First, I had to be sure everything had a good ground. I had exposed and cleaned the frame, but the self-tapping screws I had purchased just weren’t big enough to properly terminate all the grounds I had. I had purchased a connector block at the auto-parts store, but it was meant for a bunch of separate connections, not one big one. My solution was to use multiple screws and turn the chassis into my grounding ‘bus.’
Next, I had to make the leads for the battery. It will be temporarily set in the cabinet for testing. For the time being, I terminated the wires to alligator clips for quick connections. I eventually plan to get a sealed and vented battery box. You see there are regular batteries and sealed batteries. Regular ones have caps that allow you to replenish the distilled water inside, prolonging their usable life. However, this also means explosive gas can escape, which doesn’t mix with electronics that can cause spark… The vented box will direct any and all gases to the exterior for harmless dissipation.
Next, I double-checked EVERYTHING. I was just plain nervous. “I’m no electrician,” I thought “what the heck am I doing, attempting this on my own?” However, as a buddy of mine said last night, “Well, if you are doing it, I’m sure it will be right.” He had a point. I second-guess myself a lot, but I do darn well at just about anything I set my mind to. That was it, nothing left to do but flip the switch.
Since the converter so nicely segments things, I thought the lowest-risk place to start was to hook up the battery. No sparks, smoke, or explosion, whew. Using my volt meter, I saw that it was getting to the right circuit, and the ground was working.
Now I put in the ominous-sounding ‘battery protection fuse’ still ok, only now it was providing 12v DC to the other circuits. So far, so good. I put in the fuse for circuit #1, which is patched into all the existing lights. I turned one on (and wouldn’t you know) It worked! I did my happy dance and turned the others on. For the first time, I had electric lights OFF GRID! (It’s the simple things, really.)
Now I turned everything back off, for it was time to do the scary part. The DC side of things (car electrical) had tested out perfectly. Next I had to tackle the AC (land-line power) side of things. This was not made any easier by the numerous warning labels of personal hazard. I especially liked the one that said it would damage/ruin the converter if done improperly. *Sigh*
Without further adieu, I ran an extension chord from the shop and plugged it in. No shock, spark, or explosion. Of course, the breaker was off, so this only ratified 3 ft of wire… Employing the volt meter again, I was indeed, getting 110v AC to the breaker. (At this point my cautiousness was starting to annoy me as well.) I flipped the breaker, and the fan in the converter kicked on, the lights got brighter, and that was it! Whew!
Running some tests, it was putting out excess voltage to charge the battery. Playing with the breaker, I noticed the fan only ran while on AC. Also, if I only had 2-3 lights on, the fan stayed off, additional lights would kick the fan on, so I figured it must be controlled by the amount of power you’re consuming.
The last electrical task was the moment I had been waiting for, the reason for converting my whole electrical system, to install LED lights! It was quick, painless, and they worked great! The light is a little whiter, but at least it doesn’t have that blue-ish tint I’ve heard of. Better yet, where I could run 2-3 bulbs before activating the fan, now I can run all 5! I don’t yet have my new multi-meter with clamp to tell you the precise draw, but it’s supposed to be 1/10th of an incandescent. Here’s a before and after, without use of my flash:
So happy, I could spit….
Finally, the last stage was my least favorite. Cleanup. It’s amazing really, I must have made 2 dozen trips to get all this stuff in the camper, and now I have to put it all away. Oh well, it feels good to be done!