Trip Date 03/15/2018
Posted On 06/30/2018 01:31:02
Camping | Trailer Hacks | RV Customizations | Texas | 12v Accessory Outlets | Battery Switch
As I was planning our RV purchase, I put a lot of thought into what we would need in order to boondock. I knew I couldn't do all of the necessary modifications at once, so I decided to take them step by step. Although we've only boondocked twice while overnight parking, it is good to be prepared.
Running Only On Battery PowerOne of the biggest considerations for boondocking is power from the RV's battery (a 12 volt battery). While the lights are 12 volt, other accessories don't have a good place to plug in. (As a side note, LED lighting truly is far superior - it uses less power and is much brighter. While most newer RVs already have them, if your RV does not you may want to consider replacing your existing lights with LEDs.)
When I bought our RV, I asked my salesman to add a few 12v cigarette lighter receptacles in the living room. I wanted the ability to run fans and maybe even our laptops. Because of difficulty and the risk of messing up the overhead cabinets, I ended up with only one receptacle near the entertainment system. It was a good start, and I can use a splitter as needed.
After more thought and some time to investigate wire routing, I decided my next addition would be adding 12v plugs on both bedside end tables so that we could plug in some fans for more comfortable sleeping in warm weather. I found some accessory sockets that have a 12v cigarette lighter plug, 2 USB plugs and a volt meter.
Our first time boondocking without air conditioning was, of course, on a day that hit 105 degrees during the day and settled to 90 at night. These plugs were extremely valuable for running some DC fans that we had purchased. We also use the USB regularly for charging our phones and tablets.
The volt meter also provides good feedback on how much charge is in the battery, how much power I'm getting from my tow vehicle and the amount of power I'm getting from the charge controller. When plugged into the tow vehicle with the engine running, the RV receives power from the engine's alternator. The charge controller is an electrical component in an RV that converts AC to DC and charges the battery. The volt meter displays 13.7 volts when charging from the charge controller while plugged into shore power and also from my Ford Expedition when the trailer wiring is connected and the car is running. A fully charged 12v deep cycle battery will have about 13.7 volts when charging, and about 12.8v when full. Additionally,
- at 75%, it will have about 12.50v;
- at 50%, it will have about 12.2v; and
- at 25%, it will have about 11.75v.
Each brand of battery may have different voltage to percent full mapping. Generally, they say you don't want your battery below 50%, and you should charge it so that it can maintain over 12 volts of power to properly run your devices. This digital voltage meter is more precise than the standard 4 lights on the RV control panel showing percentages.
I use the 12v accessory plug in the living room for an Endless Breeze fan (which is like the Fantastic Fan but portable).
I also have a 12v extension cord that gives me more placement options.
As of this time, I haven't tried to implement any solar panel charging features. I have a standard 80amp deep cycle group 24 battery. I haven't run out of power on any of my short periods on battery - either boondocking, parked in a driveway without charging, or at a Walmart.
Cooling Your RV on Battery PowerI purchased some cheap 12v 8" clip-on trucker fans that come in handy in the bedroom. Placed near an open window on a hot summer night without A/C, they definitely provide some relief.
One caution - sometimes this type of fan doesn't have a finger guard on the back. At one point we had an accident that can easily be avoided. The fan has a switch in the power cable and when pressed, it goes on or off. Once, in the dark, we turned the fan off and set it aside. Later, the switch was accidentally stepped on which caused the fan to turn on (very quietly). When the fan was picked up, thinking it was still off, fingers went through the back-side of the fan and directly into the blades. Ouch! Don't do that. You can avoid this problem by purchasing a fan with a finger guard!
I also installed FanTastic Fans in the bedroom ceiling vent and bathroom - refer to our blog post for details on the installation.
What advice do you have on which direction to point your fans? Should fans blow into or out of the window, or do you recommend one blowing in each direction? Please comment below!
Installing Additional 12v Accessory OutletsDoing the installation was pretty easy because I could run the wiring through the storage cabin in the front of the trailer. However, I needed to locate a 12v wire nearby. On one side of the bedroom, we have a factory installed USB plug just over the bedside table. I was able to tap into that plug to run additional wiring to my new accessory outlet, down through the storage cabin and up the other side for another outlet.
To do the install I needed to take the drawers out. This was tricky. The drawers have little plastic latches to release them from the sliding rails, but they move in opposite directions on each side of the drawer. Since it is hard (or impossible) to see them, if you don't know this you can fiddle forever.
One thing that I learned during the installation is that the RV came with a battery switch inside the storage cabin to turn off all of the power. However, not all power draws (power vampires) go through the switch. The USB plug that I was tapping was not turned off by the master switch. Look out! You may have a battery master switch that doesn't turn everything off! (See my blog post about a battery switch installed by the RV dealer that I later reinstalled.)
Once I got the drawers out, I drilled a hole into the back wall over each bedside table. I also drilled a hole from the storage cabin up into the drawer area. There were already some holes inside the drawer that went into the wall space. (I realize that it may be hard to understand and visualize how I routed my wiring, and you'll need to figure out your routing based on your RV configuration.) Once I had my holes, I ran black and red 12v capable wiring (from the USB that I was tapping) through the wall and into the drawer space. Then from the drawer space, I ran another wire down through the storage cabin, and similarly up on the other side.
Once the wiring was there, I could attach and screw in the new accessory outlets and wire it all together.
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