250 and want to start the conversion. Question is how do I power a few small items? Im looking to power a TV, kids playstation, microwave and some small interior lights. Is it better to set it up to run off the van or a generator? Im still reading up on inverters so im still unclear on them. I have no idea where to start on this. Any "words of wisdom" would greatly be appreciated. Thanks
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Old 08-26-2009, 01:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: Electrical Questions for newbie

You’ll have your chassis battery for starting the motor etc. I’d suggest leaving that alone. You don’t want to get stranded.

Consider adding a house battery. That would be a 12v deep cycle battery. Both batteries can be charged by the van’s alternator. Make sure to separate the batteries using an isolator or battery separator.

If you are on the move daily then you could get by without a separate charging system for the house battery.

The house battery by itself will run your 12v Interior lights. Add an inverter to run your TV & Kids playstation.

The microwave will consume a lot of power if you use an inverter. Allow for 100 amp current draw (or more). The cabling from the battery to the inverter should be as short as possible and the right gauge to handle that current without a drop in voltage.

A quiet generator would also run the 110v items. I say quiet because most campgrounds have rules re: noise. Most campgrounds prohibit you from running a generator past a certain hour.

Check out all of Terry’s photo’s of one of his custom conversions:

Link: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=885

The photos can take a while to load depending on your internet connection but are worth the wait. There are closeups of his converter (converts 110v to 12V and also charges the house battery) and his battery separator etc. It’s like a "how to" manual!
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Old 08-26-2009, 01:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: Electrical Questions for newbie

Also, it comes down to personal preference and your planned use and your budget.

I've only ever used my generator twice while camping. I like multiple battery setups, led lights, inverters, solar etc. and propane to run my fridge, furnace and stove. That's my preference. I don't "cook" with a microwave much but use it for microwave popcorn etc.

You might find this interesting:

Amps used by common RV items

Here's another project from Terry:

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Old 08-26-2009, 01:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Electrical Questions for newbie

I don't know how much these cost:


The XPower Powerpack 1500 system consists of a battery pack that stores electricity, advanced electronics that convert 12 volts of DC power from the battery pack to household power, an AC power panel that contains two standard outlets, and a DC power panel that is used to operate 12 volt products. Combined in a rugged cart, the XPower Powerpack 1500 can be easily wheeled from
room-to-room or outdoors over rough terrain.

Product Features

* Operates 120 Vac or 12 Vdc products anywhere
* Sealed, non-spillable 60 amp-hour AGM battery
* High surge protection and automatic over-temperature and overload shutdown
* Low voltage alarm and shutdown prevents deep battery discharge
* Battery level indicator confirms charge level
* High power 12 Vdc connector
* Two three-prong AC outlets
* Padded grip towing handle is removable for easy storage, and built-in side handles allow for easy lifting


* AC charger – recharge the XPower Powerpack 1500 from a standard wall outlet
* DC charger cable – recharge XPower Powerpack 1500 from a vehicle or RV


* Emergency power: operates essential appliances such as a fridge, cordless and cell phone, radio, fan, lamp, home security system, microwave, sump pump and more
* Work productivity: operates power tools such as a drill, belt sander, circular saw and more; powers communication devices such as a laptop, desktop and monitor, printer, fax machine and more
* Indoor and outdoor recreation: operates a TV, blender, video game console, portable cooler, coffee maker and more
It could be a quick and easy solution for your power needs.
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Old 08-26-2009, 03:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: Electrical Questions for newbie

Ok, Joe,
I am a newbie to my class B but I have been running dual battery systems and inverters in my Suburbans for many years. I have used it for computers, TV, power tools, lights, a toaster oven and even a big Mels Griot Laser.

First you need a second battery and a place to mount it. I am currently using an Optima Blue deep cycle battery mounted in the factory battery tray. I recommend the factory tray if there is one available. They use two batteries with a diesel so there may be one for your van.

Now you need an isolator so that you can charge both batteries but only draw from the auxiliary battery. The one I have is a relay and a voltage sensor so that it connects both batteries when the alternator is charging. I have had solid state units and older relay units but my Roadtrek has one just like the unit in my Suburban.

Next is the inverter. You can get a 1500 watt inverter for about $150. Mine is made by Coleman but I think they just rebrand them. Anyway it has lasted through two vehicles and I have run a toaster oven to heat PopTarts and toast. I never tried a microwave. The important thing is to use the correct size cable. If the instructions say #2 wire then use #2 wire. I also put a 100 amp fuse-able link on the feed from the battery.

It is a simple system and works well. You can also take it from vehicle to vehicle when you get something new. I can sit in the back of the suburban and watch a movie and still have plenty of battery power left. Another cool thing is if you leave your lights on and kill the battery, you can jump start yourself...
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