With a the right tools, some knowledge and a lot of common sense, you can get to work on your RV’s 12V system.
With all the advancements in the RV market and the seemingly endless quest for gadgets, can the average Joe still work on their RV electrics? The answer is yes, as long as you take a few key factors into consideration.
240V CABLING AND DEVICES
Mains supply 240V in RVs is still a major energy source and one to be treated with much respect. Generators and high-powered inverters can supply 240V in addition to mains power. All wiring should be done in line with Australian Standards 3000 (general) and 3001 (specific to RVs). There are some special requirements for RVs, including double pole powerpoints, earthing and tagging/testing on power leads. Unless the 240V cables are double insulated (with thermoplastic sheathing), then they should be physically separate from 12V systems. You should not attempt to alter the 240v systems at all in your RV as it is illegal.
12V CABLING AND DEVICES
Unlike the 240V system, it is quite legal to work on 12V cabling and devices. However, it’s important to have an understanding of some of the issues, such as cable sizing, voltage drop, battery charging and connections.
Many iTechworld customers think that current rating is all that matters with 12V cabling, but voltage drop (or minimising it) is equally important. Voltage drop over long runs of cable (think 3-4m as a minimum) can be a problem – note that cable length does include both the positive and negative conductors. While many consider a voltage drop of 0.5V to be acceptable, industry experts reckon a 0.15-0.2V drop (at 12V) is a much more acceptable figure. The best way to avoid voltage drop is by using the correctly sized cable and ensuring that all connections are done correctly.
12V CABLE SIZING
Cabling sizing causes considerable confusion and problems, especially in Australia. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) specifies cable sizing/rating by a conductor’s cross-sectional area, usually in mm². That is mostly used by battery and European appliance makers. An alternative way, used considerably in the USA, is AWG or the B&S system. All are good if used correctly, but the ISO sizing is simpler.
Another confusing issue is that some cable is sold with a cable rating. That refers to the maximum current a cable can handle but does not take into account the length of cable run.
It might sound extreme but there are some installations that might require a 10mm² cable or larger to be used in order to achieve the correct charging voltage – note that is not 12V but 14.2-14.4V for adequate battery charging.
RV deep cycle batteries can be charged in a number of ways – mains charger, generator and solar panels for a start – but the one that many fall down on is charging from the tow vehicle. As I mentioned, voltage drop is an issue to be considered and it’s for that reason that the conventional round or flat plugs, which work well for items such as running lights and trailer brakes, are not acceptable for battery charging.
Instead, you’ll need something like an Anderson plug, which is a separate plug that can accept cable sizes such as ISO 10 or larger. Generally speaking, it’s best if the batteries are as close to the chargers as possible and, in the case of a caravan/fifth wheeler, as close to the front as possible.
Devices such as 12V fridge compressors, indeed anything with a motor, are particularly vulnerable to excessive voltage drop, as are battery charging circuits. Although there are some circumstances where 12V compressor-type fridges are better, it’s sometimes better to have a three-way absorption fridge because they have the option of LP gas as well.
Apart from a slight dimming, most lighting systems can accept a small voltage drop. So it’s slightly ironic that the lighting cable size can be smaller and voltage drop is less of an issue, particularly with low current LED fittings.
DO IT YOURSELF?
While the information above may convince you that DIY 12V systems are too difficult to contemplate, they’re really not as long as you have a basic understanding of all the issues.
You only need a basic tool kit – decent insulated electrical pliers, insulated screwdrivers, wire cutters and other handyman essentials such as a battery drill and drill bits. A 12V test lamp is good for a quick test for 12V supply but a multimeter is considerably better. Other handy items such as different coloured rolls of insulating tape and plastic cable ties are essential and a connector crimping tool is very handy for any serious work. The iTechworld Amp Meter is a handy gadget which can be placed in line to see what the wattage, volts and amps are going through your cabling.
Generally, there is little that needs doing with contemporary RVs, unless it’s repair work or adding lights or 12V/5V charger outlets. However, with older rigs there’s often much that can be done – simple jobs such as upgrading lights to more energy -efficient fittings, or more complex jobs like adding an entire battery and charger or solar panel system. Whatever it is, I’d suggest that a good understanding of the issues involved before starting work is essential.
Connecting the trailer plug and Anderson plug in a tow vehicle can be quite simple; however, there are a number of issues to be considered. There are some manufacturers/retailers who supply a tow vehicle wiring harness kit, which makes life considerably easier, especially as the wiring harness kit can be supplied for specific vehicles.
However, contemporary tow vehicles are much more sophisticated than their predecessors and while the above might include a 12V ‘live wire’, it might not be of sufficient diameter for battery charging. It may appear to be quite simple to run a 12V cable between the Anderson plug and the tow vehicle battery for this purpose, but it’s important to consider where fuses or circuit breakers should be located and where isolating relays are needed to make sure the caravan fridge doesn’t drain the tow vehicle battery when the engine is not running.
Generally, it’s quite easy to install aftermarket wiring in an RV. Cupboards, under-seat and under-bed areas, as well as lockers, all make good places to run cables. However, it should be well-protected from mechanical damage and preferably strapped into position. Where cabling might be visible, PVC mini trunking is ideal for that purpose. In all cases, cable runs should be as short as possible to minimize voltage drop.
For connecting cables, it’s best to use either screwed terminals and/or crimped connectors – the aim in both cases is to get a very tight connection. Crimp connector quality does vary – they are best purchased from a specialist outlet.
Does all of this sound like a bit of a challenge? In a way it is, but as long as you understand the essentials and use the right tools, the average handyman can do a lot.
iTechworld solar panels
A popular way of charging these appliances can be a solar panel. While Generators are the most widely used device for running these appliances it isn’t the most popular choice with fellow campers and now even some caravan parks have put bans or restrictions on the use of generators. One of the last things you want to hear when you are trying to sleep is a noisy generator. One thing is for sure, you will not lose any sleep by using the correct solar panel suited to your needs. The iTechworld Portable Folding Solar Panel range is the standard bearer for all other Solar Panels on the Australian market today. The packages come complete with all the equipment you need to Plug and Charge.
These days everyone is taking more and more appliances with them when they are going camping. Appliances like fridges, kettles, TVs and even Microwaves are becoming common sights at campsites across the country.
These panels are just as effective as a generator but more efficient because it uses the sun for power. No need to carry extra fuel. Let’s face it, there is plenty of sun going around Australia. Why not tap into our natural resource to fuel your trip?
The iTechworld Portable Folding Solar Panel range has the added advantage of being easy to take 4 wheel driving. A collapsible, folding stand allows the panels to fold into a small storage unit which is then placed into the padded zip bag provided this will then fit nicely into the back of your 4 wheel drive, leaving plenty of space for the rest of your equipment.
The iTechworld Portable Folding Solar Panel range is known nationwide for having the best constructed hinges, locks and corners meaning it can sit comfortably in the back of the 4 wheel drive and you won’t have to worry about the condition of it afterwards. The iTechworld Portable Folding Solar Panel range has quality design features that you will not find with cheap eBay replicas. They are all designed to be shock resistant and are fully hail proof meaning it can handle the best of the Australian off road tracks. The iTechworld Portable Folding Solar Panels range has reinforced super tough light weight glass coverings to protect the German Certified, Mono-crystalline, Shade tolerant Solar Cells.
Australian Designed Generator
A new breed of generator has hit the out back, one that will let you roam unplugged! The Redback Generator is a portable generator, equipped with the newest Generator technology. The Redback Generator, is top of its class has improved Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) and fuel pump to make it one of the most resourceful Generators in the Australian marketplace today. The Redback Generator has a built in convenient LCD display to monitor power consumption. The Redback Generator has an automatic economy mode, which regulates the engine speed to meet the load demand. This increases fuel economy whilst also decreasing sound as the engine is not required to run at full capability. These new and enhanced features are tremendously valuable to iTechworld customers as they will receive a greater Generator that can source more power than all previous models. It has a faultless ignition system (even in extreme climates) that requires less maintenance and produces less exhaust emissions to comply with new Australian emission laws.
The Redback Generator starts first time every time via an electric key start system. Even if it has not been used for an extensive period of time it will start up with ease thanks to the Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). No more pulling ropes to get it started.
Some generators can be problematic to move by hand, the Redback Generator has a robust trolley system with solid wheels, this means that you have a truly portable power system that's easy to move from place to place.
The Redback Generator is one of the quietest generators on the Australian marketplace today, producing only 56dB on full load and 49dB with no load at seven metres. Redback Generator has a state of the art computerised pure sine-wave inverter, making it perfect for complex electronics such as computers and smart devices. If tipped over, the unit’s instinctive shutdown kicks in. Redback Generator has built in overload protection.
The Redback Generator is everything you need when it comes to transportable, pure sine wave power. It’s powered by a mighty OHV 4-stroke engine providing a maximum 4000W output, while sustaining a constant 3600W with comfort. It features two 15Amp 240V power outlets and a DC 12V outlet for charging batteries.
The ultra-compact design makes the must have power solution for free camping, and with a 6L fuel tank it’s among the most economical and longest lasting generators available in Australia.
Order your very own Redback Generator today and start taking advantage of the comforts of camping with portable power!
Redback....Get one on your van!
Solar Cell Testing Lab
"We test, test and test again to deliver the industry's most reliable panels"
High temperatures. Dust storms. Coastal erosion. Biting frost. Heavy storms. Blowing sand. Dense snow loads. We look at the testing that the new iTechworld Solar Cells go through before they hit Australian shores. This ensures optimal performance and durability—and maximizes return on your solar investment.
In fact, the testing goes far beyond the most stringent of U.S and international standards, including the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), producing high quality solar cells.
"Every panel must satisfy strict performance and safety criteria—with NO exceptions"
Hail Impact Test. Replicates a natural hail storm by dropping a 1.1-pound, one-inch steel ball onto the solar cells from a height of 13 feet. This is repeated this up to 20 times in the same place on at least 11 different points of impacts.
Panel Breakage Test. Subjects the cells to brutal impacts by heavy or hard objects to ensure stability and break-resistance. Occasionally hard objects fall onto solar panels and they will conduct these test to ensure that roof-mounted solar system will withstand these impacts. For good measure, they also drop a 1KG, lead-filled sack from a height of 1 metre onto the middle of vertically positioned solar panels up to three times.
Inclined Plane Test. Tests the effects of snow load on the lower edge of the cells, which simulates real-world conditions since sliding snow and ice apply pressure to the lower part of the frame. Other companies typically test evenly distributed snow load on a horizontal panel, even though installations almost always parallel the slope of a roof. Although this is not really an issue in Australia it is good to know that these sort of tests are performed and quality is assured.
Salt Spray Test. Makes sure the cells are ideally suited for coastal areas and salty air by exposing the solar panel to a salt mist mixture and then storing it under humid conditions to simulate coastal conditions. They voluntarily submit their cells for this optional test to guarantee maximum performance and further demonstrate a commitment to quality.
Hemispheric Lighting Test. Simulates authentic light and temperature conditions to make sure the cells deliver optimal performance in the real world—which includes changing weather patterns.
Mechanical Load Test. Ensures the cells withstand extreme weather conditions, including excessive wind pressure, wind suction and snow load. Alternating pressure and suction is applied up to 1.2 million times using both static and dynamic forces.
UV Light Aging Test. Guarantees excellent results from our solar cells even in some of the brightest spots on the planet. We simulate intense UV radiation, including 1300 kWh/m2 in normal conditions and up to 3000 kWh/m2 in desert conditions.
Climate Chamber Test. Puts our solar cells through extreme temperature fluctuations in order to emulate years of weather changes. In the climate chamber, the modules withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius to as high as 85 degrees Celsius.
Field Installation and Peel Tests. Tests performance by exposing our solar cells to real wind and weather conditions in varying climate zones—not just contrived laboratory conditions. In field tests, data consistently shows our cells perform well above 100 percent of predicted models. At the same time, peel tests confirm the superior reliability of our sheet-to-glass and inter-sheet connections, which is a key contributor to the long lifespan of the cells.
Electrical and Hotspot Tests. Assures optimal insulation and electrical safety in both wet and dry conditions in a broad range of temperatures. Electroluminescence measurements identify otherwise undetectable micro-cracks or contact breaks while thermography cameras search for “hot spots,” which can occur when cells lie in a shadow and heat up as a result of residual electricity, ultimately damaging the panel over time.
iTechworld Solar Panels