What was I thinking? (House Battery Install Part2)

IMG_5489This weekend was a ‘guy’ weekend, as my daughter stayed at her mom’s. She had a sleepover, we had a ‘play date’ luncheon, all was neatly planned except Saturday. I told my son we had to get some work done. He was a trooper, and we got some wood split, but I couldn’t be a slave driver, so I graciously allowed him to play some video games while I soldiered on, diving into the next stage of my camper upgrades.

To help my few but loyal readers understand my reasoning, I’ll have to set the stage a bit…

IMG_5488You see, next weekend is Easter. While I won’t have kids, I do have a paintball party to attend. This month will be hosted a 3 hours drive away in Baker County. An early riser, I am not, so leaving by dawn wasn’t high on my wish-list, though paintballing was. What to do? Take the camper the night before! Another bachelor-buddy of mine will tag along, should be fun.

I had acquired an AC/DC converter and mounted it over a year ago, and never hooked it up. (This thingy plugs my camper into an extension cord to charge the battery and run the lights.) Now, with the acquisition of some solar parts, I was in need of a test bed… enter the camper project. If I could overhaul my camper in time, I could test my new battery, charger, and LED lights with a one-night-er close to home. No time like the present!

IMG_5491I started by setting my 45w solar panel in the window of my shop and testing the voltage, looks good. (I learned all sorts of stuff about solar panels in that purchase.) I attached my solar charger from it to my new deep-cycle battery, using cool quick-disconnect fittings which appear to be standard on these solar panels. It promptly told me my battery had juice, and thus, didn’t charge. (Darn, I’ll have to drain the battery to test that, I think.)IMG_5496

Next, I proceed to my camper. The 120v to 12v AC transformer lied in a cupboard above the stove, while the input and location for the battery lied in a lower cupboard. In between was the icebox. After much wasted time on the wrong, rusted, stripped screws, I was able to remove it, two brackets falling off in the process. Within was a mess of old insulation, rodent droppings, and insect carcasses, yum. Carefully discarding the 1968-vintage debris, I was able to see how the wires were ran.   (Great, now I need fresh insulation.)

It was time to remove the transformer. This thing was truly a relic and had been the cause of much frustration at first. While it DID power the lights when plugged in, it fed them 12v AC instead of DC. (I triple-checked with multiple meters.) This prevents me from testing ANY standard things requiring a vehicle’s DC system. In short, my incandescent bulbs worked, but I’d fry my new, fancy LED IMG_5500ones.

It was obviously mounted before the cabinets, as it was in a torturously small alcove with no frontal access. I started careful, trying to detach and remove everything in an orderly fashion, but soon resorted to an all-out cable-cutting frenzy. A WHOLE lot of frustration and tingly, outstretched arms later, it stubbornly came out. Left behind is a Frankenstein-style switch which I think I’ll keep to throw power to the running lights when I want to work on them off-truck.

The one AC outlet had insufficient wire length to reuse, so I ran a new one relatively easily. I’m sad to say the input is too short as well. The converter I got was from an RV manufaIMG_5509cturer liquidation. While being a heck of a deal, unfortunately, it didn’t come with a manual or anything. After figuring out what I could, I stared and prodded the wiring panel like a chimp doing algebra. It was at this point I gave up and called it a day.

Looking back, I think it’s good that I finally started it, as now I must finish. That said, I think I was insane to crack that nut a week before a planned trip. Oh well, wish me luck! I’ll be devoting my evenings to this endeavor all week…

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