When we told a relative about all the amenities in our new Aliner, she
laughingly said all it lacked was a crystal chandelier. Soon after,
I saw a very small chandelier at Lowe’s – with a price equaling my birthday
money. Taking that as a sign, I brought it home and rewired it for
the camper. I took off most of the chain and put a small s-hook in
the last link, which I hang from a picture-hanger eye in the peak of the
roof. Velcro clips on the cord stick to velcro squares along the
peak and down the side by the door, where I have an inline switch.
Then the cord runs along the shelf over the AC and down to the outlet.
Although it was just for fun, our chandelier really does provide good overall
light with a single 40-watt bulb. It travels suspended in a bucket
stored on the wheel-well cover under the sink.
110v access. Since we leave the rear bed made up, the 110v outlet
located under the bed is very inconvenient. I fastened a power-strip
extension cord to the side of the AC cabinet, next to the outside wall,
where it’s much easier to reach.
We were frustrated with the
lack of electrical outlets in the dinette area; the only outlet on that
side of the camper was in front of the sink. But how and where to
install one? Snagging electrical wires around those small spaces
is not easy! In the process of removing the countertop over the refrigerator
to add some insulation (we don't have a built-in stove), I discovered that
there was just enough space in the dinette wall above the fridge
to mount a sideways outlet. And it would be easy to run a wire from
there to the single outlet behind the fridge. It was soon obvious
that opening that fridge receptacle, or changing it to a double one, would
be a real chore, but adding multiple plug accomplished the same thing.
I cut the female end from an air-conditioner extension cord and wired it
to my new dinette outlet. The I ran the male end down behind the
fridge to the multiple plug. Now we have a handy outlet right next
to the dinette.
12v outlet. We had no 12v outlet in the camper, so I added one
on the side of the fridge cabinet. I ran a fused wire from the battery
under the dinette seat, through the wiring hole in the fridge cabinet,
and up the other side. There was enough space behind the fridge for
me to drill the hole and hook up the outlet. We use it to power our
5” TV and our 12v reading light (Radio Shack). It’s also the perfect
spot to plug in our 12v battery monitor.
cable jack. In addition to the 12v outlet, I used the fridge
cabinet wall for our TV cable jack. With a right-angle adaptor, the
cable is kept flat against the wall.
You can see in the photo below that I used a scrap of aluminum as reinforcement for the bottom screw of the faceplate; the top screw went into a framing piece.
I didn’t want to drill through the outside camper wall, so I just pulled a piece of weatherproof cable from the back of the jack through the vent panel, where the end is protected with a plastic cap and held in place with a self-adhesive cable clamp. We carry a long piece of weatherproof cable to connect to the campground outlet.
battery. I confess - standard 12v batteries scare me .... all
those warnings about eye protection and explosions and gases and acid.
Then there's the problem of adding water and protecting it from freezing.
With all that in mind, I replaced our dealer-installed battery with a "maintenance-free"
Optima yellow-top battery. One of the nicest things about this battery
is that there's no need to vent it. That frees up space in the battery
cabinet and means one less access point for "critters". I used the
original battery box to hold the Optima, and just set the lid on top to
protect it. I added a knife-type disconnect to the terminals, which
has come in handy when I've done other electrical work.
Forrest uses a CPAP (breathing machine) at night, so we knew that when
we camped without utilities we would need to run a 110v appliance off the
12v battery. Since the bedside cabinet was the idea location for
it, I mounted an inverter (Vector 750 watt from Lowe's) on 1x2 strips bolted
to the floor of the door-side wheel-well. The face (outlets and switch)
are exposed through a hole I cut in the paneling. The faceplate is
a piece of rigid plastic from an art supply store, cut to fit around the
inverter face, and covered with contact paper.
To run from the inverter to the battery, I used two 15' lengths of #4 welding wire. Ring terminals were from a car audio supplier. Soldering the connections defeated me, but I got a good crimp with this trick: put a large nail across both sides of the part to be crimped and squeeze it tightly in a vice. Running the wire was the hardest part. I didn't have to cut any new holes, but enlarged several existing wiring holes with drill, nippers, utility knife, anything that would work. The cables run from the wheel-well into the back hatch, across the top of the hatch wall past the water tank, through the hose hole into the converter cabinet, then into the sink cabinet, up to the framing under the countertop, above/behind the furnace and into the space behind the fridge (accessible from outside with the vent door off), then into the battery cabinet. Whew! I secured the cables with plastic cable ties - sometimes to existing wire bundles, sometimes to small nail-in cable clamps where I could reach.
Fuse - the 60/80/100 inline fuse holder from Radio Shack worked like a dream. The stripped wire is held in place with a set-screw - easy, neat and tight. Although the inverter manual suggests a 150 amp fuse, I'm using a 100 amp fuse ordered online - I couldn't find anything that heavy in the local stores.
I was a bit concerned about
ventilation around the inverter and decided to install a small muffin fan
in the area. You can see it in the bottom left of the first picture
above; the fan switch is on the lower right. The fan makes little
noise, so I used an LED switch for my on-off control. I can't hear
the fan, but I can see the light. The LED switch is to the left of
the inverter in the photo below.
Ah-ha #1 (wire size): It's finally sinking in that "voltage" in electricity equals "water pressure" in plumbing, and wire size/gauge equals pipe diameter. Lower water pressure requires a larger pipe, and lower voltage requires a larger wire. That's why wire for a 12v system is so much larger than what's needed for the same application in a 24v system. Likewise, longer distance requires larger pipe/wire. Since I want the inverter about 12 feet from the battery, I need to use 4 gauge wire (the lower the number, the larger the wire). Our local electrical supply dealer recommended #4 stranded WELDING cable (at 68 cents/foot!) – more smaller strands than the cheaper, stiffer wire Lowe's carries. http://science.howstuffworks.com/question501.htm
Ah-ha #2 (car audio supplies): I couldn't find the right size ring terminals (the metal circles that slip over the battery posts) at the electrical supply, Lowe's, or even Advance Auto. Looking for them online gave me my second Ah-ha – it's all CAR AUDIO stuff! We don't do car audio, so I had no idea that these terminals, cables, fuses, etc are what people use to install those muscle speakers in cars. Once I knew where to look, I found a 100-amp inline fuse holder for #4 wire at Radio Shack for about $6 (will have to order the fuses online) and gold-plated ring terminals at a local audio store (where I also could have bought cable – and in colors instead of "contractor black").
power cord. In less than a year of use, several "fingers" around
the factory pull-out power cord opening had broken off. It was a
standing invitation to "critters" to move in. I changed the cord
to a detachable one, using a Marinco
kit. Although cutting through the original factory power cord
was a heart-stopping moment, the kit installed beautifully and we've been
pleased with it. No more critter access there!
cord plug protector. At home, we leave the camper pluged into
an extension cord from household current. Keeping the connection
dry was a concern until I saw this handy tip from "Trailer Life" magazine.
I purchased a $1 small plastic box with a hinged lid and drilled holes
in opposite sides to accommodate the trailer cord and the extension cord.
With heavy-duty shears, I cut slots from the top edge of the box to the
holes so that the cords would drop inside. A few small holes drilled
in the bottom provide drainage for any water that gets into the box.
Now the connection is well-protected from snow and rain.
wrench. Though we no longer need this with our new, unvented
battery, it may help someone else. Unscrewing the lid from the battery
box was bad enough, but impossible when the right wrench wasn't handy.
I finally attached a socket wrench, with a 10" extension, to the top of
the battery box, using cable clamps to hold it in place. No more,
"Where the *&%^%* is the wrench!?"