rv Education 101
RV Education 101 - Converting a Rare Van Camper - Episode 4
Welcome back to part four of our Ram Camp Project. Before we can start building out the interior of the van, I need to wire the power center, install two inverters, the lithium battery, and finish the solar installation. That’s a lot of wiring, so we’d better get busy. We’re starting with the power center. That means we are connecting all of our 12-volt and 120-volt loads to the power center, and we will connect our short power cord to the power center after we install the power inlet in the van. This is our power inlet. It’s the part that our 120-volt attachable power cord plugs into when the van is plugged into electricity. Once installed, it will connect to the inverter and then go out to our WFCO power center. The first step is deciding where to mount the inlet on the van. I prefer to keep the wiring runs as short as possible. So, it would make sense to mount it at the rear corner of the van. Now we can cut the opening. Mark the outline where you want to cut the inlet. Check that nothing on the inside is in the way. Use a hole saw if you have one large enough, or you can drill a hole large enough to get a jigsaw blade through and carefully cut the opening. Before we mount the inlet, we are attaching our wiring that goes to the inverter. Follow the instructions to make proper wire connections. It’s important that you torque the screws to 20 inch-pounds. Place the inlet in the hole, align it, and mark the mounting holes. Drill small pilot holes and mount the inlet on the van. Dawn Polk: We wanted to have several options for electrical power in the van, based on different camping scenarios. If we have access to electricity, we can plug in and use the power source. Now, for boondocking, when the sun is plentiful, we have two solar panels, an inverter, and a lithium battery. If we are boondocking and the sun is not available for a day or two, we have a 3200-watt quiet generator. Now, that sounds like lots of wiring, so somebody better get busy. Mark: Now the wiring can begin. We’ll start at the power center, then our lithium battery, then the inverter and the charge controller. I mentioned in a previous episode, our WFCO 8900 AD Power Center has the patent pending auto detect technology. This new microprocessor recognizes what type of battery is used in the system and automatically adjusts the charging profile to match the battery type. That is a great feature, especially with our 250-amp hour lithium battery by Go Power. Let’s start wiring things right now. Caution: prior to doing any wiring, make sure no power source is turned on, and remove all jewelry. The DC fuse board has spaces for 11 DC fuses, and there are a total of 10 AC breaker slots, if you use duplex breakers. You need to know the load on every circuit, so you know what size fuse or breaker to use. I made a list of what we are using in the van with load requirements, so I know how to size the fuses and breakers. We have our power inletting cable installed, so we can start the wiring by connecting the power cord to the inverter and then go out to the 38-amp breaker in the power center. Then connect the black hot wire to the breaker, the white neutral wire to the neutral terminal, and the green ground wire to the ground terminal bar. Route all the branch circuits the same way, and make the hot, neutral, and ground connections the same way. Now route an 8-gauge or larger green or bare wire through the hole next to the ground bar and connect it to the negative post. The opposite end goes to the vehicle chassis ground. All of the ground connections are extremely important, so make sure you use the proper gauge wire and that the connections are secure. Dawn: Here’s an RV 101 pro tip. Make sure you label the breakers and the fuses in the proper order for future reference. Mark: It’s important you follow the torque specifications in the instructions. If the screws are too loose, you can have a poor connection; and if they’re overtightened, it can damage or break wires. Torque the screws to the proper torque in inch-pounds. Now we can start wiring the 12-volt fuse side of the power center. Make sure the battery is disconnected prior to starting the DC wiring and remove any jewelry. Connect the heavy wire, red, coming from the battery to the positive lug located directly below the reverse polarity fuses. I have my list of DC loads with the fuse sizes I need. These are the output screw terminal connections. Just strip off about a quarter inch of insulation from the load wire and insert it into the screw terminal. Tighten the terminal to the torque specified in the instructions. Connect the remainder of the DC load wires the same way. The last step on the 12-volt side is to install a separate bus bar in a location behind the converter. We need a minimum of 8-gauge wire to go from the negative lug on the top left of the DC fuse board to this bus bar. Now connect the battery negative wire to this bus bar along with the negative DC load wires. Then run a wire from the bus bar to a chassis ground. Now I can install most of our light fixtures, the USBs, the GFCI, the water pump switch, the AC-heater kit, and the 120-volt outlets.