Struck by your electric love

Struck by your electric love

Jul 24, 2021

Bel here:
So previously I mentioned how one of the big hurdles for the bus is redoing the electrical system. When the school system sold the bus they had to remove a huge number of systems from the bus to legally be able to get rid of it, like the flashing lights and the stop signs and all that. When they did this, they left a giant rats nest of wires, cutting some, pulling others out, shoving some into corners, and just generally not leaving anything clearly labeled or obvious. On top of that, we are slapping an RV power system on that framework and hopefully not exploding anything (accidentally) in the process. So it seems like a good time for a slightly more technical rundown of our electrical plans.

Here is a quick primer on RV electrical systems, for those who don't know a shore line from a sea shore, I'll section it off in case you don't want to wade through basics though:


So RV systems have a few different versions, but typically there are three parts of it. There is the car battery side of things that works, surprisingly, just like a car. You have a 12 volt lead acid battery that starts the car and is charged by the alternator, it runs things like your headlights and your radio. Then you have your Auxiliary battery, which is where things can vary more. Generally speaking though, its another, larger, 12v lead acid battery. Typically these ones are "Deep cycle" batteries, which have a longer lifespan and are better at running all the way down to 0% (or close to), whereas a normal car battery doesn't want to get close to that low without throwing a fit.
In most RVs, the Aux battery pretty much just runs an inverter, which is the fancy device that makes your 12v DC battery into 120v AC so you can have house wall outlets instead of car chargers everywhere. Sometimes, especially on larger RVs, there is a generator that will charge up your batteries as well.
There is some fancy stuff going on with 'Battery isolation' to make it so when you forget to unplug your microwave toaster and leave it drying out your food overnight or whatever then it only lets the deep cycle aux battery die since that one doesn't care about going to 0% and will leave your car battery nice and happy and ready to start your engine in the morning like it just had its third cup of coffee. The trick here is that when they are connected together, they can both charge when your engine is running, no need to break out your fancy generator, but if they are connected all the time then they are more likely to die together as well.
"Shore Power" is what all of us fancy RV'rs like to call what The Rest Of You might call "An extension cord", or "a plug". When you plug i- ahem "Connect your RV to shore power", you let a house charge up your batteries and take over all of the outlets in your RV so your fancy dish-toaster-roaster or whatever isn't draining from what you are still trying to fill.
That's pretty much it for the basics.


So lets talk solar. And maybe wind while we are at it.

Making renewable power work with your RV isn't quite as simple as duck-taping a solar panel to your aux battery and calling it a day. It requires maybe one whole extra step. For us, as with all things it seems, it will require two.

On the left, we have our MPPT Solar Charger Controller. This is what takes all of our solar panels and then attaches to our aux battery to let the solar panels charge everything. It is the aforementioned duck tape. If you were installing solar on an RV, this would be what you get to do that (Or another product that does the same thing). Just plug in the solar on one side, the battery on another, and wait for the sun to come out. We however are building the RV infrastructure from the ground up. This is why we have to also install the Battery Isolator, on the right. Thankfully, this is also pretty simple. Car battery on one side, Aux on the other, and it handles the rest. Now, I got these on prime day cause they were nearly half the cost. I have since learned there is a better, significantly more expensive option that we might end up going with eventually anyway. This would be a DC-DC Battery Charger (It is also currently on our wishlist). This thing isolates and incorporates an AC input all in one unit, letting all of the major problems with isolation be fixed in one go. But thats not all, it also lets you have an aux battery that is a different chemistry from your car battery. This would let us use fancy lithium batteries instead of lead batteries for aux power, so things can be significantly lighter (We also have some examples of good lithium batteries for this on our wishlist). Was whenever we can we want to go light here, as every gram is a gram we have to haul for thousands of miles, and rather than making those grams useless buckets of lead and sulfuric acid, we could make it useful appliances like some kind of ironing board clothes toaster thing. There are so many kitschy appliances for RVs, its a little intimidating.
We are really thinking about getting a raiseable mast a wind turbine too. Anyone who has ever slept in a rest area can tell you there are some serious breezes off the side of a highway and being able to just toss up a turbine and charge our batteries is an incredibly appealing idea to me. That way we can really get adventurous with our fancy toaster-ovens and things.
On that note, we also got ourselves a fancy inverter
This thing is huge and will draw out 2000 watts from our batteries. More than enough for my desktop and Els entire studio.
Pieces are coming together for sure. We are both excited to be able to run everything off of renewable power and be off the grid (Besides the diesel for the engine. Maybe one day we can make it biodiesel, but it is not this day.
If anyone has any questions about this set up, or any ideas, feel free to let me know!
Safe travels yall


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