12v Set-up for "The Big Loop"

Submitted: Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:09
ThreadID: 76137 Views:6991 Replies:13 FollowUps:7
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Hi guys,

I really need some help please. I've recently sold my house and replaced it with the one I"ve always wanted - one with wheels!

I've decided to sell up and head off on "The Big Loop" but I'm a bit new to all of this camping with equipment thingy and I need some help please.

I got my head around the set-up for the car and am upgrading the suspension, getting the snorkel fitted, the bull bar's in place as is the canopy, the UHF and the Kimberly Kamper. My problem is that I'm having problems getting my head around the 12v set-up. At the moment, all I've got is a 110A battery in the KK with a 240V charger and a single battery in the ute.

My needs are:
- 60L Engel in the back of the truck.
- 2 x LED light strips for light around the KK
- I need to charge a laptop, phone, camera, ipod and ipod dock.
- I want to be as solar self sufficient as I can - I plan on chasing the sun as much as possible.
- I don't want to take a generator.
- I want to be able to leave the missus in comfort for 2 days while I go fishing - or vice versa.

I've been given advice to get an inverter, not get an inverter, charge all the small things with seperate 12v chargers, get a thumper, get a gel battery, get a 12v-12v charger, set up 2 systems, get 2 x 80w panels, get 2 x 60w panels, mix up the panels blah blah blah!!!!!

I've been surfing the net continously for the last 3 weeks and I haven't been able to figure out how to set it up. I've been to 3 different solar shops and they all seem to know more about houses without wheels than my situation and I've been to the local ARB shop but I'm scared their suggestions are going to cost me more than I need to pay. And lastly I've scoured the posts on this site but everythings geared to 2 batteries, not 3.

I don't think my needs are too extravagant but I can't get a solution that I'm happy with. I'm itching to get it done so I can start my "practice" trips while I save up some petrol money for the big trip. Thanks in advance to anyone out there that can help.


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Reply By: Von Helga - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:25

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:25

Start you loop via Adelaide and go the "Home of 12 volt" in the Adelaide hills.

Problem solved.

No affiliation with them but I just can't fault them.

AnswerID: 404824

Follow Up By: Member - Phonga (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:29

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:29
That's a fair drive from Newy without cold beer!
FollowupID: 674520

Follow Up By: paulnsw - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:38

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:38
the worst disasters come across came from Home of 12v Adelaide
FollowupID: 674526

Reply By: paulnsw - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:36

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:36
you will need a minimum of 3 x 80w or 2 x 140w panels, Morningstar Prostar 30 reg, 150Ah battery and Ctek D250S 12v to 12v DC charger.
60l Engel are power pigs, especially if you have the 2 zone 60l
if you give me an email address will explain how needs to be wired up.
AnswerID: 404833

Follow Up By: Member - Phonga (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:47

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:47
Sorry mate but I"m new to this forum thingy. How do I get in contact with you without boring the whole world?
FollowupID: 674534

Follow Up By: paulnsw - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:53

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:53
can email pwdizon@gmail.com
FollowupID: 674542

Reply By: Karen & Geoff - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:37

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:37
Hi Phonga, we are doing the same as you. Just sold our house but we have had a van custom built. Geoff is right into all this 12 volt stuff, and he does all our wiring himself. But one place who is brilliant to visit if you have one nearby is Battery World. If your guy is as good over here as our guy you will be made. They are so helpful and everything in the shop you need, including solar panels and are priced good as well.

We have no affiliation with them, but they have helped out Geoff so much and all the patients in the world.

We have 3 solar panels, one permantly on the cruiser and 2 on top of the van. We also have a Honda Generator, but I think we will not have to use it much. 95% of ours will be free camping and we wanted to be fully self sufficient for up to 2 weeks, so we have extra water tanks, a house size fridge plus 2 waeco's.

Enjoy your trip, I think we will.

AnswerID: 404835

Follow Up By: Member - Phonga (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:50

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:50
What size panels are running your home??
FollowupID: 674537

Follow Up By: Karen & Geoff - Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 19:51

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 19:51
We have 2 x 130 watt solar panels on the roof off our van.
FollowupID: 674673

Reply By: Von Helga - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:38

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:38
Hey you said you were doing the big Loop just start in that direction.
Goggle the shop and have a chat to them, they'll see you right.
The battery, battery charger overnight at parks with the fridge running in the car during the travelling day will get you too Adelaide to have a new system fitted.
AnswerID: 404837

Reply By: Von Helga - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:46

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 21:46
Paul NSW

I'll see you worst disaster story with my best service ever story.

I'll continue to use them till I have a worser disaster. I'm still a couple of hundred $$ in front due to thier service.

AnswerID: 404840

Follow Up By: Member - Niss42 - Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 13:41

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 13:41
Lucky you Trevor
Im about $3000 down thanks to H O 12 V
Missn in da Nissan

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FollowupID: 674609

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 22:13

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 22:13

I expect that you're getting a lot of conflicting opinions from a lot of people, and you'll get a lot more opinions here.

Our rig is somewhat smaller than yours, but our aims and requirements are very similar. Their realisation has evolved over the past decade or more and there's very little we'd now change. Have a look at our blog Electricity for Camping. It discusses a lot of general 12V stuff and how/why to go particular ways. Our own rig is a working example of much of what's discussed.

From the blog, you'll see that the fridge is by far the biggest energy consumer. (Is there a second fridge in the KK?) How you run the fridge/s will dictate the size of your system. I think you may need an extra auxilliary battery, preferably mounted close to the Engel. Charging the auxilliary battery/s is a challenge and it will be important to push current into them while the engine is running. This will probably call for a 12v-12v charger - again, discussed in the blog.

Inverter or not inverter? This is a key decision that determines how most of your gear will be managed. My preference is not to have an inverter. 12V chargers will be available for all the obvious gear - laptop, cameras, ipods, torches,....... They are more energy efficient and you avoid having potentially dangerous 240V in the vehicle. I wouldn't risk the laptop on a cheap inverter, and good ones (pure sine wave) are relatively expensive. It will be cheaper to buy a lot of suitable 12V chargers than to buy a good inverter.

Solar panels are a good way to go. Their size is determined largely by the fridge/s and the amount of energy you can collect from the alternator, hence how much running, how much time spent stationary. We find 140W of solar capacity adequate so long as the sun is shining, and we don't remain stationary for more than 5 or 6 days. I'm guessing that you are running 2 fridges, in which case you'll need more.

That's more than enough for now!! Please read the blog and get back to me if I can help further. Send me a Member Message if you'd like to talk off line.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

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AnswerID: 404844

Reply By: Member - greg w (VIC) - Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 22:14

Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 22:14
First get a dual battery setup on the ute" projector make a good one!,run an isolater thru heavy cable to "anderson plugs"to a deep cycle on the KK then so you can switch between the extra one on the ute and charge the deep cycle on the kk as you drive.set a switchboard up on the kk that allows you to use the solar when camping and the isolater in the ute when driving ,aslo on the switchboard run a battery indicator and 12 volt outlets "Baintech are good "then your LEDS
AnswerID: 404845

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 07:50

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 07:50
At the top right of this post is reference to a Power and Electrics article that you should read to give you a better understanding.

The power and electrics artical is also accessible from the Articles heading at the top of the menu.

Having a better understanding of the different configurations available, you can then speak to someone like Derek from Sidewinder.com (an advertiser on this site) or Gary at Home of 12 volt and they can suggest specific products to suit your needs.

These needs may change a little over time and as you become more familiar with certain limitations, but a far as I can determine, what you may need is an auxiliary battery for your vehicle and a method of charging it via the vehicle alternator and also a similar charging circuit to maintain voltage in your camper battery while travelling. A 12 volt to 12 volt charger such as the Arrid Twin Charge device will overcome voltage drop in long wiring circuits, or you may get away with heavy duty wiring to limit this voltage drop.
Also, a small inverter of 300 watts or so will provide a 240 volt supply for your electrical "accessories" such as phone, cameras, etc., with perhaps a 12 volt supply adapter for a laptop if you are taking one.

Talking to an expert like Derek or Gary will shorten the time taken to arrive at a suitable configuration and eliminate the "trial & error" experience.



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AnswerID: 404884

Reply By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 08:11

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 08:11
There is no perfect solution to your problem. Everyone's power needs and wants are different. Those of us who are able to install this sort of gear ourselves usually expect to make changes over time until we get things as good as we are prepared to go.

My suggestion is to write down your needs in terms of the things you want to run and charge and for how long in one place. Then go to a couple of potential suppliers and talk it over with them. Make notes on what they suggest and why because unless you are familiar with this stuff you will find that later it is not clear in your mind. Ask them to write it down and give you a written quote/estimate. This takes time and they may not do it instantly. If they are not prepared to put the time in then find somewhere else.

Eventually you have to take the plunge and go with a proposed solution. If you have done your homework then the result should not be far from what you need. Be prepared to make changes later after using whatever you go with because then you will really find out what works and what doesn't.

If you can go to one of the big Camping and Caravan shows and look at how the various companies fit out their units. Technology is changing all the time and new ways to solve a problem are being created all the time.

good luck
AnswerID: 404892

Reply By: Maîneÿ . . .- Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 13:19

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 13:19
You need to know your power requirements first.

Estimation only:

60 watts fridge ( will you need fridge/freezer in camper for wifey too? )
10 watts lights
20 watts inverter
maybe ~1OO Watts daily realistically maximum.

# I would look for *at least* 2 x 100ah AGM Deep Cycle batteries in camper
# 1 x 100ah AGM Deep Cycle battery (exactly same as van battery) in vehicle
# Quality *electronic* dual battery isolator
# Quality solar regulator with digital display
# All heavy wiring and fuses
# At least 200 watts of solar panels, one (or more) panel on van and one on vehicle, more panels the better :)

Maîneÿ . . .
AnswerID: 404921

Reply By: Gregh2 - Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 17:08

Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 17:08
Hi Phonga
I have been working through the same issues with powering up a 1999 Roma Elegance Poptop. I received a great deal of help from Batteries Direct and CM Energy. I will not run the fridge off the van battery when camping. I will use gas as this is most efficient. I have decided on a 140ah AGM battery connected to a D250S 12v/solar charger and M3000 240v charger. The D250S I will connect to an SSP120K 120w mobile solar panels or the tug alternator. I use gas for cooking (or open fires when available). All plugs via Anderson plugs. At present, the cost is $2316 plus cabling + labour + battery box, clamps screws etc. This will work out cheaper than spending $20,000 upgrading to a second hand 19'6" ensuite unit.
AnswerID: 404943

Reply By: Member - Phonga (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:47

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:47
Thanks for everyone who has tried to help me out with this. What I'm thinking is to basically create 2 separate systems that can be linked together when I'm driving.

- Get another 110A battery for the truck to power the fridge. Get a Ctek 12v-12v to deal with the voltage drop and to act as a solar regulator. Get a 80W panel to run this when stopped.
- Install a second CTek to do the same thing for the 3rd battery on the CT
- Connect everything up with 8mm cable and anderson plugs
- I'm also thinking another 80w panel for the CT. I was given advice that a 60W panel will be enough to run the LED lights and charge my accesories but I think it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Use the CT battery to charge my accesories with 12v adapters and power the lights. I don't think these things will draw too much power and I think this option will be cheaper than buying an inverter.
- Get joining plugs for the 2 solar panels so that if the fridge battery needs a bit more juice I can get both 80W panels running together.

What I'm not sure about is whether I need to get a second 240v charger for the fridge battery when stopping at a powered site (which I hope to avoid as much as possible). Do you think the existing charger installed in the Camper will be able to charge all the batteries?

I'm also not sure whether or not to install a battery monitor and if I did where would it sit in the system. Would I just put one in to monitor the frdige battery? Can I get one to monitor all 3 batteries? Do I really need one????

Any more feedback on this plan would be greatly appreciated.



AnswerID: 405752

Reply By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 23:18

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 23:18
Hopefully you have your cable sizes misinterpreted

You will need at least 6 B & S and preferably 4 B & S between the car and the camper.

8mm is to light if its automotive 8mm which would be about 6mm squared.

I run 8 B& S for the fridge on its own and 6 B&S to charge the 2 100ah batteries in the van.

Im no solar expert but you would need a solar regulator of some sort.

1 CTEK should do ]the job but you need 240 volt to power it.

The computer can be run from a CONVERTER which ups the voltage from 12 to what the computer wants Usually about 19volts

It will also charge the battery.

Dick Smith sell them for about $80 but get a 6000mah or 90W or heavier.

AnswerID: 405837

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