Electrical Troubleshooting And Maybe A Solar Question Or Two

Discussion in 'Electrical & Mechanical Issues' started by rockytopsc, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. rockytopsc

    rockytopsc Novice


    Trying to figure out what to do with both the AC and DC outlets in the kitchen. The AC outlet was working in November on a trip when it stopped working. The DC outlet has been out for some time and each time I replace the fuse it immediately blows. I've pressed the re-set button and the ones on the AC plug. Just checking to see if this is something I can fix/troubleshoot before taking the trailer somewhere for assistance.

    We are headed out West next month and will be staying in a primitive campground for three nights. I've read all the posts on here about solar but wanted to check on some probable simple questions for my simpleton mind. Our trailer wasn't set up for solar so we don't have the outside plug. My question is with the connection of the wires to the on board battery with our setup. I've seen a few different types of connections (alligator clips, the cigarette plug type and the other that goes on the post with a nut). If I get the DC outlet fixed am I correct that I can charge the battery by plugging into the DC outlet with the cigarette plug type? If we go the alligator clip route or the other one, can the clips/other connection type, be left on the battery when not charging?

    Final question deals with a inverter. Can the inverter be plugged into the shore power plug on the trailer to allow power on any of the other AC outlets? Or do we have to plug whatever device we need to power directly into the inverter.

    Thanks for any help as I'm clueless with electrical issues,
  2. rotus8

    rotus8 Junior Ranger Donating Member

    Your problems with the outlets point to something significant wrong with your wiring. I suggest you get someone with electrical knowledge look at it directly. It is pretty hard to do remote diagnosis on these things. You have tried the easy stuff.

    On your other questions, you can connect a solar setup to the DC outlet when it is fixed. However it is important that the solar panel you get is equipped with a charge controller since you do not have one in the trailer already. Most systems do come with this. I would strongly suggest against alligator clips, they are prone to falling off when the trailer is in motion. Also direct access to the battery is awkward on the road as it is behind a panel in the galley storage compartment.

    An inverter will come with female outlets. Do not plug into the trailer shore power plug, this will cause a really weird situation where the inverter is drawing power from the battery, converting to AC, then powering up the trailer battery charger to charge the battery - not a good idea. Also be aware that an inverter will drain your battery quite quickly. They are generally not very efficient, and will draw some power even when nothing is being powered on the AC. I don't want to burst any bubbles about the inverter, but why do you need it? It is much more efficient to get DC equipment (or do without, it is camping after all ;)).

    If you want to integrate the solar and inverter systems, it would be best to have a professional design and install the equipment you need. It can be done but will require a bit of design work to do it properly.
  3. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    I think Rotus8 is dead on. If you didn't want to use the cigarette plug for charging the battery, you might consider hardwiring to the battery with ring connectors (this assumes you have an AGM style battery with bolts that connect the positive and negative terminals). With such a connection you could mount a female 12 volt connector to the battery compartment "door," giving you a place to plug in the panel. I'm pretty sure that would need to be fused, but someone else would need to advise you on that.

    We have a small inverter for recharging our Chromebooks and a laptop when we are away from shore power for a while (it gets used very seldom).
    lorieandkeith likes this.
  4. julie

    julie Newbie

    We have a Zamp 40-watt solar panel and use the cigarette plug for battery charging. Zamp comes with a charge controller and when the cigarette plug is plugged into DC outlet on kitchen counter, it all works nicely. Kitchen lid closes on cord and allows us to leave campsite while unit charges battery and unit is chained to trailer frame.
    Good luck on electrical repairs.
  5. rockytopsc

    rockytopsc Novice

    Thanks for the replies.
    rotus8, I am just looking into the inverter for charging camera batteries and maybe a laptop. We normally don't boondock for long periods of time unless we're using the generator.
    Inn42, what type inverter are you using?
    julie, yep hoping for good luck on the diagnosis.
  6. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    We were on the road when we bought our inverter, so we couldn't really shop around. We chose this 160w inverter at Best Buy because it appeared it would do the job without hogging too much space in the cockpit of our van. It is more power than we need, but it tucks in behind our brake lever, just in front of the storage box in our console (an otherwise unused space). You can probably find something equivalent to it on Amazon.com for less than half the price.
  7. AlCat

    AlCat Junior Ranger Donating Member

    For charging camera batteries, why not buy a DC charger meant for those batteries? (A far less expensive solution.)

    Granted, it doesn't solve the laptop issues (though I have a DC charger for my laptop, too)

    a question for the electrically-minded folks: would a DC charger be preferable for charging the laptop?
  8. rockytopsc

    rockytopsc Novice

    Thanks for the link Inn42.
    AlCat, yeah I've looked into the DC charger for my camera and it's over $100, ha!

    Trying now to see if I really want solar at the moment. We have a small solar panel that works great for the phones and we can charge the camera battery's via onboard inverter on our Toyota in a pinch. Mainly would only need the fan in camper for our dog for parts of the three days we are without power.
  9. AlCat

    AlCat Junior Ranger Donating Member

    That can't be right. It's a DC charger for the battery, not for the camera. Maybe? Perhaps charging a battery is simpler than running the camera?
  10. rockytopsc

    rockytopsc Novice

    Yeah the battery charger for my canon is over $100 but I did find a USB type charger for $10. Thanks for all the help but I will make a confession that I am a simpleton moron, the AC outlet in the kitchen works as I apparently didn't hold my tongue correctly when resetting the GFI.......
  11. Warren  Mary Ellen

    Warren Mary Ellen Junior Ranger

    You are welcome to come over and look at our solar panel if you feel like it will help you decide whether you want to go solar or not. Our camper does have the plug on the outside for solar. We have liked having it especially on our long trips the past 2 summers. We are heading up to Lake Powhaten near Asheville on Sunday for the three nights and will be using there since there is no electrical hookups there. Oh, I am the simpleton at our house. My wife can tell you more than I could about it.
  12. Hello All,

    I have to second that buying an inverter to turn DC (such as from a solar panel) into AC so you can plug in your laptop charger, which almost certainly transforms it back to DC, is a puzzle to me. (I am not certain what the charge voltages on various laptops are, but I wager they are virtually all DC). When I use my APAP in the camper I abandon the little brick (the rectifier/transformer that converts it from 120 VAC to 12 VDC) that I use in my home and just plug straight into the DC outlet via a custom plug I made. Note, voltages match - double check before you do this). Also, to my knowledge, USB ports are 0-5 VDC, so again, inverting DC (panel or battery) to run a 120 VAC charger to feed your applicable device 5 VDC (phone) is inefficient.

    This little USB charger works well for phones and such. Just unplug the AC brick that came with your phone and use this one in DC environments (e.g. dashboard, in the camper, etc).

    I've had good success buying used transformers from e-waste recyclers as well as getting help for custom builds at electronics component stores (preferably the local ones with old people inside, not the national chains that primarily cater to cell phone covers).

    Happy Charging,
    Tour 931 and Evan like this.
  13. Randy

    Randy Ranger Donating Member

  14. Larry Running

    Larry Running Novice Donating Member

    I had the good fortune to buy fpools tear. He had 6 additional "cigarette" outlets installed. Four of them are on the outside on the right when facing the galley. I bought 3 solar panels, each 40 watt with their own controllers in each. I just plug them into the outside plugs. Usually I just use one but sometimes need all three. I boondock more than anything else and this setup works great for me.
    Evan likes this.

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