Electrical System Issues

We seldom spend much time “boondocking” with the Airstream and one reason is that we just have one battery. Over the years, we have taken some steps to improve our sustainability: we carry an 80w solar panel and have a small Honda generator, which we use mainly in the Northeast where trees and cloud cover often make solar problematic. Since the propane furnace is such an energy hog, I installed a catalytic heater which Penny certainly enjoys, since it is at her end of the trailer. I have also switched out most of our lights to LEDs and fixed a battery-draining function in our new refrigerator.

One of the reasons I have not moved ahead is that our battery area, on the tongue of the unit, only has room for a Type 27 battery. We’ve used Costco deep cell batteries which are reasonable but we only have room for one without major work to the frame and added tongue weight. So I have been looking at putting one or more batteries inside the Airstream so it requires pricey AGM units and a new controller — to replace the single-stage one that is now nearly old enough to vote.

So, the project began with exploration: removing the couch to get a better look at the electrical system.

It helps to have long arms when crawling under the couch to remove screws.

It helps to have long arms when crawling under the couch to remove screws.

These came out hard - it's time for stainless steel replacements.

These came out hard – it’s time for stainless steel replacements.

Once the couch was pulled out, the jumble of wires, insulation, and mouse droppings made cleanup task number one. Task two was to open it up more and try to figure out which wires were the ones I might need to move.

Lots of wires there - wonder where they all go?

Lots of wires there – wonder where they all go?

A closer look allowed me to identify the major wires to the battery.

A closer look allowed me to identify the major wires to the battery.

One of the issues to deal with if I’m planning to install new sealed (expensive) batteries is to upgrade the converter to a multi-stage unit which will charge but later on, float to keep from cooking the batteries.

This converter which takes 110 v and changes it to 12 v has had a good run. Should be easy to replace.

This converter which takes 110 v and changes it to 12 v has had a good run. Should be easy to replace.

The next steps: first go down to Vintage Trailer Supply and talk to them about a new converter — and probably buy a 60 amp unit.  I also need to get some replacement battery connectors because I’ll remove the existing ones in order to snake the two battery lines into the Airstream. I’ll also pull in the lines for the solar controller and the tongue jack.

I plan to replace the converter and temporarily install my battery inside and test out the charging system through the new converter and then the solar setup.

Then I will finish my research on AGM batteries and take a deep breath and order a couple. They are costly but should be good for some time and also provide the staying power we need while camping away from hookups. Stay tuned.

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