Energy Matters

Captain’s log:

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything, with good reason…

I finally decided to take the plunge and relocate the batteries and do a general upgrade of the electrical system. Being that I knew next to nothing about electrical work, it became an epic battle for knowledge and power…

It all began when I realized that the two old batteries for our fifth wheel where not really cutting it. I had to run the generator for at least an hour a night just to keep them working. Not really a good deal because of the noise, the amount of money and wear and tear on the generator to say the least.

So I devised a plan to buy a battery bank, relocate it, remove the faulty converter (this changes AC electricity to DC, mostly important when you are at a campsite.) and install an inverter/charger.

So I began to gather the materials for the big day:

 

Wood for the battery box
Wood for the battery box

I was lucky to find several sheets of wood on the side of the road. These ended up becoming the new battery box under the couch.

 

Inverter/Charger and it's connections
Inverter/Charger and it’s connections

This guy, a Xantrex Prosine2 inverter/charger, came to me by way of Craigslist. It is supposed to charge the batteries at up to 100 amps, output 2KW of pure sine AC and switch automatically from inverting to charging when it detects “shore power” AKA electricity from outside. Awesome right? More on that down a ways…

 

The storm before the calm
The storm before the calm

In the middle of all this, I realize that the battery box is too tall for the couch. Yeah, I know, measure twice cut once. So I did what any self respecting projecteer would do. Flip out, kick things, scream and finally comely raise the couch a couple of inches.

 

Raised couch, battery box and inverter/charger
Raised couch, battery box and inverter/charger

Here you see the couch raised, battery box and inverter nearly in place. What’s next? Well only a billion things. But wait!

 

New and improved toilet
New and improved toilet

In the middle of work one day, Erin messages me (we have no cell signal, so it’s Google Talk for us) that the toilet overfilled the black water tank and water had gone all over the bathroom floor and part of the kitchen. What ensued was NOT pretty. So I’ll just do a recap. Turns out the toilet hinge got stuck on flush. When I got home and attempted to fix the toilet all hell broke loose. I could not put it together again and the whole place stank of, well, not flowers.  I ended up having to make an emergency trip to MetroRV my, not so, local RV place to buy a new toilet. Later I removed the old carpeting and installed our new and very much appreciated new toilet, the Aqua magic V.

 

Better safe than sorry
Battery box vent
Something has to clear out all that hydrogen gas…

After positioning the battery box in place and mounting the inverter/charger to it, I drilled a vent hole on the box. This is because as you charge batteries, the non sealed types, release hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is flammable and if accumulated in quantities above %4 inside the box can cause an unpleasant explosion (if there are any sparks).

Enter the Power Vent, This fan is attached to the box through 2″ PVC pipes. Being that hydrogen gas is more buoyant than air, it is easily removed with this fan. I still need to wire it correctly. Maybe a switch inside… for now just some alligator clips will do just fine.

 

Battery bank all settled in place
Battery bank all settled in place

This might look simple to you, but I had to rack my brain for quite a while to figure this one out.

Technical description alert! You might want to skip over the next paragraph:

These are six 6v @ 232ah batteries hooked up in series parallel. What that means is you connect the negative to the positive of each row (the center cables) to form what in essence is three 12v @ 232ah batteries. This is the series part. Then you connect the “three” batteries, or rows, negative to negative (on the left) and positive to positive (on the right) which gives you one big 12v @ 696ah. This is the parallel part.

 

 

Romex to connect the Inverter/Charger
Romex to connect the Inverter/Charger

This cable is 10 gauge 3 cable Romex. It is rated for my purpose. This orange beauty connects the inverter/charger to the AC breaker panel.

 

AC breaker box
The heart of the AC distribution

You can see the orange Romex peeking into the box at the bottom here. The incoming cable that was there is now hooked up to the inverter/charger. What this does is rout the AC electricity to the inverter/charger first and then to the AC distribution box.

For those interested I also unbonded the ground and common for the AC.

 

Oh well, till next round

After all that, I hooked the final cables up hoping not to blow my self up. I was quite confident I would not, but was also acutely aware those are very common “famous last words”. All went well and the inverter started inverting. What a sweet silence that was. AC electricity and no generator ruining the peace and quiet. The next test however failed miserably. As soon as I turned the generator on the inverter was supposed to switch over from inverting to charging the batteries and pass the AC from the generator straight to the outlets. Some how the Xantrex has yet to detect that there is AC current being fed to it. Oh well, I had to temporarily settle and am now charging the battery bank with an external Battery charger as you can see above.

I am hoping Craigslist has not dealt me my first ever dud. Soon I will do some more trouble shooting and maybe open the puppy up to see what I can gather.

Kipor Gen set
The power house

Almost forgot, this is the generator. Also bought on Craigslist. This one gave me a scare. It did not turn on after I got home. When I picked it up it was still packaged in the shipping crate it was delivered on. Never opened, I thought it wold be guaranteed to work. Well the ignition coil was bad. My friend Gus from work figured that one out. I owe him big time for that one. This is a Kipor IG6000 pure sine generator. This guy rocks, as you might notice however, after a while in that shipping crate the original battery died. This new one I trust, as the name states….

Fine tuning and troubleshooting ahead.