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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,535 days a wanderin'

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Electrical Explained

Jul 29, 2015
by John

We have received a few inquiries about what our electrical system entails. Unless you have nothing better to do or if you are really interested in our electrical setup you may want to skip this entry. If you do read this and something isn't clear or appears incomplete please ask questions and I'll do my best to fill in the gaps. I'm not a professional, just a home builder, this be just what we did Cletis.

We decided to go entirely 12v to keep things simple. We have a small pure sine wave 150 watt inverter we'll use to charge laptops, run the hair clippers and possibly power a small coffee grinder. Pretty much everything else should be 12v and have a respective cable for charging. If needed, we can add a second house battery and/or a larger inverter while on the road.

We cheated a bit and had Ujoint add the house battery to the rear skid plate and attach it to the existing charging relay. They also installed an inline mega fuse to add a bit of protection between the two battery banks. Our van is a diesel which has two starting batteries but it also has dual alternators, rare in a cargo. The addition of solar gives us two power sources for charging all our batteries.

The command center, recessed to protect the surface mounted items

The command center, recessed to protect the surface mounted items

The Gist

Six circuits segment out our power requirements while protecting our essential components. Two are dedicated to the exterior for lighting and the outlets on the camp side, one handles the interior lighting, one is for the driver side outlets in the storage platform, one is dedicated to the fridge and the last one is for the two outlets in the front of the fridge platform and the electrical components like the CO/propane detector. The fuse block is connected to the house battery with an inverter wiring kit, we had trouble sourcing 4 gauge wire locally which is why we purchased a kit.

We have seven switches in the kitchenette but only six are being used, we may add another red led light while on the road. Three are for the exterior lights (2 porch and one red led), one for the exterior outlets (no free power moochers), one for the interior red light and the dimmer controls the overhead lights. We were hoping the two lights in the penthouse top were wired separately, they're not, we'll control them by the main switch and the ones that are on the fixtures themselves.

Switches just inside the barn doors for easy access

Switches just inside the barn doors for easy access

Our solar panel runs to the charge controller then to the house battery. The battery meter is connected to the house battery, it can monitor a second bank but we decided to use our scan gauge II to monitor the van's batteries. The battery meter reports the health back in percentage of full for ease of use. It can also be used to monitor load so we'll be able to manage our consumption. I'm sure I'll monitor electrical load individually to see what each of our personal electronics draw. Mandi has already joked about how obsessed I'll become and what an annoyance it'll be, someones gotta geek out over the data and run scenarios.

The automatic charging relay connects the two battery banks. When the van's engine is running any extra power will be relayed to the house battery. When the van's engine is off any extra solar power will be relayed to the van batteries, essentially keeping both banks fully charged when possible. There is a switch mounted under the fridge, another is on top of the unit, that can isolate the banks or join them. This will enable us to jump start ourselves if needed, theoretically.

Where we could, we used electrical connector plugs to provide a quick disconnect for removal of the platforms or kitchenette. We also used them behind the walls for the lights and exterior outlets. It would be a major pain but we could disconnect any component that develops a short during our trip, removing everything to get behind the respective wall panel... hopefully something we won't have to do.

Waterproof Electrical Connector spliced for two outlets

Waterproof Electrical Connector spliced for two outlets

The Playaz

Through research, personal preferences and availability, the following items are the major components that encompass our electrical system:

Deka 4D AGM Battery (8A4D 198 Amp Hours)

Deka 4D AGM Battery (8A4D 198 Amp Hours)
Deka 4D AGM Battery (8A4D 198 Amp Hours)

Mega Fuse

Mega Fuse
Mega Fuse

500 amp/50mv Shunt

500 amp/50mv Shunt
500 amp/50mv Shunt

Blue Sea Systems 100A Fuse Block (5025)

Blue Sea Systems 100A Fuse Block (5025)
Blue Sea Systems 100A Fuse Block (5025)

Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relay (7622)

Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relay (7622)
Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relay (7622)

Kyocera 255 Watt 60 Cell Solar Panel (KD255GX-LFB)

Kyocera 255 Watt 60 Cell Solar Panel (KD255GX-LFB)
Kyocera 255 Watt 60 Cell Solar Panel (KD255GX-LFB)

Blue Sky Solar Boost 3000i MPPT Charge Controller

Blue Sky Solar Boost 3000i MPPT Charge Controller
Blue Sky Solar Boost 3000i MPPT Charge Controller

Tri Metric Battery System Monitor (TM2025RV)

Tri Metric Battery System Monitor (TM2025RV)
Tri Metric Battery System Monitor (TM2025RV)

Safe-T-Alert CO/LP Alarm (70-742)

Safe-T-Alert CO/LP Alarm (70-742)
Safe-T-Alert CO/LP Alarm (70-742)

 

The minor pieces like lights, wires, connectors and such:

  • Bargman Clear Black Base Porch Lite (3078524)
  • Gold Stars LED Dome Light Fixture Single (F3528001)
  • Gold Stars LED Dome Light Fixture Double (F3528002)
  • LED Convenience Courtesy LED Light
  • JR Products Black Dimmer On/Off Switch with Bezel (12275)
  • JR Products Black Triple SPST On-Off Switch with Bezel (12245)
  • Blue Sea Systems 12 Volt Dash Sockets
  • Blue Sea Systems Dual USB Charger Sockets
  • Cobra 4-AWG Heavy-Duty AC Power Inverter Cable Kit (CPI-A4000BC)
  • Yiding 5 Kit 2 Pin Way Car Waterproof Electrical Connector Plug with Wire
  • 12 and 18 gauge spools of wire
  • 1/4" and 3/8" wire loom
  • Assorted heat shrink, connectors, waterproof fuse holders, fuses, etc.

 

I worked with Northern Arizona Wind & Sun to properly configure our solar setup. I wanted one large Kyocera 60 cell high voltage solar panel and the Blue Sky 3000i MPPT controller. They worked with me to select the rest of the system and to ensure I'd have everything necessary. I highly recommend using them, they sent me exactly what I needed including the proper wires and extra connectors. This point is not trivial, our battery meter required a couple of twisted pairs of wires. They sent a cable that contained three twisted pairs, while a pain to strip, it was fairly simple to install properly.

Three twisted pairs and a ground, I received my worst cut of the build getting this photo

Three twisted pairs and a ground, I received my worst cut of the build getting this photo

All in our solar setup set us back about $1100 shipped. The battery meter isn't absolutely necessary, it is nice knowing the exact charge state of the battery as a percentage. Our solar configuration was one of our largest purchases, an important one for us. In attempting to keep it all simple we designed our electrical system with a single battery and a single solar panel. This was my first solar install, the custom kit we received from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun was perfect.

Everything else was picked up from Amazon. Using the wishlist helped us grab many of the pieces over several months when they were on sale. This gave us ample time to work out where we wanted outlets and the "command" center, everything was conceptually moved around several times before we settled on their exact locations.

What We Did

I found it easier to focus on each major component separately to make sure I properly installed them and to better understand how they would interface/interact with each other. While my chicken scratch drawings and cryptic notes worked well for me, these basic breakdowns may be a bit nicer to follow and provide a great reference if I ever need to troubleshoot.

 

House Battery, Mega Fuse and Shunt (Negative)

Battery Positive (+) to Mega Fuse

Battery Negative (-) to Battery side of Shunt

Shunt to Frame/Chasis

 

Fuse Block

Positive (+) from Mega Fuse to Fuse Block

Frame/Chasis side Shunt to Fuse Block negative (-)

6 pair of 12 gauge wires, positive (+) and negative (-) for each branch

 

Safe-T-Alert CO/LP Alarm

Positive (+) from Fuse Block to Safe-T-Alert positive (+)

Negative (-) from Fuse Block to Safe-T-Alert negative (-)

 

Solar/Charge Controller

Solar Panel positive (+) to 60 amp inline fuse to Blue Sky Controller PV positive (+)

Solar Panel negative (-) to Blue Sky Controller PV negative (-)

Blue Sky Controller positive (+) to 30 amp fuse to Battery positive (+)

Blue Sky Controller negative (-) to Frame/Chasis side of Shunt

Temperature sensor cable (two wires) from Blue Sky Controller to Battery negative (-)

 

Battery Monitor

Twisted Pair One

Battery One positive (+) to 1 amp fuse to Mega Fuse

Ground One to Kelvin connection on Frame/Chasis side of Shunt

Twisted Pair Two

SIG to Kelvin connection on Battery side of Shunt

Ground Two to Kelvin connection on Frame/Chasis side of Shunt

 

Automatic Charging Relay

Van Battery Positive (+) to bottom left Relay terminal (labeled as A)

House Battery Positive (+) to bottom right Relay terminal (labeled as B)

Red wire from Relay to #2 position on Relay switch

Yellow wire from Relay to #7 (-) position on Relay switch

Brown wire from Relay to 2 amp inline fuse to accessory/ignition for radio

Black wire from Relay to Frame/Chasis side of Shunt

#8 (+) position on Relay switch to inline 2 amp fuse to Fuse Block positive (+)

#3 position on Relay switch jumper to #8 (+) position on Relay switch

#1 position on relay switch to Fuse Block negative (-)

 

**Author's Note**

This entry was written several months before we departed on our trip. Sadly, I expected to create diagrams for each component before it was posted. I obviously haven't taken the time, it's better to provide a rough idea then to never provide anything at all we suppose. Even as we are kicking around Anchorage awaiting our shock replacement I've failed to work on the diagrams. Alas, it may never be so. If you have any questions please contact us and we'll do our best to share our experience.


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Say what? (8)
Ryan
Jul 30, 2015 at 01:11 PM
This is very timely. I've been researching solar/battery/electrical for my van over the past few months. Thanks for the info!
Aug 3, 2015 at 07:39 PM
Anytime Ryan! Feel free to ask us any questions. One thing we would do differently is forego installing the remote switch for the automatic charging relay. There is a switch on the unit so it's redundant but mostly unnecessary since we placed the unit in an accessible spot.
David
Aug 3, 2015 at 07:43 AM
I'm curious as to the purpose of the shunt. I know I could look it up, but then I'd deprive your readership of your explanation.

Still loving the bloggy bits of wit & wisdom!
Aug 3, 2015 at 07:51 PM
Hey David!

The negative shunt is necessary for the battery meter to monitor current flow. The meter measures the changes in voltage between the two points on the shunt.
David Elliott
Aug 3, 2015 at 10:19 PM
Must work like a bridge then - the shunt has a known resistance and the voltmeter is connected across the shunt terminals, right?
Aug 8, 2015 at 04:56 PM
Exactly.
Adam and Gillian
Sep 6, 2015 at 11:37 PM
This is a great write-up. I can't believe how similar your things are to the ones I was looking at. It really helps to see that someone else has done it all though.

Bit of a newbie though still, can you tell me what the purpose of the mega fuse is? (might be a dumb question).

Will be following your blog for sure!
Sep 8, 2015 at 12:27 PM
Hey Adam and Gillian!

The mega fuse is to protect the battery in case of a short. It's an alternative to a circuit breaker. The fuse block also recommends a fuse between it and the battery so it serves a dual purpose. The pic is of a 150, we replaced it with a 100 amp based on the fuse block specs. In a pinch we can remove it, shutting off all power to the house portion of the van.

Have fun with your build!
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